This article and one to follow is an update of an earlier review of the effect of pandemic-induced changes in traffic levels on the running time of buses. The target routes are those that already have “red lanes”, exclusive lanes for buses at all hours, and on the first group where red lanes were proposed.
Originally, the list of possible routes was shorter, and it is those routes whose vehicle tracking data I have collected over the past years:
Eglinton-Kingston-Morningside (implemented fall 2020)
A City study is underway to prioritize routes for detailed study and implementation under the RapidTO program.
An important premise behind RapidTO and bus priority is that service can be improved both because travel times are shorter and because they are more reliable leading to more regularly spaced and predictable service. Indeed, on the King Street transit project, the benefit was far more that variation in travel was reduced and reliability was increased, as opposed to reducing the average speed of travel under day-to-day conditions.
Too often, “priority” has been sold on the basis that it would reduce operating costs when the real goal should be to improve service with resources already in place, and to ensure that any additional buses or streetcars do not simply disappear into a “black hole” of unreliable service.
With the pandemic, we have an unexpected chance to see how much time is saved when traffic is, for a period, reduced from normal levels. This gives an indication of what we might expect from red lanes, or putting it another way, the best we are likely to achieve.
Updated May 11: The schedule for completion of the final phase of the work at KQQR has slipped to fall 2022 according to the project website:
Previous delays, combined with some periods of adverse fall/winter weather, COVID-19 related labour shortages and supply chain issues have deferred completion of Stage 2 work (KQQR intersection, The Queensway and King Street West) to September 3, 2022.
Work on Stage 3 (the final stage) will start on Roncesvalles Avenue from the KQQR intersection to Harvard Avenue on September 4, 2022, and will be completed by the end of December 2022.
Work on the King-Queen-Queensway-Roncesvalles project continues with installation of new overhead at the intersection, completion of some new lane layouts, and utility work along the Queensway. Track construction is moving, albeit slowly, west from Sunnyside Loop toward the end of the existing right-of-way east of Parkside Drive.
At Dundas West Station, the road has just been closed north of Bloor except for a single northbound lane, and on Edna from Dundas to the west end of the loop for special work replacement. (As of May 9/22)
Traffic in the area is quite snarled because there are also minor track repairs underway on Dundas south of Bloor, and reconstruction of Bloor Street continues westward in the area to which much traffic has diverted.
Bus diversions are not the same as originally advertised.
40 Junction operates eastbound to Dufferin Station via Dupont and Dufferin returning westbound via Bloor, Lansdowne and Dupont.
168 Symington eastbound turns east rather than west on Bloor to Dufferin, returning westbound via Dufferin, Dupont, Lansdowne and Bloor.
504C King is supposed to be diverting southbound via Parkside Drive and Howard Park to Roncesvalles, but was running via Bloor and Dundas.
May 9, 2022
Eastbound road traffic is now using the streetcar lane, but the new lane arrangement and the curb separating the streetcar lane are now in place. The King Street leg of the intersection is complete, but not yet open.
On The Queensway west from Sunnyside, road rebuilding and track installation proceeds in bite-sized segments. It has now reached the point of blocking eastbound access from The Queensway to St. Joseph’s Hospital’s main driveway, and there is still a “slalom” where traffic shifts from the regular curb lanes to the streetcar lanes for a short distance.
Along the south side of The Queensway, utility work is still underway.
Dundas West Station
May 9, 2022
At Dundas West Station, the rebuilt track for the 504 King platform and the exit to Edna Avenue are in place, and excavation for the new 505 Dundas track is underway.
Dundas Street is blocked off except for one northbound lane, and Edna Avenue is closed in anticipation of track replacement for the north and east sides of the loop.
Several of the service cuts implemented in November 2021 will be restored with the May 2022 schedules. This includes express service on several routes. Although planned service will be 6.2% lower than the original budget for this period, the TTC intends to resume restoration of full service through the fall to the end of the year.
