The King Street Pilot will celebrate its anniversary in mid-November after a year of some controversy but unquestionable success in the improvement of transit service downtown. The results for October 2018 continue the pattern shown through the pilot period of a substantially more reliable service on King Street. This reliability is the heart of the King Street project.
October 7 brought a permanent change in the route’s structure to merge the former 514 Cherry operation into 504 King with two separate branches overlapping from Sumach Street to Dufferin Street.
- 504A operates from Dundas West Station to Distillery Loop on Cherry Street.
- 504B operates from Broadview Station to Dufferin Loop.
The intent of this change is to give each branch a terminus where operators can have a rest break without blocking following service, something that the former 504 King from Dundas West to Broadview could not manage with the route’s conversion to the longer Flexity vehicles.
This change has also reduced the level of service between Dufferin Street and Dundas West Station, and from Sumach Street to Broadview Station, although this is partly offset by the increase of capacity with the new larger vehicles. However, service reliability on the outer parts of the route is an issue because any bunching or short turns produces a larger gap than would occur with the old service design.
Route 503 Kingston Road Tripper continues to operate to Charlotte Loop at Spadina rather than via Wellington to York Street due to construction on Wellington. This is expected to continue until mid-2019. Service on the 503 is provided by CLRVs and, with rare exceptions, these are the only old cars now seen on King Street.
In this article, the format of some charts has been adjusted to provide more information while maintaining continuity with previous articles in this series.
Part I of this review covers travel times and route capacity. In Part II, I will turn to headway reliability.
The following chart became the poster child early in the project, and I have repeated it ever since. For this article, it has been modified in two ways:
- Data from 2016 are now included to give a wider view of the “before” conditions on King Street.
- The method of highlighting events affecting travel times has been changed to improve clarity.
- The three TIFF periods are shown by red bands in early September each year.
- The period of construction on Queen at McCaul in fall 2017 is shown by an amber band.
- The period of construction on King at Charlotte in spring 2016 is shown by a purple band.
- The beginning of pilot operation in November 2017 is shown by a green band.
- The first week of restored transit signal priority (TSP) in July 2018 is shown by a blue band.
These are not the only events affecting service, but they are the longest-lasting.
Click to open and expand the view of any chart below.
The eastbound travel times behave similarly to westbound.
In both directions there are marked changes with the pilot.
- The median value (blue) of the travel time (50th percentile at which half of the trips are longer, have shorter) remains fairly consistent even during traditionally busy summer periods.
- The 85th percentile (amber) is much less “spiky” once the pilot begins compared to previous years. The travel time seen on most trips remains in a narrow band most of the time.
The reactivation of TSP produced a small improvement of 1-2 minutes depending on the time of day, but the important issue here is that TSP had been turned off when the pilot started. Therefore a true “apples-to-apples” comparison is between the pre-pilot levels and the values after July 2018. Some criticism of the pilot turned on the small time savings, especially in the AM peak, and it turns out that this saving would have been better if signal priority had remained active.
The important comparison is the reliability of the travel time (and as we will see later, of headways) so that riders have a low chance of hitting “one of those bad days” very often, and when they do, it’s probably not as bad as in the pre-pilot era. Comparisons that only look at the average change in travel time miss this important point.
The City of Toronto’s Dashboard for this project differs in its presentation of travel times in a few key ways:
- The “before” data (referred to as “baseline”) covers only the periods of September and October 2017 that were not affected by TIFF nor by the construction at Queen & McCaul and associated 501 Queen service diversion. The charts presented here go back to early 2016 showing the route’s behaviour through various seasons and events.
- The City charts treat the AM and PM peaks as a three hour window and consolidate data over that period for entire months discarding the outlying 5% of values at the top and bottom of the range. This shows the overall effect, but masks the change in the character of the data from hour to hour and day to day.
When the three-hour PM peak is consolidated, the chart changes slightly from the one shown above. With the inclusion of the 4-5 and 6-7 pm data, the values are slightly lower because travel times in the shoulder peak hours are better than from 5-6 pm. In particular, note the “shaving” of the peaks in the consolidated three-hours because there are many more data points closer to the median in the shoulder hours and the 85th percentiles for the longer period are therefore not as high. For riders during the peak hour, the degree of improvement is better than the three-hour figures imply.
The individual shoulder peak hours are shown below:
The effect in the AM peak is not as marked because the “before” service did not face the same conditions as in other parts of the day.
The benefit begins to appear as the day goes on as shown in the 1-2 pm data:
In the evening, congestion in the Entertainment District is subject to effects such as weather, but most noticeably by the day of the week. The data from 10-11 pm show a regular pattern corresponding to the busy late-week days Thursday and Friday.
