Intrepid travellers, egged on by rosy tales in National Geographic, may find themselves attempting a round trip on the 501. All manner of dangers lie in wait for the unwary — just to get started, you have to actually find a Queen car at Neville Loop!
As a public service, I have reviewed the Queen car data to see what might await our adventurers. [Yes, you thought I was finished with the 501, didn’t you. Fooled you!]
The first charts I created show the running times all the way from Neville to Long Branch. One fact leaps off the page right away — few cars actually make this trip especially at certain times of the day. Short turns usually intervene. All the same, for those cars that do cross the entire route, here are the results. Note that times refer to departures from Neville.
- On weekdays, the running times are clustered around 80 minutes in the early morning (plus or minus 5) rising gradually to centre on 90 at midday (plus or minus 10).
- On weekday afternoons, the number of cars making the trip thins out drastically. Running times stay in the 90-to-100 minute range peaking at 120 for a few cars around 1700. These peaks only occured on three days where there was severe traffic congestion in Parkdale.
- On weekday evenings, the times settle down by 1800 and cluster around 80 minutes through the evening.
- On Saturdays, trip times peak at about 1400 at around 105 minutes (plus or minus 5). As on weekdays, morning and evening times sit at about 80 minutes.
- On Sundays, the pattern is the same as on Saturday, but the peak is lower at about 95 minutes (plus or minus 5).
- On Christmas Day, the time is consistently 80 minutes through the main part of the day, and on Boxing Day, around 85 minutes.
Eastbound trip times are a bit tricky because of the CIS black hole that swallows cars from roughly Wineva to Neville Loop. Reliable arrival times at Neville are hard to get on some days, and layovers at Neville may be counted in the trip times. Times cited below are departure times from Long Branch.
- On weekdays, trip times cluster around 90 minutes, but around 1500 there is a drop in the number of through trips to Neville and an increase in the trip time with peaks over 120 minutes again corresponding to a few days when congestion was bad.
- On weekday evenings, trip times settle down to cluster around 90 minutes.
- On Saturdays, trip times lie mainly between 90 and 100 minutes for the main part of the day.
- On Sundays, the rangs is between 85 and 95 minutes.
To get a better sense of what was going on, I looked at different trip segments. In order that the many short turns at Woodbine could be included, I plotted trip times from Greenwood to Long Branch.
- Weekday times are clustered in a band roughly 15 minutes wide rising from an average of 70 at 0800 up to just over 80 by 1500 dropping back to 70 again through the evening.
- On Saturdays, the pattern is similar except for a lower average in the early morning (no rush hour) and a peak around 90 at about 1500.
- Sundays are similar to Saturdays, but the peak is much flatter topping out around 80 minutes.
Looking at the eastbound service (times are departures from Long Branch) :
- The weekday pattern is similar to the westbound times, but the afternoon peak is higher rising to about 90 just after 1600.
- On Saturdays, the eastbound peak time clusters around 85 minutes, and the peak is not as marked as for westbound service.
- On Sundays, times are clustered between 70 and 80 minutes for much of the day.
Finally, looking at the segment from Neville to Greenwood, the running times are fairly consistently in a range from 13 to 17 minutes with some outliers, particularly in the late evening. Times on Saturdays are slightly higher.
Whether we look at the route end-to-end, or in segments to bring in more partial trip data points, we see a fairly consistent view that typical one-way times are around 100 minutes with outliers up to 120 on a few days out of the month for limited time periods.
Our travellers will have to build in waits for a car to show up at Neville and for the considerable probability that they will be short-turned somewhere in at least one direction of their journey. At Long Branch, there is a good chance that two cars will be in the loop at once, and if our tourists are smart, they will move forward one car for the return trip. Otherwise, they may sit for 15 minutes or more during a layover.
Worst case, yes, they could take 4 1/2 hours which, under extreme weather might stretch to five. I’m not sure this would make for good sightseeing. At least there are lots of bars in The Beach where they can drown their sorrows and regale the locals with tales of their adventures in the western lands.
[With apologies to J.R.R. Tolkien for borrowing the title.]
I have updated the charts for the trips from Neville to Long Branch and return (above) so that the level of the scheduled running time and the layover is shown along with the actually observed data. This appears on pages 5 through 7 of the linked files. The TTC only gives broad descriptions of when the times are in force, and I have arbitrarily broken up the day using three-hour increments. This gives a general view of the schedule.
The recovery time (the difference between the running time and the total trip time) is driven mainly by the mechanics of merging services eastbound from Humber. Note that there is no recovery time for the late evening schedule on weekdays and therefore only one line is shown. I have divided the time evenly between trips in each direction although actual data shows that layovers at Long Branch are much longer and most of the recovery time is used there.
The trip times fall below the scheduled times moreso in the westbound direction than eastbound. This is ironic considering that the westbound trips tend to get more recovery time when it is the eastbound trips that run long. Running times are particularly tight in the pm peak and this contributes to the oft-observed lack of service to the Beach after the rush hour.