TTC Board Meeting Update: January 9, 2023

The TTC Board met today to consider its 2023 Operating and Capital budget. To nobody’s surprise, they were adopted as written in spite of numerous public deputations and a few attempts by the Board to tweak the recommendations.

For detailed background on the budgets, see:

In the course of the meeting two fairly standard devices were used to limit debate, although one of them proved to be deeply out of order. I will come to that later in the article.

As is common for meetings where there are many pesky public deputations, the speaking time was limited to three minutes each. Questions were rarely asked for clarification or to draw out more information. Making a deputation at the TTC can be quite disheartening when almost nobody sitting around the table wants to hear you.

The Fare Increase

A thread running through many presentations, and indeed now part of the official line, is that transit is important for people who cannot afford to drive. This creates a political dynamic where transit is a service for the poor while roads are for everyone else. TTC has long benefited from strong “choice” ridership, but the shift to work-from-home has stripped a large population of riders who commute by choice out of their customer base.

Ironically, we are still building transit megaprojects for core-oriented commuting. That tap is very hard to turn off because of the many interests in construction and development. Buses in the poorer suburbs, not so much.

The proposed ten cent fare increase effective Monday, April 3, 2023 for single adult and youth fares was approved, as was a scheme to make about 50,000 more low income people eligible for the “Fair Pass”.

Several deputants as well as Board member Councillor Moise argued that the structure of the fare increase would hurt low income riders disproportionately because they are less likely to afford monthly passes for which there is no increase. This is certainly true for riders who do not travel enough to make a pass worth buying, or who cannot afford to lay out a month’s transit fare in a single payment. As to the Fair Pass, some members of the Board seemed unaware that there is a broad range of “low income” riders who are not poor enough to qualify for this pass.

The issue of fares as a social subsidy is a complicated one, along with the question of how much riders of any class should pay toward the cost of transit. There is supposed to be a Fare Policy Study coming to the TTC Board later in 2023, and this should be the context for a debate on all aspects of the issue. It should receive more than a perfunctory, dismissive debate for an already-decided fare increase.

Continue reading

TTC 2023-2037 Capital Plan & Budget

The TTC’s capital plans cover a wide array of projects related to maintenance and enhancement of the transit system. For planning purposes, this is presented with a rolling 15-year window updated year-by-year. For budget purposes, a 10-year version is produced to feed into the City’s rolling plans.

Separate, but related, is the Real Estate Investment Plan which identifies property requirements for many projects. Some of these are well known, some are only at the “what if” stage for possible future inclusion in the capital plan. This raises awareness of potential needs so that property can be protected and acquired if necessary to keep future options open.

Major points in this article include:

  • The TTC 15-year capital plan now sits at $38 billion, and even that does not include possible projects such as the Waterfront LRT.
  • About two thirds of the capital plan is not funded, in the sense that the source of money to actually pay for projects is unknown. This affects some current projects such as replacement of subway cars that are partly funded, but cannot proceed until the TTC is certain it can pay for the entire contract.
  • Bus replacement and electrification plans run out of money in 2025.
  • A very large portion of the plan involves renewal and upgrading of subway infrastructure. Focus on the subway threatens to distract from need of the surface system which is essential to the network’s operation.
  • The scale of planned spending on system growth and improvement dwarfs the shortfall in the Operating Budget that will lead to service cuts in 2023. There is no reconciliation of the parsimony of the operating plans for transit service with the scope of capital plans for expansion and improvement.
  • Some future funding included in the budget assumes continuation of existing streams from other governments. This is not guaranteed.
  • Absent new funding, the State of Good Repair backlog is projected to rise to over $6 billion in the coming decade.
  • There is a growing problem that the TTC owns buses, streetcars and subway trains it cannot afford to operate.
Continue reading

TTC 2023 Operating Budget

This article is a deeper dive into the budget for 2023 following up from my first cut on the subject yesterday (January 4).

