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.
In some places you could probably argue for more stops during the rush-hour, as the vehicle gets to the stop and takes forever to load, but has been sitting at the previous light for 3 minutes doing nothing…spreading out the demand might make things faster in these cases.
Really what people want is an express service from the outer ends of the lines to the core … likely that can only happen with buses, or shutting down the street and adding passing/stopping tracks … having an express crosstown bus that ran on Queen or King and stopped only in the outer shoulders and then went express to University, Bay, Yonge would be a good alternate route for most of the people that complain about close stops 😉
Steve: But of course, the “express” bus would have to stop somewhere close to where they want to board. “Express” is often a concept selectively applied to stops that don’t mean anything to whoever is speaking.
I remember a transit critic (who shall remain nameless) sending the TTC a list of “surplus” stops including a few in my neighbourhood. The fact that he lived in Mississauga and might not have daily experience with the locations in question didn’t enter into the question.
So Steve, I rise again to the clarion calls of “ALRVs to King”, and “Bombardier where are my King Cars”. Steve is there actually a route that would benefit as much as King from larger cars?
Steve: Spadina and King both have the most frequent service, and Spadina’s actually lasts for more of the day than King. It is a good first route, but the TTC’s foot-dragging on King is getting extremely annoying. They have a plan, and they just will not change it.
In terms of traffic and transit management this is the sort of condition that must never be permitted on a street where there is something like 4 times as many people on transit as in cars. The auto should not be allowed to be in the left lane, and should not have to be. As Mr. Weil said, this can be caused by unofficial taxi stands etc blocking the right lane. This is an unacceptable condition. It might help if the signal held until the streetcar arrived in a loading position (the operator being able to hold the green an extra few seconds might really help this). However, basically the stops have to be pulled in terms of enforcement, and planning to make King and Queen work really well for transit, and for all transit heavy streets to be planned to provide transit a much better flow.
Perhaps a protest march on the Police Headquarters with placards demanding “Enforcement on King today and forever”. Another on city traffic, “Waves of Green for Streetcars”. City all “transit first”
I would suggest that we have the Chief of Police, along with the head of city traffic, the police services board and city council all commit to using transit as their primary means of travel around the city. I feel for the councillor for North West Etobicoke, and perhaps to help the situation we could have some council meetings help in his ward, and the council would have to all arrive by regularly scheduled transit (Finch West LRT might get a boost).
Steve: The Councillor in Ward 1 set new standards for knowing nothing about transit during his first period on the TTC (Ford’s election until Stintz coup), and he is back on the board again.
The idea of having thousands of vehicles acting primarily to warehouse riders who would prefer to be whisked to their destinations should be a huge issue. Fewer vehicles would be required (although still likely more than the TTC has), and the city’s costs of operations would be greatly reduced, if transit vehicles would flow more smoothly. The spaced saved of course would be consumed by the additional riders attracted, but that would be fewer drivers. If council, and the senior staff were stuck as riders every day, this might just sharpen the focus. We need more people to ride transit, what better way than to have our leaders set the example.
The time servicing stops, I believe is only a small portion of the time stopped. This needs to change, and removing stops does not really address the rest of the stop time.
One reason I support the restoration of the 507 Long Branch, but to Dundas West station, is that it can help relieve the 504 King car. It would become easier for the TTC to short turn, if necessary planned short turns, at Sunnyside Loop.
For the downtown portion, is there anyway that the streetcars could have some sort of wireless device to trip the lights to stay green until after the streetcar passes through (and this can be applied to the other streetcar routes as well.)
No left turns downtown along King Street might help as well.
Steve: Streetcars already hold traffic signals at some locations. The technology exists, but at major intersections in the core, the green time is often devoted to the north-south flow, especially at University Avenue.
Steve, would you bring back the TTC’s King Street Transit Mall proposal and if so, how would you update it now that the “Two Kings” and Liberty Village have been occupied (one might say overbuilt) … with the Canary District up and coming?
Or do you favor a more incremental approach, with longer peak hour transit lanes, eliminating a few surplus stops (once the line moves to ALRVs and LFLRVs) and tackling the left turns, parking, taxi stand and standing violation issues?
Steve: The transit mall proposal was overkill, and this would be an even greater problem if it were extended. The situation on King is complex, but it varies from place to place along the route. Some segments do not suffer from “congestion” in the sense that the trip times are consistent all day long and show no “peak” effects. Also, the way the street behaves — who uses it, what the neighbourhoods do — varies by time of day and day of the week. It is not practical to, in effect, close the street for non-transit uses beyond a small section in the core, and even that must take into account the spillover effect on neighbouring streets. We know already what happened on King when traffic diverted from nearby construction.
There is also a service issue here. At least on Spadina, there is a scheduled 2′ headway seven days a week for much of the day. On King, the offpeak service is much less than the peak, and the argument that transit should have exclusive use simply does not hold up. That’s the problem with a mall — the street is blocked off even when streetcars roll by infrequently.
What is needed is an extension of bans on curb lane use at selected times and locations where this will actually make a difference to transit operations, complete with aggressive towing. Transit priority signalling must be expanded, including support for turns from King to other streets where existing signals can delay turning (diversions or short turns).
And dare I mention more service and capacity?
