TTC Board Meeting June 16, 2021

The primary issue on the agenda for the June 16 meeting was the “near miss” in the subway in June 2020 and management’s failure to report this issue to the Board. Please see The “Near Miss” At Osgoode Station for further details on that item.

CEO’s Report

The CEO’s Report contained little new and included the usual statistics about which I have written before. These are supposed to be the “new improved” version, but they still hide more than they tell.

  • Service reliability:
    • “On time” performance is still measured only at terminals, and is reported on an all day basis.
      • For the subway, the target is that headways be no more than 1.5 times the scheduled value.
      • For surface routes, the target is that departures be within a window of +1/-5 minutes to schedule.
  • Subway capacity:
    • These values are reported as averages from several locations over the peak periods.
    • The index is the percentage of scheduled service operated, not the number of trains. This measures what proportion of planned service was provided, not the absolute amount of service or demand.
  • Vehicle reliability:
    • In many cases, the reported kilometres-between-defect numbers appear to be capped and do not reflect the actual maxima achieved nor the month-to-month variations.
    • Subway reliability changes are, in cases, reported to be affected by line closure that reduce the amount of mileage the fleet accumulates. This should only affect distance-based metrics if the failures are a function of something other than distance and if cars are prone to break down even if they are used less.
    • eBus reliability shows consolidated results for all three vendors with average MDBF values generally above the target of 24,000 km. This does not align with comments in the Financial update (see below).

A major concern for the TTC is the growing number of assaults on employees. This is a trend seen across the transit industry, according to TTC management, and it is related to the pandemic, stress levels and arguments over fares and masking. This index is measured per 100 employees and reported quarterly. In 1Q21, the value grew above 6 offenses per 100 employees per quarter.

Offenses against riders are also up compared to the pre-pandemic era, although the number is falling. This index is measured per-million-boardings, not as an absolute value. If riding falls, but offenses do not fall at the same rate, then the index goes up. Conversely, growing ridership could cause the index to fall even if the number of events does not. A common problem, according to management, is fights on the subway.

Although the Board sought more details, management did not have the detailed stats to hand and could only report limited anecdotal information.

Customer mask use continues to be reported at over 96 per cent, with only a few percent above that wearing masks improperly. Very few riders were observed unmasked.

Ridership has not changed much in the past month, and the stay-at-home order, only recently expired, has reduced demand.

Average weekday boardings were 502,000 on bus routes (36% of pre-COVID), 286,000 on subway lines (19% of pre-COVID) and 81,000 on streetcar routes (23% of pre-COVID) for the week ending April 24, 2021. There was a small increase in boardings for all modes the last week of April.

CEO’s Report, p. 11

Bus occupancy continues to be reported as well below the level seen in September 2020. Like many TTC stats, this chart shows all route, all day values and does not break out hot spots and times. There is no reporting of where “Run As Directed” buses are used or of their efficacy in reducing crowding.

This chart will bear watching as demand grows with relaxed pandemic rules and later in the year with a resumption of in person activities in schools, some work locations and entertainment venues.

Financial Update

The quarterly financial update tracks the ongoing status of the Operating Budget and major Capital Budget projects.

On the Operating side, the TTC projects a shortfall in revenue because ridership has not recovered at the expected rate in the first months of the year. This will be almost completely offset by reduced expenses over the year. In the short term, the TTC is running ahead of budget because cost reductions have exceeded revenue losses, but this is not expected to last as service ramps up to handle demand growth through the second half of the year.

The key indicators for operations are shown in the table below:

Note that the TTC projects it will schedule about 3 per cent less service hours over the year than originally planned, and for the year-to-date has actually scheduled about 5 per cent fewer hours than budgeted due to lower than expected demand. This falls more heavily on the subway which is operating at 87 percent of normal service levels, while bus and streetcar services are at 97 and 95 percent respectively.

The actual versus budgeted ridership is illustrated in the chart below.

Service levels are planned to begin rising in September with a return to 100 per cent of service budgeted for January 2022 when ridership is expected to hit 50 percent of pre-pandemic levels.

With ridership at only 50 percent at the start of 2022, the City and TTC will continue to be challenged to operate 100 per percent service levels. Provincial and federal support programs are based on their fiscal years which end on March 31. Funding for Covid support for much of 2022 is an unknown. This will be a major budget issue.

On the Capital side, there are only a few projects with significant news.

The major overhaul of streetcars now in progress to repair manufacturing defects on the first of the fleet will not complete in 2021.

The projected underspending on the 204 LRV procurement is due to project closure activities not being completed until 2022. The Major Repair Program, also included in this project, is tracking behind schedule due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced Alstom’s production facilities to temporarily shut down in late March 2020. Currently, Alstom is working on accelerating the program to be completed by the end of 2022.

Financial Update, p. 18

This will affect the level of service that can be provided on the streetcar network, and the expected return of buses to bus routes will be delayed.

