The Ontario Budget announced on March 23, 2023, includes a commitment, sort of, to reducing cross-border fares for trips into Toronto.
And we are making transit more affordable by eliminating double fares for most local transit services in the Greater Golden Horseshoe when commuters also use GO Transit services. Our government is working to expand this initiative to support more people commuting into Toronto. [emphasis added]
In more detail, the main part of the budget states:
Making It Easier and More Affordable to Take Transit
As Ontario families continue to look at managing costs, the government is helping put more money in their pockets with affordable transit options. The government has made it more affordable, easier and more convenient for families and workers to travel across the Greater Golden Horseshoe by eliminating double fares for most local transit when using GO Transit services. This means that after riders pay their fare for a GO bus or train, they do not pay again when accessing most local transit services in the Greater Golden Horseshoe. The government has also increased PRESTO discounts for youth and postsecondary students and continues to provide more riders with more options and convenient ways to pay.
This GO Transit co‐fare discount applies to the following transit systems: Durham Region Transit, Milton Transit, Grand River Transit, Guelph Transit, Oakville Transit, MiWay (Mississauga Transit), Brampton Transit, Hamilton Street Railway, Burlington Transit, Bradford West Gwillimbury Transit, York Region Transit and Barrie Transit. The government is working to expand this initiative to support more people using public transit to come into Toronto. [emphasis added]
Two examples are given of fare savings, but both of these refer to transfers between local transit systems outside of Toronto, not to the TTC.
In the legislature, the Minister of Finance said:
“We have eliminated double fares when taking GO Transit and local transit throughout much of the Greater Golden Horseshoe — and we are expanding this initiative to include Toronto, so a commuter coming into the city only pays on one fare per trip, saving them money each way.” [emphasis added]
The operative words here are “for most local transit services” with the emphasis on “most”.
Eliminating double fares for most local transit services in the Greater Golden Horseshoe when commuters also use GO Transit services. The government is working to expand this initiative to support more people using public transit come in to Toronto. [emphasis added]
It is unclear whether the added discounts will apply to all TTC fares including those for GO-TTC trips, or only to 905-416 cross-boundary trips, or even to any TTC leg of a journey. Notable by its absence is any reference to GO-TTC trips within Toronto.
This has all the makings of an announcement that is a lot less in practice than it appears on the surface. I have written to the Ministry of Transportation seeking clarification. Stay tuned for updates.
Over past months, the Ontario Line’s effect on trees in various locations around Toronto has become something of a cause célèbre. Osgoode Hall was, in a way, the “poster child” for this because of its location and the historic buildings at Queen & University. However, this was far from the only affected location with tree felling on a massive scale elsewhere including Moss Park, Riverside, and now planned for the Don Valley at the Leaside Bridge and the crossing of Walmsley Brook north of Thorncliffe Park.
A common refrain from citizens along the Ontario Line and other corridors is that Metrolinx does not deal in good faith, but rather presents its positions as unchangeable and pressing. They look only for acquiescence so that “consultation” can be claimed for the record. There is no public record of these consultations, and no community is aware of what might be told to others except by information sharing among them.
On February 23, 2023, Toronto and East York Community Council established a subcommittee composed of Councillors from Wards 10 Spadina-Fort York, 13 Toronto Centre and 14 Toronto-Danforth and “directed the Executive Director Transit Expansion Division to report to the first meeting in March 2023 regarding the current status of the Ontario Line, pedestrian and traffic management plans, and opportunities for City and resident involvement moving forward”.
That meeting will occur on March 22, 2023. The only report on the agenda is from the Executive Director, and a great deal of it is a rehash of information from earlier reports along with a claim that Metrolinx is engaging with communities along the corridor. The actual degree of consultation is a matter for some debate, and one cannot wonder whether the ED is parroting the official line from Metrolinx, hardly an appropriate tactic for a senior City official. I will address that report in more detail after the meeting, but turn here to a proposal for the new entrance to Osgoode Station.
This article presents more detail about new schedules as well as information on several service reorganizations and diversions.
Updated March 23, 2023 at 10:30 am: The TTC’s map showing the 504 route diversions has been added to this article. Note that it does not match the route description provided in their service change notice.
Updated March 23, 2023 at 11:45 pm: A map of new bus bay assignments at Kennedy Station recently posted by the TTC on Twitter has been added.
Updated March 24, 2023 at 6:30 am: Times of the transition to less frequent late evening service on Line 2 BD added.
Updated March 26m 2023 at 12:20: Construction project schedule added at the end of the article.
