King Street Update: May 2018 Data

This article is part of a continuing series reviewing operations on King Street during the transit priority pilot. In Part I here, I review travel times and line capacity in the King Street Pilot’s area. In a follow-up Part II, I will look at headway reliability not just downtown but on the outer ends of the 504 King, 514 Cherry and 503 Kingston Road lines, as well as details of 504 King operation on days when it was badly disrupted.

There has been enough accumulation of data since November 2017 to establish that the pilot has a benefit, although the exact nature varies depending on location, weather and other factors. I will not publish this analysis again until August by which time the effect, if any, of the revised route structure to take effect on Sunday, June 24 will have been in place long enough to accumulate sufficient data. By then there will also be a number of major downtown events to use as reference points in how well the pilot area sustained its transit service.

Schedule Changes

On May 12, 2018, running time on the 504 King service was reduced to recover some of the excess layover time cars experienced at terminals. In the table below, the times are shown in the format “A+B” where “A” is the driving time and “B” is the recovery time, if any, at terminals.

The effect of the changes was to slightly reduce the scheduled headway, but over a route with a two-hour round trip, shaving off five minutes does not have much effect (5 minutes is 1/24 of two hours). There was also a slight improvement in scheduled headways for the 514 Cherry service.

         504 King Scheduled Round Trip Times

Weekday  AM Peak  Midday   PM Peak     Evening
                                    Early    Late
Sept     122+5    127+4    139+4    118+3    98+4
May      118+3    122+6    134+7    112+5    94+11

Saturday    Morning        Afternoon   Evening
         Early    Late              Early    Late
Sept     103+2    117+2    131+3    116+0    114+0
May      96+6     110+9    122+5    112+4    108+4

Sunday      Morning        Afternoon   Evening
         Early    Late              Early    Late
Sept     93+1     110+1    121+2    101+1    94+6
May      90+9     108+3    116+3    98+4     86+4

PM Peak Travel Times

The image below continues what became an iconic chart for the pilot showing the westbound PM Peak travel times from Jarvis to Bathurst. There is a peak in the 85th percentile, although not the median (50th) on May 30. This was caused by a collision blocking service westbound at Sherbourne. When the pack of delayed streetcars moved off, their travel through the pilot area was slower than usual, and this occurred during the 5-6 pm period covered by the chart.

In reviewing the charts for spikes in the 85th percentile during May, I encountered several instances where the high value within one hour for the pilot area was on one part of a broader problem with service on King Street. These are summarized below, and will be explored in detail in the second installment of this article.



  • Wednesday, May 23 had many problems and large gaps through the afternoon.



  • Wednesday, May 1 had a delay west of Spadina which caused a backlog of cars. Recovery from this was throttled by intersection capacity at Spadina.
  • Monday, May 7 had a delay east of Bathurst that caused a diversion via Shaw, Queen and Spadina during the 5-6 pm hour. This was only one of several problems from the late morning onward.
  • Tuesday, May 8 had a delay eastbound at John during the 1-2 pm period, but this was only one of among other delays and service gaps.
  • Wednesday, May 16 had many problems and extensive short turning from the AM peak onward.

More generally, there is a question of whether headway reliability is getting worse on King in spite of the continuation of stable travel times through the pilot area. This too will be explored in the second installment.

Line Capacity

The eastbound capacity at Bathurst during the hour from 8-9 am continued to grow in May, although there had been some dips, mainly weather related in April. However, this growth is uniform across the AM peak and appears to be due to a combination of factors that took effect with the new schedules in mid-May:

  • Slight reductions in headways on 504 King and 514 Cherry added a few vehicles/hour to the service.
  • A change in the assignment of larger Flexitys shifted more of these to trips passing Bathurst eastbound during the peak. The effect of the timing of vehicles is more apparent in the PM peak charts below.

Westbound at Yonge, there is a marked jump in capacity in the 4-5 pm hour, but …

… this is offset by a reduction in capacity from 5-6 pm.

Charts showing the hourly capacity at various locations are linked below.



Detailed Breakdowns of Travel Time Data

Travel time across the pilot area continued to be consistent. The chart below shows values for eastbound trips from Bathurst to Jarvis during the 5-6 pm hour. In these charts, green shows the median values (50th percentile) while red shows the maxima. The medians are down slightly from the pre-pilot era, but the big change comes in the maxima where the peaks have been shaved off except for very unusual circumstances (a storm in mid-February 2018).

The following linked files include these charts for both directions and for various times of the day. In both of these, the charts for evening periods continue the pattern of longer travel times on Fridays when the entertainment district is busy. This shows up in more detail in the day-by-day charts below.



Day-by-Day Breakdowns

The following charts contain 21 pages with details for the hours 8-9 am, 5-6 pm and 11-12 pm for each day of the week. As with the chart for all weekdays above, there are four values plotted corresponding to the 25th, 50th, 85th and 100th percentiles.


Travel times for 8-9 am continue the same pattern seen in earlier months, and there is little improvement between the pre- and post-implementation for the pilot. This was no surprise as congestion did not factor into conditions on King Street during the AM peak, and of course not on weekends. The first 7 pages of charts show the values for Monday through Sunday.

In the 5-6 pm hour, the situation is quite different with “spiky” data values before the pilot, but less erratic and overall lower values during the pilot. Exceptions occur for cases such as storms. The improvement in travel time is most noted late in the week, especially on Thursdays.

In the 11 pm to 12 mn hour, data for Sunday through Wednesday show now benefit from the pilot, but on Thursday through Saturday there is a marked change in travel times. There is a big spike on Friday, May 18 caused by a collision that closed King and University for several hours requiring a diversion via Queen.


