TTC responds to coronavirus with historic service cuts

Effective May 10, the TTC will make cuts across its system at a level that has no precedent.

Much of the service Toronto now has will remain in place, but trains, streetcars and buses will not show up as often.

Overall, the cuts, announced this week in the aftermath of layoffs of some 1,200 staff on April 23, amount to a 16 per cent reduction in the total weekly hours of service.

However, the effect will not be felt equally across the system. The lion’s share of changes will take place during peak periods reflecting the fact that a “peak” no longer exists on many routes. There are fewer cuts on weekdays outside of the peak, and almost none on weekends. The Blue Night Network remains unchanged.

With most of Toronto staying home and avoiding crowds since a state of emergency was declared to arrest the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, demand on transit has fallen to less than a fifth of its normal level. Even so, the need to stay distant from each other has meant the need for more space on transit vehicles. Balancing the requirement for service with budget realities is a big challenge.

In many cases, the TTC has adjusted scheduled travel times to reflect the absence of congestion allowing fewer vehicles to provide service than would normally be required. Some details are not yet available (they’ll be released by May 10), although the affected routes and time periods have been published.

Subway service line by line

Weekday daytime service on lines 1 and 2 (Yonge-University and Bloor-Danforth) will operate at off-peak levels resulting in a one-third drop in trains per hour during peak periods. There is no change in service in the evening on line 1, but line 2 will see less frequent service. No change is planned on Scarborough Rapid Transit line 3 or Sheppard line 4. Weekend service remains at current levels.

Streetcar changes ins and outs

Many details of service changes on streetcar routes have not been published, although changes in the peaks can be inferred from the number of vehicles in service. This will drop by about 20 per cent in peak periods, and a planned reduction in streetcar hours implies a similar level of cuts during off-peak hours.

What we know:

• 501 Queen will operate as a single route from Neville to Long Branch every 10 minutes all day. This is equivalent to a one-third cut in peak service.

• 503 Kingston Road has been operating as a shuttle in The Beach for a few weeks. It will be replaced by the 22A Coxwell bus which usually serves this area on evenings and weekends.

• All peak period trippers including 508 Lake Shore streetcars and bus trippers on 501 Queen, 505 Dundas and 506 Carlton have been dropped from the schedules.

• Peak service cuts range from just under 10 per cent on 504 King and 505 Dundas to 40 per cent on 512 St. Clair based on the number of assigned vehicles.

• A small number of spare cars will be available to add to scheduled service as needed.

Not-so-magic bus service

TTC bus routes will see a 20 per cent drop in peak service vehicles, but only a 10 per cent cut in vehicle hours.

Many existing and planned services are suspended. Some of these changes are already in place in response to reduced demand and the availability of drivers. These include:

• All peak period tripper services (typically to handle surge loads at schools)

• All 900-series express bus routes except 900 Airport and 927 Highway 27

• All 140-series downtown premium express bus routes

• Seasonal route extensions and service improvements to the Zoo and various parks

• The 176 Mimico GO shuttle bus

Many routes with a suspended express service will see no change to local service, or in a few cases slight improvements. However, the removal of the express buses is a real cut on the 23 affected routes. (More details below).

In addition to the scheduled service, there will be a large pool of buses to be deployed as needed from garages around the city. There will be more than 100 of these during the peak periods, and they will allow the TTC to react to mismatches between the new schedules and actual demand.

A common change on many routes is the removal of one peak period bus. The effect varies depending on the route’s length where one bus can represent less than a 10 per cent reduction, or as much as half of the service. Some of these changes would occur under normal circumstances as a summer cutback, but some are deeper than usual.

Weekday service changes will affect much of the system, but many routes have no planned changes. In some cases, that’s because the routes have little service on them now and no cutback is possible except suspension. In other cases, demand justifies retaining service at current levels.

Where do we go from here?

The TTC is banking on some return of demand by September, although schedules for that period will have to be planned before there is a good sense of travel demand for the fall. Further out, Toronto will face the problem of a rise in commuting and school trips when people will still be reticent to travel in close quarters.

This is not just a case of restoring the lost service, but of finding a social agreement that doing things together is actually possible and safe. Some users will shift to other modes including cars, cycling and that shortest of trips – work at home. But our city, our world is built around people gathering for work, school, entertainment and, yes, travel. There is a long road before transit can return to normal.


Bus routes with no service cuts

Central: 8 Broadview, 28 Bayview South, 30 High Park, 31 Greenwood, 33 Forest Hill, 34 Eglinton East, 47 Lansdowne, 70 O’Connor, 82 Rosedale, 91 Woodbine, 92 Woodbine South, 93 Parkview Hills, 103 Mt. Pleasant North, 121 Fort York-Esplanade, 126 Christie, 135 Gerrard, 511/307 Bathurst (to be changed in June), 189 Stockyards

East: 17 Birchmount, 21 Brimley, 69 Warden South, 113 Danforth, 130 Middlefield, 131 Nugget, 132 Milner, 133 Nielson, 167 Pharmacy North, 169 Huntingwood

North: 59 Maple Leaf, 78 St. Andrews, 97 Yonge, 99 Arrow Road, 109 Ranee, 115 Silver Hills, 119 Torbarrie, 162 Lawrence-Donway, 165 Weston Road North, 171 Mount Dennis

West: 46 Martin Grove, 73 Royal York, 80 Queensway

Bus routes with unchanged local service, but no express service

39 Finch East, 41 Keele, 53 Steeles East, 54 Lawrence East, 84 Sheppard West, 85 Sheppard East, 95 York Mills, 96 Wilson, 102 Markham Road, 134 Progress

Bus routes with weekend service reductions

6 Bay, 26 Dupont, 29 Dufferin, 32 Eglinton West, 50 Burnhamthorpe, 76 Royal York South, 94 Wellesley, 111 East Mall, 161 Rogers Road (Saturdays), 168 Symington (Saturdays), 900 Airport Express.

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