TTC Service Changes Effective November 18, 2018 and December 23, 2018

The TTC will only make a few changes to its schedules for the November and December board periods.

November 18, 2018

Express Service Rebranding

Five routes will be rebranded into the new 900-series of Express routes. In all cases there is no increase in service, only a change in the route number.

  • 41E Keele express becomes 941
  • 95E York Mills express becomes 995
  • 131E Nugget express becomes 903, and will interline with 131 “local” service between STC and Old Finch.
  • 188 Kipling Rocket becomes 944 Kipling South Express.
  • 192 Airport Rocket becomes 900.

It will be interesting to see how long the 192 route number will live on in TTC maps to confuse the tourists.

Construction Changes

Work at Bathurst Station will be complete and the bus routes will resume their normal platform assignments.

Work at Kennedy Station will be complete to the point that routes normally on the north side of the bus terminal can use their regular bays.

Service Changes

One additional gap train will be scheduled on 1 Yonge University during each of the peak periods to fill service gaps.

Service on 505 Dundas (still operating as a bus route) will be rescheduled to remove some of the excessive running time with reduction of scheduled vehicles in some cases, and service improvements in others, notably Saturday evenings.

Service on 511 Bathurst (also still operating as a bus route) will return to the split version with a short turn at Front Street.

81 Thorncliffe Park will be changed so that it circles Thorncliffe counterclockwise at all operating hours rather than changing direction at 3 pm. The official “end of the line” will be moved out of the loop to Thorncliffe and Overlea so that passengers do not sit part way around the loop while the bus waits for its time. This will improve transfer connections with other routes on Overlea.

Weekday Run As Directed service will be reallocated as weekend Standby and Service Relief for the November-December shopping season including Sunday, December 23 (which is technically part of the next schedule period).

Other minor changes are listed in the details linked below.

December 23, 2018

For the two week holiday period, the usual arrangements will apply with many routes reverting to summer schedules.

No subway construction buses will be scheduled as there are no planned shutdowns during the holidays.

Late night service will be operated on most routes on New Year’s Eve. There has not yet been announcement about a sponsor for free service.

[The table linked here was corrected at 11:15 pm on October 20, 2018 to reflect that the Keele express buses terminate at Finch West, not at Pioneer Village.]

2018.11.18_Service_Changes

Where Have All The Riders Gone?

TTC ridership has been static for the past few years, as set out in the October 2018 CEO’s Report. Year-to-date ridership is down 3.2% compared to budget and 2.0% compared to 2017.

This is attributed to several factors:

Ridership has flatlined since 2014 due to various factors, including congestion, changes in customer mobility, and growth in digital ride-hailing services.

Another important factor that has adversely impacted ridership is the ongoing decrease in Metropass sales, which currently generate approximately 40% of total ridership. Specifically, there were 163,000 (-7%) fewer passes sold between January and August 2018, compared with the corresponding months in 2017. Although some of these lost sales have likely been offset by an increase in PRESTO e-purse transactions, the declining Metropass sales continue to have a significant impact on overall ridership trends. [p. 19]

The statements here present many factors, but do not attempt an analysis. One vital and missing component in the list is the question of service quality and capacity. If people cannot get on their bus, streetcar or subway train, or if the service is unpredictable enough, they will use transit as a matter of last resort, not as a first choice.

The entire concept of a monthly pass was to remove the incremental cost of taking another trip, something which (at least back in the late 1970s when the debate raged over whether Toronto could have monthly passes) was an important factor. Fares are still an issue, but service is a troubling component too.

The note about declining Metropass sales requires some explanation. The TTC, through user surveys, estimates the number of trips taken by the typical passholder in a month, and this sits at about 74. For every 100,000 passes they sell, they count 7.4 million trips. Obviously, the number of trips each passholder takes will vary, but things will average out. For example, in the first week of July when, by chance, I was part of the survey sample, I took 27 trips (and that’s counting a “trip” by the transfer rules then in effect). That translates to over 100 trips/month. The trips/day varied from a low of 2 to a high of 7. It was a busy week, and I made one or two round trips from home, plus a few stopovers, on the busiest days. If I had counted on the basis of the two-hour transfer, the “trip” count would have been close to 20 factoring out the stopovers and a few quick there-and-back-again round trips.

Because each Metropass sale translates to so many trips in the stats, the loss of a sale has a big effect on the total TTC numbers. However, the people who “fall off” the Metropass group are likely to be those whose usage was borderline break-even and for whom convenience of a flash-and-go card had a value in its own right. Presto eliminates that value, and it would be no surprise to see many passholders switch over. The actual trips lost to the TTC are, for these riders, fewer than the average Metropass usage.

The trips/pass for the remaining sales should go up if the low end of the market shifts to Presto, but it is not clear whether the TTC adjusts their multiplier frequently. The “lost” riding could be as much an effect of overcounting the lost pass sales (and associated trips), as it is a real decline in system usage. This problem will become even trickier with the two-hour pass available through Presto where trips that used to count as two (or more) fares will now only count as one.

Meanwhile, in response to the falling numbers, the TTC has plans:

To re-establish sustained ridership growth, a new Ridership Growth Strategy (RGS) is being implemented. RGS initiatives include implementing a two-hour transfer on PRESTO and relieving overcrowding on surface routes.

Research is also underway to analyze the changes in monthly Metropass sales and corresponding ridership impact. [p. 19]

If one goal of RGS is to relieve overcrowding, then it is clear that at least part of the system needs more service to handle demand even while official “ridership” is not growing. There may be routes with falling ridership, but even they must be viewed with caution lest the fall be the result of irregular or even reduced service.

Indeed, if there are overcrowded routes, why does the TTC not publish a list of routes, periods and locations where crowding is a problem that cannot be addressed without more capacity? Toronto cannot begin to talk about attracting new riders if it does not provide enough service to carry those who are already trying to use the system, or even understand the scope of the current system’s shortfall.