See:

Updated January 6, 2023 at 2:10pm: Of all the tables included in this article, I realized that I had not included the full budgets showing functional breakdowns, as opposed to individual line items. These have been added at the end.

The annual budget cycle is always a challenge because the document comes to the TTC Board at the last minute before it must be passed and forwarded to Council. This year, the situation was complicated by the election (normally we would see the budget reports in December, not January), and by the new “strong mayor” system in which the Mayor effectively dictates the budget by setting the City’s proposed subsidy ceiling. We have many new Board members most of whom have no experience with TTC budgets, and who will not know “which rocks to look under”.

Even worse, the Mayor’s press conference announcing the budget made no mention of planned service cuts coming in Spring 2023 and gave the impression that this “core service” was defended. That can, at best, be called “misdirection” in the hope that nobody would notice what was happening and focus on the “good news”.

Here, in much more detail than I had time for in the first article, is the budget information distilled from the TTC’s 55-page report.

Key points (the TL/DR version):

  • The City will give the TTC $53 million more in subsidy in 2023 than 2022. This is pitched as being in support of more security, safety and cleanliness on the system, although the cost of those changes is less than 10% of that amount.
  • The same argument is advanced for proceeds from a fare increase (10 cents on single fares for adults and youth/students) projected at roughly $16 million.
  • The effect is that new funding is advertised for a politically unassailable purpose even though it will mainly pay for other aspects of TTC operations.
  • The year-over-year increase in City subsidy is lower than in some past years and should not be seen as a generous windfall. This is in part possible because of underspending in 2022 which leaves headroom for 2023 without as much additional City money as would otherwise be required.
  • The cost of beginning operations on Lines 5 and 6 will eat up over $40 million in 2023 and even more in 2024. At the same time, the TTC proposes service cuts elsewhere that will save about $46 million nominally in the name of matching service to demand. What is actually happening is that most of the network is paying for two new rapid transit lines through service cuts.
  • Crowding standards for off-peak service will be substantially changed to permit more riders on buses, streetcars and subway trains. On buses, the off-peak standard will be only slightly less than the peak standard. Combined with chronic unreliability of service, this will lead to more full buses and will discourage riding during the period when recovery to pre-pandemic levels is strong.
  • Headway maxima will be raised so that rapid transit service could operate as infrequently as every 10 minutes during periods of light demand. For buses and streetcars, there is no guarantee that the existing Ten Minute Network will be preserved.
  • The changes to Service Standards (crowding and maximum headways) are not explicitly listed in the report’s recommendations and would be missed by someone only browsing early pages, a not unusual situation for TTC Board members and Councillors.
  • The TTC has not published any details of planned service changes even though, for April 2023 implementation, they are certainly in the early stages of planning. The TTC and Council were clearly expected to approve the changes sight-unseen, possibly without even realizing they were buried in the budget. TTC management must be forced to reveal the details of what they plan.
  • The budget provides for additional operators who will be used to fill open crews to reduce or eliminate the incidence of service gaps caused by missing buses and streetcars. This is a change and improvement from using “run as directed” vehicles to the extent that operators are available to drive them.
  • Even this austerity service is possible only with additional subsidy of $336 million which the City/TTC will seek from the provincial and federal governments.
  • Ridership recovery is stronger on weekends, and among concession fare groups (seniors, youth, students). This type of riding is less affected by work-from-home.
  • Projections for future budgets in 2024 and 2025 include no provision for additional service beyond that which will be operated in 2023.
  • The TTC claims it will pursue a ridership recovery program, but its budgetary plans suggest that service will remain below 2022 levels for 2023 through 2025. This, coupled with chronic service reliability problems, is not a recipe for winning back riders.
Continue reading

TTC 2023 Budget: A Bit More Subsidy, But …

Updated January 4, 2023 at 6pm:

  • Change in fares clarified to include 10 cent increase in Youth (Student) fares.
  • Comparative table of budgets amended to update 2022 budget and add 2023 budget numbers.
  • Overview of proposed service changes added.

