With debates swirling around various schemes to improve service on King Street, one disheartening thread is the fixation on pet solutions, on annoyances that don’t really contribute much to the overall behaviour of the route.
In comments here and elsewhere, the issue of stop spacing has come up from time to time. On King and on other routes (including many bus routes), there are locations where pairs of stops are closely spaced to the point one might ask “why is this stop here”. The TTC has proposed elimination of some stops, and this brought mixed reactions. Some “surplus” stops clearly are very close to others and might be eliminated. Others may appear to be close, but they may also have strong demand in their own right, riders who don’t take kindly to the idea that their stop isn’t needed.
For any discussion, it is quite useful to actually know what the whole route looks like — don’t just take one or two locations and presume that the whole route suffers from the same problem.
A very easy way to see where all of the stops are is with NextBus. Here is the URL to display the 504 King car:
I have shown this link as a URL (the hotlink under the text will take you to the page), and you can go to any other route simply by changing the “r=” parameter. All of the stops are displayed as small circles, and they are clickable to get the prediction for the next car at the location. Places where stops are close together (or not) are easy to spot.
Be careful not to confuse pairs of dots that are for each direction where the eastbound and westbound stops may not be directly adjacent. Some of these situation have historical background (buildings, etc that once dictated the best place to put a stop). Some stops are used only on Sundays, and if you click on one (and it’s not Sunday) you will get “no current prediction”.
Leaving aside the Sunday stops, yes, there are some closely spaced stops that probably made sense once upon a time, but might be dropped today.
Some stops exist because they are at traffic signals where there is a good chance a car will be held anyhow. In some cases there are double stops related to the way cars and buses actually operate with alternate routings.
However, these are exceptions and do not dominate the route overall.
Roncesvalles Avenue is an example of a revised route because this was totally rebuilt a few years back with a new design for stops where the sidewalk comes out to meet the streetcar track. All of the many Sunday stops were eliminated, and there are now stops at:
- Dundas West Station
- Bloor (northbound only, with an island)
- Dundas & Roncesvalles
- Howard Park Avenue
- High Park / Fermanagh
- Galley / Garden
- Queensway (including two northbound stops, one nearside, one farside)
Over the two kilometres from Bloor to Queensway, that’s a 250m spacing, and one would be hard pressed to find a pair of stops to be eliminated (leaving aside the implications for the road geometry).
From Dufferin to Bathurst, the average spacing is the same, although the run from Atlantic to Sudbury through the railway underpass does push these stops a bit further apart. This is an area of very high population where removing a stop will only add to walking distances. The larger problem here is the time needed to board overcrowded cars, when they show up.
By contrast, between Yonge and Bathurst (also 2km), the spacing is 200m on average, a situation helped by three very closely spaced stops at York, University and Simcoe. However, this is a busier location on the route, and the stops are well used at various times of the day. General traffic congestion is the bigger problem here, not stop service time at a few stops.
On Broadview, the spacing is back to 250m (note that there are two Sunday stops on Broadview if you are counting them), and the operating speed is fairly high because there are few traffic signals.
The stop spacing in most neighbourhoods has evolved out of the street pattern, and that 250m average probably says something about block lengths in the “old” city.
The closest spacing on the subway lies between Bloor and Queen where the average spacing is 500m. This spacing grows as one moves away from downtown and reaches 1-2km in outer areas. That is not a mark of local convenience, but rather of the desire to limit the number of stations (capital and operating costs). Everyone “in between” just has to make do.
Getting back to King Street, there is more to be gained by making traffic generally, and transit in particular, move faster between the stops, however many there might be. A few stops here and there might be dropped, probably with local objections, and likely with no visible improvement in the line’s operation. There are so many other, larger factors at work that shaving off a few stops will hardly be noticed.
The basic and difficult issue is that “quick fixes”, “tweaks”, will not fix the King car. The road needs to be managed so that its capacity is available to move traffic. The service needs to operate with the largest possible vehicles at the closest scheduled and well-managed headway. These are not the stuff of quick press conferences and a few weeks of a traffic blitz, but of permanent change to the way we think about road space and about providing transit service.