On the Line 1 ATC project, revenue service is planned to extend from Rosedale to Eglinton in 4Q21. Completion to Finch would be in 3Q22. There is an issue at Eglinton Station due to the Crosstown project and the timing of the shift in platform stopping location further north as planned for the new links to the Crosstown concourse below the subway station.

On the eBus project, vehicle reliability is cited as a key issue:

Vehicle Reliability and Fleet Availability: Only one (New Flyer Industries) of three vendors for e-Buses are meeting availability and reliability targets. Action Plan: The TTC is working with all vendors on a daily basis to improve both vehicle availability and reliability to address these issues through root cause analysis, vehicle modifications and improvements for the supply chain.

Financial Update, p. 33

This raises questions about the planned split tender for eBuses and how the TTC will deal with a vendor that has not met reliability targets. A further update on the head-to-head competition between vendors is due in 1Q22 but the RFP for buses will be issued in 4Q21 for deliveries in 2023.

TTC Service Changes Effective June 20, 2021

Many routes will see service changes with the June-July schedules coming into effect on June 20, 2021.

The changes lie mostly two areas:

  • Improvements to or cutbacks in service in response to pandemic-era demand.
  • Reliability improvements with increased or decreased travel times.

The majority of the updates are on weekend schedules.

A few notable changes are described here, but readers should refer to the full spreadsheet of changes linked below to see what is happening on individual routes.

2021.06.20 Service Changes

New Route Numbers

In preparation for the opening of the 5 Eglinton Crosstown and 6 Finch West LRT lines, routes now bearing these numbers have been changed.

  • 5 Avenue Road is now 13 Avenue Road
  • 6 Bay is now 19 Bay

Queen Street West Water Main and Track Construction Projects

The replacement of track and some water mains on Queen from Bay to Fennings (between Ossington and Dovercourt) is an ongoing project that will run until December 2021. The City’s construction plan is to occupy single blocks of Queen Street at a time during which all planned work will be completed. Temporary CafeTO patios will be removed as each block is rebuilt.

Work will begin westward from Bay to Spadina from June to August, and will then shift to work east from Fennings to Spadina from August to December. For the staging plan, please see the City’s project web page. 501 Buses will divert around construction areas as needed.

The 501P Park Lawn service has been shortened to loop at Humber Loop using an old TTC loop at The Queensway and High Street to turn around and access the bus loop at Humber from the west. This change is already in place, and will formally be part of the schedule on June 20.

King West 504Q Bus Shuttle

The 504Q shuttle from King/Queen/Triller has been extended from Sudbury Street to the loop at Princes Gates. This change is already operating and will be formally in the June 20 schedule.

A Note About “Reliability” Improvements

Since pre-pandemic times, the TTC has been adjusting schedules by adding running time, often at the expense of wider headways, to ensure that very little service has to be short turned. This has the unwanted effect of causing vehicles to bunch at terminals where there may not be room for them, and for operators to regard departure times as somewhat elastic because they know they will soon be ahead of schedule thanks to the padding.

Several of the changes in the June schedules reduce scheduled running time to claw back provisions that are not required under current traffic conditions. At the same time, the scheduled headways might go up or down depending on current demand on the route. Each route and time period is different in this respect, and readers should look at the spreadsheet for the details.

Recovery Time

In the spreadsheet, running times are shown in the format “A+B” where “A” is travel time from one terminus to another, and “B” is the “recovery time” if any at the terminal.

There is no formula or policy rationale behind the length of recovery times, and in some cases none is provided in the schedule. In other cases, very long recovery times are side effects of scheduling branching services.

For the schedule to “work”, the round trip time (RTT), including recovery, must be a multiple of the headway. When a service has branches, each branch’s RTT must be a multiple of the headway. In cases where buses switch between branches, the RTTs for both branches will be a multiple of the common headway plus half a headway, and there will be “half buses” assigned to each branch. This works because the RTTs for the two branches add up to a multiple of the common headway.

For example, the midday service on 79 Scarlett Road operates every 24 minutes on each branch with a 60 minute RTT. Buses alternate between two branches, and so one complete cycle takes 120 minutes which is a multiple of 24. The vehicle assignment for each branch is 2.5 buses.

In order to make this sort of scheme work, particularly for infrequent services, “recovery” times are adjusted up and down in schedules as needed. They have little to do with actual operating conditions or the need for flexibility in handling traffic effects.

In particular, there is no contractual requirement for the TTC to provide any recovery time, and operators on routes with tight schedules make do as best they can. This creates problems for “on time” metrics.

600 Run as Directed Buses

The spreadsheet includes a list by division of the “600” buses commonly known as RADs. The number of RAD crews varies by day of the week, but for June-July there will be 127 of them on weekdays.