Where there are substantial changes from the original version, I have retained the old text, but formatted it with strikethroughs so that readers can see what has changed.

There is much more to write about in the Budget Reports, both Operating and Capital, but I will leave that to separate articles.

See: TTC Operating Budget Report

Mayor John Tory announced increased funding of $53 million for the TTC in 2023. To put this in context, the total TTC budget for 2022 was $2.28 billion for the conventional and Wheel-Trans systems. The total TTC subsidy will rise from $905.7 to $958.7 million. This has been presented as a “big thing”, but it is comparable to (even somewhat below) past increases. The City has fairly regularly boosted TTC funding at above inflationary rates.

Tory’s announcement highlighted system safety with:

  • the proposed hiring of 50 more Special Constables adding to an existing complement of about 80, and
  • doubling of the Streets-To-Homes workers assigned to the TTC from 10 to 20.

The budget focuses on four areas:

  • System safety (as above).
  • Service improvements in priority Neighbourhood Improvement Areas and on lines that are overcrowded.
  • Increased cleaning of streetcars on busy routes to counter a rising problem of litter.
  • Fare changes (see below).

On the revenue side, fares will go up for some riders, down for others:

  • Single adult and youth (aka student) fares will go up by 10 cents.
  • Fares for pass holders and seniors will not change (there was no mention of student fares).
  • The “Fair Pass” discount program which allows low-income adults to pay at the senior’s rate will be expanded to make 50,000 more people eligible.

The announcement gave the impression that the $53 million was intended primarily for safety initiatives. However, the 70 new staff must be recruited and trained. Assuming they are on the budget for 9 months, this only eats up a small part of this even allowing for the very high salary of Special Constables. For example, at $100k each, this would only amount to $7 million.

The projected cost of the additional Special Constables, the Streets-to-Homes workers and the streetcar cleaning is $4.4 million. The projected cost of the expanded Fair Pass program is $2.0 million to be funded from the TTC’s budget rather than through the Social Development department.

As for service improvements, the TTC has a habit of putting them off as long as possible to minimize current year budget effects. We do not know whether planned improvements will occur as soon as possible (Spring 2023) or if we must wait until the Fall to see more buses on the street.

From the budget details, we now know that service cuts are coming during some periods on the streetcar, and particularly on the rapid transit network. The overall weekly hours of service will drop in Spring 2023 from the current 95% of pre-pandemic level to 91%.

Defending his record as Mayor, John Tory claimed responsibility for three key TTC initiatives: the Fair Pass, the Two Hour Transfer and Free Rides for Children. Of these, only the last was actually a Tory initiative. Both the Fair Pass and the time-based transfer arose from years of public advocacy that met the usual response “we can’t afford it”, at least until they were deemed politically worthwhile.

Continue reading

TTC Service Changes January 8, 2023

The TTC will modify many routes on January 8, 2023, although most of the changes are small tweaks rather than a significant overhaul of service. Current changes are achieved mainly by reallocation of vehicles, modification of running times and headway adjustments.

Updated January 3, 2023 at 4:35pm: A table showing the number of replacement buses on streetcar routes has been added.

In the January schedule period, the planned weekly service is down from November 2022 levels. That is the appropriate comparison because the “December” schedules only cover the holiday period when service is reduced. All of these reductions have been reversed in the January schedules, and some school trips have been added beyond the November level.

Service in the latter part of 2022 ran below budget because riding had not rebounded as quickly as originally hoped across the system. January 2023 continues at a similar level, and a service budget has not yet been published, let alone approved.

Hours/WeekRegular ServiceConstruction ServiceTotal
Nov 2022 Budget182,0164,492186,508
Nov 2022 Planned173,2494,187177,436
Dec 2022 Planned170,7083,779174,387
Jan 2023 Planned171,8025,175176,977
Source: TTC Service Change Memos for November/December 2022 and January 2023

Subway Service

There is no change in subway service for January 2023.

