Analysis of Route 509 Harbourfront: Laissez-Faire Mismanagement

In a recent post, I looked at the time needed for 509 Harbourfront cars to make their way between Union Station and the CNE. These times are extremely well-behaved and show the benefit of having a line both in its own right-of-way and on a route where traffic congestion is almost unknown (at least in December).

What this analysis didn’t talk about was headways.

There is no way to put this gently. The service on Harbourfront is appallingly bad because some operators treat the schedule as little more than wallpaper, and nobody in Transit Control seems to care about the quality of service. It’s a little shuttle, it will look after itself. Meanwhile, as we have seen in the Spadina car analyses, the attitude seems to be that short turns of Union-bound cars are just fine, maybe because that wonderfully reliable 509 will handle the demand.

These lines are supposed to show what the TTC can do when we get traffic out of the way. What they demonstrate is that the TTC doesn’t give a damn about running proper service in an area where the population is growing and the transit system hasn’t got long to establish its attractiveness before they all buy and drive cars.

Where will this leave us in the eastern waterfront? What does it bode for Transit City? Continue reading

Getting From Union to the CNE — How Fast Is Our “LRT”?

Last week, as I was polishing up my comments on the Waterfront West LRT Environmental Assessment, I started to wonder about the comparative running times between the CNE grounds, the comparable location on King Street, and the core. How much time does one route save over another? What benefits do we see from the “LRT” operation on the 509 compared with mixed traffic on the 504?

We have already seen service analysis data from the King car in the original series of posts last year, and the Harbourfront line was in my sights as a companion analysis to the Spadina car. I will turn to the 509 in a separate post, but for now, let’s look at the two routes between roughly Strachan Avenue (the east end of the CNE) and downtown.

In my previous analysis of the King route, I used Crawford Street as a “time point”. This is one block west of Strachan and stands in for the “CNE” on King Street. The downtown time point is Yonge Street.

On the Harbourfront route, the CIS times at Exhibition Loop are not reliable for departures, but the arrival times are. At Union, the times are reliable. Therefore, I have used the link from Union to CNE westbound, but from the Bathurst/Fleet intersection to Union eastbound.

[“CIS” is the TTC’s vehicle monitoring system. Data from this system for December 2006 has appeared in many other posts here. In this analysis, for reasons I will detail in the Harbourfront post to follow, all points at Exhibition Loop from Strachan through the loop are considered as one location because of data limitations.]

509 Westbound from Union to CNE
509 Eastbound from Bathurst to Union

504 Westbound from Yonge to Crawford
504 Eastbound from Crawford to Yonge

In the Union to CNE charts for the Harbourfront route, there are consistent running times in a band 4-5 minutes wide clustered around the 15-minute line with a slight rise in the late afternoon on weekdays. Saturday data is flat at the 15-minute line, and Sundays have a bit more scatter possibly due to slightly longer layovers that have not been eliminated from the data.

The Bathurst to Union charts show a bit more scatter as well as evidence of a morning peak that slightly extends the running times. Running times cluster fairly reliably around the 13-minute line.

On the King route, the westbound times from Yonge to Crawford show a greater scatter as well as the clear effects of peak period congestion and stop dwell times. On Friday, December 22, the early rush hour before peak period traffic restrictions are in effect causes running times to more than double the usual values.

The band of data ranges from five to over ten minutes in width and lies generally around the 15-minute line with a rise and fall through the pm peak.

The eastbound times from Crawford to Yonge show strong effects in the peaks, especially the afternoon when congestion through the financial district causes much delay to service. The width and location of the band of data is roughly the same as for westbound trips, but with a much worse pm peak spike in times.

Comparing the two routes, the broad averages in times are in the 15-minute range for both lines. King is much more affected by peak conditions, but outside the peak its behaviour is similar to Harbourfront. Any benefit in speed the 509 might get from its right-of-way is negated by the close stop spacing, winding route and traffic signal delays. The big difference between the routes is that the 509 does not have to deal with traffic congestion, only with unfriendly traffic signals.

Indeed, this is one reason the WWLRT proposes to take an alternate route to Union via Fort York and Bremner Boulevards. This will save some time, but even a 1/3 reduction would only get the average time from the CNE to Union down to about 10 minutes. Considering that the Bremner service will handle demand from the many condos lining the route, such a reduction may depend as much on all-door loading with new vehicles as on the “faster” alignment.