King Street Update: July 2018

This article is part of a continuing series tracking the behaviour of transit service on King Street during the pilot implementation of pedestrian and transit priority measures. The last update was in May, and I skipped June because there was little new to report.

Although we are now into the summer when conflicts with pedestrians and space constraints from recent takeovers of curb lanes with a variety of artworks and seating areas, travel times on King have not been affected. In fact, thanks to the re-activation of Transit Priority Signalling (TSP) at various locations on July 7, travel times have actually dropped during some periods.

Peak Travel Times

Continuing the tradition of these articles, here is the travel time chart for the 50th (median) and 85th percentile values westbound from Jarvis to Bathurst from September 2017 to the end of July 2018.

The collection of charts for five periods during the day for the two directions are linked here:

The following service disruptions show up in the charts above for the June-July period:

  • June 14, 20 and 26 eastbound: Congestion eastbound to University Avenue from 5-6pm (typically this is caused by north-south traffic blocking the intersection)
  • June 26 eastbound: Service held at Church Street just before 2pm (and therefore counting in the 1-2pm travel time stats) by a fallen overhead wire.
  • June 26 westbound: Service held at Peter Street at about 10:40 pm by a collision.
  • July 10 westbound: Service held east of Bathurst Street at about 1:15 pm by a collision.
  • July 25 westbound: Service held near Church Street just before 9 am. Reason unknown (no TTC eAlert was issued).

Line Capacity

The change in schedules effective in the last week of June reorganized service on King Street:


  • 504 King cars, a mix of CLRVs and Flexitys, operated between Dundas West and Broadview Stations.
  • 514 Cherry cars, all Flexitys, operated between Dufferin Loop and Distillery Loop.
  • 503 Kingston Road cars, all CLRVs, operated between Spadina and Bingham Loop (Victoria Park and Kingston Road) weekdays from 6am to 7pm.


  • 504 King cars, all Flexitys, operated between Dundas West Station and Distillery Loop.
  • 504 King cars, usually CLRVs, but often with some Flexitys, operated between Dufferin Loop and Woodbine or Bingham Loops depending on the time of day.
  • No service was scheduled to operate as a 503 or 514 car.
  • A shuttle bus operated from King and Parliament to Broadview Station. This is outside of the pilot area.

The effect on line capacity varied depending on where one looks. Notably, service in Parkdale and beyond had greater capacity because all cars west of Dufferin were scheduled to be Flexitys. There was a small decline in capacity westbound at Yonge because the former 503 service to Spadina had been rolled into the 504 King service to Dufferin.

The continued migration of service to the new fleet also contributed to capacity growth.

Here are the full chart sets:

A few samples:

Inbound AM peak capacity at Jameson Avenue in Parkdale shows the effect of almost all trips operating with larger Flexity cars.

The revised service design reduced the number of cars scheduled eastbound at Bathurst in the AM peak, but this was partly offset by a higher portion running with Flexitys instead of CLRVs.

As noted above, the consolidation of the 503 service to Spadina into the 504 service to Dufferin reduced the capacity westbound at Yonge. However, the 503 cars to Spadina were only actually useful to riders bound a comparatively short distance in the core and so the higher apparent capacity before the schedule change was not actually available to a majority of riders.

Detailed Breakdowns of Travel Times and Headways

I have omitted these charts from this update because there is little change in the character of the data from earlier reports. In October, when the effects of TIFF (the film festival) can be seen in September data, I will return to this part of the analysis.

Travel Speed Comparisons

With the activation of Transit Signal Priority at several intersections, obvious question to ask is where are the effects most noticeable and at what times of the day. The format of the charts that follow will be familiar to those who have read earlier articles comparing the speed of bus and streetcar operations on various routes. Two sets of average speeds, in this case one for two weeks in mid-June 2018 and one for two weeks in mid-July, are plotted together to show their behaviour along the route. The granularity of the plotted data is 10m, and this allows one to see speed variations at intersections and at stops.

There are a few important caveats here:

  • Speed at a point is not the same thing as travel speed across the pilot area. For example, if a car is stationary at a stop or traffic signal, its speed is zero for however long it sits. A high speed between stops is of less value if it cannot be sustained and/or is offset by long stop service times.
  • Where TSP is active, streetcar operators approaching an intersection with a farside stop will stay at a higher speed on the approach because they are facing a green signal they can expect to stay clear. “Double stops” are reduced, and even when they do occur, they can be shortened by pre-emption of the cross street’s green time when a transit vehicle is waiting.
  • Although the vehicle tracking data updates the position (and hence speed) every 20 seconds, and this can cover multiple 10m increments in the chart, the data presented here are the accumulation of values for one-hour periods over ten days and represent the combined behaviour of many streetcars. A single car would give a very choppy view of speeds with a snapshot only every 20 seconds, but the contribution of a few hundred observations gives a more granular view of speeds.

