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.

TTC Board Meeting July 10, 2018: Part I

The July 10, 2018 meeting of the TTC was its last before the October 22 municipal election. When the new Council meets in early December, it will update the Councillor appointments to this Board and select a new Chair. Whether the existing Chair Josh Colle will return in that role remains to be seen, although he did not sound averse to the idea in his closing remarks. The political balance of the Board will depend on the new Council and on whether the Mayor feels more disposed to a better representation of the centre-left. The new Board’s first meeting will be on December 12, 2018.

The “Citizen” members of the Board (those who are not Councillors) will remain in place until Council deals with appointments to various boards and agencies early in 2019.

The TTC has appointed Rick Leary, who has been Acting CEO since Andy Byford’s departure, to the CEO’s position. Leary had strong support from the Board, and now he must deliver. It will be interesting to see how much of Byford’s style and work, if any, are carried over into this new era. [See Challenges For TTC’s New CEO].

A vital part of the Board’s responsibility (and through them, City Council’s) is a clear understanding of the future needs of transit in Toronto. This is not simply a case of planning a few subway lines, but of understanding how the network as a whole works and what its needs would be under various scenarios. This is especially true when addressing unmet needs of the existing system. From the CEO’s report:

In support of the City of Toronto’s ongoing focus on transformation, the TTC committed in the 2018-2022 Corporate Plan to undertake a comprehensive service review. In addition to assessing efficiency and effectiveness, the study will evaluate how best to provide services mindful of reliability, safety and system integration. Actioning this commitment will help inform deliberations of the newly-appointed Board in 2019. In tandem, as noted last month, we are also preparing an updated and comprehensive long-term Capital Plan that will provide full clarity on the TTC’s long-term capital requirements mindful of legislation, reliability, safety and service standards. The plan will be prepared over the course of 2018 and presented as part of the 2019 Budget process. [p. 8]

This woolly statement could be the basis for better understanding how the Capital Budget works and how its many projects fit together, or this could simply be a rehash of juggling costs back and forth to make the numbers come out right for City financial targets. If the TTC needs more money for bona fide projects, it should say so, and should make the spending levels and timing clear rather than hiding costs “below the line” or beyond the 10-year planning horizon.

Several items on the agenda bear on the TTC’s ability to carry riders, but they were not discussed or presented in that context. This is a fundamental problem for the TTC Board and for the new CEO.

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TTC Contemplates Earlier Subway Closing

At the TTC’s Audit & Risk Management Committee meeting of May 29, 2018, staff presented a report entitled Internal Audit Quarterly Update: Q1 2018. That is not the sort of title that would prompt avid late-night reading, but one item within the report sparked a brief conversation between the committee and staff.

There are several issues related to the management of overnight work in the subway which requires a variety of resources including staff, work cars, power cuts and central supervision to keep all of the crews from tripping over each other. One part of the ongoing audit work is to review the systems (many automated, but some manual) used to schedule and track the work plans, but another issue raised was the relatively short maintenance window within which work can be done. Responding to a question, staff advised that they are reviewing the operating hours of the subway to determine whether changing these hours could improve the productivity of overnight maintenance work.

Here are extracts from the report:

Audit Observation #3: Track Level Maintenance Window

TTC’s revenue subway service hours limit the nightly maintenance window, which impacts the efficiency and effectiveness of track level work and exposes subway infrastructure to accelerated deterioration.

Limited Track Level Maintenance Window

Per an international CoMET/Nova benchmark study of “Metro Key Performance Indicators (2016 data)”, TTC ranked fourth amongst 34 participants in terms of subway service density or network utilization – a standardized method that measures operated passenger capacity compared to network size. This KPI reflects the ‘intensity of utilization of the metro network’, which is a function of train frequency, train length and car capacity. The study asserts high train frequency may reflect a good use of fixed infrastructure, but the intense impact on asset utilization should be warranted by ridership demand, i.e., recognizing the need to balance competing objectives of making subway service more available for customers versus the costs associated with accelerated deterioration of subway infrastructure and assets due to an increase in daily use. The study comments that TTC offers relatively high levels of capacity primarily due to larger trains and higher frequencies across its entire, relatively small network.