Streetcar Service

506 Carlton will return to its normal route over its entire length after an extended sojourn on Dundas Street. The 306 night service will return to streetcar operation. Construction of streetscape changes on College Street is not yet complete, but this will not require a diversion in 2023.

Some streetcar routes will have new schedules:

  • 509 Harbourfront and 510 Spadina will be modified to reduce layover conflicts at Union and Spadina Stations.
  • Service on 509 Harbourfront will be reduced to match demand in some periods.
  • Sunday early evening service on 510 Spadina will be changed so that all cars operate as 510A to Union rather than a split service with 510B turning back at Queens Quay. This matches the Saturday service pattern.
  • 512 St. Clair service will be reduced to match demand during some periods.

The allocation of routes to carhouses will change slightly to balance resources. The table below includes a long absent route “507 Long Branch” and the temporarily suspended “508 Lake Shore”, but not the “502 Downtowner”. Make of that what you will.

The number of buses operating on streetcar routes for construction projects is shown in the table below.

Bus Service

Routing Changes

29/329 Dufferin

Due to construction for the Ontario Line’s Exhibition Station, the 29 and 329 Dufferin services will be rerouted as shown in the maps below.

43B Kennedy and 985A Sheppard STC Services

These routes will be modified to access Scarborough Town Centre via a different path in order to provide connecting stops with the temporary GO bus terminal.

95C York Mills and 996 Wilson Express Service to Ellesmere Station

The 95C York Mils branch will be dropped, and in its place the 996 Wilson Express will be extended east to Ellesmere Station.

The levels of service in the “before” and “after” configurations are compared below.

Buses/HourAM Pk PreAM Pk PostMidday PreMidday PostPM Pk PrePM Pk Post
95A Pt Union7.563.365.56
95C Ellesmere Stn7.53.35.5
995 UTSC5.553.83.85.55
996 Ellesmere Stn6.74.86
Total to Ellesmere Stn20.517.710.414.616.517
Total to UTSC13117.110.81111

Other affected bus routes

  • 600 Run As Directed: The number of scheduled RAD buses is deeply reduced with only 6 weekday crews and none on weekends. Divisions will assign buses locally depending on operator availability.
  • 19 Bay: An AM peak tripper to handle demand to the waterfront will be created by diverting one 503 Kingston Road bus to run eastbound as a Bay bus to Dockside Drive and Queens Quay, then deadhead to Broadview and Queen to resume service on the 503.
  • 20 Cliffside and 113 Danforth: Headways will be standardized so that an evenly blended service can operate from Main Station on these overlapped routes.
  • 25 Don Mills: The split branch structure north and south of Don Mills Station will be extended into the early evening on weekdays.
  • 925 Don Mills Express: Trips added during peak periods to match demand.
  • 939 Finch Express: Midday and PM peak service improved, evening service reduced.
  • 41 Keele: Service reduced to match demand.
  • 44/944 Kipling South: Some early express trips will be replaced with local buses. Two school trips from 44 Kipling South will interline with 76 Royal York South school trips.
  • 945 Kipling Express: AM peak service improved.
  • 48 Rathburn and 112 West Mall: PM school trips serving Michael Power Saint Joseph HS will be changed to match dismissal times.
  • 52 Lawrence West: A new trip will be added from Westwood Mall at 6:52am to accommodate demand. A new trip will be added between Lawrence and Lawrence West Stations in the early PM peak. This is a hook-up with an existing school trip.
  • 57 Midland: Service reductions to match demand.
  • 60C/960 Steeles West: Service between Pioneer Village Station and Kipling on the 60C branch will be reduced in peak periods to match demand. This will be offset by improvement to the express service.
  • 960 Steeles West Express: Early evening service reduced.
  • 63 Ossington: Service modified for resiliency and to match demand (mainly reductions).
  • 68/968 Warden: Schedules adjusted for reliability with less frequent service during many periods.
  • 79 Scarlett Road: Service reduction weekdays in peak and midday periods.
  • 86 Scarborough: Zoo shuttle will operate only on Saturday to serve Terra Lumina. Sunday service dropped.
  • 95/995 York Mills an 96/996 Wilson: 996 Express service extended to Ellesmere Station replacing the 95C local service (see map above). Service changes during many periods to improve reliability with a mix of frequency changes.
  • 102/902 Markham Road: New trips to serve school demand to R.H. King Academy and Centennial College.
  • 116 Morningside: New PM school trips from Morningside & Ellesmere to serve Jack Milner PS and Sir Wilfrid Laurier CI.
  • 122 Graydon Hall: All trips will now enter service eastbound at Don Mills.
  • 130 Middlefield: New school trips to serve Henry Kelsey Senior PS.
  • 165 Weston Road: Service reliability changes primarily through longer running times and additional buses.
  • 168 Symington: Service reduced to match demand.

