The Evolution of Service on Queens Quay

The new, improved transit right-of-way on Queens Quay has been in operation for a few months, and it has had its share, and then some, of problems. These included confused motorists, pedestrians and cyclists who could not figure out the new lane arrangement and signals, more than a few autos stuck in the tunnel entrance at Bay Street, and a streetcar collision thanks to an open switch at the Spadina/Queens Quay Loop.

When the design for the new road was still on the drawing boards, a red flag went up for transit watchers with the number of traffic signals, some fairly closely spaced. The “old” Queens Quay’s signals had their problems, and just to get a semblance of “priority” the detectors for approaching streetcars were moved further and further away from the signals in the hope that they would be able to cycle to a transit green before the streetcar actually arrived.

The streetcars returned, but the signals were, at first, on a standard program with no provision for detecting transit vehicles, although this changed in mid-June with the installation of the new, permanent traffic controllers.

Has there been an improvement? This article reviews current and past operations of the 509 Harbourfront and 510 Spadina cars running on Queens Quay.

A Note About File Naming

In this article, as in my previous examination of service on Kingston Road, I have used a fictitious route number “519” which includes data from both routes operating on Queens Quay. This distinguishes files with the merged data from those for individual routes.

Filenames include numeric location identifiers:

  • Three digit numbers such as “105” are keyed to direction (the first digit) and location (the next two digits).
  • Five digit numbers refer to a route segment or “link” between two points. For example “20605” identifies the direction (“2” is eastbound or “down” in TTC parlance for the route), while “0605” indicates the pair of locations bounding the segment.

This scheme allows filenames to sort geographically in a library even though they include street names.

For a description of the process underlying this article, please see Methodology for Analysis of TTC’s Vehicle Tracking Data.

Running Time History Over The Route

For the purpose of this analysis, the “route” consists of the section from Bay Street to just east of the Exhibition Loop loading platform. Eliminating both ends of the line avoids difficulties with getting reliable data:

  • GPS errors can result in “lost” cars within the Bay Street tunnel, and a measurement from the north end of the tunnel would not reliably include all vehicles.
  • Layover times at Exhibition Loop can be extremely long, and terminal time should not be included in the travel time for comparative purposes.

519_10107_Bay_ExhibitionLoopEast_LinkHistory

519_20701_ExhibitionLoopEast_Bay_LinkHistory

These two sets of charts show the weekday running times for:

  • February 2010: Mid-winter, pre-construction. This should be a “best case” without summer traffic conditions on Queens Quay.
  • June 2011: Early summer, pre-construction.
  • May to July 2015: Post-construction including the Pan-Am Games period in July.

The data are subdivided by half-hours throughout the day, and by weeks for the months shown. (Note that “Week 0” in May 2015 contains only the short week of Friday, May 1.)

For westbound trips, running times build gradually through the morning peak, stabilize through the day, and then fall back late at night. The standard deviation values (shown in dotted lines) stay at or below two minutes except when a delay caused a spike in values indicating that travel times over the route are quite predictable within a narrow band of values.

A striking factor is the degree to which running times are longer post-construction, especially from May until mid-June 2015 when the permanent traffic controllers were installed. Even after this, running times are 3-4 minutes longer than pre-construction values, a very substantial increase considering that the “old” values were only 12-15 minutes.

For eastbound trips, the pattern is similar, although the dip in running times following the activation of new signal controllers is most evident only in the morning periods, and late evening running times are highest in July.

Just to  be sure what was going on, I also looked at individual portions of the route.

Bay to York

519_10102_Bay_York_LinkHistory

519_20201_York_Bay_LinkHistory

Travel times over this short segment are very consistent, and they have improved slightly eastbound thanks to the removal of the farside stop at York Street.

York to East of Spadina

519_10203_York_EofQueensQuayLoop_LinkHistory

519_20302_EofQueensQuayLoop_York_LinkHistory

Westbound service in this segment was about 50% slower with the new signals and right-of-way than it had been before this was implemented. There was a noticeable improvement in mid-June with the new, permanent signals and improved transit “priority”, but this was lost again in July. It is unclear whether this was caused by additional summertime/PanAm pedestrian traffic or by the slow order instituted by the TTC. Until we see this segment operating “off season”, it will not be clear what influences its behaviour.

Note that some of the spikes in the Standard Deviation values are caused by a combination of a small number of high values, typically caused by a delay. These pull up the averages slightly, but  because the typical values are small, a few data points with very high values can skew the SD.

