TTC Holiday Service for 2020-21

Normally December brings thoughts of celebration both for Christmas and New Year’s Day, but as with so many other things, 2020 will be very different. The TTC’s plans for the holiday period reflect these times.

Two notable changes:

  • There is no provision for extra shopping service or an early pre-Christmas rush hour beyond what might be added through run-as-directed (RAD) vehicles.
  • There will be no special late night service on December 31. Some RAD crews will be rescheduled into the evening in case extra service is needed in selected areas.

As usual, all school trips will be removed effective Monday, December 21. They will return on Monday, January 4, 2021.

The extra bus crews for subway shuttle service will be removed from Sunday, December 20 to Saturday, January 2 as there are no planned shutdowns for major construction or repairs. The regular RAD buses and streetcars supplementing day-to-day operations will continue.

The schedules to be operated through the period are:

  • Weekend of December 19-20: Regular Saturday and Sunday service.
  • Monday to Thursday December 21-24: Regular weekday service.
  • Friday December 25: Regular Sunday service. Subway opens at 8:00 am.
  • Saturday December 26: Regular Holiday service similar to Thanksgiving Day. Subway opens at 6:00 am.
  • Sunday December 27: Regular Sunday service.
  • Monday to Wednesday December 28-30: Regular weekday service.
  • Thursday December 31: Regular weekday service with no late-night extensions. Some 900-series express buses may be changed to operate as locals depending on demand.
  • Friday January 1: Regular Sunday service. Subway opens at 8:00 am.
  • Weekend of January 2-3: Regular Saturday and Sunday service.
  • Monday January 4: Regular weekday service including school trips restored.

Service changes for January 2021 have not yet been announced.

The Siren Song of Regional Fare Integration

The Toronto Region Board of Trade recently published a discussion paper on the subject of regional transit integration focused on fare structure and the barriers it creates to regional travel.

See: Erasing the Invisible Line: Integrating the Toronto Region’s Transit Networks

This is to be the first of four papers with others to follow on subjects such as increasing utilization of the regional rail network and improving service on the local bus networks around the GTHA. No publication dates have been announced for the remainder of this series.

The absence of those papers leaves the first one on fare integration out on its own missing some of the context that drives choices of what might make an appropriate “solution”. In particular the key roles of both GO Transit and local transit systems, or at least as the Board of Trade might see them, inform the proposal of a new fare structure, but more as background. Are these assumptions valid and does a new tariff based on them actually stand up to scrutiny?

Schemes to unify the regional fare structure have floated around the GTA for years. Lots of ink was spilled on reports, models and consultation. Nothing much has actually happened, or at least that’s the impression one might get, in part because different players have different goals.

Metrolinx is absolutely wedded to a zone fare system because that is how their fare collection technology works. They speak of it as “fare by distance”, but their zonal structure contains many inequities because it evolved piecemeal along with their network. Long trips are cheaper than short ones, measured in cost/km, both to discourage short-haul riding and to give greater incentives to long-haul commuters to switch from their cars to GO’s trains. Relatively recently, GO introduced reduced short-haul fares so that it could attract more short trips, but the tariff as a whole remains a patchwork.

When Metrolinx first proposed a distance-based regional fare strategy, it had an added wrinkle with a premium fare for “rapid transit” which meant anything on rails on its own right-of-way including the subway. Any trip longer than 10km (slightly above the average trip length on the TTC) would cost more than it does today, and drawing 10km circles around various centres easily shows who would pay more to travel. This had the effect of preserving GO Transit’s revenue stream, while raising the cost of subway travel for longer-than-average journeys.

This was in aid of a “zero sum” solution where the cost of lower fares for riders crossing the 905-416 boundary would be recouped from higher fares within Toronto. Metrolinx showed only a few sample fares to illustrate changes, but neglected to present a thorough review of the effect on TTC riders who are by far the majority of transit users in the GTHA.

