Updated February 26 at 11:15 pm: The legend on the service chart has been corrected to reflect the actual location of the timepoints.
The 512 St. Clair route resumed streetcar operation from St. Clair West Station to Earlscourt Loop on Sunday, December 20, 2009. This was the test everyone had waited so long to see — would the right-of-way on the busiest part of St. Clair Avenue make a difference, and how would the line operate.
As we know from complaints that poured in to the TTC and to local Councillors, things did not go well during the first month. New scheduled were introduced in mid-February, and the decline in complaints indicates that riders are much happier. Nonetheless, it is worthwhile looking at January 2010 to see where the problems lay.
This series of posts uses TTC vehicle monitoring data to review the operation of the St. Clair route for that first month. I have requested the February data as well so that a “before and after” comparison will be possible with the new schedules.
This article is an introduction and, for those who have read these analyses before, a refresher on the methodology I have used and the format of the data presentation. In future articles, I will review the month as a whole, but here the data is from one day, January 1, to set the stage.
Historical Comparison — April 2007
In a previous series, I reviewed the service in April 2007 just before the western half of the line closed for construction. This was the last period when streetcars operated through to Keele Street.
These articles and accompanying charts give a comparison view of the line as it was before the right-of-way existed west of Vaughan Rd.
For those readers who wish to know the details of how the raw TTC data were converted to the charts used in these articles, please read this article.
Chart of All-Day Service
This chart shows the operation for New Year’s Day as a graphic timetable. Various effects are visible on the chart. (In this discussion I refer to cars by colour. The actual vehicle numbers are available in the underlying data.)
Slanted lines up to the right are cars moving westbound while those moving down to the right are eastbound.
Locations where the lines are horizontal show a car that is stationary. Small “notches” in the lines show places where a car stayed in one place long enough to report the same location over several 20-second intervals. These notches tend to appear in roughly the same vertical position throughout the day and show places on the route where cars are routinely delayed either by busy stops or unco-operative traffic signals.
At the bottom of the chart (St. Clair Station Loop), there are two separate locations where cars tend to sit. The higher location is the offloading platform and the lower one (usually zero) is the loading platform. Operators typically take their breaks at the unloading platform.
At the top of the chart (Earlscourt Loop), a similar pattern can be seen depending on where, exactly, a car lays over in the loop. These small scale changes show how accurately the GPS units are reporting vehicle positions.
The length of layovers operators are getting at each end of the line is clearly visible on the chart, and varies through the day.
At about 8:10 am, there is a “wiggle” in one car’s chart (brown line) near Lansdowne. This is a GPS error which is small enough that it is not rejected as being out of range. A similar wiggle occurs for this car at about 20:10.
Starting about 6:30 am, there is a car (blue line) that consistently has a wide gap in front of it. Shortly after 11:00 am, this car goes out of service at St. Clair West. It reappears at about 13:50. This could be either an equipment problem or a missing operator. At around 14:30, this car is short-turned eastbound at St. Clair West. Its gradual move westward within the loop is a side effect of the data mapping. Probably what happened is that it reported no data for some time, and then reappeared slightly west of its last known location. The mapping routine interpolated the missing time slots.
Starting at about 16:00, pairs of cars run together for extended periods. Note particularly the yellow and lighter blue cars which stay close together for a round trip, after which yellow goes out of service. At 19:00, yellow runs out of service. However, comparison to other Sunday/Holiday days and to the TTC schedule summary shows that there should still be 5 cars in service, not 4. This is probably a missing operator.
Midway through the evening, around 21:00, the pink car runs into troubles westbound from Oakwood. By the time it leaves Earlscourt Loop eastbound, brown has caught up, and pink gets a short turn at St. Clair West. Things get partly sorted out, but pink continues to carry a wider than usual headway. This problem gets worse at 22:45 when brown runs out of service. Looking at other Sundays and at the Schedule Summary, service is supposed to drop from 5 to 4 cars mid evening. However, one car (yellow) is already missing and only three cars stay in service. They run on their schedules rather than being spaced to a headway causing pink to carry a double headway for the rest of the evening.
Notable by its absence is any service west of Lansdowne. In the data supplied by the TTC, many days either have no shuttle buses at all, or appear to have some missing. I suspect that this may be due to the absence of GPS units on all buses assigned to the route. Bus data are included in the charts for what they are worth, but they are omitted from the headway and link time analyses.
New Year’s Day was comparatively uneventful, but Sundays through the month are quite a different story as we will see in a future article.
The charts of headways show times for cars at Yonge, Tweedsmuir (just east of St. Clair West Station), Bathurst, Oakwood, Dufferin and Lansdowne. Times are not shown for the two terminal loops, but rather for nearby points. This avoids problems with small differences in the way each operator, even each trip, behaves right in the loop.
Clearly visible through the day is an erratic headway with wide variations to the point that the gap between cars can be as much as double the scheduled service. The evening periods show the effect of the one missing car when no effort was made to re-space the service and there were very long gaps.
From the service chart, we know that there was little short turning, and that most cars had at least a short layover at the terminals. The uneven headway is typical of what showed up in analysis of other routes — vehicles do not leave the terminals on a regular spacing and this causes uneven headways across the entire line. New Year’s Day had no congestion, no weather problems, no surge loads, and the service shows what happens with laissez-faire line management.
The link charts show the time required to travel between pairs of timepoints on the line. The charts are about as boring as they come, with the trend lines staying almost flat for every location, and very little scatter of data values around those lines. This shows that, at least on New Year’s Day, the travel time between points was quite consistent.
The last page of the charts shows the running time from Yonge to Lansdowne. The trend line is quite flat at about 18 minutes, although the data are scattered either side of it by a range of about 3 minutes either way.
On a “best case” day, running times can vary by a range of 6 minutes on a base of 18, quite a substantial margin. Some of this will be a question of individual operator style on a route with which many were probably unfamiliar. I will return to this question later in the analysis.