The two-hour fare will accentuate the split between the trend in “fares” (considered equivalent to “ridership”) and boardings on vehicles. (A “boarding” is one passenger getting on one vehicle, and each transfer counts as a new boarding, except on the subway which is considered one route for this purpose in TTC stats.) This will add to the confusion between apparently falling “ridership” and system crowding.

It is no secret that the TTC is capacity constrained. Although the bus fleet is now more reliable than ever thanks to better maintenance and the retirement of old clunkers, the actual size of the fleet is not growing because there is no place to put any more vehicles. Expansion plans are limited, as I have written before, and this is a major problem for the TTC’s future. On the streetcar fleet, new cars are gradually replacing old ones, and on close to a one-for-one basis bringing greater capacity to King Street this year, and to Queen in 2019. Subway capacity will not improve until early 2020 at best on Line 1 YUS, and 2026 or later on Line 2 BD.

Even the new Express Bus network has limited benefit because so much of it simply rebrands service that already exists rather than making a real improvement in what riders experience. Of the changes to date, the most striking has come on 29 Dufferin, but on many routes the service is identical to, or only a slight improvement on, the old “E” branches that are now 900-series routes.

The TTC has research underway on the effect of pass sales on ridership numbers, but this potential effect of the Presto migration was hardly unknown. If anything, the TTC has been derelict in placing so much focus on “ridership” while ignoring the basic question of service quantity and quality.

Former CEO Andy Byford set a management goal for a reduction of short turns and an improvement in on-time performance. This triggered various responses:

  • On some routes, scheduled running times were inadequate to actual conditions, and short-turning was inevitable. Running times were lengthened (and service was often scheduled less often to stretch available vehicles to match longer trips). However, in some cases the padding has been excessive leading to dawdling vehicles enroute and queues of buses and streetcars that arrive early at terminals.
  • When even padded schedules didn’t eliminate short-turns, the edict went out “thou shalt not short turn”. This can be counterproductive because there are cases where short turns are needed, but simply are not done and vehicles remain in a pack following a long gap.

The matter of “on time performance” is a blatant case of cooking the metrics to make management look good.

  • Previously, the TTC measured “on time performance” at various locations along routes. The results were not pretty.
  • The metric was changed to look only at terminal locations on the premise that service which is on time at the start of its trip will remain so as it moves across the city. Alas that is not so.

As we will see in a series of articles I will start publishing in coming days, there is a common problem on many routes that service may begin with vehicle spacing that is close to “on time”, but it takes only a short distance along a route for vehicles to catch up to each other and run in pairs or triplets. A further issue is that the TTC considers a bus or streetcar “on time” within a six-minute window, and this is meaningless for the frequent service on major routes. Because the service quality goal is only measured at the terminal, the actual reliability seen by most riders (who board elsewhere) is considerably worse than the values management reports.

For its part, Council looks at ridership numbers, sees a system that is not growing and says “why should we give you more money”? When added subsidy does come, it is as likely to go into fare reductions as to service growth, but lower fares are cold comfort if a rider cannot rely on transit for a timely and comfortable journey.

TTC Modifies Transition to Presto Annual Pass

Because of potential disruption in Canada Post services, the TTC has announced that it will end the mailing of Metropasses to Monthly Discount Plan (MDP) customers effective immediately. For the months of November and December 2018, the TTC will credit accounts of customers who would receive these passes with the equivalent of the discount.

This will allow those still receiving MDP passes to purchase a regular Metropass while having a net cost equal to the MDP value.

The TTC is also encouraging MDP customers to shift to Presto cards and will provide a $6 credit to MDP users on November 1 to cover the cost of purchasing a new card.

The use of physical Metropasses as we know them will end on December 31, 2018, and only the Presto equivalents will continue.

Tickets and tokens will remain available until the start of August 2019, and will be honoured for an as-yet unspecified time thereafter.

 

King Street Update: September 2018 (Updated)

Updated October 11, 2018: Charts have been added at the end of the article giving more detail about the effect of TIFF on operation of the King Street service.

September 2018 brought a major change on King Street with the presence of the Toronto film festival, TIFF, and diversion of service around the festival district. The service design was the same as in 2017, but last year the King Street Pilot and associated traffic restrictions downtown had not begun.

Other service changes in September included:

  • The return to the standard 504 King routing from Broadview Station following completion of track construction on Broadview.
  • Reinstatement of 514 Cherry following a split 504 operation during the construction period. (The split operation will become standard on Sunday, October 7.)
  • The 503 Kingston Road car resumed tripper operations to York Street, but this lasted only to mid-September when the route was extended again west to Spadina (Charlotte Loop) to accommodate construction on Wellington Street.

Peak Travel Times

PM peak travel times continued the pattern seen over the past year, but the TIFF period produced major disruptions because of service diversions. Note that in the chart below, travel times across the pilot area from Jarvis to Bathurst include the time spent on diversion all day on Thursday and Friday, September 6 and 7. Diversions also occurred at some times in the week of September 10-14, but these trips are not included below.

  • Westbound via north on York, west on Queen, south on Spadina
  • Eastbound via north on Spadina, east on Queen, south on Church

The effect of TIFF diversions was worse in 2018 than 2017 with the 85th percentile of travel times on Thursday September 6 hitting 54 minutes. The chart below expands the first three weeks of September and includes four percentile lines rather than the two used in the chart above. Note that the four lines stay close together indicating there was little spread between the best and worst case values.

  • Thursday/Friday September 6/7: The diversion via Queen more than doubled the travel time between the bounds of the pilot.
  • Monday September 10: No diversion or temporary service blockage at TIFF affected the period from 5-6 pm.
  • Tuesday September 11: Service was blocked at TIFF during the 5-6 pm hour:
    • some cars were held producing higher travel times at the 85th and 100th percentiles;
    • some cars diverted (not included below);
    • some cars ran through unimpeded producing a 25th percentile similar to “normal” days.
  • Wednesday September 12: Emergency sewer repairs west of Bathurst required a diversion via Queen for much of the day. No cars operated through King and Bathurst and so there were no trips on King between Jarvis and Bathurst to measure.
  • Thursday/Friday September 13/14: Travel times returned to close to values seen before and after the TIFF period.