TTC track level work starts once the system is fully cleared of revenue trains. TTC’s subway system is closed to the public at 1:30am and opens at 6:00am on week days and Saturdays, and at 8:00am on Sundays. However, trains continue to run through the system until approximately 2:30am and re-enter the system at around 5:30am, leaving an average total available daily maintenance window of 180 minutes (300 minutes on Sundays as service preparation starts around 7:30am).

Night shift work typically runs from 10:30pm to 7am, including a 30-minute unpaid meal break. Per discussion with Subway Infrastructure management, track level set-up activities typically start at 2:45am and Transit Control requests crews to complete work and start clearing the track at 5:00am. Work activities expected to be performed out-side of this track level access time period include employee roll-call, safety-talks/briefings, work car preparation, and tools maintenance, etc.

[…]

In a Nova comparison study, “Track Possession Timings ” (2014), it was noted that given TTC’s subway service hours, and taking into account estimated time required for set-up and safety check activities, as well as post work preparation for service, TTC workers’ total available time to work productively at track level was between 30 and 225 mins less than the other ten participants. Further, the average maintenance window of these other participants was almost 2hrs longer than that of TTC.

If the maintenance window was to be increased by 2 additional hours, 5 nights a week, Audit estimates the opportunity for improved productivity by SI’s Track Maintenance and Structure Maintenance Sections alone to be valued at approximately $3.38 million. Such a change would also reduce overtime and potentially the need for weekend closures by these two groups. Based on payroll data, Track Maintenance and Structure Maintenance incurred overtime costs of $4.58M and $1.26M respectively in 2017. Structure Maintenance Management estimates that if the maintenance window was to be extended by 2 hours, 5 nights a week, the annual overtime for this Section could be reduced by 75%, which in 2017, would be equal to approximately $945K. It is reasonable to assume productivity improvements and material overtime savings could be realized by other groups that complete maintenance and capital project work at track level if the maintenance window is extended.

[pp 8-9 of Attachment 3, at pp 27-28 of the document]

Note that the “other ten participants” are not listed nor are the relative service levels of their transit systems mentioned to indicate whether they are valid comparators for Toronto.

A proposed action plan appears a few pages later in the report:

Audit Observation #3 – Management Action Plan Considerations:

To maximize and optimize the track level maintenance window, Management should:

  • Evaluate actual ridership and revenue associated with TTC’s late-night subway service (after midnight runs) to ensure current intensity of service and impact on subway infrastructure (and vehicle) asset maintenance costs are warranted.
  • Conduct in-depth analysis of TTC’s current subway infrastructure asset management approach, resource planning and crewing methods, work car dispatching techniques and work methods to identify opportunities for maximizing productivity and transparency of resource utilization at track level.

This was striking on at least two counts.

First, there is no recognition in the report that closing earlier is anything more than a question of sending trains back to the yard earlier, and no mention of providing replacement service. It is no secret that night buses on Yonge and Bloor-Danforth are very heavily loaded after 2 am and, if anything, more service is needed then. A similar problem occurs during the early part of the day before the subway opens. The auditors also seem to be unaware that there is no night service to replace the University-Spadina subway, and this is difficult (as users of Spadina shuttles know) because the subway does not follow an arterial road like Yonge or Bloor.

If two hours were added to the shutdown period, the amount of bus service required to replace the subway would be substantial, and it is likely that ridership would be lost thanks to the relative inconvenience. Moreover, there would be knock-on effects for users of connecting bus services who would face much longer journeys to their connection points on a surface bus, and who might also face a decline in service thanks to the unattractiveness of the night bus replacement for the subway.

This change could actually trigger a system-wide retrenchment of service hours.

