Of particular interest in the restoration of service to the transit network is the fact that recovery has been underway in some locations and times much more strongly than others. This corresponds to the difference in areas where work or study-from-home replaced commuting to an office or school. Maps in the previous article showed the top and bottom 20 routes for ridership relative to pre-pandemic levels in Spring 2020 (the point of lowest ridership) and in Fall 2021. For convenience, they are repeated here.
These ranking are by percentage of pre-pandemic ridership with no reference to absolute numbers. The busiest routes by ridership are shown in the maps below. This presentation inevitably displays the long routes which have a large number of boardings. Short routes like 65 Parliament may have recovered a large proportion of their demand, but the base number is necessarily small because of their smaller service territory.
This shows the danger of looking at absolute numbers out of a context such as riders per route kilometre (in effect, the density of demand), not to mention possible variations in the level of demand and boarding patterns along a long route.
Note: Calculations behind the charts in the original version of this article include a methodology problem. Short turn counts for vehicles crossing two screenlines (such as eastbound on Queen at Coxwell and at Woodbine) were distorted when these events did not occur in the same hour. Other problems included double counting of cars that looped twice at a short turn point (e.g. College Loop), and cars that were entering service via a loop being counted as short turns.
Changes in the text are shown by highlighting of the new version. All charts have been replaced.
My apologies for any confusion, but the charts used here avoid the potential confusion of values shown originally.
One of the many annoyances of trying to use transit service is to discover that your bus or streetcar has been “short turned”, that is to say, will not reach the destination advertised. This might happen before you board so that an arrival prediction turns out to be for a streetcar you can’t use, or as a “surprise” when the operator gets on the PA to announce that Transit Control wants to short turn the car.
This has been a problem for as long as I have been involved in advocacy for better transit service.
TTC Board members and Councillors hear about this problem a lot, and they in turn beat on management to eliminate the practice. This can produce unwanted side effects, notably the padding of schedules so that it is almost impossible, at least in theory, for a car to be late and, therefore, short turns should not be required.
Alas it is not quite that simple. Short turns occur for various reasons including schedule issues, crew change timing, major delays/diversions and “operational problems”, that catch-all phrase covering everything from a stuck door to a plague of locusts. (Some explanations for transit service problems have been with us so long they have taken on an almost Biblical character.)
Meanwhile, the CEO’s Report happily tells us every month that short turns are a thing of the past, that they are so rare that it might not even be worth tracking them as a service metric.
The big drop in the metric in spring 2019 coincides with a point where a “no short turn” edict was issued by the CEO. This is not really practical as there are many bona fide reasons for short turning vehicles, but the numbers obediently went down and have stayed down.
Regular riders, however, might choose to differ in their day-to-day observations.
Since 2019, we have come through the pandemic era when a great deal of traffic congestion and ridership disappeared. For a time, the type of event that would disrupt service was comparatively rare. However, with “normal” conditions returning, service is no longer insulated by these effects.
In my own travels, I routinely encounter streetcars that are not going to their scheduled destinations. Let me be the first to say that I understand the need for short turns, but am rather amazed that the reported counts stay very close to zero. This simply does not match actual experience. A short turn is a short turn, regardless of why it is required.
The question, then, is how to count these events reasonably easily without standing on street corners clipboard in hand. Vehicle tracking data that I already receive from the TTC’s Vision system (and which drives the many arrival prediction apps) provides a simple mechanism.
In this article I will review several common streetcar short turn locations to see what is actually happening.
If readers have specific bus routes and locations they would like to see, please leave your request in the comments.
Note: The charts in this article include a methodology problem. Short turn counts for vehicles crossing two screenlines (such as eastbound on Queen at Coxwell and at Woodbine) are distorted when these events do not occur in the same hour. This article has been replaced with a revised version, but I am leaving the original here for reference.
Service quality and reliability are, as regular readers here know, central to many of my critiques of the TTC.
Whether a route is short or long, busy or not, the TTC seemed incapable of accepting much less addressing service problems. For years, long before the pandemic, riders have complained about long, unpredictable waits and crowded buses, but the answer has always been that things really are not that bad. This is demonstrably not true.
