Downtown Premium Express Routes Move To King Street

With the schedule change coming on Sunday, November 24, 2019 (for which details will appear in a separate article), the routing of the Downtown Premium Express 14x series will be shifted off of Adelaide and Richmond Streets to the King Street Transit Corridor.

New stops will be created eastbound along King at Peter, Simcoe (west of University), Jordan (west of Yonge), George and Parliament. The one exception will be that the 142 Avenue Road service will stop for unloading only eastbound on King farside at University, the streetcar stop.

New westbound stops will be at George, Yonge, York, and Peter.

All of the stops for these routes will be separate from those used by streetcars to avoid confusion between local and express services.

Services from the east (141 Mt. Pleasant, 143 Beach, 144 Don Mills) will loop via Spadina, Adelaide and Charlotte with a stop southbound on Charlotte at King.

Services from the west (142 Avenue Road, 145 Humber Bay) will loop via Sherbourne, Front and Berkeley with a stop northbound on Berkeley at King.

The 141 Mount Pleasant bus will jog east via Adelaide to George before continuing south to King where there will be an inbound stop. Outbound service will stop on Jarvis north of King.

The 143 Beach and 144 Don Mills services which come through the Richmond/Adelaide interchange east of Parliament Street will turn south from Richmond via Parliament with a stop at King. Outbound services will turn north on Power from King Street to reach Adelaide. (As a matter of historical interest, the original name for the spaghetti junction east of Parliament was the “Duke and Duchess Interchange” after the names of these streets in the old town.)

The 145 Humber Bay service will enter downtown via Adelaide Street from Bathurst, but will turn south to King at Charlotte using the common stop with services from the east. Outbound buses will continue west on King to Bathurst, then turn south.

The 503 Kingston Road bus will continue to operate on King Street looping via York, Richmond and University.

With all of these bus routes and a new set of stops on King, cyclists will find the transitway somewhat more challenging and motorists will have to deal with buses blocking the curb lane at stops. Turning movements at Spadina could be challenging as there is no priority for streetcars when they turn off of King, let alone for buses. This will add to delays that are already a problem at this location.

It is also unclear what the effect of these routes will be on the ambience of the curb lane cafe spaces along King should the operation last into the good weather in 2020, nor how these arrangement would be affected by the TIFF diversions.

There is no end date announced yet for this trial, nor for the outcomes on which it will be measured. I will continue to track the speed of streetcar operations in the corridor to determine whether the additional buses have an effect on streetcar service.

18 thoughts on “Downtown Premium Express Routes Move To King Street

  1. There is precious little sidewalk space on King east of bay through to Yonge Street. Those routes all have large surge loads in the afternoon. I don’t know where everyone is supposed to stand and wait at Jordan Street. Isn’t that right where the 1930’s Commerce Court skyscraper comes right up almost to the edge of the road on King with only like a six foot sidewalk allowance?

    Steve: The stop will be farside, east of Jordan Street, just west of Yonge Street.

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  2. Steve: With the schedule change coming on Sunday, November 24, 2019 (for which details will appear in a separate article), the routing of the Downtown Premium Express 14x series will be shifted off of Adelaide and Richmond Streets to the King Street Transit Corridor.

    With curb lanes intentionally being blocked by cut tree limbs, patios, and other obstacles, these buses will unnecessarily block streetcars and vice versa. Restricting cars did not have to mean blocking the curb lanes but that was one of the many stupid decisions taken by the city.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Gotta ask, why are they doing this? What’s wrong with Richmond and Adelaide?

    Steve: Adelaide/Richmond can be congested, but I worry that shifting the buses to King is going to screw up the transit lane there with additional stops and buses blocking traffic pulling in to the curb.

    There is a related problem that the 14x routes don’t pay their way even with the premium fare, but they are politically untouchable both because of their locations, and because there is a myth that somehow we can “relieve” subway crowding with routes like this for people who want to pay for the service.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. If the service designers at the TTC are truly so in need of extra work they should be concocting a trial of 60m platforms at the high dwell time stops otherwise buses are just going to be waiting at the nearside of intersections while the lights cycle over and over much like the streetcars do now.

