TTC Bus Service Frequency and Reliability in 2020 (Part III)

This article continues a series reviewing the quality of service scheduled and operated over the COVID-19 era in summer 2020 that began with an introduction and continued with Part I looking primarily at Scarborough and Part II moving further west looking at north-south trunk routes between Victoria Park and Jane.

In this article, I continue further west to review these routes:

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Analysis of Services on Wilson Avenue (Part I)

Wilson Avenue is served by many bus routes and branches, and this arrangement has been through two major reorganizations since fall 2015. In these articles, I will review the changes and the quality of service provided at various locations along the route.

Until March 27, 2016, service on Wilson Avenue was provided by 96 Wilson and 165 Weston Road North with most trips originating at York Mills Station.

In October and November 2015, both routes became part of the 10-minute network, and their schedules were reorganized accordingly. Blended service is provided in off-peak periods on the common section of the routes on Wilson Avenue between Weston Road and Yonge Street.

In March, this was changed to split off routes 118 Thistle Down, 119 Torbarrie and 186 Wilson Rocket as separate entities but on the same routes as the original branches of 96.

  Before                                      After

  96A Wilson YMS to Carrier Drive             Unchanged
  96B Wilson YMS to Claireville               Unchanged
  96C Wilson YMS/WS to Thistle Down           118 Thistle Down from WS
  96E Wilson WS to Humber College Express     186 Wilson Rocket from YMS
  96G Wilson YMS to Sheppard & Torbarrie      119 Torbarrie from WS
  165A Weston Road N YMS to Steeles & Weston  Unchanged

  YMS: York Mills Station
  WS:  Wilson Station
  • The 186 Wilson Rocket operates weekday peak and midday periods from York Mills Station whereas its predecessor 96E was peak only from Wilson Station.
  • All Thistle Down trips are now to/from Wilson Station only.
  • Service to Torbarrie remains peak only and its eastern terminus is now Wilson Station, not York Mills Station.
  • Additional 165 services operate into York Region with various destinations including seasonal service to Canada’s Wonderland.
  • The 96A and 96B services are identical over most of the route branching primarily at their outer ends just beyond Humber College, terminal for the 96E/186. The 96C/118 service branches off at Albion Road, and the 96G/119 west of Jane Street.

An obvious question here is whether all of this shuffling made any difference in the service beyond giving the various sub-routes their own numbers.

For those who want the short version, the service is a bit better, but still not very good, and it certainly does not meet the TTC’s goal of providing reliable service at terminals, let alone along the way. Wilson provides a good example of inferior service for riders notably when there is an attempt to blend multiple routes and branches. There is no individual location or time to point at, but rather an overall lack of rigour in provision of service throughout all of the routes at all times and days of the week.

There is no sign through any of the data here of an attempt to manage headways (or equivalently, to keep buses “on time”). In some periods and locations, many overlapping services could usually guarantee a bus to somewhere a rider is going. Inbound on Wilson, any bus will take you at least to Wilson Station, and most will go beyond to York Mills. However, for individual branches, simply letting the service operate as it might produces a much less satisfactory result with unreliable service, wide gaps and bunching.

These are services that would benefit from explicit “time point” dispatching with vehicles expected to leave points enroute, notably those where services merge as well as points where an enroute layover to achieve an even headway could easily be handled. A range of +1 to -5 minutes relative to the schedule on this route gives far too much latitude.

In Part II of this article I will examine running times in comparison with schedules for these services if only to deal with the usual “if only we had more running time” argument that has become the standard response to unreliable service.

The schedule summaries for these routes and periods are at the end of this article for reference.

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