In the previous article of this series, I examined headways on the Lawrence East 54 bus route for the months of November 2011, March 2012 and May 2013. The data revealed a route where staying close to the scheduled headway is a matter of chance, and happens far less commonly than “reliable” service demands.
If running times are fairly consistent, then the time taken from point “A” to “B” is predictable and headway maintenance should simply be a matter of short holds for the faster operators and encouragement to speed up to the slow ones. However, the headways are uneven right from the termini of the route and from an intermediate point (Lawrence East Station) where re-spacing service to a regular headway could easily be done.
A related issue with schedule adherence is the question of running times. Is the underlying problem that operators cannot make the assigned times in the schedules and therefore have no choice but to run at whatever chance headway occurs? I have looked at this previously on Queen and on Dufferin where schedules are a problem for some, but not all, specific time periods.
Finally, there is always the issue of traffic congestion, the bane of surface operations and a mantra to which the TTC often resorts when people complain about service.
Looking at May 1, 2013 in Detail
As an introduction to the topic, the first charts presents the times taken to cover each section of the route on one day, May 1, 2013. There is nothing special about this day, and it makes a good representative of the three months’ worth of data available.
Note: The route is subdivided into ten segments of my choice both for geographic reasons and to permit analysis of behaviour over specific sections. The locations have nothing to do with official “time points” in TTC internal schedules.
For reference, I also include the chart showing all vehicle movements on May 1, 2013. This maps location against time for each vehicle in a format seen in many previous articles here.
- The slope of the line indicates the vehicle’s speed with the more vertical lines indicating faster operation.
- Horizontal lines indicate vehicles that are not moving. This is commonly seen at termini and at Lawrence East Station. Short horizontal “steps” are usually for stop service and/or traffic signals, especially if the route is uncongested.
- Trips running into and out of service show up as lines that begin or end typically at Leslie & Eglinton, Lawrence & Birchmount or on Lawrence east of Markham Road. The route is based at Eglinton Garage near Pharmacy & Eglinton.
- Trips around the Orton Park loop appear to reverse direction. This is caused by the mapping which only considers east-west movement here. A bus running north on Scarborough Golf Club Road will also be running west somewhat before it turns east on Brimorton at the top of the loop.
When we look at actual data patterns, we see that “link times” (the time needed to traverse a “link” between two points on a route) vary much, much less than headways. Moreover, for many links, the times show little change over the day indicating limited peak-period effects of congestion or dwell times to load passengers.
On the westbound trip, the time from Starspray loop to Port Union is fairly consistent all day, but rises noticeably late in the evening. At off hours, the buses tend not to lay over at the terminal, but rather at points along the route and the time taken can show up in these charts as running time rather than terminal time. Layovers show up as long horizontal stretches on the service chart at or near Starspray.
From Port Union to Kingston Road, the times stay fairly close to the trend line with a few exceptions:
- At the end of the AM peak, there are five trips which lie below the main data. Four of these are buses running back to the garage. They show up in the data here because they are still “in service” as far as the vehicle tracking system is concerned.
- Early in the PM peak, some trips are affected by school traffic. See the service chart at about 16:10 where vehicles in both directions hold at the same location, a stop near a school.
Once we reach the segment west from Markham Road, the express operation of the 54E kicks in during peak periods. This is responsible for several data points well below the trend line. This shows up on the service chart as lines with different slopes and buses, on occasion, passing each other. However, the express portion of the line is comparatively short.
The next segment, from Midland to Kennedy, does not include the 54E buses because their trip ends at Lawrence East Station. Some of the longest trips over this segment happen in the evening suggesting layovers at Lawrence East Station. This can be confirmed from the service chart. Indeed, one bus at about 20:50 takes such a long layover that it later short turns without reaching Starspray.
Another factor quite visible on the service chart is the tendency of Orton Park 54 buses to enter service very close to a Starspray 54A bus. This sends a pair of buses west to Eglinton Station on double the advertised headway. One inbound pair, at about 21:20, is noteworthy for taking a layover together at Lawrence East Station. The official schedule shows that the two branches should interleave with even headways throughout the day.
Kennedy to Victoria Park shows little peak period effect. Some of the longer trips are associated with layovers at Warden.