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  5. Steve, I’ve noticed oddities on Queen East with short turn Harbourfront 509 (to Leslie), Kingston Road 503 and I think what is King Street Short Turn 504’s to Leslie on Queen East? Is this new, permanent, are they lost?

    I didn’t think any King Street cars went past Broadview Eastbound. None of the mapping shows this but these short turns are and it’s fantastic.

    Steve: These are cars returning to Leslie Barns.

    As for the 503 Kingston Road bus, it will remain as a trial operation replacing the 502 to see how this works out with riders. The hope is that having only one service on Kingston Road will lead to more reliable service.

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  6. It would be interesting to understand why the 14x routes can’t pay their way. Maybe they aren’t popular / run with a light load. If so, then perhaps they should be cancelled, and the buses used on the busy arterial routes instead.

    Or, maybe they carry good loads, but still can’t break even because they serve long-range trips. Both the bus and the driver need to do a lot of work to earn that double fare from each rider (in contrast with short local routes that have high turn-over, many riders only staying on the bus for a few blocks, but still paying the full fare).

    If the latter is true, then it can be argued that the 14x serve their purpose. If those routes didn’t exist, riders who need to travel long distance would still use the system. They would be squeezed onto the local bus routes to reach the subway.

    Steve: The total load of all of the express buses would barely fill one subway train. This is a ridiculously expensive way to provide “relief” when those buses and drivers could be used elsewhere.

    All of those routes can be traced to political patronage, usually by a member of the TTC Board keeping their constituents happy.

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  7. Only a trial will tell if this works or not. I’m not too concerned that the 14x buses will block traffic excessively compared regular fare buses nor riders be blocking off the sidewalks. Ridership are limited on these premium routes.

    Is it me or there will be very limited boarding locations along the downtown “business” core? I feel like the service would be less convenient than before.

    Steve: Yes, there are fewer stops in the new arrangement than the existing routes. However, some existing stops are close together (e.g. Simcoe to University, or Yonge to Church), and the consolidation should not affect access much. Indeed, it is ludicrous that “express” routes downtown have stops closer together than the local streetcar routes do.

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  8. Why should the express busses cost twice as much?? Is there any rational explanation? Is the subway fare twice the bus fare? In some cities it is, but not here.

    Did Dilbert writer work for TTC at one time?

    cheers, Ted

    Steve: When these routes were established, they were far away from meeting TTC financial standards for new services. Therefore they were priced at a double fare, although even there they do not break even.

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  9. Ted, it should also be noted that express routes have a financial disadvantage over local ones. A local route that cycles passengers in and out of the bus/subway/streetcar with every stop has far more people paying their fare than an express route that starts full and travels the length of its route without cycling passengers past the farebox. So, yes, the premium express buses charge double the fare as the regular buses, but in terms of financial cost to the TTC, the cost to the system is about five times that of a regular bus. By all metrics, they’d be dropped. Only their political support keeps them in place.

    Steve: From the Express Bus Network Study:

    “The Downtown Premium Fare Express routes are the worst performing routes system-wide during peak periods in regards to their utilization (boardings per hour), and therefore financial performance even when the double fare is considered.”

    “At a cost of about $8.00 to $11.00 per boarding, the cost per passenger on the Downtown Premium Fare Express routes is ten times more than the system-wide median and five times more than other express routes. These routes represent the five most expensive routes on a per passenger basis. These figures include the premium fare paid by these customers.”

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  10. I can’t speak for Adelaide, but Richmond westbound is completely full with car drivers in the afternoons/evenings (partly due to the watermain construction, but also in the part that isn’t impacted yet, like between Bay and University). It makes some sense to shift the bus routes onto a hard-won transit priority corridor nearby. My only confusion is with the special cases: the 141 southbound making that left turn onto Adelaide then two rights rather than a right immediately on King; and the 145 eastbound on Adelaide between Bathurst and Spadina (especially considering Adelaide actually has one more traffic light than King does on that stretch).