For example, the chart below compares westbound speeds during the 8-9am period in the area from Parliament to Shaw. The pilot lies between Jarvis and Bathurst, but behaviour on the shoulders of this area is worth seeing for comparison.

The blue line shows June 2018 data while the green line shows July. The red dotted line is an interpolated trend line for June data, while the yellow line is for July. The westbound approach to Jarvis stays at a higher speed and does not exhibit as much effect from double-stops in July (green) as in June (blue). There is a similar effect at Church and at York. Travel speeds are also better at other locations by varying amounts.

The data for eastbound trips is shown below. The chart should be read from right to left because that is the direction of travel.

Some of the locations with higher speeds are not adjacent to signals where TSP was activated (eastbound at Bay has no TSP), but improvements in nearside delays are evident at Simcoe, Church and Jarvis.

These data are complicated by the fact that not all TSP locations were working properly on every day included for the July comparison. Further analysis will have to await more data, especially beyond the summer season.

The full charts with data in hourly increments are linked here:

These charts are most interestingly view by stepping back and form from page to page and watching the change in the data at specific locations. This shows the evolution of patterns over the day and how they differ along the route. I leave that detailed review to readers who will all have their own points of interest to look at.

Note that the charts become more “spiky” late in the evening when the number of observations included in the averages is smaller as headways widen to the late night service.

Speed Comparisons vs the Pre-Pilot Era

The charts above compare June and July 2018, but equally interesting is a comparison of July 2017, before the pilot but with comparable seasonal effects, with July 2018. The charts below have the same format, and the only change is that the June 2018 values have been replaced with July 2017.

Within the pilot area, the shift from nearside to farside stops is evident in the position of the lowest values from Jarvis to Spadina (the last farside westbound stop). Note also the improvement on the approach to Jarvis westbound probably due to better signal priority at George and Jarvis, as well as the shift to a farside stop.

Eastbound, there is again the effect of the shift to farside stops. In both cases, there are faster speeds between stops probably due to the reduction in competing traffic. The effect varies by location and direction over the day.

Here are the full day sets of charts comparing July 2017 to 2018.

24 thoughts on “King Street Update: July 2018

  1. Service across the system is very bad. I think that a provincial take over of the system will help bring much needed improvements.

    Steve: If Queen’s Park runs true to form, even for Liberals, never mind PCs, you will not see any improvement and will likely see worse service. After all, the rest of Ontario (including some staff at Metrolinx) think that we have it too good in Toronto with too much service and too low fares. Or to use a Metrolinx term, we are “underfared”.


  2. Yesterday, (Wednesday 15th) c. 1 PM I observed a CLRV coming up from Dufferin Loop heading eastward on King destined Victoria Park. I _think_ it was route 503 (502?)

    Is this normal?

    Steve: Yes. The daytime service on King consists of two routes, one from Dundas West to Distillery, and the other from Dufferin to Bingham. The CLRVs sign up as 502 or 503 cars for the eastbound trip because those routes have exposures for “Victoria Park” and riders know where they go.


  3. “Or to use a Metrolinx term, we are “underfared”.”

    It’s time for that individual to look for a real job in the real world, not the fantasy Metrolinx world with fantasy 60-year BCA to justify sketchy RER and other CAPEX challenges where the rides & passenger revenue generated, don’t justify the capital investment.


  4. I don’t get why ops would sign up as 502 when the 502 doesn’t run on King and the 503 does. I’ve seen many ops do this on the new and old cars.

    Steve: There are no 504 destination signs for Woodbine or Bingham Loops, and so they use the 502/503 signs instead. What is disappointing is that on the Flexitys, with digital signs, the new destination should have been programmed in. After all, the TTC knew a few months in advance of this route arrangement.

    One thing that hasn’t changed during the route split? Gaps gaps gaps. Instead of 504A and 504B cars being mixed in neatly, customers get 2-3 of one branch then 2-3 of the other.

    Steve: As designed. The headways on the service running from Dufferin to Woodbine/Bingham is considerably less frequent than the service from Distillery to Dundas West. Proper blending is impossible even if the line ran perfectly to the clock.