From Victoria Park westward, peak period effects start to appear. They are small in the segments to Don Mills and to Leslie/Eglinton, but quite pronounced approaching Bayview in the AM peak (less so in the PM). From Bayview to Yonge, the trend line is flat although the values are scattered around it especially during the daytime. This may reflect the situation on this busy part of Eglinton shared by many routes where some buses are at the head of a gap and must handle more passengers at each stop.
Visible on the service chart are the common short turns westbound at Bayview and less-often at Laird. Note how most of these do not fill gaps eastbound, but appear intended more to get buses back on time than to even out service.
Eastbound trips from Eglinton Station show minimal effects of the peak period until we reach the section from Leslie/Eglinton to Don Mills with considerably longer link times in the PM peak. This shows up on the service chart as congestion between Leslie and Don Mills that is most pronounced between 1700 and 1800 (5 to 6pm) where the lines tracking the vehicles become more horizontal. This effect is eastbound only.
From Victoria Park to Kennedy, the longer running times appears to be more related to time spend at stops/intersections than to operating speed between them. This includes stops at Warden which, given their length, are probably for crew changes.
Kennedy to Midland includes the stops at Lawrence East Station which can vary in length as discussed earlier.
Midland to Markham Road includes data for the express 54E buses and so the peak periods have some trips with lower running times than the average. These show up on the service chart as trips originating at Lawrence East and going to Starspray. Their faster speed often results in them overtaking a local 54 or 54A.
East of Markham Road, the data do not include the Orton Park short turns, and the 54E expresses are all running local. The running times are fairly consistent here.
East of Port Union to Starspray, the effect of varying layover locations causes spikes in the chart just as it did for westbound service.
Looking at an Entire Month and at Longer Segments
Although the preceding section has a lot of detail, it is almost too fine-grained. I included it as an example of what can be obtained from the data, but for a more general view we need to step back in two ways.
First, we need to see an entire month’s data consolidated to distinguish between constant patterns and one-day peculiarities. Second, we need to look at longer segments of the route to see whether operators can make up for short delays over longer distances. In other words, are the small variations we see in each route segment cumulative, or does the range of running times remain in a narrow band as the distance increases.
The following charts plot the link times for various segments of the route. The first five pages of each file show data for weekdays, and the sixth combines all weekdays together. The last two pages show data for Saturdays and Sundays.
Port Union is taken as a starting point because trip times east of here vary considerably due to the choice of layover points. I will deal with that segment of the route later in the article.
The weekday data for the segment from Port Union to Midland have a similar overall shape throughout the month. There is a “hump” in the trend lines at midday because express trips in peak periods pull the averages down for those hours. Just as on the May 1 chart, the express trips show up as a wider cluster of data points for the periods when they operate.
Saturdays are not unlike weekdays except there are fewer trips and no express operation. On Sundays, the midday peak is a bit lower than for other days.
Common to all of these charts is that much of the data lie within a 10-minute wide band except for the express trips on weekdays.
The segment from Midland to Kennedy includes Lawrence East Station. The data here are clustered in a roughly 6-minute band through the day, every day.
The segment from Kennedy to Yonge shows the peak period effects commonly seen on downtown routes with longer trip times in the peak. Week 5 data are more spread out because of extreme weather on some days. Weekend data show little variation except the usual lower values in early morning and evening periods. Again, the data may vary over the day, but the values stay within a 10-minute band a great deal of the time.
The question, then, is whether those variations from segment to segment add up over the course of journeys to produce a vary wide band of values for complete trips. The charts for Port Union to Yonge show that this does not happen and the data continue to lie within a 10-minute band much of the time. This implies that operators are usually able to compensate for time lost on one part of the route elsewhere in their trips, particularly outside of peak periods.
Eastbound trips from Yonge to Kennedy show the same peak period increases seen above for westbound trips. From Kennedy to Midland, the times are quite consistent all day long with occasional outliers in the data for buses that took layovers at Lawrence East Station. Between Midland and Port Union, there is the same pattern with more widely spaced peak period data due to express trips that is seen westbound.
The full trip east from Yonge to Port Union has a similarly shaped distribution of values to the westbound chart, but the AM peak times are shorter by about 10 minutes eastbound. PM peak times are roughly the same in both directions. (Compare the sixth page, the all weekdays cloud of data points, for the eastbound and westbound trips.)
