35/935 Jane Travel Time and Headway Reliability

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:

  • 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.

Travel Times

In the charts below, travel time values are plotted for each weekday in November 2019, and from May 2020 to February 2023. The blue line in each case is the 50th percentile (median) of values observed within an hour while the orange line is the 85th percentile. Where these lines run close together this indicates that much of the service taking longer than the median does so only by a small amount, typically a few minutes.

There are rises and falls corresponding to seasonal effects (notably the Christmas and New Year’s break), but more importantly those due to covid-era lockdowns. The first of these is seen in the drop from November 2019 to May 2020, and again at the beginning of 2022. Jane has also been subject to construction disruption notably for the Finch LRT project, but also for utility work. The largest drops are seen for data in the PM peak, 5 to 6pm.

There is a steady growth over the past three years in travel times, but again this is more notable in peak rather than off-peak periods.

The values seen in spring-summer 2020 are probably as short as we are likely to obtain through any transit priority scheme as this corresponds to a period of low auto traffic.

The jump in fall 2022 was caused by water main construction that reduced parts of Jane Street to one lane each way.

Northbound times are shown on the left, and southbound on the right for five one-hour periods through the day.

35 Jane Local Service

935 Jane Express Service

The charts below show the same information for the 935 express service. There are no charts for late evening because the express service ends roughly when that period begins, nor are there data for May to October 2020 because the express service was suspended.

Note that the growth in travel times is strongest in the pm peak southbound, although this has fallen off again in 2023.

The median and 85th percentile values run close to each other through these charts showing that although day-to-day conditions may vary, the travel times on any one day are fairly consistent.

Express vs Local

The charts below plot the median values for local (red) and express (green) operation. There are no express data for the period of route suspension, but the local values are shown for context.

The charts below show the differences in travel times for all four periods of the day from November 2020 onward plotted as 20-day moving averages (about a month worth of weekdays). The differences are greatest in the PM peak (yellow), but not by a lot. The averages are concentrated between three and seven minutes, although individual day values have a much wider range as can be seen in the background plots which are very spiky.

This illustrates the problem with presenting average data because it can hide the range of experiences a rider sees. “On average” the difference between an express and local trip between Steeles and Eglinton might be about five minutes, but it could be next to nothing, or twelve or more.

An important challenge for any transit priority scheme is flatten the range of data so that trip lengths are predictable.

Service Reliability (Headways)

There is little point in speeding the journey between “A” and “B” if the wait for a bus is unpredictable, especially if the travel time saving is less than the range of potential waits at a stop.

The charts in this section are in the same format as the travel time charts above, but they plot the median and 85th percentile values of headways (the interval between buses). Note that the express and local buses are plotted separately here. If someone is only able to use the local bus because their trip begins and/or ends at a local stop, then the express service does not exist. Similarly, if someone chooses to wait for an express bus hoping to save travel time, then local service is of little use unless they give up waiting for an express.

In this section, headways are shown leaving the terminals (Jane Station northbound and Pioneer Village Station southbound) as well as at a midpoint, Lawrence, bothways. The TTC reports service reliability based on measurements at terminals, but that is not where most riders board. Service in the middle of a route can be considerably less reliable than at terminals because buses running close together bunch up, while gaps between bunches get wider.

Although the scheduled service is frequent, I have set the y-axis maximum at 40 minutes to leave room for the spikes in values that occur from time to time. This is more of an issue with the express than the local service.

Scheduled Service

The scheduled service level on Jane has not changed much over three years with the exception of a period where express service was suspended during lower covid-era demand. Also shown are the planned changes to take effect on March 26, 2023. I will review the route’s operation in May after about six weeks of data with the new schedules are available.

