Mapping Frequent Transit in Toronto

Photo by vasta

Inspired by Jarrett Walker, author of Human Transit, I started a little project back in the spring to make a map of Toronto’s frequent transit network. Why a frequent transit map? As Walker explains,

Frequency and span of service… are the most important indicators of majorness, because they are the answers to the question:  “Does this service exist when I need it?” Notice that this not a question about service quality, but rather about service existence.  Until you’ve verified existence, all the other features of a service — even speed — are irrelevant details.

The TTC does not currently provide a map that can tell a person where transit runs often enough that you don’t have to plan your trip around a timetable. Instead, the current network map is designed in a way that makes it very difficult to disentangle bus routes. Can you look at the map to the right and tell which route runs all day, only at peak hours, or only every half hour? All the bus and streetcar lines look equally important, yet they are not.

Instead of the tangle of lines in the TTC map, a Frequent Transit Network Map for Toronto would look more like this:

Click Image to Enlarge

The map shows only the important routes. The routes where you won’t be waiting for more than 10 minutes on weekdays and 15 minutes on the weekend.*

Do you think it would be useful if the TTC published a Frequent Service Map? How does it change your sense of our transit network?

*Based on posted schedules from March 2012.


5 thoughts on “Mapping Frequent Transit in Toronto

  1. With the evolution of Next Bus, a Frequent Service Map becomes irrelevant.

    • If you are making connections, Next Bus doesn’t work too well. Too much uncertainty in predicting when the two buses will get to the transfer point. Better to just rely on things being o.k. even if you just miss the connection.

    • Frequent service still serves a purpose. I used to live in Switzerland in an area where there was bus and train service. The bus was frequent but the schedule was sometimes a little uneven. The trains were much faster and always on-time (so there was no need for something like “NextBus”), but didn’t come too frequently. I personally found that I much preferred taking the bus. I hated having to structure my life around when the train was coming. If I was watching something good on tv, I would have to decide whether I should skip the program so that I could catch the train or watch the program and end up having to catch a train 30 minutes later. I would choose when to eat and where to eat based on how well it fit in with the schedule of the train. It was just so constraining. When I switched to taking only the bus, everything was just much more relaxed. I would eat when I wanted to eat and watch tv according to my own schedule. And when I wanted to go somewhere, I would just go out to the bus stop, and a bus would come in a few minutes to take me wherever. Next Bus is useful, but if service is infrequent, you end up being a slave to the schedule. Frequent service empowers you to schedule your life on your own terms.

  2. I like your frequent service map. I have no urban planning background, but I’m good with computers, so for fun, I’ve been trying to generate various maps about Toronto transit myself:

    If you ever need some help making other maps, feel free to give me a shout!

  3. The funny thing with Toronto is that the TTC bus service is so good, that people just know a bus will be around soon. Even after say 9 pm, you know generally there will be a bus every 15 minutes or less on all major roads in Toronto.
    Toronto transit riders just are not wedded to schedules like residents in other cities where transit just does not operate as frequently. We truly have a good thing going in Toronto.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s