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

Route 501 Queen in December/January 2007/08 (Part 3: Headways)

The 501 Queen car is a mess — that’s no surprise to anyone.  In the past two posts, I have looked at where the cars go.  More, to the point, I have looked at where they don’t go thanks mainly to short- turns.

Riders are frustrated not just by the unpredictable destinations of Queen cars, but by the lack of reliable headways.  The schedule may say there’s a car every 6 minutes, but this is at best a general average.  TTC “on time” goals say that an error or plus-or-minus 3 minutes is an allowable margin, and this means that gaps of up to 9 minutes, followed by only 3 minutes , is “on time” performance. 

This ignores the fact that the gap car will carry 3 times the headway, be much more heavily loaded, and the average rider’s perception of the service will be much worse than the average implied by the schedule and the loading standards.

If the service actually stayed within 3 minutes of the advertised schedule, life would be annoying, but tolerable.  There might even be a car in sight much of the time, if not the “always” of the TTC’s slogan for good service from the 1920s.  We should be so lucky. Continue reading

Route 501 Queen in December/January 2007/08 (Part 2: East vs West)

In the previous post, I presented the information about the destinations of cars on 501 Queen with details over the month.  One issue right at the end of that post was the eternal east-vs-west debate:

Does the Beach get more service than High Park?  Are more cars short-turned in the west end than the east end to keep the Beachers happy?

Although there appears to be some indication this might have developed in late January, overall the level of short-turning is quite bad at both ends of the line, usually in equal measure. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

Station Redesign for Pape and Islington

The TTC agenda for May 21 includes full PDF versions of the reports on the planned redesign of Pape and Islington stations.

The file for Pape Station is about 5.5MB, while the one for Islington Station is about 2.8MB.  A notable change at Islington is the disappearance of the proposed SNC-Lavalin building on the former bus loop site, although this remains available for development.

Subway Entrance Identification (Update 2)

In an unusual move, the full version of a report (almost a 70MB PDF) of a design charrette on entrance identification is available on the TTC’s report website.  If you want it, grab it while it’s still there as this situation may not be permanent.

I will add comments here after I have a chance to digest it.

Update 1:  I got all the way down to the last page after the file downloaded, and there was a pair of photos of the existing sign at Osgoode Station and a proposed replacement.  The “new” one looked terribly familiar.

A quick visit to the City Archives confirmed my worst fears:

You can see a sign that looks remarkably similar at the opening of the Yonge Subway in 1954, or at the opening of the University line in 1963.

Here is the original entrance on the south side of Bloor east of Yonge.

The old signs used the shape of the TTC flying keystone (the wings were added for the “Rapid Transit” image to the original 1921 design), and this was simplified to make the signs cheaper to build and maintain by the time the Bloor line opened in 1966. The main differences between the 1954 and the 2008 versions are the use of the “modern” TTC colours in 2008, and the absence of the word “SUBWAY” across the wings of the sign.

Update 2: As a public service, I have put a condensed version (1.3MB) of the TTC’s file on my site.

Why “Professionals” Didn’t Design Transit City

Now and then, word reaches me that some of the professional transit folk in these parts have their noses out of joint because Transit City wasn’t designed by their elite brotherhood.

Some of them want more subways.

Some of them want more Bus Rapid Transit.

Some of them think the lines are in the wrong place.

Well, I hate to disappoint them, but Transit City didn’t get designed to their liking for some very good reasons. Continue reading

Metrolinx White Papers Available for Review

The official version of the Metrolinx White Papers 1 and 2 are now available for review and comment. 

For those who read the draft versions in the agenda of the April 25 Board Meeting, the major change lies in the addition of appendices discussing alternative test cases and the challenges of achieving the Ontario targets for reduced environmental impact of the transportation network.

Appendix E reviews two alternatives to the test cases already discussed.

  • Model B2 starts with the original “radial” network, but adds six major highways highways plus a ten percent increase in regional arterial capacity through road widenings in the 905.  It is also based on the land use scheme from the “linear” network because the population densities of the radial and web schemes would overwhelm the road capacity in the 905.  More about that later.
  • Model C2 starts with the original “web” network , but omits planned provincial and municipal road improvements, the highway 407 east extension, and the proposed 404 and 427 extensions.

The results are not very surprising. Continue reading

Service Changes Effective Sunday, May 11, 2008 (Updated)

Many service changes will take effect this Sunday.  Broadly speaking, they fall into three categories:

  • Improvements to handle overcrowding
  • Season changes (mainly services to university and college campuses, and to parks)
  • Construction changes

I have listed only one of the construction changes.  Weekend service on 512 St. Clair will be reduced slightly because cars will now be stored at Hillcrest Yard and it is not necessary to have all cars in service all of the time.

A number of the “seasonal” changes involving longer hours of service will likely stay in place in September.  In November 2008, if the planned implementation of 30-minute minimum frequencies on all routes while the subway is operating goes ahead, these services would become permanent.  There is no point in removing them for a few months between the end of the summer and the implementation of the Ridership Growth Strategy policy for hours of service.

Service Changes for May 2008