As with westbound trips, although there is variation in each of the segments, these do not accumulate over the full journey. This indicated that operators are usually able to make up for lost time and make the overall trips within a roughly 10-minute band of times.
At the Terminals
These charts plot the round trip time into and out of terminal areas. Because layovers can vary substantially, treating these parts of routes separately eliminates this variation from analysis of running time on the main part of the route itself.
At Eglinton Station, the reference point is just east of Yonge Street. The measured round trip goes from there west to Duplex, south and through the station, and back out across Yonge. Traffic effects and dwell times will both contribute to the values plotted here.
On all days including weekends, the lowest values are about 5 minutes. This establishes what the shortest time is for this segment, but not a reasonable one for planning purposes. The centre of the data values lies at 8-10 minutes as one might expect for a reasonable amount of loading time and a break for the operator after a long trip.
Some buses, especially on weekends, get quite generous layovers at Eglinton Station. It would be interesting to correlate these with trip times to see if the longer layovers correspond to the faster trips. I suspect that they will, but that’s a job for another day.
At the east end of the line, as mentioned earlier, layovers are taken at various locations between Port Union and Starspray and there is no specific terminal location. Therefore, I have treated the entire segment as the “terminal”.
On weekdays, the values lie across a 10-minute band from 5-15 minutes much as they do at Eglinton Station. Unlike the western terminal, however, there is a marked drop in values at 2000 (8 pm). This almost certainly corresponds with the 15% reduction in scheduled running time for the “late evening” service. As at Eglinton Station, it will be interesting to compare the time spend east of Port Union with the time taken to get there from Yonge Street to see how much the extra time spent before 8 pm is a function of operating speed.
Weekends see higher round trip times from Port Union to Starspray, especially on Sundays. This is not traffic congestion, but a generous schedule that makes layovers possible. It is hard to reconcile the erratic headways during such periods with the amount of time available at terminals.
Actual vs Scheduled Times
From the monthly link time summaries, one can estimate a reasonable time one would expect most buses to spend on each segment. For mid-route segments, this will lie roughly in the middle of the observed times, possibly toward the upper one-third mark during peak periods. For terminal segments, a “reasonable” time would be the time needed for a minimal circuit through the terminal segment plus four or five minutes for recovery time.
The values for each segment can be totalled and compared to the scheduled times, as in the following table.
On the weekday schedules, the actual times are a bit higher than the scheduled ones. To some extent this could reflect operators “taking their time” and driving up travel times knowing that they will take a break at the terminal. However, it should be remembered that the terminal times in my table have already been adjusted to a “reasonable” allowance, not to the range of observed values.
Early evening times on all days are higher for the actual observations than the schedule. It is possible that the transition to the shorter scheduled times occurs later than the points I used as an “early evening” reference, and that there really is no problem with the schedule here.
Sundays consistently have adequate time, except in the early evening as noted. Indeed, the scheduled time actually is longer in the late evening so that the 54 Starspray service will mesh, at least in theory, with the 54A Orton Park buses.
If anything, I suspect my estimates of actual travel times are generous at least during periods of good weather (which May certainly would be). Winter months could be quite a different story.Even so, there is little here to explain the erratic headways and lack of attention to spacing of service so that the 54 and 54A branches blend properly and avoiding widely-spaced pairs during off-peak periods.
Evolution of Running Times
Out of curiosity, I also looked at the running times between Port Union and Yonge for the three months whose data I have been analyzing here.
These files each contain three pages, one for each subject month, with the “cloud” of weekday data points for each direction’s trip.
The westbound trips are slightly lower in March 2012 than in November 2011 or May 2013.
The eastbound trips are higher in the PM peak in November 2011 than the later dates. Midday off peak times are higher in May 2013.
Without an extensive set of data beyond what I have been requesting from TTC, it is hard to say whether these differences indicate any long term trends or simply seasonal variations.
In any event, there has not been much change in running times over the route since November 2011 and the current state of service cannot be put down to some recent phenomenon.
As we have already seen from the link time charts, parts of the route do not suffer from much congestion, and other parts see it only in the peak period when running times are extended.
Another way to display these data uses the vehicle positions as a sample every 20 seconds of where a bus might be found. Where buses run slower, or are stopped, they are more likely to be found and the number of observations will be higher. (This type of chart was introduced in a review of the King car earlier this year.) Because Lawrence East is a very long route, I have broken the display into two sections for the east and west halves to avoid crowding the information.
