Subway Shutdown Plans for 2017

Updated January 22, 2017: Additional illustrations.

The TTC begins its 2017 round of subway shutdowns on the weekend of January 21-22 with the complete closure of the Spadina line north from St. George Station. This is the first of a series of monthly weekend tests of the new Automatic Train Control (ATC) system leading to a planned conversion from Dupont north to Wilson in the fall. This is a prelude to opening the Spadina extension, which has only ATC, not “conventional” signals, to Vaughan at the end of 2017. Most of the closures are on Line 1 YUS because this testing is on top of shutdowns for routine maintenance work.

Two three-day weekends, Easter and Thanksgiving, will see Line 2 BD shut down for work on the Prince Edward Viaduct.



There are important changes for 2017 in plans for shuttle bus operations.

For the Spadina shutdowns, the TTC will not attempt to operate a parallel bus service over the entire route as it is plagued by construction at some locations, and generally provides a long trip south to St. George Station. Instead, bus service will be improved on east-west routes to get people over to Yonge where they can make the trip downtown quickly on the subway. A “parallel” bus service will operate only on the north end of the Spadina line between Downsview and Lawrence West Stations.


In past years, the scope of some shutdowns has been wider than the subway track layout and the locations of turnbacks would imply. The reason for this is that the power feeds to many potential turnbacks are not designed to support operations when power is available on only one side of the location. An example of how this was fixed is at Bloor crossover.

At Bloor, the power feeds are segmented into separate pieces:

  • Southward from the south end of the station
  • Bloor Station and crossover, plus the track to roughly halfway to Rosedale Station, one train length north of the crossover
  • Northward from the midpoint between the crossover and Rosedale Station

This allows trains to terminate at Bloor in either direction even if the power is off south to Wellesley or north to Rosedale. When the line was designed, the crossover itself was the gap between two power sections, and so this could not be a turnback point if power was cut on either side. This change, including the resignalling of the crossover, was installed as part of the North Yonge subway project.

Power supplies at crossovers at Rosehill (south of St. Clair), College and King have not yet been modified, but this is in the plans as part of the ATC project on the Yonge line. The new signal system will include the ability to manage these crossovers remotely as is done at Bloor.

A similar problem exists at some of the older turnbacks on the BD line. Whenever work is underway on the Viaduct, subway service has ended at Pape (although it physically operates west to Chester centre track) because power cannot be cut on the Viaduct without also cutting it at Broadview Station. The TTC will be installing a gap in the power feed just west of Broadview Station so that trains can use this as their terminal. Shuttle buses on Danforth will not be required (only from Broadview westward), and subway riders will have access to the downtown streetcar lines as an alternate route to the core on Dundas and King.

A planned shutdown at Union would normally have required shuttles south on Yonge below Bloor, but subway service will be operated using the crossover at King. This will be done on a manual basis because the new signals and controls for the crossover are not yet in place. This tactic will also be used in 2018 when work at Davisville would have required a shutdown north of Bloor. Instead, the crossover at Rose Hill will be manually operated so that shuttle buses can make their connection at St. Clair Station where there is an off-street loop.

2016 Reviewed

Shuttle bus operations have gradually improved, notably by actively changing the traffic environment in which the buses must operate rather than simply hoping for the best as the streets were. Parking restrictions, signal changes and the use of Paid Duty Officers were much needed changes, although one must wonder why it took the chaos of previous years’ events to show that replacing the subway with buses required a lot of accommodation by users of the streets.

Many types of work were undertaken during the shutdowns beyond the most obvious track and signal upgrades. These are described in the presentation to the TTC’s Board on January 18. Of particular interest was one project that is not illustrated in the report, the replacement of 900m of subway track on the western part of Line 2 with a new form of rail support.

All subway lines built before the Spadina line opened have the track mounted directly on the concrete tunnel floor with only a rubber pad that doubles for both vibration and electrical  insulation. Spadina saw a shift to the “floating slab” technique where the rail is mounted to large concrete sections that in turn sit on large rubber pads. This structure requires a deeper tunnel, but it provides better vibration isolation. Older lines cannot be retrofitted because adding a new layer of support would make trains too high for the tunnels.

