Charting Service Frequency: A Request for Comment (Updated)

Updated May 26, 2023 at 5pm: In response to a reader’s suggestion, I have added a sample chart that includes average wait times for would-be riders in place of the count of vehicles. To jump directly to this update, click here.

In the many articles I have published trying to review service quality on the TTC, one topic has eluded presentation: how to chart service quality over a long period while preserving the hour-by-hour, day-by-day character of the data? That question has several dimensions because a quality metric is not simply a matter of pooling stats and saying that overall things are not too bad, or even worse that service meets some sort of standard on average.

In the past I have published charts showing headways, and others showing how organized (or not) service on a particular day might be, but it has been more difficult to condense months of data for multiple times and locations.

The TTC standard for surface routes is:

On-time performance measures vehicle departures from end terminals. Vehicles are considered on time if they depart within 59 seconds earlier or five minutes later than their scheduled departure time. (-1 to +5)

CEO’s Report, May 2023, p. 18

The intent is to hit this target 90% of the time, but the TTC does not achieve this with values typically falling in the 70-to-85 per cent range. At an individual route level results can be considerably worse. Streetcar routes fared worse with a 50-to-85 per cent range, and the higher end was achieved during the pandemic era when traffic and demand were light. The numbers have fallen since then.

The TTC’s metrics have big credibility problems because they bear little relation to what riders actually experience.

There are three major reasons:

  • Quality is measured on an all day basis, or worse on longer periods such as months. Variation by day and time is completely obscured by this approach. Reliable service at 10 pm is cold comfort to a rider whose bus has not shown up for 15 minutes in the peak period.
  • Quality is measured only at terminals, not along routes where various factors can degrade service that might begin well, but quickly deteriorates with bunching and gaps.
  • Service is measured relative to schedule on the assumption that “on time” performance will automatically be reliable. However, there is considerable leeway in that standard allowing irregular service to be considered “on time”, and the TTC does not even hit their target levels in many cases.

The CEO’s Report tries to work around the limitations of the metric by noting that some routes do farly well while others encounter a variety of problems. With respect to the bus network, the report notes:

Network performance was negatively impacted by the inclement weather the weeks of February 20 to March 10, where over 60 centimetres of snow fell on the city during this time. Weekday On-time performance was 88% for Weeks 7, 11 and 12. During weekends for the period, OTP was 82%. During February, 32 of 159 weekday routes were impacted by construction for at least three weeks of the period. Overall weekday OTP was 88% for the 127 routes not affected by construction:

  • 48 routes were “On-Time” (90% OTP or better).
  • 53 routes were “On the Cusp” (85-90%).
  • 26 routes were “Not On-time” with OTP less than 85%. In summary, 80% of the routes not affected by construction scored 85% or better.

This still does not address reliability issues at the level riders experience. Moreover, for frequent service, riders do not care if a bus is “on time”, only that service is reliable. TTC assumes that on time service will, by definition, produce reliable service, but they don’t actually operate on schedule and fail to measure service as riders see it.

Irregular service also affects crowding because passenger loads are not evenly distributed. If most riders are on full buses, the following half empty vehicles are not part of their experience (except possibly their frustration with a long wait for the advertised “frequent” service). Average crowding stats do not reveal typical riding conditions. (Analysis of crowding is complicated by the limited availability of automatic passenger counter data outside the TTC. I have tried for a few years to obtain this without success.)

The charts show that bunching (headways of two minutes or less) and large gaps (20 minutes or more) are common, and that they exist across the four months of data here. They are not occasional effects, but a basic feature of TTC service. The stats at terminals, where the TTC takes its on time performance measurements, are less than ideal, but the service degrades as buses and streetcars move along their routes. Most riders do not board at terminals.

This article presents a proposed method of charting service quality on routes to provide both the detail of day-by-day, hour-by-hour conditions and a broader overview. The charts are an experiment in condensing a lot of data into a manageable size, but I am not wedded to the format. Comments are welcome. Regular readers will recognize the format from a previous attempt, but I hope this is an improvement.