Travel times eastbound were also affected by TIFF and the diversions, and the effect was comparable to westbound data.

I will return to the effects of TIFF on all day travel times later in this article.

Here are the full sets of charts:

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Many Questions About A Subway Takeover

In the melee that passes for Ontario politics, one major issue is the proposed takeover of Toronto’s subway system by Queen’s Park. Such a change, they claim, would allow a great speed-up of system expansion currently hung up at Toronto Council. A good deal of that hang up can be traced to the Premier and his brother’s actions at Council, but such trivialities get in the way of a good stump speech.

The idea that planning should be based on actual evidence is a buzz-phrase heard most commonly when a politician is trying to appear “businesslike” and claims to be applying some sort of intellectual rigour to back-of-the-envelope planning. The uploading proposal sounds good in theory, but this is due in part to poor understanding of transits needs and cost both at Queen’s Park and at City Hall. The scheme surfaced years ago at Council as a simplistic way to cut the cost of transit support in the City’s budget, and the idea moved to the provincial level along with the Ford regime.

A common thread through every proposal is that the true cost of owning, operating and upgrading the subway system is poorly understood, even by members of Toronto Council and the TTC Board whose job it should be to know these things. It is a convenient myth that the subway “breaks even”, and that if only someone would take the cost of expansion and capital maintenance off of the City’s hands, all would be well.

In the interest of informed debate, this article examines the plan, such as it is, and the many issues that have yet to be addressed by its proponents.

Understanding the TTC Budget

A detailed breakdown of the TTC Budgets can be found in:

The TTC’s budget and long-term plans are poorly understood. The TTC Board scheduled Budget and Strategy meetings, but either cancelled them or spent the available time on narrow-focus rather than system-wide issues. At Council, things are even worse because budget debates, crammed with every department’s issues, get only short review. These are usually in an environment hostile to discussions of change except for a few, small topics. The “big picture” is limited to battles over new transit lines while the health of the overall system goes ignored.

For a decade or more, service growth in Toronto was constrained by the size of the streetcar and bus fleets, the physical limits on train spacing on the subway and the capacity of its stations. Much of the recent service growth is outside of the peak period when spare vehicles are available.

On the capital side, the City has a policy that its debt service costs should not exceed 15% of tax revenues. The province mandates a 25% cap, but the City takes a more conservative approach to provide headroom. Originally the cap applied to each year individually, but it is now considered over a ten-year average so that peaks and valleys in debt costs can smooth out for a 15% average. Already, planned borrowing for future years takes up all available room, and additional debt-financed work is possible only with special levies such as the Scarborough Subway tax (1.6%) and the John Tory City Building Fund (building up to 2.5%). (These are both tax increases above the rate of inflation.) If the cost of borrowing goes up, or City tax revenues fall, the 15% line will be only a fond memory.

The problem is compounded by a chronic understatement of transit needs going back at least eight years. When the marching orders are to keep deficits, and hence taxes, down, any proposals for improvement run counter to political goals. “We can’t afford it” becomes a standard response, and options simply go unstudied especially if they are associated with the wrong political faction.

If we don’t know what options will cost, we don’t know what might be possible or what the trade-offs among options would look like.

Even worse, with the Capital Budget, there is a long list of items that are either:

  • approved but not funded (roughly 1/3 of the approved list, about $3 billion worth)
  • “below the line” with neither approval nor funding (over $1 billion)
  • “future consideration” (over $2 billion)

Many of the big ticket items in these lists are subway items such as new and expanded fleets for the two major routes, and capacity expansion at busy stations. Many items in the budget are actually part of a larger project such subway capacity. However, the budget is presented on a departmental basis, and there is no consolidation of related line items. This has two effects: the TTC Board and Council rightly complain when projects appear to grow because approving the first step triggers the need for all that follows, related items are consigned to “funded” or “unfunded” status without regard for their place in the larger scheme.

The problem with these lists is that they are getting longer, especially the second and third group, even though some items form parts of critical system updates. Other projects simply are not on any budget, or are pushed so far into the future that they have no effect on the current ten-year plans. The 15% rule caused important projects related to Line 2 Bloor-Danforth to be pushed into the late 2020s even though some of them are pre-requisites for the Scarborough Subway Extension. (The components of Bloor-Danforth subway renewal and capacity expansion are discussed in detail in an appendix to this article.)

If Ontario takes over responsibility for the subway, they will inherit that long list of projects. For its part, Toronto Council and the TTC Board do not fully understand the implications if Ontario simply chooses not to invest in the existing system because the estimate of a takeover has been low-balled.

The TTC Board is very simple-minded in its deliberations, and avoids going into details. Their focus is on cost containment, not on service, except when someone needs a photo op to announce some relatively trivial change such as an express bus network that adds few new buses.

If Council and the TTC don’t understand their own system and its real needs, how can they fight for it?

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TTC Service Changes Effective Sunday, October 7, 2018

Thanksgiving weekend will bring a major change in the organization of streetcar service on King Street, a further expansion of the new Express Network, and several service improvements mainly during the off-peak period.

2018.10.07_Service_Changes [Revised to correct branch letters on 12 Kingston Road]

King and Cherry Streetcars

As I reported in a previous article, the 514 Cherry route will disappear as a distinct entity. Service on 504 King will be changed to a configuration to the design used over summer 2018 while Broadview Avenue was closed for construction. An eastern and western branch will serve the route overlapping in the central section.

  • 504A Dundas West Station to Distillery Loop
  • 504B Broadview Station to Dufferin Loop

Unlike the summer routes, the Kingston Road streetcar service will remain in its traditional design:

  • The 502 Downtowner route operates between Bingham Loop (at Victoria Park) and University Avenue weekdays until 7:00 pm. This remains as a bus service pending availability of enough streetcars to restore streetcar service to McCaul Loop.
  • Peak period 503 Kingston Road Tripper streetcars operate from Bingham Loop to York & Wellington via King. Service to the Charlotte loop at Spadina, part of the summer design, was discontinued with the return to fall schedules in September.