As with the westbound data, 8-9 AM eastbound times pre- and post-pilot are stable. Two recent spikes on Wednesdays arose from weather (April’s ice storm) and from a collision that triggered a diversion (May 16).

There are delays as noted earlier on Tuesday, May 1 and Monday, May 7 causing spikes in eastbound travel times during the 5-6 pm hour on those dates.

During the 11 pm to 12 mn hour, the congestion eastbound through the Entertainment District is not as severe as westbound, and so there is not as much change for Thursday through Saturday evenings as in the westbound travel times.

Hour-by-Hour 85th Percentiles

Finally, this set of charts gives the 85th percentile values for each hour through the day to show how these values evolve and their stability (or lack of it) from day to day. Morning values tend not to bounce around too much, but by midday and then through the afternoon, the values change from hour to hour and day to day. The 5-6pm hour is generally higher than surrounding times, but it really stands out on Wednesdays which are busy days in the Theatre District. This effect is stronger westbound (the theatres are on the north side of King) than eastbound.

Another purpose of these charts is as a warning against the use of smaller datasets for analysis given the fluctuation in values by time of day and day of week. Any analysis of King Street operations needs to consider how the street behaves under worse than average situations when it has the most benefit.




Temperatures continued to climb as Spring found its way to Toronto, and except for a dip at mid-month, conditions skin to early fall, before the pilot began in November, were common. This brought greater pedestrian activity on the street as it blossomed with both flowers and restaurant patios.

Although there were several wet days through map, none was on the order of the mid-April deluge and ice storm. As with the temperature, the rainfall was comparable to that seen in early Fall 2017.


6 thoughts on “King Street Update: May 2018 Data

  1. Since Eglinton is a provincial/Metrolinx project, can Ontario dictator Doug Ford seize control of it and bury the Scarborough portion of the line unburied by his predecessor Kathleen Wynne?

    Steve: Yes and no. First off, the “unburied” portion isn’t just in Scarborough but extends to the west branch of the Don River west of Leslie. Changing the design would require reopening the existing construction contract and modifying the design to shift all manner of underground facilities, not to mention the addition of several expensive and time-consuming stations. Crossing under the Don River, particularly the east branch, would be very expensive given the local geology (this was all covered in discussions during the original design and questions about alternatives).

    It all depends on just how much money Ford wants to burn through, and how much delay he wants to create in the project. It is conceivable that the line would not open during his mandate with the delays such a change would bring.

    There was reference during the campaign about burying Eglinton “where practical”, although I suspect Ford will act as if those words were never uttered.

    More to the point, there is a question of just how much the rest of the province, even those who voted PC, is willing to finance Ford’s subway fantasies in Toronto.


  2. I have great expectations that a Ford Flaw will save the Eglinton day for Pip and Steve. When mayor, Rob found it difficult to act on more than one concept at a time. Doug won because he sounded out one idea at a time. The idea that he aired the most was saving taxes for all of us little guys of Ontario.

    Yesterday’s Pickering/Toronto Subway complex left me ecstatic for the people of Pickering; one of whom [let’s hear it Christine] needs to discover the Lakeshore East GO line for Doug. Of course, it will never be built: There is no money and no demand for it. But, it will occupy Doug’s mind for a while; and then a series of other pie in the sky transit projects will follow. By 2022, we will have our LRT with one extra $10 roof somewhere, Doug will join Mike in retirement, and the GTA will be left with the usual ‘no new transit for you [do you idiots know how much these things cost?]’ legacy.


  3. And, to return to the topic at hand; we will, in 2022, be able to ride the King Street et. al. Streetcars with little rubber tired competition, because Mayor Tory likes to take credit for the idea. As well, it’s working, but who cares about that in ‘commute city’?


  4. “There is a peak in the 85th percentile, although not the mean (50th) on May 30.” — Median, right?

    Steve: Correct. I will fix the article. Thanks for catching this.


  5. Has Trasit Priority Signaling been rolled out to more locations along King? I observed what appeared to be a new TPS fuctioning at King and Berkeley Streets, which is one of those rare locations where there is a signalised intersection without a streetcar stop. The traffic light for King will sometimes now stay green, even after the pedestiran signal flips to the don’t walk signal, and a streetcar will pass through.

    A lot of westbound streetcars have to stop for a red light at Berkeley right after waiting for a green light and departing Parliament. The north-south green for Berkeley is one of those which only activates with the presence of a car, or by a pedestrian pushing the crossing button, but this area has become so active in recent years the light is forced to change on almost every cycle at rush hour. They should simply make it a regular intersection.

    Steve: That sounds like an addition, but I will have to check with the city. Another location like that is King & George which is between Sherbourne and Jarvis.


  6. I don’t ride on King in any regular fashion, but I do take the route maybe once or twice a week, at various times.

    My purely subjective impression is that travel is faster, and certainly much less frustrating, than it was before. It used to be that Queen was a quicker trip through downtown than King, but now there’s no comparison.*

    The one frustrating thing is that westbound streetcars almost always seem to catch a red at York St., followed by catching pretty much the full red at University. That probably adds a couple of minutes to any westbound trip to St. Andrew station, or the west end of the financial district.

    *Yesterday I travelled west along Kingston Road and Queen. Saw 4004 sitting in the north end of Russell yard on the EB entry tracks. By the time I got to the west end on the Queen car, 4004 was sitting in Sunnyside loop. It had obviously made a trip on 504 that was way faster than my progress across Queen, and it wasn’t like the Queen car was travelling particularly slowly.


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