The goal is to produce something that can track the quality of service over time so that the decline or recovery of TTC routes is clearly visible along with the effectiveness (or not) of any changes to schedules, transit priority or route management.

There are a lot of charts in this article, and it is a long read for those who are interested. Feedback on this method of presentation is most welcome.

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Why Do The 506 Carlton Cars Short Turn At Broadview?

Among various problems that became evident with the many route changes on May 7 was the deep mismatch between advertised and delivered service.

Both the 501 to Neville and the 505 to Bingham Loop were often missing in action short turning usually at Woodbine Loop (Kingston Road & Queen, named after the former racetrack).

Aside from the scenic tour the 501 Queen car takes via McCaul, Dundas and Broadview, plus the usual congestion on Dundas Street, another congested location was Broadview northbound between Queen and Dundas.

In that segment, three services, 501 Queen, 505 Dundas and 506 Carlton, were all queuing for the left turn at Dundas, compounded by 504/505 buses attempting to serve the northbound stop while blocking both lanes of traffic.

Under these conditions, it was impossible for any of these services to stay on time. The situation has been partly remedied by using traffic wardens to manage the intersection, but even that depends on ensuring that streetcars get priority all of the time despite the signal setup there.

As the week of May 7 wore on, I noticed that a lot of 506 Carlton cars were not getting east of Broadview. Riders complained about cars going out of service, and I received a tip from a reader about scheduled travel time changes.

This sent me into the electronic versions of TTC schedules which are published for use by trip planning apps and which also are the source for info on their own website. These files give a stop-by-stop schedule for each vehicle on a route and allow very fine-grained examination of the schedule design. What I found was quite surprising.

Over the portion of 506 Carlton common to the March 2023 schedules when all streetcars ran through to Main Station and the May 2023 versions with service diverting to Queen Street East, the running times were substantially shorter in May than in March. The schedule as designed could not be operated, and it has become common practice to turn most of the service back westward from Broadview. Here are charts comparing the scheduled travel times.

The eastbound comparison on the left covers the route from High Park to Broadview where streetcars turn off of their usual route. The westbound comparison covers the route from Parliament, where cars rejoin the route, to High Park. Each dot is one scheduled trip plotted with the departure time on the X-axis (horizontal) and the trip length on the Y-axis (vertical). Values move up and down over the day based on expected conditions on the route.

In almost every case the March travel time is longer than the May time. It is no surprise that streetcars have to be short-turned when the schedules work against them. How the schedules came to be designed this way is a mystery, but it creates big problems for riders.

This sort of thing cannot be corrected overnight, but in the meantime the TTC should formalize the route change and post notices everywhere so that riders know how the route will actually operate. New schedules will come in late July when Metrolinx closes Queen at Degrassi for preparatory work for GO corridor expansion and the Ontario Line, and all of the streetcar routes will shift north to Gerrard. With luck, they will reflect actual travel time requirements.

Shifting the westbound Carlton cars off of Broadview at Dundas reduces the number of turns that the intersection must handle per hour. A related issue will be the degree to which traffic wardens intervene to move transit vehicles through this choke point in the network. Both of these changes improve travel times for 501 Queen and 505 Dundas cars and could contribute to more reliable service east of Queen and Kingston Road to the two terminals. I will be monitoring this over coming weeks.


For the benefit of readers who don’t know the whole context, the 506 Carlton car normally operates to Main Station via Gerrard. During construction at Coxwell, it has been diverted via Broadview and Queen eastbound to Woodbine Loop. The westbound diversion runs via Queen, Broadview, Dundas and Parliament including a north-to-west left turn at Dundas because there is no track for a left turn northbound at Gerrard. (The TTC was planning to add one, but the message was lost somewhere in planning when the intersection was rebuilt.)

This is part of a larger set of diversions for construction projects that will evolve over coming months.

