In a previous post, I discussed the chaotic headway situation on the 502 Downtowner car. Now, I will turn briefly to the 503 Kingston Road Tripper.
Updated Dec. 17 at 6:45 am: Information about the combined 502 and 503 services on Kingston Road added.
For those who are unfamiliar with the service design for Kingston Road (the street), here is how things work between Queen Street and Bingham Loop (at Victoria Park).
- Peak service is provided by two routes — 502 Downtowner and 503 Kingston Road — operating from Bingham Loop to downtown. The 502 goes straight along Queen to McCaul Loop (just west of University) while the 503 goes via King to Church and loops via south on Church, west on Wellington, north on York and back east on King.
- The 502 and 503 services are scheduled on the same headway and are supposed to mesh to give a blended service. In the am peak, these are two 12′ headways for a combined 6′ service. In the afternoon, it’s 14′ on each branch and7′ combined. That’s on paper.
- The 502 provides midday service from Bingham to McCaul on a scheduled 20′ headway. As we have already seen, this service is a mess, and some of it does not even reach Yonge Street due to short-turning.
- The 22A Coxwell bus operates from Coxwell Station to Bingham Loop evenings and weekends, and is scheduled on a much more frequent headway (10 to 15 minutes) than the midday service on the 502 for reasons best known to TTC planners. This route perpetuates the operating scheme of the Coxwell and Kingston Road streetcars from pre-Bloor Subway days showing how flexibly service can be organized with buses.
- For the historically minded, the reason the service ends at Bingham Loop is that when the TTC was formed, its service territory ended at the City of Toronto boundary. Service to Birchmount was abandoned, and for many years Birchmount Loop was occupied by a used car lot. You can read more over at Transit Toronto.
The first two charts show the headway data westbound at Woodbine and eastbound at Yonge for December 2006. Woodbine was chosen as the reference point because it is just before the 502 and 503 lines join Queen, and it is remote from Bingham Loop when there are difficulties with resolution of arrival and departure times. Yonge is in the heart of downtown and shows the regularity of outbound service.
You will see that there are no trend lines on these charts. It is impossible to plot a trend through sparse data (there are few trips on the 503) that ranges over such wide variations. What the cloud of data points shows is that, to a typical rider, service on the 503 is almost random, and you may wait a very long time for it to show up. This can be caused by missing cars (not every run goes out every day) and by day-to-day variations in the times cars do operate.
This is a good example of how the laissez-faire approach to line management falls apart with wide headways such as those on the 503. When a line runs every few minutes, small day-to-day swings have little impact, and the range of wait times suffered by passengers is not too bad. With 14′ pm peak headways, a missing car translates to a 28′ gap, and that assumes that the cars around the gap are on time.
Even in the am peak, when there is no traffic congestion and many car are the first trips of the day for 503 cars, headways on Kingston Road are ragged. This arises from a combination of cars entering service off schedule, cars entering service westbound from the carhouse without serving Kingston Road, and cars missing from a particular day’s operation. Again, with wide headways, a missing car creates a 24′ gap even assuming surrounding runs are on time.
The headway charts appear more as clouds than as well-organized data. This shows the huge range of headways in both peaks. Double-headway gaps are common, and gaps over half an hour are not unheard of. This is no way to encourage riders to use the TTC, and it contributes to the bad name that streetcar services in the Beach have in general.
Another way to look at the service is the reliability chart showing when, or if, the same run appears day after day.
Westbound at Woodbine, 503 runs tend to show up fairly reliably until about 0730. However, run 65 (dark blue), does not operate reliably every day, and this puts a 24′ gap in the service right at the point when the buildup of inbound traffic to downtown picks up. Notably, this run is missing on every Friday in the chart, and one Tuesday as well. By about 0815, the inbound service is provided by cars that have already made a round trip, and their times are somewhat disorganized causing irregular headways. On Dec. 5, service was affected by a delay that also shows up in the Queen charts, but this type of thing does not happen regularly.
Eastbound at Yonge, the first few trips show up every day between 4 and 5 pm, although they are not regularly spaced. Things start to fall apart after 5 with cars arriving at widely varying times day to day, and headways ranging from 2 minutes to nearly half an hour. It is tempting to put this down to congestion on King which builds up eastbound particularly after 5 pm. However, the same chart, seen at York Street, shows that service is already disorganized before it even turns east onto King. Some cars are clearly running early and are right behind their leaders.
As with other services I have reviewed here, the overwhelming impression is of badly managed (or unmanaged) service. It’s likely that nobody really cares about a tripper route that runs infrequently, and yet the service it provides is so irregular as to be useless to all but the lucky riders who happen to encounter it or who are dedicated enough to wait for it.
Update: Combined 502/503 Service on Kingston Road
Riders bound for downtown can, in many cases, take whatever car shows up on Kingston Road because the two routes are close together through the core. Here is what the service looks like with both routes combined.
The headways at Woodbine cluster around the 6 minute schedule in the am peak, and the 7 minute schedule in the pm. However, the scatter, especially in the pm, is considerable. In the morning, gaps of over 10 minutes are common.
The Service Reliability chart shows how the missing 503 cars leave gaps in the inbound service during the am peak. On December 5, there was a major delay on that affected all services in the Beach at the end of the rush hour. Otherwise, this chart shows variations for individual runs that grow toward the end of the peak.
Midday service is provided only by the 502, and this is the same data we have already seen in the article on the Downtowner car with many gaps well above the scheduled 20-minute service. This is due both to variation from the schedule and to short-turns eastbound at Woodbine Loop, a totally counter-productive activity given that the 502’s purpose is to serve Kingston Road!
In the afternoon, the range is anywhere from zero to twenty minutes with some outliers even higher. Even a rider who takes any car eastbound out of downtown planning to transfer on the common part of the routes on Queen Street will face unpredictable service and wide gaps in the combined 502/503 services.