35 Jane LocalAM PeakMiddayPM PeakEarly EveLate Eve
Nov 20194’40”7’00”5’00”8’45”9’00”
June 20203’30”7’00”4’22”5’00”9’00”
Nov 20204’40”7’00”5’00”8’45”9’00”
Jan 20215’00”7’40”5’30”8’30”9’15”
May 20214’30”7’40”5’00”8’30”9’15”
June 20214’30”7’30”5’00”8’30”9’30”
March 26, 20236’00”8’00”6’00”8’00”10’00”
935 Jane Express
Nov 20197’30”9’30”9’40”9’00”
May 2020NilNilNilNil
Nov 20207’30”9’30”9’40”9’00”
Jan 20219’30”12’00”12’30”11’30”
June 20219’00”12’00”12’00”12’00”
March 26, 202312’00”16’00”12’00”Nil

35 Jane Local

Note that from May to October 2020 there was no express service. Local service was scheduled somewhat more frequently during this period to compensate.

Generally speaking, the 85th percentile lines (orange) are further away from the medians (blue) at Lawrence, and especially during peak periods.

Northbound from Jane Station and at Lawrence

These charts show the headway data for Jane Station (left) and at Lawrence northbound (right). By August 2022, the median and 85th percentiles grow particularly late in the day. This settles down late in the year. The cause was water main construction that reduced the road to one lane each way.

Southbound from Pioneer Village Station and at Lawrence

The pattern in headways southbound mirrors the northbound data above with the spread between median and 85th percentiles growing at Lawrence relative to leaving PV Station.

935 Jane Express

Northbound from Jane Station and at Lawrence

Service on the 935 Jane Express is considerably less reliable than on the 35 Jane local. This is visible both in the “spikiness” of the 85th percentile lines and in the variation in the median values in the PM peak and evening. When the median goes higher than the scheduled headway, this usually means that buses are missing from the route. The TTC rarely attempts to even out service with the remaining vehicles and so gaps can be multiples of headways even if the buses are “on time”. It is clear that this problem persists into 2023 although it is not as severe as in 2022 and in late 2021.

Southbound from Pioneer Village Station and at Lawrence

As with the local service, the southbound express service mirrors northbound behaviour, and is considerably more erratic than the local service.

Headways Northbound From Jane Station, February 2023

Some headways on 35/935 Jane in February 2023 are truly appalling. I am only presenting data for one month at one location here, but the same pattern exists elsewhere in time and location.

Here are the overall statistics for the local service. Note that I have set the y-axis maximum to 40 minutes in order to fit in most of the data (some headways were even longer!).

These charts show the average headway within each hour subdivided by weeks, and with weekend days consolidated into all Saturdays and all Sundays (including Family Day which is a Monday).

Of note here are the standard deviation values (dotted lines) which even at a terminal are often close to the averages. This indicates that many buses are running as pairs, or separated by only a few minutes, right from the terminal.

The charts below show the detailed data for weekdays and weekends. On the left are the data points with each dot representing one trip. On the right is a summary of the range of values broken down by quartile. The boundary between the blue and green section is the median value. Of particular note is the length of the “tails” for the first and fourth quartiles. The long purple tails show the 25% of the service operates at headways well above the median.

Week one is comparatively well-behaved with few headways over 15 minutes, and a compact range of values until early afternoon.

A consistent problem through the month is that the range of headways gets wider in the afternoon and evening. However, the trend lines stay at roughly the scheduled headway as do the median values indicating that all trips are operating. The problem is that the service is scattered with many vehicles running as pairs separated by wide gaps.

Weekends show gapping and bunching every day for almost the entire day.

These are headways at a terminal, the location where the TTC measures service “reliability”. The situation is even worse elsewhere on the route as gaps become wider and bunches tighten up.

For the express service the situation is worse. Unlike the local service, the average values do not sit consistently in the afternoon and early evening, and the standard deviation values are high from mid-morning onward. On weekends, the average roughly tracks the scheduled headway, but the SD value grows through the day showing service becoming more ragged and bunched.

There is a sawtooth pattern in the average headways from 3pm onward on weekdays. The scheduled value is a consistent 12 minutes all afternoon, and this pattern suggests that there are buses routinely missing every day of the week.