It is common for the TTC to talk about these buses being deployed around the system as if they are all in service at the same time. In fact, the crews are broken into time periods, and roughly speaking one third of the RADs exist at any one time. This means that the number of buses available to handle surge loads or the occasional subway service replacement is not as large as TTC claims might imply.

Service Planned vs Budgeted

The regular service planned for June-July is about 3.8 per cent below the budgeted level due in part to ridership not returning system-wide at the expected rate.

Construction service is up by about 19 per cent over budget, although this is a charge on the capital projects rather than operations.

The peak bus fleet in service, including RADs and construction buses is 1463 in the AM peak, 1499 in the PM peak. This is 211 and 175 buses, respectively, lower than the available fleet of 1674, which in turn is well below the total fleet of over 2000 allowing for maintenance spares at about 20 per cent.

A footnote in the table below shows that the peak fleet utilization is actually 1536 buses, slightly higher than the “total in service” of 1499. The reason for this is that there is an overlap between buses running out of service at the end of the peak and those that come newly out of garages at the same time.

There is ample room in the existing fleet to operate more bus service, but this would require additional subsidy.

The streetcar fleet is underutilized because of major construction projects, pandemic service cutbacks and a major overhaul project.

Headway Quality Measurement: Update

This article should be read in conjunction with Headway Quality Management: A Proposal for which this is a response to some questions and suggestions in the comments, and adjustments of my own in the interim. Specific routes discussed here are:

  • 52 and 952 Lawrence West local and express services
  • 504 King streetcar service (December 2020 before the diversions now in place for construction work)

Changes in format include:

  • Better spacing of the columns in the headway distribution charts for clarity,
  • Separation of the AM and PM peak periods for an express service that only operates for a few hours of each period, and
  • Changes in the layout and colour scheme of the headway distribution charts to emphasize the portion of service that lies within the target band of headways.

Both routes reviewed here show the problems of branching services and wide differences in scheduled service. A service may look “good” where all of it branches overlap, but be much less reliable on the unique segments. Vehicles may or may not be “on time”, but service riders experience does not accord with the TTC’s claims of high reliability. Indeed, there are cases where schedules contain built-in gaps that exist as part of blending services and managing transitions between service periods. They “work” for the schedule, but not for the rider.

One can argue that my proposed methodology should be adjusted with narrower or wider target bands. That’s easy to do, but the important issue here is to measure service as riders actually experience it, looking at various points on routes and all times of the day. The TTC’s scheme of looking only at terminals and averaging results over all time periods buries variations in service quality that riders know all too well.

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Headway Quality Measurement: A Proposal

For regular readers of this site, it will be no surprise that my opinion of the TTC’s reporting on service quality is that it is deeply flawed and bears little relationship to rider experiences. It is impossible to measure service quality, let alone to track management’s delivery of good service, with only rudimentary metrics.

Specifically:

  • The TTC reports “on time performance” measured only at terminals. This is calculated as departing no more than one minute early and up to five minutes late.
  • Data are averaged on an all-day, all-month basis by mode. We know, for example, that in February 2020, about 85 per cent of all bus trips left their terminals within that six minute target. That is all trips on all routes at all times of the day.
  • No information is published on mid-route points where most riders actually board the service.

Management’s attitude is that if service is on time at terminals, the rest of the line will look after itself. This is utter nonsense, but it provides a simplistic metric that is easy to understand, if meaningless.

Source: March 2021 CEO’s Report

There are basic problems with this approach including:

  • The six minute window is wide enough that all vehicles on many routes can run as pairs with wide gaps and still be “on time” because the allowed variation is comparable to or greater than the scheduled frequency.
  • Vehicles operate at different speeds due to operator skill, moment-to-moment demand and traffic conditions. Inevitably, some vehicles which drop behind or pull ahead making stats based on terminal departures meaningless.
  • Some drivers wish to reach the end of their trips early to ensure a long break, and will drive as fast as possible to achieve this.
  • Over recent years, schedules have been padded with extra time to ensure that short turns are rarely required. This creates a problem that if a vehicle were to stay strictly on its scheduled time it would have to dawdle along a route to burn up the excess. Alternately, vehicles accumulate at terminals because they arrive early.

Management might “look good” because the service is performing to “standard” overall, but the statistics mask wide variations in service quality. It is little wonder that rider complaints to not align with management claims.

In the pandemic era, concerns about crowding compound the long-standing issue of having service arrive reliably rather than in packs separated by wide gaps. The TTC rather arrogantly suggests that riders just wait for the next bus, a tactic that will make their wait even longer, rather than addressing problems with uneven service.

What alternative might be used to measure service quality? Tactics on other transit systems vary, and it is not unusual to find “on time performance” including an accepted deviation elsewhere. However, this is accompanied by a sense that “on time” matters at more than the terminal, and that data should be split up to reveal effects by route, by location and time of day.

