Toronto: A New Frequent Network Plan

In the midst of all the frequent-network-mapping fervor, here comes the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) with a proposal for consistent all-day 10-minute frequency on a network of critical lines covering high-density parts of the city.  A frequent network map is already in the newspaper, but it remains to be seen if this brand will make it onto their system map, along the lines of similar brands in  PortlandLos Angeles, Minneapolis-St.Paul, and Salt Lake City among other North American peers.  Anyway, here’s the map:


I like how they’ve shaded in the Transit City Light Rail plan in the background, to emphasise that the two proposals are compatible.

In the it-sounds-geeky-but-these-things-really-matter department, I also like the emphasis on naming the lines after the streets they run on.  If your city is fortunate to have long streets with a single streetname, this kind of naming helps people think of the transit line as an intrinsic part of the street itself — exactly the kind of simplification that we need if people are ever going to rely on their transit networks the way they rely on their street networks — not just as mobility tools, but as ways of organizing their idea of their city.  Several agencies I could name have street networks that make this possible but haven’t yet caught on to this idea (nor rationally refuted it, which would be fine too).


18 Responses to Toronto: A New Frequent Network Plan

  1. samussas August 24, 2010 at 4:44 am #

    Well for me these maps still misses something. It’s nice to try to advertize the frequent network to get people to use transit but, from a user perspective, this doesn’t help me at all to plan my trips. To read this map I need another one that will allow me to visualize (and individualize) every line.

  2. Tom West August 24, 2010 at 6:20 am #

    The map is good, and combining subway, (proposed) LRT and the 10-min bus routes is also good, I’m slightly at loss as to why the streetcar routes aren’t shown.
    On a seperate point, given that most of the LRT liens are many years off, the TTC should include those bus routes which run along future LRT rouets in its 10-minute network. This would promote ridership along the LRT routes, and get people used to these rouets being frequent service before the vehicles start running on rails.

  3. Julia Ringma August 24, 2010 at 6:39 am #

    I think it also works when the end destination is used to name the route. London England does this and so does Ottawa where I live.

  4. Jarrett at August 24, 2010 at 7:13 am #

    @Julia etc.  Yes, this is called the "to/via question" … how to balance destination information ("to") with major street used ("via")  I advocate both, e.g. "4 Division / to 122nd Avenue" is a very clear description in the Portland context that anyone there would understand.   I should add that serious geeks about route naming should consult this post:

  5. Tom West August 24, 2010 at 9:12 am #

    Inter-city trains and buses tend to have route names that reflect their end points, not their route (if only because the route is either too complicated or would equate to a list of stops). Local buses seem to work better named after their route.
    So, at some point there is a transition… the question is, at what level?

  6. NCarlson August 24, 2010 at 9:15 am #

    “On a seperate point, given that most of the LRT liens are many years off, the TTC should include those bus routes which run along future LRT rouets in its 10-minute network.”
    They are slated for new express service as part of this plan, but were not included in the main maps supposedly because of the impact that light rail construction will have on service. On Jarret’s note about the route naming, this style is standard practice in Toronto, and every route shown on this plan already operates under the name shown, and with quite frequent service (most are in fact already at 10 minutes for most of the day).
    The thing that really needs to be pointed out is that this plan is already over a year old, and has never been pursued with much enthusiasm. We are now in the midst of a mayoral campaign in which even the core of Transit City (the light rail part) is being seriously questioned by front running candidates. In the meantime the supposedly funded and committed Sheppard, Eglinton and Finch lines have seen their scope cut back unilaterally by the province, with Eglinton now stopping at Jane, well short of the airport, Finch cut in half, connecting only to the Spadina line, kilometers from Yonge street and a cut back of about a km on the Sheppard line’s east end (although it will probably end up extended to U of T Scarborough given the new terminus’ proximity to that portion of the Scarborough Malvern line).

  7. Eric Doherty August 24, 2010 at 9:58 am #

    If this was a map of Vancouver BC I would ask the question “So what if the schedule says it runs every ten minutes or less, when we all know that some of the busiest routes are completely unreliable?”
    Have any cities in North America instituted effective programs to make their frequent networks reliably frequent, rather than hopefully frequent? In Vancouver there was supposed to be a headway based operations pilot on Main Street, but it seems to have been abandoned.

  8. Matt Fisher August 24, 2010 at 12:42 pm #

    Yeah, they’re screwing the Transit City plan. I’m appalled at this cutback by McGuinty, and I consider myself a liberal and all.

  9. Corey Burger August 24, 2010 at 4:45 pm #

    The challenge lies in when the city doesn’t conform to a grid, such as Victoria (BC). Almost all of our major transit destinations require at least one 90 degree turn to get to/from, as naming the for streets doesn’t really work.