Scheduled headways on the outer parts of the route are wider than currently operated on the premise that the route will operate with larger Flexity cars rather than the old CLRVs. The TTC’s intent is to have the route completely converted to new cars by the end of the year. As of September 13, about three quarters of the AM peak 504 King cars were operating with Flexitys as well as all of the 514 Cherry cars. Based on Flexity delivery rates, the conversion will not complete before the new schedules go into effect and a few CLRVs will remain at least to late October. The TTC plans to use these only on peak period trippers so that off-peak service is fully provided by Flexitys.

Express Bus Network

Four routes will join the 900-series express network. (For details of stopping patterns, please refer to the table of changes linked above.)

952 Lawrence will operate from Lawrence Station to Pearson Airport via Dixon Road during peak periods. The combined local and express service will provide about 13.5 buses per hour compared to the current 12 at the express stops.

Concurrent with this change, the end of construction at Lawrence West Station, service on the Westway branch will be cut back from Yonge Street to its usual eastern terminus at the Spadina subway. This branch will also change from 5 to 4 buses per hour during the AM peak.

Overall, the total number of buses assigned to this route will rise slightly during peak periods, but weekday off-peak headways will widen slightly.

924 Victoria Park will operate during peak periods replacing the 24E Victoria Park Express. This is only a rebranding, and the number of AM peak buses is actually dropping by one in the new service design.

929 Dufferin will operate weekdays in peak and off-peak until mid-evening between Wilson Station and the Dufferin Loop at the western entrance to Exhibition Place. Concurrently, the peak period short turn at Tycos Drive will be dropped and all of the local 29 Dufferin buses will run through to Wilson Station. The peak period combined frequency at express stops will improve, but local stops will see less service. Both the local and express services will operate with articulated buses.

989 Weston will operate during peak periods as a through service from Keele Station to Steeles overlapping both the 89 Weston and 165 Weston Road North routes. There is no change on the 165 schedule. The combined service at express stops will improve over current 89 Weston levels.

Service on Sheppard East will be reorganized on weekends.

  • On Saturdays, the 85 Sheppard East local service will change from articulated buses to standard-sized vehicles, while the 985 express service to STC will change from standard to artic buses.
  • On Sundays, the 985 Sheppard East Express will change to artic buses.

Concurrent changes will lower the capacity provided on the 85 service while slightly increasing it on the 985 express. However, the headways (time between vehicles) on the express service will widen to offset the use of larger vehicles.

Service on Finch West will be improved on weekends by provision of 939B Finch Express service to Finch West Station during the daytime. There is no change in the local bus schedules, and so this is a net new service, albeit not a very frequent one.

Construction Projects

Three construction projects end with the October schedules:

  • Lawrence West Station will re-open as a bus terminal for 59 Maple Leaf and the Westway branch of 52 Lawrence. The 109 Ranee and 400 Lawrence Manor buses, which had been stopping on street, will move back into the bus loop. Concurrently, because of the large number of buses on Lawrence serving this station, the through services to Yonge Street will continue to use on street stops and riders will require transfers to enter Lawrence West Station unless they are Metropass or Presto users.
  • Track construction at Lansdowne and Dundas will complete. The 47 Lansdowne, 402 Parkdale and 505 Dundas routes will resume their normal operation. Given the speed of recent construction projects, this is likely to occur before the official schedule change.
  • City construction at Yonge and Sheppard is finally complete and the 97 Yonge bus will resume its normal route rather than being split at Lawrence.

Seasonal Services End

Various seasonal services will end including the trial operation of 175 Bluffer’s Park. Its future will be the subject of a report to the TTC Board in 2019.

Miscellaneous Changes

1 Yonge-University-Spadina operations will be modified to improve reliability in three ways:

  • On current schedules, four trains in the AM peak originate at Finch Station rather than operating from Wilson Yard. This will be increased to five.
  • At the end of the AM peak, trains running in to Davisville currently short turn northbound at Lawrence Station. This requires co-ordination with the southbound service and can cause delays and gaps. On the new schedules, these trains will run through to Finch northbound, and then dead head southbound to Davisville. Although this will remove a problem at Lawrence, it could worsen queuing problems northbound at Finch.
  • In the evening, all trains running in to Wilson Yard will do so southbound from Vaughan using the new north entrance to the yard, rather than short turning northbound at Wilson.

Peak period service will be modified on a few routes:

  • 11 Bayview will get better AM and PM peak service.
  • 12 Kingston Road will gain a new branch 12D operating to UTSC and providing a through service on Kingston Road. However, this will run only every 30 minutes during the AM peak, 25 minutes during the PM peak, and the actual usefulness of the service is dubious. Concurrently, service will be reduced on the existing 12A/C branches. This change is more about political optics in southern Scarborough just in time for the election than it is a real contribution to better service. [Lettering of branches corrected Sept 13/18 at 3:55 pm.]
  • 25 Don Mills will get better service on its 25C branch to from Sheppard to Steeles during weekday midday and PM peak periods.
  • 925 Don Mills Express will see a slight improvement in AM peak service.

Off peak service changes include:

  • 54 Lawrence East will receive better service on both branches on Saturday afternoons.
  • 63 Ossington will receive better late evening service on Saturdays.
  • 95 York Mills Saturday service will be revised both to operate more frequently, and to extend the hours of the 95B service to UTSC which now ends eastbound from Yonge just before 7 pm into the mid-evening.
  • Saturday afternoon service on 102 Markham Road will improve slightly, but evening service north of Steeles Avenue will be cut from every 20′ to 30′ at York Region’s request.
  • 112 West Mall will receive improved weekday midday service.
  • Service on 129 McCowan North will be improved on Saturday daytimes primarily by trimming excess running time.
  • 131 Nugget will get better service on Saturday afternoons.

