toronto: a frequent network map

From Eric Sehr, here's a very clear schematic of the Frequent Network in Toronto — covering the Toronto Transit Commission Area but not adjacent regions.  If I were TTC, I'd just publish this as it is.  Note how clearly you can assess where you can get to without much delay, and also note how well-connected the Frequent Network is.  

For the full-size zoomable version, see here.

About this series:  While a few agencies led the way with Frequent Network maps and brands, much of the Frequent Network branding "movement" seems to have followed from this post, later expanded as Chapter 7 of my book Human Transit.  Agencies that now market Frequent Networks include those in Montreal, Salt Lake City, Minneapolis, Vancouver, Spokane, and Seattle.  Portland was once a leader until its Frequent Network was destroyed by budget cuts in 2009.  For more — including both advocate-made and a few agency-made Frequent Network maps — explore the "Frequent Networks" category on this blog.  As a consultant I provide advice on Frequent Network branding worldwide.

17 Responses to toronto: a frequent network map

  1. Alon Levy November 25, 2012 at 1:38 pm #

    Interesting how in the center of the map, most routes go east-west; the Yonge and Spadina subways sweep ridership that would otherwise go on the north-south buses. Likewise, farther out the north-south routes terminate at Bloor or Danforth.

  2. JamesL November 25, 2012 at 2:37 pm #

    I’m planning a trip to Bellingham, WA and when I checked out their transit system I was impressed by their frequent branding efforts, especially for a small city:

  3. Andrew November 25, 2012 at 7:16 pm #

    There are a large number of bus routes that almost, but not quite meet the frequent service criteria used in this map. For example: 60 Steeles west of York University, 192 Airport Rocket, 191 Highway 27 Rocket, 37 Islington, 52 Lawrence West & 58 Malton west of Humber River, 11 Bayview south of Sunnybrook (but not north). Often service is just slightly less frequent than the threshold that this map uses.

  4. EN57 November 26, 2012 at 3:09 am #

    Toronto has a better developed frequent network than most cities, but just like most of the other frequent network maps – this one’s a bunch of coloured lines floating in space. If I can’t locate either my origin or destination in relation to one of these special lines, then I’m not sure how useful this map is going to be for me.
    About this series… transit is about accessing destinations, not just circulating for the hell of it – (well, it is about that if you’re a transit geek). Transit agencies need to be a bit more sensitive to the information needs of all users, not just those wondering which random destinations they can easily access on a free afternoon. Older people, whose sight might not be as good as it used to be, need to be able to discern their 120 min headway coverage service on a map as easily as any other service. Given that most agencies don’t have the resources to produce and continually update multiple network maps, I’d be more in favour of highlighting frequent lines on comprehensive geographic-based transit maps which show all routes for all modes. I think that would be a more useful map, because you can see everything going everywhere, no matter what your needs are.

  5. Jonathon November 26, 2012 at 3:50 am #

    Looking at this map, it seems that the TTC’s own threshold of 10 minutes or less was used to qualify frequent service. The amazing thing about the TTC is that if you expand the net just a bit, say to 15 minutes, almost every major route would qualify (Before 1996, the maximum headway on any route was 20 minutes.) I would like to see a map with more than one qualifier, say thick lines for routes that provide all-day frequent service (5-6 minutes during the day, 10-12 minutes at night) and a lighter line weight for routes providing 15 minute service. I would also integrate the night services offered by the TTC, so that the regular map could also indicate where one can find 24-hour service (maybe line colour?) without referring to a second map, as the TTC currently does. The reason that this map doesn’t cover areas adjacent to Toronto is likely that by this standard of frequent service, there is none (that runs at every 10 minutes or less seven days a week.)

  6. Chris, Public Transport November 26, 2012 at 12:29 pm #

    The problem with frequent network maps for Toronto, New York, Chicago, and other similar places is that no service runs less frequently than every 20 minutes. When I lived in Toronto I frequented the 91 Woodbine, which is not a “frequent” route and yet I hardly ever remember waiting for it. In any case, real-time smart phone applications make less frequent routes more useful by minimizing waiting time at the stop.

  7. Greg November 26, 2012 at 8:37 pm #

    After seeing the Toronto example – a City I’m familiar with – the value of a frequent service map is lost on me. Folks gotta go where folks gotta go. Yay! there is a frequent bus route 2 kilometers away from where I want to go – so what? I’m going to take the bus that gets me where I’m going.

  8. Zoltán November 27, 2012 at 1:36 am #

    I agree; while it might be nice to only use transit for which you don’t need to look at a schedule or wait very long, when you just need to take a less amenable bus route because of where you need to be. Given this, I don’t think it’s too fussy to create a network map with two categories of frequent service, plus less emphatic but still legible lines for service that requires a schedule.
    I’d argue, though, that it need not be perfectly geographic based, like the Seattle maps, but can be more legible than that through using modified Geography to show all the streets served by bus, and how they relate to each other, but with clear straight lines and without unnecessary detail.
    I’ve argued here:
    For adopting both a 10- and 20-minute standard, and displaying both clearly on maps, both standing out, but the 10-minute network standing out more.
    In the case of Toronto, from the comments here it appears that most services would be included within one of the two standards. So such a map would make at clear that the majority of routes were adequately frequent, and demonstrate for which minority of routes passengers should look up a schedule before using.