A Travel Time Comparison From TransSee

Darwin O’Connor has left a comment noting that you can get comparisons of scheduled and actual running times from his site Here is a chart comparing the situation for eastbound travel from High Park to Broadview in March (green) and May 2023 (red). The dots show actual travel times while the lines show the scheduled values.

Note that the green dots (March) are almost all below the green line, while the red dots (May) are almost all above the red line showing that with the new schedule cars would always be late, sometimes by a wide margin.

O’Connor notes that this type of analysis chart is available on his site free for the Toronto streetcar routes.

Construction on Broadview, Gerrard/Coxwell, Main Station and Queen East

The City of Toronto, TTC and Metrolinx will be undertaking four five major projects in the east end through the spring, summer and fall:

  • Sewer work, track and road reconstruction on Broadview Avenue from north of Gerrard to Danforth. This will include expansion of the streetcar loop at Broadview Station to relieve queuing on Broadview by streetcars waiting to enter.
  • Water main and track replacement at Lower Gerrard & Coxwell.
  • Paving work at Main Station.
  • Rail overpass construction for the Ontario Line at Queen and Degrassi.
  • Repair of the Queen Street bridge at the Don River.

This will result in major changes to streetcar and bus routes.

Your challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to stand on any street corner in the east end and explain to confused strangers where their streetcar or bus might be operating today.

Updated April 17, 2023 at 5:50am: A reader has pointed out a route change that appears on some of the maps in the Main Station presentation deck but which has not been announced anywhere else. The TTC proposes to extend the 8 Broadview east to Warden Station apparently replacing that branch of 70 O’Connor.

Updated April 28, 2023 at 7:40am: A link has been added to a second TTC Main Station page which speaks only of the changes effective May 7, and to the TTC’s Broadview Construction page.

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Roncesvalles Finally Reopens!

The TTC and City of Toronto have announced that Roncesvalles Avenue will reopen to traffic including the 504C King bus with the beginning of service on Tuesday, March 14.

Work is still in progress to adapt the passenger islands on Roncesvalles for the Flexity ramps, but traffic will swerve around work as it proceeds. Why this wasn’t done sometime in past months is one of those mysteries of construction staging.

Streetcar service on the 504 to Dundas West Station will resume in May, although an exact date has not been announced.

Meanwhile, the 504A Distillery and 504B Broadview Station services will turn back at Bathurst using Exhibition and Wolseley Loops respectively, although many cars in fact only get as far as Spadina and loop back via Charlotte Street. The 504C King bus loops via Church, Wellington and York.

Coming in May will be the removal of streetcar service on Broadview north of Gerrard for track construction, and for the redesign of Broadview Station Loop so that both the King and Dundas platforms will be able to hold two cars at once. Currently there is room for only one car on the Dundas platform.

Streetcar service on the west end of the Queen route beyond Sunnyside Loop is expected to resume in the summer, but again there is no specific date announced for this.

TTC Track Construction Update December 22, 2022


Updated December 23, 2022: The City has issued an update stating that the work on Roncesvalles will not be finished until at least the end of February, and The Queensway will not be complete until Spring 2023.

  • Stage 3 work on Roncesvalles will be completed by the end of February 2023.
  • Work will continue after this period with the installation of TTC streetcar track platforms and overhead wiring, with only lane restrictions as necessary.

The final major piece of trackwork installation is underway. Once new paving is in place, the overhead can be restored and, at least in theory, streetcars can return to Roncesvalles Avenue. This is likely to be confined initially to carhouse moves to and from Howard Park until TTC schedules catch up. A service restoration date for 504 streetcars has not yet been announced, but the mid-February schedule change would be the first opportunity. (As I write this, the January changes have not yet been announced.)

With the revised completion dates announced by the City, the first schedule change that could restore streetcars to Roncesvalles would come at the end of March or early April. It is possible that bus service on Roncesvalles could be restored as work north of Queen reaches a point where some lanes can be opened.