In time, Metrolinx, or at least some members of its Board, came to realize that this was not a viable solution, and that any new fare structure would require added subsidy to avoid penalizing one group of riders to reduce fares for others. Alas, nothing official ever came of this.

The regional transit agencies were not sitting still, however, and the now-universal fare model is based not on distance travelled, but on the elapsed time for one or more trips, in effect a limited duration pass. Not only is this scheme easy to understand and administer, it removes a long-standing penalty against riders who took multiple short trips, typically to run errands or stop off in a longer journey just as one would do as a motorist.

Even Toronto, after much foot-dragging, embraced the two-hour transfer when it became politically beneficial. What was once portrayed as an unaffordable fare giveaway morphed into a modest-cost change that greatly simplified fares and improved system convenience. The only remaining gap in this arrangement is the lack of reciprocity across the 416-905 boundary so that a two hour fare can buy rides inside and outside of Toronto.

The odd man out remains GO Transit, a regional, long-haul carrier, an operator of fast trains where two hours would take a rider a far greater distance than on a bus, streetcar or subway. There will always be a conflict between seeing GO as a “rapid transit” line serving local demand as opposed to “commuter rail”. Just to complicate things, GO buses fall somewhere in between because they operate limited stop service with much more comfortable accommodation than, say, the Dufferin bus.

GO faces an additional problem with a penny-pinching master at Queen’s Park for whom spending more money on transit operations (as opposed to capital construction) is not a priority. Even the GO-TTC co-fare was eliminated although it remains in place for GO-905 travel. It is ludicrous that a “first mile” trip in the 905 gets a co-fare subsidy, but not one in Toronto.

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Plans for GO Expansion Omit Key Features

Metrolinx has launched another round of consultation for various projects that make up the GO Transit Expansion Plan. Information on these is scattered through various pages on their site.

The consultation runs until December 11, 2020.

There is an interactive map of locations where changes are proposed, although it can be tedious to navigate because the default map does not have street names. (You can change this by selecting a different base map from the options in the upper right of the display.)

This map shows roughly the location of the Ontario Line corridor, but gives no detail about extra space, although the map is not to be taken as definitive. Nothing is shown of potential stations for the OL, and there is no information at all in the map for the several proposed SmartTrack stations.

This means that the scope of the project review and the combined effect GO Expansion will have with other projects is not known. Moreover, it would be foolish to approve a project based on a spec that did not include two major additions that are somewhere in the Metrolinx pipeline.

Stations, be they for the Ontario Line or for GO/SmartTrack require platforms and circulation elements (stairs, elevators, roads) but there is no hint of the space these will take.

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Better Transit Tomorrow, Maybe, But Not Today

Toronto City Council recently approved two related projects that, in theory, will help to improve transit operations.

The most striking point about these reports is that almost all of the benefits are in the future, they are confined to only part of the network, and there is no discussion of other factors affecting service such as the underlying capacity and the chronic lack of management and headway discipline.

Nowhere in these reports is there any discussion of the quality and quantity of service the TTC operates today. No mention of irregular headways and missing-in-action line management. No mention of the considerable pool of surplus buses that sit in garages rather than providing service on the street.

Far too much attention is focused on the premise that fixing transit is only possible with some sort of road intervention, and that this magic this will solve all our problems. Alas, that is not true, but the plans provide two rather large fig leaves behind which Council can hide claiming to have “done something”.

It is as if red paint alone will cure chronic problems. Can adverts for a TTC Miracle Tonic be far behind?

If we want less crowded buses now we must have more buses and better spaced buses. This cannot occur without a combination of better attention by the TTC itself to managing what it already has and by Council to budget realities of funding better transit service. Red paint on twenty streets over ten years will be an incremental change over a long period on those streets. It will not make the transit network, as a whole, noticeably better.

For its part, the TTC must not look at priority simply as a mechanism to reduce costs, but also as a way to improve service. This must be accompanied by much better line management and an ethos that makes well-spaced and evenly loaded buses a centrepiece of improved service. This would bring benefits across the city without a long wait for the red paint brigade.