There are 19 charts in each set corresponding to the hours from 6am to 12mn. The location of each vertical bar is a position mapped from GPS data to a 10m resolution, and the height of the bar is the number of vehicles seen at a position during the hour in question. The scale along the x-axis is the internal distance measured from Starspray westbound with each 100 units being roughly 1km.
Locations of congestion show up as high points with a long “tail”. This corresponds to a stop where congestion forces buses to creep up gradually to the point where they serve passengers. (It could also be a location with a traffic signal, but no transit stop, but these are less common on the suburban routes than downtown.)
The charts summarize data for the first full week in May 2013, from the 6th to the 10th.
The most noticeable congestion effects are westbound between Leslie and Yonge in the AM peak, and to a lesser extent in the PM peak. Most locations on the route have a sharp vertical line corresponding to the stops. The area around Lawrence East station (right hand side of the “East” section) consistent shows higher counts because vehicles spend more time there. A similarly higher set of values shows up around Eglinton Station.
East of Scarborough Golf Club Road, the counts fall off because the 54A Orton Park service does not operate there.
Eastbound charts should be read right-to-left because they are built on the same template as the westbound ones, but vehicles are travelling in the opposite direction.
A few things show up here including Leslie and Eglinton as a point where buses hold eastbound, especially in the PM peak, to make the left turn east to north. There is a lightly used stop just around the corner, but the delays are on the approach to the intersection.
At the outer end of the line, east of Port Union, the varying locations used for layovers are evident.
These charts don’t look like much compared to the ones I generated for the King car because congestion is not as severe a problem on the 54 as it is on the 504. This is reflected in fairly consistent running times over large sections of the route that were shown earlier in the link time charts.
The flip side of congestion is the speed at which buses can move along the road. The following four sets of charts have the same format as the location charts above, but they plot average speed rather than counting vehicles at each position along the route.
The speeds are averaged for all vehicles seen at a point by taking the increment to the point where the vehicle appears 20 seconds later, scaling this to a value in km/h, and averaging these values for all observations at the point within the hour charted.
The variations in speed over parts of the route and by time of day are quite clear, and I will not burden readers who have come this far with a detailed commentary.
As with the location/congestion charts, these are best viewed by stepping through the pages to create a quasi-animation of the evolution of speeds by location through the day.
[Methodology: Background information on the techniques used in this analysis is available in a technical article: Methodology For Analysis of TTC’s Vehicle Tracking Data.]
A good analysis of the 54 bus route. Perhaps you could do 34/86/116 and see if the HOV lanes on Eglinton East have an effect on route reliability and travel time.
It should be mandatory for management and route planning to read this. I can’t praise enough the amount of effort that must go in to creating each of these documents and articles.
As a future route review proposal may I suggest taking a look at the nature of the 32 Eglinton west bus both before LRT tunnel and station construction and how the behavior of the route has changed since. A majority of the underground stations are built on the 32 route portion of Eglinton. Aside from the expected delays associated with lane closures, have operators and scheduling managers changed the how the route operates. Lessons learned from Eglinton or trends noticed in the study could bring about better service management techniques which could be applied to other transit or road works construction zones.
Steve: Eglinton West already has extra vehicles to provide for construction delays as do many other routes affected by other projects such as the Spadina subway extension and the Metrolinx Georgetown corridor project. I’m not sure that I want to get into delving back a few years into routes for which I did not already have the data. Just wading through one route is a lot of work (as you suggest), and I like to pick routes to illustrate specific points.
The next one will be the Dundas car in part to look at the operation of Yonge & Dundas and how it affects streetcar service. This ties into the Downtown Traffic Operations Study now underway at the City.
Lawrence East is interesting because it is a very long route rivaling our longest streetcar line and it suffers from uneven service despite being a supposedly “flexible” bus route. I was hoping to find some indication of why the service was so ragged (and has been for years), but nothing jumps out of the analysis on a route which, compared to Queen, suffers little traffic congestion, and what does exist is predictable and therefore can be provided for in the schedule.
If the TTC cannot manage reliable service on a route when it’s not subject to construction delays, I am not sure there is a “lesson” for them in analysis of routes that have them. This really would get into a separate subject, that of operating routes and crewing operators without set schedules for the vehicles, but adapting to daily conditions as they arise. That’s not simple even if labour-management relations were at an all-time high.