The TTC has installed an experimental section of track where the rail is supported from the side rather than from below with rubber pads gripping the track below the head of the rail. The result is a roughly 20db reduction in vibration. This is a trial, and there are currently no plans or funding to retrofit other problem sections of the subway.

The new track suspension system is described on the vendor (Pandrol) website, and illustrated below in photos provided by the TTC.

Updated January 21, 2017

The following illustrations are from a presentation provided by the TTC. The first gives the rationale for use of the Panguard track mounting system and includes a good cross-section of the track suspension technique.


The following diagrams show before (yellow) and after (blue) vibration measurements.



TTC Vehicle Reliability

Delays in the arrival of the new Bombardier Flexity streetcars, together with last summer’s sauna conditions on the Bloor-Danforth subway, make for ongoing concern about the condition of the TTC’s fleet. Statistics in the January 2017 CEO’s Report triggered media reports and a discussion at the recent TTC Board Meeting.

The numbers, although presented in what is supposed to be an “industry standard” format, lead to much confusion for a variety of reasons:

  • The basic standard is that any fault causing a delay of five minutes or greater counts, while all others do not.
    • A fault that might delay a bus or streetcar (doors not working) may not count against the subway because there is so much redundancy.
    • There is no distinction between a fault that represents a severe failure of a component or a minor annoyance that simply caused a long enough delay to be counted. Similarly, the cost and effort needed to repair faults does not contribute to the metric.
  • Faults are reported “per vehicle kilometre”, but many subsystems fail more on the basis of hours in operation (how long has an air conditioner been running), or number of cycles (how many times did doors open and close).
    • For a specific fleet and type of operation, hours and kilometres are interchangeable because the fleet operates at a consistent average speed within its frame of reference.
    • Fleets (or even subsets of fleets) operating under different conditions (average speed, frequency of stops, loads and grades) will not have the same ratio of hourly-based to distance-based faults. Direct comparison of distance-based statistics between these conditions is meaningless. For example, a well known problem in comparing streetcars with buses is that bus routes tend to operate in suburban conditions at relatively high average speeds. When they shift to more congested, densely used routes, their operating characteristics change. (It is self-evident that fuel consumption is affected by route conditions, and operator wages are paid per hour, not per kilometre. Slower buses run fewer kilometres. Time-based wear and tear, and associated reliability stats will rise when expressed on the basis of distance.)
  • Some fleets are a uniform age, while others are diverse.
    • Toronto’s rail fleets have major vehicle groups each of which was sourced as a single large order: The T1 (BD) and TR (YUS) subway car fleets; the CLRV, ALRV and Flexity streetcar fleets; and the SRT.
    • The bus fleet has a wider range of ages and technologies, and so its statistics are the combined effect of vehicles over a range of ages and conditions.
    • For a list of the TTC fleet by type, see the last page of any Scheduled Service Summary such as the one for January 2017. These are available on the TTC’s Planning webpage.

In the figures reported by the CEO, these issues are not explored in detail, but are at best mentioned in a few footnotes. Unsurprisingly, the media and politicians (even transit pundits) can jump to the wrong conclusion about what the stats actually mean.

To ensure that even without taking these factors into account, we are dealing with similar methodologies for each fleet, I asked the TTC whether the same principles apply across the system.

SM: Is it correct that there is a different set of criteria for a “defect” charged to the streetcar fleets and to the subway fleet? Are the criteria used for buses yet another way of measuring defect rates, or are they the same as for streetcars?

TTC: Same principle applies.  In principle, the calculation of MKBD is the same for each mode.   Overall vehicle reliability is dependent upon component and systems reliability. 

MKBD is calculated from the number of chargeable Road Calls and Change Offs (RCCO) during service.  The definition of a chargeable RCCO is any disruption to revenue service caused by a preventable equipment failure.  This definition is applied to all modes of operation.  It should, however, be noted that there are slight differences to the criteria of RCCO for each mode.   For example, a failure to a set of doors on a subway train may not cause a disruption or a delay to service.  Line mechanics may respond to the failure and barricade the inoperable doors. This may happen with no impact to customer or to service. This is due to the fact that subways have multiple sets of doors that customers can enter or egress from. Transit Control, therefore,  may decide not to remove a train from service if one set of doors is inoperable.  For a 40’ bus, however, the option to continue in service with a set of inoperable doors is not an option. Passenger flow on and off the bus will be significantly impacted.  Therefore, in this case … the same equipment failure may be handled differently on buses, streetcars and subways.   Differences in types of equipment, life cycles of these equipment and operating environments will also contribute to the differences in calculating RCCO and MKBD between modes. [Email of January 16, 2017]

