King Street Update: September 2019 Part II

This article continues the analysis of King Street transit operations during September 2019 with a focus on the effects of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF).

TIFF opened on Thursday afternoon, September 5, but the diversions were in place from the start of service at 5 am. For the period when diversions were operating, there were three services on route 504:

  • Dundas West to Church diverting eastbound via Spadina to Queen and then returning south to King via Church; then westbound via King to York, York to Queen and south to King via Spadina.
  • Distillery to York Street looping via York, Queen and Church back to King Street.
  • Broadview Station to York Street looping via York, Queen and Church back to King Street.

The effects of this arrangement were quite severe with extended travel times and wider headways across the route, not just downtown.

The fundamental policy issue here is the takeover of a major street for an event like TIFF for an extended period. There were four days of complete diversions (September 5 to 8), and three further days of ad hoc street closures (September 9 to 11). The TTC attempted to operate service on 504 King with the usual complement of scheduled cars, but on routings that required considerably more travel time, maintaining normal headways was impossible.

The effects are not confined to the immediate TIFF district, but extend to service over the entire route, as well as to travel times and service reliability on 501 Queen. This is not simply a matter of residents of the condos near TIFF putting up with an annual upheaval in their neighbourhood, but of an effect across two major corridors on transit and road traffic.

If this type of “service” is planned in the future, then either the event itself should pony up the cost of supplementary service, or the city should make an explicit contribution through the TTC’s budget for extra service. Preferably, King Street would be kept open on weekdays, and adequate service would be operated on weekends to offset the TIFF effect which is not as severe then.

The Effect of TIFF Diversions on 504 Service

Travel Times

Week 1

Despite a service design which, in theory, meant that no car from Jarvis Street would reach Bathurst, many did because of ad hoc changes to the service. Only these cars show up in the charts below on TIFF diversions. (This is evident from the many fewer data points on diversion days than regular days.)

Travel times of well over half an hour, especially eastbound, were common.

Week 2

During week 2, more cars made the full trip between Jarvis and Bathurst because these were supposed to be days of only part time disruption to the service.

Week 3

By contrast, week 3 of September showed the usual pattern on King Street with little variation in travel times between Jarvis and Bathurst.


The Saturday data shows the contrast between September 7 with the TIFF diversions in place to the other Saturdays in the month. There are very few data points because most cars on the Dundas West Station service did not run east of Church Street. Those that did show the effect of the diversion.


The situation on Sundays is similar to Saturday with September 8 showing the effect of diversions on cars that made the trip between Jarvis and Bathurst.


Problem Segments for the TIFF Diversion

Looking in more detail at segments of the diversion, the difference in travel times is obvious in charts of Wednesday, September 4 (pre-TIFF) and Thursday, September 5.

Westbound from Yonge to University

The trip from Yonge to University is normally a quick one for King cars, but when on diversion to Queen, this took substantially more time.

Westbound from John to Spadina

The trip from John to Spadina on King is quite fast, but from John and Queen to King and Spadina is a different story.

Eastbound from University to Yonge

Queen was severely congested between University and Yonge with the diversion running over the entire section eastbound rather than only the short piece from York westward. The difference in travel times was quite large especially during periods when peak hour traffic regulations were not in effect.

Eastbound from Yonge to Jarvis

From Queen and Yonge to King and Jarvis took a substantial time on September 5 thanks to a backlog of many streetcars waiting to turn east to south at Church and Queen, and southbound in both directions at King. Minimal assistance was provided at either location.

Service Quality Beyond the Diversions

At Distillery Loop

The screenline for these headway measurements is at Mill and Cherry Streets just north of Distillery Loop.

The effect on service to the Distillery District during the TIFF opening days was severe, especially on Thursday, September 5 when headways of over 15 minutes were common all day long. The TIFF diversions from September 5 to 9 left the Distillery with a shuttle service from York Street. It was considerably less frequent that the usual service provided on Cherry Street. Looking at the effects on other parts of the King route, it appears that the number of cars assigned to this shuttle was not sufficient to operate the normal scheduled service, and Cherry Street was probably treated as a low-demand area that could give up service for the greater good of the rest of the route.

In week two, the situation was not as bad, although there is visibly poorer service on days when King was closed from time to time for TIFF activities.

Week 3 brings service back to normal.

Saturday service on September 7 was worse than on other weekends.

Sunday service on September 8 was particularly bad.