The problem with “big bang” proposals like the mall is that they divert attention from many smaller improvements that are needed (should I mention capacity again?) while we go through a political battle about a major reconfiguration of the street. It’s a scheme that has limited applicability on other less frequent routes, and we should be thinking of transit issues across the city, not just on a comparatively short portion of one route.
I have seen people complain about the distance between the Jefferson Avenue and Joe Shuster Way stops on westbound King route. But not even 10 years ago the spacing of the two westbound stops before Dufferin were more evenly spaced. There used to be a westbound stop opposite to Fraser Avenue, roughly matching the spacing of the eastbound stop, complete with a crosswalk to service the stop. Once the condo and townhouse boom happened, Joe Shuster Way was opened and a traffic signal was eventually installed. Since there was a crosswalk not even 100 metres away from the signal, the crosswalk was removed and the stop opposite of Fraser was moved further east to the new signal at Joe Shuster. Meanwhile, over the same period, the Jefferson Avenue streetcar stop post was damaged more than once and each time the post was reinstalled, the stop would move further west which further closed the gap between the two stops.
Steve: Another example of the evolving location of traffic signals and stops can be seen at Ontario Street, both ways. These stops lie roughly midway between Parliament and Sherbourne, and they serve local demand well. If they were shifted to the nearby traffic signal at Berkeley Street, they would be (a) too close to Parliament and (b) of less use to the demand they now serve.
I feel this comment may get me put on the bad side of the fence, but here goes … be forewarned that I am definitely a younger, healthier person that doesn’t mind a very short walk as much as most, but do quite value my time, so my opinion may very well not be the majority (though in a different conversation, I’d argue it should be! :P)
I think 250m is too short a stop spacing for the streetcars, especially when the new ones come into play. I’ll ignore walking time *to* the street with the route because that, remaining invariant, does not factor into the argument – and for most of this, unless explicitly stated, I’ll ignore the overly close stops like York/University/Simcoe or Yonge/Victoria/Church or Jameson/Close/Dunn or, my personal favorite, Harbord/Sussex NB. And all arguments I’ll make apply ONLY to the peak periods, and heck even in only the peak direction, so that carrying a load of groceries or taking the kids out on the weekend doesn’t have to suffer *at all* walking wise. But speaking of walking … At an average walking speed, 5km/h (I likely do 7-8, there are certainly people who barely manage 2-3), that means 1.5 minutes max of “on route walking time”. If we take some liberties with city planning we can roughly assume that every second street gets a stop at 250m spacing (and the argument is mathematically the same if it’s every third, etc). If we also insist on always grouping “middle” stops with their later stop (i.e. if you’re halfway between stop 1 and 2, you walk to stop 2 no matter what – again just a simplification that doesn’t change the argument), then every stop at 2 street 250m spacing serves 2 streets – itself, and the one after it. That means that half of all people served, on average, have a 0 minute on route walking time – the stop is at their street. The other half, on average, have a 1.5 minute walking time – they have to walk a block to catch the car.
What happens if we eliminate every second stop, without mercy, and again take some liberties with city planning etc and now assume stops are averagely spaced at 500m, serving 4 streets each – the one they’re at, the one behind them, the one in front of them, and the one two in front of them where an old stop used to be. Using the same math, 2 of the four streets still walk 1.5 minutes. 1 street still walks zero minute. But the final street now has to walk a whole 3 minutes longer to get to their route. So it makes no difference at all to 75% of the rider base, but sort of sucks for the other 25%.
What if it didn’t, though? What if almost EVERYONE got to work faster, because the stops were removed – and significantly so?
That means we need to at minimum shave 3 minutes of travel time off of everyone’s route, to make sure that even those 25% have an equal travel time. On average, it takes around 45 seconds at a busyish stop for a streetcar to load/unload. 15 is the quickest I’ve ever seen, and, again, the new streetcars make this worse due to the automation/announcement/chiming. Let’s average it to 30 seconds. I’m being generous on my part here, but let’s also say another 30 seconds are lost to the deceleration and re-acceleration. That’s a minute per stop, total, on average. That means we need to eliminate 3 stops for those unlucky 25%. At the assumed new spacing of 500m, that’s a 500m distance per eliminated stop. That means that if the streetcar travels 1.5km, or Spadina to Yonge, everyone on board has either an equal or faster travel time. I don’t know for a fact, but from completely unscientific casual observation (I exclusively always ride longer than 1.5km), I suspect the vast majority of the people ride the streetcar at least 2+km during rush hour. Most of them are commuting – not running down the street to the store, which they can do off peak when all stops are in service.
Steve: You have missed the point that loading times will be longer because more riders will be waiting at each stop. Also, walking time is considered as a greater disincentive to travel than in vehicle time, and so those three minutes don’t count for the same perceived benefit. People will know and dislike the extra walk especially on bad weather days and if walking anywhere is difficult for them. Once they are on board, they will care more about having room (or even having a car show up at all).
If we assume that the average commute distance IS 2km, that means that by eliminating every second stop and examining solely stop times, and ignoring traffic and lights, 25% of the riders have an equal ride time, and the other 75% have saved 3 minutes in their commute. But what if we take traffic and lights into account? This isn’t free by any means, but it’s a lot cheaper than most options taken into account. Lights are easiest to deal with as converting the lights at the removed stops into smart lights that hold green unless there is cross traffic without streetcar (always non major intersections, which frequently don’t have lights anyways, and frequently already have this technology – Ontario St, for instance), while again not free, is hardly a challenge relative to most improvements the city could make, and doesn’t even upset drivers, who also benefit from the improved flow through that light. Now we’re definitely saving some time between stops, as if traffic were moving quickly the streetcars could theoretically move people as fast as the subway does through the core, with it’s equal 500m stop spacing at the tightest points. Oh, traffic…
Steve: The streetcars will never move at “subway speeds”. Even at 500m, that’s the spacing only for the downtown U, and subway stops (and hence travel speeds) are much wider elsewhere. Be careful of overselling what “subway speed” really means.