How Schedules Can Change
When a new schedule is implemented on a route, one or more changes might be happening, and the same changes might not occur in each affected time period. This can produce confusing results as well as communications from the TTC that do not quite represent what is actually happening.
In the simplest case, a route needs more or less service because ridership exceeds capacity or because it has fallen below the level where a reduction is warranted. In this case, the change simply adds or removes vehicles while leaving the travel time unchanged. For example, on a route with a one hour round trip, a 6 minute headway (the interval between buses) would be provided by 10 buses. If two buses were added, the headway would be every 5 minutes, and the route’s capacity would rise by 20 percent.
A variation on this which exists in the current budget tightening era is that the standard for what is a “full” bus has changed. Peak periods have gone back to 100% of pre-covid levels, and off-peak have gone even further, close to peak levels. That undoes the “seated load” standard of the Ridership Growth Strategy that goes back two decades. If the standards allow more crowding, then fewer vehicles are needed to provide the new target capacity.
Other changes can occur independently or at the same time. Most common are adjustments to travel and recovery times in response to changes in congestion and/or construction projects. If a route operates more slowly under new conditions, more buses are needed to maintain the same level of service, or fewer if things speed up. The change in travel time can occur at the same time as changes in crowding standards so that the existing, or even fewer, buses provide less frequent service.
Almost all routes have some recovery time built into the schedule, but this is not a fixed amount. Partly the recovery time deals with expected variations in day-to-day or trip-to-trip travel time, and partly it could simply be included to make schedules work out properly. This is particularly true of branching routes where the time taken by each branch must be such that they blend together, at least on paper. Branching routes with wide headways can have very long recovery times to make schedules “come out right”. Conversely, when such a route has a change, it is possible to accommodate some or all of the change by converting recovery time to driving time.
The TTC has a bad habit of referring to travel time changes as “service reliability improvements” on the assumption that buses are more likely to maintain regular spacing if they have more time for their journey. This is not always borne out by actual operations, and the main effect on riders is that buses show up less often than before the change.
In the lead up to the March 26 changes, changes in headways were listed for several branching routes. The change cited applied to the common part of the route. Beyond the branch point, the change would be double what was originally listed.
Finally, some changes involve route reorganizations that interact such as interlining where two infrequent routes share a pool of buses between them. Combining the two routes reduces the number of vehicles needed for the linked services, while the headways might go up or down as the individual routes are changed to a new common headway.
There is one case in this round where a night bus “service improvement” is really the shift of trips formerly provided by daytime service to the night bus route number, but on the daytime frequency. Looking at the corridor as one route, this might not be as big an improvement as it seems. The same issue can arise when the balance between express and local service on a route is changed. One of the two services might improve, but not necessarily the route as a whole.
I include these caveats in the hope that readers will look closely at their before and after schedules to see exactly what is happening.
For details of changes in specific route headways, travel times and vehicle allocations, please refer to the spreadsheet linked here.
Updated March 17, 2023 at 7:15 pm: The Early Works list for East Harbour Station has been corrected. In the original version of the article that section was copied as a template from another station’s entry, but not changed to reflect the East Harbour site.
This project is the remnant of a scheme first proposed by mayoral candidate John Tory in May 2014 to overlay a frequent surface rapid transit service from Unionville to Pearson Airport using primarily GO Transit corridors.
The proposed route included a bizarre idea of running a mainline railway corridor along Eglinton Avenue West in lands originally reserved for the Richview Expressway, and later intended for the Eglinton Crosstown LRT line. SmartTrack itself descended from an idea to run a similar route whose western leg would use the GO Milton corridor rather than Eglinton Avenue. Both of these foresaw frequent service with the dual benefit of providing more capacity into the core and making office/industrial areas that were choked by gridlock on roads more accessible by transit.
Both ideas were deeply flawed, and the issues with SmartTrack are covered in detail in many other reviews. In fairly short order, pieces started to fall off of the proposal, but it remained a scheme to add stops to GO within the City of Toronto and use GO at least in part for urban rapid transit.
One fairly early casualty was the notion of a separate SmartTrack service. This was replaced by the idea that at least some GO trains would serve new stops, although the number of such trains was always hard to nail down as Metrolinx service plans changed. Getting a strait answer out of them proved almost impossible, and the best we can get today is a 15 minute service on all corridors with more if demand justifies this.
This is considerably poorer service than was envisioned in the SmartTrack hype and in the way it was presented to Council. Indeed, ST was seen to be so competitive in the Scarborough corridor that the Scarborough Subway Extension was shifted east to avoid the competition.