  9. Eric November 27, 2012 at 4:17 am #

    Zoltan, your map might be good for visitors to a city. Locals, however, are well acquainted with the street layout, and with a non-geographical layout are much less able to connect station names to places they know. (This is more of a concern for buses than subways, because subways tend to serve major landmarks, while buses tend to serve generic residential neighborhoods.)

  10. Zoltán November 27, 2012 at 8:57 am #

    To clarify, I’m talking about modified Geography, not non-Geography. That is streets being named and shown in relation to each other, but not every single twist of a street that isn’t straight, or the detail of every street that isn’t served by bus. A good example is Oran Viriyincy’s map of frequent service in Seattle:

  11. Nicolas Derome November 27, 2012 at 7:29 pm #

    There are actually two bus routes outside the TTC service area that meet the criteria.
    Hurontario in Mississauga, from Square One to Port Credit, operated by MiWay
    Weekday Peak: every 6min
    Weekday Offpeak: every 8min
    Weekends: every 13 min
    Queen Zum (BRT-lite) in Brampton, operated by Brampton Transit
    Weekday Peak: every 8min
    Weekday Offpeak: every 10min
    Weekends: every 15min
    Dundas in Mississauga (MiWay) barely falls short for weekend service
    Weekday Peak: every 9min
    Weekday Offpeak: every 10min
    Weekends: every 16min
    Combining the local and Zum service on Main Street in Brampton would also meet the criteria.
    It seems like Brampton Transit’s routes all have at least 30 min service with the trunk routes having 10 min weekday peak and 20 min weekday offpeak frequencies (and 30min weekend). The route that breaks this pattern is Steeles East, which has 5 min peak, 12 min mid-day (weekday) and 30 min frequencies after 7pm.
    Mississauga’s trunk routes are similar to Brampton’s, but York Region’s seem to have lower frequencies.

  12. Zoltán November 27, 2012 at 8:22 pm #

    Nicolas Derome,
    “Combining the local and Zum service on Main Street in Brampton would also meet the criteria.”
    Oh dear. That sounds like overlaying limited and local service where it’s not possible to operate both at a high frequency, which I’m very doubtful is ever a good idea. As well as being unambiguously bad for those using local stops, people are happier to spend time on a bus than waiting and being subject to the elements and to the uncertainty of when their bus will arrive. So reducing waiting time should be a higher priority than reducing journey time for some passengers.
    A good rule of thumb here is that if most passengers at limited stops would board a local if it came first because they can’t depend upon a limited coming soon and/or the limited doesn’t save enough time to wait for it given average trip length, all service should be local (and potentially the focus should be upon rationalising the spacing of local stops).

  13. Ben Smith November 29, 2012 at 5:15 am #

    Many Viva corridors in York Region also meet this criteria. Along Highway 7 between Yonge St and York University there are two branches of the Purple route (York University to Richmond Hill and to Markham) which results in a frequency of 7.5 minutes. Same goes for along Yonge between Finch Station and Bernard Terminal.

  14. Jeremy Krygsman December 2, 2012 at 7:49 am #

    Do you know if they’ve fixed the Queen Zum yet? I used to ride it almost every Sunday night from Downtown to York University. I think they were using the same timetable as rush hour (where the buses travel slower because of congestion). Even though there’s almost no cars on the road at that time of night, the bus’s top speed was still around 10km/h less than the speed limit! Talk about annoying to sit on a “rapid” bus going 50km/h in an 60 zone and watching cars zoom by at 80…

  15. JohnHupp December 3, 2012 at 2:12 am #

    Regarding other transit agencies’ Frequent Network maps, I know here in Los Angeles, Metro has for quite some time had a “15 Minute Map”, showing bus routes with a headway of 15 minutes or less during the day.
    Additionally, the map shows subway, light rail and BRT routes with thicker lines, and express bus lines with darker colors, so you can easily get a sense of which routes are the fastest.
    You’ve probably seen this before, but regardless I think it’s an exemplary implementation of the principles you’re talking about. In particular it really shows off how comprehensive LA’s bus network is.

  16. JohnHupp December 3, 2012 at 2:20 am #

    Re: the above, branding a frequent network map with a specific headway (i.e. 15 minutes) can make the determination much less subjective and more useful to travelers because it doesn’t imply a specific context.
    I.e. an intercity train every two hours is much more frequent than a daily flight to Shanghai, but it wouldn’t be “frequent” from the perspective of someone going to the grocery store.

  17. Mike December 5, 2012 at 8:24 pm #

    The map misses alot of routes which almost meet the standard.
    In fact the majority of TTC’s transit routes operate every 15 minutes or less most of the time. But may dip slightly below that standard late at night, or on Sunday evenings.
    But overall, the TTC is one of the few transit systems in North America where you can pretty much stand on most street corners and know a bus will be coming shortly, seven days a week. It is the true hallmark of the TTC, and one of the reasons it is so successfull.