Peak bus service

The Details

Details of these changes are in the spreadsheet linked below.

TTC Service Changes 2023.01.08 (Revised)

Construction Projects

Service Analysis of 63 Ossington, November 2022

This article arose from complaints I saw on Twitter about the poor service on the 63 Ossington bus during November and early December. The common thread is that service is extremely erratic, a common problem on many routes.

In the case of the Ossington bus, most trips are comparatively short because it extends only from Eglinton West Station to Liberty Village, and many trips are to or from the subway at Bloor. This means that wait times can form a substantial part of a journey on the route, sometimes more than half. Moreover, they are unpredictable and riders must allow time for this whether they will need it or not. This is not a formula for attracting demand back to the system from those who have a choice of travel some other way.

The charts here are in a format familiar to readers of this site. To save repeating explanatory material, I urge those who are new to this type of analysis to read Understanding TTC Service Analysis Charts: A Primer. For details of how these charts are created, see Methodology For Analysis of TTC’s Vehicle Tracking Data.

Service on 63 Ossington during November 2022 operated with schedules that had been in place for some time. The weekday schedules had been in effect since March 2022, and the weekend schedules since November 2021.

During peak periods, half of the service short turns at St. Clair via Oakwood Loop, but at all other times, all buses run over the entire route.

During November 2022, there was an enlarged south end loop to avoid construction at King & Shaw, but no additional running time was provided in the schedule to compensate for this.

The route has frequent opportunities to regulate headways with layovers at the terminals and at Ossington Station Loop. Note that recovery times are particularly large during weekday peak periods and midday. This is intended to deal with congestion due to Line 5 Crosstown construction at Eglinton West Station. Recovery times are more commonly only one headway or less.

Continue reading

TTC Board Meeting December 8, 2022

The inaugural meeting of the TTC Board for the new term of Council met on December 8. As is common for the first meeting, the agenda was light, and the event was more ceremonial than substantive.

Councillor John Burnside is the Board’s Chair, replacing Councillor Jaye Robinson who was not re-appointed.

Joanne De Laurentiis, who acted as Vice-Chair in the past term, was re-elected to the position. Note that terms of citizen members are not coterminous with the Council term, and so she remained on the Board through the recent election.

CEO’s Report

The Board received a presentation from staff as background to the CEO’s Report. A chunk of this was introductory giving some background on the TTC and its recent accomplishments. It included a short section on ridership and plans under the the title “Key Focus on Service and Customer Experience”.

CEO Rick Leary talked about the benefits of the move to Automatic Train Control on all of Line 1 and the implementation of One Person Train Operation. He cited a recent case where the TTC achieved a throughput of 32 trains/hour at Bloor Station between 8 and 9am, an increase over the typical pre-pandemic level of 24 to 26.