Excellent take Steve! To add a tidbit, the 54 Lawrence East operations was also out of Malvern Garage on Sheppard and Markham sharing it with Eglinton. Perhaps you could do the Finch corridor (36/39/139/199) seeing its carries 46,000+ passengers similar to that of the 54, with more buses taking threshold during peak hours.
Steve: According to the schedule summaries in effect for the three months included in the article, Lawrence East was an Eglinton operation. I have data for the 36 and 39, but not the 139 and 199, and will turn to these routes in due course.
I can confirm that Eglinton division had the 54 Lawrence east. My father was based out of that division until may of this year and drove it on a number of occasions. To the best of my knowledge nothing has changed with regards to where the route is based.
Looking at this very thorough analysis it is hard to determine any particular cause for the poor service on route 54. It seems that the actual running times is consistently longer than the scheduled times even though there is little traffic congestion aside from the Eglinton section during rush hours. Is the route lacking in supervision? Its unusual to see such erratic headways on weekdays when the supervisors are on shift and should be monitoring this.
From a customer experience perspective the service on this route is really terrible. As you have said repeatedly in the past Steve, the day-to-day operational problems of the TTC get short shrift but they are every bit as important to transit users as the multi-billion dollar capital projects.
First, I do appreciate the work in making some sense out of these data. Data is useless [unless] it is analyzed. The problem with the TTC data (and not Steve’s work) is that no one knows what is holding the bus or allowing it to speed through. For example, the data can show a bus passing Midland Ave at 5 minutes interval with a few passing it at 10 minute interval. Could it be that a person with a stroller or a bicycle tried to board causing a delay? Was a fare dispute occurring resulting a delay?
Steve: It is possible to look at service charts to check out behaviour at specific times and locations, or even to define a route “segment” that is very short and will isolate dwell time for specific locations. I did this in analysing the St. Clair route and the holds at traffic signals associated with farside stops some years ago. For the purpose of these articles, there is a level of detail beyond which I think most readers would give up, and I am trying to give a more general sense of a route’s behaviour unless something really jumps out. The next articles will be about 505 Dundas and I am looking specifically at the Yonge/Dundas intersection.
What we need is a way to have vehicle utilization against the data Steve presented. If the bus is crowded at 110% capacity, of course, it will be slow. Sometimes, it takes three minutes just to disembark a stroller and a grocery cart. A vehicle at 10% utilization will no doubt beat a posted schedule.
Transit Control is really operating blind sometimes. When they order short turns, they do not even know how many people are on the buses. Erwin Rommel’s Panzer commanders have constant two way communications with command. This was in 1940! When Presto is implemented, utilization data will be easier to come by. The number of boarding will be available in real time. But even then, bus drivers need to communicate to Transit Control constantly. If there is two bikes on the front racks and three strollers inside, Transit Control needs to know.
Steve: Presto will tell you about boardings where someone “taps in”, but it won’t pick up people boarding with other types of prepayment media, nor will it capture departures.
To digress a bit, the TTC cannot operate this way of trying to be everything to everyone. In Japan, no one brings a bicycle to a transit vehicle. They would buy a bicycle to ride to the station and a different bicycle to ride from the station to the destination. Japanese do stock up on sales, but they do not try to bring 60 rolls of toilet paper into a crowded bus. They ask for a delivery or bring a car.
Steve, thank you for the lot of work you put into improving transit in Toronto. My question is why does BRT cost as much as $15 million per km? A few kilometres of BRT can cost hundreds of millions of dollars and years of construction. All they have to do is build a curb to separate bus lanes from traffic lanes besides making stops (which need not be fancy like VIVA*), so can we not build a few kilomtres for a few hundred thousand dollars in a matter of a few days? Are there any roads in Toronto which are wide enough to do this and the demand present to justify the conversion to dedicated BRT lanes? Also the TTC buses that run on Steeles, should York Region not share part of the operating cost (never mind the cost of purchasing the buses) of those (as Steeles is part of York Region too and these buses serve York Region just as much as they do Toronto)?