Details of all changes are in the PDF linked above.

Why Can’t I Get On My Bus (II)

Correction August 15, 2018: Off peak service for the Westway branch of 52 Lawrence has been corrected.

In Part I of this article, I reviewed the evolution of bus and streetcar fleet capacity measured by scheduled service over the period from 2006 to 2018. The central point was that there has been little improvement in the overall peak period capacity operated on the bus network for much of the past decade. On the streetcar network, two recent changes – the addition of buses to supplement streetcars and the replacement of old cars by new, larger ones – have provided some peak period capacity growth. However, in both cases, this growth is small seen over the long run. Off-peak service has improved more because the system is not fleet-constrained outside of the rush hours, but there is still a budgetary limitation which affects how much staff are available to operate these vehicles.

In this article, I will review several major suburban bus routes to compare service in January 2009 when the benefits of the Miller-era Ridership Growth Strategy had kicked in with service operated in January 2018. Given the results seen in Part I, it was no surprise that when I compiled this information, many routes have less capacity today than they did a decade ago and improvements where they do exist are not major. That is not a recipe for system growth. How did this happen?

First off, when Rob Ford became Mayor, he rolled back the RGS Service Standards and service just stopped improving. Several off-peak improvements were undone, but these affected periods outside of the range reviewed in Part I (mainly evenings and weekends). Ironically, the streetcar system suffered less because, thanks to the vehicle shortage (even a decade ago), the loading standards for streetcars in the peak period had not changed. There were few RGS improvements to unwind. When John Tory reinstated some of the RGS standards, this allowed growth to resume, but almost entirely in the off-peak period because neither the bus nor the streetcar fleets had spare vehicles.

Another more subtle problem lies in TTC scheduling. As congestion built up on routes, the reaction was to stretch existing headways (the space between vehicles) rather than adding more buses to a route. This responded to the vehicle crunch, but it gradually trimmed service levels across the system. Even though the same number of buses were in service, with fewer passing a point per hour the capacity of service riders saw declined. The TTC made excuses for this practice as simply running buses to the conditions, but the long term effect was to cut service to keep operational demands within the available fleet size.

The balance of this post summarizes the data for each route. The full set of tables is linked below as a PDF.

2009_2018_ServiceComparisons_V2

A few notes about these tables:

  • Services are grouped by corridor because, in some cases, more than one route operates along a street. For example, Lawrence Avenue West has been served by 52 Lawrence, 59 Maple Leaf and 58 Malton (now folded into the 52).
  • Service capacity is shown as buses/hour. The only adjustment for vehicle size is that articulated buses count as 1.5 so that 6 artics per hour is the same, from a capacity point of view, as 9 regular-sized buses. Where a headway is followed by the letter “A” in the tables, this means that artics are operated.
  • In some cases, routes have a branch where every “nth” vehicle takes a longer trip. For example, some of the services running through to York Region have every 3rd, 4th or 5th bus going beyond the “standard” destination. These do not provide net additional service where the branches rejoin in the same way as a branching route where half of the buses go one way and half the other. In other words, if a 5 minute service runs to Steeles and every 4th bus runs beyond on a 20 minute headway, the headway to Steeles is still only 5 minutes, or 12 buses per hour. These cases are noted with an asterisk “*” in the tables.
  • Some routes were affected by the opening of the Vaughan extension. In these cases, data are shown for November 2017, the last set of schedules before the routes changed, so that the evolution of service right up to that point is clear.

The information for these comparisons is from the TTC Scheduled Service Summaries:

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Why Can’t I Get On My Bus?

Recent years brought much hand-wringing from TTC Board members and management about falling ridership numbers. One oft-cited source for this is the combination of fare evasion and the under-reporting of fare payments by Presto. These are linked in that the multiplicity of fares and rules create situations where a rider can validly enter a vehicle without showing a pass or tapping a card. Indeed, there are a number of cases where Presto users are explicitly told not to tap to avoid double charging by software that cannot distinguish many types of valid transfer movements.

Riders, on the other hand, might be forgiven for wondering whether there is enough service actually on the street to carry them. There are two aspects to this problem. One is vehicle bunching, a topic I will explore in coming weeks in detail for several major suburban bus routes, and the other is the actual amount of service.

An important factor in the provision of TTC service is that, in general, it lags demand growth rather than leading it. When the buses and streetcars are full, the TTC runs more of them provided that there is headroom in the budget, enough vehicles and enough operators to actually field more service. City Councillors have a fetish for controlling headcount, and this is one major problem at the TTC – more service requires more drivers (not to mention other staff), but increases to the approved staffing levels are only grudgingly approved. The other big problem for both the streetcar and bus fleets is that the TTC does not have enough vehicles thanks to constraints on capital spending and increases in garage capacity.

I wrote about the TTC’s capacity crisis in an earlier post, but here I will turn to the long-term trends in service provision. This is of particular interest in an election year when competing claims will be made about the actions and policies of current and previous administrations.

All of the charts included in this article as well as the underlying data are consolidated in one PDF linked at the end.

All data here comes from the TTC Scheduled Service Summaries. An archive of these is available on this site.

Scheduled Fleet Capacity

When tracking and comparing capacity for the bus and streetcar fleet, simply looking at the number of vehicles or the distance they travel is not enough. Other factors are at play including the capacity of each vehicle type, and the degree to which schedule changes are in the peak of off-peak periods. Maintenance factors come into play as well because the size of each fleet is larger than the scheduled service.

As a starting point, I converted the scheduled service to a fleet capacity by taking the “standard” vehicle as “1” and scaling up for larger vehicles. Note that the intent is only to track the ratio within each mode and the associated routes, and therefore a basis of “1” can be used for both fleets.