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Analysis of 514 Cherry Service for December 2016

The 514 Cherry car has been running since June 2016. Although originally planned as a net new service, budget for the route fell victim to the 2016 round in which headroom for the “new” service was created by reallocating vehicles from 504 King. The purpose was to concentrate service on the central part of King where there is higher demand, but in practice, the original schedule did not work out. In November 2016 the headways on 514 Cherry were widened to compensate for longer-than-planned running times.

The 514 Cherry car has been something of an afterthought for the TTC in several ways. Planning and construction for it began years ago, but implementation was delayed until after the Pan Am Games were out of the way and the Canary District began to populate with residents and students in the new buildings. Another major blow has been the failure to build the Waterfront East LRT which is intended to eventually connect with the trackage on Cherry Street as part of a larger network. In effect, the spur to Distillery Loop is treated by the TTC as little more than a place for a scheduled short turn of the King Street service, much as trackage on Dufferin Street south of King is for the route’s western terminus.

Riders bound for the Distillery District face two challenges. One is that the older streetcars do not have route signs for 514 Cherry, only a small dashboard card wrapped over the “short turn” sign. Tourists might be forgiven for wondering if a 514 Cherry will ever show up. As new streetcars gradually appear on this route, this problem will decline, but it is an indication of the half-hearted way service was introduced that good signage was not part of the scheme.

New low floor cars now operate on 514 Cherry, typically two in off-peak periods and four in the peak. However, the TTC appears to make no attempt to assign these cars to runs that are equally spaced on the route, and so it is common to see both of them near one of the other terminus with a wide gap facing anyone who actually needs to wait for one.

Indeed, it is the same pair of runs that usually have a Flexity on them through much of December, and they do not provide evenly spaced accessible service over the route. The TTC is happy to crow about accessibility, but falls down in the execution.

Worst of all are the actual headways found on 514 Cherry. Although the schedule was revised in November, and cars should generally have time to make their trips, it is very common to see two 514 Cherry cars close together followed by a long gap. This problem originates at the terminals, the points where the TTC’s target for “on time” service is no more than one minute early to five minutes late. This six minute window is routinely broken by service on the route, and the problem only gets worse as cars move across the city.

In effect, the TTC has simply thrown out a bunch of extras for the King car and lets them run more or less at random providing supplementary capacity in the central part of the route.

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TTC Service Changes Effective Sunday, February 12, 2017

Updated January 23, 2017 at 1:00 pm: The 95 York Mills restructuring was omitted in error by me in the original version of this post and the linked spreadsheet. This has been corrected.

The February 2017 schedules bring a relatively small set of changes to TTC operations.

Among them are a number of route restructurings where service is shuffled between the various local and express, where it exists, branches.

  • 199 Finch Rocket will see:
    • more frequent AM peak service on the 199B STC to York University branch, offset by reductions on the other two branches;
    • more frequent midday service on the 199B offset by reduced service on the 199A to Finch Station;
    • slightly more frequent PM peak service on the 199A and 199B services offset by a reduction in service on the 199C to Morningside Heights.
  • 191 Highway 27 Rocket will see improved peak service on the 191C branch to Humber College.
  • 72 Pape’s peak period short turn service 72A to Eastern Avenue extended to become 72C to Commissioners with headway widenings to compensate on both the 72B Union Station and (now) 72C short turn.
  • 24 Victoria Park will see peak period improvement in the 24B Consumers Road branch offset by a slight reduction in 24A to Steeles.
  • 95 York Mills will see better express service to UTSC in the PM peak offset by a reduction on the local branches.

Other significant route changes include:

  • 511 Bathurst bus operation will be changed so that on weekday peaks and midday half of the service will short turn at King Street. This will reduce the cost of operating the replacement bus service on the streetcar route, and will also reduce the peak bus requirement.
  • 52 Lawrence West will be modified so that the 52F service to Royal York loops via Braecrest and returns east on The Westway rather than running north on Royal York and then east on Dixon Road. Schedules at various times will be modified to better reflect actual operating conditions. There will be a slight decrease in PM peak service levels on all branches, with a small increase in the early evenings weekdays.