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TTC Board Meeting November 16, 2020

The TTC Board met on Monday, November 16.

This meeting saw the return of Chair Jaye Robinson, albeit in a supporting role. She has been on medical leave for several months, but her treatments are almost complete and she plans to return fully to her position in December.

Items of interest on the agenda included:

The Financial update refers to new vehicle programs but there were additional details that I requested from the TTC.

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A Discussion of In Camera Sessions

Correction November 21, 2020 at 12:17 pm: The mover of the motion to hold a special Board meeting was Chair Jaye Robinson, not Commissioner Shelley Carroll.

Near the end of the recent TTC Board meeting, Chair Jaye Robinson moved that the Board hold a special session to deal with the 2021 Budget. In the midst of the debate, the Board began talking about whether this should be a standard public meeting or if they could meet in camera.

Commissioner Ron Lalonde, chair of the TTC’s Audit & Risk Management Committee, asked whether his committee could meet in camera, a practice he is used to in the private sector. Because the TTC is bound by the City of Toronto Act and its provisions regarding open meetings, the Board and its committees can only go in camera for specific reasons listed in the act to deal with labour relations, security and other sensitive issues.

There is a way to get around this by meeting as a “working group” that does not make any decisions, but can act as a talking shop for management and the Board out of prying eyes. If there are any formal decisions to be made, they are agreed to in private and then reported out to a public meeting for the purpose of a rubber stamp approval.

What might have been discussed, what the positions of Board members and management might be, what options were even considered, even the fact that a meeting will take place, these are all cloaked in secrecy. Members of the public might depute to a public Board meeting before it ratifies any decision, but they will do so with no knowledge of what was actually discussed or the ability to present counterarguments. This is a convenient, but gaping, procedural hole.

The Board may find deputations tiresome, including those from “the usual suspects” (I was a regular among this group until I moved my commentary online), but this misses the whole point about public debate. We are in a period of severe social and fiscal constraints, and the public deserves to know about and have input into decisions on key services such as transit.

If the Board has specific issues it needs to debate in private, and for which the City of Toronto Act provides, then be my guest. As for “working groups”, they have no place in public decision-making. Toronto has a history of decisions that were made under cover, including money changing hands in the City Hall parking garage.

There is good reason to believe that lobbyists routinely talk to TTC Board members and Councillors about matters of public interest. These interactions are documented in the Lobbyist Registry, itself a product of an era in Toronto politics that many have forgotten.

The unseemly “deputation” by an eBus manufacturer that was little more than a sales pitch to the Board was probably only the tip of the iceberg. The stage management of a Board meeting was so lax that we actually got to see how the sausage gets made (to mix a few metaphors). That betrayed both sloppiness and a presumption that bending the rules really didn’t matter. I know that then-CEO Andy Byford was livid about this, but powerless to stop it.

Once upon a time, there were “citizen members” on the TTC Board, and this practice was ended because one of them had his hand in the cookie jar.

The TTC Board would do well to remember its history.

Updated November 22, 2020 at 4:40 pm: For further history of the attempt to have formal meetings of a Budget Committee at the TTC, please see my omnibus article on the board meeting.

TTC Service Changes Effective Sunday, November 22, 2020

Updated November 20, 2020 at 11:00 am: The article has been updated with the usual detailed table of service changes and a comparison of pre/post service levels on routes where express bus operation will be restored.

The focus of changes in coming months is to gradually restore the system to a pre-Covid state allowing for differences in demand patterns. At this point, we do not know what the effects of 2021 Budget constraints will be. I will write about that in a separate article.

Restoration of Express Bus Services

The 900-series express bus services will be reinstated on several routes. These will replace the “trippers” that were added earlier in 2020 as a partial replacement for the express operations.

Weekend service formerly operated by these routes is not restored at this time, and this leaves some routes still with considerably less service than they had pre-covid because nothing replaced the weekend express operations during the cutbacks earlier in 2020.