    Steve: I suspect that the issue for the 145 at King & Bathurst would be having buses make a right turn directly into the eastbound streetcar stop area. This is similar to the situation at Jarvis where the 141 jogs east on Adelaide to George before making the turn westbound onto King.

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  11. But it’s not direct. The concrete barrier they’ve put on an angle in front of the stop areas is a meter or two past the crosswalk and the stop area only starts past the barrier. I know buses have a large turn radius but it’s definitely still doable. I guess at Bathurst they might not want buses turning in a rather busy pedestrian intersection, but I don’t recall that level of busy-ness at Jarvis. Leave it to the TTC to complicate its pilots…

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  12. The problem with putting more and different types of services on King is traffic signal capacity plus loading and unloading space. Most stops are far side and close to the intersection IIRC so following vehicles would be blocked.

    Also the signage is totally terrible. Instead of have signs telling you what you can’t do which are in strange locations There should only be a sign that says RIGHT TURN ONLY. There should only be green right turn arrow, no green ball. The walk phase for King should be separate from the green arrow phase transit vehicles should get a white vertical bar to tell them when to go. The red signal on King would be lit most of the time with the yellow and green balls not used except maybe at night when other vehicle are allowed. It would also be nice if King had do not enter signs that could only be seen from vehicles on King.

    If this is going to be permanent then fix the signals and signage.

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  13. Robert: the reason why they don’t have a green right arrow instead of the green ball is because that represents a protected signal. You can’t have a green arrow directing traffic into a crosswalk with the white walk signal or flashing hand signal on.

    Some US states (like Michigan) might use a flashing amber arrow to indicate permissive, but unprotected turn, but it is not in Ontario’s traffic manual.

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  14. I will be pissed if this ends up reclaiming road space from pedestrians. What has made the #KingStreetPilot successful isn’t just the transit priority, but how it gives the high volume of pedestrians in the area, a more adequate amount of space proportional to their volume over cars and even transit. A wide road with narrow sidewalks is going to, dare I say, turn King Street into an actual ghost town.

    I’ve got no issues with maintaining one transit lane in each direction, shared by streetcars and express buses, as long as wide sidewalks are made permanent.

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  15. Steve: The stop will be farside, east of Jordan Street, just west of Yonge Street.

    The curb lane on eastbound King Street east of Jordan Street is presently occupied up by a Bike Share Toronto station. It was only very recently moved there. It will be fun times to see if the right hand actually told the left hand what it was doing, or if the right hand simply looked at Google Streetview and saw nothing was there as of June 2019 and assumed nothing is there now. We will see if there’s a mad scramble on November 25th.

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  16. @Sean Marshall

    I never said to have a green arrow on when the walk signal is on. I said they should be separate. Please read again.

    They have a green arrow now for a short time for the right turn followed by the green ball and the walk signal. Since only transit vehicles can go straight through most of the time stop the green ball phase entirely, lengthen the green right turn arrow along with the white bar, NOT THE WHITE WALK SIGNAL, then give a walk signal for King or even a scramble for all pedestrian movement. Cross traffic could be set up with green ball and green right turn arrow. The red signal would always be on for King except in times when normal traffic could go straight through.

    Signals for King:
    1) Green Arrow for right turn phase no pedestrians. White bar could be put in at same time for King. Red ball for King would be on almost all the time.
    2) All direction walk scramble.
    3) Green signal for cross traffic, possible with a right turn arrow and Don’t Walk signal

    Toronto and Ontario traffic signals should get into the 20th century now that the rest of the world is into the 21st. Adopt the standard Light rail signalling, use red arrows when turns in that direction are not allowed, think Spadina and St. Clair, and make the left hand green signal a straight arrow with the right side being the green ball. This would eliminate a lot of confusion for cars in the left turn lane when there is a green light for street cars a red ball for left turns and a green ball for cars going straight through. North Bound highway 10 at highway 9 in Orangeville has a green arrow for the left hand straight through signal and a green bar for the right hand one so it can be done, or more likely some local employee got tired of idiots not interpreting the signals correctly and did it on his own.

    Straight through traffic on a green ball is always a permitted and protected signal when the left turn traffic in the opposite direction has a red.

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