That is a far cry from SmartTrack’s original promise, but the brand lived on because it was Mayor Tory’s plan. Dropping the name would be suicidal for City and TTC planners, even though Tory suffered from an acute case of “the emperor’s new clothes”. Metrolinx simply humoured the Mayor by using his name for their new stops.
We have reached the point where only four of the original 22 stops on the ST line remain: Finch-Kennedy, East Harbour, King-Liberty and St. Clair-Old Weston. A station on the Barrie line, not the original ST corridor although the format of the map below disguises this, was added.
All five of the station projects are running later than the originally proposed opening dates. Details are given in each station’s section.
A sixth station was proposed at Front-Spadina, but there is no sign of it yet even though the City’s contribution to the station dates back to a $60 million payment toward GO expansion costs in 2017-2019. (See Revised Ontario-Toronto Agreement in Principle at page 9.)
Toronto’s SmartTrack Station costs are, under that agreement, deemed to be the City’s contribution to GO Transit Growth Capital for 2017-18 to 2024-25.
The anticipated cost of the five stations was $1.463 billion, a Metrolinx estimate, but costs have now risen by $234 million to a total of $1.697 billion. Of this, $585 million would come from the Government of Canada. Although the station-by-station breakdown is in a confidential attachment to the report, this means the average cost per station would be $339 million, a value that was once considered rich for an underground subway station.
Toronto is prepared to spend a lot of money for a handful of stations that might only see 4 trains/hour each way.
The report recommends that Council ask Metrolinx to pause the contract award for Bloor-Lansdowne station pending a guarantee from Queen’s Park that Ontario will pick up cost overrun. This is only one of many transit projects that faces problems with rising costs, not to mention projects under other portfolios.
City staff are seeking City Council direction to request the Province to pay all cost increases over the existing Program Budget of $1.463 billion to deliver the Program, which as of the date of this report is anticipated to be $234 million, as further detailed in Table 1 of Confidential Attachment 1.
A decision on the future of the Program is required urgently as the Design-Build (DB) procurement for the Bloor-Lansdowne Station contract is set to be awarded in early April. With a DB procurement, the City, through Metrolinx, would be committing to proceed to detailed design and construction. As such, there may be no opportunity for the City to reconsider or “off-ramp” its commitment to the station’s delivery once the contract is awarded. Metrolinx has secured an extension to the bid validity date with the proponent until April 5, 2023. Prior to making this commitment, City staff are seeking City Council’s direction to confirm to Metrolinx that the City will not proceed with the delivery of the Bloor-Lansdowne Station until the Province has committed the additional funding required to deliver the Program as set out above.
SmartTrack Stations Update pp 7-8.
What Should Stay? What Should Go?
City has sunk costs in design (listed in the confidential appendix), and contracts have been awarded for all but the Bloor-Lansdowne Station. It is very unlikely that Council would consider dropping any stations except for Bloor-Lansdowne, but should ask itself the question of whether proceeding with all of the stations actually makes sense. Metrolinx is unlikely to let them off the hook.
Meanwhile, conversion of the SRT corridor as a bus roadway is not yet funded because the City wants Metrolinx to pay for it. At $59 million this is small change and yet it will have a considerable benefit for both riders and for the TTC. If the work begins as soon after the SRT shutdown as possible, the bus roadway could be operational by Winter 2025, according to the TTC.
In the event the city is unable to secure the outstanding $59M for the SRT busway, will the project run along Kennedy, Ellesmere and Midland until the SSE is completed?
If the City is unable to secure funding from the province, it would ultimately have to find an alternate source if it wished to build the busway. The transit priority measures that will be implemented on Kennedy, Ellesmere, and Midland are planned to be designed as long-term solutions regardless of the busway construction; they could have legacy use for customers even beyond SSE is completed.
This is an example of how funding for projects is discussed in isolation without looking at tradeoffs that might be possible or necessary. What we do not know is how much dropping Bloor-Lansdowne from the overall plan will save in total, only that there is a $234 million overrun for the five stations.
We are in an interregnum between Mayors, and there is no sense of whether any of the would-be candidates see SmartTrack spending as an issue to revisit.
Many more illustrations were available on the TTC’s bid site, and this article is based on documents there which go into considerably more detail.
There are a lot of images here, and so I will leave most of the article beyond the “more” line.
The project involves the creation of a separate eastbound platform for Line 2 Bloor-Danforth and the reconfiguration of the existing centre platform as westbound only. Circulation space between Line 1 Yonge and Line 2 will be expanded substantially.
At the north end of Bloor Station, both platforms will be extended about one car length to the north (the existing Bloor crossover is located a short distance north of the station) to open up circulation space .
A new main entrance will be built within 2 Bloor Street East.