Through the Spadina & Queens Quay Intersection

519_10304_EofQueensQuayLoop_WofSpadina_LinkHistory

519_20403_WofSpadina_EofQueensQuayLoop_LinkHistory

Travel times through this intersection have been affected by various factors since the “new” Queens Quay opened:

  • For many weeks, switches were manually operated (usually) by a pointman who spent his/her time running back and forth as needed. This practice was a factor in a streetcar collision where an operator entered an open switch that should have been closed by the pointman who was busy elsewhere.
  • Some transit priority phases, notably those specific to movements that depend on the setting of a switch, do not work unless the track switches are energized. The workaround for this was to simply have the “priority” turn phase(s) appear periodically regardless of actual traffic.
  • The final version of the traffic signal controller was only very recently installed. A slight improvement is evident in mid-June, but this is not as dramatic as further east on the route.

The intersection is still not operating as speedily in its “new” configuration as it did in the “old” version.

West of Spadina to south of Bathurst/Fleet

519_10405_WofSpadina_SofBathurstFleet_LinkHistory

519_20504_SofBathurstFleet_WofSpadina_LinkHistory

This segment operates consistently more slowly in the “new” configuration than it did in the “old” at all times of the day and in both directions.

Through the Bathurst / Fleet / Lake Shore Intersection

519_10506_SofBathurstFleet_WofBathurst_LinkHistory

519_20605_WofBathurst_SofBathurstFleet_LinkHistory

Westbound times for operation through this complex intersection are unchanged for the “pre” and “post” periods, but eastbound times are slightly higher suggesting that there has been some change in the signal operations made while the streetcar service was shut down.

West of Bathurst to Exhibition Loop

519_10607_WofBathurst_ExhibitionLoopEast_LinkHistory

519_20706_ExhibitionLoopEast_WofBathurst_LinkHistory

Westbound times on Fleet Street and into Exhibition Loop were slightly longer in summer 2015 than in the earlier periods, but not by much.

Eastbound times are also similar except during July 2015 when heavy demand and service for the Pan Am Games had a severe effect. This was caused by a combination of delays at Fort York Boulevard and at Bathurst Street as shown in the following detailed chart of operation on Tuesday July 14.

519_20150714_Chart_LateEve

Through the late evening, and particularly when there were multiple cars approaching Bathurst Street eastbound, cars can be seen pulling up to the intersection slowly. This implies that the traffic signal was unable to provide enough green time for streetcars (both the frequent 509 Harbourfront and 511 Bathurst) services.

This is one of the issues that appears to be missed in “transit priority” signals: the need for signals to support unusual conditions of heavy transit traffic, not just the typical volumes that can be fitted into the auto traffic flow. (A related problem is the absence of “priority” for commonly used short turns and diversions, but that’s a subject for another article.)

Conclusion

While the new Queens Quay is beautiful to look at, and certainly an improvement over years of construction, the transit service and priority there are little improved, and in some cases worse than they were with the original setup. One could argue that a mixed use street like Queens Quay was never intended to provide “rapid transit”, but this shows how the best of intentions can actually make things worse.

53 thoughts on “The Evolution of Service on Queens Quay

  1. Forget about Queens Quay. Today, I saw a SUV going southbound on the streetcar right-of-way on Bathurst, between Queens Quay and Lake Shore Blvd. West. I think all the streetcar right-of-ways have the very same problem. Except for the Queensway… maybe.

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  2. Your conclusion seems a bit soft. Overall, seems that overall it’s significantly worse, rather than being little improvement.

    Were they 100% finished though at end of July? Is there still timing and signal changes coming?

    Steve: Almost all of the changes, except for the final version of the traffic controller at Spadina and Queens Quay Loop were in place by July 31. I am planning a followup article with more detail for specific locations.

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  3. The redesign of Queen’s Quay was a bad idea. Narrowing Queen’s Quay has made the traffic worse, and the confusing design has caused quite a few accidents. It should have been kept the way it was.

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  4. I think that a contributing factor, not mentioned above, is the actual speed of the trams running on Queens Quay, particularly east of Spadina. Anyone who has taken a trip on this section since completion of the revitalisation, will notice how slowly the streetcars run. Given the proximity of the right-of-way to pedestrian traffic (too close for me), I would not be surprised if tram operators are instructed to “go slow” through this section. I’m not looking forward to the first accident involving a pedestrian stumbling into the path of an oncoming streetcar. There are good reasons for running right-of-ways down the centre of the street…

    Steve: The TTC has had a slow order on this section since sometime in July. That’s why the running times first go down (improved signals) and then back up again.