Note that this would have occurred after a gap with a backlog of trains, not as a routine level of service. The AM peak scheduled level sits at 21 trains/hour plus a few gap trains if needed. One advantage of ATC is that it provides a faster throughput of bunched trains after a delay at choke points like Bloor where platform dwell times are long.

Ridership continues to recover on the system, although only modest growth is expected for 2023 due to the effect of work-from-home. The bus network, which serves proportionately more trips that are not amenable to WFH, continues to show the best performance carrying 77% of pre-pandemic demand.

Weekday ridership sits at about 70%, while weekends do better at 80%.

Trips on the TTC occur for many reasons. Note that in the chart below, the percentages for October 2022 are on a ridership base about one third lower than the pre-covid values. The category “Professional and General Office Commutes” has not only fallen from a 28% to 22% share, but on a smaller base. Some percentages increase because their category is now measured against that base. For example, “Market Trips” went from 7% to 9%, but this still represents fewer trips.

This chart is important because it shows how many transit trips are not traditional office commutes, and that the wide variety of demands do not necessarily fit a system organized only to handle office workers.

Customer satisfaction is a softer metric than trip counts, but the general trend in 2022 has been downward, notably in October with the increased crowding levels associated with stronger ridership.

This is echoed by both crowding and wait time being two areas of dissatisfaction, especially wait time. TTC staff noted that customer pride ranks higher with frequent riders, while satisfaction ranks higher among infrequent riders.

Continue reading

TTC Service Changes: Holiday Period 2022/23

As is usually the case, the TTC will implement modified schedules during the two-week holiday period which, because of the lie of the calendar, runs from December 25 to January 6 this year.

Several routes will revert to June 2022 summer schedules for the weekdays within this period. No changes are planned for Saturday and Sunday schedules. Many of the summer schedules have the same service frequency, but with fewer buses and shorter travel times reflecting reduced passenger and road traffic.

No school trippers are operated during the holiday period, and service is reduced on some routes serving post secondary campuses.

Late night New Year’s Eve service will operate until about 3am on most routes including all rapid transit lines.

Service will operate free of charge from 7pm on December 31 to 8am on January 1.

Details are in the spreadsheet linked below.

What Should Be Done With Spadina and St. Clair?

This article was originally going to be a very long reply to a comment left in the Spadina vs Bathurst thread, but I have moved it to its own article for better exposure.

I received the following comment from someone whose identity I will keep to myself. You know who you are.

Steve, I am a political strategist at the municipal level here in Toronto. I have a meeting with some new inner city Councillors next week (+ the Mayor) who are interested in this issue of streetcar speed and reliability (as am I as a fervent reader of your blog!).

Putting aside cost and political barriers for the moment: from a purely technical perspective, what measures would you recommend implementing on the Spadina and St. Clair streetcar routes to speed them up without losing ridership?

For instance:

  • Are there any stops on the Spadina line, near or far side, that could be eliminated while still retaining the riders who use those stops via other stops?
  • What kind of TSP [Transit Signal Priority] extension would yield the best results if having to choose between the two: extending the seconds of green light extension OR maintaining the green light extension window while simultaneously allowing for more active TSP (ie rather than just if it’s late)?
  • How much time would be saved if all far side stops were eliminated on Spadina and St Clair?
  • How much delay does the lack of grade separation for the final/first leg of the St Clair route (ie when it’s entering or leaving the station and having to wait for cars and pedestrians) cause? Would installing a signal system for that unprotected stretch that prioritizes the streetcar result in any substantial gains?

Open to all thoughts and suggestions – many thanks 🙂

I am replying to this in public because (a) the comment was left in the public thread rather than sent in a private email, and (b) my answers will be of interest to other readers.

Continue reading

TTC Demand Bounces Up In September 2022

The October 2022 CEO’s Report has been posted on the TTC’s website. Although most of the charts in this edition run only to the end of August, the ridership and crowding chart data extends to the end of September. The two charts below show how strongly ridership improved between the summer and fall periods.