Traffic is tough because it’s case-by-case. On Broadview, there isn’t any – problem solved. At non-peak, the 505/504 *fly* from Gerrard to the Danforth, because there’s never any stops or lights or traffic. It might be the fastest point in the system, other than the Queensway. On Dundas east of Church-ish, it’s also fairly negligible – at Yonge is a nightmare with the “pedestrian priority” crossing (don’t even get me started…), and west is pretty brutal. The King car is trapped, and serious measures need to be taken there … I say ban cars during peak periods. Spadina and St. Clair don’t care at all. As I say, it’s very mixed. And the problems here are much much harder to solve at any level then simply removing a stop. But so on Spadina, removing, say, Sussex, Wilcocks, Baldwin, Sullivan and the stupid northbound stop at Richmond, would IMO be entirely worth it – especially if the lights at those intersections, and those intersections only, were transit priority.
Steve: There were huge fights during the design of the Spadina line about the inclusion of those stops. Many of them are quite well-used, including that “stupid” stop at Richmond. Very bluntly, I would quite expect that someone would launch a test of dropping these stops, but the traffic signals would remain stubbornly on a program of their own with no priority.
As long as you were going from Bloor past College, which most commuters are, everybody wins. The Spadina streetcar could theoretically move as fast as the university subway! The same goes for Dundas east of Yonge – removing Victoria, Ontario, and combining Sackville/Sumach would benefit the vast majority of commuters. The interesting thing about traffic as well is how much of a “ripple effect” there is. A lane blockage at University, for instance, can cause traffic to slam the brakes as far as Spadina or Bathurst. Bear with me and try not to hate me too much, but allowing streetcars to pass through areas unhindered where they would previously stop could potentially do wonders for subsequent cars in the line. Much as it pains me to admit, streetcars do cause a lot of problems for normal cars, as a streetcar stopping to load/unload frequently means both lanes miss a light. This means the cars behind them cannot clear their light, and so on and so on, and gridlock ensues. This means the streetcars behind the one stopping are now in traffic! While it may be a stretch I find it not unreasonable to assume that, in a sort of positive feedback loop, faster streetcars would mean faster traffic would mean faster streetcars. I still say ban cars on King/Queen during rush hour – they’ve got Richmond and Adelaide RIGHT there, and deliveries can be made any other time of day.
I live in a dreamland of inconveniencing a few for the benefit of most, but just imagine if through lane restrictions, light planning, and stop removal, we really could have the streetcars travel the core – at rush hour – as fast as the subways? When Steve wrote his article about the new QQ lights, and how terrible they are, he made a very interesting point. While the section of the route between York and Spadina is on average a full ~50% slower, the section between York and QQ station – which lost it’s one and only stop – is ~25% faster! Even 2 sets of idiotic new lights couldn’t outweigh the removal of a stop, and if we pretend they aren’t there and normalize things to try and isolate the effect of just the stop, we see a 50% savings in time (oldtime/newtime ratio through both sections assumed to be consistent as light density is also roughly consistent in both areas, therefore 150/100=75/50)! It’s the same thing on Broadview from Danforth to Gerrard, albeit where there are no lights or traffic – the trip time is shockingly quick if no one stops, and appallingly slow if they do. And it’s the same on the 501 and 504, where the commute time difference between the traffic-less but stop full “evening” of 7-9 pm, and the stop-less “night” of 11-1 am (these are weeknights of course), is almost unbelievable.
Just my $0.02 … combining 2 stops into one (as they’ve done with York/Simcoe on the 509/510 and should do with Sackville/Sumach on the 505, for instance) has an even stronger argument “for”.
Steve: Let’s just say I disagree with your analysis which is unduly based on small increases in travel speed at the detriment of access times. The examples of closely spaced existing stops are exceptions, not the rule, on the network, and we should not start a wholesale elimination of stops just because of a few stops of questionable value or placement. The idea that streetcars would run at subway speeds is a hucksterish sales pitch.
Wow that was long, sorry Steve! I’ll try and be more succinct next time, I swear…
I had the occasion to use the Carlton Car from Main Stn to Ossington on the weekend. It was the best alternative to the subway/subway shuttle bus/subway on Bloor Danforth. I was pretty well sure that there would have been lotsa overcrowding and extremely uncomfortable service. So to avoid this I took the streetcar, a comfy seat all the way.
The connection to this thread is that although the carstops are reasonably well spaced anyways on the Carlton Car, nonetheless admittedly they more frequent than the stations on the BD subway, we didn’t stop at a number of them at various points in the line. It wasn’t always necessary. The car flew across the city. I should add I was riding at 10pm on Saturday and Sunday nights, but my trip time was only ten minutes longer than the subway only trip. This too takes into account that I had to go too far south to come back north. Curious as to what my more direct trip times would have been if the BD streetcar was still with us.
