Service quality and reliability are, as regular readers here know, central to many of my critiques of the TTC.
Whether a route is short or long, busy or not, the TTC seemed incapable of accepting much less addressing service problems. For years, long before the pandemic, riders have complained about long, unpredictable waits and crowded buses, but the answer has always been that things really are not that bad. This is demonstrably not true.
The TTC relies on metrics based on averages, not on individual vehicle behaviour and this masks the wide variation in rider experience. 26 Dupont is an infrequent route with few riders, and it does not figure in the high end of the TTC’s attentions.
We have been through two years where the pandemic and the need to keep something, anything running took precedence. Now, with the hoped-for recovery, the TTC must address long standing problems that predate covid.
Looking ahead to their 2023 Service Plan, the TTC will attempt to deal with this issue as it is essential to improving transit’s attractiveness and luring riders onto the system.
The Dupont Bus
The 26 Dupont (formerly 4 Annette) operates between St. George and Jane Stations via Bedford, Dupont, Annette and Jane Streets. Dupont is itself stitched together from older, previously separate streets. It passes through a light industrial area south of the CPR corridor to the CN/GO and CP junction at West Toronto. From there to Jane Street, the neighbourhood around the line is residential. Much redevelopment is now happening on the former industrial and commercial properties.
Service today is infrequent, although this was not always the case. Over the years, employment declined and riding reoriented to the Bloor subway only 1km to the south.
The most recent schedule change was in November 2019. Running times were shortened, and some buses were removed AM/PM peak, weekday late evening, and Sunday early evening.
Half-hourly scheduled service is rare, especially on a route in the old city where demand tends to be better than in the suburbs. One big problem, as we will see later, is that the new scheduled trip tims canot always be achieved and this throws service into disarray.
For the purpose of analysis, the route is divided into three segments: the two terminals and the route in between them. Two “screen lines” marking these divisions are the points where headways and travel times are measured:
- Bedford north of Prince Arthur: north limit of loop via Prince Arthur, St. George Station and Bedford Road.
- Jane north of Loop: north limit of loop via Jane Station, Armadale Avenue, Bloor Street West and Jane Street.
Headways at Prince Arthur Westbound
These charts show the headways (interval between buses) leaving St. George Station.
The first chart in each set shows weekly averages for weekday operations. Broadly speaking, the lines for each week stay in the same range and follow the scheduled headways through the early part of the day, but in the late afternoon and evening the averages pull apart. At the same time, the standard deviation of values (a measure of their dispersion) becomes very large. This is a red flag that service is very disorganized before we even look at the fine details.
The next five charts show the data on a week-by-week basis with each dot representing one bus. Trend lines show the overall shape of the data, and in many cases these lines stay close together. Note that these are not averages, but rather “best fits”. Where these wander substantially, this indicates a period where service on the affected day was quite different from others.
Headways well above half an hour are common, and it is hard to understand why anyone would actually wait for this service. My purpose in showing so much detailed data is to illustrate that the ragged service is not an occasional event, but something riders experience every day.
In detailed reviews of selected days later in the article, we will see that service at St. George Station is affected by two common problems:
- Buses, even though there may only be a few on the route, run in packs, sometimes for extended periods.
- Some buses short turn without ever reaching St. George, indeed without serving much of the route. This is a direct result of scheduled running times that are shorter than the time actually needed to traverse the line.
Yes, dear readers, buses do short turn, despite the TTC’s claims that this practice has been so thoroughly eradicated that they are considering dropping the count of such events as a service quality metric.
The final two charts show the data for Saturdays and Sundays. Note that the Sunday values are much better behaved with headways staying quite regular throughout the day.
Clicking on any chart will open the collection in a scrollable gallery.
Data for April have the same overall shape as in March.
Headways at Jane Station Eastbound
These charts show the headways measured just north of Jane Station Loop. The pattern is similar to the service at the east end of the route with the averages and standard deviations becoming quite irregular in the afternoon and early evening.
Travel Times Westbound
The plots of travel times measure the time needed to get between the two terminals. These charts have a very different character from the headway charts in that the daily and weekly averages are similar over the two months, and trghe standard deviation values are quite low reflecting consistent values. To put it another way, the travel times are predictable within a fairly small range of values, although they do vary by time of day.
Of particular note are the values in the weekday afternoon and early evening. The scheduled round trip time, including terminal layovers, during this period is 72 minutes (36 each way) but the actual time required just to traverse the route exceeds this regularly. The buses simply cannot stay on time. There is a similar problem on Saturdays, but not on Sundays when the travel times stay within the schedule.
Travel Times Eastbound
Eastbound travel times have the same overall problem as westbound values, but they show a different pattern including an AM peak.
Terminal times are measured from the point where a bus crosses the screenline on its approach to the station and the point where it crosses again on departure. These values will reflect both the time taken on the platform, as well as travel time making the loop. Where these values are large, typically this indicates that there is padding in the schedule. However, on 26 Dupont, some of this reflects long layovers to adjust for the inadequate schedules.