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  5. Is the streetcar ROW owned by the TTC? Are the other streetcar ROWs owned by the TTC? Or are the considered owned by the city the same as roads, bike paths, sidewalks? I’m just wondering if the TTC would have the authority to fence the ROW, or if the transportation dept/Waterfront Toronto could shut down that idea easily. Granted most collisions are at intersections, but I think it would help, especially close to intersections.

    Steve: The right-of-way is owned by the City.

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  6. @Andrew

    Of course the makeover of Queens Quay has made traffic worse. We are in a new era where the car is not king anymore and that street has been changed to reflect that. Not sure why anyone would expect driving on Queens Quay should be easy to begin with.

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  7. There are 5 new lights for streetcars: Yo-Yo Ma Lane, 401 Queens Quay entrance, the Beer Store/firehall driveways, Robertson Cr. east leg and Queens Quay Terminal west driveway. Even with “transit priority” the streetcars will inevitably catch _some_ of them. I don’t think it’s at all surprising for transit to be running slower than before.

    And I put “transit priority” in quotes for a reason. Yesterday morning and this morning, I hit a red light eastbound at Rees St. with an eastbound streetcar also waiting. And both times, the light at Robertson Cr. east turned red just as we were getting going. (More like an anti-transit-priority sequencing.)

    Steve: There are design problems with “transit priority” as it relates to situations like Robertson Cr. eastbound and other signals that are not associated with stops. They operate independently of nearby locations and “priority” requests only are received within their local neighbourhood (i.e.: a car has to be east of Rees to hit the detector for Robertson). It is self-evident that if a car is leaving Rees eastbound, then it should receive a “green wave” through to the next stop. There is a related problem with nearside stops in the location of detection points. It does not make much sense to request a transit green when a car is loading, but there is no way for an operator to signal “about to leave” status”. Schemes have been proposed to deal with this (such as detecting whether the doors are open or not), but it is unlikely anything will be implemented for a few years until the TTC’s new vehicle tracking system is in place.

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  8. Confusion reigns supreme on the QQ and elsewhere. The clutter of multiple traffic signals adds to the driver’s problems reacting correctly. Why are all transit signals in pairs? Too many lights. There should be one signal only with unique colours such as purple for proceed and red for stop with a sign identifying it. Big waste of money buying unnecessary signals installing and maintaining them. If this requires a change in the Highway Traffic Act, just do it. BTW there are a few transit signals with a small white vertical bar that lights very briefly to permit a streetcar to make a right turn on red (which is actually allowed anyways). Maybe this would be sufficient for all transit signals.

    Same thing goes for bike trails with smaller dual signals. Complete waste of money. When have you ever seen a cyclists obey any traffic signal or any other law? Only if they are about to get creamed they _might_ stop or yield.

    Steve: The double signals are a Ministry of Transportation requirement caused by the general design for “ordinary” intersections where there must be two separate signal heads both for redundancy and for visual coverage (i.e. one on each side of the road). In the transit/bike lane implementation, this gives us the ridiculous two-abreast signals that just add to visual clutter. Moreover, the aspects used for each type of signal (auto traffic, transit and cyclist) are quite similar rather than having distinct types of display for transit and cyclists (as there already is for pedestrians).

    I asked MTO why transit signals cannot use the European standard “semaphore” aspects with a horizontal bar for “red”, and was advised that beyond the existing vertical bar for transit-only “green” phases, they have no intention of changing the aspects, although specific cycling signals may be in the works.

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  9. Personally, I think it’s time to start posting friendly reminders to ask the pedestrians to keep off the streetcar ROW and cross only at designated locations. It could be something like “Please help our streetcars moving, stay clear of the tracks” or “For your safety, keep off the tracks”. If it doesn’t work, it’s time for fines. Start handing out jaywalking or interference with traffic tickets, etc.

    Of course we want to stay away from the idea of erecting an ugly fence as it defeats the purpose of beautifying the Queens Quay corridor. I wonder if it’s possible to install some artwork barriers that blends in with the background at trouble spots.

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  10. What a terrible shame that the City and TTC should spend millions of dollars to significantly reduce the capacity of a vital transit corridor. Nothing but a botched project … it’s one thing not to improve service, but to actively make it worse is quite another. Thank you for your detailed work on this, Steve.

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  11. I took a rare trip on Queens Quay yesterday. Seemed a bit less waiting for lights than my previous couple of trips since it re-opened.