At the end of September, bus demand on weekdays rose to 75 per cent of pre-pandemic levels, while streetcars sat at 55 percent and the subway at 63. The difference reflects the weak return of demand in the core area which is served by streetcars and the subway.

The TTC reports that in pre-pandemic times, post-secondary students and office workers represented 22 and 38 per cent, respectively, of total demand. Downtown offices were about one-third full in mid-September.

In the chart below, note that although the streetcar portion (green, hiding behind the boxes with values) has not widened very much and sits roughly at summer levels. The green stripe sits higher because the bus (red) and subway (blue) portions of the bars have grown.

How long this will persist is difficult to project. Anecdotal observations from my own travels on streetcars give the sense that demand was up in October, but the actual stats will not be out for another month.

Another factor whose effect is hard to judge is the many construction projects that remove streetcar service, or interrupt it with bus replacements. Some trips might never be taken, or might travel via a different route served by buses. The streetcar system will not be back to “normal” until early 2023, and there is always a lag between loss of ridership and recovery as would-be users discover that service has improved. Although the TTC plans a campaign to lure riders back, there has to be something worth riding.

Another measure of demand is the rate of bus occupancy at various levels. This is measured with Automatic Passenger Counter data. The streetcar fleet does not yet have APCs installed on all vehicles, and so comparable stats for the streetcar routes are not available. (Note that this chart goes back to January 2020 whereas the chart of boardings above only begins in April 2022. Earlier boarding figures are available in older CEO reports.)

An overall observation here is that in the absence of a major new wave triggering reduction in travel, the chart shows a consistent growth. Even the dip in mid-2022 is a typical seasonal decline and the September data continue the trajectory of Spring 2022 numbers. This is for the bus network, and a comparable trajectory does not necessarily apply to other modes as shown in the boarding counts above. Crowding numbers can also be affected by service levels, although there has not been a major jump in service that would dilute the occupancy numbers.

Particularly striking here is the big jump in trips above 70% capacity which are now about 10% of total trips, and a similar large jump in trips above 50% capacity to about 23% of total trips. This reflects a demand growth that is greater than the rate of capacity growth.

The TTC observes:

While crowding has increased in line with boardings demand heading into September, the continued growth in high-occupancy bus trips suggests demand is growing more concentrated around a number of key trips.

TTC CEO’s Report, October 2022, p. 27

As the busy routes become more crowded, more riders will see a crowded bus even though the majority of trips will still be uncrowded. The perception of crowding will be greater than the overall average value. This is an inevitable situation on a transit system where demand is not evenly spread in time or place on the network.

However, if the stats are misinterpreted or misrepresented by those looking for “efficiency”, the problem is that the capacity from emptier trips cannot always be reallocated. Some routes have strongly directional demand, and will always be lightly loaded in the counter-peak direction. Those trips, however, are an integral part of the route even though they can pull the “average” load down.

In an extreme example, if a bus is at 100% capacity travelling east and 0% going west, the “average” says that only half of the one-way trips are crowded. Obviously one cannot have the eastbound trips without the westbound returns. Real routes are more complex, but this shows how simplistic analysis can lead to dubious conclusions.

Some routes have lighter demand, but still meet the TTC’s Service Standards for boardings per bus hour. They might never accumulate a full load and therefore appear to be targets for service cuts. However, in the process the service becomes less attractive and ridership can fall further.

A critical factor will be service reliability which, as I have documented at length elsewhere, leaves much to be desired notwithstanding TTC metrics that purport otherwise. Some crowding is a direct result of bunched and missing vehicles which create gaps and heavier loads than evenly spaced service would.

The City faces a large operating deficit both for 2022 and projected for 2023. To what extent this will result in limits on TTC service and a move to improve “efficiency” with more riders per bus remains to be seen.