Information in this article is taken from the May 8, 2022 Scheduled Service Summary and from a copy of the detailed memo on service changes which was provided by a source. Normally the TTC sends these to various people in advance, but for some unknown reason, the document has not officially been sent to the normal external recipients.
There are some conflicts between information in the two documents and I have tried to reconcile these with my own judgement about which is correct because it is not unusual for there to be discrepancies in descriptions of service changes.
Rapid Transit Services
There are no changes in rapid transit services.
The 501H/501L Queen replacement buses for service on the west end of the route will be shortened to turn back downtown via University Avenue, Adelaide Street and York Street rather than operating to Broadview & Gerrard or Broadview Station.
Eastbound buses will operate as 501U.
Bus service will be provided from Birchmount, Queensway and Eglinton divisions.
There is no change to the existing 501 Queen streetcar service between Neville Loop and Bathurst Street (Wolseley Loop), nor to the 301 Blue Night Bus operation.
Headways on 505 Dundas and 506 Carlton will be blended to allow for the shared terminal at High Park Loop.
The 505 Dundas routing change to High Park Loop will be officially recognized in the schedules.
Service will be reduced during most periods on both routes as a seasonal change.
306 Carlton Blue Night will operate with buses to Dundas West Station.
509 Harbourfront: Seasonal service increase evenings and weekends.
512 St. Clair: Service increase on weekdays.
Routes With Express Service Changes/Restorations
Local service improved during most periods on weekdays.
Weekend service rescheduled for articulated buses.
Weekend express service restored using artics.
939 Finch East Express:
Weekend service restored.
Local service changed from articulated to standard buses on weekdays with improved frequency of service.
Midday express service restored.
Express operation changed to articulated buses.
Minor service reallocation on weekday local service.
Peak period express service restored.
52/952 Lawrence West:
Service reliability adjustments weekdays
Express peak period service improvements
60/960 Steeles West:
Seasonal service reductions
Reliability changes and some weekend service improvements.
Peak period express service restored.
85/985 Sheppard East:
All 85 local service on weekends will now operate with standard sized buses rather than with artics.
Weekend 985 express service restored.
Note: These diversions are described in the service memo, but are not reflected in the scheduled service summary.
Effective approximately May 18, service will be diverted to Coxwell Station while the loop at Greenwood Station is closed for Easier Access construction. This work will last about one year.
Service reliability adjustments.
Northern terminus shifted to the Redlea cul-de-sac via Steeles and Redlea.
365 Parliament Blue Night Bus:
Weekend service that was removed in error in fall 2021 will be restored.
73 Royal York and 76 Royal York South:
Service reliability improvements
During some periods, the 73B Eglinton service will interline with the 76B Queensway service.
Recovery time reallocated to the south end of the route to reduce conflicts near Donlands Station.
95 York Mills:
Stops added on Durnford Road and Rylander Blvd for the 95A Port Union extension. These will be reviewed in advance of the September 2022 schedule changes.
Service reallocation affecting some periods on the following routes:
16 McCowan (peak periods)
17 Birchmount (peak periods)
36B Finch West (am peak and early evening)
81 Thorncliffe Park (peak periods)
Service reliability changes which generally widen headways during most or all periods:
30 High Park
93 Parkview Hills
Service reliability changes rebalancing driving/recovery time with no change in service level:
33 Forest Hill
31 Greenwood (peak periods)
33 Forest Hill (peak and weekday midday)
83 Jones PM (peak periods)
86 Scarborough early evening Zoo shuttle (restored, seasonal)
92 Woodbine South (weekends, seasonal)
996 Wilson Express (weekday midday and pm peak)
175 Bluffer’s Park (restored, seasonal)
75 Sherbourne: AM peak and midday (seasonal)
600 Run As Directed: The number of crews/buses assigned to RAD service will be reduced by about one third as full scheduled service returns.
With the restructuring of bus service in the waterfront and the creation of the 121 Esplanade-River route, there is no existing route to provide seasonal service to Cherry Beach or Ontario Place. Two new routes, 172 Cherry Beach and 174 Ontario Place-Exhibition will operate instead.