Service improvements (beyond those involved in the items above):

  • 108 Downsview (Midday weekdays)
  • Various school trips have been rescheduled to better match dismissal times for students

Service trims on various routes continue to reduce vehicle requirements and costs for 2017:

  • 511 Bathurst (as noted above)
  • 504 King (PM peak)
  • 505 Dundas (Midday weekdays)
  • 26 Dupont (PM peak)
  • 15 Evans (PM peak)
  • 46 Martin Grove (PM peak)
  • 37 Islington (Late Sunday evening 37C service on Steeles to Kipling cut back as 37B to Islington)
  • Some operational changes have been made to hook up runs on various routes and address situations where a bus runs into a garage at roughly the same time as another one is scheduled to leave.

There is no announced date for the return of streetcars to 511 Bathurst. This depends on the timing of new streetcar deliveries from Bombardier and the condition of the remaining streetcar fleet. Although some old cars are in the shops for major rehabilitation, many more remain on the street with declining reliability.

Once 509 Harbourfront and 514 Cherry are fully equipped with new cars, the next route to be changed over will be 505 Dundas and then 511 Bathurst. If Bombardier deliveries continue at the late 2016 rate and do not ramp up until April 2017 (as planned), the conversion of 505 Dundas will not start until sometime in the second quarter.

Details are in the linked spreadsheet:

2017.02.12_Service Changes_v2

How Much Service Actually Runs on King Street? (2)

In a previous article, I reviewed the capacity of service provided on King Street over the past few years to see just how much, if any, change there has been in actual capacity as the mix of streetcars and buses changed over time.

This article expands the charts with current data to the end of 2016 and with some historical data going back to December 2006. The periods included are:

  • December 2006
  • November 2011
  • March 2012
  • May 2013
  • July 2013 to January 2016
  • March 2016 to December 2016

Data for route 514 Cherry is included from June 2016 onward when that route began operation.


Vehicle tracking data gives the location of transit vehicles at all times, and therefore gives the time at which each vehicle crosses a screenline where values such as headway (vehicle spacing) and a count of vehicles by hour can be calculated. This is done for every weekday (excluding statutory holidays) in the months for which I have data to produce these charts.

The capacity values used for each vehicle type are taken from the TTC’s Service Standards.

  • CLRV: 74
  • ALRV: 108
  • LFLRV: 130
  • Bus: 51

In the charts linked below, the data are presented in several pages for each location:

  • By count of vehicles separated by type, by hour
  • By total capacity of vehicles, by hour
  • By total capacity across a four-hour peak period span

The most critical part of King Street where service quality and capacity are at issue is the section from Yonge Street west to Liberty Village.

For the AM peak, the capacity is measured eastbound at two locations, Bathurst Street and Jameson Avenue.

[Note: In these charts, the horizontal axis includes labels for every 13th entry based on what will physically fit. The exact days for each point are less important than the overall trend in the data.]

Items of note in these charts:

  • The effect of service reallocation to the central part of the route with the creation of 514 Cherry is evident from June 2016 onward. Cars that formerly operated over the full route were confined to the central portion between Cherry and Dufferin adding capacity there while removing it from the outer ends. However, the running time allocated was insufficient, and after schedule changes to correct this, the actual improvement in capacity on the central part of King was not as great as had been expected with the new configuration.
  • The capacity provided eastbound at Bathurst is only slightly better in 2016 than it was in December 2006 during the key hour from 8 to 9 am. Capacity is improved notably in the shoulder peak hour from 9 to 10 am.
  • Although bus trippers make up for the shortage of vehicles in the streetcar fleet, they do not proportionately replace capacity. The TTC’s characterization of these buses as being an “addition” to the streetcar service is misleading.

For the PM peak, the capacity is measured westbound at Yonge Street. In cases where service was diverted via Queen for construction, the measurement is at Queen and Yonge.

