Analysis of 501 Queen: Part III — Monday, December 4, 2006

December 4 was an odd day.  The weather was uneventful, and service on the nearby King route was well-behaved (see the analysis of 504 King).  CIS Control seemed to adopt an unusual strategy to “managing” the Queen service to the point that short turning must be described as “aggressive” if not “pre-emptive”.

  • Most of the “Humber” service actually short-turned at Roncesvalles.
  • Many of the cars on both branches short-turned at Woodbine Loop.
  • There is little evidence of serious traffic congestion or major delays in the charts, but ragged headways and bunched cars were common.  

Here are the charts for December 4:

Queen 2006.12.04 Service Chart

Queen 2006.12.04 Headways Westbound

Queen 2006.12.04 Headways Eastbound

Queen 2006.12.04 Link Times Westbound

Queen 2006.12.04 Link Times Eastbound

Queen 2006.12.04 Destinations Westbound From Yonge

Queen 2006.12.04 Destinations Eastbound From Yonge

Short Turns


Starting just after 0700, very few cars operate to Humber Loop, and they turn, instead, at Roncesvalles.  This is well before any traffic congestion sets in.  As we will see in the Service Chart, these cars enjoyed layovers while awaiting their eastbound trips.

After about 1100, more service gets through to Humber, and by 1800 most “Humber” cars actually get there.

A few Long Branch runs are turned at Kipling in the morning.


Starting at about 0820, more than half of the eastbound service turns at Russell or at Woodbine Loop, and 20-minute gaps to Neville are common.  Some of the Russell-bound cars are peak trippers, but most are taking a generous short-turn and this continues right through the afternoon ending at about 2010.

Service Charts

Examination of the Service Charts, especially for the earlier part of the day, shows how many of the short turns were unnecessary. 

The length of time cars sat at Roncesvalles/Sunnyside was quite adequate for them to run through to Humber, but instead they had layovers of 15 to 25 minutes.  By the afternoon, the number of short turns drops off and the layovers become more appropriate for runs that are actually late.

Traffic congestion sets in westbound in Parkdale around 1100, but it is nowhere near as severe as we saw on December 1.

Also visible is the lack of spacing of bunched cars even where they re-enter service from short-turns.  One parade of 5 cars originates westbound at about 1500.  One of these runs through to Long Branch, but a four-car parade returns eastbound arriving in the Beach about 1720.  A new westbound pack forms up including a few Woodbine short turns, and crosses the city arriving at Roncesvalles about 1815.



Headways from the Beach are affected by the usual short/long pattern visible all day, and the persistent short-turns keep the average headway at about 10 minutes, with huge swings well over the 3-minute target, all day long.  Gaps over 20 minutes are quite common.

At Greenwood, the average headway sits at the scheduled level just under 6 minutes, but with considerable latitude.  This is service that could have been spaced by the simple expedient of having a Route Supervisor on the street at Connaught in front of Russell Carhouse.

This pattern continues across the city with the short headways getting shorter and the gaps getting wider.  The average headway east of Roncesvalles is quite consistent even if the individual values range up to the 15-minute level.

At Parkside Drive, the effect of all of the morning short turns shows up in the trend line where the average headway runs higher than scheduled falling back close to but not actually at the scheduled value as the afternoon wears on.

Out on Lake Shore, things are in a huge mess with westbound headways at Royal York commonly above 20 minutes with pairs of closely-spaced cars.  The average headway is near the scheduled level, but the riders’ experience is far worse.


Inbound headays from Long Branch are better behaved staying about five minutes either side of average.  Even so, this gives a swing from 6 to 16 minutes.  Considering the generous layover most cars manage to fit in at the terminus, this situation is appalling.  It speaks to a combination of operators leaving whenever they choose, probably because they have so much running time (some cars manage another layover at Humber inbound), and a total absence of line management. 

Looking at data like this, it is very hard to believe the claims made that the Queen car needs even more running time, considering the full trip, to stay on time.  Round trip times from Humber to Long Branch of close to an hour are common, and this was a route that, as the 507, had a 50-minute scheduled round trip.  One advantage of shorter routes is that running times don’t have to be padded to account for numerous random delays across the entire city.

By the time we reach Parkside inbound, the effects of the missing Humber cars are evident with an average headway iding up to around 9 minutes in the AM peak, and some gaps of 20 minutes or more.