The subway, by the way can be, and usually is, crowded on these evenings, particularly from Broadview west, and with many of the users being casual riders not used to riding transit, they can and do add time taken at subway stops. My surface ride too took me through neighbourhoods I don’t frequently traverse so I was able to sight-see. The Christmas lights along College near Grace were a nice visual. Subway tunnels won’t allow this kind of added luxury. So subway proponents, I ask you, will we really be better off losing streetcars to holes in the ground?
So just because carstops are there, being a streetcar, the motorman does not have to service them each and every time that they are passed, thus making trip times a bit quicker. With the greater demand on the system as a whole in the peak hours, does the use of all carstops really impact on the line? A teensy bit maybe, but I’d suggest, not a significant amount to be problematic. Can some stops be removed through rationale justifications? Probably, we don’t live in a world that is stagnant so changes are inevitable. I believe it ludicrous to eliminate stops just for the sake of change and photo-ops.
To therein lies the problem, while University carries more traffic, it mostly carries what should be deemed lower priority traffic. As you have noted previously, the Streetcar is a city asset, which is moving many passengers, delaying University a few extra seconds, to keep the streetcar moving, would likely be worth it. The real volume flowing North South in that area, is below ground anyway.
Steve: The north-south streets have very short blocks thanks to Front, Wellington, King, Adelaide, etc. The theory behind the long green times is to avoid repeated queueing across these frequent intersections. Amazing how we can have lots of streets, but people would eliminate closely spaced streetcar stops.
The issue at least in my mind is ensuring that it does not get out of hand, and the the light cycle can be pushed a few seconds in either way. The system itself needs to have the ability to evaluate the situation and dynamically reset the lights, a streetcar needs to clear the 2 cars in front of it to get to a loading position, well hold the green an extra 2 seconds. If the streetcar just arrived and is about to or just started loading well pull the red ahead a few seconds. Exceptions to be made if this car is right on the car ahead of it.
The other thing is that making University flow really well encourages the use of cars for the area. The signals need to be about moving transit first (perhaps even second and third as well). I do not believe you can hope to solve congestion, and gridlock focusing on moving autos. Perversely making auto flow worse, might actually help, as long as it greatly improved the flow of transit and the capacity was available in the transit system. The north south flow of transit here, as I said is underground, so we need to increase the total signal time for the east west flow, and if autos are having to stop at every signal on University so be it (although I will be the first to admit – when I do have to drive in the area I will be pissed).
I have to concede Steve, when I am driving in the area, University is the natural, or I am tending to go at least as far east as Jarvis to go North. The fact that University flows as well as it does, has also meant that at times, I have found myself driving when maybe from a public perspective I likely should not.
Based on the new curb cuts on the south side of King, the Ontario Street eastbound stop is being shifted a bit west so that it will be before the pedestrian crossing light rather than 50+ yards east of it. (Thus having both east and west stops at Ontario.) The eastbound St Lawrence street stop has already been moved east so it is now at Lower River Street. (Of course there is currently no service on that section of King but the sign is actually moved.)
On Roncesvalles, they removed the southbound Fern Avenue streetcar stop. It was at a crosswalk. Since the southbound High Park Boulevard stop was relocated on the farside of the intersection, it made it closer to Fern Avenue.
Several years ago, you wrote a post proposing that the TTC move Queen’s ALRVs down to King, and King’s CLRVs up to Queen. The idea being that King would benefit from increased capacity, and Queen would benefit from increased frequency (helping to mitigate the level of, let’s say, “headway variability”).
Would this still be a reasonable (and feasible) switch until the new streetcars make their way to King?
Steve: Yes. It’s intriguing that Andy Byford has talked of an ALRV rebuild program so that these cars can be used on King, and I hope we will see details in the 2015 budget next month.
There’s a neat video about how transit staff in Vancouver were given the opportunity to test out ideas. Basically, they went ahead and did something, and monitored it in real time. Then they made changes to it on the fly, based on the results they observed. In this way, they arrived at an optimal result in something like a week, for very little cost.
What if instead of endlessly debating the minutia every potential idea in council, where it could be vetoed or denied or changed beyond recognition, a small team of staff from various city departments (traffic, TTC, etc.) were given the authority to simply execute ideas? For instance, they could isolate the core stretch of King St. and work with police to ban personal vehicles in streetcar lanes, all stopping in right-hand lanes, probably left turns, and just see how it goes? With a week’s notice to the public (for fairness’ sake) and, say, two weeks to a month to tweak things and record the results and effects, they could gain a lot of practical experience that would inform better long-term decisions.
That kind of iterative policymaking provides a tremendous amount of flexibility, and could give a lot of the good, small-ball ideas (many of them suggested here) their chance to prove worthy, or not.
Wishful thinking, I know…
Yesterday, City news reported that only 2 of the Transut Commissioners actually ride the TTC. One who never took it said it was sufficient to talk with riders. Yea, right. I will always remember a few years ago on the subway when I looked up to see David Miller, then mayor as another rider. Startled, I think I said, “Good morning Mr. Mayor” to which he replied, “good morning!” Here was the Mayor of the city getting around like the rest of us, and I’d like to think that his endorsement of Transit City was a direct result.
What is capacity? The quantity of traffic that moves, or the higher quantity that jams up? If the goal is to move traffic the manager needs to so define ‘capacity’. Such a choice means reducing traffic from present levels to a point where traffic moves, and the streetcars can operate as they should in ‘light’ mixed traffic.