  • Standard 12m low floor bus: 1
  • Articulated low floor bus: 1.5
  • Canadian Light Rail Vehicle (CLRV): 1
  • Articulated Light Rail Vehicle (ALRV): 1.5
  • Flexity Low Floor Streetcar: 2
  • Bus running on a streetcar route: 0.7

Therefore, for the purpose of the chart which follows below, if a Flexity is scheduled to operate, it counts as twice the capacity of a CLRV. One immediate problem with this is that the TTC does not actually operate as many ALRVs as the schedules call for. Recently, although nearly 30 ALRVs are supposed to operate at peak, one is lucky to find a dozen of them on the road. Conversely, where a conversion of a route from old to new streetcars is in progress, there may be more Flexitys in service than scheduled. Similarly, one can find cases where bus trips that are supposed to be provided by longer artics are actually operated by standard length vehicles. The discrepancy between TTC schedules and the real world cannot be helped, and we must take the scheduled numbers as the intended service for an historical review.

To put this in a political context, in January 2007 David Miller beginning his second term as Mayor. He was replaced by Rob Ford in the election in fall 2010. John Tory was elected in fall 2014. The effect of a new administration is not visible in the January schedules which are generally in place before the election is determined.

The increase in bus service capacity in 2009 is the result of the Ridership Growth Strategy which changed the crowding standards to allow for less crowded vehicles. There is some growth in off-peak streetcar service capacity, but little for peak periods because there were no spare vehicles.

Peak capacity on the streetcar network begins to grow in 2013 with the substitution of buses on Queens Quay during its reconstruction while the displaced streetcars went to other routes. A few years later the arrival of the first Flexity cars and the continued substitution of buses on streetcar routes allowed more service to be provided on the streetcar network. The 514 Cherry route began operating in June 2016, but its requirements were absorbed within the available fleet.

Peak capacity on the bus network has not grown much in recent years. The downturn in January 2018 was caused partly by the opening of the subway extension to Vaughan and partly by changes in TTC spare ratio policies that reduced the number of vehicles available for service.

The big changes in recent years came in the off-peak period when there are spare vehicles in both fleets to provide better service.

In brief, there has been little improvement in the peak capacity operated on the TTC network for several years. For streetcar routes, there is some improvement, but for bus routes, not much for almost a decade.

There are a few caveats that must be included here:

  • The bus fleet capacity has not been adjusted for the migration from high floor to low floor buses which reduced capacity by up to 10%. This was already well underway in 2006, but there were still over 800 high floor buses in scheduled service in January 2006. Conversion to low floor buses represents a loss of a substantial capacity which is not reflected in the chart above.
  • In the mid 2000’s, the TTC operated more contract service than they do today. The decline in buses running outside of the city boundary is around two dozen (AM peak) counted as fractional vehicles where the service inside of Toronto is part of TTC routes that continue to exist. The capacity of these vehicles is included in the total.
  • These numbers represent vehicles in service. TTC maintenance practices have increased the spare ratio in recent years causing the total fleet size and garage requirements to rise while the actual amount of service does not. Some recent bus purchases made in the name of service improvements actually went into enlarging the pool of maintenance spares. These spares do not contribute to in service capacity and therefore do not affect the charts.
  • As traffic congestion increases, routes overall slow down, and the amount of service (counted as passenger kilometres) a vehicle can provide goes down. More buses are needed to carry the same number of trips. This factor is not included in the charts which only look at how many buses are in service, not how far they actually carry riders. The net effect is that service from a rider’s point of view does not go up as fast as the fleet capacity. Although this varies by route, there is a system wide effect that slower travel times “eat” buses and streetcars that might otherwise be adding to service.

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TTC Service Changes Effective Sunday, September 2, 2018 (Updated)

The TTC will implement many service changes with the first of new fall 2018 schedules, with more (as yet not announced) to follow.

The September schedules also include a return to winter service levels. I have not included these in the summary except where other changes happen at the same time.

Updated August 1, 2018: The Express Bus Network service comparisons have been updated to include April 2018 (winter) service levels as well as the current summer services where these differ. In many cases, although the new service design is an improvement over summer service levels, there is little or no change from the winter service. This was already noted  in the text describing each route, but it was not reflected in the detailed spreadsheet comparing before and after service levels.

Updated August 1, 2018 at 10:40 pm: The original version of this post and the linked spreadsheet showed 503 Kingston Road reverting to bus operation in September. This is not correct. It will remain a streetcar route, but will terminate at its “traditional” York & Wellington location.

2018.09.02_Service_Changes_V3  [pdf]

Express Buses

In a previous article, I gave an overview of the new Express Bus Network that will be rolled out in coming months. The details of service changes for the first batch of routes are included in the spreadsheet linked above. In a few cases, the change is simply a question of rebranding routes with the new 900-series numbers, but in many service improvements are included.

  • 37/937 Islington will have additional peak service between Steeles and Islington Station.
  • 54 Lawrence East will have additional midday weekday service on the local branches. The 954 schedule is based on the old winter schedule for the 54E Express service.
  • 60/960 Steeles West changes are mostly the return to the winter service levels with minor adjustments for reliability.
  • 84/984 Sheppard West changes mainly reallocate buses between various branches, and extend the express service from Sheppard West Station to Weston Road.
  • 85/190/985 Sheppard East and STC Rocket changes create a new peak period express service to Meadowvale, and switch articulated bus operation to the express services leaving standard sized buses on the local services on weekdays. Weekend schedules are unchanged except for the rebranding of the 190 as 985A.
  • 102/902 Markham Road services are reorganized by reducing service on the local 102A to Centennial College, but adding more replacement service as the 902 express.
  • 134C/913 Progress service to Centennial College is changed to operate express in the peak direction (outbound in the AM, inbound in the PM peak) from STC to the college, and service will run more frequently.
  • 185/925 Don Mills is only a rebranding. There is no change to service levels.
  • 191/927 Highway 27 will see improved peak period express service, but this is mainly the restoration of winter schedules. Otherwise, this is a rebranding.
  • 195/935 Jane will see improved PM peak express service, but otherwise this is a rebranding.
  • 198/905 UTSC/Eglinton East has some service improvements, partly through restoration of winter schedules, but is otherwise a rebranding.
  • 199/939 Finch will see better peak service to Morningside Heights, but otherwise this is a rebranding.

