The TTC says the vast majority of its buses and streetcars run on time, despite a scathing report by public transportation app Swiftly that claims otherwise.
"To me, it shows there's a misunderstanding by Swiftly of how we run transit on these big, busy routes in Toronto," TTC chief customer officer Chris Upfold told Metro Morning's Matt Galloway.
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According to data released by Swiftly, 53 per cent of TTC buses and streetcars arrive more than one minute early or more than four minutes late. That clashes with the TTC's own findings that its vehicles are on time 78 per cent of the time.
Yet, Swiftly's report makes use of the TTC's own data, so how can the findings be so different? Upfold says it comes down to how you measure delays on busy routes.
The Swiftly report is based on schedules tied to specific vehicles, whereas the TTC simply tracks how often any vehicle shows up, he said.
Each TTC vehicle has what's called a run number, which is associated with a schedule. That's what Swiftly tracks.
But on busy routes, Upfold says, the TTC doesn't always adhere to those schedules. Instead, it often swaps out drivers and vehicles to ensure a bus or streetcar arrives at each stop approximately every 2 - 2 1/2 minutes.
"We make sure there's a vehicle there on time for our customers. It might not be the right run number, it might not be the right driver, but our customers don't care about that."
Do schedules matter on busy routes?
Four of the five worst performing routes in the Swiftly report are busy streetcars where many transit riders say they generally don't check the schedule since the vehicles arrive every few minutes during the day.
"I kind of just take streetcars as they come, and I never really pay attention to when they come," said Nikolina Petrovska while waiting for the northbound 510 Spadina car at King Street, which arrives up to 18 times per hour.
"I never really check the schedule ahead of time, so I can't really tell if the streetcar or bus is arriving on time," said Rebecca Stulberg.
Still, Michael Smith, Swiftly's chief information officer, remains skeptical.
"What we're finding is that there's more a different type of problem," he told Metro Morning.
According to Swiftly, the city struggles with vehicles arriving too early — 44.1 per cent of the vehicles a show up earlier than scheduled, while just 8.9 per cent were late.
"They're a few minutes early, just a few, but that's enough so that a passenger might miss their bus or streetcar," he said.
But Upfold said that a vehicle arriving early on a frequently serviced route is "inconsequential," since another bus or streetcar will be along in a few minutes.
He admits that when it comes to routes where buses arrive every half hour or so, keeping a timely schedule is critical.
"Those are the ones that we're really focusing on to make sure they're leaving on time and not early," he said.