The affected routes are:

  • 902 Markham Road
  • 929 Dufferin
  • 935 Jane
  • 941 Keele
  • 945 Kipling
  • 952 Lawrence West
  • 954 Lawrence East
  • 996 Wilson

The PDF linked below compares service on the affected routes showing the headway (time between buses), bus/hour values and the number of vehicles assigned in each corridor.

Construction Projects Affecting Streetcars

The service changes in place for the Dundas/College intersection reconstruction and for repair work on the Bathurst Street bridge will remain in effect until January.

Construction Projects Affecting Buses

Keele Station loop will reopen allowing 41 Keele, 80 Queensway and 89 Weston to use that loop. The interline between 30 High Park and 80 Queensway will end.

Construction at Scarborough Town Centre Station that required relocation of 38 Highland Creek will end, and that route will return to its normal location.

Subway Changes

Stand-by crews will be added to Lines 1 (YUS) and 2 (BD) to provide added “resiliency” for service. This will cover for situations when operators are not available when required to take over trains.

Many of the “Route 600” crews and buses (Run As Directed) will be dedicated to subway shuttles, notably for the shutdown between Finch and Sheppard from December 4th to 14th for asbestos removal. The shuttles will extend south to Eglinton during late evening closures.

Weekend closures between Broadview and Woodbine on Line 2 are also planned, but the dates have not yet been announced.

Bus Trippers

Additional service will be scheduled as trippers on many bus routes to reduce crowding:

  • 16 McCowan
  • 17 Birchmount
  • 24 Victoria Park
  • 25 Don Mills
  • 32 Eglinton West
  • 34 Eglinton East
  • 39 Finch East
  • 43 Kennedy
  • 47 Lansdowne
  • 68 Warden
  • 85 Sheppard East
  • 89 Weston
  • 95 York Mills
  • 100 Flemingdon Park
  • 129 McCowan North

New Service

A new 43C Kennedy service to Village Green Square will operate during peak periods every 30 minutes on a trial basis. This was part of the TTC’s 2020 Service Plan.

Scheduled School Trips

Many special trips operate to handle demands at various schools around the city. These have used buses from the “600” RAD pool which are not visible to riders using service tracking/prediction apps.

Effective November 23, these buses will be scheduled as part of regular service on the routes they serve making them visible for service tracking.

The list is very long, and I will consolidate this information in a future update.

Service Changes Effective December 20, 2020

Metrolinx Construction

Construction at Eglinton West Station for the Crosstown LRT will reach the point where 32 Eglinton West, 63 Ossington and 109 Ranee can return to their normal routes. The temporary 163 Oakwood route will be removed.

With part of the 32 Eglinton West service shifting back to Eglinton West Station, bus bays will be freed up at Eglinton Station. 56 Leaside and 51 Leslie will return to their usual location.

Scarborough RT Service

The project to rebuild the SRT fleet will end in 2020, but no change has been announced in the level of service once the full 7-train complement will be available.

Holiday Schedules

There will be no extra pre-Christmas shopping service nor extended late night service for New Year’s Eve this year.

As usual, all school trippers will cease operation for the winter break now planned as December 21 to January 1.

Crews for all 600 series buses associated with subway closures will be dropped as no shutdowns are planned through this period.

On Christmas Day, Friday December 25, a holiday service will operate with most routes beginning service at 8 am.

On Boxing Day, Saturday December 26, a holiday service will operate with most routes beginning service at 6 am.

From Monday to Wednesday December 28-30, a normal weekday service will operate except for school trippers and subway closure buses.

On New Year’s Eve, Thursday December 31, a normal weekday service will operate but some express buses might be changed to run as locals (TBA). Some of the RAD service for buses and streetcars will be switched to late evenings to supplement service as needed.

On New Year’s Day, Friday January 1, a holiday service will operate with most routes beginning service at 8 am.

From Saturday January 2 onward, operations will revert to normal schedules with subway standby and RAD buses. School trips will resume on Monday January 4.

Details of Service Changes

The PDF linked below details the service changes planned for November 22, 2020 and for December 20, 2020.