Second, there was absolutely no intimation that anyone at the meeting was aware of just how severe the impacts of this proposal would be on riders, nor was there any attempt to defend their interests. Indeed, the focus is on making the maintenance teams more efficient and saving millions without considering the offsetting costs and potential lost revenue.

Some of the basic assumptions in the text quoted above are wrong, notably a claimed closing time for the subway of 1:30 am. In fact, the closing time varies across the system. There is a scheduled meet of the last northbound, eastbound and westbound trains at Bloor-Yonge at about 1:54 am that has been in place since the BD line opened in 1966. Stations close as these last trains make their way outbound to terminals. One might hope the auditors would check with TTC planners or even simply look at their own website.

The last train eastbound on Line 4 Sheppard does not leave Yonge-Sheppard station until 2:14 am.

It is quite clear to anyone who actually rides the subway late at night that it does not close at 1:30 am across the network. This is only the start of a process that continues until about 2:30 am, and some trains have to return to their overnight storage locations even later. The maintenance window varies depending where one is on the network.

The comment in the report about “accelerated deterioration of subway infrastructure and assets” is a function of the very frequent service the TTC provides across the entire subway system at all hours with trains every 5 minutes or better until almost the end of service. How much extra wear and tear this represents since the subway opened in 1954 might be of interest, but this service level is a matter of TTC Service Standards. One could argue that full service is not required, based on demand, beyond a core portion of the system late at night. However, I dare any politician to stand up and tell suburban Toronto that they will lose their frequent service just because the trains are not full.

Another issue here is that actually running the trains is only part of total subway costs, and unless one can also drop staffing levels associated with stations, security, line supervision and on-call maintainers, the saving of running, say, only half of the service beyond a turnback point such as Eglinton is small. The same consideration applies to running less frequent service generally – the trains are only part of the overall operating cost.

It is important to note that this “accelerated deterioration” is a function of frequent service over long hours, not some side-effect of inefficient maintenance procedures as one might erroneously read the audit report.

I hope that if there is a detailed study, it will take into account the benefits of good late night and early morning service on the subway, not to mention the requirements for substantially improved night bus service. Indeed the existing night service needs improving, but languishes thanks to a combination of indifference and budget restraints.

It is only a few years since the TTC began Sunday service at 8:00 am rather than 9:00 am in January 2016.

In a Nov. 4, 2015, letter to the Board, Mayor John Tory and Chair Josh Colle wrote:

“As a vibrant and growing city, Toronto does not conform to a traditional Monday to Friday schedule … Our businesses are open, our cultural centres are operating and the engines of our economy remain in motion. The people of Toronto should be able to move around this city with ease — seven days a week — and the TTC plays an instrumental role in providing this mobility.”

Early Sunday openings are the latest service improvement to be introduced in recent months, following this year’s expansion of overnight service and all-day, every-day service across the city, implementation of ten-minute-or-better service and reduced off-peak crowding on bus and streetcar routes.

Someone should send a copy of this letter to the auditors who appear to be incapable of making a full evaluation of the effects of their recommendations or even appreciating the seriousness of what they propose. “Efficiency” in one department does not mean better service for the organization and the City as a whole.

TTC Route Service Quality Tracking

The TTC has posted a new report on its Customer Service page which displays the route-by-route on time departure scores for the past three years. Reports of this nature were promised in the “Customer Charter” but have been missing since the first quarter of 2015.

There is no explanation of what these scores actually mean, although this can be gleaned from the comparable system wide-scores in the CEO’s Report.

This KPI measures adherence to scheduled (59 seconds early to five minutes late) departure times from end terminals. [p. 38]

The overall values for the bus and streetcar systems (from the CEO’s Report) are shown below.

The bus system does somewhat better than the streetcars, but on time departures still sit in the 80 percent range, and trends for the past three years follow a similar pattern.

For the streetcars, barely half of the service is “on time”. The real problem for both modes is the definition of what is measured, where this is taken, and over what period.