Of the various categories of traffic, the ‘overhead’ traffic, those who have no local business and instead are headed for ‘beyond’, should be either tolled to discourage use, or diverted onto another non transit route. ‘Road closed except local traffic’. That leaves the street serving local traffic, taxis to pick up and drop off fares, deliveries and transit, only.
Imagine east bound approaching Jarvis, signage saying ‘Road Closed except local traffic – through traffic use Richmond’. Then at Church there would be traffic lights with left and right turn only lights, except transit. Those with business on King beyond Church can access it via Richmond.
That one restriction would reduce traffic for blocks. Do it a half dozen times between Parliament and Dufferin and the problems should be well on the way to resolution.
Steve: Except as has been pointed out so many times, Richmond Street as a wide arterial ends at Bathurst, as does Adelaide. There is a little rail corridor in the way west of Shaw.
And someone who has business on King west of Church could not access it via Richmond. If we’re going to kick them off King, they have to stay off of King.
I suppose the solution could be found by following the maxim of Sherlock Holmes … applied to Toronto of course.
Once you eliminate the impossible, (moving streetcar tracks, 1 way King & Queen streets, DRL as a solution) whatever is left, however improbable (left turn restrictions, parking restrictions, shifting taxi stands and delivery lanes, cameras on streetcars, and aggressive enforcement with forklifts and tow trucks), will lead you towards a solution that most people will not like (therefore it will be the best option overall).
It’s good to see that the general public is starting to have awareness of capacity issues on King Street. Yet whenever we see schemes for a downtown relief line, the western leg is always in “phase 2”. The western leg of the DRL needs to be included in the first phase. I haven’t analyzed the data, but my feeling is that the population density is higher along the western leg than the eastern leg of a proposed DRL.
I advocate a downtown subway from approximately the West Don Lands to Parkdale. This is based on the principle of putting the subway along corridors with high population densities. The purpose of a new line should be to serve riders along the line: we should not spend billions on a subway that has a sole purpose of alleviating Yonge & Bloor station.
We can try to improve the King streetcar, but this corridor warrants a higher capacity form of transit. All-door boarding, signal priority, consolidation of stops, and reallocation of road space will help the 504, but simply won’t be enough. In the interm, capacity should be increased by adding a bus route parallel to the 504 roughly along Bremner-Ft York-Fleet-Strachan-Liberty.
Regardless of weather conditions or one’s abilities, an extended walk to a stop that involves full visual monitoring can be a huge disincentive by the second or third time one observes their transit vehicle depart while they are still too far to run to catch it.
I understand this all too well in York Region where that bus that is close enough to see is too far to run to catch pulls away and the next one won’t be for another 30 or 40 minutes. Even with the closer headways of the TTC, this feeling is pretty much the same.
Ahh a stop spacing thread! Been awhile since I sunk my teeth into one of these babies.
Anyways in reference to Dennon’s comment, I think you are overstating the detrimental effects of walking to transit. Most studies show that people will walk up to 5 minutes to local transit. And while everyone does have different walking tolerances, I find the interesting and stimulating sights of the city to make walking far more tolerable than walking in the bland and homogenous sights of suburbia.
If anything turns people off of transit, it is not the walk to get to it, but the wait for the next vehicle to arrive. While mobile apps have done wonders to take the edge off of this anxiety, before them I would likely walk 15-20 minutes from my home stop than wait 5-10 minutes for the next scheduled bus, as odds are it would not arrive for 10-15+ minutes anyways. Even in inclement weather, it is better to keep moving than to stand still.
Even the added boarding time for spaced out stops will become limited as we move to proof of payment. Likewise while my knowledge of calculus is limited, I would think it takes less time to deaccelerate, load 10 passengers, and accelerate than to deaccelerate, load 7 passengers, accelerate only to deaccelerate again moments later to load the additional 3.
Steve, I appreciate the detailed analysis, but I’m going to come down a bit on the side of Dennon’s point…there are simply too many stops.
You discuss loading delays as an objection to more broadly spaced stops; however, all door boarding and a proof of payment system significantly improves this issue. I lived in San Francisco before the change to all door boarding there and just visited, and the changes are noticeable. Or you can follow it in their reports.
Dwell times are reduced, in some cases by half, and also variability in dwell times is reduced, increasing reliability.
Ok, so this is about stop spacing, and I’ll note that they’ve experimented with that as well recently, primarily on bus routes, as their street car routes already had more reasonable spacing … note SF is much hillier so even equivalent spacing has a much larger perceived effect. I think the psychological effect that you note on stop spacing is somewhat obviated by the faster travel times riders experience. At least that was what data in SF showed when they spaced out their bus stops … riders were thrilled to experience the shorter travel times.
Steve jumps in:
[Report here and blog here]
I note a few things. First, the changes in stop spacing were based on blocks which are quite regular in parts of San Francisco. The proposed changes were:
North-South: 1020 feet / 311 metres
East-West: 960 feet / 292 metres
While this is longer than the 275m we see on chunks of the King car (except right in the core), it’s not hugely different, and that’s for the new SF standard. The blog talks about the collection of changes on the 5-Fulton route:
This is far more extensive a change than simply moving stops further apart and involves changes to the road to benefit transit vehicles, not to mention the implementation of an express service. Be careful to cite just what it was that “thrilled” the riders. Note that the local stops not served by the express remained as part of the route for local service, and for evening/weekend service, all vehicles operate as “locals”.
