Since May 8, 2016 and continuing until Thanksgiving weekend, route 501 Queen is diverting around water main construction on Queen west of Spadina. The westbound diversion takes streetcars south to King at Spadina, west to Shaw and back north to Queen, and eastbound service follows the same route in reverse.
This article compares the line’s operation before and after the diversion took effect.
Updated July 26, 2016 at 4:00 pm: A chart has been added shown the delaying effect on King Street service eastbound at Spadina caused by queues for left turning eastbound Queen cars.
New schedules were implemented for this change, and the table below compares round trip times (RTT) for the normal and diversion routes. The magnitude of the change is, in general, dictated by the length of two headways because two cars were added to the route. Thus, if the scheduled service ran every 5 minutes, two more cars would extend the RTT by 10 minutes.
These are round trip values, and so the added running time one-way is half of the change in the RTT.
Neville-Humber RTT Normal Diversion AM Peak 150 160 Midday 165 176 PM Peak 171 181 Early Evening 149 160 Late Evening 126 135
Travel Times Through the Diversion Area
The following charts show the running times from University Avenue to Dufferin Street for streetcars on a weekly and hourly basis for the months of April to June 2016.
Westbound travel times increased by varying amounts starting in Week 2 of May 2016. The amount of change is only within the 5-6 minute range contemplated by the schedules on the very outer ends of the day (for example, trips between 6:00 and 6:30 am). In the worst case, the trips are over 15 minutes longer during the PM peak. Eastbound travel times also increase by more than the 5-6 minute range except early in the morning.
Note also the higher times during early April for westbound travel. These are caused by the 504 King diversion via Queen during track work at Charlotte Loop. Very frequent 504 King service (outnumbering the 501 Queens by 2:1 or better) caused delays westbound at Spadina for 504s making the west to south turn unassisted by any transit priority signals. This drove up times for the 501 service. Some of the change is also due to traffic congestion on Queen caused by autos diverted from King.
The effect is not as marked eastbound because 501 Queen streetcars did not have to queue waiting for 504 King cars within the segment between Spadina and University.
What is quite clear here is that the schedule adjustments for the diversion do not come close to matching the actual requirement for greater travel time. This affected service elsewhere on the route.
Headways at Neville and Humber
Headways are measured inbound near the terminals to avoid confusion where a vehicle leaves the loop, but does not move far away from the terminal area immediately. Westbound, the point is at Silver Birch, the first stop west of Neville Loop. Eastbound, the point is on The Queensway between the exit from Humber Loop and the Humber River bridge.
Westbound from Silver Birch:
- During the period from 6:00 to 10:00 am, average headways and the standard deviation of the values are unchanged from March through June.
- From 10:00 am to 3:00 pm, average headways rise beginning with the diversion period (Week 2 of May) by 1-2 minutes, and the SD values also jump indicating a less regularly spaced service.
- From 3:00 pm onward, the rise is pronounced for the final two hours of the peak period, and continues right through to late evening.
Eastbound from Humber:
- As with the westbound service, average headways during the morning period are roughly the same before and after the diversion is in place.
- Beginning in mid-afternoon, the average rises with the effect being worse later through the peak period.
- Wider headways and SD values continue through the evening as at Neville.
The data show that although service is scheduled to operate at the same frequency on the diversion as it did on the “regular” schedule, in fact service to the terminals is less frequent and less reliable particularly during the periods when the added running time does not compensate for actual route conditions. The problem of short turning which was “fixed” with new schedules at the beginning of 2016 has returned and will likely plague 501 Queen riders until the diversion ends in early October.
Meanwhile on Lake Shore Boulevard West
Service west of Humber Loop operates independently of the main 501 Queen route, and is also now part of the 10-minute network. The combined effect is that this portion of 501 Queen retains reliable headways and service at a level that has not been seen since the Long Branch car was amalgamated with the Queen route decades ago. Ironically that move was a response to budget problems of the mid-1990s, and the TTC has never accepted that the joint route was a failure from the point of view of service quality. There is still a possibility that they will revert to a unified route at a future date without addressing the basic problem that service beyond Humber Loop was often an afterthought thanks to short turns.
For this section of the route, headways are measured on Lake Shore just west of the exit from Humber Loop westbound, and on Lake Shore east of Brown’s Line eastbound. History going back to 2013 is included to show the effect of the separate streetcar service in 2016 (this benefit also appears during a period of bus operation during Gardiner Expressway construction at Humber Loop).
For both directions throughout the day, but particularly notable in the midday, afternoon and early evening, the SD values are much lower in 2016 showing that service operated on a more reliable headway. There is no change in service frequency or quality during the downtown construction period because the service operates independently from the Humber-Neville cars.
Running times on Lake Shore have been quite consistent over recent years with the notable exception of a buildup eastbound toward Humber Loop in the AM peak that began in 2015.
The severity of the delay near Park Lawn is evident in a chart from June 16, 2016 (selected as a typical example). Each line represents one vehicle’s movement, and the slope of the line depends on the speed with faster operations being more on the vertical while slower operations tip toward the horizontal. From about 7:15 until 9:30, eastbound cars operate much more slowly west of Park Lawn taking as much as half an hour to cover a short distance.
Updated July 26, 2016 at 4:00 pm:
The operation of Queen cars making the left turn east to north at King & Spadina also caused backlogs of service at that location. There is no transit priority signal for turns east-west, only for north-south, and even these only actually work when the electric switches are active. The TTC has many out of service switches and resorts to pointmen to handle them for diversions. Unfortunately this scheme may deal with the switch, but it does not activate the priority signalling where it is available.
In the following charts (which should be read right-to-left for eastbound travel), note how the “post” change data show slower operation eastbound from Brant to Spadina during the peak periods and into the mid evening.