    However, just like my previous two trips since streetcars returned, there was an westbound auto doing an illegal left-turn, and getting honked at by breaking streetcars. This time at Rees Street.

    At this rate, someone is going to get killed. And with such inevitability, I’d think the city has culpability.

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  12. The concept of one streetcar per cycle of the traffic signals has plagued Strachan at the exit to the CNE for years. I have seen TTC employees directing traffic just to relieve the jam of streetcars trying to get out of the loop.

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  13. GregM said:

    “Of course the makeover of Queens Quay has made traffic worse. We are in a new era where the car is not king anymore and that street has been changed to reflect that. Not sure why anyone would expect driving on Queens Quay should be easy to begin with.”

    I would say, however, that it would have been nice if transit moved more quickly than previously. The issue of course is the redo at Queens Quay aimed at a more attractive milieu (pedestrian, activities,sitting and just to live and work in), or improved transit flow — and did one take too heavy a precedence over the other. On balance should we want to make changes that will take away from the space to improve transit? Are there tweaks that can improve both? I would think most types of fencing would take away from the milieu.

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  14. John F. Bromley sent in a photo of a fenced right-of-way in Basel, Switzerland.

    I’m not sure that this would fit well with the desire for an open design on Queens Quay, but it certainly gets the message across. One might equally argue that if there is to be a barrier, it should be between the pedestrian realm and the cycling lanes.

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  15. Steve said:

    John F. Bromley sent in a photo of a fenced right-of-way in Basel, Switzerland.

    I’m not sure that this would fit well with the desire for an open design on Queens Quay, but it certainly gets the message across. One might equally argue that if there is to be a barrier, it should be between the pedestrian realm and the cycling lanes.

    I think just such a right of way would be great – but would emergency services not react badly. In terms of the milieu and keeping autos out of the right of way. On balance I wonder whether this type of choice might be better – grass and all – as it might reduce the need for emergency services in the area.

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  16. Raymond | September 1, 2015 at 6:38 pm

    “Confusion reigns supreme on the QQ and elsewhere. The clutter of multiple traffic signals adds to the driver’s problems reacting correctly. Why are all transit signals in pairs? Too many lights. There should be one signal only with unique colours such as purple for proceed and red for stop with a sign identifying it. Big waste of money buying unnecessary signals installing and maintaining them. If this requires a change in the Highway Traffic Act, just do it.”

    It is amazing that the province which has adopted “International Symbols” instead of wordy road signs cannot bring itself to use “internationally accepted” traffic lights that are different for autos, bikes and transit. As you say that proliferation of signals causes much confusion to drivers, especially at night when the sign saying transit or bike signal is not as visible.

    With most of traffic signals being LED instead of incandescent bulbs the need for redundancy is no longer needed. The use of the white bar is not always implemented properly. I don’t know if it still happens but the signals at Spadina and Queen’s Quay often will all be lit at the same time. I know of one collision that was caused by this when a South to Eastbound 510 hit an Eastbound 509 as both had a white bar.

    The traffic marking scheme was not well thought out. There are too many signs imparting useless information and not enough simple to read signs. Some systems are putting in rough granite pavers to discourage autos from using the ROW. Some paint the ROW red near intersections to discourage cars.

    Having pedestrians walk on to the ROW occurs in a lot of Jurisdictions. There are many narrow streets in Amsterdam where this happens and on the major square in Nice that has 7 section articulated trams where bikes and pedestrians roam freely.

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  17. Bike lanes on Queens Quay are a good start but now we need to expand the cycling network by adding bike lanes to the DVP, the Gardiner, QEW, and the 401.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Robert Wightman said:

    “The traffic marking scheme was not well thought out. There are too many signs imparting useless information and not enough simple to read signs. Some systems are putting in rough granite pavers to discourage autos from using the ROW. Some paint the ROW red near intersections to discourage cars.”

    I have to say Robert – that is why the push by Emergency services to keep all the ROWs open is troubling- it is too narrow a perspective. I love the picture Steve had of the Basel ROW – it is pretty clear – don’t drive on my lawn.

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  19. “adding bike lanes to the DVP, the Gardiner, QEW, and the 401.”

    The Don Valley trail parallels the DVP and the Waterfront trail, including the new section on Queens Quay [which] parallels the Gardiner.

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  20. “….. but now we need to expand the cycling network by adding bike lanes to the DVP, the Gardiner, QEW, and the 401.”

    That ought to prove interesting at cloverleafs! How about adding bike lanes to the subways?

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  21. Random Q about white bars, since we’re on the topic.