* If VIVA did not put so much fanciness into their rapidways and not just the stops, they could have done this much faster and much cheaper. Planting trees is not fanciness but a lot of other things associated with the project are pure luxury. I personally would rather have much more of less fancy BRT built rapidly than have a little bit of fancy one that takes so long to build because of all the fanciness.
Steve: Part of the high cost is that these are road widening projects. It’s not necessarily just a question of putting up curbs and some new transit shelters. As you no doubt know, part of the opposition to proposed LRT lines in Toronto comes from the question of lost road space, although in many cases this would not happen. Blowhard politicians latch onto this sort of argument whether it’s accurate or not.
Some roads in Toronto have room in their rights-of-way for additional lanes, but the real challenge is in areas where that space isn’t available. Those are also likely to be the most congested already, and the locations where motorists will most object to the loss of space to transit.
I think that from all Steve’s analyses it is clear that there is very little schedule (or spacing) supervision on ANY route. As Bruce says operational details and supervision are just as important to customers as huge projects and if they don’t get it right the big stuff is really rather wasted.
Benny, CIS control is not ‘ordering’ short-turns blindly. In many cases, supervisors do ask about the number of passengers on board, but what ends up happening does depend on the supervisor. There are those for whom short-turns are the be all and end all of service management, but there are also supervisors who actively engage with and consult with the operators to put the route back on time.
The main issue is that all routes, including the subway, are managed to schedule, not headway. The main consideration is to get the operators at the relief point at the scheduled time. On the subway, passengers are mostly unaffected, because of all those across-the-platform crew change-overs. Doing this on the surface system is much more challenging. The basic point here is just like most people who work a 9-to-5 job and expect to leave work at 5 (or thereabout), operators sign up their crews based on a finish time at a specific ‘relief’ point. If the vehicle is late by more than 10 minutes at the relief point, the operator due to be relieved gets paid double time. If all routes were strictly managed to headway, and given the very tight schedules on many routes, this would result in many ops working lots of overtime as well as the overtime payments going through the roof. A more serious issue is that lots of overtime beyond the allowed ‘spread limit’ can affect the operator’s availability for work the following days, according to the Employment Standards Act. There is no easy way to change that, unless schedules were relaxed to allow a reasonable recovery time, especially for long routes. However, more running time means more buses, which in turn mean more capital and operating funds.
There are around 5 or 6 high schools directly on the route or close transfers to Lawrence. I know this plays into service issues on the 116 with 3 high schools, any impact on this route?
Steve: I wouldn’t be surprised if they do have an effect, but I don’t have data for the 116 to analyze. (It’s not a question of availability, only of what I ask for.)
Dundas St in Peel & Halton would be a good example of “just BRT” costs…much of Dundas is already 3 lanes each way through Mississauga (plus a centre turn lane) with the exception of through Cooksville (Cawthra to just west of Confederation Parkway where it is 2+1+2 lanes) and crossing the Credit River Valley (2+1+2 east of the Credit River Bridge, 2+2 of the bridge up to Erin Mills Parkway).
Dundas through Halton has already been widened from 9th line past Trafalgar and west of 4th line … so the cost of any future BRT would be “just” the BRT since the road widening has already happened.
Of course I’m sure the cost would still manage to creep up. I believe part of the justification for the elaborate VIVA rapidway stations is the chance that they will switch to LRT in the future
Does anyone know if this will be true for the new generation of Presto? It certainly is NOT true for the current system.
Moving Presto terminal that are on vehicles have no connection to the back-end system until the bus is in the garage overnight, and even then it is possible that it may skip a night if work is being done on the bus that night. This is why a reload can take a day or two to reach your card, and then another day or so for it to show up on your online transaction history. Likewise, all the tapping-on one does today on a bus will not show up on the online transaction history until tomorrow, and the odd one may not be there until the day after.
Fixed terminal installations (VIVAstations, TTC subway stations, GO train stations) connect with the back-end on a more frequent basis, but I don’t believe (from personal experimentation) that they could be called ‘real time’.
Like it or not, opposition to transit projects will always exist. Depending on the severity, some form or appeasement to opposition is necessary as part of any project. VIVA exists in York Region where transit usage is down around 5%, so the issue of not “taking away lanes” from cars is a bigger issue than it would be south of Steeles.