Some systems, particularly those with frequent service, recognize that riders do not care about the timetable. After all, “frequent service” should mean that the timetable does not matter, only that the next bus or streetcar will be reliably along in a few minutes.

Given that much of the TTC system, certainly its major routes, operate as “frequent service” and most are part of the “10 minute network”, the scheme proposed here is based on headways (the intervals between vehicles), not on scheduled times.

In this article, I propose a scheme for reporting on headway reliability, and try it out on the 29 Dufferin, 35 Jane and 501 Queen routes to see how the results behave. The two bus routes use data from March 2021, while the Queen car uses data from December 2020 before the upheaval of the construction at King-Queen-Roncesvalles began.

This is presented as a “first cut” for comment by interested readers, and is open to suggestions for improvement. As time goes on, it would be useful for the TTC itself to adopt a more fine-grained method of reporting, but even without that, I hope to create a framework for consistent reporting on service quality in my analyses that is meaningful to riders.

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TTC Board Meeting: May 12, 2021

The TTC Board will meet at 10:00 am on Wednesday, May 12. The agenda is short, but contains a few major items.

After the Board meets, I will update this article based on their discussions and staff presentations.

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The TTC CEO’s Report: Old Wine in New Bottles?

The April 2021 TTC CEO’s Report came in a new format, and with that a hope that the long-promised improved content had arrived, not just better graphics. The new report looks good, but it continues to over-simplify key details and omits measures of major system components.

Back in January, I reviewed the then-current version in Measuring and Reporting on TTC Operations: Part I and planned a Part II that would look at how metrics used in other cities might be applied in Toronto, and what they would reveal. That article has been sitting in rough draft for a while. Building alternate views of the TTC requires some data crunching I just have not brought myself to do yet.

I recommend that earlier article to readers if only to avoid reiterating the shortcomings of past reports here.

A key point is that the report tells us what the TTC did, not what it might do if its assets were fully utilized. For years the combined tropes of “we have no buses” and “we have no garage space” were used to rebuff calls for more service when the real problem was underfunding on both the capital and operating side. More service means not just more buses, but hiring enough drivers to take as many buses as possible out of garages and onto the streets.

The CEO’s report tells us how successful the TTC was at fielding scheduled service, but is silent on the constraints that prevent the operation of more.

In the pandemic era, it is not enough to say that the TTC provides “98% service hours for 32% ridership” when social distancing fundamentally changes how we think about system capacity. As ridership returns, there will be a balancing act between providing more space (i.e. more service, more seats) and changing crowding standards. We are likely to see a period when the social comfort riders hope to see will exceed the space the TTC can provide due to both financial and fleet limitations. Already service is being shuffled between lower and higher demand routes to address crowding without extra costs.

The eagle-eyed readers will note that the cover photo on King looking east from Yonge includes a 514 Cherry car (a route that was replace by the 504A King to Distillery service in October 2018) and a CLRV (a vehicle retired at the end of 2019).

An important improvement is the presence of a “Hot Topics” section to focus attention on key items of note. That said, a few potential problems come to mind:

  • How does a topic get on this list?
  • What happens when a topic remains “hot” for an extended period?
  • Is there an upper bound to the hot topic count?

Most of the “hot topics” in this report belong in the permanent lists as they represent standing issues, not monthly flashes. If the “hot topics” really are “hot”, they should appear sooner than three-quarters of the way through the report.

The report has no tracking of infrastructure reliability even though, for example, track, power and signals are responsible for interruptions of subway and streetcar service.

Averages vs Details

A common problem throughout the TTC’s presentation of various metrics is the degree of averaging, of consolidating data and thereby missing its variability in time, space and effect on riders. If something “works” 90 per cent of the time, that may sound good, but that other 10 per cent can have a disproportionate negative effect. Moreover, as discussed here many times, it is not enough for “n” vehicles to show up every hour. They must be reasonably spaced to give predictable wait times and crowding levels.

By reporting on average values, the TTC ignores the day-to-day, trip-to-trip experience of riders.

Corporate Views vs Rider Views

Corporate plans look at the world from a corporate view, but the TTC’s job is first to serve riders and move people around the city.

The “core metrics” are now aligned with the corporate plan’s strategic objectives and, in theory, demonstrate how the TTC is advancing that plan’s goals. This approach consolidates metrics that are most important to riders in one category, and shuffles some key ones into an appendix.

There is a particular problem that accessibility issues do not get their own grouping because this is not one of the TTC’s five corporate objectives. Given the TTC’s long history of underserving these needs, metrics of accessibility should be reported as a group and tracked together rather than being scattered through each section of a corporate view.

This does not mean hiving Wheel-Trans off into its own section, but recognizing that there are many aspects to accessibility that affect users of both WT and the “conventional” system, especially now that riders are encouraged to use the “family of services” as much as possible.