    There’s one on Eglinton W, turning from westbound to southbound Duplex, where buses enter Eglinton Station … but the turning lane is also a lane for general traffic.

    I guess it would only use the white bar if there’s a bus first in line?

    I was cycling there earlier this summer, taking that turn, a bus pulled up behind me. Of course, the system didn’t detect I was there, so I just proceeded left on the white bar to let the bus behind me clear through.

    What happens if a car is in front of the bus and the white bar is triggered? Everyone just sits still for a few seconds? Or does this not happen?

    Steve: The left turn is banned for autos from 7am to 6pm. During this period, the white bar signals the turn for buses only. When the turn is permitted, there is a green arrow for whatever vehicle is in the lane.

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  22. “The double signals are a Ministry of Transportation requirement caused by the general design for “ordinary” intersections where there must be two separate signal heads both for redundancy and for visual coverage (i.e. one on each side of the road). In the transit/bike lane implementation, this gives us the ridiculous two-abreast signals that just add to visual clutter.”

    I wonder what the requirement actually says. Could someone develop a drop-in replacement for a standard traffic light bulb that itself had two smaller bulbs built in to it and would meet the requirement for having “two” signals? Of course it’s a ridiculous notion, but then again so is the concept of design standards that ultimately boil down to “follow these arbitrary and poorly thought out rules” rather than to “make it safe and efficient”.

    Steve: You’re talking about something like a the style of incandescent lamps developed for railway signals that had two filaments within one bulb.

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  23. @Isaac

    IIRC the MOT regulations states that one signal shall be at the right hand side of the road on the far side of the intersection. The location of the second light is variable but must be approved by the ministry. This [is one] reason why new signals often sit covered up for so long. They are awaiting Ministry approval. It usually is at the left side of the road far side for narrow 2 or 4 lane roads or suspended over the left hand lane.

    This requirement for 2 signals is the reason why there are 2 for street cars, 2 for left turn only phases as at Spadina and Lakeshore and 2 for the through lanes but only one arrow for advanced turn arrows because if it fails there are still lights above it that are lit.

    At many wide or unusual intersections a third signal is often required. I have seen one a 100 feet up in the air because the intersection is just over the crest of a hill and this allow cars to see it before they are at the intersection. My favourite on is in Midland at a blind curve. The third signal is on the side street 100m from the intersection facing sideways, perpendicular to the road so that cars coming around the curve can see the signal aspect. There is a 50m wide swath of grass in front of it so by itself it does look weird.

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  24. “At many wide or unusual intersections a third signal is often required.”

    Many places (Eglinton for instance) in Mississauga are 6 lanes wide plus turn lanes making for very wide intersections and they have three lights with the far left being set at a slight angle for better visibility when close to intersection.

    Annette Street (in TO) westbound east of Evelyn Avenue has a recently added third signal left side sharply angled about 100 feet before the intersection which is signalled and includes a school crossing guard. It can be seen before the intersection signals proper which is actually west of a sharp curve. It is only 40km but no doubt this signal was added due to an incident of some sort. I have never seen the likes of this anywhere else.

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  25. “The location of the second light is variable but must be approved by the ministry.”

    Ok, thanks, that makes some sense. It still raises questions, however. If signals are individually approved, why can’t they approve the use of a single set of signals where that would be appropriate? Once again, suburban-oriented design appears to be mandated everywhere.

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  26. Isaac Morland | September 4, 2015 at 10:03 pm

    “Ok, thanks, that makes some sense. It still raises questions, however. If signals are individually approved, why can’t they approve the use of a single set of signals where that would be appropriate? Once again, suburban-oriented design appears to be mandated everywhere.”

    But Isaac, it has always been done that way. You expect an outfit that combines the worst intransigence of engineers, lawyers, bureaucrats and politicians to change overnight? When Ontario has been innovative it resulted in the Scarborough RT, and that great computer for high schools, the ICON. Ontario did manage to get something right with GO transit but they are slow now to change.

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  27. To help answer Isaac Morland’s and Robert Wightman’s questions regarding the placement of traffic signals at intersections, I offer this reference document (approx. 2.6MB) from my experience working on road construction projects for the Ontario Ministry of Transportation (MTO) – although I am not employed directly by MTO:

    This is a link to the “Ontario Traffic Manual Book 12 – Traffic Signals” document that is the publication created and used by MTO and other government entities with regards to *EVERYTHING* involved with setting up traffic signals (which is no mean feat).

