Quar­ter of sur­face routes over­crowded

TTC says fleet stretched thin due to de­liv­ery de­lays of Bom­bardier street­cars


Fifty of the TTC’s bus and street­car routes ex­ceed crowd­ing stan­dards at some point dur­ing the week, and the tran­sit agency says a lack of avail­able ve­hi­cles is at the root of the prob­lem.

Rider counts col­lected in the spring and fall of this year and pro­vided to the Star by the TTC show roughly one quar­ter of the agency’s sur­face routes reg­u­larly breached their crowd­ing tar­gets.

The 50 over­ca­pac­ity routes rep­re­sent a slight in­crease from the 43 that ex­ceeded the stan­dards in 2016.

TTC spokesper­son Stu­art Green said in most cases of over­crowd­ing, “the av­er­age num­ber of pas­sen­gers per ve­hi­cle is only slightly in ex­cess of our crowd­ing stan­dards,” and in some in­stances the counts are over by just “one or two peo­ple.”

He said the agency makes more than 100 ser­vice ad­just­ments each year to re­spond to de­mand, but ser­vice is con­strained by the “avail­abil­ity of re­sources” such as op­er­a­tors and ve­hi­cles.

Ac­cord­ing to the tran­sit agency, its fleet has been stretched thin largely as a re­sult of de­lays to the de­liv­ery of its new, larger Bom­bardier street­cars. As its older street­cars are scrapped, the TTC has been forced to de­ploy buses onto street­car routes.

Agency lead­ers hope the com­ple­tion of the Bom­bardier or­der, as well as large pur­chases of new buses that are in the works, will help ad­dress the crowd­ing is­sues.

“Any sug­ges­tion that we are not tak­ing steps to al­le­vi­ate crowd­ing . . . is wholly in­ac­cu­rate,” TTC CEO Andy By­ford wrote in an email.

The TTC’s crowd­ing stan­dards vary depend­ing on the ve­hi­cle type, time of day and whether it’s a week­end or week­day. The bench­marks are typ­i­cally higher for busy pe­ri­ods such as rush hour, and lower dur­ing less busy times such as Sun­day af­ter­noon.

If a route ex­ceeds the stan­dard, that doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily mean ve­hi­cles are burst­ing at the seams. But it’s the TTC’s stated goal to put enough ve­hi­cles on the street to meet the tar­gets. The ex­tent to which the crowd­ing stan­dards are ex­ceeded re­veals how much the agency is fall­ing short of its own ser­vice goals.

Ac­cord­ing to the crowd­ing counts, 13 bus and street­car routes were over­crowded dur­ing ei­ther the morn­ing or af­ter­noon rush, and 30 routes were over the stan­dard at some point dur­ing the week­day. The re­main­der ex­ceeded tar­gets only dur­ing week­ends.

The over­crowded rush-hour routes were: the 11 Bayview, 23 Dawes, 24 Vic­to­ria Park, 42 Cum­mer, 43 Kennedy, 46 Martin Grove, 88 South Lea­side, 113 Dan­forth, 122 Gray­don Hall, 185 Don Mills Rocket and 199 Finch Rocket buses, as well as the 504 King and 505 Dun­das street­cars.

The worst rush-hour route was the 505 Dun­das street­car, which on av­er­age car­ried 122 per cent of the stan­dard dur­ing the af­ter­noon rush.

Two routes were tied for ex­ceed­ing the stan­dards by the high­est percentage at any time of the week. The 504 King street­car, which is the TTC’s busiest sur­face route, car­ried an av­er­age of 123 per cent of the tar­get dur­ing Satur­day evening. The much less busy 129 McCowan North bus was over the stan­dard by the same percentage dur­ing Satur­day morn­ing.

Tran­sit ex­pert Steve Munro said many rid­ers may ex­pe­ri­ence crowd­ing that’s worse than the TTC’s num­bers sug­gest, be­cause the counts are av­er­ages. When ve­hi­cles run close to­gether or “bunch,” the ones at the front of the group can be­come ex­tremely crowded while the ones that fol­low can re­main half empty.

“Most rid­ers of course are on the packed ve­hi­cle, so the per­ceived level . . . of crowd­ing can be worse than the ac­tual level of crowd­ing be­cause of ir­reg­u­lar­ity in ser­vice,” he said.

Munro ar­gued that although it’s true ve­hi­cle short­ages can make it dif­fi­cult for the TTC to put suf­fi­cient ser­vice on the street dur­ing the busiest times of the week, “in the off-peak pe­riod there is no ex­cuse for not hav­ing enough ser­vice, other than you sim­ply don’t want to run it.”

Green pointed out over­crowd­ing oc­curs dur­ing only a frac­tion of ser­vice hours. Each sur­face route can have as many as 15 sep­a­rate “op­er­at­ing pe­ri­ods” dur­ing the week, each one with its own de­fined ser­vice level. The agency has about 200 bus and street­car routes, some of which only op­er­ate dur­ing cer­tain times, which means the TTC runs roughly 1,900 sep­a­rate op­er­at­ing pe­ri­ods per week.

Cal­cu­lated this way, the 50 routes that were over ca­pac­ity this year ex­ceeded the tar­gets dur­ing 94 op­er­at­ing pe­ri­ods, or about 5 per cent of the 1,900 weekly to­tal.

Last year there were 99 over­crowded op­er­at­ing pe­ri­ods. Over­crowd­ing on TTC buses and street­cars re­mains steady de­spite coun­cil in­creas­ing the sub­sidy the city gives to the agency by more than 10 per cent this year, to $546.8 mil­lion.

Fares also in­creased 10 cents at the start of 2017.

At the same time, the TTC isn’t grap­pling with un­fore­seen de­mand. Rid­er­ship growth has be­gun to stag­nate, with the agency ex­pect­ing about 538 mil­lion cus­tomers this year, the same amount as in 2016.


TTC spokesper­son Stu­art Green said the agency makes nu­mer­ous ad­just­ments each year in re­sponse to de­mand.

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