Only the weekday averages for each terminal and month are shown to illustrate the irregularity of these values.
At St. George Station
At Jane Station
The service charts track the movement of buses back and forth along the route. During most of the day, there are supposed to be three buses in service except for the early morning and late evening when there are two.
Friday, March 11
The day begins fairly regularly and the third bus (pink) appears at St. George Stationat 7:30am. Note that buses tend to take longer layovers (horizontal sections of the lines) at the west end of the route. Problems begin after 3pm (1500) when travel times lengthen as shown by the change in the slope of the lines. Headways stretch out and there is a travelling gap of one hour on the route that persists into the early evening. One bus, “Yellow”, takes a one hour layover in an attempt to get back on time, but only manages to rejoin the pack for a round trip after 8pm. Similarly “Pink” takes a long layover starting at about 9:25pm. Regular headways are not restored until after 10pm when only two buses remain.
Monday, March 14
The day begins reliably enough, although two buses show up at St. George Station at 7:30am when the service builds up to three buses. One of them (“Dark Blue”) vanishes shortly afterward (possibly a change off for a defective bus).
After 3pm, a gap opens up behind “Yellow”, and two buses run together for 1.5 trips causing a travelling gap of about 50 minutes.
In the early evening, “Yellow” disappears from service leaving a gap where it should be until after 10 pm when the remaining two buses establish a regular headway.
Monday, March 21
March 21 begins with one of two buses out of service. There appear to be two change offs in the attempt to get this run operating. (On the chart this shows up as “Dark Purple”, then “Pink”, then “Yellow”.) Service does not settle down until about 9:30am.
After 4pm, congestion appears westbound between Ossington and Keele, and again two buses form a pair that persists through the PM peak. In the evening, “Yellow” takes a few long layovers to get back on schedule.
Friday, April 1
Service gets off to a worse than usual with two of the three buses bunched before 10am. One of them, “Yellow” appears to make a dead head trip from St. George to Jane to restore proper spacing at about 11am. Meanwhile “Pink” drops an entire trip at St. George from 11:10 to 12:20.
Service continues to be irregular through the early afternoon, and “Yellow” makes another dead head trip westbound. During the PM peak, “Turquoise” short turns eastbound at Lansdowne. By 6:30pm, all three buses are at or near the east end of the route with a corresponding large gap.
An unscheduled fourth bus, “Dark Blue” appears at Jane Station just before 7pm, but even this does not correct the headway problems. The two late evening buses adjust their trips to get on time for service after 10pm. “Pink” short turns westbound at Lansdowne at about 9:20pm, and “turquoise” takes a long layover at Jane.
Tuesday, April 5
April 5 shows no bunching, and there are three short turns over the course of the day to put buses back on time. However, with an infrequent scheduled service, these cause wide gaps .
Saturday, April 9
Saturday April 9 begins well enough with fairly even service spacing. Buses have generous layovers at both terminals.
Just after noon, “Blue” vanishes for half a trip eastbound from Jane, and emerges again westbound. In the afternoon, headways become uneven with “Yellow” carrying a widening gap until the early evening. Note also how terminal layovers shorten through the midday and early afternoon and then lengthen again in the evening as more of each trip is consumed by driving time.
Wednesday, April 13
On April 13 there was a fire at Jane Station causing all service to be diverted for about two hours. Buses turned back at various locations.
Through the day there were other problems including:
- The first bus east from Jane Station after the fire is “Pink”, but t makes only a partial trip.
- “Dark blue” vanishes eastbound at Ossington at about 11am and does not reappear until 1:10pm westbound from St. George. It disappears for good after leaving Jane Station, but is replaced by “Mauve”.
- By the PM peak, there is a large gap after “Yellow” compounded by “Turquoise” taking a long break after 6pm, and “Mauve” short turning at Keele/Dundas at 5:40pm.
- Both “Yellow” and “Turquiose” take short turns eastbound between 8 and 9pm, and “Turquoise” does not re-enter service until 10:15pm for its final half trip.
Tuesday, April 19
April 19 was not a good day. By 11:30am, two buses are running as a pair (“Blue” and “Mauve”). “Pink” joins the parade eastbound from Jane Station at about 1:30, and “Blue” short turns at Lansdowne. “Pink” is probably an extra, and it appears and disappears on the route.
Service is not running evenly until about 8pm.
Friday, April 22
On April 22, an extra (“Blue”) joins the route for one round trip roughly between 10 and 11am, then disappears. This allows “Turquoise” to short turn eastbound at Christie.
“Yellow” becomes late through the afternoon, and short turns westbound at Lansdowne. Even after this, the spacing of buses is uneven. This is complicated by severe traffic congestion between Dufferin and Keele westbound through the PM peak. During that peak, the only buses from St. George Station leave at 4:10, 4:55, 5:42 and 6:39.