Through the summer, the 512 St. Clair route will be under construction for various projects:
- Modification of loading islands,
- Reconstruction of the portal ramps and track at St. Clair West Station,
- Reconstruction of overhead wiring at St. Clair West Station,
- Reconstruction of the roofs at St. Clair Station streetcar and bus levels.
Buses are now operating over the entire route and this will continue until the Labour Day weekend when streetcars will return from St. Clair West Station to Keele. The work at St. Clair Station will not complete until late fall 2016, and buses will remain on the eastern section of the route.
The buses share the road lanes with auto traffic and generally do not make the trip as quickly as the streetcars. This article shows comparative data from early June 2016 when streetcars were still operating and late June after the buses took over.
Travel Times over the Route
This is an update of charts presented in previous articles:
The periods covered by the charts include:
- April 2007: A right-of-way only on the eastern portion of the route
- July 2010: Full right-of-way
- Fall 2014: Degraded running times thought to be due to loss of working transit priority at some traffic signals
- April 2015: Repaired transit priority at most locations
- June 2016: Buses replaced streetcars effective June 19
The charts below show the travel times between Yonge and Keele subdivided by hours of the day for selected periods. (Each hour’s data contains times for vehicles leaving from Yonge or Keele during that hour, and so “6:00” contains trips leaving Yonge or Keele between 6:00 and 6:59 am.)
Westbound bus service at the beginning of the day takes the same time to operate from Yonge to Keele as the streetcars did because there is ample capacity in the road lanes. This does not last long, however, and by 7:00 am an uptick in travel times for the bus weeks appears. This grows through the day and is most pronounced in the PM peak period before falling back in the evening.
Eastbound times show the highest change in the AM peak, stay high through the day, and then fall off through the PM peak and evening.
The scheduled travel times were extended in anticipation of slower operation by 7 minutes each way. The actual change in travel times exceeds this during peak periods, and so the buses cannot keep on schedule. Additional time is required for the on-street loop at St. Clair Station, although this may be slightly offset by straight through operation without looping through St. Clair West Station.
Travel times across the route are shown in detail in the following charts:
The charts below show the travel time through the loops at St. Clair Station and at Keele in detail.
At Yonge Street, the bus travel times after June 19 are much longer, and the values are scattered over a wider range, than the streetcar period June 1-18. This reflects the longer trip via a large on-street loop, but also on the edges of days (early morning, late evening), particularly on weekends the fact that buses make their trip across the route in close to streetcar times, but with a more generous schedule.
This effect is particularly pronounced at Keele where the time taken west of Keele Street can exceed twenty minutes even during the PM peak period. Buses may take longer crossing the route, but they manage to fit in quite generous layovers at the western terminus. This can be seen in a chart of bus movements where, notably in the PM peak, buses accumulate at Gunn’s Loop. June 22 was chosen because it has some particularly long terminal times at Gunn’s Loop that appear to have been used as a tactic for getting very late buses back on time.
Short turns at various locations and directions are also evident in this chart, including a situation just after 10:00 am where two buses short turn westbound at Oakwood creating a large gap in service to Keele.
The difference in running times, including these layovers, between the streetcar and bus service can be seen by looking at round trips from Yonge west to Keele and return. Note that the stats in this set of charts only include trips that covered the full route, not those short turning east of Keele, or originating west of Yonge.
The first five pages show Monday-Friday data for weeks 1-3 when streetcars operated. Trip times are quite consistent with little variation over the day. Outliers in the values are the result of cars taking layovers at St. Clair West Station and at Oakwood Loop, but these are rare compared to bus layovers at Gunn’s Loop later in the month. Weeks 4-5 show data for buses which have both longer trips and a greater scatter in the values.
Page 6 shows data for all weekdays on one page. The band of data points for streetcar weeks is quite obviously clustered across the chart, while the bus data lie in a cloud of higher values. Weekend values are on pages 7-8 where the longer bus times are particularly evident on Saturday, June 25, and to a lesser extent on Sundays June 19 and 26.
From a rider’s point of view, service quality is a combination of travel time and headway (the time between vehicles), not to mention actual capacity if vehicles are crowded. Tracking information cannot report on crowding levels or pass-ups at stops, but it does show the spacing of vehicles. The next two sets of charts show headways westbound from Yonge and eastbound from Keele. Note that these times are not measured right at the terminal to ensure that they represent streetcars and buses that are truly “on their way”.
The scheduled headways are:
Period Streetcar Bus AM Peak 2'50" 2'00" Midday 4'30" 3'20" PM Peak 3'20" 2'20" Early Evening 6'15" 4'45" Late Evening 6'00" 6'00"
Two issues are quite evident in the headway charts.
- Headways are scattered over a wide range of values during both streetcar and bus operations. This has been an ongoing issue for St. Clair where, even with a reserved right-of-way, the service does not always operate on a reliable headway. Streetcar travel times (shown above) may be consistent indicating that the route suffers relatively little from ongoing delays, and especially has only small increases during the peak period. This does not, however, automatically result in evenly spaced vehicles.
- The difference between streetcar and bus headways as actually operated is less than that implied by the scheduled values. Not only are buses (smaller vehicles) replacing streetcars, they are not providing the advertised level of service and so the capacity of the bus service is below the expected level.
Breaking the headways down week-by-week, we can see the degree to which (or not) the bus service actually achieved the lower scheduled headways compared to streetcars. The following charts show the average headways and standard deviation of values by week and hour.
Westbound from Yonge, the bus headways are slightly shorter than the streetcar headways (compare weeks 4-5 to 1-3), but the values are not as low as the scheduled headways and SD values are higher indicating a wider scatter of values (more bunching and gapping).
The situation is more pronounced eastbound from Keele where midday service is actually less frequent with buses than streetcars, and PM peak service is roughly at the same level.
The service and capacity actually provided on St. Clair are worse than the advertised schedules, and the primary culprit appears to be that running times are below what is actually required, buses run on wider headways than planned, and unscheduled layovers consume what might otherwise be productive service time.
Operating speeds vary along the route, and the difference between bus and streetcar speeds is concentrated in certain areas. The following charts compare hour by hour speeds for each vehicle type along the route. Note that the eastbound charts should be read right to left.
Early morning and late evening speeds are generally similar for both modes even though the buses are in “mixed traffic”. At those hours there is not enough “traffic” to delay the buses.
A location where streetcars are often slower on average than buses is through the underpass between Old Weston Road and Keele Street.
These comparisons are not intended to be a measure of the inherent “superiority” of one mode over another, but as a comparison of two very different implementations of service on St. Clair. The bus service is even worse than in might otherwise be because it has not been scheduled to match actual conditions, and line management appears to concentrate on keeping buses on time at the expense of providing the scheduled service.