This article continues a series reviewing operations on existing and proposed RapidTO red lanes reserved for transit vehicles.
Previous articles in the series:
Service on Steeles operates from Finch Station north on Yonge and West on Steeles with three branches:
- 60A local service to Pioneer Village Station
- Local service (via Pioneer Village Station both ways)
- 60D to Highway 27 (daytime, Monday-Saturday)
- 60B to Martin Grove (evenings and Sundays)
- 960 express service to Pioneer Village Station (peak periods only)
The 960 Steeles West Express bus was originally known as the 60E, later the 960. It was discontinued in Spring 2020, and resumed operation in January 2021.
Weekend 60 Steeles West service was reduced on June 20, 2021.
This article deals with:
- The change in travel times for the service between Steeles & Yonge and Pioneer Village Station (the portion of the route proposed for Rapid TO) from pre-pandemic traffic conditions and their evolution through the low point of demand and congestion in 2020 through to June 2021.
- Travel times for service west of Pioneer Village Station.
- The speed difference between local and express services.
- The reliability of service.
The High Points
As on other routes in Toronto, there was a drop in travel times across much of the route concurrent with the pandemic and lockdowns in mid-2020. However, unlike other routes, this effect was short-lived on Steeles and particularly on the section west of Pioneer Village Station.
Extremely severe congestion affects this route as of June 2021, although the degree varies from day to day with wide differences in travel times on some segments. I plan to follow-up this situation with data through July and August in a future article.
For the most part, scheduled travel times on Steeles provide generous layovers at terminals, and most congestion effects can be absorbed by them (whether the excess is officially called “recovery time” or not).
Headway reliability on the 60/960 Steeles West service is spotty. For the local buses, bunching and gaps are common, and this occurred even during mid-2020 when traffic conditions were much less of an issue. Express buses are infrequent enough that they do not run as pairs, but there is still a wide range of headways compared to the scheduled service.
The situation west of Pioneer Village Station where schedules service is less frequent is particularly bad.
It is quite clear that if there is any active attempt to manage headways on Steeles West, it is largely ineffectual and riders suffer as a result. Uneven headways lead to uneven loads and the perception that most buses are crowded even when average demand might not bear this out.
There is a RapidTO proposal for the segment of Steeles West between Yonge and Pioneer Village Station. Although Yonge Street itself between Finch and Steeles is also a source of congestion, there is unlikely to be much improvement for transit priority here because of the planned subway extension and construction disruption. This will make a bad situation even worse, and the subway project should be designed to minimize loss of road capacity and/or to prioritize transit within whatever remains.