Other routes to be reviewed include 85/985 Sheppard East, 102/902 Markham Road, 43/943 Kennedy and 68/968 Warden. Routes in the Eglinton-Kingston corridor will be reviewed as part of a “red lane” update in the Fall.
Scheduled service on Steeles East is unchanged since Fall 2021. There are various route branches which overlap to provide a frequent combined service on paper, although individual branches on wider headways can be less reliable.
Peak service is provided by three branches:
53B Finch local to Markham Road
953A Finch express to Staines
953B Finch express to Markham Road
The scheduled headway on the express service is every 7’00” (am) or 7’15” (pm) as opposed to every 6’00” on the local service. This means that even if everything runs exactly on time, there will be uneven spacing between the express and local buses.
Midday and early evening service operates with 53A and 53B local buses to Staines and to Markham Road respectively, but the 1-in-3 (midday) or 1-in-4 (early evening) pattern of 53A buses produces gaps in service on the 53B branch that serves the Amazon fulfillment centre via Markham and Passmore Roads. Late evening weekday service alternates between the branches.
There are similar uneven weekend headways on the 53B because of the gaps produced by the occasional 53A trips.
Service Standards vs Service Reliability
A point worth mentioning here is that even the fairly well-behaved periods of service on both the local and express branches show a problem with an on-time target window that is close to the scheduled headway. Service can be “on time” within a six minute window, but still operate in bunches.
For example, if the scheduled departures are on the 0, 6, 12, 18 … minute marks, buses could actually leave on 5, 5, 17, 17 … and be “on time” by TTC standards. Half of the buses would be five minutes late (the upper bound allowed), while the other half would be 1 minute early (the lower bound). This is a worst case scenario, but it shows what the standards allow.
In effect, the six minute window allows gaps of up to twelve minutes followed by a pair of buses to be considered “on time”. This allows reported service quality to be much better than what riders actually experience, and leaves a gap (so to speak) between the claimed and actual service quality.
Overall, service reliability on Steeles East is fairly good simply because it is so frequent on weekdays on the common part of the route west of Markham Road. However, the outer branches suffer from gaps and bunching that is hidden by the frequent service further west. Weekend service is particularly uneven, and the degree of headway management varies from one weekend to another. The express service headways are spread over a range wider than the time saving an express trip offers.
March 28, 2021, will see revenue service begin from the TTC’s new McNicoll Garage. This will entail the reassignment of many routes between all garages as the TTC rebalances it fleet and service to relieve crowding and minimize dead-head times.
There are few service changes associated with this grand shuffle. The primary effect is that garage trips at the end of peak periods will change to reflect the shift of some routes to a new home in northern Scarborough.
For example, north-south routes that formerly had transitional peak-to-evening service southbound will go to evening service levels sooner because buses will dead head to McNicoll rather than making a southbound trip before running back to Eglinton or Birchmount Garage.
129 McCowan North
The short-turn point for 39 Finch East and 53 Steeles East off-peak garage trips will change so that buses do not double back on themselves. These trips will be shortened to end at Kennedy rather than at Markham Road. Trips on 39C to Victoria Park will end at McNicoll & Victoria Park rather than at 480 Gordon Baker Road.
The 45 Kipling and 945 Kipling Express move from Queensway to Arrow. Trips to the garage after the AM and PM peak will no longer make southbound trips. Trips at the beginning of the PM peak will no longer travel north from Queensway.
The old and new garage assignments are at the end of this article for those who are interested.
Fleet utilization continues to be well below system capacity. In January 2020, the total AM peak buses in service was 1,625. In March 2021, it will be 1,527. This does not include buses used in Run As Directed (RAD) service. Although the TTC now has an additional bus garage, its capacity is not included in the table below.
For comparison, here is the January 2020 (pre-pandemic) table.