On the south side, at 81 Bloor East, an entrance will be added within a building whose primary purpose is to house a substation for electrical power to the expanded station. Traction power will continue to be supplied through the TTC’s Asquith Substation.
Four new fan plants will be added to bring the expanded station to modern fire code, and the existing fan plant at the south end of Bloor Station will be refurbished.
The drawings show no provision for Platform Edge Doors.
This will be a Design-Build project with the successful bidder responsible for taking TTC plans now at about 30% completion to a full 100% design, followed by construction. The Request for Proposals is expected to close later in 2023.
Construction is planned to begin in 2024Q2 with the new Line 2 eastbound platform and new areas of Line 1 platforms in service by 2029Q2. This assumes that the Yonge North Subway Extension to York Region will open in 2030. The project would close out in 2031.
Support for the project is in place from all levels of government, but until the bids come in, we will not know whether the full scope of work will fit within available funding of $1.5 billion.
The footprint of the expanded station will be considerable, and the drawing below gives an idea of how much more territory the station will occupy.
Normally, I would not post a fundraiser on this site, but this one is very special.
James Bow of Transit Toronto has launched a fundraiser for the second phase of digitizing a trove of 16mm film from the estate of Richard F. Glaze.
We’ve raised enough that we’re definitely going to digitize the three remaining train-related 400-foot reels in the collection. These date from the late 1950s and offer around 9 minutes of footage from the last days of streetcar operation in Montreal, 2 minutes of footage from the last days of streetcar operation in Ottawa, footage from the last days of Rochester’s streetcar subway, and CN steam locomotive 6218 (I think that’s the number; I don’t have the canister at hand at the moment). On top of this, I’ll be able to digitize another 12 100-foot reels from Toronto and Ontario in the 1970s (some interesting Ontario Northlander footage is available).
That still leaves 68 100-foot reels. The good news is, since these cost about $150 per reel to digitize, and I can probably get these scanned over time. However, every $150 we raise between now and the end of the month puts another reel on the pile, so hopefully we can make a good push of this.
Any contribution is worthwhile, big or small, via the gofundme page for this project.
The TTC and City of Toronto have announced that Roncesvalles Avenue will reopen to traffic including the 504C King bus with the beginning of service on Tuesday, March 14.
Work is still in progress to adapt the passenger islands on Roncesvalles for the Flexity ramps, but traffic will swerve around work as it proceeds. Why this wasn’t done sometime in past months is one of those mysteries of construction staging.
Streetcar service on the 504 to Dundas West Station will resume in May, although an exact date has not been announced.
Meanwhile, the 504A Distillery and 504B Broadview Station services will turn back at Bathurst using Exhibition and Wolseley Loops respectively, although many cars in fact only get as far as Spadina and loop back via Charlotte Street. The 504C King bus loops via Church, Wellington and York.
Coming in May will be the removal of streetcar service on Broadview north of Gerrard for track construction, and for the redesign of Broadview Station Loop so that both the King and Dundas platforms will be able to hold two cars at once. Currently there is room for only one car on the Dundas platform.
Streetcar service on the west end of the Queen route beyond Sunnyside Loop is expected to resume in the summer, but again there is no specific date announced for this.
This article is a companion to Red Lanes for Jane Street? with a review of the behaviour of local and express service both in travel time and in headway reliability. The area covered is that of the proposed RapidTO Red Lane implementation between Eglinton and Steeles, and the time period is late 2019 to February 2023.
This is a long read with many charts. My intent is to establish how the route operated over the past three years with a detailed look at recent data. This will provide a base level to compare with any changes when and if transit priority measures are implemented. More importantly, the data show how headway reliability, the uneven and unpredictable spacing of buses, is a severe problem contributing at least as much variation in total travel times as the in-vehicle portion of a rider’s experience.
The high points are:
Travel times on Jane between Eglinton and Steeles dropped by about 10 minutes in peak periods at the beginning of the covid pandemic in 2020, and by lesser amounts at other times. That saving gradually disappeared over three years and travel times grew beyond pre-pandemic levels thanks to construction projects on the route most recently in the second half of 2022.
The covid drop likely represents the greatest saving possible through red lanes that would eliminate or at least reduce traffic delays to transit.
Buses on the 935 Jane Express take about 5 minutes less to make the trip than the 35 Jane locals, but the amount varies day-to-day and during different time periods with the greatest saving during the pm peak and the smallest during the early evening.
The median values of headways generally lie near the scheduled service level for 35 Jane local service indicating that most trips do operate. This is not true for 935 Jane express where the statistics indicate that, especially in the afternoon and pm peak, service is very erratic and some of the service does not operate.