Meanwhile, although road construction continues on The Queensway between Sunnyside and Parkside, only the span wires and hangers are up at Sunnyside Loop, but no contact wire. There is still no track between Glendale (St. Joseph’s Hospital stop) and Parkside (the first stop on the Queensway right-of-way). Paving of the new curb lane eastbound from Parkside to Roncesvalles was underway on December 22, and the new eastbound Glendale stop platform is now in place.

Dates for restoration of streetcar service to Sunnyside and to Long Branch have not been announced.

The City’s update puts completion of the road work in Spring 2023. Whether this will include restoration of track and overhead remains to be seen.

  • As part of work being completed on The Queensway (Parkside Drive to Roncesvalles Avenue), the contractor has uncovered conflicts with underground utilities that require modifications to the designs.
  • The Stage 2 work is now expected to be complete in Spring 2023. Upon completion, all travel lanes on The Queensway will be restored and northbound access to Sunnyside Avenue from The Queensway will be reinstated.  

Dundas Sinkhole

A major sinkhole on Dundas near Brock caused a service diversion of route 505 Dundas via College and Ossington. This ended in the early evening of December 19. The photo below, provided by reader Raymond Lee, shows the track restoration in progress on December 10.

Reinstalling track over Dundas sinkhole. Photo by Raymond Lee.

King & Shaw

Service was restored to King Street west of Bathurst on December 9, 2022. 504A Distillery cars run to Dufferin Loop. 504B Broadview Station cars run to Bathurst Street.

Adelaide Street

Work is expected to be complete to Charlotte Street by year-end. Work east from York Street to Victoria, and on York Street itself will be done as a separate project in 2023.

College Street

Most work on College Street is complete although 506 Carlton streetcar service remains on diversion. The TTC should be restoring the normal route soon, but has not announced a date yet. As of December 19, the 506C bus shuttle operates along College and Carlton streets rather than diverting along Harbord, Hoskin, Queen’s Park, University and Gerrard.

According to the City’s webpage for this project:

In spring 2023, the City’s contractor will return to complete work on the elevated cycle tracks between Manning Avenue and Spadina Avenue and upgrades to the existing bike lanes between Spadina Avenue and Bay Street.

Wellington Street

Updated: This original text has been removed because it proved to be out of date.

The current status is that undocumented underground conflicts still dog this project, which also was delayed to accommodate local festivals. Work on the north side of Wellington is expected to be largely completed in 2022, but the south side will be finished next Spring.

There is no word on when TTC will reinstall overhead so that 503 cars can return to the Church-Wellington-York loop.

TTC Track Construction Update December 5, 2022

Here is a brief update on various construction projects in progress.


Excavation continues on Roncesvalles at the north gate of the carhouse while the track panels for the new junction remain on trailers on King Street (see previous update).

Track installation has started south from Harvard Street toward the north gate.

The TTC has not yet announced a date for resumption of through service on Roncesvalles between Howard Park and The Queensway on route 504 King, nor for through streetcar service from downtown to Dundas West Station.

On The Queensway, the eastbound stop at Glendale has finally been taken out of service. Passengers are now directed to use westbound buses to access St. Joseph’s Hospital transferring at Roncesvalles or at Colborne Lodge Drive as appropriate.

The map below was tweeted by @ttchelps. As I write this, neither this map nor the diversion notice for the 504 bus service are linked to the route’s schedule page.

Construction continues on the new eastbound curb lane and the eastbound streetcar stop at Glendale. Work is also in progress on the track between Glendale and Parkside.

Overhead is still not in place at Sunnyside Loop although many span wires and hangers have appeared. The 501 Queen service cannot be extended from Dufferin to Sunnyside until this loop is available.

King & Shaw

According to a City of Toronto construction notice, this intersection will reopen on Friday, December 16. This would allow the 504 King and 63 Ossington services to resume normal operations here.