The detailed data for the service are shown below. Note how the 2nd and 3rd quartiles (green and blue boxes on the right) are fairly small, and the “tails” for the 1st and 4th quartiles are fairly short until mid-afternoon indicating a compact range of headways. However, everything comes apart in the late afternoon and early evening.

The wide swing in headways on Monday February 6 is caused by a diversion that took many buses via a route that did not pass the screenline near Jane Station where I measured headways. I have left this in to illustrate the need to verify the reason behind outliers in the data. Most other days in the month show a similar pattern including the rest of week 2 from February 7th to 10th.

On weekends, the headway values are widely scattered, but the trend line lines are flat at roughly the scheduled headway. This means that all scheduled buses are operating, but not on a regular spacing. This shows the danger of only reporting “average” headways or numbers of trips operated without reference to the variation in spacing.

Individual Daily Operations

This section presents detailed tracking for the express and local service on selected days in February to give an indication of operations over the route rather than at a point. These charts are in a classic time-distance format dating back to the 19th century, somewhat preceding the establishment of transit service on Jane Street.

Time runs from left to right, and distance runs vertically with south (Jane Station) at the bottom. Pioneer Village Station is at the north, and the dogleg on Steeles is straightened out for the purpose of charting. The distance between lines represents the spacing of buses: when they are close together, buses are bunched; when they are far apart, well, we all know what that looks like. The slope of the lines indicates the speed: the more horizontal the line, the slower the bus. A flat horizontal line indicates a bus is stopped.

24 hours is too much to fit into a single image, and so a day’s operations are spread over eight three-hour windows. Those who are so inclined could print out the charts and paste them together.

The local service is shown on the left, and the express service on the right to illustrate how both are affected by common issues along the route.

Of particular note on the Jane corridor is the early commencement of service reflecting the hours of workers along this route and the need for frequent service when many are still sound asleep. The “am peak” has a very different meaning in this area than for conventional downtown commuters.

Also worth noting is that terminal layovers are common even when service is badly disrupted. This can occur because schedules have more than enough time for buses to make their trips, and that further padding running times, a typical TTC response to service issues, will not be productive in this case.

Some of the days selected here include service disruptions. The issue is not that these occur, but how the TTC manages the resulting bunching and gapping, or simply leaves the service to sort itself out.

Monday, February 6, 2023

On February 6, service diverted via Runnymede between Annette and Bloor due to “police activity” as it was described in the eAlert. This begins after 2:30pm and extends to after 7:30pm. However, there is some irregularity in both the local and express services earlier in the day such as pairs of 35 Jane local buses running together as pairs over an entire trip.

The event near Annette Street creates large gaps in both the local and express services, and these persist with buses running in platoons until the early evening. There does not appear to be any effort to space out the service, and few short turns considering how badly bunched the service becomes.

Saturday, February 11, 2023

The data for Saturday, February 11 show severe congestion southbound north of Wilson beginning after 10am and lasting until 8pm. A review of the data (not shown here) reveals that this problem began on Friday, February 10 and lasted until Tuesday February 14.

In the local service, there is some bunching during the morning including one bus (dark blue) that appears as part of a pair for close to three hours, but most of the service is well-behaved. Between 10am and 1pm, the congestion near Wilson sets in, but both the local and express services start to bunch badly after 1pm. By 4:30, over half of the local service is running in a platoon with matching wide gaps. There is a similar problem on the express service, but not as severe. The problem persists until about 10pm.

At no time is there any indication of an attempt to space service from terminals or to short turn buses to re-establish a regular headway.

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

February 22, 2023, brought a heavy snowfall with 17.4cm recorded at Pearson Airport. This did not affect service until later in the day. The morning and midday service shows a fair amount of bunching of the locals, but the express service is well-behaved particularly through the late morning and early afternoon.

