Ridership demand in the city's inner suburbs continues to guide TTC service delivery in order to ensure those who are most reliant on public transit are getting the best service possible as part of the City of Toronto's commitment to equity for all residents.
While overall system ridership is at approximately 32 per cent of pre-pandemic levels, the bus network continues to see ridership in the 40-to-45 per cent range.
In response, the TTC recalled all operators in November, and through a combination of schedule adjustments and buses available to deploy as needed, is putting out more service on many of the busy routes than was in place prior to the pandemic. Among the routes receiving extra service are: 36 Finch West, 35 Jane, 102 Markham, 54 Lawrence East, 29 Dufferin and 41 Keele.
"We are working with the TTC to make sure that in neighbourhoods where we are seeing higher COVID-19 positivity, we are adding extra buses to achieve greater physical distancing on busy routes. The changes happening now, and the ones planned in the coming weeks, will deliver more capacity to match demand on our busiest bus routes," said Mayor John Tory. "The TTC will continue in 2021 to closely monitor ridership and adjust service where needed, but it is all hands on deck. So much so that right now the TTC is re-training subway and streetcar operators to drive buses over the next two months, meaning even more buses on the road in the new year."
Throughout the pandemic, the TTC has implemented a demand-responsive service model, ensuring the busiest routes are getting the service they need while keeping customer loads as low as is realistically possible.
"The TTC is continuing to provide extra service and additional capacity in the neighbourhoods that need it most," said TTC Chair Jaye Robinson. "We've seen that ridership in Toronto's north end, including parts of North York, Etobicoke and Scarborough, has been higher than in other parts of Toronto, and we will continue to focus on proactively monitoring and responding to demand in those areas."
The TTC continues to implement important measures to reduce crowding for customers on busy bus routes. Resources are being reallocated from lower ridership routes in less busy periods, such as routes that serve primarily downtown-centered office travel patterns (for example, the 140-series Downtown Express routes) to busier routes with higher ridership demand, such as the 35 Jane and 54 Lawrence East.
To reduce crowding for customers, starting on November 23, 2020, the TTC restored express bus service on busy corridors, such as Jane Street and Lawrence Avenue East.
As well, the TTC is re-training subway and streetcar operators to drive buses over the next two months, meaning even more buses on the road in the new year.
"Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have been adapting to challenging circumstances and unusual pressures with a focus on ensuring the system is safe for customers and employees," said TTC CEO Rick Leary. "Every day, our service looks a little different because the ridership demands change. But we will continue to be flexible and provide the best possible service to those who are relying on us now more than ever."
As part of the 2021 Annual Service Plan will be presented to the TTC Board next Tuesday, TTC staff are proposing to restore express bus service to add more capacity to reduce crowding for customers while closely monitoring ridership and adjusting service where needed.
If approved, the first phase of service restoration will begin in January, when express bus service will be restored on more corridors, such as Finch Avenue, Keele Street and Don Mills Road. Beyond January, the TTC will focus on optimizing capacity by balancing service levels across the city to ensure capacity matches demand and customer crowding is minimized.
On November 23, the City of Toronto announced an updated and enhanced set of targeted COVID-19 measures to help the city's most vulnerable residents during the lockdown. These targeted COVID-19 equity measures build on protections already implemented, including sharing public health information, improving access to COVID-19 testing, and providing critical supports to individuals and their families during this lockdown. These include:
- Expanding testing sites in neighbourhoods experiencing higher COVID-19 case rates; expanding the number of provincial testing sites using City facilities; using buses for mobile testing; and providing more transportation to testing sites and extending testing site hours.
- Increased community outreach and engagement providing support to residents who face multiple barriers (i.e. food support, income services, etc.); and providing relevant public education to residents and employers.
- Support for individuals who test positive and are unable to work due to mandatory isolation; help to address the threat of eviction and improving access to emergency assistance; and newcomer access to COVID-19 services and supports.
Details about the measures can be found in a news release on the City's Media Room page.