TTC Service Changes Effective February 17, 2019

The TTC service changes for mid-February 2019 include few major revisions to service, but much tweaking of vehicle allocations and headways. Where there are small improvements, these are usually offset by small cuts in a process the TTC describes as “rebalancing” so that vehicle hours are allocated where and when they are needed on routes.

The major revision in streetcar service that was expected in February for the King-Queen-Roncesvalles project will not be implemented until the end of March.

Items of note in the February changes include:

  • One PM peak gap train will be added on Line 1 Yonge-University-Spadina for a total of two trains.
  • 7 Bathurst will switch from articulated to standard bus operation on weekdays to free up vehicles for a capital repair program on the artic bus fleet. The replacement standard-sized bus service will provide less capacity than the service now operating. At the same time, running times will be increased to compensate for expected delays and diversions at Forest Hill Station (Bathurst & Eglinton) construction which will also affect 33 Forest Hill.
  • 32 Eglinton West will have longer scheduled running times and wider weekday headways to compensate for construction delays along Eglinton.
  • 512 St. Clair will have wider headways and a substantial increase in recovery time. This is an odd situation considering that St. Clair operates entirely on protected lanes. The new recovery times are longer than those allowed on any of the mixed-traffic streetcar routes most of which are longer than the 512. I will review the operation of the St. Clair route on a before-and-after basis later this year.

2019.02.17_Service_Changes_v3

TTC Board Meeting: January 10, 2019

The January 10 meeting of the TTC Board was primarily an organizational one with introduction of new members, plus a few management presentations on Board responsibilities and an overview of the system today.

Alan Heisey was re-elected as Vice-Chair of the Board continuing a role he has held ever since May 2015. This position is earmarked for so-called “citizen members” who are not also Councillors.

Most Board members, speaking of why they wanted to be at the TTC, cited an interest in transit and its role, but one, Councillor Karygiannis, was quite brief in saying “Sheppard Subway”. It will be ironic if Premier Ford is successful in taking over subway planning and construction because this project will no longer be one for the TTC or City Council to approve or build. Subway parochialism is alive and well at the TTC.

The Board discussed revisions to its meeting procedure including a proposal from the Vice-Chair that public deputations be limited. Anyone wishing to speak on multiple agenda items would get only five minutes in total, not five minutes per item. The idea has been referred to staff for review. Because any change in the meeting procedure would amend a bylaw that must obtain Council approval, this cannot take effect immediately.

The idea arises from frustration with a few regular deputants who address multiple reports, sometimes contentiously. However, it would be a short step from this scheme to one in which organized groups were only given five minutes in total rather than for each member wishing to address the Board.

A related procedural problem is that some reports where debate and action should be the order of the day, notably the CEO’s regular update, are classified as “Information” items. This hogties not just public deputations who can speak only to reports where the Board will approve some action, but even Board members who cannot make motions. The very report which should be the focus of each month’s review of operations and plans is insulated from substantive debate, criticism and action by the Board which is supposed to provide strategic guidance and policy.

At a time when “transparency” is the watchword and the sense that governments and their agencies should listen more, not less, to the public, this is a counterproductive proposal. If TTC Board  members don’t want to hear deputations, they should get themselves appointed to the Metrolinx Board where self-congratulation is the primary order of business and pesky members of the public sit quietly in the gallery if they bother attending at all.

CEO Rick Leary presented a system overview “Advancing to the Next Level”. This goal will be a real challenge for the TTC where just making do with existing resources has hamstrung real growth and improvement on the transit system. This presentation contains substantial errors of fact about the degree to which service has improved from 2017 to 2018. As an introduction for the new Board, it implies that the past year has been better than actual experience. TTC management spends too much time “polishing their halos” and this gets in the way of substantive discussion about real system needs.

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Challenges Ahead For The 2019 TTC Board

January 10, 2019 brings the first meeting of a new TTC Board with a new crop of Councillors and a new Chair while, for now, three non-Council or “citizen” members carry over from 2018.

