King Street Update: September 2019 Part I

This article is an update on the behaviour of transit service on King Street which I last reported six months ago in three articles:

In this article, I will review travel times across what was once called the “King Street Pilot” area between Jarvis and Bathurst Street. In Part II, I will turn to the effect on travel times caused by diversions for the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) on both King and Queen Streets. Part III will review service capacity actually provided at various points along the King route.

This will be the last article in which I conduct a detailed review of the “pilot” operation unless there is a significant change to warrant returning to the issue. It is clear after two years that the improvement in service on King Street is permanent and stable.

TIFF is quite another matter, and its effect on both King and Queen Streets is quite severe, particularly on the opening two days. This is an issue for a policy decision by Council on whether the economic benefit of closing the street completely on weekdays outweighs the effect on transit services and riders.

Service on the central part of King Street consists of two primary routes, branches of the 504 King car, supplemented by two other part-time services:

  • 504A King between Dundas West Station and Distillery Loop
  • 504B King between Dufferin Loop and Broadview Station
  • Effective September 2019, the new 508 Lake Shore tripper was added with five trips in the peak direction between Long Branch and downtown via King. This only affects service capacity charts which will appear in Part III.
  • The 503 Kingston Road route (operating with buses) has been consolidated with 502 Downtowner for the duration of the reconstruction project at Kingston Road and Queen Street. This route operates only during weekday daytime, and it is not included in the analysis because it does not operate across the full width of the “pilot” area.

These charts contain the same data as in previous articles up to March 31, 2019, and data for the six months to September 30, 2019 have been added.

To view any chart at a larger size, click on it. Full chart sets are available as PDFs at the end of each section.

Travel Times Across the Pilot Area

These charts plot the 50th (median value) and 85th percentiles for travel times between Bathurst and Jarvis. In both cases the screenlines used are in the middle of the intersection so that the start and end times used are measured when vehicles crossed, not when they arrived at or departed from stops.

The vertical shaded areas refer to periods when service on King was affected:

  • Red: Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF, Early September Annually)
  • Purple: King service diverted via Queen for track work (Spring 2016)
  • Yellow: Queen service diverted via King for track work (Fall 2017)
  • Green: King Street Pilot begins. Transit Signal Priority (TSP) deactivated (November 2017)
  • Blue: TSP reactivated (July 2018)

As previously reported, the major effect of the new traffic arrangements on King is the reduction in the variability of travel times shown by lower 85th percentile values so that service was much less likely to be erratic.

TIFF produced a severe impact on travel times for streetcars. This shows up as a spike in the charts in early September 2019, and more detail of the effects appears in charts in Part II. The effect in 2019 was worse than in 2018 especially on TIFF’s opening day, Thursday, September 5.

AM Peak

The pattern established earlier in the pilot program continues into September 2019. There are a few spikes in the 85th percentile corresponding to temporary delays, but note that the median values shift very little. The TIFF diversion pushes travel times across the core from the usual value around 17 minutes to a high of over half an hour.

The effect of the pilot is smallest in the AM peak hour because there was little congestion than in the pre-pilot era. This lack of effect has often been cited by opponents of the scheme, but it ignores the greater benefits, especially in reliability, later in the day and evening.


The AM peak pattern continues in midday when travel times tend to be a bit faster across the core than during the peak periods.

PM Peak

The PM peak continues to have better and more reliable travel times across the core then in the pre-pilot era. Travel times are longest from 5 to 6 pm, but with but with not much variation except for TIFF. Note that the TIFF spikes in the 4-5 pm hour eastbound and in the 5-6 pm hour westbound are close to one hour reflecting extreme congestion on Queen Street.

4 to 5 pm

5 to 6 pm

6 to 7 pm

4 to 7 pm

The charts below show the entire three-hour PM peak period. In this case the 85th and 50th percentiles are further apart because the longer period includes a slightly wider range of values.



Travel times in the evening are quite well-behaved continuing the pattern seen when the plot was implemented almost two years ago. The sawtooth pattern of the percentiles in the pre-pilot period corresponds to the buildup of club district traffic and congestion. Although there are still problems in this area, the travel times, at least to 11pm when these charts ends, is visibly improved from fall 2017 onward.

8 to 9 pm

9 pm to 10 pm

10 to 11 pm