Draft of TTC Service Changes Effective Sunday, May 7, 2023

Updated April 11, 2023 at 8:45pm: The TTC’s map of diversions for the 501 Queen car effective May 1 has been added to this article.

Updated April 21, 2023 at 11:20am: The 501 diversion map has been replaced with a higher resolution version.

During the City’s 2023 budget discussions, TTC staff offered to make information about the effect of budget cuts on service public. However, an unseen hand either at the TTC or City prevented this from happening before the budget was approved. In time, a list of changes for March 26, 2023 appeared on the TTC Board’s February 28 agenda, but there is no comparable briefing note for the May 7 changes on their April 13 agenda. The Board and City Council are still in the dark on the effects of service policies they blindly adopted with the budget.

Recently, the transit advocacy group TTCriders obtained the draft changes through a Freedom of Information request. This article is based on that draft version of the May 7 service changes dated January 27, 2023. That was after the City Budget Committee’s wrap-up meeting on January 24, but before the budget went to Council on February 15.

Although drafts fall into my lap from time to time, I do not normally publish them as they are subject to change, and there is enough misinformation circulating among the fans and Twitterati that I prefer to keep that sort of thing to myself.

This is the last Board meeting before the May schedules will come into effect, and it would have been an ideal chance for management to update the Board on what was about to happen as they did with the March service cuts. They have only themselves to blame for losing control of the message.

From a procedural point of view, the absence of a report on the agenda means that the topic of service cuts is not formally before the Board for debate or deputations. This is a classic way to stifle discussion.

City-TV’s Nick Westoll covered this story on April 6, and the TTC did confirm that the subway service cuts will occur as shown in the draft. He obtained the following statement from the TTC:

“All changes are designed to match capacity to demand and put the most service out at times and areas that it is most needed. All changes are also within the … established service standards. What TTCRiders has is an early draft that has already been revised since the version they have and is still not finalized. The final schedules will be … shared publicly later this month … We will monitor routes in real-time and deploy unscheduled service when we observe gaps or overcrowding.”

TTC’s Stuart Green as quoted by City-TV

A major problem with unscheduled service is that it is invisible to service tracking apps. Riders waiting for a bus will not know that there is an “extra” lurking just out of sight, and they might just give up in frustration. Moreover, there is no way for the TTC to demonstrate retroactively how it managed the service and we have to take it on faith that gaps shown in the data really didn’t happen. There are far more gaps than spare buses, and it does not take an Einstein to figure out that many gaps will not be filled. This is a convenient fiction that TTC management uses to fob off complaints about service.

As for the final schedules, by now operators have already signed up for their crews in May, and the service plans are more or less cast in stone.

An Overview of the Cuts

In the interests of transparency, here are the draft changes for May.

I cannot stress enough that this is a first draft dated January 27, 2023, and some of its proposals may have changed before the final version which has not yet been published. Readers should cite this information with caution pending the official version of the May service.

Cuts that began with the February and March schedules continue into the May proposals. Analysis of the ups and downs from route to route can be tricky because several events happen at the same time:

  • Many routes have running time adjustments to adjust for rising traffic congestion. Sometimes this is accomplished with added vehicles, but more commonly by widening existing headways and running the same (or fewer) vehicles further apart.
  • Some routes have service cuts to align capacity with the updated crowding standards. These cuts are sometimes combined with other changes.
  • Some routes have seasonal changes either because they serve academic sites or amusement areas (e.g. the Beach).
  • Several construction projects will begin in May:
    • Queen & Yonge will close until sometime in 2027 for Ontario Line construction. Various diversions will ensue.
    • The Queen Street bridge at the Don River will be under repair. Service that would normally travel along this route will divert to Dundas Street.
    • Main Street Station loop will close for paving. All service will be rerouted to Victoria Park Station, or will be operated with interlines between pairs of routes with on-street boarding.
    • The intersection of Lower Gerrard & Coxwell will be rebuilt.
    • Track on Broadview from Gerrard to Danforth will be rebuilt, and the streetcar loop at Broadview Station will be expanded.
    • The railway overpass west of St. Clair & Caledonia (GO Barrie corridor) will be under repair.

Further details are in the main part of the article.

An important point to remember when the TTC talks about service reductions is that an “X” percent service cut is not the same as an “X” percent saving in operating costs. There are two important reasons behind this:

  • There is a substantial fixed cost, especially for the subway, for infrastructure, management and maintenance, and this does not vary with changes in service.
  • If a service change leaves the same number of vehicles in service, but running further apart (typically to allow for traffic), there is no change in the vehicle hours operated. The same number of buses is on the road, only travelling more slowly (or spending more time in layovers). Only costs that are directly related to the distance travelled go down, not those such as operator wages that are related primarily to hours.

The result of these is that an edict to save “X” percent in costs will require more than “X” percent in cuts. This is a classic problem of marginal vs fully allocated costing and savings.

The usual spreadsheet showing old and new headways, running times and vehicle allocations is linked here:


Note to the fans: please do not send me queries about divisional allocation of bus routes as some of these were not settled in the draft plan. I will include this information when the final version comes out in late April.

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