The TTC Board will consider the final version of the 2022 Service Plan at its meeting on February 10, 2022.
- 2022 Annual Service Plan
- TTC 2022 Service Plan (my previous article on this subject, October 2021)
- CEO’s Report for February 2022
To avoid duplication, I will only discuss here items which are new in this version.
The big system-wide change coming later in 2022 will be the opening of Line 5 Crosstown and the restructuring of the surface network. The proposals are the same as in the draft version of the plan, and I will not discuss them here.
[Page numbers cited in this article refer to those within the “glossy” version of the Service Plan which follows the covering report at p. 18 of the linked pdf.]
What Riders Want
One page from the plan is really a vital part of the whole discussion. Some riders want better connectivity, but a good chunk of this is about service quality and quantity. Sadly, there is little in the TTC’s plans that will address this issue beyond restoring service more-or-less to pre-pandemic levels.
Those of us who remember the “before times” will know that simply putting back bus, streetcar and subway hours is not enough. There were problems with service before covid, and the pandemic shuffled what had been a growing debate off the table.
Ridership recovery, let alone growth, will require that transit be as good as it can be, not merely good enough to get by.
Focus and Priorities
The Service Plan lists the TTC’s priorities for 2022 [at p.14].
- Improve regular scheduled service by reallocating and restructuring services
• Optimize service levels, on all routes, at all times of day, based on demand;
• Operate Line 5 and improve connections to the surrounding bus network; and
• Restructure services to respond to customer travel patterns.
- Maintain demand-responsive service
• Operate flexible buses to respond to changes in customer demand; and
• Operate flexible buses to minimize customer inconvenience due to service disruptions.
- Advance key strategic initiatives
• Continue implementing surface transit priority measures such as queue jump lanes and transit signal priority;
• Pilot cross-boundary service integration in partnership with neighbouring municipalities; and
• Enhance connections to complementary modes of transportation, including walking and cycling.
Nothing here speaks to service quality and reliability, a long-standing issue on the TTC.
The 14x Downtown Express routes and the 176 Mimico GO will continue to be suspended.
As detailed in a previous article, there will be extensions of 8 Broadview, 65 Parliament and 118 Thistle Down. A new peak route 150 Eastern will add service in the eastern waterfront, and 172 Cherry will make a seasonal reappearance replacing the route 121 service to Cherry Beach. Other than route 172, there is no date announced for these service changes.
Line 1 Yonge University Spadina will switch fully to Automatic Train Control probably late in 2022. The timing is related to changes at Eglinton Station for the Crosstown which will shift the train stopping location further north. The TTC plans to implement one person operation over the entire line, and the Service Plan notes that speed and reliability will be improved. The details of a speed change have not been announced along with whether this will translate to higher capacity or a reduction in the trains needed to provide service.
The TTC plans to add timed connections at major transfer points between 300-series Blue Night routes, but there are no details for this.
The rate of ridership varies from one part of the system to another. This is shown in the map below. Until the most recent return to more restrictive rules, the areas in dark green, all of which are served primarily by the bus network, had recovered 55-65 percent of their pre-pandemic traffic.
This corresponds with locations where there is a high proportion of workers who must be on site. In the map below, note that these key employment areas (pink) are generally not the same as the Neighbourhood Improvement Areas (green) where those of lower incomes reside, although they are nearby.
In part this is due to decades of city planning that treated zones for housing separately from zones for work.
There is no guarantee that someone working in a “pink” area will live in the immediately adjacent “green” one, and a network of routes is required to handle all of the travel between them. The map shows many lines (pink) where the TTC provided supplementary demand-responsive service in 2021.
Many hospitals and grocery stores are not in “essential” employment areas. This shows the danger of flagging specific areas rather than looking at the map overall. Much of the city is not formally identified as NIAs. Transit planning through a “lens” that only considers these areas will have a lot of blind spots.
Weekday ridership was recovering at different rates for each mode as of mid-November.
Late in 2021, TTC demand dropped off as shown in these charts from the February 2022 CEO’s report.
Boardings (unlinked trips) also fell as shown below. The drop took streetcar and subway boardings back to mid-2021 levels, and buses even further. Note that some of this drop could also be seasonal.
By late January, demand was picking up again, although not yet at the same level as in November. This is seen in the uptick of average bus occupancy.
How Many Riders Will There Be?
While it is tempting to foresee a permanent drop in transit use if one’s outlook is that work from home will take over, planning on that basis would be foolhardy. The TTC’s adjusted budget for 2022 takes into account an “omicron dip” followed by a recovery to previously projected levels. The chart below was part of the TTC’s budget presentation to the City.
The version in the Service Plan is less optimistic about Q1 and Q2 in 2022.
