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How the TTC Plans Service (exerpt from 1999 Service Plan)

For those who wondered what made the TTC place buses on one street and not another, here's a description of what the TTC is thinking. The first section of every TTC's service plan describes the process followed in evaluating route suggestiosn. As these sections don't change significantly from year to year, the section from the 1999 Service Plan is shown here.

Planning transit service

The TTC has two major objectives in planning its transit services:

  • To maximize mobility within the City of Toronto by ensuring that public transit is provided in the right places, at the right times, to satisfy the changing travel needs within the community.
  • To ensure that all transit services operated by the TTC are as efficient and cost-effective as possible and, therefore, affordable to both TTC customers and taxpayers.

In order to fulfill these objectives, the TTC undertakes a range of transit planning activities which are governed by the TTC's service standards. The service standards guide a systematic and objective means of planning, monitoring, adjusting, and evaluating transit services throughout Toronto. The standards provide a mechanism for measuring the tradeoffs between the benefits achieved by providing more service in one location, the inconvenience caused by removing it from another, and the costs of providing those services. The flowchart on this page illustrates the steps in the process.

The sections which follow outline how the service quality and financial performance of routes which are already operating are monitored, and how proposals for new services and service changes are evaluated.

Monitoring and adjusting present services

There are four components to the TTC's ongoing monitoring and adjustment of transit services.

The first, the ridership monitoring and service adjustment programme, has as its primary objective the continuing adjustment of transit service levels and hours of operation to match changing customer needs. Under this programme, ridership counts, customer communications, and observations by operating staff are reviewed and analyzed. When passenger counts show that services are overcrowded, the service is made more frequent, to increase the passenger-carrying capacity. Service increases are guided by the vehicle loading standards described below. Adjustments can also be made to the start and finish times of the service, and to the scheduled trip times. These changes are made throughout the year, about once a month, subject to the availability of operating resources in the budget.

A second component of service monitoring and adjustment is the review of suggestions and complaints from customers. This source of input provides additional information for adjusting service with respect to the intervals between vehicles, the start and finish times, and other service details.

The third component is the route efficiency review programme. Under this programme, the operation and efficiency of each route are reviewed for each branch of the route, and during each period of operation, at a fine level of detail, including the productivity of individual trips and a financial evaluation of the first and last trips. After reviewing detailed ridership data, running time and operating information, and customer communications, TTC staff recommend adjustments to service in order to improve efficiency. In each year, over half of the TTC's system is reviewed at this level of detail.

The fourth component is the surface transit enhancement programme (STEP). This is an ongoing service review forum, held at each operating division, in which drivers, route supervisors, schedule writers, and transit planners share their views on how the operation of TTC services may be improved. The recommendations are largely based on the real-life, day-to-day observations of operating staff and the input they receive from customers. Service improvements developed through this programme are also made on a monthly basis.

Appendix A lists the most significant of the many service changes that were made between the summer of 1997 and the summer of 1998.

Service quality standards

The frequency of service on any TTC route is determined by customers' travel needs, according to the TTC's standards of service quality. The service standards give minimum service levels and maximum acceptable levels of crowding on buses and streetcars.

Minimum levels of service are set to ensure that a reasonable, attractive level of transit service is available on all routes. Service levels below these limits are generally unacceptable from the customers' perspective, and are not attractive enough to develop a consistent base of ridership. The basic minimum level of service for bus and streetcar routes is a 30-minute service. Service will operate more frequently than this if it would be overcrowded, based on the vehicle loading standards described later in this section. A 60-minute service will be operated if the ridership levels will not support a 30-minute service. On rapid transit lines, the minimum service level is a 6-minute service.

The frequency of service is adjusted above the minimum, as required, to meet the changing needs of customers. The TTC's vehicle loading standards define the upper acceptable limit of crowding, for each type of vehicle at different times of the day. The vehicle loading standards are used in the route monitoring and service adjustment process described earlier, and services which are overcrowded will have service increases made at the next possible opportunity.

The standards listed below are compared to the average number of customers that have been observed on each vehicle during the busiest 60-minute period. Within that hour, some individual trips may carry more customers than the vehicle loading standard, but no trips will be scheduled to regularly carry more customers than can be safely and comfortably accommodated.

Peak periods

 Vehicle type 

 Customers 

Standard (40-foot) high-floor bus

60

Standard (40-foot) low-floor bus

To be determined *

Articulated (60-foot) high-floor bus

85

Standard streetcar (CLRV)

75

Articulated streetcar (ALRV)

110

Off-peak times

 Vehicle type 

 Customers 

Standard (40-foot) high-floor bus

40/50 **

Standard (40-foot) low-floor bus

To be determined *

Articulated (60-foot) high-floor bus

60/75 **

Standard streetcar (CLRV)

45/60 **

Articulated streetcar (ALRV)

60/75 **

* - The standards for low-floor buses will be set based on the current trials of the TTC's low-floor buses

** - The higher standard is used when service is more frequent than once every 10 minutes

Evaluation of service changes

Changes to TTC services are made regularly and frequently, to meet the changing transit requirements in the city. Small changes, developed through the continuous monitoring of services, are introduced in the monthly schedule changes.