The number of buses used on streetcar routes continues to be high. These vehicles are included in the counts above, and represent additional capacity available for bus routes when the construction projects now underway finish. 506 Carlton will return to all-streetcar operation in May, but other routes will be affected by construction for much of 2021 notably at KQQR and on Broadview north of Gerrard (starting in May).
Here is the streetcar peak service table. Note that there is an error in the afternoon peak “base going into Mar 2021” column where the streetcar total should read 127, not 142.
During the construction of McNicoll Garage, all trips on 42 Cummer were operated as 42A to Middlefield. This will continue, and the 42B and 42C services will remain suspended. An eight month long water main project on Cummer will require that westbound service divert via Leslie, Finch and Bayview. New farside stops will be added southbound on Leslie at Cummer, and westbound on Cummer at Bayview to serve the diversion.
At the King, Queen, Queensway, Roncesvalles intersection (KQQR) construction work will block transit service beginning on March 31. This will affect all services that pass through this busy location.
501 Queen buses (501L Long Branch and 501P Park Lawn) will operate via King and Dufferin Streets to route. The official east end of the route will remain at Jarvis Street. In current operations, many runs have been extended as far east as River because the schedule is very generous in anticipation of construction traffic delays that have not yet materialized. Buses are also taking extended layovers at Long Branch Loop because they arrive early.
The 504 King west end shuttle will be broken into two parts.
A 504G King shuttle will operate between Dundas West Station and Roncesvalles Carhouse (entering and leaving via the North Gate).
A 504Q King shuttle will operate between Triller and Strachan. The west end loop will be via Dufferin, Queen and Triller. The east end loop will be via Duoro and Strachan. This is a change from the current shuttle terminus at Shaw.
Operation of the 506 Carlton bus shuttle will be officially changed to use the loop that was informally implemented almost immediately after this service began in January. All buses will loop via Gerrard, Sherbourne and Parliament. Full streetcar service will resume on 506 Carlton with the May 9, 2021 schedules.
Miscellaneous Route Changes
Weekday scheduled round-trip travel time on 1 Yonge-University-Spadina will be shortened from 161 to 154 minutes in recognition of time savings with Automatic Train Control. This will address some of the train queuing problems at terminals. Headways will also be widened slightly to reflect lower demand.
43C Kennedy service to Village Green Square will be modified so that all trips begin and end there. Half hourly service will be provided northbound from Kennedy Station from 6:30 to 8:30 am, and from 4:00 to 7:00 pm. Southbound service will leave Village Green from 5:58 to 8:28 am, and from 3:30 to 6:30 pm.
The Amazon Fulfillment Centre at Morningside & Steeles will be served by two routes:
53B Steeles service to Markham Road will be extended via Passmore to the cul-de-sac at the site. This operation is already in place.
102 Markham Road service will be routed north on Markham Road, east on Select Avenue, south on Tapscott Road, east on Passmore Avenue to cul-de-sac, west on Passmore Avenue, north on Tapscott Road, west on Steeles Avenue, to south on Markham Road. This route will be changed when the the intersection of Steeles & Morningside fully opens later in 2021.
Trip times on 167 Pharmacy North will be standardized so that the weekday and Saturday schedules are the same. The first trips will run northbound from Don Mills Station and southbound from Pharmacy Loop at 5:30 am. Service at all times will be on the half-hour (:00 and :30).
Articulated and regular buses will shuffle between routes:
Three artics now used on 60 Steeles West will be changed to standard buses. The artics will return in late May.
Most runs on 89 Weston will switch from artics to standard buses. In late May, all 89 Weston local buses will be standard-sized, but the 989 Weston Express service will resume.
Six standard buses now used on 929 Dufferin Express will be changed to artics.
310 Spadina night service will be cut to half hourly. This route was missed in January when other night services reverted to a 30 minute service (previously every 15 or 20 minutes).
Lest anyone think that these routes were “cherry picked” as particularly bad examples of service, no, they simply happen to be busy routes I chose to examine. The problems illustrated here are pervasive on the TTC’s system as future articles in the series will show.