Metrics should include items from the capital budget, not just strictly “operating” statistics. Ongoing plans and progress on key projects that will affect system capacity, safety and accessibility should be included even though they may be in the capital budget. It does not matter (and riders do not care) how various parts of the system are funded, only that system improvements are tracked in one place.

This would not preclude the quarterly Financial Report from going into more detail, but the absence of “one stop shopping” in the CEO’s Report weakens its value.

There are five strategic areas plus a group called “Hot Topics”:

  • Ridership
    • Revenue rides (linked trips)
    • Customer boardings (unlinked trips)
    • Wheel-Trans passenger trips
  • Financial
    • Fare revenue
  • People and Diversity
    • (Metrics to be announced)
  • Safety and Security
    • Lost time injury rate
    • Customer injury incidents rate
    • Offenses against customers
  • Customer Experience
    • Customer satisfaction
    • Customer service communications
    • On-time performance (subway)
    • On-time performance (streetcar and bus)
    • On-time performance (Wheel-Trans)
    • Accessibility: Escalator and elevator availability
  • Hot Topics
    • Wheel-Trans contact centre wait time
    • Customer mask use
    • Bus occupancy

Of the three Hot Topics, only customer mask use might be considered as a “topic of the moment” although it will be with us as long as the pandemic and infection are a concern to riders.

Problems with Wheel-Trans booking systems have existed for years. Measures of availability and response time deserve a permanent spot within an Accessibility group.

As for bus occupancy, this is fundamental to the perceived quality of transit service. This has been a pressing issue for years, but is a particularly hot topic in the pandemic era . We often hear about “run as directed” buses, but never see stats to support the benefit they might provide at key locations rather than as a system average. With Automatic Passenger Counters across the bus fleet, the TTC should report regularly on crowding at a granular level including problem routes, locations and times of the day.

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Missing Riders, Uber and the TTC

It is impossible to browse the news online or in print without seeing an article about transit ridership. Will people ever go back to work in office buildings? Has work-from-home destroyed transit demand? What is the future of cities in general and our town, Toronto?

I am not going to attempt to peer into that crystal ball as there are too many possible futures. However, I want to throw out a few ideas that should be part of any debate or prognostication.

The transit market is not a monolith, not in Toronto and certainly not from city to city, system to system. There are different markets each with its own demand patterns and riders, and recovery of these markets will not all happen at the same time.

The TTC has a particularly broad reach in that, in “before days”, there was strong demand not just for downtown commuter trips, but around the suburbs. Many types of jobs do not have the work-from-home option. They are keeping us fed, alive, and supplied with an unending delivery of goods we once picked up from a local store.

Moreover, many trips are not “work” trips but are for other purposes.

  • School trips for all ages are an important market, and these are often overlooked as part of transit demand.
  • People make trips for shopping and other personal errands on the TTC, especially if they do not have a car (or if the only one in the family is being used by someone else).
  • Finally, there are leisure trips, broadly speaking, for outings to sports events, theatre, movies, an afternoon on the beach or a walk through the cherry blossoms.

Office commuting will resume when employers and employees feel safe gathering together. Yes some prefer working at home, at least some of the time, but others are just as happy to escape to the alternate universe of their work space and colleagues. There were already moves to reduce the space per office worker and design more for “hotelling” to make better use of expensive space, but there is still a demand for office space, at least in the core area. The creation of new space may halt or slow for a time, but “downtown” still has its allure.

We have already seen that workers in critical industries and in many settings where there is no online alternative are straining the transit service despite claims that crowding is rare.

School traffic is not going to disappear either, but it will return under different circumstances and at a different pace. Much depends on when it is really safe to resume gatherings on that level, based on actual health science, not on political pressure to reopen at whatever cost.

The last to return will be the leisure trips because here has to be something “there” to generate the traffic.

This affects the TTC in a different way from GO Transit which is almost entirely dependent on one market: downtown commuters. GO’s future is tied to these riders much more than is the TTC’s largely because it is the only market they pursued for most of their existence. They are highly dependent on parking lots and personal cars for “last mile” feeder service.

GO has tried to market itself for off peak traffic and group travel, but that demand is trivial. It is viewed as a loss-leader to get potential new customers onto GO who would try weekday service after they use it on the weekend. Of course, someone bringing their family in for a ball game might not actually work downtown, and GO has little service to other destinations.

GO’s daily ridership dropped much further than the TTC’s and it remains in single-digit percentages of its former level with some trains carrying loads that would fit on a bus.

The TTC is different as its stats show. Ridership (equivalent to fares paid, or “linked trips” in planning parlance) are at 25-30% of former levels across the system, with higher values in some areas. The budget plans for a growth to about 50% by fall 2021, but whether this is achieved depends a lot on the perceived success of the vaccination campaign and a big drop in future infection rates. In the first quarter of 2021, the TTC expected to see the first glimpse of a recovery but, thanks to political bungling, we got a third wave of infections and another “lockdown”.