During some periods, the 85th percentile of headways is very high, especially for the 935 express, showing that riders can encounter long waits for their bus to appear.
Service leaving terminals is not well spaced with pairs, or worse, departing together particularly later in the day. As buses progress along the route, gaps become wider and bunching tightens up, a common behaviour on transit routes.
Examples of service details in February 2023 show a generally laissez-faire approach to service management with little intervention to regulate bus spacing and break up bunching.
The TTC and City of Toronto work on the RapidTO proposal for Jane Street has reached the public consultation stage. There will be an online session on Wednesday, March 8, 2023 from 6-8 pm, and in person Drop Ins on March 22 and 28. Details are on the City’s RapidTO page for the project.
The proposed area for transit priority lies between Eglinton and Steeles Avenues with varying degrees of transit separation.
Options For Discussion
As with the Eglinton-Kingston-Morningside RapidTO lanes, the Jane Street proposal includes the removal of some bus stops in the name of speeding transit.
The TTC proposes removal of 7 of 38 stops (18%) even if no transit priority is implemented. For options 2 and 3 which provide a relatively high level of priority, there would be a total of 16 stops (42%) removed. For options 4 and 5 which provide a lesser degree of priority, 9 stops (24%) would be removed.
Of the 38 stops, 13 are shared by the local and express services and they are not affected. This means that there are 25 local stops, of which Options 2 and 3 would remove 16, or two-thirds of these stops.
The premise for the Option 1 locations is that these have no crossing protection and, therefore, create a risk for jaywalking pedestrians. The additional stop removals for Options 2 and 3 are justified as “optimizing” the spacing. The proposal changes the route substantially to the spacing of express stops.
The unanswered question is why these stops exist in the first place, and what local traffic pattern to they support. Should the change be to improve pedestrian protection and access rather than simply telling riders they must walk further to reach their bus?
Another important question here is how much of the supposed benefit of the project will be gained from stop removal as opposed to provision of an all-day reserved lane for transit. The TTC touts the travel time saving through transit priority, but does not net this out against increased walking distance to and from stops.
The City’s page includes maps showing the changes in the 4-minute walking distance catchment areas for transit stops. They do not include information about stop usage, population density or the effect on major traffic generators such as schools.
Revised Lane Allocation
Jane Street is different from the Scarborough RapidTO implementation in important ways:
Part of the Scarborough RapidTO area already had reserved bus lanes in peak periods.
Eglinton Avenue and Kingston Road are six lanes wide plus a median/left turn lane in places. Jane is generally a four-lane street with a shared left turn lane.
Here is the typical existing layout.
Options 2 and 3 reserve the curb lane for transit as well for vehicles turning onto and off of Jane Street.
Option 4 assigns the curb lane for high occupancy vehicles, and Option 5 leaves the street as is with selected widening for queue jump lanes where right turns delay traffic today.
How well any of this will be enforced is anyone’s guess, and the situation on King Street does not inspire confidence.
Travel Time Changes
The anticipated changes in travel time are summarized in the table below. Note that these are for trip over the full distance between Steeles and Eglinton.
The change in stop access times is averaged over the entire route. This dilutes the effect on riders at specific stops by including many riders whose access distance is unaffected. This understates the impact on those who are directly affected. (Note that at an assumed walking speed of 1m/sec the change in distance is equivalent to the change in walking time in seconds.)
The TTC has beaten the transit priority drum for queue jump lanes for years, with only a few examples to show for their efforts. In this case, the provision of such lanes is by far the most expensive option, the longest to implement because of road reconstruction, and the least beneficial to riders. This is really a tactic that should be reserved for key areas with very high transit vehicle congestion where there is very frequent service and a clear payback.
Change in bus travel times (mins)
-2 to -3
Average change in stop access (m)
Change in auto travel times (mins)
+3 to +4
+2 to +3
+2 to +3
Estimated Cost ($m)
Time to Implement (years)
1 to 2
1 to 2
1 to 2
3 to 4
In a separate article, I will review the behaviour of the Jane 35/935 local and express services. A few key points from that review are worth making here:
The variation in headways (time between buses) can substantially exceed the travel time savings shown here. Operation of reliably-spaced service would improve the rider experience today with any priority savings coming as gravy on top. Conversely, if headway reliability is not improved, then the benefits of red lanes will be undermined by erratic service.
The difference in travel time for express and local buses over this section of Jane is comparable to the travel time saving foreseen in Option 2 (full bus priority). It is not clear whether this difference would persist especially in Options 2 and 3 where over 60% of the local stops are removed.