Jaye Robinson, formerly Chair of Toronto’s Public Works and Infrastructure, was appointed as the new Chair of the TTC replacing Josh Colle who did not stand for re-election. She will be joined by Councillors Brad Bradford, Shelley Carroll, Jim Karygiannis, Jennifer McKelvie, and Deputy Mayor Denzil Minnan-Wong. Of these, only Carroll and Minnan-Wong have sat on the TTC Board before, and two members, Bradford and McKelvie, are new to Council in this term. The geographic distribution of members is unusual in that none of them represents a ward west of Yonge Street.

Three citizen members remain pending a review of these appointments by Council: Alan Heisey (who was Vice-Chair in the previous term), Joanne De Laurentiis and Ron Lalonde.

The first meeting includes housekeeping activities of selecting a Vice-Chair (who must be picked from the citizen members) and setting up the Audit & Risk Management Committee. Two previous committees will be disbanded in the interest of reducing the call on Councillors’ time:

  • Human Resources and Labour Relations: The TTC is at the beginning of a four year labour contract and does not foresee the need for a standing committee to deal with these matters. Any related matters would be brought either to the full Board, or to a committee struck for the purpose.
  • Budget: Although the TTC had a Budget Committee in the past term, it hardly ever met. For the new term a two-member “Working Group” is proposed, and this means that any budget meetings will take place in private except when the finished product comes to the Board for approval.

Also on the agenda for January 10 are:

  • “Richard J. Leary, CEO will give a presentation to the Board about the TTC, its accomplishments, challenges, vision and next steps.” [This presentation is not yet online.]
  • “Brian M. Leck, TTC General Counsel and John O’Grady, Chief Safety Officer will give a presentation to the Board about Member Legal, Safety & Environmental Responsibilities.”

The legal background emphasizes the Board’s role in providing oversight, general direction and strategy, as opposed to micromanagement of the system. However, this does not make for a completely hands-off arrangement as the Board has specific responsibilities and liabilities under legislation notably relating to worker safety and the environment.

Sadly, there is no legislative requirement to ensure high quality transit service.

The Board will meet again on January 24 with a meatier agenda including the Capital and Operating budgets. They are both huge documents, and the Board is unlikely to understand how their components fit together.

With the increased workload for members of the 2019 Council, moves are afoot to trim agendas and shift decisions to lower levels. In the case of the TTC:

In order to manage the number of items being presented to the Board for consideration while simultaneously seeking opportunities to improve decision making efficiency, it is recommended that staff begin to review options where delegated authority from the Board to staff is feasible. [TTC Board Governance at p. 5]

Staff will report on this in the next few months, but it is important that changes do not stifle public debate and that new “policy” does not appear out of thin air from a delegated responsibility.

Important Board roles are strategic planning and oversight of management. For the past two terms, TTC Boards have been less than engaged with overall strategy and the potential future of transit in Toronto. There are the inevitable debates about a few subway lines, but the larger question of the TTC’s purpose goes unanswered. One might argue that Council (or at least the Mayor and his allies) don’t want ideas that will add to costs getting a full airing at the TTC.

The political direction might well be to limit growth in fares and subsidies, but this should not prevent the Board from engaging in “what if” discussions to gauge the possibilities and implications for service levels, fare structures and technology, and large scale planning for system growth and maintenance.

One past example of TTC advocacy was the August 2014 “Opportunities” report produced by former CEO Andy Byford and staff. It contained many proposals including the Two Hour Fare which has only recently been implemented. The 2018 Ridership Growth Strategy contains many principles, but is lighter on specifics.

We cannot, as a city, understand what transit might do if the agency and Board charged with this are content to avoid discussions of what transit could be if only we had the will to pursue a more aggressive outlook on system improvement. The Board needs to actually do its job – be informed and make strategic plans for transit even if, in the short term, we cannot “afford” some options.

This will be a difficult term for the TTC Board who must wrestle with the proposed provincial takeover of the subway system, but this should not divert attention from several major issues affecting the transit system.

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TTC Service Changes Effective January 6, 2019

Correction: In the list of new express services, I included 25 Don Mills when this should have been 86 Scarborough. Don Mills is part of the Pape Avenue water main project.

