Where Are The Queen Car Riders Going? (Updated)

The coming TTC meeting includes a long report on the status of the Queen car and various strategies to improve its operation.  I will comment on that separately when I have a chance to digest the material.

The report contains a fascinating table in Appendix A, at physical page 7, showing origin-destintation data for the route broken into five segments:

  • Long Branch to Humber
  • Humber to Bathurst
  • Bathurst to Church
  • Church to Kingston Road
  • Kingston Road to Neville

We learn here that riders originating in the Beach travel overwhelmingly to the Church/Bathurst segment, and I suspect even they are concentrated toward the eastern end of that segment.

Riders from east of Yonge overwhelmingly are destined for stops east of Bathurst, and only a tiny number travels to Long Branch.

Conversely, of riders originating on Lake Shore, well over half (52% peak, 63% all day) are bound for another stop on Lake Shore, not for stops on the Queen line itself.  Those who do continue downtown don’t want to go past Yonge Street.

What is fascinating about the report is that it completely ignores these data although they have profound implications for route structure and service.

People do not want to ride from Neville to Long Branch, but to the central area.  Claims that split routes would foul up travel patterns don’t quite line up with the O-D information in this table, provided that an appropriate overlap of east and west end service exists for the busy central section.

The TTC has consistently ignored the fact that the “Long Branch” service has a strong local demand that is abused by the through operation with the Queen service to Neville.  It is worth noting that the all day boardings west of Humber are 5,500.

Just after the 501 and 507 were merged, the count stood at 7,700.  In previous years when Long Branch had its own service, daily boardings ranged from 11,000-14,000.  This is a textbook example of destroying a service and its demand, and refusing for almost two decades to acknowledge the mistake.

Even in its weakened state, the demand remains over half local for the rather obvious reason that anyone going downtown has much faster ways to get there.  Part of this lies with congestion problems, but a lot has to do with the unreliable service.

Much work has focussed on fixing service to the Beach where, intriguingly, the all day boardings are less than on Lake Shore even though it gets twice as much service (on paper anyhow).  To be fair, the Long Branch segment is roughly twice the length of the Beach segment and the density of demand on the west end is lower than the east, but the optics are poor.  Assuming that every boarding has a matching return trip (not exactly valid, but close enough for a rough estimate), we are moving mountains for the 7,500 trips to and from the Beach segment every day, but the 11,000 on Long Branch are another matter.

Updated February 15:

Some of the discussion in the comments thread took me back to the original data, and a desire to see numbers of riders, not just percentages.  This information is now available in a consolidated table.

The first part of this table is the data reproduced from the TTC report.  The second part converts the percentages back to passenger counts.  As a double-check, I summed these values, and you can see that some of these do not exactly match the boarding counts no doubt due to rounding errors.  However, this is good enough for discussion.

The third part gives percentages expressed by origin rather than by destination.  For example, 69% of the riders going to the Long Branch section of the route originate there, 14% originate from Bathurst to Humber, 15% originate from Church to Bathurst.

The vagaries of demand surveys show up in the fact that the number of people originating in each segment is not the same as the number of people arriving there.  For example, 5,500 people board on the Long Branch segment, but only 5,034 make it their destination.  Similarly, more people board the Humber-Bathurst segment, 8,750, than travel there, 8,291.  Although it is possible that the 501 is gradually depopulating southern Etobicoke and Parkdale, the more likely answers lie in variations in trip patterns (out one way, back another) and the inevitable inaccuracies of sampling.

Of the folks bound for the Beach, 3,889, only 88 originate west of Bathurst Street.  Conversely, only 101 of the 5,034 travellers west of Humber originate east of Church.  Those among us with long memories might observe that this could be partly due to the long decline in service quality that would drive anyone trying to make a long trip across Queen give up and find another route.  In any event, the O-D pattern is concentrated in the central part of the route from Kingston Road to Humber (and more likely Roncesvalles if the data were more finely divided).

Lost in the mists of time are O-D figures for the era when the Queen car had well over 60,000 boardings per day.  Where did those lost riders come from and where were they going?