Analysis of 501 Queen: Part VIII — AM Peak Service Reliability

In this installment, I turn to the question of whether all of the scheduled service actually shows up when and where it is intended during the AM peak.  Previously, in the analysis of 504 King, we saw that many cars intended to provide extra service through Parkdale and Bathurst-Niagara eastbound during the am peak either did not operate, or operated badly off schedule to the point where actual service was far different from advertised.

On 501 Queen, I will look at the route at a few points to show how this effect also is present and how it affects the service.

In the charts linked below, the service between 0700 and 0900 is presented for each weekday from December 1 to 21.  All of these days operated with the same schedule, and this allows us to make direct comparisons between them.

[The chart for Woodbine westbound includes days based on the Christmas week am peak schedule where the runs appear at different times, but fairly reliably.]

Each scheduled run has its own colour and symbol, and the horizontal lines show the time at which these runs appeared each day.  Reliable runs show up every day at more or less the same time.  Unreliable ones move around more in time, or don’t show up at all.  Some cases of major delays are visible where a number of cars get bunched together and all come through in a pack much later than usual.


Woodbine Ave.
Greenwood Ave.
Yonge St.


Royal York Rd.
Parkside Dr.
Wilson Park
Yonge St.

Looking at the westbound service at Woodbine, it is easy to see that several of the runs do not show up reliably every day.  Notable runs are 24 (gray dots), 6 (brown dots) and 19 (green diamonds) which, among others, are often missing.  This causes gaps in service and the headway provided is not what is advertised.

The chart at Greenwood tells a different story, and most runs are present on most days.  Runs that were missing at Woodbine magically appear at Greenwood.  The reason for this is that cars scheduled to enter service eastbound to Neville from Russell Carhouse go into service late, and start their trips westbound without serving the Beach.  My suspicion is that these runs either (a) do not have assigned operators and there is trouble filling the work in time for cars to enter service or (b) there is a shortage of working cars and the later runs leave late because they cannot find equipment that is in good order.  In either case, this is a problem of the TTC’s making and has nothing to do with that old chestnut, traffic congestion.

By the time the service reaches Yonge, we also see pairs of runs that habitually operate together on most days.

Eastbound service at Royal York does not suffer from many missing cars, but day-to-day variations in arrival time are evident.  However, by the time we reach Parkside, the same missing runs problem that we saw in the east end shows up again.  Cars scheduled to enter service westbound to Humber from Roncesvalles Carhouse actually do so eastbound and deprive riders on The Queensway of service.

By the time we reach Wilson Park eastbound, the runs are filled in on most days confirming that these cars entered service eastbound from Roncesvalles.

Eastbound at Yonge, as with the westbound charts, you can see some minor delays on a few days, but overall, arrival times are fairly consistent.

What is the point to all this?  Service on the outer parts of the route in the AM peak is less than scheduled because cars that are supposed to provide trips from Humber and Neville do so, instead, from Roncesvalles and Connaught.  As with so many other problems on the Queen line, this is a problem of service management, not of traffic congestion.

3 thoughts on “Analysis of 501 Queen: Part VIII — AM Peak Service Reliability

  1. The carhouses and their staff issues are certainly looking like the absolute biggest culprit in all this now. Although traffic congestion is present, it seems to be less of an issue than many would normally believe, although I’m not going to say that York to Church is not problematic, that is obviously a congested area and your data reflects that. However, dealing the the carhouses specifically might prove to be a better strategy. I’d argue that this would make for a superior line management strategy as well as make it easier to find those responsible for problems that do ultimately occur.

    Perhaps reinstate the 507 as, instead of going up Ronces and into Dundas West as you have proposed in the past, a Parliament(/Church via King eastbound) run (this might bear more resemblance to the 508, but as a non-tripper), and have the 501 run to a regular designated terminus at Dufferin(/Shaw via King westbound) (I’m very intentionally avoiding Roncesvalles with this). This keeps the two carhouses of the current 501 completely separated, and by avoiding division cross-overs through isolating carhouses to their assigned lines, get more efficient service since inter-carhouse communications (and associated staff/rolling stock juggling and allocation) is not as big of an issue and less a source of potential complications and screw ups. Divvy up the three carhouses to be exclusive to their respective lines:

    501-503 and 506: Connaught
    504. 505, 507/8: Roncesvalles
    509-512: Hillcrest

