Analysis of 504 King: Part VIII – Those Pesky Short Turns

By now, you are probably getting tired of looking at charts of individual days, and they’re starting to look the same.  On the other hand, you probably have a fairly good idea for the sort of thing that is “typical” as opposed to an unpredictable event.

Now, I will turn to views of the King Car that show the entire month in a summary format, and will begin with the long-standing problem of Short Turns.

Back in 1984, the Streetcars for Toronto Committee conducted a review of streetcar operations using volunteers on street corners to track the movement of cars, and we came up with plots similar to the graphic timetables shown in other posts here.  Today, however, we have CIS technology and much more data.  It’s a lot better than standing out in the rain for hours on end.

Short turns were a big problem in 1984 and they remain a big problem today.  On a route like King, they are especially troublesome because there is substantial demand on the outer ends of the line — Broadview in the east, Roncesvalles in the west.  The idea that less service is needed at the extremeties does not hold up here.  Moreover, even if demand is lower at the termini, it is the reliability of service that is vital.  Riders on Roncesvalles never know whether the next car will come in 5 minutes or 30, and they must build this uncertainty into their travel plans.

(When the Revue Cinema was operating, I regularly walked down from Dundas West Station because the 504 was quite reliably not there and could not be counted on to arrive in time to get me to the theatre for curtain.)

The large sets of charts linked from this post show the all-day view of service leaving westbound and eastbound from Yonge Street.  In both cases, Yonge Street is at the bottom (X-axis) and the height of the bars shows how far the car travelled.  These values correspond to the location system used in the graphic timetables, but they use Yonge as the zero point rather than the origin of the trip.  The distances are roughly proportional to 50 = 1 km.

The lines are positioned based on the time a car leaves Yonge Street.  Regularly spaced vertical lines means a regular headway at Yonge, but not necessarily further out on the line because the may have moved apart or together enroute.

As you look at each day, you will see quite a variation in the regularity of service and the amount of short turning.  Although some cars are scheduled to short turn (carhouse trips at the end of the peak period), most of the short turns don’t fit in this category.  This shows quite visibly how people, particular on the west end of the King route, cannot depend on reliable service the further one gets along the line.

A few technical notes:  On December 29, CIS was down for about 90 minutes at midday and there is no data for this interval.  Also, on December 31, the charts end at midnight because the source data was selected for “December”.

This type of chart is intended to show how bad the problem of short turns really is, not to offer a cure.  Understanding and accepting that there really is a problem is the first step.

King December 2006 Westbound Short Turns

King December 2006 Eastbound Short Turns