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.
This is another issue of route management: if cars on the less frequent 502 run back-to-back with a 501 by waiting at the merge point for a 501 to slip in front of them, then the 501 does all of the work on the common section of the route. Ridership figures for the 502 would also be affected by this.
After a bit of data crunching, I produced the following two charts showing how services “blend” on Queen Street and on Kingston Road.
These charts use a similar layout to the destination charts presented earlier in this series, but in this case, the vertical axis shows which route a vehicle is on rather than its specific destination. Queen cars (dark blue) have a value of “1”, Downtowners (red) “2” and Kingston Road Trippers (green) “3”.
Wherever two cars are running close together, the vertical lines are thicker. This has various effects depending on the combination of routes involved.
- If this represents two (or more) Queen cars, the thick bar will end at the “1” level. If this is a Queen and a Downtowner, there will be a fat line to “1” and a thinner line to “2”.
- Where Downtowners and Kingston Road cars run together, there will be a fat line between “1” and “2” then a thin one above “2”.
- A pair of Queen and a Kingston Road cars will show up as a fat line to “1” and a thin line to “3”.
[Apologies to my readers who write in with suggestions about beautifying these charts. I wrestled with how to display this data in a way that would make bunching immediately obvious, and this is what I came up with. If anyone has a better idea, please let me know via a comment.]
The charts for Greenwood Westbound will include all of the service originating from Russell Carhouse eastward. From this, we can see that bunching does occur, although it varies from day to day. The first few days of January had problems left over from the New Year’s Day snowfall, but the situation is not very pretty even later in the month when things were more or less back to normal.
The 502/503 service does not blend well on many days in the AM peak (when it matters), but Thursday January 10 was a really bad example with almost every pair of trips running together rather than on the scheduled 6 minute headway. There is no reason to explain this situation beyond a complete lack of line management. Through the midday, 501/502 pairs are common although their numbers vary from day to day.
Eastbound at University, there are only 501 and 502 cars (the 503s are down on King), and we are just east of McCaul Street where the 502s merge into the 501 stream coming east. Pairs of cars are evident here too and of particular note are cases where there is a gap inbound on 501 Queen which might have been filled by a 502 Downtowner, but instead it came out together with (and likely behind) the 501 car.
This doesn’t happen every time, but it’s frequent enough that I can conclude there is no attempt to use the Downtowners as “extras” to fill holes in the Queen service at least over the common portion of the route. Moreover, if the Queen car has to carry the gap (rather than an empty Downtowner from McCaul) it will get even more behind schedule on its trip east.
Back in the days when both the Queen and Downtowner cars ran every few minutes (that’s actually long enough ago that the route name was “Kingston Road” and numbers hadn’t yet been assigned to streetcar routes), managing the blend of the various services didn’t matter because they were all so frequent. That’s no longer the case, and the TTC needs to consider whether a supervisor’s time would be well spent actively looking after this sort of problem.