    Hillcrest is a bit awkward, particularly with the 509 (assigned it there due to its route-overlap with the 510 and 511, giving it to Ronces would not be smooth), but no arrangement is perfect. I’m sure that Roncesvalles provides some service to the 506 today like it does with the 501 today, plus other such crossovers. One may argue that the 506 needs some help from Roncesvalles in order to enter and leave service for the day… but I’d beg to differ, because the 506 is the daytime cousin of the 306, the line runs all day and all night (except for the Howard Park stretch). The whole line, although it’d be over the course of a few hours, can run through their designated carhouse. However, perhaps make the 301 Roncesvalles’s responsibility, since Connaught already has a Blue Car to look after (but should probably modify the 301 to run from Kipling to Coxwell, to avoid bad management on a line that is already going to be infrequent due to the nature of Blue routes).

    Steve: I have big problems with this proposal for two reasons. First, Hillcrest is not a carhouse and has no facilities for becoming one without major construction. Second, there are good reasons for connecting with Roncesvalles Avenue because there is a strong transfer link with the north-south service there.

    If we get too carried away chopping up lines, we may create more problems for riders than we “solve”. The underlying problem of poor route management will still be present.


  2. Hi Steve;

    I find it somewhat difficult to match up the chart key with the actual chart when it comes down to the subtle shades, especially with the lighter colours. I suspect that it would be easier if the key area had the same grey background as the main chart, to make it a bit easier to distinguish light blue from light turqoise from light green….

    Looking at the eastbound charts, Run 11 shows up at the same time every day, from Royal York through Yonge. It may be regularly showing up a bit early or a bit late — that can’t be told from the charts. But it shows up at the same time every day, which the observant commuter could use to advantage (if they were travelling at that general time).

    Runs just before or after 11 wind up scattered all over by Yonge St. This leads me to conclude that the operator of 11 is much better at keeping to the schedule, and/or caring about the schedule, than other operators on the surrounding runs. Of course, next board period, all bets are off for a run’s reliability if the operator changes.

    Unfortunately the time range of your charts means that it’s hard to track a lot of runs across the city, because either they disappear off at the 9 PM end, or appear in from 7 AM partway across the city.

    I’m unlikely to be on any eastbound car prior to the run that shows up just before 9AM at Royal York. That ought to be run 08/18 (I’ve seen it signed either way), and from your key it may be 08 or 17–hard to tell.

    Steve: I will have a look at the formatting of those charts to see if I can get more reliable contrast, but I am not going to regenerate all of them in the near future. The 7-9 window was chosen to show inbound trips corresponding to the peak period. The program that extracts the data for those charts needs to be generalized so that it can pick up multiple trips through the day rather than only one within the peak period.


  3. I have to disagree with your implying I have proposed a chopping-spree of streetcar routes. I had not proposed any number of route-choppings that exceeds the number you yourself have proposed previously (you want the 501 split, and that was the only one I had chopped up as well (unless you are going to include the 301?)). Furthermore, the Roncesvalles link would not lose any connectivity, because the 501 is routing via King on its Dufferin terminus from Shaw, so it links to the 504 to ride up Roncesvalles anyway, and the 507/8 would still take the whole central stretch of Queen to from Parliament to Roncesvalles and further west – but the only people that this really affects the link for is the people living along Queen Street West between Dufferin and Roncesvales (I proposed the 507/8 goes all the way to Parliament for direct-core travel provisions).

    Yes, I agree that bad management can still be widespread even if the carhouses are isolated to specified lines like I proposed, but part good management is minimizing risk and maximizing control, which I argue would be among the results of such carhouse allocations, with any impacts on customer convenience being minimal as streetcars are not meant for long haul trips.

    Hillcrest does not have the capacity to act as a carhouse for that many lines, I concur (too bad Wychwood is no longer around). However, as streetcars do get repaired in that facility, I would have thought it still counts as a carhouse?

    Where is the TTC planning to add new carhouses (as required for TC)? Last I read, they hadn’t resolved that one yet.

    Steve: Hillcrest has no capacity for simply storing cars and despatching them for service. The space is all occupied by repair bays that are accessed via a transfer table rather than drive-through tracks you would have in a regular carhouse.

    The report on possible new carhouse locations is still in preparation.


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