When the TTC announced their November service changes, this included a temporary option, once King & Shaw reopened, with half of the 504 service turning back at Exhibition Loop (the 504B Broadview cars) and half running through to Dufferin (the 504A Distillery cars). The 504C buses which loop at York Street would shift to a Bathurst turnback.

The TTC has not yet confirmed whether these arrangements will actually happen.

Adelaide Street

Construction has moved swiftly west on Adelaide and is now in the final stretch between Widmer and Charlotte Streets. The section east from York to Victoria will be rebuilt in 2023.

Wellington Street

New overhead has not yet been installed on Wellington Street. The 503 Kingston Road bus is looping via York, Richmond and University from King. Streetcar service should return in the Spring when pantograph-friendly overhead on the downtown loop and on Kingston Road has been installed.

Dundas at Brock Street

A large sinkhole appeared under the streetcar tracks on Dundas at Brock due to a burst 120-year old sewer. The City expects the street to be restored by the end of December, but the TTC will then have to restore the track and overhead. Until that work is finished, tentatively by the end of January 2023, the 505 Dundas service is diverting both ways east of Lansdowne via College and Ossington.

Media coverage is available from CBC and CITY, among other sources.

College Street

The diversion of 506 Carlton streetcars around the College Street reconstruction project is expected to finish by the end of 2022. Streetcars continue to operate both ways via Bay, Dundas and Ossington.

TTC Service Changes Effective September 4, 2022


  • The spreadsheet detailing all of the changes has been added at the end of this post.
  • The number of the Mimico GO shuttle has been corrected to 176.
  • Transfer arrangements at Queen & Dufferin for the 501 bus and streetcar services have been clarified.
  • Transfer arrangements at Queen & Roncesvalles for the 501 and 504 bus services have been added.

Updated September 5, 2022:

  • The spreadsheet listing all of the changes has been corrected for route 504 King. The original version included a description of the route carried over from the August version. This has been changed to reflect the September arrangements.

The TTC will make many changes to its scheduled service on September 4, 2022 with restorations of previous service levels on many routes. This will not get the system back to 100% of pre-pandemic levels.

An important distinction is between three values:

  • The amount of service scheduled before Spring 2020
  • The amount of service budgeted for 2022
  • The amount of service scheduled for 2022

The TTC plans to be back to 97% of budgeted service for bus, 84% for streetcar and 92% for subway. The overall numbers are compared below.

January 2020 Scheduled185,8257,068192,893
September 2022 Budgeted186,3796,398192,777
September 2022 Scheduled177,9304,965182,895

In the original 2022 service budget, the TTC planned to be back to roughly the same level of service as in January 2020 by September 2022. However, slower ridership recovery coupled with staffing constraints produced a lower scheduled service expressed as hours/week.

There are further caveats:

  • The distribution of hours by time of day might not be the same in 2022 as in 2020 because of changing demand patterns.
  • Changes in running times to deal with congestion or service reliability can mean that the same service hours are stretched over wider headways. Not all vehicle hours are created equal.

All that said, there are many changes in service levels, and with the bus network being back to 97%, the schedules for September 2022 are often based on old versions before service cuts were implemented. Another change for this month is the reintroduction of school trips on many routes.

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The Myth of “No Short Turns” (July 2022)

This post includes short turn counts for the month of July on the major east-west streetcar routes downtown. See also:

Updated August 14, 2022: Charts of travel times on King between Strachan and Dufferin have been added to show that although there were congestion problems, they existed only on specific days due to special events, not pervasively through the month of July.

According to the TTC CEO’s Report, short turns (a situation where a vehicle does not reach its scheduled destination but instead turns back at an earlier point) were all but eliminated in May 2019.

This is not to say that short turns should not exist. They are an inevitable part of transit operations where delays can occur, and are essential to restoration of regular service. Back in 2019, the TTC’s problem was that they were used very frequently either as a lazy way to manage service or in response to unrealistic schedules. Now they occur but are not reported.