    On page 83 is “Section 5.5 Signal Visibility – General” which starts out reading (in bold):

    “Signal visibility, for ease of comprehension, is the most important aspect of traffic control signal design” and then, in regular font, “The recommended practices and guidelines given in this section should be seriously considered and followed as closely as possible.”

    And, with regards to Steve’s response to Raymond above regarding two signal heads, the Manual says, on page 84, under “Signal Head Locations”:

    ‘A minimum of two signal heads shall face each approach of the intersection, including public-use driveways within the intersection.’

    It then goes on to tell how to mount said signal heads depending on the roadway and intersection configurations.

    Prior to this paragraph and after it – and which would be of interest to both Isaac and Robert W. – are explanations, figures and tables explaining the geometry and speed considerations used to determine how and where to set up the signals.

    All in all, it’s an interesting and educational read and shows how much has to be contemplated even before traffic signals are installed at an intersection.

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  28. @ Dean Girard

    Thanks for the link. It looks like it will be as great a find for me as the book I got at the U of T bookstore in 1970 for $0.25 on the proceedings of the first (and probably only) international symposium on the perception and applications of flashing lights. It went into the speed of flash, the distance light will penetrate a fog (it varies as the fourth power of the wavelength) and the spread angle for railway crossing signals, 15 degrees for the high ones and 60 degrees for the low ones though this is still a function of each location.

    Does anyone know where I get get a copy of the “Ontario Lineman’s Handbook” for the design and construction of of electrical distribution lines?

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  29. And, with regards to Steve’s response to Raymond above regarding two signal heads, the Manual says, on page 84, under “Signal Head Locations”:

    ‘A minimum of two signal heads shall face each approach of the intersection, including public-use driveways within the intersection.’

    Could it be interpreted that said minimum of two signal heads has been reached and therefore the transit-only signal need be one additional head only? In other words it is a lane specific signal, that lane being streetcar lane.

    I think they have added a third head on Queens Quay (unknown intersection(s)) to ease confusion for motorists.

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  30. Another section of the Book 12 document that I believe is relevant to this discussion, is found on page 82, under Section 5.2 Practical Requirements:

    “The responsibility of the designer is to produce a safe, effective and efficient signal design which is acceptable to the road authority, enables provision of acceptable levels of service and delay standards to motorists, meets recognized standards and is *PRACTICAL* [my emphasis} in the following areas…[not listed here by me]”

    Designers and regulatory authorities *do* have to establish and maintain agreed-to parameters (as boring or frivolous as they may seem) to ensure that the systems being designed, built and used function properly and effectively and can be altered or repaired using standardized processes.

    Steve and numerous other posters have pointed out that the current roadway set-up *still* does not function very well as a whole, after long delays during construction and ever-present problems with traffic signals and less than ideal transit priority. In the end this means the thoroughfare is – and will remain – not wholly functional for transit, traffic OR pedestrians.

    So it appears that, from a design perspective, we have a situation of “Garbage in, Garbage out” because not enough work was done ahead of time to figure out what was desired to happen along the route for everyone using it and how it needed to be designed to serve that purpose.

    At the same time, with regards to the issues of automobiles entering the streetcar lanes and making improper turns as well as pedestrians running all over the place to get across the street and other similar confusions, despite what Book 12 or any other design manual might say, you can’t engineer for stupidity. If drivers or pedestrians decide they want to do something, they’ll do it, barriers and signals notwithstanding.

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  31. Dean Girard:

    At the same time, with regards to the issues of automobiles entering the streetcar lanes and making improper turns as well as pedestrians running all over the place to get across the street and other similar confusions, despite what Book 12 or any other design manual might say, you can’t engineer for stupidity. If drivers or pedestrians decide they want to do something, they’ll do it, barriers and signals notwithstanding.

    No engineering can absolutely prevent stupidity, because there are no true absolutes in nature, and nature is what sets the ultimate rules.

    But there are certainly designs that invite or discourage stupidity. Merely painting the concrete bed around the streetcar tracks a different colour, and perhaps giving it a relatively-rough-looking surface very different from that of the roadway and the pedestrian way, might make a big difference, just by giving a clear reminder that it’s not part of either. (Maybe the surface already looks a bit different — I haven’t been down to Queens Quay yet since it was all finished — but from comments here I gather the difference, if any, is not particularly marked.)

    Since this is a problem that has, I think, been addressed reasonably well in other places all over the world, perhaps the real question is why the engineers were encouraged or forced to emit such a stupid design that invites stupid behaviour.