The TTC plans several service changes in January 2019, but most of these are minor and involve slight adjustments in running times and headways while keeping vehicle assignments the same as in the fall 2018 schedules.

The rebranding of Express Bus routes continues with 45/945 Kipling, 53/953 Steeles East and 86/986 Scarborough. In most cases the new schedules are identical to the old ones with only a renumbering of former “E” and “F” branches into the 900 series. Afternoon peak headways on 953 Steeles East Express will be widened slightly to provide more running time with the same number of buses.

Water main construction on Pape north of Danforth will affect the 25/925 Don Mills and 81 Thorncliffe Park services. In some cases, the only schedule change will be to shift recovery time to scheduled driving time. In others, there will be minor changes to headways.

The 501 Queen car will begin to see Flexity low floor cars in weekday service depending on availability. The only scheduled ALRVs will be five peak period trippers, three of which will restore the direct-to-downtown trips to/from Long Branch arriving/leaving Yonge Street in the peak period. (Details in the file linked below.)

The 503 Kingston Road Tripper service, which has been operating to the Charlotte Loop at Spadina due to construction on Wellington, will switch to bus operation and will resume its Church-Wellington-York loop downtown. An end date for this change has not been set.

The 510 Spadina service will be revised so that the official recovery point for the 510A service to Union Station is near the south end of Spadina, not at the route termini. Internal schedules will be adjusted so that they reflect the scheduled location of cars properly. This, in turn, will allow vehicle arrival predictions to be more accurately calculated by NextBus and related apps.

The 511 Bathurst service will remain a bus operation pending availability of streetcars later in 2019.

The 512 St. Clair car will return to Roncesvalles Carhouse as its base of operations as construction has progressed to the point that part of the yard is available for vehicle storage. Trips to/from the route will be via King and Bathurst for the January-February period, but will shift to Roncesvalles, Howard Park, Dundas and Bathurst in mid-February when reconstruction of the King-Queen-Roncesvalles intersection begins. That project will trigger bus shuttle operations on the west end of 501 Queen and 504 King and the restoration of streetcars elsewhere on the network. Details have not yet been announced.

2019.01.06_Service_Changes

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

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

November 18, 2018

Express Service Rebranding

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

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

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

Construction Changes

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

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

Service Changes

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

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

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

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

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

Other minor changes are listed in the details linked below.

December 23, 2018

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

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

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

[The table linked here was corrected at:

  • 11:15 pm on October 20, 2018 to reflect that the Keele express buses terminate at Finch West, not at Pioneer Village, and at
  • 10:00 pm on October 21, 2018 to specify (a) articulated buses on the 41 Keele local service and (b) to include “before” figures that had been omitted.]

2018.11.18_Service_Changes

Where Have All The Riders Gone?

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

This is attributed to several factors:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

King Street Update: September 2018 (Update 2)

Updated November 2, 2018: ERRATA: Capacity charts in the original version of this article omitted 514 Cherry cars from February to June 2018. This has been corrected.

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

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

Other service changes in September included:

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

Peak Travel Times

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are the full sets of charts:

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TTC Service Changes Effective Sunday, October 7, 2018

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

2018.10.07_Service_Changes

[Revised to correct branch letters on 12 Kingston Road, and to correct PM peak and early evening service for 929 Dufferin Express]

King and Cherry Streetcars

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

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

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

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

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

Express Bus Network

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Service on Sheppard East will be reorganized on weekends.

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

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

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

Construction Projects

Three construction projects end with the October schedules:

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

Seasonal Services End

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

Miscellaneous Changes

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

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

Peak period service will be modified on a few routes:

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

Off peak service changes include:

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

Details of all changes are in the PDF linked above.

Why Can’t I Get On My Bus (II)

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

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

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

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

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

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

2009_2018_ServiceComparisons_V2

A few notes about these tables:

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

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

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Why Can’t I Get On My Bus?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scheduled Fleet Capacity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There are a few caveats that must be included here:

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

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