  5. What’s a ’60-year BCA’?

    Steve: “BCA” = “Benefits case analysis”, or sometimes “Business case” although Metrolinx seems to be avoiding that terminology now.

    The criticism is that the economic analysis is performed over a very, very long period to maximise the number of years of “benefit” against which the expenditure/investment must be recovered. Going beyond 20 years is dodgy, and past 30 is wishful thinking because nobody can project that far out. It would be more meaningful to calculate things over a shorter term and show a residual value that would still have to be captured from future benefits. Another problem with long term analysis of complex projects is that components have different lifespans that trigger replacement costs, not to mention varying operating/maintenance costs as assets age. Old subway cars cost more to maintain than new ones, old tunnels have more leaks, etc. It is not clear that Metrolinx BCAs are anywhere near that sophisticated.


  6. Steve: Yes. The daytime service on King consists of two routes, one from Dundas West to Distillery………….”

    I guess this explains why on the King car from Dundas West Stn. EVERY stop is announced including “Short turn” but no info as to WHERE the car is short turning. What a PIA! EVERY stop.

    Steve: This is a cock up in the software load/design. Service Planning wants to fix it, but “technical difficulties” get in the way. I suspect it will be like this until the routes go back to normal in September. Strange, though, that they can screw up the stop announcements, but don’t add destination signs that are needed.

    Assuming the car was not short turning somewhere before Distillery this is stupid. NOBODY would get on the King car from Dundas West or on Roncy and go beyond Distillery branch. They would take the subway to the east end.

    Steve: This is a point of annoyance to riders and operators, but at the end of the day it’s a typical example of how “customer service” at the TTC takes a back seat.


  7. There’s also “Look right for traffic when exiting”. I haven’t bothered to check if that announcement is made if it’s a safety island stop.

    Steve: It is given at island stops too.

    Mr. Lepofsky would disagree, but sometimes I think back nostalgically to the days before stop announcements, repeated adjurations to watch for traffic, “short turn” admonitions, the beep or beep-beep every time the doors are activated for exiting, and of course the external announcement “One hundred and ten eh, to Islington station, via Brown’s Line and Horner” every time the door opens, and on repeat when the bus/streetcar is laying over with doors open.

    I mostly find it as just more auditory pollution, to be tuned out. Unfortunately, tuning it out means that I have to be alert to where I am, so as not to miss the announcement when it is my stop coming up.


  8. @ Ed – Not only is the “Look right for traffic when exiting” announcement made at safety islands, it’s also made at St. Clair and St. Clair West stations (although, there *is* a lot of traffic at those stations, in a sense . . .).


  9. Further regarding King car. Online TTC website map shows ONE route. 504 King the traditional route between Dundas West Stn and Broadview Stn. Nothing else. Period.

    Branch legend (another page) it shows multiple routes. 504 to Greenwood & Queen
    504A to Distillery. 504B to Victoria Park. 504C to Woodbine Loop 504D traditional points.
    (Plus N 304 night)

    Westbound is another story. 504 is westbound to Roncy & Queen 504A traditional points 504B to Dufferin gate 504C to Dufferin gate 504D to Parliament.

    Yet another page Route Description refers to the traditional route only and there is NO mention of any branches!

    BTW NOWHERE is 514 Cherry mentioned in all of this!

    Try to figure out any of this!


  10. Is there a list published anywhere (or available, if not) of the displayable signs for the Flexity? There are those of us who would be interested.

    Steve: I can ask, but it could change regularly (as do bus signs) if only the TTC would make the effort.


  11. Yes, this pilot/change is something, but with the overall pressures, and car traffic to the south, this east-west corridor is very overdue for something more robust/faster, perhaps in a new line and I’ve favoured Front St. for a longer time. Of course it’s not planning it’s politricks, and real dumb politricks too, like ongoing follies of subways into sprawl to blight the budgets but with Big Spends in the Transit Budget..

    I don’t know if this has been covered, but I was down on Queen St. on Friday evening, and it was a sad slow Mess. Maybe analysis of how the Queen car is doing/Not might also help.


  12. All the verbal broadcast are a result of the AODA legislation which require visual and audible announcement of everything. Now the the law requiring access to French language is also imposed then we will have all the announcements in French and English just as on GO transit. What is French for “Short Turn?”


  13. * Asterisk needed for the Toronto International Film Festival. Instead of keeping the streetcars running (actually at a slow strolling pace) through, they’ll be diverting them around the event.