The PM peak period operates with wider headways (fewer vehicles per hour) and has some room for growth before hitting the practical lower bound of two minute headways (30 vehicles/hour) on a busy street in mixed traffic. Over the years, capacity has improved, although with ups and downs along the way. However, a good deal of the total capacity increase fell in the shoulder peak periods.

These charts show the capacity, based on design parameters that do not reflect packed cars, and it is likely that total loads are higher than shown here especially during the height of the peak periods. What these charts do not show, of course, is the latent demand for service that might appear if only there were room for passengers to board.

I have requested vehicle loading data from the TTC to determine how this can be incorporated with the service analysis to demonstrate how ridership and crowding interact with headways and overall capacity. The TTC has not yet replied to the request.

Bathurst Station Bids Goodbye to Honest Ed’s

Honest Ed’s bargain store has been on the southwest corner of Bloor & Bathurst Streets for as long as most people in Toronto can remember, and it shares my birthdate, 1948.

The site was sold by the Mirvish family a few years ago and will be redeveloped with a mix of commercial and residential buildings. The store closed on December 31, 2016.

As a marketing phenomenon, Honest Ed’s had a style all its own that was not the staid sort of thing one would see downtown at Eaton’s, and definitely not a few kilometres to the east near Bay and Bloor in what has come to be called the “Mink Mile”.

In honour of the long-standing role of the store near Bathurst Station, the TTC changed much of the signage to match the Honest Ed’s style, using Ed’s own sign painters to design the very un-TTC like update to an otherwise grey station from the mid-1960s era of the original Bloor-Danforth subway line.

For the benefit of those who didn’t get to the station, and for out of town readers, here is a gallery of Bathurst Station as it appeared on January 1, 2017.

And a Happy New Year to everyone!

[Note: There appears to be some problem between WordPress and Firefox in that the gallery below will not open properly if you are reading this article from the main URL. However, if you click on the article title so that this is the only article displayed, the gallery will work properly. This problem has been reported to WordPress.]


Calculating the Effect of Uneven Headways

Regular readers will be familiar with many analyses published here that review the behaviour of transit service on streetcar and bus routes. One of the more galling parts of a transit rider’s life is the uneven headways (the times between vehicles) for almost all services that make the anticipated wait longer than the advertised average in the schedule.

This article is an attempt to devise a measure of this problem that can be used to show the degree to which actual service deviates from the scheduled value in a way directly related to rider experience. Some of the material is a tad technical, but not overly so. Also, readers should note that this is a first cut, and suggestions for improvement are welcome.

Wait Times Versus Headways

In theory, service is scheduled to arrive at a stop every “N” minutes, like clockwork. Therefore, the average rider will wait half of this time for a vehicle to show up. If buses are supposed to arrive every 5 minutes, then the average wait is 2.5 minutes. But the situation is more subtle than this.

If riders arrive at the stop at a uniform rate, say one each minute, they will not all wait the same length of time. Someone who arrives in the first minute will wait almost the entire headway, 4.5 minutes on average, while someone who arrives within a minute of the bus will wait on average only 0.5 minutes. The five riders who arrived in the five minute headway will have varying wait times, but on average the value will be 2.5 minutes per rider, and a total of 12.5 for the group overall.

    Rider  Wait Time
      1       4.5
      2       3.5
      3       2.5
      4       1.5
      5       0.5
    Total    12.5

The total above is the sum of a simple arithmetic series, and because of the values chosen here, the formula for calculating the total is quite simple. It is the square of the headway in minutes divided by two.

    Total = (N * N) / 2

If the service is “well behaved” with consistent headways, this is just a complicated way of getting to the same result with the average wait being half a headway (5 minutes divided by 2 giving 2.5 minutes). However, when headways are not consistent, the square factor in that formula shows its effect.

Suppose that vehicles are supposed to arrive every 5 minutes, but in fact two vehicles arrive sometime within a 10 minute window on varying headways. These might both be 5 minutes, but they could also be 6 and 4, 7 and 3, etc. In this case, the wait times behave differently. The table below shows how the average wait time for the ten riders accumulating at a stop during a 10 minute period vary depending on the regularity, or not, of the headways.