When there is a six-minute window in which a vehicle is considered to be on time, but when the scheduled gap between cars anywhere below about 9 minutes, then pairs of vehicles can operate across a route and still count as “on time”. For example, if departures are scheduled at 12:00 and 12:09, but the actual times are 12:05 and 12:08 (one five minute late, the other 1 minute early), it does not take long for this to coalesce into a pair of vehicles. For a 6 minute headway, the pair can leave a terminal together and be “on time”. That the TTC cannot achieve better stats even with such a generous metric for streetcar lines which tend to have frequent service is a bad starting point.

The next problem is that this measure is taken on an all-day basis and only at terminals. There is no breakdown of whether service is more or less “on time” during peak periods, midday, evening or weekends, not to mention that service once vehicles leave a terminal can be nothing like the terminal departures. This was shown in my recent analyses of service on 505 Dundas and 505 Carlton bus operations, and there are similar problems throughout the system. Most riders do not actually board at the terminals, and so the gapping and bunching they experience is worse than that reflected in the official stats.

Finally, “on time” is a meaningless metric for riders on frequent routes where the schedule per se is of little interest, only that a bus or streetcar appear “soon” and that there is room available when it does. The word “they” should never apply to transit vehicle arrivals, but this is all too common as every route analysis I have performed (many published here) show where bunching is common even on wider scheduled headways.

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Shuffling Bus Routes in The Junction

The TTC has a proposal for reorganizing its bus service in The Junction and is seeking feedback for a report to the TTC Board this summer.

The maps below are clipped from the TTC’s site.

201805_JunctionStudyMaps_V2

Two major changes involve creating through services on St. Clair and on Dundas:

  • On St. Clair, the 127 Davenport bus would be extended west from Old Weston Road to an on-street loop via Scarlett Road, Foxwell and Jane Streets. This would replace the 71A branch of Runnymede that now terminates at Gunn’s Loop as well as the 79B branch of Scarlett Road. All 71 Runnymede buses would run north up Runnymede, and all 79 Scarlett Road buses would follow the current 79A route via Foxwell and Pritchard.
  • On Dundas, the 40 Junction bus would be extended west to Kipling Station replacing the 30 Lambton bus which would terminate at Runnymede Loop. A short turn 40B service would loop via Jane, St. Clair and Runnymede as another part of the replacement for the 79B Scarlett Road service.

The 80B Queensway service that terminates at Humber Loop late evenings and Sundays would be eliminated and buses would operate to Keele Station via Parkside Drive at all times. This through service to the subway was in place during the reconstruction of the loop, but the 80B reappeared on April 1 using an on-street connection to the Queen car at Windermere/Ellis.

The TTC site is silent on a few issues that could bear on how this reorganization will be received by riders:

  • There is no before/after service plan showing bus frequencies on the existing and planned routes.
  • When the railway underpass at St. Clair and Keele closes for reconstruction and widening, this will shift the western terminus of 512 St. Clair to Earlscourt Loop (at Lansdowne), and the proposed 127 Davenport service through to Scarlett Road will not be possible.

There is also no mention of the proposed 512 St. Clair extension to Jane Street which dates back to the Transit City days, but is for all practical purposes a dead issue. That extension was premised on the idea that streetcar service on St. Clair would operate from a carhouse to be shared by the Finch and Jane LRT routes. The Jane LRT is nowhere to be seen, and in any event would be a standard gauge line making its use by TTC gauge St. Clair cars impossible.

Assuming that the Davenport bus is rerouted along St. Clair, this would remove service from Townsley Loop which has been in service since 1924. It would also eliminate the planned connection by the Davenport bus to the SmartTrack St. Clair/Keele station, although this transfer connection would remain possible at the Keele/Weston/St. Clair intersection.

Those Vanishing Streetcar Stops

Readers who follow me on Twitter will know that the question of which streetcar stops are being removed has been a simmering issue for some time. The question has become less “what is the list” than “why is it impossible to get the list”.

A related matter is the degree of consultation, or not, that preceded implementation of the changes.

Several changes for The Beach (Queen Street East and Kingston Road) were announced in an email newsletter from Councillor McMahon, and the format of the list, complete with stop numbers, made it clear that this was a TTC document.

TTC will proceed with the following streetcar stop relocations on May 13 to support the deployment of new streetcars:

On Kingston Road:

  • Move the westbound stops #2786 (Malvern Avenue) and #2799 (Walter Street) to a new stop at the midblock pedestrian signal at Glen Manor Dr
  • Remove the farside westbound stop #2801 at Woodbine Avenue to a new stop nearside of the same intersection

On Queen Street:

  • Move the stops at Kent Road, and Woodward Avenue, to new stops at the pedestrian crossover at Woodfield Road
  • Move the eastbound stop #3055 at Laing Street to a nearside location at Alton Avenue
  • Move the eastbound stop #6807 at Kippendavie Avenue east to the signalized intersection at Elmer Avenue
  • Move the eastbound stop #6815 at Scarboro Beach Boulevard and the eastbound stop #6812 to the signalized intersection at Glen Manor Drive
  • Move the stops at the unsignalized intersections of Lee Avenue and Waverley Road to the signalized intersection at Bellefair Avenue
  • Move the westbound stop #6818 at Sprucehill Road closer to the pedestrian crossover at Beech Avenue

Courtesy of the fact that the TTC’s own website contains out of date information about stop locations while the list in NextBus is current, it did not take long to track down the remaining changes, but the bizarre part of this is that repeated attempts to simply get a list from the TTC ran aground.

Today, I took an inspection tour of the affected locations to verify what has happened, and here is my list:

On King Street:

  • Stops both ways at Trinity Street removed
  • Eastbound stop at Fraser replaced by a new stop at the signal at Joe Shuster Way where there is already a westbound stop.

On Queen Street (in addition to the above):

  • Stops both ways at Connaught removed. (How will operators ever change cars without a transit stop?)
  • Westbound stop at Simcoe replaced by a new stop at the signal at St. Patrick. Now if only the TTC would put an eastbound stop there to replace the one they dropped in the last round at McCaul, and thereby break up the long gap from John to University.
  • Eastbound stop at Gladstone farside replaced by nearside stop. [Thanks to a reader for spotting this.]
  • Westbound stop at Beaconsfield shifted east a short distance to align with the new traffic signal at Abell St.
  • Eastbound stop at Wilson Park shifted west one block to Triller where there is a crosswalk and an existing westbound stop.

On The Queensway:

  • As a result of the restoration of streetcar service to Humber Loop, the stop at Parkside is back in service. This is reflected on NextBus but not on the TTC’s own site.

On Dundas Street:

  • Westbound stop at Crawford shifted one block to Shaw Street where there is a traffic signal and an existing eastbound stop.

On College Street:

  • Stops both ways at Clinton removed. (Thanks to readers who pointed this out in the comments.) [Updated May 18, 2018]

Now that wasn’t hard at all, was it?

(There may be more that I have missed, and if anybody spots one, leave a comment and I will update the article.)

What is not clear is the degree to which local councillors or residents were consulted about this change. This gets us into a rather murky bit of TTC management bafflegab. When the original proposal was before the TTC board in May 2014, there were motions amending the staff recommendation including:

Chair Augimeri moved that the Board:

1. authorize staff to proceed with the recommended changes to the stops in the staff report where consensus has been reached; and

2. refer the remaining stops identified in the staff report back to staff for further consultation with local Councillors and for report back to the next meeting.

The motion by Chair Augimeri carried. [Minutes of May 28, 2014 Board Meeting, Item 14]

It is quite clear that the Board intended that the proposals in the report had to be accepted by those affected. (For the record, there never was a follow up report provided by staff.)

The current round of changes includes several stops that were not part of the original list. When I pressed TTC management on what appeared to be a lack of notice of the change, not even bringing the scheme to the Board for approval, I was told that the 2014 motion was by an old Board and the staff were no longer bound by it.

