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12 Comments

cityscape

A Longer Walk to the Bus

20110126ttccuts.png
Earlier this month, the TTC announced two main strategies to meet Mayor Rob Ford’s budget targets. The first, a ten-cent fare hike, was hastily averted with last-minute creative accounting. The second proposal, to cut back on routes in periods of lower ridership, remains on the table after being deferred to February’s Commission meeting. The public meetings to discuss the route changes are ongoing this week, and it is still unclear what will be forwarded for consideration on February 2.
It is without question that a cash-strapped transit system should ensure that its services are being sufficiently utilized to maintain financial standards. However, in service periods such as the late evening, a greater emphasis should be placed on guaranteeing a basic level of access to mobility for all residents. The TTC’s current financial standards translate to provision of transit for a minimum of roughly twelve to fifteen passengers per hour. However, there is no specific service standard to ensure transit service is available during regular hours.The Ridership Growth Strategy [PDF] expanded service to match subway service hours on numerous routes—many of the which are now on the chopping block—but this was not enshrined as a service standard.
Plotting the proposed route cuts geographically is one way to assess their potential impact. The above map shows TTC bus routes that will continue to run during the late-evening period, with the routes and sections that are proposed to be cut in grey. The buffers represent a 450-metre distance from the route (an approximately five-minute walk). Based on this analysis, it is clear that the majority of the cutbacks will not significantly impact most of Toronto—there will be alternative routes and it will be a matter of changing travel patterns. The main concern lies in the dark hatched areas, which show where existing late-evening service will be lost completely.
Given the basic mobility needs the TTC fulfills, should it be a right for all Torontonians to be within walking distance of a bus route during regular service hours? It is possible that a compromise to the proposed service cuts can be made if we enshrine that right and only make cuts where there are alternative services within walking distance. This already exists through the Blue Night network, where there is a service guarantee of a fifteen-minute or less walk to an overnight route. Given this precedent, perhaps the customer service–minded administration will consider such a provision to maintain service for their customers.

Comments

  • http://twitter.com/cloudj Jeffrey McMurtrie

    The thing is.. of the routes on the map, not all of them operate with close enough frequencies or with enough reliability. The map paints a picture of all routes being equal, when we all know that's not the case. Further, by using buffers, the geometry of streets aren't being taken into account for the walking distances.

  • John Duncan

    Jeffrey's hit it bang on.

    While buffering the transit lines is much faster than a proper network analysis, it's also completely inaccurate. To provide a 450m walking distance you have to analyse path distances from the actual stops. The method you've chosen greatly exaggerates the coverage of the transit network, especially in the suburbs where a lot of the axed routes are located.

    Not taking into account service frequency compounds this error; waiting >30 minutes on a cold winter night for a single bus is not the same thing as having multiple bus routes with <10 minute frequency. It also ignores actual travel patterns (which is a very hard problem to solve); people may still be able to walk to a bus route, but will that bus go anywhere near their destination? Will they need to add multiple transfers and more than an hour to their trip?

    Strangely, you also seem to have completely missed the 101 Downsview bus, the cutting of which is the drawing the loudest complaints.

  • http://paul.kishimoto.name Paul Kishimoto

    Indeed, there's actually body of academic literature devoted on how one can make inferences about the travel patterns of individuals, given lower-resolution information.

    E.g. http://hdl.handle.net/1721.1/3…, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S019

    So—possible, but not at all simple. I would be surprised and delighted to find the TTC had people working on this sort of stuff.

  • http://twitter.com/larrylarry laurence

    1) I agree that a rough 450-metre buffer from the transit route line is somewhat crude, but for macro-level transit planning, particularly when we're running a grid system in Toronto, it is the most logical (and easiest) way to do the analysis. Given bus stops in Toronto are typically closely spaced together, it's not as essential to do the distance from each transit stop.

    2) I also agree that service frequency should be a consideration. Buses that run at frequencies in the late evening of 20-30 minutes are definitely not as attractive as those running every 10 minutes, but for those who are dependent on short walking distance to their bus stop would rather check the schedule and wait than for more able bodied people who would rather just walk further.

    3) The 101 Downsview bus does not run in the late evening (i.e. after 10 p.m.), thus was not included in this analysis. I'm actually a bit concerned that its receiving the greatest share of attention, when it's really just a vocal, organized group (Roller Derby) that's making the noise. In my opinion, if bus access is so essential to their business model, Roller Derby should arrange with the TTC for chartered services to serve their customers.

  • http://paul.kishimoto.name Paul Kishimoto

    “the most logical (and easiest) way to do the analysis”

    That's not true. It is the easiest; but the most logical thing is not to leave it to Torontoist contributors and other journalists (no offense meant at all!), and to instead do it on the largest scale and highest resolution possible.

    I understand that no one seems to be stepping forward or the city isn't paying people to do that, but it would still yield better results.

  • bjhtn

    Actually, it might not be that tough to do a true 450-metre walking distance analysis (rather than an “as the crow flies” analysis) using GIS. The City's open data files have a street network file and a stop location file. There are a lot of walking barriers that make a simple radius less meaningful — highways, railway lines, rivers and ravines, large development blocks, suburban street network patterns, etc…

  • John Duncan

    Easiest? Yes.
    Fastest? Definitely.
    Most logical? Not at all.

    Most of the area you show as being within a 450m walk of service simply is not. There is nothing logical about this. It's misrepresentation, pure and simple.
    In the downtown area, with it's closely spaced street grid, a 450m buffer may be a passable approximation. Out in the suburbs, with its curvy and indirect network of local, collector and arterial roads, it doesn't even come close. Take a look at http://www.humantransit.org/20… and compare the buffer vs. the actual walking range.

  • tyrannosaurus_rek

    Hasn't Google made significant inroads in this area? I realize not all pedestrian-only routes are accounted for at this point (and it might never include other routes, such as cutting diagonally through a park that doesn't have permanent paths, or down alleys), but taking that 5 minute/450 metre rule and mapping it against all the recorded transit stops and known pedestrian routes… It seems like it shouldn't be that difficult to build an app.

  • http://paul.kishimoto.name Paul Kishimoto

    I don't think it would be difficult to build an app, but planning individual trips (e.g. best, worst or average cases) is very different from backing up holistic characterizations of service levels across the system, like this article tries to do.

    Also, that information is partially the product of some proprietary algorithm within Google Maps. Harvesting its output would be an amateurish, superficial way to assemble a real data set; the city should get and modify a copy of that code, or write its own.

  • the_lemur

    The 101 bus is also the only one serving the Canadian Aerospace Museum at Downsview.

  • http://twitter.com/gilmourtaylor Geoff Gilmour-Taylor

    I think the georgaphy of the crosshatched sections needs to be taken into account as well. For instance, I see in my old neighbourhood, that the loss of late-night service on the 48 Rathburn leaves the area around Rathburn and Martin Grove unserved. However, most of that area is taken up by parks, which I think would be low-priority for transit service.

    On the other hand, those dead spots along the 51 Leslie cover a good chunk of residental area.

  • http://twitter.com/gilmourtaylor Geoff Gilmour-Taylor

    I think the georgaphy of the crosshatched sections needs to be taken into account as well. For instance, I see in my old neighbourhood, that the loss of late-night service on the 48 Rathburn leaves the area around Rathburn and Martin Grove unserved. However, most of that area is taken up by parks, which I think would be low-priority for transit service.

    On the other hand, those dead spots along the 51 Leslie cover a good chunk of residental area.