    Steve: One important point about pavement colour and signage in general is that it must work in all sorts of lighting conditions and weather including periods when any paint is obscured by snow, and colour is lost to darkness (not to mention the unhelpful spectra from some streetlighting).

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  32. Steve … wouldn’t it be a little early to judge this as a negative change. QQ was launched the summer of the Pan Am games … I’m not a transit expert, thus the reason I read your blog. But new systems always have teething issues. Some modifications will be made. Then you can evaluate. Let’s give it at least a year … it’s a major switch up … (pun intended) …

    Steve: I sat on a community committee that looked at the street designs, and there were a lot of questions about how the signals, and transit priority in particular, would work back in the design stage. We were told “don’t worry, it’s all under control”. Part of my frustration is with an implementation that delays transit more than what it replaced. This isn’t a question of doing better than the construction period, but of the “old” Queens Quay.

    I plan to track the evolution of operations on this street to see how it behaves once the summer tourists leave and traffic levels drop to fall/winter levels.

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  33. Raymond says

    “Could it be interpreted that said minimum of two signal heads has been reached and therefore the transit-only signal need be one additional head only? In other words it is a lane specific signal, that lane being streetcar lane.”

    I believe that is says somewhere that there must be a minimum TWO signal heads shall face the oncoming roadway for each PROTECTED phase. I believe that a protected phase is one in which no conflicting movements can be made and the protected movement cannot be made is a separate phase. Thus the street cars, the left turns and the through traffic must each have 2 signal heads.

    While I haven’t read the entire manual I believe that the white bar is ONLY to be used for turning movements. If this is true then it is not always being used correctly.

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  34. Further to what I said yesterday:

    From page 10 in the manual:

    “ii Any fully protected phase, such as a left turn operation facing type 2 signal heads, a bicycle phase and so on, shall use a layout with two separate signal heads. In the case of the fully protected left turn operation, the type 2 head on the traffic island is the primary signal and the type 2 signal head on the far left side of the intersection fulfills the need for the secondary signal head;”

    The ministry refers to permissive and protected phases. A permissive phase would be a right turn on a standard (circular) green signal. The turns are permitted if there are no conflicting vehicular or pedestrian movements. A protected phase includes straight through movements on a standard green and turns on green arrows. These are protected against any other conflicting movements.

    Since the street car tracks are between the auto lanes on Spadina, St. Clair and Queens Quay, they need a separate PROTECTED phase because the auto through lanes could have a green along with the left turn lanes that would conflict with the street cars. This results in the street cars being a protected phase thus requiring the use of two signal heads, albeit tight beside each other. One would think that LEDs would obviate the need for this.

    It would seem that the Transit Priority Signal (TPS) does not need to be duplicated and that I was wrong in thinking it was only for turning movements. Southbound Spadina cars turning at Adelaide seem to turn whenever they can get away with it. While the left turn light may be red the streetcars are not turning in front of other southbound vehicles.

    From page 56

    “A transit priority signal (white bar) display may be used to assign right-of-way to public transit vehicles over all other vehicular and pedestrian traffic movements within an intersection.

    “The signal indication allows for the movement of transit vehicles through a signalized intersection. The transit priority signal is generally used at an intersection and may be operated exclusively during a protected transit movement or concurrently with other non-conflicting vehicular movements.

    “Transit priority signals can be used on either the primary or secondary traffic signal heads or on both depending on the transit movement, location of transit lane and operation of the intersection. Transit vehicles facing a normal red indication and an illuminated white transit vehicle indication may proceed through the intersection while all other vehicles and pedestrians must stop and are not allowed to proceed.

    “Following termination of the transit phase, a normal red clearance interval is required before the signals revert to the normal phasing. The transit priority signal may also be operated concurrently with other non-conflicting vehicular and pedestrian movements as directed by the traffic control signal indications. When the vertical white bar is not displayed, transit vehicles must obey the normal traffic signals. The use of the transit signals may be required at only certain times of the day or on certain days or for special events and the additional phase(s) can therefore be programmed into a signal plan.”

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  35. Just want to let everyone know that the e/b switch at Fleet and Bathurst has been fixed. No more pointman. However, there has been an increase in dewirements for the e/b 509 cars, especially the new LFLRV, at this intersection. With no pointman to help rewire the cars, there is a 1-2 minute delay in the operation of the 509 route.

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  36. Norman Wilson wrote:

    Merely painting the concrete bed around the streetcar tracks a different colour, and perhaps giving it a relatively-rough-looking surface very different from that of the roadway and the pedestrian way, might make a big difference, just by giving a clear reminder that it’s not part of either.