The level of planned service is based on 100 per cent of the pre-pandemic level adjusted for the Line 5 Crosstown opening. There is also an adjustment for lower demand and availability of operators in the first quarter. Overall, the number of hours for 2022 will be slightly lower than for 2021, but this is primarily due to the lack of full service in Q1.
The total hours planned are shown in the first chart below followed by the detail of the year-over-year changes. Note that the first chart shows modes reading down, while in the second the modes read across.
Assuming that this plan holds, there will be an opening pressure on 2023 to operate full service for a 12-month period both to make up the Q1 adjustment in 2022 and the full year’s service in Line 5 Crosstown.
The TTC plans a gradual growth in peak service over coming years as shown in the table below breaking down the changes by mode.
The growth in buses is small because there is an offset from buses replaced by the new Lines 5 and 6, as well as the end of construction on those corridors, and recovery of some vehicles from streetcar routes as the fleet returns to full strength and additional cars are delivered.
Some buses will be released by the Crosstown opening, and more from reduction of bus needs on streetcar lines due to construction and a shortage of streetcars. This is an unusual year with the KQQR project still only partly completed as well as the late completion of water main work on Broadview. The actual service levels and changes with the Crosstown route have not been announced and will probably not be available until the months before opening day.
This table does not show any provision for extra vehicles in support of the city’s Net Zero 2040 plans which foresee a substantial increase in transit service, nor for the replacement of LIne 3 with bus service. This is of some concern because the capital budget already has a large amount of unfunded fleet-related spending. A report on the NZ2040 requirements will be included in the TTC’s 2023 budget cycle according to a recent City Briefing Note.
Streetcar Infrastructure Renewal and Expansion
The planned streetcar infrastructure projects in 2022 are shown in the map below. Note that track on Adelaide from Charlotte (east of Spadina) to Victoria eastbound will be restored in 2022 as part of an overall reconstruction of Adelaide Street by the City. This track will be used for the planned diversion of the Queen Street services during Ontario Line construction between Bay and Victoria. The diversion will only run east from York, but restoring a continuous diversion all the way to Spadina will be useful for other diversions, notably for TIFF.
Plans call for the intersection at York to include curves north-to-east, east-to-north and south-to-east.
Similar foresight was not included for the intersection of Carlton and Church where only the existing curve in the southwest quadrant will be rebuilt, and the missing curves on the southeast quadrant will not be added. This has been an ongoing problem with TTC intersection projects where adding curves for flexibility in diversions is often forgotten. Another fairly recent example was Broadview and Gerrard where a once-planned north to west curve was missed. These opportunities come up about once every quarter century.
416-905 Cross-Boundary Travel
The TTC plans to pursue cross-boundary service integration in 2022, but this will initially be on a very small scale with trial operations on Burhamthorpe (MiWay) and on Dufferin North (YRT). The claim is that this will allow for improved service and reduced duplication. This is of course related to the proposed elimination of the cross-boundary fare zone. One would hope that any integration occur without having to make two separate changes to the tariff.
Cross-boundary operation has legal hurdles (changes to the City of Toronto Act) and labour relations issues (exclusivity and contracting out). The latter issue is currently in arbitration.
Resolving operational and fare collection issues is only part of the challenge of regional travel. There is no indication on this map of the relative level of service and the origin-destination pattern of cross boundary trips. Fare and route integrations are only first steps.
Average vs Specific Statistics Can Mislead
An important but overlooked issue in the TTC’s analysis and presentation of crowding and other statistics is the difference between averages and individual values. Riders do not travel on average buses and their experience can vary widely from TTC claims.
The TTC crowding chart showing the percentage of trips at various crowding levels are based on individual trips, but do not split out this information by route or time of day.
The following chart shows the average demand for routes by time period. Each dot is one route. Based on this, only a few routes carry more than the target number of riders.
The problem with averaging is that, as any transit rider knows, service is not regular and crowding conditions vary greatly from one vehicle to another. This can produce stats that under-report the problem’s severity.
Consider six buses with loads varying from 50 to 0 passengers by increments of 10. That is to say, six buses with loads of 50, 40, 30, 20, 10 and 0 riders. The average load is 150/6 or 25 passengers and this looks rather good in the aggregate.
However, 120 of those riders (80%) are on half of the buses. This means that the “typical” experience, what most riders actually see, is crowded buses. The 30 riders on two uncrowded buses will think everything is just fine while the operator of the empty bus will have an easy job indeed.
The chart of busy routes by time of day may have most dots below the 100% line, but these are average values within each route and do not pick up bus-to-bus variations.
Meanwhile, the TTC has no tracking (or at least no reporting) of how “demand responsive” buses are used and whether they are strategically inserted or simply sent out in the hopes they will fill gaps and add to useful capacity.
I will return to the subject of bus service quality and bunching in future articles.