Route 501 Queen in December/January 2007/08 (Part 6: Headway Reliability)

In this article, I turn to a view of the data for 501 Queen that shows the reliability of service as seen from headways (the passengers’ point of view), and from schedules (TTC Operations’ point of view).

As in previous analyses, there are charts for both December and January, but I recommend that readers look at the January charts first.  The service in January is generally better behaved, and you will get a better sense of what these would look like, ideally, from those charts.  December was a complete disaster both for headway and schedule reliability.

Each set of charts presents the time a specific run was seen at a point on each weekday in a month.  If the service were running perfectly on time, the data points should be identical for each day, and we would get a series of straight lines across the page.  That type of chart is the exception, and in the worst cases the chart is a hodgepodge of points.

The five pages of each set show first an overview of the entire am or pm peak, and the next four pages show each hour in greater detail.  Where the same run appears on two or more successive days, the points are connected by lines.  Breaks in these lines indicate runs that did not pass the location on some days.

The horizontal lines on the chart are spaced at the scheduled headway for the am and pm peak periods as a reference.  In an ideal world, there should be a car in each horizontal slice of each chart.

This view of the data would likely change substantially if the line were managed to headway without regard for schedules.  The runs would appear all over the place depending on how service was managed, but there would be something present on a regular basis in each column.  Indeed, this chart would become meaningless, and the headway charts in Part 3 would be the major reference for service reliability.

One caveat about these charts.  A special schedule was operated over the Christmas and New Year’s period which is similar but not identical to the regular one.  You will see a slightly different pattern of run numbers in late December and early January corresponding to the weeks when this schedule was used.

Continue reading

Route 501 Queen in December/January 2007/08 (Part 5: Terminal Operations)

In previous articles about the Queen car, I have mentioned the difficulty of getting reliable information about the length of layovers at the terminals.  However, there is an indirect way to do this, subject to certain caveats:  use the round trip time from somewhere near the terminal where data is “well behaved”.  As long as the travel times to and from the terminals are fairly constant, this will give us a view into how long runs actually sit at the end of the line.

The caveat is important for Neville Loop because the section from Woodbine (the next timepoint used in my analysis) and Neville can be affected by snow and congestion delays.  However, we do have fairly good data for the westbound trip (see Part 4), and can use this to temper ourview of the round trip times.

At Long Branch, congestion is not an issue, and we can use the variations in round trip times from Kipling as a surrogate for terminal layovers.

Round Trip From Woodbine to NevilleDecemberJanuary

December saw a lot of congestion at various times in the Beach both due to shopping traffic and to snow on December 16.   Although the charts don’t reveal as much as I would like about layovers, one thing does stand out — the general increase in round trip times during midday and in the evening.

The midday increase, especially on Saturday, is likely shopping-related, while the evening increase is almost certainly due to longer layovers.

In January, the data values are more tightly clustered, and the midday peak has almost completely disappeared.

Round Trip From Kipling to Long BranchDecemberJanuary

In the west end, things are somewhat different, and the data values show quite a spread from the trend line.  This is almost certainly due to long layovers at Long Branch Loop.  The effect is quite strong in week 4 (after Christmas) when the line as a whole is less congested.

December Saturdays are all over the map.  On December 1, the line operated with buses until about 1800 and they tended to handle the Kipling to Long Branch trip faster than the typical streetcar times, probably because they didn’t sit long at the loop.  (Their trip times to Humber, which can be seen in Part 4, were longer, however.)  The very wide spread in times shows that there was considerable room for layovers at Long Branch on Saturdays for many runs, and under this situation the problem of on time departures from the terminal can become an issue.  I will turn to that subject in a later installment.

Sundays in December show a similar pattern to Saturdays, but with less spread.  Christmas Day is particularly notable for generous layovers.

The pattern for January is similar to December.

As an operational issue, I don’t object to giving staff a chance for a breather, particularly when the trip from Neville can take as much as two hours on a very bad day.  However, the combination of generous layover times, long routes, and route segments (e.g. Yonge to Roncesvalles) where congestion can double the running times makes is a recipe for poor service.

Long “recovery times” encourage operators to take them as layovers whether the time is available or not, and the variations in the scheduled times shows that this is more a requirement of blending service at Humber than of providing a standard length layover.

If Queen is broken into shorter routes, operators will have more frequent chances for a break because they will be at terminals more often, and they may be more willing to shave time from a terminal layover when they are slightly late.

In the next article, I will turn to the question of headway reliability during the am peak.

Route 501 Queen in December/January 2007/08 (Part 4: Link Times)

In previous posts in this series, we have seen where cars on 501 Queen actually go, as well as the gaps and unpredictability of service both downtown and at the outer ends of the line.  Now I will turn to the length of time cars take getting from one place on the route to another, and how this varies both over the course of the day, and from day to day through December and January 2007/08.

We hear a lot about traffic congestion and the need for better transit priority.  If such a scheme is to benefit riders as a whole, it must address the locations and times when streetcar service is slow.  Often this is not the “obvious” time or place– the peak period, downtown — and priority schemes focussed on this narrow time and location will do little to improve service.

This article contains a series of charts that are similar to the headway charts in Part 3.  Data are organized into groups by week (for weekdays), Saturdays and Sundays/Holidays.  Instead of headways, the times shown are the intervals between a car’s appearance at two locations. 

When these times are unvaried and show little scatter, then there is no congestion or variable delay due for stop service, and almost no opportunity to change running times.

When these times vary a lot, but in a predictable way (moving up and down over regular times each day), this shows regular variations in traffic levels and stop service time.  Delays caused by traffic signals can be addressed through priority schemes.  Delays caused by stop service can be address by increased use of all-door loading.  Delays caused by congestion, especially those outside the peak, can be address by traffic restrictions on parking and turns at intersections.  These will not be popular in neighbourhoods outside of the core where the main streets are important local commercial strips and the streets are the grid through which drivers access the residential side-streets.

Where these times show unpredictable spikes or move away from a regular pattern, this is the result of some event like a storm, a traffic accident (possibly on a nearby street such as the Gardiner Expressway with a spillover effect), or an unusual rise in traffic (for example around the club district or on New Year’s Eve). Continue reading