    First     Wait    Second    Wait    Total    Average
    Headway   Time    Headway   Time     Time     Wait
      5'      12.5'     5'      12.5'    25.0'     2.5'
      6'      18.0'     4'       8.0'    26.0'     2.6'
      7'      24.5'     3'       4.5'    29.0'     2.9' 
      8'      32.0'     2'       2.0'    34.0'     3.4'
      9'      40.5'     1'       0.5'    41.0'     4.1'
     10'      50.0'     0'       0.0'    50.0'     5.0'

It is self-evident that if two buses arrive every 10 minutes, the average wait time is 5 minutes, but this table shows how the values rise for different levels of headway inconsistency in between.

The TTC considers that vehicles that are only slightly off schedule (one minute early or up to five minutes late) are “on time” for purposes of reporting service reliability. The problem with this scheme is that the leeway it allows is very broad for routes that operate frequent service. Indeed, if a bus is planned to come every 5 minutes, two could come every 10 and the service would still be “on time”.

There is also the problem that riders on such routes don’t care about the schedule because it really is meaningless. They only care about reliable service, and a six-minute swing of “on time” values is often wider than the scheduled headway. The result is a meaningless metric of “on time performance”.

For wider scheduled headways, that six minute swing does not represent, proportionately, as much of a potential change in average wait times. Consider pairs of buses on a 20 minute headway:

    First     Wait    Second    Wait    Total    Average
    Headway   Time    Headway   Time     Time     Wait
      20'     200.0'    20'     200.0'   400.0    10.00'
      21'     220.5'    19'     180.5'   401.0'   10.03'
      22'     242.0'    18'     162.0'   404.0'   10.10' 
      23'     264.5'    17'     144.5'   409.0'   10.25'
      24'     288.0'    16'     128.0'   416.0'   10.40'
      25'     312.5'    15'     112.5'   425.0'   10.63'

Although the headways are wider, the percentage in change relative to the scheduled value is smaller, and so both the total rider-wait time and the average wait time don’t shift as much as they do for more frequent service for the same latitude in headway adherence. To get the same effect, proportionately, as in the first example, the two buses would have to arrive together in a 40 minute gap.

Note that these values behave the same way regardless of the assumed arrival rate of passengers provided that this rate does not change. The total rider-wait times would be higher for an arrival rate above one per minute, but the average values would remain the same.

There is also a presumption here that for infrequent services, riders will arrive uniformly over the headway. Where the route is the origin for a trip, riders might be expected to time their trips to minimize waits, although this behaviour can be thrown off if service is not reliable, especially if it is often early. For riders arriving at a bus-to-bus connection or at a subway-to-bus transfer, they are unlikely to be able to fine-tune their trips to just catch a bus. (The exception would be a network with protected, timed transfers, but the TTC does not have any of these.)

Crowding Effects

These values also affect on-board crowding because a vehicle carrying a wider than scheduled headway will accumulate more passengers and will have longer stop service times. It will become later and later, and the vehicle behind will eventually catch up. As with “average” wait times, the “average” crowding level will not represent the actual situation experienced by the “average” rider. Just as more riders wait longer than the planned average when buses do not arrive regularly, more riders are on the more crowded vehicles.

The problem is further compounded because most riders try to get on the first vehicle that arrives lest the second one be short-turned and they are left in a big gap waiting to continue their journeys.

If one were to poll 100 riders distributed between two streetcars, they would not complain about crowding if they were equally distributed and all had a seat. However, if 80 of them were on the first car and only 20 on the second, the average perception of crowding would be that the service was overloaded and that it did not show up reliably.

This is a fundamental split between service as the TTC sees it (on average) and as riders see it (as an individual experience).

Measuring the Difference Between Actual and Scheduled Wait Times

In preparing this article, I have been wrestling with various ways to calculate and display these values in a useful way. There are pitfalls both in the methodology and in the charting of information. The examples below are only one way to present this information, and should not be read as definitive.

Here is the basic premise:

  • Within each hour of the day, vehicles pass by a location on a route, each of them on its own headway.
  • From the headway values, one can calculate the wait time for riders assuming an arrival rate of one/minute. The total of these times divided by 60 gives the average wait per rider over the hour period.
  • The count of vehicles within each hour is easily converted to an average scheduled wait time of one half the average headway.

These values are graphed for the 504 King route for Tuesday, November 1, 2016. A sample page is shown below and the full sets are linked as PDFs.