Meanwhile, other problems with service such as bunching, gaps and missing vehicles are not reported or tracked (at least publicly) at all.

There is no way to avoid saying this: the reported level of short turns is a total misrepresentation of what actually happens on the street as any regular rider knows. Management gets to claim they have eliminated a problem, but in fact it persists.

  1. Methodology
  2. 501 Queen Eastbound at Kingston Road
  3. 504 King Westbound at Spadina and at Bathurst
  4. 504 King Eastbound at Parliament
  5. 504 King Eastbound at Dundas/Broadview
  6. 505 Dundas Westbound at Lansdowne
  7. 505 Dundas Eastbound at Parliament
  8. 506 Carlton Westbound at Lansdowne
  9. 506 Carlton Eastbound at Coxwell


From TTC vehicle tracking data, it is possible to count the number of streetcars passing any point on the line. In order to determine how many short turns occur at a specific location, counts on either side of a turnback will reveal the answer.

For example, if the screenlines for counts on Queen are defined as Coxwell Avenue and Woodbine Avenue, then the difference in counts shows how many cars short-turned at Woodbine Loop.

For these analyses, the counts are grouped by hour and by day through a month. Next, all weekdays, Saturdays and Sundays are consolidated to show the difference between types of day. The weekday counts are broken out by week to catch short-lived effects.

Friday, July 1, Canada Day, is counted as a Sunday. Note that this means that there are six “Sundays” and only five “Saturdays” included in the totals. That is the reason the count of trips within the month is higher for Sundays than for Saturdays.

An important distinction in any analysis is between overall averages and a detailed view of operations. TTC has a bad habit of reporting stats, when they do so at all, on a monthly average basis. This blends together periods when service is good with periods when it is very bad giving the impression that things are going fairly well. Riders, of course, encounter and are angered by the bad times which happen too often and fairly predictably.

The raw data are at a minute-by-minute, vehicle-by-vehicle level. In the charts here, I have tried to strike a balance between “information overload” with too much detail, and high level views that obscure what is happening on the street.

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West End Streetcar Construction Update: July 31, 2022

Several projects are in various stages on the west side of Toronto’s streetcar system. Here is an omnibus update.


The reconstruction of this junction has reached the point where all of the contact wire for the new intersection is in place, but it is not yet attached to the hangers on the spiderweb of span wires above the intersection. Contact wire extends west of Roncesvalles through the South Gate area, but ends just east of Sunnyside Loop.

Further west, the track is in place to Glendale Avenue (St. Joseph’s Hospital stop), but not fully concreted. One block remains to be installed from Glendale to the existing right-of-way.

According to the most recent City construction notice, service west of Bathurst Street will resume in two stages, and even then will not yet be through to Humber and Long Branch.

  • Effective September 4th:
    • 501/301 Queen streetcar service will be extended west to Dufferin Street from Bathurst Street. 501L replacement buses will be shortened to operate from Long Branch Loop to Dufferin Street.
    • The 504/304 King streetcar will continue to be replaced by bus service west of Dufferin Street.
  • As of October 9th:
    • 501/301 Queen streetcar service will be extended as far west as the KQQR intersection. 501L Replacement buses will continue to operate between Long Branch Loop and Dufferin Street.
    • The 504/304 King streetcar will continue to be replaced by bus service during construction and will have no service on Roncesvalles Avenue south of Howard Park Avenue. Route adjustments are: Howard Park, Parkside, Lake Shore, Colborne Lodge, The Queensway (both directions).

Detailed service plans will likely be published by the TTC in mid-to-late August.

Lake Shore Boulevard West

The track between Louisa Street and Mimico Avenue was not replaced in the last round of TTC upgrades on this route. They are now completing this section. A few points to note in the photos below:

  • In the view looking west, work on overhead conversion to pantograph mode including staggering of the contact wire is in progress. Over the entire route from Humber to Long Branch the contact wire is not yet attached to many of the new hangers.
  • In the view looking east, note that the rail is not yet fastened down with Pandrol clips. The previous rebuild here is recent enough that the track foundation already has steel ties, and so the rebuild only requires removal of the top pavement layer. The new track is then attached to the existing foundation.