    In my observations, it does make a big difference, notwithstanding darkness and weather issues.

    Along Highway 7 in York Region where there are VIVA busways, the busway lanes have a red colour and the bicycle lanes have a green colour (I have seen this in other cities as well). I don’t know of any information on the frequency of cars entering the bus lanes accidentally, and I do wonder how effective it really is when entire intersections are paved with the same red-coloured pavement, but I am well aware of cars NOT using the bicycle lanes where appropriate, and I suspect the green pavement colour has a lot to do with it. (See this example at Highway 7 and Cochrane Drive.)

    Now, before certain posters start crying foul and saying that cars should NEVER use a bicycle lane, let me clarify how these lanes are defined. For the most part, the bicycle lanes have regular pavement colour and are separated from the traffic lane by a double solid line with diagonal striping between the lines, creating about a foot-or-so wide buffer zone between the lanes. As they approach an intersection (I’m estimating about four or five vehicle lengths back), the bike lane pavement is green, but the double solid lines end and a single dashed line continues in line with the part of the double line that is furthest from the curb.

    Signage clearly warns drivers that they MUST yield to cyclists in the lane, but the change from a solid line to a dashed line denotes that the lane may be enter-able by vehicles should the way be clear. It also denotes that transit buses (YRT route 1 runs along this part of Highway 7) may enter the bicycle lane to make a stop.

    While the road has three traffic lanes (plus a left/U-turn lane at intersections where permitted), there are no right turn lanes. The bicycle lane is not wide enough to be used as a lane for making a right turn, except where there is one vehicle stopped at the intersection – sometimes two, depending on vehicle size and intersection geometry. A following vehicle needing to make a right turn can physically do so in most cases, yet when there is no cyclist present or approaching, this seldom occurs. (BTW: I won’t respond to any posts about whether this should or shouldn’t be done. The pavement markings say it is doable, and the sub-topic is about pavement colouring, not bike lanes).

    Getting back to the original point made by Norman Wilson, the existence of a differently-coloured pavement seems to have an effect on how drivers operate their vehicle, as far as these bicycle lanes are concerned.

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  37. I wish that they would convert to pantograph operation on the new streetcars particularly in this segment where the overhead has been upgraded. I think Steve would have more knowledge as to the why or why not but it would eliminate the de-wiring issue.

    Steve: I believe that there is a concern that ops would not keep track of which locations were safe for pantograph operation, and they would accidentally bring down overhead on top of their cars. Notably the standard routes to the carhouses have not yet been converted, but also a few common diversions such as sending Spadina cars to Bathurst Street.

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  38. Michael Torres writes:

    There has been an increase in dewirements for the e/b 509 cars, especially the new LFLRV, at this intersection.

    Yes I noticed one over the weekend. It was the operator from a 511 waiting to turn that fixed it. A keen eye and quick hand might be able to see this coming and snag a free ride and POP. Not that you would want to ride Bathurst during rush hour anyway, unless you really enjoy the view from Fort York to Queen. Utter slog, especially southbound and even when the EX isn’t on.

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  39. Steve:

    One important point about pavement colour and signage in general is that it must work in all sorts of lighting conditions and weather including periods when any paint is obscured by snow, and colour is lost to darkness (not to mention the unhelpful spectra from some streetlighting).

    Beware the absolute, my friends,
    The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!

    Steve’s right, and even more so — pavement markings are very hard to see not only in snow, but on rainy nights. But we still have lane markers and pavement turn arrows and pedestrian crossings and so on.

    The question is whether there’s some sort of pavement marking that, when visible, will make it clearer to motorists and pedestrians that they should stay off the tracks. Certainly it should be designed to be visible as much as possible, at least as well as lane and pedestrian-crossing marks. (Maybe it should be involve a pattern — cross-hatching, perhaps — rather than a solid colour.) But even if it’s hard to see when covered with snow, it may change habits enough to help.

    An aside re bike lanes: by observation, I suspect very few motorists understand that, when turning right, they are REQUIRED by the Highway Traffic Act to merge into the bike lane first rather than cutting across it. On the other hand, very few drivers (which, in the HTA, includes cyclists) seem to know or care much about safety when it impedes convenience.

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  40. I just decided to randomly pull up a map of the 509 service to have a look at the service.

    As of 9:37pm on Thursday night, there is 1 westbound car at Queens Quay station, 1 eastbound car at Bathurst, and 4 cars sitting in Exhibition loop, supplying a theoretical 6 minute headway service.

    Absolutely pathetic.

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