TTC Ridership and Financial Update, April 2022

The TTC Board agenda for its April 14, 2022 meeting includes two reports that show the current status of ridership, as well as the financial situation both for 2021 and 2022.

It is possible that some of this will be updated in the staff presentation at the meeting, and if so, I will revise this article.

Ridership

With various waves of Covid-19 and associated shutdowns, ridership has not been recovering at the rate hoped for when the 2022 budget was prepared. That budget was amended during its trip through City Council to take into account lower projected demand through at least the first part of 2022.

Through early and mid-2021, ridership was below budget, but caught up again later in the year. This still left 2021 overall with a shortfall.

The effect of Omicron shows up in comparing the originally budgeted ridership (yellow) with the projected approved by Council (red) and with actual results to date (blue). Depending on the evolving health situation, the actuals could catch up to the original budget sooner than expected, but this could also leave a deficit for the year as a whole depending what happens in coming months.

The ridership habit is changing for the better in a small way. The proportion of riders using passes or who tapped 10 times or more per week rose in February from 16% to 19% with a corresponding drop in occasional or infrequent riders. The pre-covid proportion of frequent riders was 32%, and so the system still has a lot to recover within that group.

Ridership by mode has improved in early 2022 although it is still not back to fall 2021 levels. Bus ridership has consistently been the strongest reflecting the type of trip and traveller in areas served by buses where work-from-home is a less viable option.

Overall, the TTC expects that the March stats will see them crossing the 50% line for current-vs-prepandemic boardings, and this will trigger a build-up to former service levels through the year.

Bus crowding continues to be an issue, although the TTC does not break down stats by route and time of day. The proportion of trips at various capacity levels has grown back to late 2021 levels by the end of March 2022. This does not reveal how crowding is concentrated, and the percentages can be diluted by trips at off-hours and on routes that typically do not have very heavy demand.

There is also the question of uneven headways that can lead to crowding variations as I have discussed in many articles here. The basic point is that although a total of 40% of trips run at less than 30% capacity, the remaining 60% of trips have more riders on them, and the average riding experience is determined by what they see. (For example, if 60 riders are distributed between two buses with 45 on one and 15 on the other, a poll of all riders will reveal that most riders see a crowded bus even though the average load is only 30.)

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