  10. Justin Bernard August 24, 2010 at 6:26 pm #

    I do not see this happening, sadly. The current crop of mayoral candidates do not really know, or care about transit, a few are even proposing canceling Transit City to build unrealistic subway plans that will do little to improve the network. The front-runner is extremely anti-transit, and will most likely make an effort to cut the TTC budget.
    I can not see the TTC emphasizing frequent service on their system map. We are already used to frequent service on most TTC routes, showing the routes on a map is not going to help much.

  11. Jarrett at August 24, 2010 at 6:30 pm #

    Justin. I would argue that if the understanding and support of transit is under threat, branding the frequent network is actually more important. Without a frequent network map, the average decision maker cannot form any understanding of the network beyond “wow, that looks like a lot of lines.” See here:

  12. Ben Smith August 24, 2010 at 8:44 pm #

    I’ve mentioned this before, but the Transit City light rail plan has more in common with a European tram than it does with a rapid transit LRT lines (which is what they have been promoted as). Stops are going to only be 400 meters apart, which is barely any further apart than they are now and a far cry from being “rapid”.
    Even the Bloor-Danforth subway, which arguably has too many stops, has its stations spaced about every 700m. And that is through fairly dense inner-city neighbourhoods. These lines will be traveling through post-war suburbia.
    I support these lines because it is better than nothing – which is pretty much what we’ve gotten in the last 25 years. However, given the choice they will not make taking transit between Malvern and Rexdale more attractive than driving, and considering the price tag is in the BILLIONS it is a missed opportunity.

  13. Paul K. McGregor August 26, 2010 at 11:16 am #

    When I was working as a service planner in Dallas starting in 1993, routes did have a name and it was pretty much a throw back to the streetcar lines. However, what made it confusing to new riders is that the route name related to only a small portion of the route. So the route names in Dallas were later abandon in favor of just using terminal points. Other cities in Texas like Austin and Houston still continue to use route names because the routes operate over longer segments of streets that operate with the same name.
    Salt Lake City presents a rather unique numbering system. The Mormons, in their infinite wisdome, laid out the city in a grid pattern and used street numbers when naming the streets. State Street is the border between east and west and South Temple is the border between north and south. So, for example, I live on the corner of 700 East and 3900 South. So the route that operates along 3900 South is route 39 and the route that operates along 700 East is route 207. So it does simplify the numbering system. The only problem with this grid system is the length of the blocks. They tend to get very, very long between intersections. Not very pedestrian friendly except for downtown and immediate neighborhoods.

  14. NCarlson August 26, 2010 at 9:08 pm #

    I agree with Ben that a lot of these corridors need rapid transit, with the emphasis on the rapid, but it’s also true that not only is funding not being offered at subway supportive levels, but that Transit City gets us city wide improvements relatively quickly. In terms of speed, the lines ARE a significant improvement over buses, and doubly so when it comes to reliability. As far as station spacing goes, the TTC found that wider pacing owuld not actually significantly speed the lines given the number of light the routes will interact with. At the end of the day these corridors need something fully grade separated to be any faster than Transit City LRT.
    In any case, Transit City also addresses growing capacity problems on the bus system, especially on Eglinton and Finch, which while getting artics would help are going to need some type of rail system in the not to distant future.

  15. Nathanael August 27, 2010 at 10:20 am #

    It’s a pity Transit City is getting shafted.
    The subway obsession in Toronto has been seriously problematic, causing demands for vastly expensive tunnels far from downtown, when median-running would get a lot more for a lot less.

  16. Ben Smith August 27, 2010 at 3:51 pm #

    NCarlson, median based LRT can be given signal priority to improve speed and performance to that of grade separated solutions.
    Here are some videos I posted on a forum with signal priority done right:

  17. Mike August 30, 2010 at 1:44 pm #

    It should be noted that this Transit City Bus Frequent Service map is not really anythign new for the TTC and Toronto. The routes listed on this map and many others not on this map, already offer frequent service with a bus every 10 minutes or less. Plus countless others which offer a bus every 15 minutes or less.
    Frequency is the hallmark of the TTC system, and even in the suburban areas which is most areas on that map, buses already come very often.
    There are really very few areas in the TTC network where frequent service is not already provided.
    So this Transit City bus plan is great. But really the buses already operate on a frequent basis and most Toronto residents know that.
    This is more just a marketing thing than anything else.
    I live on the 95 York Mills bus for example. And it already opeartes service every 2-10 minutes during most times, with late evening service every 15 minutes. The only gap is on weekends when Sunday evening service is about every 15 minutes. And Saturdays when it is every 10-12 minutes.

  18. R Wightman September 4, 2010 at 11:07 am #

    I notice that while the TTC has included unbuilt Transit City LRT lines it has not included any of the on street streetcar lines like King Queen etc. I believe all of these except Kingston Road and the west end of Queen, which is shown as a transit line which has a tentative completion date in the late 20’s.I have ceased to be amazed at the TTC’s ability to ignore what is there while reaming up new ideas.