Jarrett Walker’s Human Transit blog also talks about this issue, and what is notable is that changes to transit speeds depend on many factors beyond stop spacing.
If folks are going to cite experience in other cities, they should at least cite the details and compare them to the more simplistic change of just getting rid of a few stops.
Or compare to Amsterdam, stop spacing is probably at least double what it is here. With transit priority and semi-dedicated lanes, one just zips from place to place.
If nothing else, let’s try it as a pilot project, collect data before and after on speeds, ridership, and opinion and see what happens.
Steve: And if we could have the sort of transit priority Amsterdam offers, I might even say it’s worth a trial, but don’t just get rid of stops first and then say, oh by the way, it’s about all those traffic signals and parked cars.
As for Amsterdam, it’s worth looking at designs in the Netherlands generally where, yes, “trams” have stops 600-750m apart, but local buses are 300-500m.
Apples to apples, please.
I tend to agree that a short (5-7) minute walk to a stop is not the problem (and live mid-way between service on King and service on The Esplanade so am at the 5 min level) but there is clearly a problem with TTC keeping to schedules and few people believe them. I was starting to feel quite comfortable with NextBus but in the last week or so have had two occasions where the online at home said 7 mins until the next 504. At the stop there were people waiting and the display said 1 minute but nothing came and eventually the display changed to 11 minutes. Are 504 streetcars somehow vanishing between Parliament and Sherbourne/Jarvis? It could explain the shortage of streetcars!
Steve: There was for a time a problem with the Nextbus map (the underlying data structure that defines the route) that the TTC set up where the map did not match the route (specifically the King diversion was missing). This can have strange effects on predictions. That said, I have seen many cases where the predictions don’t match what I can see with my own eyes on the street.
I know I am in the minority here, but 250m stops is just ridiculously close. Assuming a relatively flat area that means at most you will need to walk 125m along the street to your stop. Measure it out, it is nothing. If you raised your voice (OK yelled) you could talk to someone standing at the next stop from anywhere on the street. To pretend that removing even 1/2 of the stops would negatively affect the vast majority of users seems like a stretch, especially since the resulting improvements to trip speed and reliability should more than compensate (again for the majority of users).
Steve: Remember that you also have to walk from wherever you are on sidestreets to the main street in the first place. The issue is one of keeping the total distance walked down to a reasonable level. I look forward to your attending a public meeting to explain to half of those living on a route why “their” stop is now deemed superfluous.
I kinda see where Rico is coming from.
Take the stop outside Kennedy Station (Officially called North Service Road) and the stops outside the Bus underpass/exit the Town Centre (I believe the stops are called Triton and McCowan Road).
The Kennedy Station stop is just across the parking lot from the entrance to Kennedy Station and the other 2 stops are directly across from both McCowan and Scarborough Centre stations. These are by far less than 250m to the nearest station. Its stops like this that make people complain about how close they are.
I hope when the TTC looks at the bus stops they eliminate stops such as this. There should a minimum distance for stops from the nearest station etc. Only a couple people ever get on there and it would actually speed things up not having to stop there. The way I look at it. that 1 person who gets on there every day can walk to the nearest station.
Steve: The issue here is that, yes, it is fairly easy to find locations like Kennedy Station where stops could be eliminated, but this is not a generic situation across the entire network, and certainly not along the full length of the King car.
I agree completely that simply removing every second stop as it were is not enough, and in a lot of cases it doesn’t make sense. I was just trying to reaalllyyy simplify things so the math wasn’t too ridiculous. And in almost the majority of cases, it makes sense to combine two stops. But I still maintain that there is more to the stops being too close than a few exceptions that are bleedingly obvious, such as between University and Church on some lines. The King car is difficult because it already has so many other problems to deal with – traffic and lights – that removing any stops may well be irrelevant. But for other lines and even parts of the 504 this frequently isn’t true, and even on existing lines there is a noticeable difference in transit time as a direct result of stop spacing. Sumach and Sackville as two separate stops instead of just one stop between them, on any of the 4 lines that currently pass by them (3 when King is back in action between Parliament/the Don), is ridiculous. That’s an extra *75 metres of walking*, once we get the new all-door-boarding & ~15 meter longer Flexity cars. And this increase only affects half of the riders that get on/off between Parliment and River – a 6th of riders actually have a closer walk! The other third are, of course, unchanged.
Meanwhile, the streetcar stops 50% less and therefore goes 50% faster – ignoring stop time – so we can say that it will take fully twice as long to load at the one combo stop than it would at either individual stop without affecting this result. Yes, this is assuming lights, traffic, aren’t at play … but they generally aren’t the main issue through that particular stretch. Again, these are very minor differences – a whole 75 some odd meters extra walk, less than a minute, for everyone to move noticeably faster. The walk increase is a constant negative, but the speed gains compound as your ride gets longer. People commuting from Sackville to River would notice only the extra 30 second walk. But people commuting from west of Sackville to Broadview Station or vice versa, if the same scheme eliminated Simpson and combined Bain and Withrow, would experience a faster trip at 3 different points (roughly half the trip length!), with at most having to walk an extra 45 seconds.
Steve: Bain is a Sunday stop, and so it does not contribute to commute times. I fear that you are planning by Google rather than really knowing the neighbourhood.