172 Cherry links Union Station to Cherry Beach. It will operate from Eglinton Division.
174 Ontario Place links Exhibition Loop to Ontario Place. It will operate from Mount Dennis Division.
Details of the changes are in the spreadsheet linked below.
Service on Lawrence East is provided by two routes:
54 Lawrence East local service operates from Eglinton Station east via Eglinton and Leslie to Lawrence, then east to two destinations:
54A runs to Starspray Loop near the eastern boundary of Toronto.
54B runs to an on-street loop via Scarborough Golf Club Road, Brimorton Drive and Orton Park Road. The direction of this loop reverses after 3pm.
954 Lawrence East express service operates during peak periods between Lawrence East Station and Starspray Loop.
As part of a proposed route reorganization in Scarborough, the TTC proposed splitting off a separate Brimorton service, but this scheme is on hold.
Following opening of Line 5 Crosstown, the 54 and 954 services will be rerouted to Science Centre Station at Don Mills & Eglinton. As part of the RapidTO scheme, red lanes are proposed on Lawrence between Don Mills and Starspray Loop. This article reviews running service quality and travel times on three segments of the route:
Port Union to Midland: Port Union is used as a screen line at the east end of the route because buses lay over at various places and in both directions making measurements right at Starspray Loop unreliable. Midland is the western screen line because it is just east of Lawrence East Station where buses might layover for various periods unrelated to traffic conditions.
Kennedy to Victoria Park: Kennedy is the eastern screen line because it lies just west of Lawrence East Station. Victoria Park is the western screen line because this was the originally proposed western end of the red lanes.
Don Mills to VictoriaPark: This section was added to the red lane proposals.
The schedules for both the local and express services are unchanged since September 2021.
Note that as in previous articles, data are missing for some days at the end of October and through November due to the cyber-attack on TTC systems.
As on other routes reviewed in this series, the distribution of actual headways is well beyond what is contemplated in schedules or even in the TTC’s Service Standards which aim to keep most service within a six-minute wide band of “on time” performance.
Bunching and wide gaps are very common, even on comparatively “quiet” days like weekends and holidays.
Severe congestion effects appear rarely and typically show up as bulges in average travel times for specific weeks and days pulling them away from normal levels.
Headways on the express service 954 can be quite variable and the range of values exceeds the typical 5-minute difference in travel times between local and express operation between Port Union and Midland.
Some improvement in service is possible with reserved transit lanes to make travel times more reliable, but this must be accompanied by dispatching service so that buses are regularly spaced.
In previous articles, I have documented the benefits of the King Street transit priority corridor between Jarvis and Bathurst Streets. This had the combined effect of reducing travel times at certain times, but more importantly of providing greater regularity.
Since the covid-19 pandemic began, traffic downtown has been considerably quieter than before. This article updates the stats on the priority corridor to show the period from immediately before the pandemic to the end of March 2022.
The changes in travel time in mid-March 2020 when a state of emergency was declared are quite evident, although to varying degrees by time of day and direction. The brown vertical lines in the charts mark this point.
The charts below are arranged with eastbound times in the left column, and westbound times in the right showing averages for various hours of the day beginning with the AM peak and running into the mid-evening.
In some periods that saw a drop in March 2020, travel times have not changed much over the past two years. Small changes are evident in early 2022, notably in the times for evening trips westbound where entertainment district traffic typically affects streetcar service, but not to the degree of pre-March 2020.
Comparable data for some suburban bus routes tell a very different story with a recovery to or beyond pre-pandemic travel times through 2020 and 2021. I will review several routes in a future article, and will return to King Street in fall 2022.
Note: Data in these charts include only vehicles on route 504 although the segment between Jarvis and Bathurst has been shared by other routes from time to time.
Route 39 Finch East operates from Finch Station with three branches:
39A to Neilson Road
39B to Morningview Trail
39C to Victoria Park & Gordon Baker Road (peak only)
The schedule was unchanged through the October-December 2021 period.