Subway

On the subway network, there will be one additional gap train (for a total of 3) on Line 1 YUS during the AM peak, and winter schedules will return on Line 2 BD. A new route number, 600, has been created for internal use for scheduled construction shuttle buses which will operate from Arrow Road, Birchmount, Mount Dennis and Queensway Garages, with a smaller contribution from Malvern Garage.

Streetcars

The streetcar network will go through another shuffle of bus replacements in response to construction projects, the streetcar shortage and shifting demand for fall 2018.

  • 501 Queen loses its 5 AM peak trippers from Long Branch.
  • [Corrected] 502 Downtowner reverts to bus operation, while 503 operates peak only with streetcars and runs to York and Wellington, not to Spadina (Charlotte Loop).
  • 504 King and 514 Cherry revert to schedules from April and May 2018 respectively.
  • 505 Dundas remains a bus operation due to track construction at Lansdowne, and water main work east of Bathurst.
  • 506 Carlton returns to streetcar operation with a handful of AM peak period bus trippers.
  • 511 Bathurst switches to bus operation. Construction at Bathurst Station will require the streetcar loop to be shared between the 511 and 7 Bathurst buses.
  • 512 St. Clair becomes 100% low floor with some adjustments in the service levels.

Operations on 509 Harbourfront and 510 Spadina will be modified to improve service and eliminate bottlenecks at subway station loops. On the 509, all recovery time will be scheduled at Exhibition Loop so that streetcars do not wait on their scheduled departure time at Union. The recovery point for 510 will be shifted to Spadina and Bremner where layovers, if needed, will not block other streetcars at Spadina or Union Station Loops. A side-effect is that through riders may experience a delay at this location. This practice has been in place unofficially for some time during quieter periods on the route, but it does not deal with issues of washroom breaks and crew changeovers at the terminal stations.

Buses

Construction projects:

  • Work at Main Station will be complete by September, and all routes will revert to their standard arrangement there.
  • Construction at Bathurst Station will shift all bus operations to the streetcar loop.
  • Construction at Dundas and Lansdowne will divert the 47 Lansdowne bus via College, Dufferin and Queen both ways.
  • Construction continues at Lawrence West Station requiring extension of routes that normally terminate there to Lawrence Station.

Service on 29 Dufferin will be converted to articulated buses on Sundays. Further changes will occur in October with the Express Bus implementation on this route.

Service improvements include:

  • Better service on the 36B Finch West bus between Yonge Street and Finch West Station.
  • Better PM peak service to Steeles on 43A Kennedy.
  • Better peak and midday service on 63 Ossington.
  • Reallocation of buses between the two branches of 66 Prince Edward during peak periods to provide better service to Park Lawn Loop at the expense of service to Humber Loop.
  • Better peak service on 79 Scarlett Road which, combined with the return of winter service levels, will provide considerably more frequent service.
  • Better peak service on 88 South Leaside.
  • Better peak and midday service on 100 Flemingdon Park.
  • Route 123 Shorncliffe is renamed 123 Sherway, and a new branch via West Mall to Sherway is added during peak periods.
  • Better AM peak service on 165 Weston Road North.

The 21 Brimley route will shift from Birchmount to Malvern Garage, and the 102/902 Markham Road service will shift from Malvern to Birchmount.

TTC Launches the 900 Express Bus Network (Updated)

Updated July 26, 2018 at 1:15 pm: Stop locations added for September 2018 express routes.

Starting in September, 2018, the TTC will begin to roll out its Express Bus network, a scheme that has been in the works for a few years and is described in the Express Bus Network Study of June 2017.

The implementation will proceed over several months as schedules for the affected routes must be adjusted, and doing this as one “big bang” is more upheaval than TTC staff and management really need.

At the same time as services are revised, they will also be rebranded into a consistent 900-series of route numbers regardless of whether they are “E” branches of existing routes or are “Rocket” services in the 18x and 19x range. Only the 14x Premium Express services will retain their numbers.

Routes typically take the same number as the base route so that, for example, 954 is the express service replacing the 54E on Lawrence East. Where services run in a rapid transit corridor (current or future), they use the corresponding rapid transit number. For example, the existing 131E Nugget Express paralleling the SRT will become route 903. There are, of course, some exceptions just to keep those who try to memorize the entire list on their toes.

The new routes and numbers are listed in the tables below. Changes for September are firm, and they will take effect with the new schedules on September 2, 2018. Other changes are proposed, but not yet scheduled.

I will include service level details in a separate article on the overall September 2 schedule changes. Stop locations for the September changes follow the tables below.

Effective September 2, 2018

New/Revised Route
902 Markham Road Express (New)
913 Progress Express Partly replaces 134C Progress
937 Islington Express (New)
984 Sheppard West Express Replaces 84E Sheppard West
985 Sheppard East Express Replaces 190 Scarborough Centre Rocket
905 Eglinton East Express Replaces 198 UTSC Rocket
925 Don Mills Express Replaces 185 Don Mills Rocket
927 Highway 27 Express Replaces 191 Highway 27 Rocket
935 Jane Express Replaces 195 Jane Rocket
939 Finch Express Replaces 199 Finch Rocket
954 Lawrence East Express Replaces 54E Lawrence East
960 Steeles West Express Replaces 60E Steeles West

Effective October 7, 2018

New/Revised Route
929 Dufferin Express (New)
952 Lawrence West Express (New)
989 Weston Express (New)
924 Victoria Park Express Replaces 24E Victoria Park

Future Changes

Revised Route
900 Airport Express Replaces 192 Airport Rocket
903 Kennedy-Scarborough Centre Express Replaces 131E Nugget
941 Keele Express Replaces 41E Keele
944 Kipling South Express Replaces 188 Kiping South Rocket
945 Kipling Express Replaces 45E Kipling
953 Steeles East Express Replaces 53E/53F Steeles East
986 Scarborough Express Replaces 86E Scarborough
993 Exhibition Express [seasonal] Replaces 193 Exhibition Rocket
995 York Mills Express Replaces 95E York Mills
996 Wilson Express Replaces 186 Wilson Rocket

Stop Locations

The express stop locations for the September changes have been announced:

937 Islington

Northbound 937 buses operate EXPRESS from Islington Station to Rexdale, stopping only at Islington Station, Eglinton Avenue West, The Westway, Dixon Road, Monogram Place, Rexdale Boulevard. 937 buses operate LOCAL from Rexdale Boulevard and Islington Avenue to Islington/Steeles off-street loop.

