501 Queen: Service Capacity with Low-Floor Streetcars (Updated)

Updated June 7, 2019 at 6:45 am: Charts showing capacity of service operated from September 2015 to May 2019 have been added at the end of the article.

For several months, the proportion of service on 501 Queen provided by the new low-floor Flexitys has been rising as the TTC shifts this route to the new fleet. The effect has been that service capacity actually provided has been rising with the larger Flexitys replacing smaller CLRVs on a 1:1 basis. This will change on June 23 with new schedules as discussed in a previous article.

This post reviews the actual capacity provided at certain times and locations on 501 Queen and compares this with the scheduled service that will go into effect with an all-Flexity fleet.

The source data are the TTC’s vehicle tracking records. For each screenline where capacity is calculated, the number and type of vehicles crossing the line is multiplied by the vehicle capacity to determine the actual hourly capacity provided. These values vary from day to day, but the overall pattern of route capacity is easily seen in the charts. Service design capacities of 74 and 130 were used for CLRVs and Flexitys respectively. Although the cars can and do carry more riders, service design is (or at least should be) based on a crowding level where riders have some ability to move around and dwell times are not driven up by delays as people fight their way into and out of vehicles.

One factor in the changing capacity on Queen, by contrast with King, is that as Flexitys started to appear in service, they tended to  be dispatched in bunches so that there would be many of the larger cars in a row. This has the effect of making the capacity bump uneven by time and location depending on where the “parade” of Flexity cars would be. When service converts to all Flexity  on a wider headway, the change in service capacity will vary, but in all cases it will decrease because there will be about 1/3 fewer cars/hour than there are today.

The table below compares the scheduled capacity before and after the change assuming all “old” service is provided by CLRVs and all “new” service by Flexitys. On paper, there will be more capacity with the new schedule. However, the actual service provided today, and for some time on 501 Queen, is higher than the all-CLRV level. Riders will experience both a considerable widening of headways and a reduction of service capacity relative to what they have had in 2019 to date. It is no secret, based on the King Street experience, that there is latent demand for more capacity on major transit routes like this.

Existing Schedule New Schedule
Service Design Vehicle CLRV (74 passengers) Flexity (130 passengers)
AM Peak Headway 4’15” (255 secs) 6’30” (390 secs)
AM Peak Cars/Hour 14.1 9.23
AM Peak Capacity 1,045 1,200
PM Peak Headway 4’50” (290 secs) 6’50” (410 secs)
PM Peak Cars/Hour 12.4 8.8
PM Peak Capacity 920 1,140

In the charts below, the actual capacity provided by the mix of CLRV and Flexity service is regularly above 1,200 passengers/hour, and the new schedule represents a service cut. The only saving grace is that the TTC plans to operate three peak period trips in each direction with buses (adding roughly 150 spaces to the peak-within-peak period) and keep a few “run as directed” cars in reserve. When the actual operating results for June and July are available, we will see exactly what service was provided.

Eastbound at Lansdowne, AM Peak

Between 7:00 and 8:00 am the capacity of service eastbound at Lansdowne has been growing as the proportion of Flexitys in the mix rises. In the chart below, the yellow section represents capacity provided by the new cars, while the old cars’ contribution is in red.

The growth is even more evident in the hour from 8:00 to 9:00 am. This corresponds to the wave of Flexitys as is evident in the proportion of capacity they provide during the hour compared to the previous one above.

Westbound at Greenwood, AM Peak

As at Lansdowne, there are different capacity patterns caused by the period when the wave of Flexitys pass this screenline. The wave passes westbound mainly between 7:00 and 8:00 am here, and returns in the following hour eastbound (above).

Westbound at Yonge, PM Peak

In the afternoon peak, capacity at Yonge has been building up as the Flexitys displace the CLRVs, but there is a quite steep decline in the hour from 6:00 to 7:00 pm caused by service irregularity.

In the hour from 4:00 to 5:00 pm there is a high proportion of Flexitys, although the total capacity has been falling over the month of May.

After 6:00 pm, capacity falls, in some cases quite precipitously showing a very uneven quality of service provided to riders.

Eastbound at Yonge, PM Peak

Capacity eastbound at Yonge during the 4:00 to 5:00 pm period has been erratic since April.

By contrast to the westbound service, eastbound capacity continues to grow in the hour from 6:00 pm onward. A factor contributing to this will be that all Queen service operates from east end carhouses, and so the PM peak lasts longer eastbound than westbound.