Route 939 Finch Express operates between Finch West Station and Staines Road with three variations. Service east of McCowan serves all stops, while for the section west to Yonge the 939s run express.
939B operates from Finch West Station to Scarborough Town Centre Station weekdays until mid evening, when it becomes the 939A and terminates at Finch Station.
939C operates only during peak periods between Finch Station and Morningside Heights.
On weekends until November 20, the service was split between the A and B branches as shown below. This operation was suspended on November 21 as part of the fall 2021 cutbacks. There was no compensating change in the local service, and the weekend service has not yet been restored.
Weekday early evening service was improved by the addition of 939A service on November 22.
The Finch corridor is among those proposed for “red lane” treatment in the RapidTO program between Yonge and McCowan.
The scheduled headways on the 39 and 939 routes would not blend even if they kept to their schedules, and so this analysis looks at each route on its own.
As with the previous article on the York Mills service, there is data missing from the period immediately after the cyber attack on the TTC in late October and into early November. However, this does not prevent analysis of the overall pattern of service.
Erratic headways are common on both the local and express services. These generally result from bunching in terminal departures or at route merge points, not from pervasive traffic congestion.
During the period reviewed here, missing buses appeared to be rare, and they fell generally in the latter weeks of the year. There does not appear to be an effort to space service to allow for the missing bus, and rather a double-headway travels across the route where the absent bus should be.
Average travel times over the proposed “red lane” section of the route between Finch Station and McCowan differ by about five minutes for local and express services.
Where there are congestion effects, they tend to last for a few days or weeks at a location, and then disappear. This implies that they are caused by short-term factors such as construction projects rather than being inherent to traffic patterns on the street. This has implications for red lane operations because there is no single location where transit priority will “fix” a long-standing problem.
Work on the reconstruction and reconfiguration of the King-Queen-Queensway-Roncesvalles (KQQR) intersection and approaches to it resumed in April after a winter hiatus. Work has also begun at Dundas West Station for the reconstuction and realignment of the streetcar loading platforms.
April 4, 2022
A significant change at KQQR is the removal of the “slip lane” which allowed eastbound traffic on The Queensway to “slip” past the intersection onto King Street without stopping. However, this created a safety hazard for pedestrians trying to reach the south sidewalk and the bridge to Sunnyside Park. The first four photos below show the construction of the revised junction from various points of view.
The fifth photo looks west on The Queensway at Sunnyside showing early stages of converting the mix-traffic streetcar lanes to a right-of-way matching what is already in place from Parkside westward.
April 20, 2022
By April 20, two weeks later than the photos above, work had progressed to complete the new south sidewalk and to concrete all of the King Street approach. That leg now awaits the asphalt top layer.
In the view SW across the intesection there is a mixture of permanent and temporary poles and signals, as well as the beginning of the spiderweb that will hold up new overhead for the junction. Some of the new traffic signals have been hung, but they are hooded or faced away from traffic pending the changeover from the temporary ones.
On both sides of Roncesvalles north of Queen/Queensway, work has begin on bases for new overhead poles.
West of Sunnyside, work has begun on track installation, but this will be done in stages as road traffic is shuffled around between old and new lanes. In the eventual configuration, the streetcar lanes will be reserved and protected with a curb east to Roncesvalles except where needed for lane crossings.
The TTC has not yet announced a date for resumption of streetcar service to Sunnyside on King and on Queen, nor further west on The Queensway to Humber and Long Branch.
Dundas West Station
The existing King streetcar track has been demolished and excavated for a new foundation. Track for the Dundas cars will be shifted and a new longer loading platform will be provided here.
The TTC will begin work on reconstruction and expansion at Dundas West Station Loop on Monday April 11, and the project is planned to be mainly completed by June 18. The full notice is on the TTC’s website.
The timing of various stages of the work has changed from the original plan discussed in a previous article.