Southbound 937 express buses operate LOCAL from the Islington/Steeles off-street loop to Rexdale Boulevard. 937 express buses then operate EXPRESS from Rexdale Boulevard to Islington Station, stopping only at Rexdale Boulevard, Westhampton Drive, Dixon Road, The Westway, Eglinton Avenue West, and Islington Station.

954 Lawrence East Express

This route replaces the existing 54E with the same route and stopping pattern.

960 Steeles West Express

This route replaces the existing 60E with the same route and stopping pattern.

984 Sheppard West Express

During peak periods, the express service will be extended from the existing 84E terminus at Sheppard West Station to Weston Road. Off peak express service will end at Sheppard West Station as at present.

Westbound stops: Sheppard Station, Brentwood Avenue, Bathurst Street (nearside), Bathurst Street (farside), Wilmington Avenue, Wilson Heights Boulevard, Sheppard West Station, Bakersfield Street, Keele Street, Sentinel Road, Arleta Avenue, Jane Street, Weston Road.

Eastbound stops: Bradstock Road at Weston Road, Sheppard Avenue West at Abraham Welsh Road, Jane Street (nearside), Jane Street (farside), Northover Street, Sentinel Road, Keele Street, Vitti Street, Sheppard West Station, Faywood Boulevard, Bathurst Street (nearside), Bathurst Street (farside), Easton Road, Sheppard Station.

985 Sheppard East Express

This route replaces 190 Scarborough Centre Rocket. The route will have two branches:

  • 985A will operate to Scarborough Centre Station as the 190 does today.
  • 985B will operate to Meadowvale Road during peak periods.

Local service on route 85 Sheppard East will be provided by standard buses, and artics will be used for the 985 services. One stop will be added on the common section of the route at Brian Drive / Consumers Road.

Eastbound stops (985B only): Brimley Road, McCowan Avenue, Havenview Road, Markham Road, Progress Avenue, Lapsley Road, Neilson Road, Breckon Gate, Morningside Avenue, Grand Marshal Drive, Conlins Road, Dean Park Road, Idagrove Gate, Meadowvale Loop.

Westbound stops (985B only): Meadowvale Loop, Meadowvale Road (farside stop), Idagrove Gate, Rouge River Drive, Conlins Road, Water Tower Gate, Morningside Avenue (farside stop), Brenyon Way, Neilson Road, Washburn Way, Malvern Street, Markham Road (farside stop), Shorting Road, McCowan Road, Brimley Road.

902 Markham Road Express

A new peak and midday express service will operate from Warden Station to Sheppard via Centennial College.

Southbound stops: Markham Road at Sheppard Avenue East, Progress Avenue at Milner Avenue, Centennial College Progress Campus, Markham Road at Progress Avenue, Markham Road at Ellesmere Road, Markham Road at Brimorton Drive, Markham Road at Painted Post Drive, Markham Road at Lawrence Avenue East, Markham Road at Blake Manor Boulevard, Markham Road at Eglinton Avenue East, Kingston Road at Parkcrest Drive, Kingston Road at McCowan Road, St. Clair Avenue East at Kingston Road, St. Clair Avenue East at Brimley Road, St. Clair Avenue East at Midland Avenue, St. Clair Avenue East at Danforth Road, St. Clair Avenue East at Birchmount Road, Warden Station.

Northbound stops: Warden Station, St. Clair Avenue East at Birchmount Road, St. Clair Avenue East at Danforth Road, St. Clair Avenue East at Midland Avenue, St. Clair Avenue East at Brimley Road, St. Clair Avenue East at Kingston Road, Kingston Road at Cathedral Bluffs Drive, Kingston Road at Parkcrest Drive, Markham Road at Kingston Road, Markham Road at Eglinton Avenue East, Markham Road at Blake Manor Boulevard, Markham Road at Lawrence Avenue East, Markham Road at Painted Post Drive, Markham Road at Brimorton Drive, Markham Road at Ellesmere Road, Markham Road at Progress Avenue, Centennial College Progress Campus, Markham Road at Sheppard Avenue East.

913 Progress Express

This peak period service will replace the peak direction trips now operated by 134C Progress between Scarborough Town Centre and Centennial College. Counter-peak trips will continue to operate as 134C.

Northbound stops (AM Peak): Scarborough Centre Station, Triton Road at McCowan Road, Progress Avenue at Markham Road, Progress Avenue at Roadway to Centennial College, Centennial College Progress Campus

Southbound stops (PM Peak): Centennial College Progress Campus, Progress Avenue opposite Roadway to Centennial College, Progress Avenue at Markham Road, Bushby Drive at McCowan Road (McCowan RT Station), Scarborough Centre Station

925 Don Mills Express

This service replaces the existing 185 Don Mills Rocket and will have the same stopping pattern.

927 Highway 27 Express

This service replaces the existing 191 Highway 27 Rocket and will have the same stopping pattern.

935 Jane Express

This service replaces the existing 195 Jane Rocket and will have the same stopping pattern.

905 Eglinton East Express

This service replaces the existing 198 UTSC Rocket and will have the same stopping pattern.

939 Finch Express

This service replaces the existing 199 Finch Rocket. Two stops will be added on Finch Avenue West at Torresdale Avenue and at Goldfinch Court.