As we saw for the westbound trips, once we pass the primary short-turn at Roncesvalles, the average headway settles down to the expected level although bunching is still evident.  This continues across the city with the gaps getting wider until we reach Greenwood, just west of Russell Carhouse.

From there eastwards, the headways widen up and the quality of service worsens with many gaps over 20 minutes.

Link Times


Westbound link times are quite steady through the day with the usual variation give or take a few minutes until we reach Parkdale.  Here, the link times rise through the day to about double the uncongested value, but drop suddenly after 1700.  Since we see this only in the Gladstone to Wilson Park link, but not on the next link westward, this may be caused by something that partly blocked the road such as an emergency construction crew who packed up and went home.


A rise in link times shows up eastbound from Wilson Park to Gladstone for roughly the same period as the westbound rise discussed above.  It is not as severe suggesting that whatever was happening affected westbound traffic more than eastbound.

As on December 1, there is a rise in link times for Spadina to Yonge during the afternoon peak, topping out just before 1800.  It is possible that this pattern explains the long gaps caused by short turns in the Beach in the early evening.  I will return to this when I review other days’ data.

The Greenwood to Woodbine link shows some spikes corresponding to layovers, probably for crew changes, eastbound at Russell Carhouse.

As mentioned on December 1, the Woodbine to Neville values cannot be trusted because CIS does not give arrival times reliably for Neville Loop.  The gradual rise in link times on the chart probably indicates the growing length of layovers at the terminal (included in the eastbound link values) as the day wears on.

4 thoughts on “Analysis of 501 Queen: Part III — Monday, December 4, 2006

  1. Am I wrong, or does your review suggest that short turns mostly do their job in helping to maintain an even headway in the part of the 501 that has the most passengers, namely Roncesvalles – Greenwood?

    Steve: If the short turns were properly managed, two major differences would exist in the observed service.

    First, cars inbound from short turn locations would be equally spaced between through cars giving a regular service on the heavy part of the line.

    Second, cars running beyond the short turn points would also be properly spaced, especially inbound from their termini where almost invariably they have layovers and can easily leave at the proper spacing.

    Note here that headway — even spacing between cars — takes precedence over being “on time” which, frankly, the passengers don’t care about on a route like Queen.

    There is no excuse for the huge swings in headways, and traffic congestion is manifestly not the reason for a lot of short turns as is so often cited by TTC.


  2. Tuesday Nov 13, just after 1 PM, Queen just east of Bathurst. Waiting for my falafel….

    501 RONCESVALLES shortly followed by another 501 RONCESVALLES. A few minutes pause and a 501 HUMBER. Another pause, and an OUT OF SERVICE car. Maybe 5 minutes and a 501 LONG BRANCH.

    I doubt there are cars going out of service at Roncesvalles, so they must be being short-turned. No weather issues at all; don’t know about congestion elsewhere but Queen between Bathurst and Spadina was moving fine.

    You’d think that, given the cost of running a streetcar, the TTC would spend the additional money to have more supervisors to make sure that the streetcar was doing something useful.


  3. Very interesting data. The frequent short turns , along with poor headway management would indicate to me that CIS was more concerned with schedule adherance at the expense of anything else. This results in extremely poor service reliability at the ends of the line with cars bunching up and running in packs in the central portion of the line – several cars in a row, then a gap, then several more cars in a row. This would show up as frequent short turns at Roncie or Woodbine Loop to try to break up the packs. I would also wonder if there were several short-turns downtown at McCaul for example to try to break up the packs. As I stated in one of my other comments, one short turn frequently leads to more as there is a cascading effect of vehicles falling behind because they are covering the gap. A supervisor in the CIS room cannot see what is truly happening on the line, wheras an on-street supervisor can. And yes, I know that streetcar ops has line supervisors on the the street (Queen has two – one east of Yonge and one west of Yonge) but obviously this is not enough to keep the line running smoothly.

    This type of “reliability” is also what seems to happen on other surface routes as well. CIS overmanages based on schedule adherance rather than basing line management on headways and having vehicles actually arrive at the proper destination with minimal passenger disruption.

    It would be hard to believe that this day’s results were caused by congestion.


  4. Gord, I believe gross incompetence is the term you’re looking for, as opposed to congestion.

    Someday we’ll live in a real city, and not one where one waits for 20 minutes on a Friday afternoon for a streetcar at Windermere and the Queensway.


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