  14. wklis said: “* Asterisk needed for the Toronto International Film Festival. Instead of keeping the streetcars running (actually at a slow strolling pace) through, they’ll be diverting them around the event.”

    Considering how big of a disruption TIFF is, it makes you wonder why the TTC is removing the out of service tracks on Adelaide rather than restoring one.

    Steve: That horse left the barn years ago. A bad decision, but very had to reverse.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. To Nick and Steve and Hamish: The decision to remove streetcar tracks on Adelaide St is a correct decision. These unused streetcar tracks are expensive to maintain and present a severe danger to cyclists. Good decision by the TTC in removing this danger. I am curious what Hamish has to say about this and I hope that he will agree with me.


  16. Jay C says, “Service across the system is very bad. I think that a provincial take over of the system will help bring much needed improvements.”

    To follow up on Steve’s reply to Jay C, let me say: If you don’t feed the horse, you don’t get to keep riding.

    The province for YEARS has kept the funding for Toronto Transit embarrassingly low and City Council, with all their “We’re a ‘World Class City” B.S. says financially at the same time “But we’re too cheap to fund stuff that other world class cities just fund because it’s good business, which is the sign of a REAL world class city.” Fares have gone up, punishing riders disproportionately, given that recent multi-million dollar Gardiner Expressway repairs have received approval with no associated discussion.

    The province wouldn’t know what to do with the local transit system. They’d do a line-by-line audit of all the bus and streetcar lines based on current numbers and cut back all those “unproductive” routes, where, say, there aren’t at least 10 people on any vehicle at any given time. Public transit is not in the business of making a PROFIT; they should be in the business of providing a SERVICE. And that sometimes means a vehicle carrying 5 people and sometimes a vehicle carrying 55 people. But if the vehicle is REGULARLY carrying 55 people, then there should be another bus or streetcar provided so that those 55 people can ride in relative comfort AND so that if there happens to be a latent demand at that particular time, then it can be accommodated – and maybe even encouraged to grow. I mean, if there isn’t a bus for the next 20 minutes and you need to be somewhere in 10 minutes, you will either drive, walk or take Uber/Lyft and you may decide that transit is a non-starter, thereby becoming a lost passenger.

    The other issue is THIS particular provincial government is all about CUT, CUT, CUT, CUT, CUTS! They have BUILT nothing during their first month in power but CUT all sorts of services to citizens of Ontario and Toronto – part of their “mandate” they claim all the voters gave them in the election (even though they only received around 24% of the popular vote – 40.5% of the 58.4% of voters who turned out). As bad as the TTC Board and staff and City Councillors might be with regards to funding and managing the local transit system, getting the province involved with running the TTC would just ensure that the service languishes and even declines – especially streetcars, that bane of Premier Doug’s spiteful brother Robbie when he was Mayor. The province should be funding the system more than they are – paying for the gas, as it were – but they should NOT be in the driver’s seat when it comes to managing a system that is too important to tens of thousands of people each and every day.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Oh, and one more thing: The province has cancelled the Ontario Basic Income Program two years before it was supposed to end, meaning they have no useful data from which to base a proper decision on its usefulness and shortcomings and whether it should be expanded or continued. So who’s to say they wouldn’t just put and end to the King St. streetcar project immediately – based solely on all those complaints from all those hard-done-by business owners, never mind what improvements RIDERS might experience and what the data – as Steve has indicated here – might show….


  18. The tracks on both Adelaide and Richmond should be straightened out (just one way trackage) and extended west to a link at (minimum) McCaul. Having these tracks would offer both diversionary routing and alternate trackage during DRL construction on Queen. Could be extended east to Parliament and west to Bathurst to get maximum use.

    Each street could have limited stops so cars could run “express” to University and Yonge.

    Might be interesting to see how the timing would compare to the King Pilot timing.

    Steve: You are aware, I hope, that McCaul ends at Queen and does not connect to Richmond or Adelaide? As for limited stop service on either of them, there are already plans for these streets, particularly Richmond, to b eused as part of the downtown biking network, and the streetcar lanes are not just there “for the taking”.

    Any time that might be saved on King (which would be a challenge given that it runs fairly quickly now) would be lost in the extra turns, plus the longer walking connection to the subway stations at University and at Yonge.


