Data obtained from the TTC show that 43 of roughly 155 bus and streetcar routes exceed the transit agency’s crowding standards at some point during each week. That’s more than a quarter of all surface routes.
The crowding targets set by the TTC fluctuate depending on the time of day, day of the week and type of vehicle. Because the targets are lower on weekends and outside of rush hour, vehicles that exceed them aren’t necessarily packed to the roof.
But the numbers do provide a measure of the extent to which the TTC is providing enough service to meet its own standards.
“While we would obviously prefer our customers are not on crowded vehicles, we have to balance the availability of resources like vehicles and operators with delivering service to the entire city,” said Stuart Green, a TTC spokesperson.
“We regularly conduct reviews of ridership to assess needs across all routes. If there is a route that needs some additional service, we will try to balance that against a route that may have capacity to spare.”
According to the statistics, which are based on counts the TTC did in the spring and fall of this year, nine out of the transit agency’s 11 streetcar routes regularly exceed crowding standards, while the remaining 34 routes are bus lines.
Thirteen bus and streetcar routes are overcrowded during either morning or afternoon rush hour, and 28 exceed the standards at some point during a weekday. The remaining 15 routes are over target on weekends only.
Topping the list of the most overloaded weekday routes is the 504 King streetcar, where on average vehicles carry 126 per cent of the crowding standard at their busiest point during morning rush hour. Close behind are vehicles on the 505 Dundas streetcar line, which carry an average of 118 per cent of the standard during midday, and those on the 95 York Mills bus, which carry 117 per cent, also during midday.
According to reports from TTC staff, the crowding standards are designed to ensure passenger comfort, allow movement to and from vehicle doors and accommodate “surge loading.” The agency’s goal is to supply enough service to ensure they’re not exceeded.
According to Green, for regular 12-metre buses, the standard is between 50 and 53 passengers during rush hour. For larger bendy buses, the number is 77 during peak periods.
The standard on older regular and bendy streetcars is 74 and 108 passengers during peak periods respectively, and 130 on the TTC’s new streetcars.
Crowding on the TTC persists even though transit ridership is beginning to level off after more than a decade of continuous growth.
The agency budgeted for 553 million riders this year but now expects to fall short by as much as 13 million. If so, the agency will barely exceed the 538 million riders it carried last year.
Earlier this year the TTC cancelled $1.5 million in planned service increases slated for the fall because the agency said that lower-than-expected demand made them unnecessary.
Councillor Joe Mihevc, who sits on the TTC board, said the agency is “falling down” on its commitment to provide enough service to meet demand. He argued that the city has the resources to offer better transit service, but lacks the political will to fund it.
“This would be what is called a fiscally-driven service plan, rather than a service-driven service plan,” said Mihevc (Ward 21, St. Paul’s).
“This is not a healthy direction for the TTC. We need to be finding ways, frankly, to be easing crowding.”
The TTC is facing a substantial funding shortfall next year — the Presto fare card program, labour costs, the opening of the Spadina subway extension, slumping ridership and other expenditures are expected to add more than $200 million to the transit agency’s 2017 operating budget.
Meanwhile, city council and Mayor John Tory have requested that all city departments find ways to reduce their net operating costs by 2.6 per cent.
According to a budget report released Thursday, the TTC has managed to cut its shortfall to $61 million, but even with a proposed 10-cent fare hike in 2017, the transit agency is still not close to meeting the 2.6 per cent target.
Shaun Cleaver, campaigns committee member for the TTCRiders advocacy group, predicted that crowding “will only get worse with the tax-cutting focus of Mayor Tory and council.”
Tory, who supported $95 million in service improvements for the TTC last year, has vowed not to let service suffer even as he attempts to rein in the transit agency’s budget.
“The city’s investment in the TTC has increased every year under the leadership of the mayor and (TTC Chair Josh Colle),” said the mayor’s spokesperson in an emailed statement. “Transit is too important to this city, and that growing investment will continue.”
Author: Ben Spurr