As others point out, things like NextBus make “missing” a car much easier to avoid, and I’d agree that that’s what annoys me – missing a train, or having it be delayed, or not having in general reliable transit service. I’d be more than happy to walk 45 seconds if my trip was reliably 2 minutes shorter. Yes, lights and traffic are major parts of the problem that need to be solved as well. But it is easy to see that at off peak times, where traffic is not a problem, it is the streetcar stopping that halts the progress of everyone on the route. No one seems to mind walking the distance between the YUS subway stops through the core to reach their destination, and while I admit PATH plays a large part at least on the Yonge side of the line, I don’t understand how increasing 200m streetcar spacing to 300m or 400m spacing – still noticably less than the subways 500m-600m – would be so much more unbearable.
Side note for the mathematically inclined – in this case, even though we’re only doing a “4 to 3” elimination instead of my earlier example of “4 to 2”, the increase affects a larger number of people – 50% instead of 25% – due to the way they’re distributed along the route. In my earlier example I assume all traffic is concentrated on N/S cross streets (which holds to some degree in most areas of the city), while in this example I’m assuming an equal distribution along the route (as it largely was public housing and now is largely going to be brand spankin’ new development on mixed use lands). The difference is that assuming the cross street distribution means that everyone is forced to live at a certain distance from the stop (at a cross street), whereas in the continuous distribution they don’t. Ultimately due to there being buildings on the route, and at least some “cross route” constriction in location, the real answer is a mix of the two – cross streets upsets the least possible people, and continual the most, so they function as good upper and lower bounds. This is an example of misleading ways to measure data … A better way to do it is integrate them, in which case you’d get the same (correct) answer of “how much damage is done” – for the Sumach/Sackville example, combining 2 stops into 1 creates a 33% overall increase in walk time (though half the people walk farther), and for other examples, completely eliminating a stop creates a 50% overall increase in walk time (though only a quarter of the people bear this extra).
Further math side note: For the streetcars being 50% faster without stop time taken into account, with constant linear accel and decel, the speed profiles between stops are roughly triangular. With Parliment, Sackville, Sumach, River we get three triangles. With Parliment, Sackville/Sumach, and River, there are only two – and they’re 50% taller if the slope of all are the same. Therefore the speed of the streetcar, integrated over the distance between Parliament to river, is 50% greater. Where stops are fully eliminated, it goes twice as fast!
Streetcars moving 50% faster because 50% of the stops have been removed is an unfounded claim. This is especially the case where there’s no analysis of how often the cars actually have to stop at the stop.
Then there are those who happily assert that a 75m walk is nothing, while ignoring the fact that people will have to walk from the side-streets and then along the main street. As someone who has actually had his local stop removed (at least for streetcars), I can tell you it’s pretty exasperating to watch the streetcar go by, without having the faintest chance of catching it, where in the past I could have caught it.
Out in the further suburbs, stops are pretty close together, because there can be significant walking distance just to get to the street with the transit route. This is partly due to the fact that transit routes are further apart, partly due to the winding nature of post-war residential streets, and partly due to all the roughly ’70s-era neighbourhoods having nothing but backyards facing the through street — no one actually lives on the through street.
Islington 37 has 13 stops northbound and 16 stops southbound between Eglinton Av. and Islington station (200-250m stop spacing), yet the bus travels very quickly because the stops are rarely used, and certainly you’d never see every stop used by a single run. Now, imagine how happy those few riders in that area would be if they had to hike another five or ten minutes to the few major streets to get to their stops.
Kipling 45 has 16 stops northbound and southbound between Kipling station and Eglinton Av., though that’s a slightly longer distance. Again, the bus makes good time along that stretch because the stops are little-used. Eliminating half of them would just discourage the ridership that does exist in that section.
On the other hand, where stops are well-used (Queen at Victoria and York come to mind), there is not good reason to take them away. All-door boarding to an LFLRV is somewhere off in the far future for these routes. And it won’t be clear whether the Presto POP implementation will be able to handle large crowds at a single stop without delays anyway. So I don’t care that I could get on at the back of the LFLRV at the next stop. By the way, in the case of my missing streetcar stop, the next stop down the line is a safety island stop, and the railings are set up to severely discourage access to the island except at the front. So the length of an LFLRV is moot if I have to run past its front to get to the safety island to board.
Lots of anecdotes here about how long it takes to reach peoples’ nearest streetcar stop, but it should probably be borne in mind that the endgame of the LFLRVs is to increase the availability of 500 series routes to those with mobility issues for whom boarding and disembarking the current cars is difficult verging on useless, requiring long (in time run addition to distance) hikes to North-South buses or relying on the limitations inherent in WheelTrans. The alternative would be to declare streetcars strictly limited stop with parallel buses doing local stops, which has the potential to spark off Scarborough-like appeals to parity of esteem to those so “downgraded”.
The issue in my mind is somehow hard to see, on many routes, where the stop time associated with the car serving its stops to total route time (including all other stops) is not really that high. If stop time, and getting back to speed from said stop actually represented a large amount, that would be eliminated by concentrating up the stops, that is a different story. However, I am under the impression that generally, at least currently, by breaking up the stops you would increase loading at the remaining stops so as to make your savings perhaps 10-15% of loading time which is itself what 20-25% of journey time? So exactly what are your time savings? Could we save even 10 or even 5%? If the intent is access for all, is it worthwhile?
