Routes 502/503 Downtowner / Kingston Road in January 2008

This is the second part of my analysis of service on routes 502/503, both of which provide weekday daytime service on Kingston Road.  For general comments about the route, please refer to the previous post.

Service in January was not as badly affected by snowstorms or shopping-related congestion as in December.  Except for the week after after New Year’s Day, there were no major storms disrupting service or creating barriers of cars parked foul of the tracks.  Even so, service on Kingston Road was far from ideal.

Route 502 Downtowner

Headways Westbound at Woodbine

The first week of January was affected by snow, and headways were ragged during this time as a result.  However, this does not explain the persistence of the “cloud” effect when all weekdays are seen together (last page of this file).

Although the headways are not as badly spread out as in December when weather and shopping traffic took their toll, there is still far too much scatter in the data and one can only barely make out the overall shape of the trend that should be visible.  Headways are supposed to be every 12 minutes in the AM peak, 20 minutes at midday, and 15 minutes in the PM peak.

Headways Eastbound at Yonge

A similar pattern is visible at Yonge eastbound.  Note that the “cloud” spreads out a bit more here than at Woodbine thanks to short turns at Church Street.  Gaps of well over 20 minutes are not uncommon, and for a service passing through downtown, it might as well not be there.

Destinations Westbound from Bingham

The amount of short-turning downtown is evident in this set of charts.  On some days, the service all gets to McCaul as it should (for example, Friday, January 18), and so this is not an operational impossibility.  However, on other days (Tuesday, January 22), cars were turning at Church all day long.  On that date, it snowed from about 0800 to 1600 with an accumulation of 4 cm.  (As a point of comparison, the snowfall on December 16 was almost 17 cm, and on New Year’s Day was over 9 cm.)

While I sympathize with the TTC’s desire to keep service running, the whole point of “service” is for cars to go where the passengers are.  Short-turning before reaching the transfer point with the Yonge Subway, especially on the wide scheduled headways of the 502, is a totally wasted effort.

Destinations Eastbound from Yonge

The charts from Yonge eastbound do not, of course, include those cars which short-turned at Church and operated east from Victoria Street.  Some considerable gaps in service are evident.

Link Times from Woodbine to University

The link times westbound are clustered in a band barely 10 minutes wide, with a small, but visible variation over the day.  This shows that random delays and traffic congestion do not affect this part of the trip during all operating periods to a degree that cannot be accommodated through recovery time at the termini.

Link Times from University to Woodbine

Eastbound link times show more variaton, as we saw in December, particularly in the PM peak.  However, as in December, the variation is almost entirely confined to the portion of the route between University and Yonge Street which is a known area of congestion.  (The detailed link by link charts are not shown here.  You will have to take my word for it.)

Terminal Times at McCaul Loop

The round trip times from University to McCaul Loop vary somewhat, and they are notably high in the early part of the AM peak.  From personal observation I can say that the layover time at McCaul at that time of the day is rather generous.  This is not surprising given that service goes out with the full peak period running time in effect well before it is actually needed.

There is some congestion on this part of Queen Street in the PM peak, and this shows up in the slight spreading of times during that period.

Terminal Times at Bingham Loop

At Bingham, as at McCaul, the round trip times are longest in the early part of the day.  There is a slight increase in times late in the afternoon, but not a substantial one. 

This chart, with round trip times from Woodbine to Bingham, shows that overall the running time provides ample ability to recover from traffic delays on Kingston Road under most circumstances.

Route 503 Kingston Road Tripper

Headways Westbound at Woodbine

As we saw in December, headways on the 503 are badly scattered in the PM peak, and the AM peak is far from perfect.  The distribution of headways, which are supposed to be a uniform 15 minutes in the PM peak, range more or less evenly between 5 and 35 minutes.

Headways Eastbound at Yonge

The situation at Yonge Street is similar to the westbound data with a more scatter in the AM peak.  This is probably due to cars arriving early downtown and not laying over as they are trippers bound back for the carhouse.  They leave outbound more or less when they can.  In the PM peak, the cloud of headways is a bit tighter than at Woodbine, but headways over 20 minutes are common.


The data for January is a bit better than December’s, but given the better weather and the absence of pre-Christmas traffic, it should be.  Even so, the word “service” seems hardly appropriate to describe what we see here.

The lack of attention to the 502/503 services has been going on for decades, and riding dropped as a predictable result.  Short turned cars may run closer to schedule, and the TTC may even avoid some overtime payments, but they do this at the expense of riders.

There is little evidence of unpredictable and severe congestion affecting either the 502 or 503, certainly nothing to match the effects we have seen on the west end of the Queen route through Parkdale.  There is no excuse for the irregular service on Kingston Road.

Sadly, the TTC’s interim report on the Queen car does not even mention Kingston Road, and that omission tells us all we need to know.

2 thoughts on “Routes 502/503 Downtowner / Kingston Road in January 2008

  1. Who is the Councillor for Kingston Road? Let me guess… NOT a TTC Commissioner?

    Steve: Yes, Kingston Road runs right through the middle of Ward 32, but the folks on Queen make more noise.


  2. This route should run more often Steve, This would help with Giving Queen much better service too, But unfortunately, we do not have enough streetcars to do this. I say round up about twenty old PCC”s and rebuild them for service until we get new cars. There are four rusting ones at Halton and I’m sure if you look around we can find another 16.


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