The TTC relies on metrics based on averages, not on individual vehicle behaviour and this masks the wide variation in rider experience. 26 Dupont is an infrequent route with few riders, and it does not figure in the high end of the TTC’s attentions.
We have been through two years where the pandemic and the need to keep something, anything running took precedence. Now, with the hoped-for recovery, the TTC must address long standing problems that predate covid.
Looking ahead to their 2023 Service Plan, the TTC will attempt to deal with this issue as it is essential to improving transit’s attractiveness and luring riders onto the system.
The TTC began consultations for its 2023 Service Plan on June 29 with a pair of online meetings for community groups, and more will follow. There will be an online survey available starting on July 11.
At this point, the Service Plan is only a collection of proposals. The TTC seeks feedback on them that will lead to a revised version in the fall and a second consultation round before they go to the TTC Board for approval. The round one proposals relate mainly to the SRT shutdown in fall 2023 and the opening of Line 6 Finch West. In the second round, these proposals will be fine-tuned and other possible changes unrelated to the rapid transit plans will be added.
2022 Service Plan Follow-Up
Some service changes proposed in the 2022 plan have been implemented, and others will follow later this year:
Seasonal service on the new 172 Cherry Beach route (replacing the former 121 Front-Esplanade bus) was implemented in May, but the planned route through the Distillery District was impossible due to construction on Cherry at Lake Shore.
65 Parliament will be extended to George Brown College’s Waterfront Campus in September. There is no word on an extension of the 365 Parliament Blue Night bus which originally was going to be dropped. The 365 lost its weekend service in 2021, but that was recently restored.
The 118 Thistledown extension to Claireport & Albion and the 8 Broadview extension to Coxwell Station will occur later in the fall, date TBA.
With the completion of the Line 1 Automatic Train Control project later this year, the TTC will be able to improve service on the subway. However, just what this means depends on the base against which “improvement” is measured.
There is a planned service improvement in September. Current service is not running at pre-pandemic levels, and we do not yet know if September will see a full restoration.
ATC will provide two benefits: trains can run closer together, but also travel times can be trimmed to reduce the number of trains needed. The degree that each of these will show up in new schedules remains to be seen. A related problem is that more frequent service can compound with excess running time to worsen terminal approach queues driving up travel time for riders.
Overall system ridership was at 57 per cent of pre-pandemic levels in June 2022 and is expected to rise to 70 percent in the fall. The TTC is finalizing their fall service plan to accommodate some return to in person office travel and post secondary demand. They plan to restore services to post secondary schools that were cut because of online courses. Details TBA.
There is no announced date for the opening of Line 5 Crosstown by Metrolinx, and so the planned route restructuring to support that line will likely not occur in 2022.
The TTC Board met on June 23 with a fairly modest agenda. This is the second last scheduled Board meeting before the October 2022 civic elections and, unless there is an emergency situation, the current Board will have little to do with transit’s future in Toronto.
This is an unfortunately typical situation in election years. By the time a new Board is in place to discuss key issues with the 2023 budget, fares, service levels and hoped-for subsidies, it will be a new Board presented with whatever plan management devises and with little chance for adjustment.
In a previous article, I wrote about the TTC’s funding crisis, a topic that receives almost no discussion at Board meetings. June 23 was no exception.
The Planning web page on the TTC site contained, until recently, some rather elderly files and reports. Updates were confined to the Scheduled Service Summaries posted about every six weeks.
This page has now been revised. All of the old files/links have been removed, and there is now current (2019-2021) ridership data at a route level.
For the convenience of readers looking for the old files, I have created a new page in the Reference section of this site (see the drop down menu at the top of the page). That section already contains a page for Scheduled Service Summaries going back many years.
June 19 will bring the summer schedules on some routes, a return of streetcars at Broadview Station, and various minor changes scattered across the system.
There is no change in subway service.
With the completion of watermain work on Broadview in May, the streetcar service to Broadview station on 504 King and 505 Dundas will return.
504A Distillery to Dufferin service will remain, but will be blended with the 504B from Broadview Station to Dufferin. The combined service on the two branches will be more frequent in almost all periods than the 504A service now operating.
The 504/505 shuttle bus from Broadview Station to Parliament will no longer operate.