I think there are a host of other things that need to be addressed, and of course, there may be sense in looking at the routes where stops are actually interfering time wise with adjoining ones, but other than that it is hard to see, unless they are ridiculously close. As has been mentioned, if there is nobody at the stop, or wanting off the car does not stop. I suspect that fixing other issues, including transit linkage in the signals would make a lot more difference.
Today I rode a couple of routes with both local and express buses, 39 Finch East (199 Finch Rocket) and 58 Steeles East. In both cases, local buses pretty much kept up with express buses over large stretches of route — I’m talking Bayview-to-Kennedy kinds of stretches. From this, it seems that other traffic as well as signal timing and the ambition of the operator has as great or greater influence than the number of stops the vehicle must service.
Well, indeed… looking at that map, I agree that the areas which you identify as having reasonable stop spacing generally do.
On the other hand:
(A) Jameson, Close, Dunn, Cowan, Spencer. You could easily close Close (ha) and Cowan — this would maintain sub-200m spacing! The eastbound streetcar apparently stops *twice in one block* between Close and Dunn, which is completely bizarre.
(B) Along Parliament Street: King, Adelaide, Richmond, Queen. Are Adelaide & Richmond serving any function here? (Maybe there are bus connections I don’t know about?)
(C) Along Queen Street: What is the point of the Trefann St. stop? I guess I see the Power St. stop, it’s for catching the first King or Queen car eastbound without having to guess which stop to wait at at Parliament. Westbound, it seems redundant — was this a Sunday church stop?
The Queen car has more oddities like this too: Beaty Avenue / Callender Street are sandwiched between other stops. Or there’s Denison Avenue, which is very close to Augusta Avenue (move it west to Portland St. or Ryerson St. and it would make sense).
There may not be a vast amount of “low hanging fruit” like this, but there’s a significant amount of it if I can find five stops on one line without really trying.
Steve: I warned readers about just looking at the map of stops without understanding what’s on the ground. All of the instances you cite except for Parliament Street (which is a diversion route for the King car anyhow) are Sunday Stops. You have given away your high qualifications to join the team of planners who never actually visit the areas they plan for.
The Sunday Stops are relics of the days when convenient service to churches was part of the transit system’s mandate (they predate the TTC). They will all disappear (as they have on Roncesvalles already) as the system is converted for Flexity operation. As for their effect on peak period traffic, it is nil.
That fruit isn’t low hanging, it’s not on the tree at all.
By watching operators here in K-W, I’ve come to the conclusion that proper route management has to include proper driver assignments. By which I mean that one has to decide which routes need to be driven aggressively — pull out from stops recklessly, bully the bus around corners, run yellows — and which can be driven more casually. Of course, one cannot have an official memo asking drivers on a particular route to do any of the above, but one could monitor overall bus speeds when driven by different drivers and assign the appropriate drivers to the appropriate routes.
Steve: Drivers are not assigned to routes, but rather select their routes and crews based on seniority.
Not to prolong – or short-turn – this branch thread but …. I had always assumed that one either drove a bus or a streetcar. It appears from what you say that TTC operators can move between them (and subways?). Presumably not on a daily basis.
Steve: There is a master signup usually once a year in which operators can bid, again by seniority, on moving between divisions. If someone works in a division that has both subway and bus operations, if they choose to go onto subway work, they must stay there for a minimum time due to the considerable investment in training. You can’t just try it out for a single six-week signup period.
The streetcar routes should be treated like the METROBUS routes in Quebec City, with stops about 450 to 500 meters apart.
Steve, the TTC, just like the Toronto has to evolve and grow. There are simply too many stops, and a significant number need to come out.
Couple this with all door boarding as mentioned, and you have the chance to create a good limited stop surface route. The streetcars are too slow, and not all of it is traffic.
Why can people in other cities walk to farther spaced stops, but Toronto residents can’t?
Why do you find it such an issue to ask people, for example, boarding at York and Queen, to walk an extra short block to University Ave? I just don’t see how this is such a hardship?
It appears to me many people just does not like change. But sadly this is not 1950’s Toronto, and slow transit is not going to succeed, as people have options now.
Steve: I agree that York and Queen is an excess stop (both ways) as is Simcoe westbound. However, these are the exceptions to the more common stop spacing on the streetcar network. A 500m spacing would mean that from Yonge to Bathurst there would be precisely four stops likely at Yonge, Bay, University, Spadina and Bathurst. Never mind the value of the stops in between — the quest is for “efficiency” at the expense of convenience.
@Michael, I do not think Metrobus is a fair comparison with standard streetcar. I recall that this is a service meant to operate in dedicated lanes, and offer fast service, it is a layer of service on top of “lebus” which is the regular frequent stop local service people would use to say grocery shop. Streetcar are serving local stops. Perhaps an additional layer would be nice, but stop spacing of say 250 meters is more consistent with a truly local service even in Quebec city.
Where stops are any closer I would agree there is an issue, but say 500-600 meters total distance is more reasonable, and that needs to include walk onto the line.
What was with the Sunday stops anyway?
There must have been some bizarre religious fervor in Canada at the time.
I can’t think of any other city which ever did this.
Steve: There was a time when streetcars were not allowed to operate on Sunday. When this was changed, I am quite sure that the Sunday stops were a sop to those who felt that transit service on the Sabbath Day was somehow an evil. This dates back to the 19th century.