Delays and bunching begin to appear after 4pm on both the local and express services. There are few short turns, and gaps echo back and forth across the route until the end of service.

Monday, February 27, 2023

February 27 was also a snow day, but with only 5.4cm recorded compared to February 22 above.

On the local service, there is a familiar pattern with buses becoming progressively more bunched as the day goes on, although there are a few short turns to get vehicles back on time and fill gaps.

The express service is unusual in that most of the buses disappear after 4pm creating some extremely wide gaps in service. There is no attempt to spread out the remaining buses into an even headway.

4 thoughts on “35/935 Jane Travel Time and Headway Reliability

  1. Though I have not (yet) tried to go through the detailed tables, your statement “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.” struck me as one you could (and have!) made on every route you study.

    This is a terrible reflection on TTC management as the failure to manage routes is so obvious to ‘customers’ and it should be comparatively easy to fix with proper supervision and planning. It is also far cheaper to use existing resources better than the alternative: buying more vehicles or hiring more operators.

    Steve: Definitely, I agree. The TTC advises that new schedules to improve on time performance are coming on March 26, and that better line management is being implemented in Transit Control. We will see what happens. I am particularly concerned that the service cuts combined with the irregular vehicle spacing and missing buses will make life even worse than it is today.


  2. What is the wait times for the Jane buses turning left from Steeles Avenue West to Jane Street southbound? Is there a backup of traffic in the left turn lane? Are the buses able to turn on the advance left turn signal, or do they miss that cycle?

    Could a dedicated left turn transit signal (diagonal bar “\”) allowing a bus to turn left from the RIGHT lane be of any help?

    Similar scenario when the Jane buses turn left from Jane Street to Eglinton Avenue West eastbound, when Line 5 opens later this year (allegedly).

    (Could be looked at for other bus routes that face left turns as well, IE. 52 Lawrence West bus going eastbound from Scarlett Road to Lawrence Avenue West.)

    Steve: You can see the degree of delay westbound at Steeles and Jane in the daily service charts. There is some delay to some trips, but it is not massive.


  3. Steve notes, as a final comment in the “Headways” high points at the beginning of this article to underscore erratic/non-existent service, long waits at stops and both bunching and large gaps, that:

    “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.”

    This, as Steve has pointed out on too many occasions and in too many of his blog articles to count, is the crux of the transit issues plaguing the TTC and why “service” is a lovely word on a logo with no actual meaning to the folks working for the city’s transit commission or the real-world folks trying to use the system.

    My (rhetorical?) comments/questions:

    1. I notice that the bus drivers have a screen next to them (streetcar drivers too? – not sure) with lovely images that I have never been able to look closely at while slipping by after swiping my Presto card. However, it *looks* like it shows the actual distance between our bus and the bus(es) in front of and behind them. Meaning that all the drivers *should* know whether to hang back or speed up to keep a balance in distance in order to actually serve the public by being able to pick them up and by not cramming one bus to the roof while the other is essentially running empty.

    2. The TTC was particular about removing the “paper” schedules from all the stop posts some time ago, with the comment that it was too expensive to have staff replace them due to seasonal changes, construction impacts, etc., etc., etc. So now – if you are lucky enough to own the relevant technology – you are at the whim of the textbot “898882” along with your Stop Number to find out when the “next 3 or 4 or 5 buses” are due to stop by. This is great for the TTC because they don’t have to stick to an ACTUAL schedule; but they HAVE told you when you can next “expect” [sic] a bus to drive by. Even if this is 8 minutes later than what was on the defunct and “so-last-century” paper schedules. What freedom for the bus drivers! And the TTC can say, “Hey, we’re letting you know when to head out!” Despite the fact that it’s crappy service compared to 5 years ago. And despite the fact that some transit users still may not have smart phones or even computer access to find out what’s what. (Those smart old TTC folks!)