The original plan was to replace the trackwork on Dundas north from Bloor including the special work at the loop entrance first, followed by the track on Edna Avenue (the north side of the loop), and finally within the loop itself including expansion of platform used by 505 Dundas.
In the revised plan, the area within the loop will be done first working from west to east, followed by the track on Dundas Street, and finally the track on Edna Avenue.
The new phasing also changes plans previously announced for diversion of connecting surface routes.
During phase 1 (April 11 to May 7), the loop will be closed and all surface routes will divert:
40 Junction, 168 Symington and 312 St. Clair Night buses will loop on street stopping on Edna Avenue.
504C King shuttle buses will divert via Bloor to High Park Station and will serve Dundas West Station with on street stops a Bloor & Dundas.
505 Dundas and 306 Carlton Night cars will divert to High Park Loop.
402 Parkdale Community bus will divert as required (TBA).
During phase 2 (May 8 to June 18), some of the diversions will change:
505 Dundas, 504C King and 402 Parkdale will continue as in phase 1.
40 Junction and 168 Symington will divert to Lansdowne Station via Dupont and Bloor Streets respectively.
312 St. Clair Night bus will divert to Keele Station.
306 Carlton Night service will be replaced with buses and these will operate to Keele Station similarly to the 504C service.
Effective June 19 most routes will return to normal except for two that must await completion of new overhead wiring at Dundas West Station:
505 Dundas will continue to operate to High Park Loop.
306 Carlton will continue to operate as a bus service, but will terminate at Dundas West Station.
Additional work to be undertaken includes:
Emergency track repair on Dundas south of Bloor.
Construction of a “bump out” pedestrian area at the eastbound stop on Dundas just east of Roncesvalles.
There is no effect on subway service, and the station will remain open for access to trains.
On January 17, 2022, a record snowfall hit the Toronto area. Yes, this is Canada, and it does snow here, although people who live in areas without the moderating effect of Lake Ontario rarely have much sympathy on that score.
A post mortem report on the event will be discussed on March 29, 2022, at the Infrastructure & Environment Committee. As the City’s report on the event summarizes:
On January 16-17, 2022, the City of Toronto experienced an extraordinary winter storm that involved extreme cold temperatures, very rapid snowfall, and an ultimate snow accumulation of 55 centimetres in just 15 hours. The below freezing temperatures that followed the storm and lasted for more than two weeks created a unique set of challenges for storm clean up.
The effects on transit routes were severe, and there was little or no service on parts of the network for an extended period.
Snow clearing took a very long time:
Ultimately, 179,442 tonnes of snow were removed from 3,471 km of roads, requiring almost 60,000 truckloads. Removal was conducted over a 30-day period; however, operations were suspended when additional snow events occurred, meaning snow was removed on a total of 23 non-consecutive days.
Toronto’s snow clearing practices tend to focus on major streets and often do not include physical removal of snow. This effectively narrows roads and limits their capacity until the snowbanks eventually melt. A history of warmer winters and fewer severe storms has contributed to a somewhat laissez-faire relationship to winter that failed Toronto in 2022.
The report speaks to several changes in approach to major storms that will be implemented in early 2023, and I will not go into these here beyond noting the effect on transit.
Two related problems do leap out.
First, the responsibility for various aspects of snow clearing fall to different groups. Roads and sidewalks were plowed by multiple contractors. Sidewalks were, until this year, the responsibility of property owners, but the city’s fleet of sidewalk plows was not yet at full strength, and subject to breakdowns. Bike lanes might or might not be plowed especially if they are simply painted and have no protective barriers.
The result is both a “who does what” clash and a war for space where snow can be dumped before it is carted away, if ever.
Second, the reduction in road capacity causes congestion both by taking lanes out of service, and by parked cars, to the extent motorists can navigate the snowbanks, encroaching beyond the curb lane. This is a particular problem on streetcar routes, but is not confined to them.
Plowing, when it does occur, may not be accompanied by aggressive towing, or at least by temporary relocation of parked cars so that the curb lane can be fully cleared.