That hoped-for growth starting in September may turn out to be wishful thinking, and that does not bode well for a transit system that cannot be kept on financial life support forever. The 2022 budget assumes a fairly healthy growth in demand, although not back all the way to pre-pandemic levels.

Source: April 2021 CEO’s Report

“Boardings” or “unlinked trips” count each leg of a journey separately. Any transfer between vehicles (except on the subway) counts as a new boarding. While all modes suffered a downturn through the fall and winter, the bus network did best of the three showing its relative importance to riders who continue to be on the TTC.

Source: April 2021 CEO’s Report

Crowding complaints come overwhelmingly on the bus routes, in part because there are so many more of them. The bus fleet has automatic passenger counters that can report real stats, but these are not yet widely available on the streetcar fleet.

Source: April 2021 CEO’s Report

In the near future, the TTC will provide a crowding level feed to two apps: Rocketman and Transit App. This will allow riders to see how crowded approaching buses are, although it will of course do nothing to prevent a bus, once boarded, from filling up later. This information, however, will make an interesting adjunct to real time and historical tracking analysis because it will allow crowding and service reliability to be compared.

The TTC’s analysis above fails to show the real situation riders face because it lumps every bus trip on every route all day together. Many routes are never crowded. Routes with chronic bunching might only be crowded on the “gap” bus. Routes with highly directional demand will have a lot of lightly-loaded counterpeak trips. Having “only” 5% of trips show up as “crowded” will understate the degree of the problems when and where they actually exist.

Moreover, there are more riders on a crowded bus than on an empty one, and so the “average” experience will be that more people to see crowding. A good analogy might be that someone trying to board the subway southbound at Bloor in the AM peak as opposed to eastbound at Broadview at the same time will have a very different experience of subway crowding. The same is true for bus routes.

With route level crowding stats, the TTC should be able to provide “hot spot” reports rather than simply averaging the entire system.

Clearly they are doing some of this already because service plans for coming months, including the May schedule changes, will reduce service on some less-loaded routes to be redeployed on other busy routes.

An important improvement would be to include the hot spots/hot time list in the Daily Customer Service Report so that riders can compare their experience with what the TTC thinks happened. The next challenge is to make the service run reliably, a frequent topic on this blog.

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TTC Service Changes: Sunday, May 9, 2021

The May schedules will bring many changes across the TTC network including:

  • Streetcar network changes due to construction projects
  • Route reorganizations in Downsview and Scarborough
  • Many service reductions due to reduced pandemic-era riding
  • Some service improvements to address crowding

Updated April 10, 2021 at 9:35 pm: References to “117 York University Heights” in the spreadsheet of detailed changes have been corrected to route “107”.

Streetcar Changes

Construction continues at the King-Queen-Queensway-Roncesvalles intersection. Phase 1 now underway is planned to run through August 2021. In Phase 2, work will shift to other parts of the intersection. The full project is planned to run through late 2021.

The only schedule change in May for this project is to give the Roncesvalles 504G shuttle additional running time.

The central-west Queen reconstruction includes conversion of overhead west from Parliament Street for pantograph operation as well as track replacement from University to Fennings (west of Dufferin). The 501 Queen streetcar service will divert via Parliament to King and will loop at Spadina via Charlotte Street. The 501L/P Queen bus service will be extended to Broadview Avenue.

The 503 Kingston Road service which also loops at Spadina & King will be adjusted so that headways and service blend with the 501 Queen service.

Water main reconstruction on Broadview between Danforth and Gerrard will require a bus shuttle until late in 2021. A 504D King shuttle will operate from Broadview Station to Front & Parliament via King. This will replace both the 504 King and 505 Dundas streetcar service north of Gerrard.

All 504 King service will run between Dufferin and Distillery Loops. Service west of Dufferin will continue to be provided by the 504Q shuttle between Shaw and Triller. Service east of Parliament will be provided by the 504D shuttle.

All 505 Dundas service will terminate at Broadview looping via Parliament and Gerrard.

Reconstruction of the overhead for pantographs on the east end of 506 Carlton as well as construction work at Main Station will be complete, and streetcar service will resume over the full route from Main Station to High Park Loop.

Weekday service on 510 Spadina will all terminate at Queens Quay Loop. Riders bound for Union Station will have to transfer to 509 Harbourfront. Weekend and overnight 310 Spadina service is unchanged.

Streetcars from 512 St. Clair running out of service via Bathurst southbound will no longer loop through Bathurst Station to avoid blocking the road and sidewalk when the platform is occupied by a 511 Bathurst car. 512 cars entering service will continue to run through the loop northbound.

The resulting streetcar network is shown in the map below.

Service Reorganizations

Two service reorganizations will occur in May.

In Scarborough, the 116 Morningside service will be consolidated so that all trips operate to Finch. The branch to Conlins Road will now be served by an extension of the 905 Eglinton East Express route.