In these charts the solid lines represent the rider wait time in minutes/passenger while the dotted lines are the average that would have applied if all of the service had been evenly spaced over an hour. Each colour shows data for a different hour through the day, and the horizontal positions show various locations along the route. Note that the rider wait times are generally higher than the average times implied by the vehicles/hour.

There are several caveats about this presentation:

  • For the 6:00 am line (red on page 1 of each set), the first headway is assumed to occur from 6:00 am until the arrival of the first vehicle. This will generally understate the headway on which that vehicle is operating.
  • Depending on how badly disrupted the service is, the wait time contributed by the first vehicle passing in any hour may include time accumulated during the previous hour. This causes wait time to be mis-attributed, and it is possible for the rider wait time in the previous hour to be understated. For example, if one car passes a stop at 7:56 and the next one at 8:04, all of the rider wait time associated with the second vehicle will be included in the 8:00 data as will the vehicle in the total count. This effect is generally small enough that it balances out, but it can be more pronounced on wider headways where there are fewer vehicles to smooth out the data.
  • In some cases, a gradual increase in rider wait times is visible along the length of the route showing how service becomes progressively more bunched into pairs.
  • Major delays can result in a large increase in rider wait time because the long gap dominates the calculation, and following cars contribute almost nothing to this value. However, the number of cars/hour could still be at the scheduled level and the “average” wait times are not affected.

For reference, I have also included here the chart of overall service for the day.


There is a disruption of service westbound at Dufferin between 10:00 and 10:30 am. This causes headways west of this point to be bunched, and that bunching is reflected back on the eastward trip from Dundas West as a parade of cars makes its way across the city. Note that nothing was short-turned into the gap eastbound, and it was not until the next westbound trips after 11:00 that service began to be sorted out.

A delay eastbound at Queen & Roncesvalles just after 15:30 shows up as a spike in “3 pm” rider wait times at that location, but most of the gap passes points further east during the “4 pm” interval. This explains the behaviour of the plots for these two time periods.

As I wrote above, this is a first cut at attempting to measure what riders experience versus what the TTC will typically state as its quality of service.

A useful corollary to this would be to examine data from automatic passenger counters on the vehicles, but these have not yet been rolled out fleet wide. This would allow us to tie the service reliability values to crowding conditions on vehicles.

What will not show up, of course, is the number of passengers who simply never get on because they tire of waiting for a vehicle with room on it. At least with detailed counts, we would know how often “full vehicles” actually occur, and especially cases of lightly-loaded ones that are not pulling their weight because they are part of a parade. That is a task for a future round.

If I get any other ideas about how to present this information, I will update this article with additional examples.

TTC Presto Update December 2016 (Updated)

Updated January 5, 2017 at 7:00 pm: Information has been added about Presto sales within TTC subway stations. See the end of the article.

With a modest fanfare, both the TTC and Metrolinx celebrated the completion, if that’s the right word, of their planned 2016 roll out of the Presto fare card system. The work is not yet finished, and the full conversion away from existing “legacy” media is a year off. According to the TTC:

“Tickets, Tokens and passes will be available for sale and use throughout 2017. We will stop accepting these in 2018.” [Presentation, p 8]

Still to be worked out is the actual final date beyond which any tokens or tickets bought in 2017 can be used or redeemed. With the TTC Board committed to a fare freeze in 2018 (election year) the old media won’t expire on their own, and of course tokens are always good for “one fare”, whatever it may be.

At some point in 2017, the TTC will begin to offer Metropasses on Presto. This will include regular and monthly discount plan versions, but the fate of the bulk purchase “VIP” program is still uncertain. According to the TTC, the roll out of passes by Presto had been delayed awaiting capacity upgrades in the central system to handle the volume of transactions passes will bring. This was confirmed by Metrolinx who said:

“As with any major system expansion, related upgrades are scheduled to roll out gradually as we test and optimize our system for anticipated increases in future use. These upgrades are deliberate and measured, and they include improvements such as the migrating to our new data centre. The system has been built with enhanced scalability features that will accommodate Metropasses.” [email of Dec. 21, 2016]

For now, Metropass users should remain on the “legacy” cards until the same functions and pricing are available through Presto.

