Analysis of Route 510 Spadina — Part I: Introduction

The Spadina Streetcar has operated now for just over a decade. For all the problems of getting the project approved and built, there is no question that it has transformed travel on Spadina. With such intensive scheduled service and a complete right-of-way, we should have the best possible quality. This series of posts will examine the actual service in December 2006.

As usual, I will start with Christmas Day to introduce the analysis under the best-behaved conditions, and then I will move on to regular weekdays, and to the month as a whole. Among the major points I have found are:

  • The presence of a right of way greatly reduces the sort of variation seen over the course of the day on mixed-traffic routes, but does not eliminate it completely. As demand rises and falls, stop service times vary and this affects trip times.
  • Although the averages are well-behaved, the degree of variation is quite substantial. Indeed, given the short distances travelled, the amount of variation is comparable to that seen on the much longer mixed-traffic Queen route. This variation undermines the benefit of the right-of-way.
  • Some delays due to traffic signals are visible in the data, but the resolution of the TTC’s monitoring system (CIS) is such that I cannot report on this in detail.
  • Short-turning is a chronic problem at Queen’s Quay, and much of the service destined for Union Station never actually gets there. At first sight, I was reminded of Queen Street in the Beach when I reviewed the charts. This is no recommendation for the benefits of exclusive right-of-way.
  • Spadina is a route that demands management by headway, not by schedule. With extremely frequent service, the concept of being “on time” is meaningless to riders.

For those awaiting a review of a suburban bus route, please have patience. With all the discussions of service reliability on Queen, I thought it important to look at a route operating completely on reserved lanes to see just how it behaved.

For those who are new to this blog, I recommend reviewing the early posts about the King car in the Service Analysis category. The techniques used to distill the TTC’s data and present it for analysis are explained there in detail.

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