In Downsview, the 107 St. Regis and 117 Alness-Chesswood routes will be combined as one route 107 York University Heights as shown in the map below.

Service details are in the spreadsheet at the end of the article.

Service Reductions and Improvements

The list of changes for May includes many routes under the heading of pandemic-related service reductions. This is also a time of year when seasonal effects would normally trigger reductions across the system.

Routes with service improvements:

  • 35 Jane M-F peaks
  • 92 Woodbine South weekends (seasonal)
  • 96 Wilson M-F peaks improved; early evening service blended with 165 Weston Road North
  • 102 Markham Road service improvements and reallocation from 102A Centennial branch to 102B Steeles branch
  • 119 Torbarrie new midday service
  • 121 Fort York-Esplande extensions to Ontario Place and Cherry Beach (seasonal)
  • 126 Christie Sunday/Holiday service adjusted to be consistent with weekday schedules
  • 165 Weston Road North service improved; early evening service blended with 96 Wilson
  • 175 Bluffers Park (seasonal)
  • 509 Harbourfront M-F (seasonal)
  • 510 Spadina M-F service consolidated to Spadina Avenue
  • 924 Victoria Park Express weekday peak service restored
  • 927D Highway 27 Express M-F peak service to Steeles
  • 929 Dufferin Express: articulated vehicles replace standard length buses
  • 989 Weston Express weekday peak service restored

Routes with service reductions:

  • 1 Yonge University weekends
  • 512 St. Clair M-F
  • 6 Bay M-F
  • 7 Bathurst M-F
  • 11 Bayview M-F peaks
  • 23 Dawes AM Peak
  • 24 Victoria Park M-F early evening
  • 32 Eglinton West (weekday running times reduced due to less Line 5 construction delay)
  • 34 Eglinton East
  • 38 Highland Creek M-F early evening
  • 52 Lawrence West M-F midday and late evening
  • 60 Steeles West M-F midday and early evening
  • 63 Ossington M-F St. Clair 63B short turn trips reduced
  • 66 Prince Edward M-F peak service on 66B to Lake Shore reduced
  • 71 Runnymede M-F peaks
  • 73 Royal York M-F
  • 75 Sherbourne M-F (seasonal)
  • 76 Royal York South M-F
  • 88 South Leaside M-F peaks
  • 94 Wellesley M-F
  • 100 Flemingdon Park M-F AM peak and midday
  • 106 Sentinel M-F peaks and midday
  • 109 Ranee M-F PM peak
  • 113 Danforth M-F peaks
  • 129 McCowan North M-F
  • 134/913 Progress M-F
  • 900 Airport Express weekends
  • 927C Highway 27 Express to Humber College (seasonal)

Routes with revised schedules for reliability

The effect of reliability changes varies from route to route. Usually, the change involves adding running time without adding buses so that scheduled service becomes less frequent. In some cases, running times are trimmed to reflect changing traffic conditions such as the wind-up of construction projects

  • 14 Glencairn
  • 26 Dupont
  • 29 Dufferin
  • 32 Eglinton West
  • 34 Eglinton East
  • 86 Scarborough
  • 116 Morningside
  • 127 Davenport
  • 929 Dufferin Express
  • 941 Keele Express

For details of service plans and changes, please see the spreadsheet linked below.

2021.05.09_Service_Changes_V2

TTC Service Changes Sunday, March 28, 2021

March 28, 2021, will see revenue service begin from the TTC’s new McNicoll Garage. This will entail the reassignment of many routes between all garages as the TTC rebalances it fleet and service to relieve crowding and minimize dead-head times.

There are few service changes associated with this grand shuffle. The primary effect is that garage trips at the end of peak periods will change to reflect the shift of some routes to a new home in northern Scarborough.

For example, north-south routes that formerly had transitional peak-to-evening service southbound will go to evening service levels sooner because buses will dead head to McNicoll rather than making a southbound trip before running back to Eglinton or Birchmount Garage.

  • 17 Birchmount
  • 43 Kennedy
  • 57 Midland
  • 68 Warden
  • 129 McCowan North

The short-turn point for 39 Finch East and 53 Steeles East off-peak garage trips will change so that buses do not double back on themselves. These trips will be shortened to end at Kennedy rather than at Markham Road. Trips on 39C to Victoria Park will end at McNicoll & Victoria Park rather than at 480 Gordon Baker Road.

The 45 Kipling and 945 Kipling Express move from Queensway to Arrow. Trips to the garage after the AM and PM peak will no longer make southbound trips. Trips at the beginning of the PM peak will no longer travel north from Queensway.

The old and new garage assignments are at the end of this article for those who are interested.

Fleet utilization continues to be well below system capacity. In January 2020, the total AM peak buses in service was 1,625. In March 2021, it will be 1,527. This does not include buses used in Run As Directed (RAD) service. Although the TTC now has an additional bus garage, its capacity is not included in the table below.