Riders wishing to purchase Presto cards have faced a challenge thanks to the limited number of TTC outlets selling them. This is about to change. Already Presto cards can be bought at many Gateway News outlets, and Metrolinx expects this to expand in 2017:

“We are pursuing plans to expand the PRESTO card distribution footprint through a partnership with a third-party retail network. This network would also enable us to increase our ability to set special concessions, such as student and senior discounts. We expect to have more information to share in the new year.”

An important part of the sales process is that riders who are entitled to concession fares will be able to buy cards with that option pre-loaded. However, there is a potential conflict with the TTC’s intended implementation of discount fares that could complicate this type of purchase and account setup.

For a few classes of rider, the TTC proposes that a “Photo ID” be available. This would not be a separate card as in the early days of the Metropass, but a photo integrated into the user’s Presto card and account. The exact mechanism for loading this photo have yet to be determined. Also, it is not yet certain that photos will be required for seniors because, unlike children and students, their eligibility never expires, and linking the card to the rider for fraud prevention is less of an issue. One side effect the TTC did not mention is that a return to photo ID makes the card non-transferable, and this would produce limitations on its use that do not exist with current media.

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Mayor Tory Discovers We Don’t Have Enough Transit Service

Budget season brings some of the more extreme and ill-informed statements from the Poo-Bahs who govern our fair city. For the benefit of those unfamiliar with the Gilbert & Sullivan operatta “The Mikado”, the Oxford Dictionary defines the name/term thus:

A person having much influence or holding many offices at the same time, especially one perceived as pompously self-important.

Throughout the development of the TTC Operating Budget, a central question has been that of projected ridership and the service it will require. The accept wisdom goes roughly like this:

  • We expected lots and lots of new riders in 2016, but we aimed rather high, a “stretch target” as CEO Andy Byford described it.
  • They didn’t all show up. This led to a shortfall both in ridership and in revenue compared to the original 2016 budget.
  • Service improvements were planned for fall 2016 based on the target numbers, but as there are fewer riders, the improvements were not required.
  • Ridership for 2017 is projected to be only barely above 2016 levels, and the service operating in fall 2016 is adequate to handle the demand.
  • There is no provision in the 2017 budget for service increases beyond the full-year effect of changes made partway through 2016.

All of this is quite plausible, but it runs headlong into conflicts with other factors. The most recent of these is a letter from Mayor Tory and TTC Chair Josh Colle to Bombardier complaining about the late delivery of streetcars.

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The Evolution of the TTC 2017 Budget (Updated)

Updated December 16, 2016:  A reconciliation of the City and TTC versions of the budget has been added at the end of the article.

Following numbers in the development of budgets can be like a game of Three Card Monte on a grand scale. Information is presented in various ways, at times in ways that obscure understanding, and at others where the path from “version a” to “b” is missing a crucial step. This article is an attempt to reconcile what has been presented to date. As and when further revisions occur, I will add updates here.

The Process

TTC management begin work on the following year’s operating budget midway through the calendar year. At that point, the actual results that will come out by year-end are unknown, and only some trends may be apparent. The starting point is the current budget which may or may not reflect the actuals by year end, but they have to start somewhere.

Budgets in Toronto are typically presented in terms of year-over-year “pressures” so that, for example, if there is a known increase in costs such as fuel or electricity, this translates to an amount by which this budget line will increase. Basic cost changes can be compounded if there is a substantial change in TTC operations such as the expansion of bus service or the opening of a new subway line. This is a fundamental issue in transit budgets – they must absorb not only changes in costs related to inflation, market rates, and labour contracts, but also the change in scale of operations. Typically the gross cost of the system goes up greater than the rate of inflation, although this can be offset by cost reductions and that favourite target of budget hawks, “efficiencies”.

The TTC’s Budget Committee was supposed to meet in June, but this was cancelled and a chance to get an early look at the 2017 situation was, therefore, lost by the Board (at least to the extent of any public discussion). In September, there were two separate meetings for the Capital and Operating budgets respectively. Finally in late November, the Board approved its Preliminary Budget for 2017. This went into the City’s budget process, and further refinements proposed by the City Manager await actions by the City Budget Committee on December 19, followed by Council in the new year. The TTC Board will then have to deal with the difference, if any, between the requested subsidy and what they actually will receive from Council.

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