505 Dundas service will operate between High Park Loop and Broadview Station on the same headways as are currently provided just to Broadview. Dundas cars will not return to Dundas West Station until later in the year following completion of new platforms and overhead.
The 504C King/Roncesvalles shuttle bus will return to Dundas West Station, but, like all bus routes there, will loop on street and stop on Edna Avenue (north side of the loop) while work inside the station continues. Other bus routes currently diverting to Dufferin and Lansdowne Stations will return to Dundas West at the same time.
Work on Phase 3 of the King Queen Queensway Roncesvalles project including the North Gate of Roncesvalles Carhouse will begin in September.
Carhouse allocations of 504 and 505 will change with additional 504 cars operating from Leslie, and some 505 cars shifting to Roncesvalles. Allocations will change in August when construction work begins at Russell Carhouse, and again in September with the Phase 3 KQQR work.
There will be seasonal service cuts on several routes:
503 Kingston Road AM Peak
505 Dundas AM Peak bus trippers removed
506 Carlton AM Peak bus trippers removed
511 Bathurst all periods
512 St. Clair almost all periods
See the spreadsheet linked later in this article for details.
From July 11 to August 1, 501L Queen and 301 Queen Night buses will divert westbound from Lake Shore via 15th, Birmingham and 22nd Streets during reconstruction of the intersection at Kipling. Eastbound service is not affected.
With overhead on the central section of Queen now converted for pantograph use, streetcars running between Leslie Barns and routes 510 Spadina and 512 St. Clair will operate via Queen west of the Don River rather than via King.
Routing Changes Due To Frequent CNE Closures
The following routes will be changed because streets in and near the CNE are often closed during the summer.
29 Dufferin will loop through Liberty Village via King, Strachan and East Liberty.
929 Dufferin will loop at Dufferin Loop.
174 Ontario Place/Exhibition will operate via Fleet, Fort York and Lake Shore for the southbound trip.
30 High Park and 189 Stockyards Interline
Buses on routes 30 and 189 will interline to better use the running time on the combined route.
A new 30B High Park service will operate from High Park Station to the park via West Road and Colborne Lodge Drive. This seasonal shuttle will run separately from buses on the combined 30/189 service.
The following routes are affected by seasonal reductions in demand:
39/939 Finch East
102 Markham Road
905 Eglinton East Express
927 Highway 27 Express
21C Brimley service to STC will be adjusted on Sundays.
44/944 Kipling South service will divert both ways around track construction work at Lake Shore from July 15 to August 1.
363 Ossington night service will return to Eglinton West Station Loop.
72 Pape service will be adjusted during all time periods for reliability.
86 Scarborough will have a trip added at 2:13 pm weekdays from Kennedy Station to fill a gap in the schedule.
118 Thistle Down service will be improved in peak periods.
134 Progress service will be adjusted on Saturdays.
172 Cherry service will continue to bypass the Distillery District due to road construction.
600 Run As Directed
The number of scheduled RAD buses has been reduced substantial on weekdays from 40 to 5 crews. On weekends there will be more RAD buses with 39, up from 25, on Saturdays, and 32, up from 21, on Sundays.
Mount Dennis will not have any RAD buses. Details of the crew allocation are in the spreadsheet below.
This article is a companion to Part 1 of my update of travel time behaviour on key routes for 2020-2022. That article dealt with routes east of Yonge Street, and this part turns to routes west of Yonge:
29 Dufferin from King to Wilson
35 Jane from Eglinton to Steeles
60 Steeles West from Finch Station to Kipling
These three routes show more variation over time than most of the routes east of Yonge reviewed in the first article. The greater variation implies that they are more sensitive to changes in overall road demand and have less headroom to begin with. They are more likely to benefit from priority measures, but taking road space for transit will be more politically challenging in car-oriented areas.
Any detailed study that purports to establish time savings through red lanes must be careful to be an apples-to-apples comparison avoiding projected savings against conditions (construction projects and future route changes) that will change on their own. Similarly, and by reference to what was done on the Eglinton-Kingston corridor, “savings” due to stop eliminations, if any, should not be counted as a “benefit” of transit priorty.