Changes which are more substantial, either affecting the travel options of current TTC customers, or requiring additional resources for operation, undergo a more rigorous review and are examined on an annual cycle. Included in this category are requests and proposals for new routes or route extensions, new express services, additional periods of service on present routes (e.g., new weekend service), and major changes to the structure of routes in a community.

Proposals for major changes are first reviewed for conformity with the TTC's basic route and system design guidelines, part of the service standards. The design guidelines stipulate, for example, that new transit services will be provided only if they would serve people beyond 300 metres of a service which is already in place (200 metres where there is a higher-than-average proportion of seniors), that surface routes should be designed to maximise interconnection with rapid transit stations, and that any service change must result in an overall benefit for customers (measured by calculating the change in weighted travel time, as described in the following section). Any proposed service change which would contravene these guidelines is usually not considered eligible for operation.

Comparison of effects on customers

One of the design guidelines for service changes is that they must result in an overall benefit to customers. The net benefit is measured by estimating the net change in weighted travel time for customers.

Each of the four components of a trip - walking to the stop, waiting for the bus or streetcar to arrive, riding in the vehicle, and transferring from one vehicle to another - is weighted differently, according to how each is perceived by customers and how it affects customers' travel decisions.

Research indicates that the time spent travelling in the bus, streetcar, or subway train is the least onerous part of making a trip, because the customer is travelling on his or her way to the destination. But the other components can be regarded as obstacles or delays of differing magnitude to getting to the customer's destination. For example, one minute of walking time can be more inconvenient than one minute of waiting time. The customer is, therefore, placing a different importance on each component of the transit trip. Therefore, weights that estimate customers' perceptions of importance are used in the evaluation process for proposed changes to transit service.

The weights that are applied to each component of a trip were developed from research based on surveys of travel behaviour. With the use of these weights, it is possible to predict customers' travel patterns.

 Trip component 

 Weight 

Each minute of in-vehicle travelling time

 1.0

Each minute of waiting time

 1.5

Each minute of walking time

 2.5

Each transfer

 10.0

These weights imply, then, that one minute of walking time is equivalent to 2.5 minutes of in-vehicle travelling time, that one minute of waiting time is equivalent to 1.5 minutes of in-vehicle travel time, and that one transfer is equivalent to 10 minutes of in-vehicle travel time. Using the transfer weight as an example, customers have been observed to ride up to 10 minutes longer in a bus to avoid making a transfer.

To make recommendations on proposed service changes, the change in weighted travel time is calculated for each group of customers who are affected by a change, both those for whom the change will improve their service and those for whom the change will improve their service and those for whom the change will cause an inconvenience. The change in time of each component is multiplied by the number of customers affected by the change and by the weight of the component. The numbers for all the groups are then added, to arrive at a change in weighted travel time.

Proposals which have an overall benefit for customers are those with a net reduction in weighted travel time. These beneficial proposals will also, over time, attract increased numbers of customers to the TTC's transit services.

Funding of new services

The cost of operating the TTC is paid almost entirely by the fare revenue that is collected from customers. In 1998, fares are expected to cover over 80 percent of the operating costs. The remainder of the cost of operations is paid by the City of Toronto.

The cost of operating a particular transit service is usually higher than the fare revenue that is collected from customers on that route. The remaining cost is funded partly from fare revenue on other TTC services and partly by the City of Toronto.

The cost to provide a new service must be covered through a combination of four ways - from fare revenue on the new service, by increasing fares, from increased funding from the City of Toronto, or by removing another service.

The first option, for additional fare revenue to pay for the operating costs, is not possible in most cases. The TTC routes which bring in the most revenue from customers are generally busy routes in the central part of the city, while the places and times that new services are being considered are those which are newly developing or which have historically had low transit ridership.

The second and third options, the raising of fares or increased funding from the City of Toronto, are closely-related. They are considered each year as the TTC's budget is developed, but are not practical ways of making decisions about particular services changes.

Once the budget has been established for a year, only the fourth option, to pay for new services by removing other services, is available. This requires a tradeoff to be made between making transit more attractive for some people and making transit less attractive for others.

The TTC's financial standard is that a service change will be made only if it improves the financial situation of the TTC. This means that, if the cost of operating the new service is paid for by removing another service, the number of customers who would start using the TTC because of the introduction of the new service must be greater than the number of customers who would stop using the TTC because of the removal of the other service.

The TTC's service planning process includes measure and comparisons of financial performance and financial feasibility to ensure that decisions can properly be made in the TTC's and customers best interests. The financial performance measure and the financial review of present services are described in the next section.

Financial standards and comparisons

The TTC's financial standard has been established to ensure that a service change will be made only if it improves the financial situation of the TTC.