Full sets of charts for each direction are linked below:
Pre and Post Pilot Implementation Spread of Travel Times
Another way to look at the data is to plot various percentiles so see how they behave. When this is done for many different values, the result is a very busy chart that hides as much as it shows. However, picking out specific percentiles shows how the travel times are confined to a smaller range post-implementation.
The chart below shows the 25th (pink), 50th or median (green) and 75th (yellow) percentiles for the PM peak hour westbound in 2017-2018. Note how the range of values from mid-November 2017 onward covers a smaller range showing that the headways on half of all trips (25th to 75th percentiles) fell in a narrow band, and this band did not move around much.
The next chart expands the reach to the 10th through 90th percentiles, or 80 percent of all trips. The median line in green is the same as above, but the 90th (blue) and 10th (red) lines spread further apart around it. As above, the values are more stable post-implementation than before.
Finally, a chart showing the maximum and minimum values which, like the others above, are better behaved post-implementation.
An important issue with the success of the King Street Pilot and with the recent service redesign is the ability of service to handle the demand present on the street. Although the service is more reliable on the central part of the route, there are still problems with would-be riders being unable to board. How this will be addressed by the TTC given their ongoing shortage of vehicles (both streetcars and buses) remains to be seen.
The service design for the period when King-Queen-Roncesvalles will be closed for construction in 2019 has not been announced. By the time that has completed, the TTC should have received many more new cars and, depending on requirements of other routes, may or may not be able to increase service on King. The next route planned for Flexity conversion is 501 Queen starting in early 2019.
Eastbound from Dundas West Station AM Peak
Capacity inbound from Dundas West Station south to Queen has fallen with the new schedule design. However, it was not affected as much by the new schedules as points east of Roncesvalles (see below).
Eastbound at Jameson AM Peak
The capacity of service eastbound at Jameson between 8 and 9 am has been affected by various changes to the schedules over the years including the operation of bus (blue) and ALRV (green) trippers which come and go depending on vehicle availability. By early 2018, the replacement of old CLRVs (red) with Flexitys (yellow) began a rise in capacity that peaked in late summer. Since then, the capacity operated west of Dufferin has fallen with the new service design that keeps more cars on the central part of the route.
The capacity provided at Jameson earlier in 2018 is higher than that at Dundas West (above) because all vehicles did not operate to the terminus. They were either trippers or they were short turned at Sunnyside. The capacity eastbound at Jameson is now roughly the same as that leaving Dundas West.
Eastbound at Bathurst AM Peak
The capacity provided at Bathurst is now roughly double that at Jameson because both the 504A Dundas West/Distillery and 504B Dufferin/Broadview services are here. However, growth in capacity has topped out with the current schedules.
Southbound from Broadview Station AM Peak
As at Dundas West Station, there has been less of a drop in capacity operated from Broadview Station than the schedules might suggest. This has two underlying causes:
- Pre-implementation. All cars that will provide service from Broadview WB are in service by 8 am, and some of these are short turned on the trip east from Dundas West. This means that less service reaches Broadview than is scheduled.
- Post-implementation. Peak cars are still entering service from Leslie Barns to Broadview Station at 8 am, and service that does come east from Dufferin Loop on 504B gets through without short turns. The result is that “new” service capacity is comparable to “old actual”.
In Part II I will review the reliability of this service which, with wider scheduled headways, is not as good as that previously operated.
In the chart below, the blue band in mid-2018 corresponds to the bus shuttle operation provided during track construction on Broadview.
The decline in scheduled capacity is more evident in the 7-8 AM period when the offsetting effects described above do not apply.
Westbound at Yonge PM Peak
During the PM peak, the capacity westbound at Yonge has been maintained roughly at the same level through 2018 except for the summer. The red band of CLRVs in this chart is, by October 2018, the contribution of 503 Kingston Road Trippers which operate to Charlotte Loop at Spadina as they have done since February 2018 except for a brief period at the beginning of September. All of the 504 King service now operates with Flexitys.
Westbound at Bathurst PM Peak
Service westbound at Bathurst does not include the 503 Kingston Road Trippers which drop out of the mix at Spadina. Capacity has been at a plateau at this location through much of 2018.
Westbound at Jameson PM Peak
The capacity at Jameson has fallen back to late 2017 levels and is only sustained at this level by all service being operated with the larger Flexitys.
The full sets of capacity charts covering the four hour peak periods are linked here.
AM peak inbound:
PM peak outbound: