Route 501 Queen in December/January 2007/08 (Part 1: Short Turns)

In anticipation of a TTC report on measures to improve service on the Queen car, there will be a series of posts here over the Victoria Day weekend.  These will review data for December 2007 and January 2008 on 501 Queen and related routes.

I am going to take a different approach in the sequence of articles from earlier rounds.  In those analyses, I began with the graphic timetables of route operations showing first Christmas Day 2006 and then moving on to other days of interest.  Later came Headway and Link Time analyses for individual days, and later for the month as a whole.  Finally came charts showing the short-turning and service reliability as seen outbound from Yonge Street.

In practice, now that this entire process is fairly well understood (at least by me), I am going to turn things around and work “backwards” from the monthly charts to specific days.  The monthly summaries reveal days and locations where interesting events or practices might be found, and of course they also show the overall pattern of transit service.

I have made some changes in the charts both to make the headings “friendlier”, and I plan to standardize on the filenames I used for the linked PDFs.  (Really!  I promise!)  Some of the changes that readers have asked for will not be found in this version such as expanding the daily graphs to have more per day (and hence fewer hours per page).  This is a tradeoff between having charts that are too busy and spreading peaks over multiple pages.  Also, I have deliberately kept the pages in letter size format so that people can print them without having legal sized paper.

For this first set of comments, here are the charts of vehicle destinations outbound from Yonge Street.

December 2007 Westbound to Humber and Long Branch

December 2007 Eastbound to Neville

January 2008 Westbound to Humber and Long Branch

January 2008 Eastbound to Neville

These take some explaining, but they provide a lot of information.

Each page represents one day’s operation from 6 am until 2 am the following day.  The horizontal axis is time as measured at Yonge Street.

Each vertical bar represents one car that crossed Yonge Street, and the time of the bar is the time of that event, not the time the car reached its destination.  The height of the bar is roughly proportional to how far the car went, and the legend explains the values.

The eastbound charts are a special case due to problems with the data in the Beach.  As I discussed in previous analyses of the 501, there is a “black hole” somewhere near Wineva into which vehicles sometimes vanish from contact to the central system, and their arrival at Neville is never reported.  In order to make a reasonable chart of service to Neville, I have clipped the vertical scale of the eastbound charts at about Woodbine Avenue.  Any car that gets this far must be going to Neville whether CIS ever reports this or not.  This tactic avoids ragged, misleading variations in the lengths of eastbound trips in this presentation.

For any day, you can judge the regularity of service by the spacing of the lines, and the headways by the width of the spaces especially at the outer ends of the routes.  Thick vertical bars are actually pairs (or more) of cars travelling close together.


The winter of 2007/08 was not the balmiest on record, but a good deal of the snow we remember came after the period under consideration.  The Environment Canada monthly summaries for December and January show a variety of conditions including a few heavy snow days and a fair amount of rain especially in January.

Westbound Service

Saturday, December 1 shows no service past Roncesvalles until the evening.  On that date, the west end of the line was operated with buses and most of these vehicles did not cross Yonge Street.

Sunday, December 2 shows a gap of about two hours to Long Branch in the mid-morning.  The detailed information reveals that something blocked the line during this period.

The week of December 3-7 shows a lot of short turning at Dufferin, Roncesvalles and Kipling with considerable gaps to Long Branch.

This pattern continues into the week of December 7-14, but the evening of Wednesday the 12th is particularly bad.  Congestion through the core was very bad (as we will see in later posts), and there were some very wide gaps.  However, the big gap around 22:00 actually appears to be caused by the way the route was managed at the time.  Many cars short turned downtown possibly to recover from earlier extreme delays.  This shows a limitation in the data analysis when the operation of the route diverges so much from the expected pattern.

Saturday December 15 shows the familiar short turn pattern, but Sunday is really a mess.  The 16th saw a major storm with nearly 17cm of snow.  Service became extremely ragged, and many cars were trapped in the Beach by parked vehicles.

The week of December 17-21 continues the pattern we saw earlier, but with a particularly bad day on December 21, effectively Christmas eve for shopping traffic.  This is similar to the pattern on Friday, December 22, 2006 when the early rush hour and congestion seriously disrupted service.  Service on Monday, December 24 was similarly ragged until the evening.

Christmas and Boxing Day were fairly well-behaved, and Christmas week saw less ragged service than earlier in the month.  New Year’s eve brought declining service as the evening wore on.

January shows a continuing pattern of short turns on the west end of Queen at Roncesvalles and at Kipling.

Eastbound Service

Service to Neville on Saturday, December 1 was quite good reflecting the fact that all streetcars were turning back at Roncesvalles in the west end through the day.

Sunday, December 2 sees more normal conditions with many cars short-turning either at Woodbine Loop or at Russell carhouse.  This continues through the week of December 3-7.

December 5 is a special case.  Something caused a major blockage of the line in the early afternoon and many cars did not go east of Broadview.  A few vehicles came out of Russell Carhouse eastbound, but there was still a gap of roughly one hour to Neville Loop.  Service continued to be quite spotty in the Beach through the peak period.

The pattern of short turning continues through December with some day-to-day variation, but overall the wide gaps to Neville are common.

Sunday December 16 brought heavy snow and very little service made it through the Beach due to cars parked foul of the tracks.  Monday December 17 shows the overhang from Sunday’s snowfall, and service continues to be ragged through the week.

Finally, everything settles down, and, in a small miracle, almost every car reaches Neville Loop on Boxing Day!

Things improve a lot in January, and less service is short turned west of the Beach than in December.  However, the west end of the line did not fare as well, and a comparison of the westbound and eastbound charts supports complaints that service to the Beach was improved at the expense of service to Long Branch following December’s public meeting.

I will have to make a separate detailed analysis to count up the number of short turns by direction, time period and day, but the charts tell a convincing story.

In the next post, I will continue with a look at headways and running times at and between various parts of the route over the two months.