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.

The Morning Peak Period 

Westbound at WoodbineDecemberJanuary

The service inbound from the Beach in the morning should be reasonably reliable because there is little traffic congestion and many trips originate from Russell Carhouse nearby.

In December, events such as the Monday morning after the snowstorm on December 16 stand out because the service is completely disrupted from its normal pattern.  Delays that blocked service are also evident where, for one day, the lines for a group of runs converge such as December 6 at about 0750.

What is quite striking is the breakdown in regularity at the end of the peak period.  By 0830, the regular pattern we see earlier is replaced by disorganized arrivals of runs, and many are absent, likely short-turned at Woodbine Loop or Russell Carhouse.  (Note that if there were runs that were scheduled to disappear back into the carhouse without making a late trip, they would do this every day and they would not appear as broken sequences of observations.)

The chart for January does not show as much disruption as the one in December even though the same schedule was in operation.  However, what does appear is that several runs do not operate on some days, or at least do not operate east to Neville on their early trips.  In my previous analysis of Queen for December 2006, one problem that showed up was cars entering service, late, westbound from the carhouse. 

Either way, a number of gaps in service are caused by missing cars.  The question can be answered by looking a little further west beyond the point where cars enter service from Russell.

Westbound at GreenwoodDecemberJanuary

This December chart shows that the missing runs at Woodbine in the early part of the morning were also missing at Greenwood.  Therefore, the problem is that the car did not go out at all.

Also quite evident in the Greenwood chart is the considerably larger amount of service at the end of the am peak compared with the Woodbine chart.  The service is a bit disorganized, but most of it is present.  This shows the contrast in service quality before after the major short turn points.

The situation in January is not as bad, but the same overall pattern is visible.

Eastbound at KiplingDecemberJanuary

Service inbound at Kipling is reasonably well-behaved in the early part of the am peak, with a few notable exceptions.

The disruption of all service on Monday, December 17 shows up as many missing runs, and there are large gaps in service especially later in the peak.  This indicates the effect of short-turning because runs that were not operated would have appeared as gaps earlier in the morning.

One run (24) which is scheduled to travel eastbound at about 0700 is missing on six days in December.

As at Woodbine, the service deteriorates at the end of the peak due to short turns.  It is noteworth that the runs that do show up do so at fairly reliable times, but they are not present every day leaving gaps in the service.

In January, the service is very well-behaved and is probably as close to a textbook example as we are likely to see on the TTC.

Again, the 0700 car is missing on two days.

One very odd pattern does appear.  Run 4 is late, and holds his follower run 6, on Thursdays January 10 and 17 at about 0650.  Looking at the detailed charts (not published here), I can see that run 4 was held westbound with other cars east of Yonge, and the trio of 4/6/24 all travelled west to Long Branch together.  However, on the 17th, run 4 took a long layover westbound at Humber, and an even longer one at Long Branch with the result that the same trio of runs travelled east as a pack.

Similarly, run 19 appears late on its trips about 0930.   On January 9, run 19 travelled west with run 4 (which had come out of Woodbine Loop immediately behind at around 0810) and they continued as a pair west to Long Branch and back again.  A similar situation occurs on January 22, and in this case a bunch of 5 runs has accumulated eastbound by Humber Loop, and a sixth comes out into the pack at Roncesvalles.  This is not one of the better examples of route management. 

Eastbound at ParksideDecemberJanuary

Service at Parkside bears many of the same traits as elsewhere on the line, but is noticeably less coherent.  This suggests problems in management of the blend of services inbound from Humber.  We know from the Kipling charts that service on Long Branch is fairly stable, especially in January, and yet by the time it reaches Parkside, and before it will see anything resembling congestion, the service is already running irregular headways.

The Afternoon Peak Period

Westbound at YongeDecemberJanuary

Service in the pm peak is strongly affected by problems during the midday period.  This is especially true on a route like 501 Queen where the off-peak and peak headways are identical and there are few opportunities to spot rush hour extras into a disorganized midday service.

In December, the arrival times of runs westbound at Yonge vary widely, and service quality is at the mercy of whatever shows up.  Things settle down a lot in January when, if not ideal, most runs show up at close to the same time every day and large gaps are rare.

Westbound at Humber LakeshoreDecemberJanuary

These charts show the service leaving Humber Loop westbound.  There are many gaps in the lines in December showing Long Branch cars that never made it past Humber, and some fairly large gaps in service.  The early evening reaches a point where some runs are as likely to be missing as present.

The January chart is a complete contrast and much of the service does get through although on irregular headways.

Eastbound at YongeDecemberJanuary

Service at Yonge eastbound in December is chaotic similar to the westbound service. January is much improved as we have seen elsewhere.

The January chart shows two major delays at about 1530 on the 11th and about 1630 on the 22nd.

Eastbound at WoodbineDecemberJanuary

Finally we are back in the Beach.  The December chart is the worst of the set with runs appearing randomly on individual days.  This shows the extent of short-turning that affected service.  There is really nothing more I can add.

In January, service is somewhat better and many runs make an appearence for several days in a row.  It is useful to compare this with the chart at Yonge street where most of the January service is present and in fairly good shape.  By the time it reached Woodbine, the effect of short-turns is evident. 


Once again, I cannot help thinking that Queen needs a special schedule for December when the shopping traffic and passenger loads are added to whatever the weather might bring.  January shows us that the schedule can work tolerably well even though it might be better managed.

Indeed, the need for a Christmas seasonal schedule may affect other routes, but I don’t have the data to perform such an analysis (or, for that matter, the spare time).  This is definitely something the TTC needs to study for the winter of 2008 along with whatever other changes may come to 501 Queen.