116 Morningside: The Effect of BRT Lite

This is a companion post to the article on the 86/986 Scarborough bus services and the effect of the Eglinton-Kingston-Morningside BRT corridor on them. It follows the same general layout and readers will be able to compare charts for the two routes.

116 Morningside shares with 86 Scarborough the portion of the BRT corridor from Brimley & Eglinton east to Guildwood & Kingston Road. From that point, route 116 turns south and then east through the Guildwood neighbourhoods, then north via Morningside. The route extends to north of Finch, but the BRT corridor ends at Ellesmere.

As with the 86 Scarborough bus, the travel time savings occur at locations where stops have been removed. The routes share this effect on Eglinton Avenue. Only one minor stop was removed on Morningside.

Unlike the Scarborough route, 116 Morningside has no express service, and so the speeds for all vehicles both pre and post-Covid are for local services.

The travel time savings on 116 Morningside are smaller than those on 86 Scarborough because it spends less time on the portion of the BRT segment where stops have been removed.

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86 Scarborough: The Effect of BRT Lite

Effective in mid-October the City of Toronto began implementation of reserved bus lanes on the Eglinton-Kingston-Morningside corridor between Brimley Road and University of Toronto Scarborough Campus (UTSC). This is intended to be the first of several transit priority measures that will be rolled out over coming years.

I will address the City report listing the various candidate routes in a separate article. This piece reviews the behaviour of the 86/986 Scarborough local and express services as the BRT lanes, dubbed RapidTO, came into effect.

Work to install them began at the outer end on Morningside, and then worked south and west. The full extent to Brimley on Eglinton is not yet in service and so the effect will continue into November. The data presented here show results to the end of October 2020.

Concurrently with the transit priority lanes, the TTC reinstated the 986 Express service that had been suspended in the spring. True to TTC form, the express buses are faster than the locals, but the headways are quite irregular making the saving from a faster trip a tradeoff against a potentially long wait for an express bus to appear at your stop.

This article reviews service on the 86/986 Scarborough routes. I will turn to 116 Morningside in a separate article.

Summary

The introduction of reserved lanes and the removal of stops in the Eglinton-Kingston corridor has resulted in a small reduction in travel times for 86 Scarborough buses over this portion of the route.

The effect increased slightly from week 3 to week 5 of October, and it somewhat offset the growth in travel times as road traffic returns to “normal” pre-Covid levels.

The travel time saving provided by the 986 express service is considerably greater than the saving provided by the reserved lanes.

The variability in travel times on this route did not show the same “before” level seen on King Street (often used as an example of what might be achieved) and the lanes did little or nothing to alter this.

Headway reliability is a severe problem on both the local and express services, and service gaps continue to bring more delay to rider journeys than the time saved by the reserved bus lanes.

Travel time savings, such as they are, are due in part to the removal of stops, not to transit priority per se. Claims made for the benefits of the BRT arrangement should be tempered by the fact that two major changes — reserved lanes and stop removals — were implemented at the same time.

Future transit priority proposals should avoid concurrent changes where the “priority” component’s effect might be artificially enhanced. If the TTC’s desire is to remove stops, this can proceed without waiting years for detailed design and approval of the RapidTO scheme. There must be full public consultation, not a masquerade under the rubric of a “transit priority” scheme.

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35 Jane Saturday Service in October 2020

About three weeks ago, I wrote about the appalling condition of service on 35 Jane on Saturday, October 17 in A Travesty of Transit Service.

The October tracking data from this route reveals just how bad the problem was, and shows that this is part of a constant problem on the route.

Buses run in convoys on 35 Jane on Saturdays, and to a lesser extent on Sundays, for hours on end producing extraordinarily irregular service. This would be bad enough in pre-covid times, but with crowding being such an issue in 2020, the TTC’s inattention to reliable service bears added responsibility.

This article reviews the route’s behaviour on October 17 in detail, and then turns to other weekends to see how common the situation might be.

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