Full Chart Sets

Updated June 7, 2019 at 6:45 am

Historical Capacity Data

The chart sets linked below show the data back to September 2015. The peak hour charts are excerpted in the article.

Note that there is a gap at February 2016 because I do not have data for that month.

Lansdowne Eastbound, AM Peak

With the effect of the larger Flexitys, capacity in May 2019 was above the level seen in 2016. The very high numbers from fall 2017 to spring 2018 are due to the overlap of streetcar and Long Branch bus service at Lansdowne. The buses are in blue and the through streetcar service capacity is made up of mainly of ALRVs (green) and some CLRVs (red).

Greenwood Westbound, AM Peak

The capacity at Greenwood westbound shown here is lower than at Lansdowne because the west end numbers include Long Branch trippers running through to downtown, but the east end numbers do not include service on 502/503 Kingston Road services. The high numbers in summer 2017 correspond to a period when bus shuttles to Neville overlapped the eastern end of streetcar service.

Yonge Street, PM Peak

At Yonge, the capacity both ways in May 2019 was on a par with historical levels in 2015-16 thanks to the larger sized Flexitys.

Full Chart Sets

The charts linked below include data for the four hour peak periods 6-10 am and 3-7 pm.

5 thoughts on “501 Queen: Service Capacity with Low-Floor Streetcars (Updated)

  1. “Between 7:00 and 8:00 am the capacity of service eastbound at Lansdowne has been growing as the proportion of Flexitys in the mix rises. In the chart below, the yellow section represents capacity provided by the new cars, while the old cars’ contribution is in yellow.”

    Which is the real yellow and which is the other yellow?

    Steve: The real yellow is yellow, the other yellow is red. I will fix the text. Thanks for catching this.


  2. How does capacity compare to late 2018 when 501 was primarily CLRV operation, and early 2018 when it still had significant ALRV usage, and historically when it was supposed to be primarily ALRV?

    Steve: Please refer to the update added at the end of the article.


  3. Thanks for adding the charts Steve from 2015.

    Now I’m worried.

    All the extra capacity seems to have gone into (finally) fixing the run times (that’s another interesting question on how that’s changed over time from Humber to Neville Park).

    That should make them more regular at least … so that should even out the crowds a bit. But that’s still very full.

    Ironically, the new cars and more reliable (but full) service could trigger some of that latent demand.

    Steve: In a previous post, I showed the evolution of travel times as well as detailed comparisons along the route. At some point I might go back to older data for a comparison just to see what it looks like. Also, I have run the May data, and the increase in April 2019 held through to May with some further increases in the afternoon. I am waiting for June data before doing an update. (Queen isn’t the only route in the system, and there are other issues to write about!)


  4. In the service summary for the current period and the next one, the 501 between Long Branch and Humber is unchanged and still supposed to run with only CLRVs. However, on many weekdays 1-3 Flexities have been operating on that portion of the 501. When the new board period starts on June 23 do you know if the TTC will be prioritizing getting extra flexities out on the 511 first or on the 501L ? And will the 501L potentially lose those cars to be used on the 511 instead ? The 501L and 511 aren’t cars that I’ve ever rode during rush hour so I’m unsure where capacity is more important.

    Steve: No, I don’t know where the new cars are planned to go, but it’s the summer and the 511 needs them more.


  5. I’ve been keeping my eyes peeled for vehicles with high serial numbers. Is Bombardier still promising to deliver the last vehicle by the official end of the contract?

    In the news today – Bombardier sold off its remaining passenger airliner business to a Japanese company. (It retains its business jet business.)

    Well that was a long time coming. For years it seemed this family owned business was devoting its most important management energy to the airliner business, and had, in practice, abandoned its rail business.

    I wonder what the sale of airliners will mean for the rump of Bombardier, that includes rail.

    Steve: There are 43 cars still to come from Bombardier, and the “second production line” at Kingston can hardly be described as churning out product. The highest numbered Thunder Bay car reported in Toronto is 4556. Three Kingston cars, 4572-4574 are in service, and one more, 4575, is in Toronto. This leaves 4557-4751 (15) and 4576-4603 (28) outstanding. That’s a lot of cars to produce with only six months left in 2019. (These counts do not include prototype 4401 which is still not back in “production” form in Toronto, nor the pool of cars out for welding repairs on their frames.)


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