Toronto has a network of designated snow routes for major snow events. Most of the territory it covers is in the old City of Toronto with some outlying areas. When a major storm condition is declared, parking is banned for 72 hours (or more if need be) on the streets shown in red below. Most of the suburban city is not included.
The map below is dated October 2013, and it is due for updating especially if Toronto plans to be serious about the quality of transit service and meaningful schemes for transit priority across the city.
The major snowfall on January 17 disrupted transit service, and the effects continued for a few weeks after the event. In some cases, buses had not returned to “typical” pre-storm travel times into February.
The location of congestion problems on routes reviewed here was not distributed along them a a general delay, but could be found at specific locations and times where the effect was “net new” after the storm. This suggests that a detailed study of storm delays will reveal key locations and conditions that should be avoided in the future.
On Dufferin, a major location for delays was northbound to Yorkdale Mall, and this persisted for some time after the storm. Normally, problems on routes like this are assumed to arise from their hilly nature, but that was not always the case in late January.
This article begins a series reviewing the major east-west corridors in Scarborough and eastern North York. Although there are several proposals ranging from BRT-lite red lanes all the way up to a full scale subway for these streets, none of them is going to see much change for the coming decade. Rather than waiting forever for the promise of a new transit dawn in the east, Toronto really needs to focus on making transit service we have today work.
Minutes of community meetings are strewn with “improve the bus service” as a common, long-standing complaint. But nothing substantial happens.
For two years, everyone including the TTC has been preoccupied with the pandemic. For a time, the usual excuses about poor service, notably traffic congestion, really didn’t wash, but now we are on a rebound. Now is the time for TTC management to look at the service they are offering and ask whether it really is the best they can do, that it will attract riders back to the system.
The period covered by this article runs from October 1 to December 31, 2021. Most of this was during a period of ridership recovery, and the effect of Omicron-related drops in demand and in traffic came in the later half of December which is traditionally a slow period anyhow because of the holiday season. Data are missing in late October and early November because of the cyber-attack on the TTC, but there is more than enough to show the overall patterns of route behaviour.
Service on York Mills and Ellesmere
The 95 York Mills and its express counterpart, 995, run east from York Mills Station at Yonge Street.
The local service has three branches:
95A runs east via York Mills, Ellesmere and northeast on Kingston Road to Port Union.
95B splits off from Ellesmere at Military Trail and terminates at the University of Toronto Scarborough Campus (UTSC). This branch operates only during periods when there is no 995 express service.
95C runs only as far east as Ellesmere Station on the SRT. This branch operates weekdays during peaks and midday.
Scheduled service for route 95 York Mills changed on October 10 when the 95A service was extended via Kingston Road to a loop at Port Union Road.
The service summaries for the two periods are below. During many periods, one bus was added to the service for the extension but headways remained the same making the round trip time longer. However, the scheduled speed also went up slightly.
Schedules for this route have not changed since October 2021.
The express service has only one branch:
995 runs to UTSC via the same route as the 95B local service. These buses operate as locals between UTSC and Markham Road, and express from there west to York Mills Station.
Service to UTSC operates as the 995 express weekdays during the peaks and middays. Early evenings and on weekends, it operates as the 95B local.
The scheduled service for 995 York Mills Express has not changed since June 2021.
Service on 95/995 York Mills operated on the same schedules from mid October 2021 through to year end.
Bunching is common. Generally, but not always, it is caused by “blended services” that actually run as pairs of buses.
There is little or no evidence of supervisory intervention to break up bunches of vehicles. Some bunches form at terminals where service spacing should be comparatively easy.
Cancelled runs were not a problem on York Mills because average headways generally lie at the scheduled values, although individual headway values were widely scattered during all operating periods.
The difference in average travel time is only about 5 minutes between the local and express services during most periods when both are offered.
Terminal layover times are generous especially at Port Union on the 95A service. Recovery from minor delays enroute should not be a problem.