Routes 501/502/503 in January 2008: Blended Service? (Updated)

Update:  The charts in this post have been updated so that each route has its own colour.  Thanks to a reader, Brent, who spotted the problem with rendering them only in B&W.

One of the little myths of TTC schedules is that routes with branches, or streets with overlapping routes, actually have something like “blended” service where some care is taken to even out vehicle spacings.

In some cases, the schedules do make an attempt to do this with identical headways on different services, but after that, the service is pretty much left to its own devices to “blend”.  For many years, the 502 and 503 services on Kingston Road had similar but slightly different headways.  This would mean that there were large scheduled gaps followed by pairs of cars during periods when the departure times at Bingham were almost in sync.  As it happened, this problem was at its worst right at the peak of inbound travel.  Poor service by design, and in time this was fixed.

An example of overlapping routes where the blend is troublesome lies on Eglinton Avenue east of Yonge where many services run together:  34 Eglinton East, 54 Lawrence East (with two branches of its own), 100 Flemingdon Park, 56 Leaside, 51 Leslie and 103 Mt. Pleasant North.  The 103 doesn’t overlap for long and there is no service on the 51 and 56 at some times (although this will change if the proposed Ridership Growth Strategy full-service standards come into effect in November 2008).

On Eglinton there are three major services, each on its own headway.  This causes scheduled bunching and wide gaps.  Given the different requirements of each route, this is inevitable, but it’s important to remember that many riders will see packs of buses and wide gaps and wonder just what is going on.

Down on Queen Street, there are three services merged westbound between Kingston Road and the Don River, and two services between the Don and McCaul.  It’s not uncommon to see cars from different routes running in pairs, and I started wondering just how frequently this happens. Continue reading

Thoughts on Taking Down The Gardiner East

On Friday, Waterfront Toronto announced a plan to relocate the Gardiner Expressway from Jarvis to the DVP into a surface road parallel to the rail corridor.  For reasons that are unclear, the Environmental Assessment for this project will take four years — even longer that the infinitely tedious transit EAs for simple lines like Cherry Street through which many of us have suffered.

(The issues about how long or short an EA should be are complex in their own right and I won’t dwell on them here.)

In brief, the scheme replaces the elevated road with an at-grade eight-lane divided street, with  University Avenue cited as the prototype.  The new road would be north of the existing expressway structure allowing all of the land south of the rail corridor to be reconfigured and redeveloped.

Traffic projections indicate a slight rise in travel times for trips through this area.  Not unexpectedly, the motoring lobby already predicts at least doom and gloom, if not fire and brimstone for good measure.  I have no sympathy for them at all. 

The eastern part of the Gardiner is lightly used.  Even during the AM peak, the traffic flowing south on the DVP past my apartment (just north of Bloor) is rarely bumper-to-bumper because so many cars leave the road further north.  Jammed traffic means there has been an accident, not that there is no capacity.  Northbound backlogs on the DVP are inevitably caused by accidents much further north, by early closings downtown on long weekends, and by the end of major sporting events.  The queue rarely reaches to Dundas Street.  Lowering the capacity west of the Don will have little effect on overall travel times because the main areas of congestion lie elsewhere.

The new configuration will simplify the work on rearranging roads at the Don Mouth where a knot formed by Lake Shore, Cherry, Parliament, and Queen’s Quay (not to mention the Gardiner) is a very pedestrian-hostile environment.  Moreover, with the new “Waterfront Boulevard” being a street, not an expressway, connections with local roads will not require ramp structures, only traffic lights.

Why we have to wait eight years for this wonderful new arrangement is a mystery, but I am sure that many consultants will retire, or at least buy a nice house in the country, on this project.

Mixed in with Friday’s announcement are two other items of more than passing interest.

The York Street Ramp

Although we don’t have any details, there is a plan to realign the York Street off ramp, the corkscrew that occupies much of the northeast corner of Queen’s Quay and York.  When I can find out what exactly is involved, I will publish details here.

The neighbourhood groups along Queen’s Quay have been pushing for this for some time, but until we know the details, we won’t see whether all we get is a larger parkette but also a new off-ramp fouling up some other intersection.

The Front Street Extension

This road is now about as dead as it can be without  the requisite wooden stake through its heart.  Even Councillor Joe Pantalone, long an advocate for this road, says it is something for another generation, according to media reports.  Meanwhile, former Councillor Dominelli, a landowner in the Liberty Village area long reputed to be pushing for the FSE, has actually stated he just wants a local road, thank you, so that he can get on with his redevelopment.

Considering how long many people have tried to get just that proposal on the table and been rebuffed at every turn, this is a very strange development.  Finally, we can get on with properly designing and building roads to serve the community from Bathurst to Dufferin, rather than an off-ramp to the expressway serving commuters from Burlington.

In deference to his long battles on this front [you can groan here], I propose that the new road be called Hamish Boulevard.