The financial standard allows business decisions to be made as to whether a service should be kept, modified, or removed. The TTC has limited resources available, and can pay for new services only by increasing fares or by reducing other services.

The introduction of a new service will lead to increased ridership, but with a higher cost. The financial performance of the new service can be measured as the number of customers gained per dollar spent. A similar measure can be used to evaluate fare increases (custoemrs lost per dollar gained) and service reductions (customers lost per dollar saved). Using the same measure for evaluating options in all three situations allows staff to consistently recommend changes which will increase the TTC's overall ridership and improve the financial performance of the system.

Research on customers' behaviour has shown that the ridership effects of the three options - adding service, eliminating service, or raising fares - balance at 0.23 customers gained or lost per dollar spent or saved. This figure is updated every year, based on the most current information about costs and customers' travel characteristics. Overall, ridership on the TTC will always increase if services above that level are added, and services below that level are removed to pay for them.

The TTC's financial standard is applied this way: New services will not be introduced if the number of customers gained per dollar spent is below 0.23. Services which are on trial will be eliminated if the number of customers gained per dollar spent was below 0.23. Other services which are already being operated will be modified to reduce their costs or to increase fare revenue if the number of customers gained per dollar spent is below 0.23. If no suitable changes can be found for routes on which the number of customers gained per dollar spent is under 0.23, and if service reductions are required, either because of declining ridership or reductions in funding, then these services would be recommended for removal.

All TTC services undergo a continuing examination of their financial performance and efficiency. The first component of this review is the route efficiency review programme. This, as described earlier, includes a financial evaluation of individual trips and the branch structure of the route. The second component is a calculation of the financial performance of every route, at every time of the week that it runs. Routes with a financial performance below the minimum of 0.23 customers gained per dollar spent are examined in detail once every year. Minor service changes, such as a reduction in frequency or the removal of some trips, will be made at the next monthly schedule change. Major service changes, such as a change in route or the removal of service at certain times of the day, may be recommended to the Commission. This year's review of the routes with poor financial performance is described in Section 3 of this report.

If service cuts were to be required because of reductions in funding or because of declines in ridership, the services with the poorest financial performance would be the ones selected to be removed. This would ensure that the service cuts would result in the least possible decline in ridership and thus the least possible loss of fare revenue. This is the same approach as was used when service cuts were required in February 1996 after funding cuts from the municipal and provincial governments.

This systematic approach of measuring financial performance, comparing community benefits, and matching supply and demand ensures that, if services must be reduced to reallocate resources or to meet budgetary requirements, the reductions will be made where the removal of service would have the least detrimental effect on customers' travel needs and the TTC's financial situation.

Consultation

Minor service changes, such as changes to the interval between vehicles on a route, or to the start and finish times of a service, are made on a routine basis as part of the TTC's mandate to continually adjust the supply of service to match our customers' needs and to improve the operating efficiency and financial performance of the system. One of the sources of information used for service monitoring is comments from customers, and minor service changes are made to be consistent with the needs of customers, as expressed in letters or telephone calls to the TTC.

Major service changes, such as the introduction of new routes or the reorganization of a network of routes in a community, are developed in preparing the annual service plan, and are the subject of a process of consolation. Changes are often recommended in response to a formal proposal made by a city councillor on behalf of a group of customers or residents.

When a recommendation is brought forward to the Commission, a consultation period of at least ten weeks begins, during which the TTC solicits comments from city councillors who represent areas that would be affected by the service change. During the consultation period, the city and councillors may undertake a process of public consultation. TTC staff are available to attend meetings and to provide information and assistance regarding any proposed service changes.

At the end of the consultation period, TTC staff review the comments received from the councillors. If no suggestions are made to change a proposal, then Commission approval of the proposal is confirmed and the service change is scheduled to begin at the earliest practical date. If, however, changes are suggested by the councillors, TTC staff review these suggestions and incorporate those which will result in an improved service or greater net benefit for customers. The revised proposals are then brought back to the Commission for approval and subsequent introduction. Customers or others may make a deputation before the Commission at this time if they disagree with the staff recommendations.

Post-implementation reviews

Every new service that the TTC introduces is initially operated for a trial period of at least six months, during which the service is promoted, and a consistent ridership level becomes established. After six months, passenger counts are taken, the performance of the route is reviewed, and a recommendation is made regarding its future. Service changes are reviewed to ensure that the original objective of better service for customers has been met. New routes, extensions, and additional periods of service, which have been introduced at an additional cost, undergo a financial review to check that the service meets the TTC's financial standard. The review also considers comments that have been received from customers and the experience that has been gained in operating the service.

A service change which has met its performance objectives is recommended to be made a regular part of the TTC system. If a service change has been unsuccessful in some way, then a recommendation is made to either make further changes or to remove the service.

The compulsory post-implementation review of every trial of a service change ensures that the success or failure of every service change is assessed consistently and fairly, and that there is full accountability to the Commission on matters which affect the service that is provided to customers.