For comparison, here is the January 2020 (pre-pandemic) table.

The number of buses used on streetcar routes continues to be high. These vehicles are included in the counts above, and represent additional capacity available for bus routes when the construction projects now underway finish. 506 Carlton will return to all-streetcar operation in May, but other routes will be affected by construction for much of 2021 notably at KQQR and on Broadview north of Gerrard (starting in May).

Here is the streetcar peak service table. Note that there is an error in the afternoon peak “base going into Mar 2021” column where the streetcar total should read 127, not 142.

Construction Projects

During the construction of McNicoll Garage, all trips on 42 Cummer were operated as 42A to Middlefield. This will continue, and the 42B and 42C services will remain suspended. An eight month long water main project on Cummer will require that westbound service divert via Leslie, Finch and Bayview. New farside stops will be added southbound on Leslie at Cummer, and westbound on Cummer at Bayview to serve the diversion.

At the King, Queen, Queensway, Roncesvalles intersection (KQQR) construction work will block transit service beginning on March 31. This will affect all services that pass through this busy location.

  • 501 Queen buses (501L Long Branch and 501P Park Lawn) will operate via King and Dufferin Streets to route. The official east end of the route will remain at Jarvis Street. In current operations, many runs have been extended as far east as River because the schedule is very generous in anticipation of construction traffic delays that have not yet materialized. Buses are also taking extended layovers at Long Branch Loop because they arrive early.
  • The 504 King west end shuttle will be broken into two parts.
    • A 504G King shuttle will operate between Dundas West Station and Roncesvalles Carhouse (entering and leaving via the North Gate).
    • A 504Q King shuttle will operate between Triller and Strachan. The west end loop will be via Dufferin, Queen and Triller. The east end loop will be via Duoro and Strachan. This is a change from the current shuttle terminus at Shaw.

Operation of the 506 Carlton bus shuttle will be officially changed to use the loop that was informally implemented almost immediately after this service began in January. All buses will loop via Gerrard, Sherbourne and Parliament. Full streetcar service will resume on 506 Carlton with the May 9, 2021 schedules.

Miscellaneous Route Changes

Weekday scheduled round-trip travel time on 1 Yonge-University-Spadina will be shortened from 161 to 154 minutes in recognition of time savings with Automatic Train Control. This will address some of the train queuing problems at terminals. Headways will also be widened slightly to reflect lower demand.

43C Kennedy service to Village Green Square will be modified so that all trips begin and end there. Half hourly service will be provided northbound from Kennedy Station from 6:30 to 8:30 am, and from 4:00 to 7:00 pm. Southbound service will leave Village Green from 5:58 to 8:28 am, and from 3:30 to 6:30 pm.

The Amazon Fulfillment Centre at Morningside & Steeles will be served by two routes:

  • 53B Steeles service to Markham Road will be extended via Passmore to the cul-de-sac at the site. This operation is already in place.
  • 102 Markham Road service will be routed north on Markham Road, east on Select Avenue, south on Tapscott Road, east on Passmore Avenue to cul-de-sac, west on Passmore Avenue, north on Tapscott Road, west on Steeles Avenue, to south on Markham Road. This route will be changed when the the intersection of Steeles & Morningside fully opens later in 2021.

Trip times on 167 Pharmacy North will be standardized so that the weekday and Saturday schedules are the same. The first trips will run northbound from Don Mills Station and southbound from Pharmacy Loop at 5:30 am. Service at all times will be on the half-hour (:00 and :30).

Articulated and regular buses will shuffle between routes:

  • Three artics now used on 60 Steeles West will be changed to standard buses. The artics will return in late May.
  • Most runs on 89 Weston will switch from artics to standard buses. In late May, all 89 Weston local buses will be standard-sized, but the 989 Weston Express service will resume.
  • Six standard buses now used on 929 Dufferin Express will be changed to artics.

310 Spadina night service will be cut to half hourly. This route was missed in January when other night services reverted to a 30 minute service (previously every 15 or 20 minutes).

Details of the changes and service plan comparisons are in this spreadsheet.

Revised Garage Assignments

TTC Board Meeting: February 10, 2021

The TTC Board met on February 10 with a thicker-than-usual agenda including:

  • A review of the Five Year Corporate Plan Status & CEO’s Report
  • A report on liquidated damage provisions within the contract for additional streetcars
  • Proposed asbestos removal projects at St. Patrick and Queen’s Park Stations
  • An update on the Presto contract with Metrolinx, and on the TTC’s pursuit of information on a possible replacement system from other vendors
  • An update on the Fair Pass program

The Board spent considerable time on the proposed shutdown of the SRT. Please see my original article Bye, Bye Scarborough RT on this issue which has been updated to reflect their debate and decision.

The Transit Network Expansion report also deserves its own article and will be reviewed separately.

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