The 7 Bathurst bus is notorious for its irregular service, a rather comic situation considering it passes right by the TTC’s main shops and offices at Hillcrest including the building housing Transit Control.
During many periods, the scheduled service is every 10 minutes. Additional capacity is provided on weekdays by operating some runs with articulated buses. This has the effect that service is more frequent at times on weekends than on weekdays.
A common sight at Bathurst Station is at least one Bathurst bus taking an extended layover, or considerable periods where there is no bus to be seen. I have reviewed this route before, but a recent event triggered my return visit. On August 20, 2022, the TTC held its covid-delayed 100th anniversary public celebration at Hillcrest, and the Bathurst bus was the logical way to get there by transit for most people.
Alas, this was something of a challenge thanks to service gaps. When I left Hillcrest, I gave up waiting for a southbound bus due to crowding and walked north to Davenport and the infrequent, but also reliably uncrowded bus there. Was this a one-day problem, or was the Bathurst bus really that bad all of the time? This article reviews vehicle tracking data from August 2022 in an attempt to answer this question.
Something worth mentioning here is that if there is a very wide gap followed by multiple buses close together, the number of long headways is outnumbered by the short ones. However, most would-be riders see and are affected by that single long wait for a bus.
Stats that only count the long headways can give the erroneous impression that they don’t occur often enough to be a problem. Stats that only report average headways will not see a problem at all because all buses are present even if they are running in packs.
With a six-minute wide target for acceptable headways, a service that runs more often than every 10 minutes will only count the one very wide headway as being off-standard, while a parade of buses bunched behind it are considered to be “on time” for headway reliability. This is utter nonsense as any would-be rider will know.
These are fatal flaws in TTC service quality reporting.
Northbound N of Bathurst Station (Barton Street)
The charts below show headways northbound at the first stop north of Bathurst Station, Barton Street. The screenline is deliberately away from the loop to avoid any confusion from movements of buses at the loop, rather than to and from the terminal.
The first chart below shows the average headways by week and hour-of-the-day for weekdays. The five average lines (solid) cross the chart in lock step and sit at the 10-minute mark, the scheduled headway. The standard deviations (dotted) show more deviation from each other, particularly in the early afternoon, and their values range generally up to five minutes. This indicates a fairly wide dispersion of headways leaving the terminal, certainly wider than the TTC’s target.
The next five charts show the actual headway values by day for each of the five weeks in August. (Note that data are missing in the morning of August 4 causing the trend line to “zoom” in from the top of the page. Week 1 data are tightly grouped around the scheduled value, and this is reflected in the position of the Week 1 standard deviation line (dotted red, below left) closest to the x-axis. Other weeks do not fare as well. Some headways range up to half an hour, and there is a noticeable difference between the scatter of points on weekday charts compared with the weekends following.
The weekend data really are appalling with a lot of gaps and bunching shown by points close to the x-asis and far from it at values over half an hour. Saturday August 6 is particularly bad, but definitely not alone. Note that this is not a problem compared to a short “peak” part of the day, but for almost the entire period from 10am onward. This is a big and pervasive problem.
Southbound S of Steeles
These charts show the same breakdown of data except that this is for departures from the northern terminal at Steeles. Again, the averages are fairly stable at the scheduled headways on weekdays, although the standard deviations are a bit higher indicating slightly more scattered values. This can be seen by comparing the northbound charts above with the southbound ones below.
Weekend service is erratic with headways ranging to over 45 minutes. Indeed, it is this wide range that dictated my use of “60” as the top of the scale for these charts just to fit in all of the data.
On the Sunday/Holiday chart (lower right), the trend line for August 1 (red) behaves differently because route 7 Bathurst service starts earlier in the day on holidays than on Sundays when the 307 night service operates until the subway opens at 8am.
Detailed Daily Analyses
Monday, August 1 (Simcoe Day Holiday)
I have included August 1 in these charts because it was a day with comparatively reliable service and no disruptions.
- Buses had adequate time for layovers (horizontal lines) at termini, and there was almost no congestion (seen with lines that change slope and become more horizontal).
- A few buses stopped at some locations (likely for a crew change or a run out for coffee), but these were easily absorbed by available recovery time at terminals.
- Examples of tailgating (two or more buses running together) are rare, although two buses (turquoise and brown) do run as a pair for most of the period from 4pm to just after 6pm.
Saturday, August 6
August 6 was completely different from August 1 above.
- There is minor congestion between Glencairn and Lawrence.
- Buses begin to bunch from about 10am, and some of those bunches echo back at terminals for a few trips.
- By 6 pm, there are five buses in a pack at Steeles and another pack of four northbound from Bloor. Packs of buses continue through the evening with wide gaps in service.
- There are a few short turns after 9 pm in an attempt to restore proper spacing, but this has still not been achieved after midnight.
Monday, August 8
- On August 8 there is some evidence of bunching, but a common source of delay is layovers at or near Wilson for crew changes.
- Almost all trips take terminal layovers and so scheduled travel time is not an issue here.
- There are a few cases of buses missing and later being replaced such as at Wilson (just after 10:00am to about 10:50am) and at Wilson (8:40pm to 11:35pm). Both of these are likely caused by missing crews.
Thursday, August 11
As a weekday, August 11 is quite different from August 8 above. More congestion is apparent at several locations.
There is a 43 minute gap northbound from Bathurst Station beginning at at about 2:40pm and this widens, in part due to congestion south of Davenport to 54 minutes by the time it reaches Lawrence. This is rectified southbound by vehicle spacing, a new bus entering service and a short turn.
Saturday, August 13
August 13 shows a similar pattern to August 6, although it is not quite as bad. Bunches of buses form and stay together for several hours. Short turns are rare.
Saturday, August 20
August 20 saw the TTC celebrating its centenary at Hillcrest while buses ran by, occasionally and in bunches, outside the gate. There was a street fair north of Wilson requiring a diversion, but it is clear that this did not add much to the travel times, and even with the diversion most buses took layovers at both terminals.
The eAlert explaining this diversion was issued at 2:46pm even though it was in operation all day.
- Pairs of buses are evident before 9am and this problem worsens as the day goes on.
- At 11:30 there is a half-hour gap northbound from Bloor caused by a quartet of buses. This echoes back from Steeles where the gap is even wider and the parade now contains five buses.
- There is a 40-minute gap northbound at 1:30pm and this echoes from Steeles at about 2:40pm.
- Erratic service continues through the afternoon and evening.
The headways at the two terminals can be seen in more detail in the charts below. Note that there are three examples of five buses leaving Bathurst Station together: Two groups just before 3pm and one at about 4:30pm. “Together” in this sense means on headways under five minutes, some below two with an accompanying very wide gap in service where these buses should have operated.
Friday, August 26
Service was affected by a detour via Ellerslie, Senlac, and Sheppard due to police activity which started at about 3:30pm, although the eAlert was issued at 10pm. This diversion added slightly to travel times although buses were still able to take terminal layovers on most trips.
Otherwise, the route shows problems with bunching and missing buses causing gaps.
Sunday, August 28
August 28 shows many of the same issues as on the Saturdays illustrated above with buses running in pairs or worse for extended periods.