At Kipling and Lake Shore, construction has just begun on replacement of the intersection and Kipling Loop. From the pre-assembled track already sitting on trailers near the site, it appears that the east-to-north curve will be replaced rather than removed. This curve is only ever used by railfan charters, and yet it survives. Meanwhile, on another project at Church & Carlton where missing curves in the south-east quadrant would add to network flexibility, the TTC is rebuilding the track as is without them.

Dundas West Station

The new extended platform for 505 Dundas cars is now in place, although still missing guardrails, and the track replacement for the loop has been complete for a few weeks. The new platform will allow two 505 Dundas Flexitys to be in the station at once (this was already possible for 504 King cars) relieving a source of congestion on Dundas Street at the station entrance.

Currently announced plans are for buses to return to this loop in September, but 505 Dundas streetcars will continue diverting to High Park until early October pending completion of new overhead and the platform.

504 King streetcars will not return here until completion of the last phase of the KQQR project likely in late Fall 2022.

The Myth of “No Short Turns” (Revised)

Note: Calculations behind the charts in the original version of this article include a methodology problem. Short turn counts for vehicles crossing two screenlines (such as eastbound on Queen at Coxwell and at Woodbine) were distorted when these events did not occur in the same hour. Other problems included double counting of cars that looped twice at a short turn point (e.g. College Loop), and cars that were entering service via a loop being counted as short turns.

Changes in the text are shown by highlighting of the new version. All charts have been replaced.

My apologies for any confusion, but the charts used here avoid the potential confusion of values shown originally.

One of the many annoyances of trying to use transit service is to discover that your bus or streetcar has been “short turned”, that is to say, will not reach the destination advertised. This might happen before you board so that an arrival prediction turns out to be for a streetcar you can’t use, or as a “surprise” when the operator gets on the PA to announce that Transit Control wants to short turn the car.

This has been a problem for as long as I have been involved in advocacy for better transit service.

TTC Board members and Councillors hear about this problem a lot, and they in turn beat on management to eliminate the practice. This can produce unwanted side effects, notably the padding of schedules so that it is almost impossible, at least in theory, for a car to be late and, therefore, short turns should not be required.

Alas it is not quite that simple. Short turns occur for various reasons including schedule issues, crew change timing, major delays/diversions and “operational problems”, that catch-all phrase covering everything from a stuck door to a plague of locusts. (Some explanations for transit service problems have been with us so long they have taken on an almost Biblical character.)

Meanwhile, the CEO’s Report happily tells us every month that short turns are a thing of the past, that they are so rare that it might not even be worth tracking them as a service metric.

Source: June 2022 CEO’s Report

The big drop in the metric in spring 2019 coincides with a point where a “no short turn” edict was issued by the CEO. This is not really practical as there are many bona fide reasons for short turning vehicles, but the numbers obediently went down and have stayed down.

Regular riders, however, might choose to differ in their day-to-day observations.

Since 2019, we have come through the pandemic era when a great deal of traffic congestion and ridership disappeared. For a time, the type of event that would disrupt service was comparatively rare. However, with “normal” conditions returning, service is no longer insulated by these effects.

In my own travels, I routinely encounter streetcars that are not going to their scheduled destinations. Let me be the first to say that I understand the need for short turns, but am rather amazed that the reported counts stay very close to zero. This simply does not match actual experience. A short turn is a short turn, regardless of why it is required.

The question, then, is how to count these events reasonably easily without standing on street corners clipboard in hand. Vehicle tracking data that I already receive from the TTC’s Vision system (and which drives the many arrival prediction apps) provides a simple mechanism.

In this article I will review several common streetcar short turn locations to see what is actually happening.

If readers have specific bus routes and locations they would like to see, please leave your request in the comments.

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