Toronto Transit Schedule Adherence & How Swiftly Helps

Riding transit in Toronto is often a mixed bag of emotions. No matter how we all feel about it, many of us rely on TTC on a daily basis, and it remains the backbone of the region’s movement.

At Swiftly, we are transit riders, and found ourselves wondering exactly how often TTC vehicles stick to their given schedule. Which routes are the least timely? While Toronto Transit Commission records its own route performance, some have questioned their metrics, so we decided to look at the data ourselves.

We collected real-time data from NextBus — the official transit information provider for the Toronto Transit Commission — for four weeks between January 26th and February 22nd, 2016. We then analyzed the millions of vehicle arrivals by comparing each actual arrival time against the bus’s schedule to measure how well each route adhered to the timetable.

For the purposes of this analysis, we considered each vehicle’s arrival “on time” if the arrival time of the vehicle was anywhere between one minute earlier and four minutes later than the scheduled arrival time. We gave far less room for error for early bus arrivals since in most cases this would result in missing the bus altogether. TTC’s rapid transit routes (Lines 1, 2, 3, and 4) were excluded from this analysis because they currently don’t provide real-time arrival information.

Results

After analyzing millions of vehicle stops over a four week period, we found that TTC buses and streetcars had an overall on-time rate of 47.0%. Additionally, 44.1% of stops were found to be earlier than scheduled, while 8.9% were late. Some of the system’s most-ridden lines, like the 504 route, which serves over 57,000 commuters on weekdays, only registered a 41.0% on-time rate.

 An image from the animated map seen at the top of this page, displaying TTC’s schedule adherence during a weekday in February. Red circles represent vehicles running ahead of schedule while yellow circles represent vehicles running behind schedule. The larger the circle, the more early or late the vehicle is. Delays are largely centered around downtown and along the Jane Street corridor, while early arrivals are spread throughout the city.

An image from the animated map seen at the top of this page, displaying TTC’s schedule adherence during a weekday in February. Red circles represent vehicles running ahead of schedule while yellow circles represent vehicles running behind schedule. The larger the circle, the more early or late the vehicle is. Delays are largely centered around downtown and along the Jane Street corridor, while early arrivals are spread throughout the city.

Shown above is an image from the animated map seen at the top of this page, displaying TTC’s citywide schedule adherence for 21 minutes during a weekday in February. Each circle represents a transit vehicle — red circles represent vehicles running ahead of schedule while yellow circles represent vehicles running behind schedule (and the much smaller green circles represent on-time vehicles). Predictably, many of the system’s delays appear to be clustered in the downtown area and along the Jane Street corridor, where traffic and overall density can overload street-level transportation. Early-arriving buses and streetcars can be seen spread across the city, showing a system-wide trend.

 The top five most and least timely routes between January 26th and February 22nd, 2016

The top five most and least timely routes between January 26th and February 22nd, 2016

Above is displayed the five least and most timely routes throughout the TTC system. The 510-Spadina streetcar maintained only an 24.9% on-time rate during this period, while the 171-Mt Dennis came out on top as the most reliable route.

Conclusions

From the data, its clear that TTC buses and trains have considerable room for improvement. Many vehicles are arriving earlier than scheduled, creating an unpredictable transit experience, which as many of us know first-hand, can be frustrating and deter riders.

We should note that delays and early arrivals are affected by a number of factors: traffic, weather patterns, and special events all contribute to unpredictable transit behavior. Additionally, city planners and TTC are doing a lot to make transit work better, including the purchase of new vehicle fleets for streetcars, streamlining the fare payment system with Presto, and redesigning King Street to prioritize transit over cars.

Let’s Make Transit Better

The real frustration around transit delays is not having any information about them. That’s why we created a feature in our mobile app, Swiftly, that allows users to report report issues like delays, crowding, and service changes to fellow riders.

By working together, we can get from Point A to Point B faster, more efficiently, and cheaper. We invite you to give Swiftly a try!

The Swiftly Team


About Swiftly

Swiftly makes data-driven software applications that improve urban mobility. For residents, the Swiftly mobile app discovers the fastest and most affordable ways to get around town by analyzing real-time multi-modal information. For government, Swiftly provides software to help cities improve their operational efficiency, make smarter infrastructure investments, and better engage their riders. The company is based in San Francisco, CA and more information can be found at goswift.ly or on Twitter: @SwiftlyInc.

Questions

There are many ways to analyze transit schedule adherence. If you have any questions regarding the data, please don’t hesitate to contact our CEO Jonny Simkin at jonny[at]goswift[dot]ly.

Acknowledgements

This report would not have been possible without the help of Mike Smith, co-founder of Swiftly and former General Manager and Chief Technology Officer at NextBus, Inc.

and many others, including Stan Parkford and Will Dayton.