Say what? Management can simply make up whatever policy they want when the Board is replaced in a new term of Council?

This is not a question of a nerdish railfan wanting to track the locations of stops, but of a much larger issue that will affect many parts of the City when the TTC turns it attention to bus routes. Some of the stop spacings on bus routes are embarrassingly short, and if the same principles are followed as for streetcars, a lot of buses won’t stop as often, or as conveniently as they do today.

Many of the changes are quite reasonable and take into account the fact that there are now both crosswalks and traffic signals at locations where they did not exist when the transit stops were first installed. This type of change has less to do with new streetcars than simply reflecting the updated street design.

Another justification for elimination of stops in the 2014 round was that this would speed service. In fact, the effects were minimal because many stops that were dropped were not at traffic signals, and they did not represent much delay to streetcar service. This time around, most changes are relocations.

Memo to Councillors with bus routes: Pay attention to what the TTC is up to in your ward.

TTC Proposes Service Improvements for Fall 2018 (Updated)

Updated May 9, 2018: Information about the planned changes has been updated based on the staff presentation at the May 8 Board meeting.

Contrary to the penny-pinching approach urged on the TTC by budget hawks, where only routes that were 30% above standard would be improved, the changes will bring all bus routes that are above the Board-approved loading standards below the approved maximum. This will be achieved through a combination of better availability in the bus fleet and reallocation of service from routes and periods which are below the standard. The sequence of implementation will likely be:

  • September: Express routes
  • October and November: Peak and Off-Peak improvements

The staff proposals were amended by a Board motion directing that one additional gap train be provided on 1 Yonge-University-Spadina in both peak periods starting in September. This will bring the total to 4 AM and 1 PM gap trains.

The TTC Board will consider proposals to improve service on their network at its meeting on May 8, 2018. No doubt, there will be many cries of  “Huzzah” and tub-thumping pre-election speeches about how Toronto continues to improve its transit service.

There is not much new here for those who have been following the 2018 budget process. This is merely the implementation stage of changes that were included in the Council-approved budget earlier this year.

Previous articles/items on this topic:

There are four groups of improvements:

  1. Improve service reliability on Line 1
  2. Relieve peak crowding on bus routes
  3. Relieve off-peak crowding on bus routes
  4. Implement new express bus services

The changes will be implemented, for the most part, in fall 2018, and therefore have only a four-month effect on the budget. The costs are projected to be $5 million in 2018 and $15.5m in 2019, offset by revenue from new riding of $2m in 2019. For the 2018 budget year, $3m comes from a Council-approved bump in the TTC’s subsidy, and the remaining $2m from spending redirected from other, unspecified, areas within the TTC.

The new riding generated by the changes is projected to be 848,000 in 2019, of which over 60% would come from the new express services. By 2021, this is expected to rise to 1.1 million rides that the TTC would not have seen without the improvements. Many more riders will benefit from less crowded service, at least assuming that the TTC, with adequate funding, stays on top of crowding problems.

Stirring all that together means that the net new requirement for funding in the 2019 budget will be $8.5 million.This implies that the “redirection” of funding in the TTC budget is a permanent change, not a one time efficiency or deferral.

It is important to contrast this with the cost of opening the Vaughan subway extension ($30m annually) or the fare freeze (a comparable amount). The TTC has used its vehicle shortage as a convenient excuse to avoid service improvements with the argument “even if you gave us the money, we couldn’t run the service” response. In fact, what money the TTC does manage to scrape together is going to underwrite service on the subway extension and politically motivated fare policies.

Although there is an intent to reduce crowding, this will only occur on the most badly-overcrowded of routes, and in effect the TTC has made its “standards” worse by only addressing problems on the most badly crowded parts of their system.

Moreover, there is still no ongoing reporting mechanism to allow tracking of crowding by route and time period so that the degree to which the TTC fails to achieve its standards is clear for all to see.

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