    3. Anecdotally, I live about a 5-minute ride south of the nearby subway station which is served by 2 routes (1 with 3 branches, the other with 1) and, while I understand that it’s more likely to see different buses approaching that stop within a short time period, I have seen FOUR buses passing by within a two-minute time span, like a transit parade, with all different route designations or sometimes two of the “main” route numbers. Meaning that there won’t be another bus for anywhere from 10 to 20+ minutes, depending on the weekday and time of day. Gotta love service that “serves” riders by letting them enjoy the outside weather conditions just that little bit longer, eh?… Oh, and it’s not like drivers couldn’t make up time on the rest of the route – even during the morning and afternoon school rush time periods when ALL vehicles move at less than 5 km/hr past my window for about 30 minutes.

    City Council doesn’t care a whit. The TTC Board members – bless their (possibly-)transit-centred hearts – wouldn’t know the difference between headways and headcheese to be able to even start thinking about how riders are short-changed by a less-than-caring system. And management?… Well, transit is this magic black box that is at the whim of “bad traffic” and “bad weather” and “bad construction and road conditions.” But never bad management.

    And there, Steve, as you have pointed out, is why I won’t be holding my breath for the “new schedules to improve on-time performance” coming out on March 26. More napkin-planning by people who have a bulk supply of napkins but no meat and potatoes.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Every time you publish these, part of me is hopeful that maybe the TTC has made improvements to route management. And I’m consistently disappointed, all be it not surprised.

    I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: the public should be outraged that routes are so poorly managed (or not managed). One has to wonder why TTC supervisors and managers are so well compensated when they can’t even carry out the basic fundamentals of their jobs. What exactly are the staff tasked with managing the system if the system is apparently being unmanaged. The effects of this mismanagement are abundantly clear and evident to seemingly everyone except the very people tasked with running the system.

    It may sound alarmist, but if this the city were a person, then the blood flowing through them is the TTC. It’s clear the TTC has a blood infection. With a budget of over 2 Billion dollars, the TTC is the city of Toronto’s most valuable asset. It’s in everyone’s best interest if that asset is well cared for. There needs to be media scrutiny on the top brass of the TTC. I wish the mainstream media or W5, Market Place would pick up your analysis of how dismally most of the service runs. and investigate what it is exactly that TTC management does in their day to day work. Clearly it’s not managing service.

    Considering a customer can see real-time info on the exact location of every car or bus on a line, it is bewildering to see route supervisors still using a pen and paper at terminal stations on routes. It’s not hard to figure that two or three people sitting at a computer could effectively manage all their routes in the whole city using the systems we have in place. There is no excuse for this level of incompetent negligence. What relevance is a static analogue notebook when you have a system running with a state of the art industry leading tracking and communications system. Supervisors should always be carrying around a tablet keeping track of the real-time status of the vehicles on the routes they manage. Its one of the core fundamentals of their job, or it should be.

    Steve: An important question is the direction from the very top about what supervisors should be doing. There might be perfectly competent people watching the service on their monitors, but they have marching orders about what they are and are not allowed to do with the service. This has a cumulative effect because any new supervisors learn from the old ones, and if the old ones have forgotten how to actually manage service, the new ones learn all of the bad habits. These are very hard to restore if there is no foundation of experience.

    We have seen years of CEO’s reports that have meaningless stats coupled with Boards who just want to see pretty pictures and stories about well the TTC is doing. There is very little sense of tracking problems because there are no metrics which might reveal how things really are. The short turn stat is the classic where board members who are also councillors kvetched about short turns, so the fix was to ban them. This is counterproductive especially on lines where service disruptions are common even without other problems such as missing buses. The count of short turns fell to near zero when this was implemented even though there were no schedule changes in the same timeframe that would have explained the change. Other stats conceal the actual fleet usage and reliability, and in general numbers are reported as averages for long periods which masks the highs and lows where the real problems are.

    As for supervisors with pens and paper, there was a time when they were provided with tablets, but the devices were heavy and unwieldy. They quickly fell out of favour.

    Liked by 2 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s