  19. I’m glad the issue of ‘economics’ was brought up – the carservatives and carswervatives both are in denial about car subsidies, which is easier as their externalities/costs are well buried in a set of different budgets vs. separate “Transit” budget. Old figures are $2700 a car each year from Vancouver, see for more info, and about the first item of business maybe of Rob Ford was to kill off the Vehicle Registration Tax. Too bad the City didn’t vote to re-introduce this tax to raise $60 or more to make the resistance to the election meddling clearly not about any money, but primarily vindictiveness.

    Perhaps not: since only Toronto is being targetted for the ‘efficiency’ – hmm, why are we unique? Is it due to the subway? Is it being ‘next’ as part of the shift and shaft urban policy, except it’s take and tank, after selling or remortgaging it, and they won’t take the suburban sprawl routes, but the money-makers, taking advantage of the election chaos and no TTC board meetings perhaps.

    The TTC/City doesn’t have integrity either, being on the desulTory side, selling out the King riders for the TIFF. No reason at all, a slow ride through wouldn’t be possible/easy, and it sure shits on the users, so don’t vote for Tory, and yes, this corridor is a VERY logical place for a subway, with plans of some description going back a century.

    As for streetscar tracks, while they are absolutely a set of hazards, the ones on King, Queen, Dundas, and College are far more hazardous really, than the ones on Adelaide, including how rough/fractured the adjacent-to-near-curb concrete actually is, and it’s real liability, or should be.

    Steve: I am going to raise the same issue relative to cyclists that is often raised about motorists: there are far more people on the transit vehicles than in the cars. Moreover, during the King pilot design, cycling advocates agreed that their traffic would better be diverted to parallel streets. I am fed up with cyclists who think their problems would all go away if only there were no streetcar tracks.

    The issue with the pavement condition adjacent to the tracks is one of maintenance which in some locations, notably the abandoned track on Adelaide, is abyssmal. But that’s a city issue, not the TTC.


  20. How do unused streetcar tracks become expensive to maintain?

    As for bikes and tracks not working out too well; take a protractor on your bike, and don’t ever cross at less than 45 degrees.


  21. Steve said: “The issue with the pavement condition adjacent to the tracks is one of maintenance which in some locations, notably the abandoned track on Adelaide, is abysmal. But that’s a city issue, not the TTC.”

    I had some correspondence from the TTC in last few months about the problems of damaged concrete adjacent to the tracks (not specifically abandoned track). It appears that the City are responsible for temporary asphalt repairs while the TTC itself looks after a proper repair/replacement of the concrete. I was told that the TTC inspects all (active?) tracks monthly but it is not clear if they report areas needing temporary asphalt repairs to the City (I think not!) and though they apparently note areas that will (eventually) need new concrete there is no obvious sign of them having an ongoing plan to actually fix it! There are many sections on King Street where the concrete between the rail and the asphalt has ‘failed’ and I have seen no signs of TTC ever replacing it. The City certainly has filled in the worst holes/cracks with asphalt but that is really not a good long-term solution. The TTC needs to make more (or some!) effort to maintain/repair/replace the damaged concrete surrounding their tracks – active and abandoned!


  22. Re: signaling (since it’s a key theme of this post)

    When I say that reading about the issues in this article gives me heartburn when I think about Eglinton, am I worrying needlessly?

    Steve: Eglinton is planned to run with ATC only in the tunnel section. As for Thales, the question is whether they bid aggressively and were caught out unable to deliver.


  23. But most of Eglinton is in the tunnel section[s]; another gift from Ford Nation. Buy some Tums, Mike.

    Steve: The problems in Edmonton appear to arise from (a) a very aggressive implementation schedule by the signalling provider, and (b) the scheme to extend the system to street running where the signals must interface with the traffic controls. This is quite different from the environment Thales normally deals with.


  24. Guys, the TTC is supposedly changing the 504. In October, they are getting rid of the 514 and replacing it (permanently) with the 504A from Dundas West Station to Distillery. Then, the 504B will go from Broadview Station to Dufferin Gate. The latest TTC CEO Report even gives a mention of this :

    “In October, we are bringing in a change on King Street to provide more reliable service with fewer scheduled short turns. The current 504 King and 514 Cherry routes will be replaced by two branches of the 504 King service: 504A will run from Dundas West Station to the Distillery Loop, and 504B will run between Broadview Station and Dufferin Loop. This allows for service that is more reliable and clearer to promote for customers on the busiest portion of the route between Liberty Village and the Distillery District.”

    Steve: That is correct. I just received the schedule details today (Aug. 27) and will be publishing an analysis of the change shortly.


Comments are closed.