This is a major issue where I have stated before that the Sheppard East LRT project was important to be built first. Back in the days when Toronto had separate municipalities and Metro council, roads that were the responsibility of Metro were designed with the expectation that they should have up to seven lanes of traffic. For some parts of some Metro roads, it was too late for this by the time it was made the ‘standard’, but not with Sheppard.
The only part of Sheppard along the proposed LRT route that had actually grown to seven lanes is that part west of Pharmacy. East of there, it is mostly only five lanes, though some parts are only four lanes (not counting intersections where there are also left- and right-turn lanes). All that road allowance would allow the two through-lanes to be widened out for a median, leaving the same space for traffic. Not only would this not decrease space for cars, the removal of buses from that space would actually INCREASE space (though, that would get back-filled pretty quickly).
Wouldn’t most of the problems of the 54 be solved once the Crosstown LRT is built and the 54 would depart from a station further east, perhaps the proposed Leaside station? If that’s not enough perhaps diamond lanes on Lawrence East from east of the DVP might help during the rush hours.
Steve: A shorter route would help somewhat, and the 54 is proposed to wind up at Don Mills Station on the Crosstown. However, that’s years away and the bigger question is what can be done to improve service on lines like this generally. The section of the route east of Don Mills is not subject to much congestion (running times are the same more or less throughout the day except near Don Mills where the change is slight compared to the kind of congestion found on other routes). More express service could help riders who can take advantage of it, but there is a fundamental problem with uneven headways even at times when there is no external explanation for them. This is a service management issue as much as one of route length and congestion.
Reading through both analysis’s of 54 has given me an opportunity to reflect on the changes that have occurred since I began my employment at TTC.
I’ll address one comment about 54 and which divisions operated it. When I started over 10 years ago, 54 was (and still is) operated by Eglinton Division with rush hour extras provided by Malvern. Upon the opening of Mount Dennis, this split operation split, with Eglinton assuming all operation.
When I started at TTC, high floor buses were the norm (GM New Looks, Classics, Orion V, Flyer). These buses had treadle operated rear doors. My personal observation is that, although some of these models were slow, the rear doors had a quick cycle after the treadle was released. The low floor models, along with the lift equipped Orion V, had push bar operated rear doors. My experience with the push bars is that the cycle time is much slower. Taking this into account with bike racks and the accessibility operation of the low floor buses leads to longer dwell times at stops. I also feel that the low floor buses take longer to offload through the rear doors.
These factors, based on my operational experience, lead me to conclude that this is a major reason why bus routes are suffering from bunching, extended gaps, etc. A disclaimer: I have never operated on 54.
Steve: From the calculations I included in the article, I had the feeling that scheduled times did not always match actual conditions, but this was far from a constant problem. I should dig out some very old schedule summaries to see what running times on this line were a decade and more ago, especially when it was operated by high floor buses.
Steve, a couple of additional thoughts on this topic came to me during the past week while operating on one of the busier routes that Birchmount has: 102 Markham Road. I was very much into “observation mode” while watching my dwell times at stops.
– passengers crowding the area at the front of the bus while there was sufficient room to move back
– passengers moving from the rear of the bus to exit through the front doors, passing by the rear doors as if the doors didn’t exist
– strollers blocking the aisle at the front of the bus, slowing down the passage of embarking passengers as they tried to make their way farther back
– I embarked several passengers in wheelchairs and had considerable difficulty getting other passengers to relinquish the flip up seats as well as provide sufficient room for the wheelchair to maneuver into place
– multiple strollers at one time doing the “stroller shuffle” as the passengers tried to get on and off of the bus
– there was always a lot of transfer traffic at Lawrence (which is common on all of our north-south routes such as 24 Victoria Park, 17 Birchmount, etc.)
As well, the older Orion VII buses are actually quite slow (7400, 7500, 7600, 7700, 7800 series). Eglinton Division had 7400, 7500, 7600, and several 7700 series buses. Birchmount has the balance of 7700 and all of 7800 series. As well, Birchmount has a large number of 8100 series Orion VII. The 8100 buses are like hot rods compared to the older buses. The 8100 series can make a big difference on a busy route like 102.
Although this isn’t a scientific study or analysis, I feel that my observations could be taken as a possible contributor to the performance issues on 54. Before anybody else jumps on me, I am very aware that individual operators and individual supervisors can also play a large role here. There are shakers and slackers operating everywhere; and there are supervisors who can make or break by their management or mismanagement of the route.