Note that in this chart there is an artifact of the trend line method used by Excel. Because there is no early morning service on Sundays at the Distillery, Excel tries to project the trend lines back into this period from the start of data at 8 am. Labour Day, September 2 (yellow), has service from early in the morning and so it is not affected by this peculiarity.

At Broadview Station

The screenline for headway measurements here is crossing Danforth Avenue southbound from Broadview Station.

There is some effect on the service from Broadview Station on the opening days of TIFF, but it is not as bad as at the Distillery possibly because of the service design. Some effects are also visible in week 2, particularly in the evening when service was occasionally rerouted, but not reconfigured, for TIFF events on King Street.

At Dufferin Loop

The screenline for these headway measurements is at Thornburn Avenue, the second side street north of Dufferin Loop. This point was chosen to avoid problems with vehicles queuing on Dufferin north of the loop because of congestion within the loop itself.

Service to Dufferin Loop was suspended during TIFF after 9 am on weekdays, and all day on the September 7-8 weekend. However, several short turning cars did actually reach the loop, but on extremely unpredictable headways. During week 2, when the restructured service was not in effect, service at Dufferin Loop suffered from the effects of TIFF events downtown.

Week 3 shows the typical service pattern.

At Dundas West Station

The screenline for measuring headways at this location is crossing Bloor Street West.

Service from Dundas West southbound to Roncesvalles Avenue was affected by TIFF especially on Thursday, September 5.

In week 2 when the standard service design was operating, disruption to service at Dundas West was considerably lower.

Week 3 is shown here for comparison with a “normal” situation.

On the TIFF weekend, service at Dundas West was less reliable than on other Saturdays, but Sunday service was not affected.

At Strachan Avenue Eastbound

The screenline for measurements here is crossing Strachan Avenue eastbound. This location picks up service through Liberty Village originating either from the Dundas West or Dufferin Gate (504A and 504B) branches of the route.

The first two days of TIFF and the service design that removed the 504B cars provided considerably worse headways, especially on Thursday, September 5.

In week 2, some TIFF effects are visible, but they are less severe because the 504B Dufferin service was operating.

Here is week 3 for a “normal” comparison.

Service on the TIFF weekend of September 7-8 was affected at Strachan by the lack of 504B cars.

Sunday/Holiday services show both the effect of TIFF (September 8, green) and the Labour Day Parade (September 2, yellow).


Travel Times on Queen Street

Travel times on Queen between Bathurst and Jarvis were affected by the diverted streetcar traffic, including the extra turning movements and the delays these involved. The problem was particularly bad in the first two days of TIFF.

Week 1

Thursday and Friday travel times were well above their normal values, although the pattern was different by direction with the westbound trips being primarily affected in the afternoon and early evening, and the eastbound trips somewhat more so in the morning, but generally all day.

Week 2

The second week of September saw some elevated travel times, although this included some effects that were not associated with TIFF diversions, notably on Thursday westbound which has no corresponding rise in travel times eastbound.

Week 3

In the third week, travel times stayed consistent in both directions.


Weekends showed smaller changes that weekdays, and this was not confined to the September 7-8 TIFF weekend. The charts are in the full PDF sets below.


Headways on Queen Beyond the Diversions

Eastbound from Humber Loop

The screenline for these headway measurements is on The Queensway just east of Humber Loop to ensure that any effects of layovers within the loop are not included.

The service eastbound from Humber is noticeably worse on the two opening days of TIFF, especially Thursday, September 5 when there are many long gaps.

In the second week of September, the service is more reliable, and this pattern continues through the month (see PDF below for the full month’s data).

The weekend service at Humber Loop was not affected by TIFF. Indeed, the longest gaps show up on Labour Day during the annual parade that closes part of Queen Street.

Westbound From Russell Carhouse

Because of construction at Kingston Road, the 501 Queen streetcars terminated at Russell Carhouse effective Sunday, September 1. The screenline for these headway measurements is at Greenwood, the first stop west of the carhouse. Note that these charts include only the 501 streetcars and the handful of bus trippers operating with 7900-series buses that still use the old CIS tracking system. The buses on the 501R service from River to Neville were using the new Vision vehicle monitoring system, and they are not included here.

Headways westbound are somewhat worse on the two TIFF days in Week 1, but it is clear from these charts that headway management was not a high priority at this location. Cars leave on a mix of short and long headways, and this continues through the month including on weekends.