Reserved Bus Lanes: Eglinton East in Fall 2020, More to Follow (Updated)

Updated July 9, 2020 at 8:10 am: A table comparing existing and proposed stops has been added adjacent to the service plan map in this article.

Updated July 9, 2020 at 12:30 am: A section has been added at the end of the article examining headway reliability for 86 Scarborough and 116 Morningside just east of Kennedy Station, and at Guildwood. This section complements an observation by the City of Toronto about unreliable headways, and hence uneven loading, on buses running on Eglinton.

Headway management is at least as important as improved travel time for these routes. There is not much point in saving a few minutes riding a bus if the waiting time is unpredictable and the bus may be full when it arrives in a gap. This aspect of TTC service management has been a chronic problem that is always put down to “traffic congestion”. In fact the post-covid data show that even with the much less congested conditions, headways are still spread over a wide range of values. This is a problem that will not be fixed by painting the pavement red.

The TTC Board will consider a report on reserved lanes for BRT-lite operation on several corridors at its July 14, 2020 meeting. Although there was a political desire to get all of them up and running as quickly as possible at the June board meeting, the proposed schedule strings this out over a longer time.

  • Fall 2020: Eglinton East from Kennedy Station, Kingston Road, Morningside to UTSC
  • 2021: Jane from Eglinton to Steeles
  • 2022 and beyond:
    • Steeles West from Yonge to Pioneer Village Station
    • Finch East from Finch Station to McCowan
    • Dufferin from Wilson to Dufferin Gate
    • Lawrence from east of Victoria Park to Rouge Hill

A key point is that TTC expects to save money on reduced travel times. Whether this would be reinvested in service on the affected streets or elsewhere in the system is hard to know. Some of the reduction will come from the reserve lanes, but some will also come from the consolidation of closely-spaced stops.

Experience on King Street showed that the travel time savings, such as they were, were eaten up by operational changes that added more running and recovery time to schedules in an attempt to eliminate short turns.

Bus lanes on the Eglinton East corridor are anticipated to increase transit reliability and reduce transit travel time on average between two-to-five minutes per trip. These time and reliability savings present an opportunity to achieve operating budget savings of 500 fewer service hours per week, equivalent to about $2.5 million per year and a capital cost avoidance of seven fewer peak buses equivalent to approximately $6.3 million. [p. 4]

The problem here is that any kind of “savings” has an allure that is much stronger than service improvements. Buses will not run more frequently, although service might be more reliable if the worst of periodic “bad days” can be avoided with the reserved lanes. This is similar to the results on King where the reliability effect was much more important than the actual change in average travel time. Better reliability means shorter waits for vehicles and a better chance that loads will be evenly distributed.

However, King Street had the added advantage that the actual capacity of the route was increased by running larger vehicles as the new Flexitys replaced the smaller CLRVs, ALRVs and bus trippers on the route. A similar opportunity is not available, at least in the short term, on Eglinton. The TTC has no spare articulated buses, and only modest plans to acquire more in future years. (Note that changes in the overall fleet mix have effects on bus garages which must be modified to service the longer vehicles, or purpose-built with this in mind just as Leslie Barns was for the new streetcar fleet.)

Eglinton East/UTSC Corridor

Of the six possible corridors, only the Eglinton/UTSC corridor receives a detailed treatment in the report. The summary description for it sets out the basics including some important differences between Eglinton and other proposed locations.

This corridor is the easiest to implement with minimal impacts on other lanes of traffic. The section along Eglinton Avenue East already includes an HOV lane. Extensive consultation has already been completed on the corridor for the future Eglinton East LRT. There is support for improving transit services. A bus lane would help build ridership for a future LRT alignment. The majority of the corridor falls within Neighbourhood Improvement Areas (NIAs). In addition, as construction for the Scarborough Subway Extension is expected to begin in 2021, dedicated lanes for transit vehicles will help minimize the negative impacts of long-term construction in the area. [p. 11]

Eglinton Avenue has HOV “Diamond” lanes only during the peak periods on weekdays, but the remainder of the proposed corridor does not. None of the proposed areas that will become reserved bus lanes have parking allowed, and so there is no loss on that account.

The potential effects of the Scarborough Subway construction remain to be seen depending on how much work under Eglinton will be in bored tunnel from Kennedy Station to McCowan. The TTC only plans to implement bus lanes east of Brimley in the initial rollout:

Note, that at this time, bus lanes will only be implemented from Brimley Road to Ellesmere Road. Construction of the Scarborough Subway Extension by Metrolinx is expected to start in spring 2021, which will require lane closures from Kennedy Station to Brimley Road. Once construction is complete, it is anticipated that bus lanes will be extended west to Kennedy Station. During the Scarborough Subway construction works, traffic impacts will be monitored so that the priority bus lanes could be recommended for implementation earlier, if conditions allow. [pp. 12-13]

The TTC proposes an implementation as shown in the map below. Of particular note here is that there are many fewer stops than are shown on existing timetables.

In the table below, stops that are retained are shaded in green. Stops to be removed are shaded in pink. Note that the stops at Brimley and Danforth are consolidated into a single stop.

A detailed review will be required to see how the new stops effect existing demand, street layouts and access patterns. The absence of such an analysis suggests that added stop access time has not been included in the calculation of travel time savings.

The lane arrangements will vary along the corridor, and this will affect both traffic and the response of people who already use these roads.

From Midland to Brimley shows a typical 6-lane configuration where the existing curb lane is already designated for HOV. The section on Kingston Road is six lanes in total as is much of Eglinton, but the curb lane is not now reserved for HOV.

At the east end of Eglinton, the road narrows just before the connection to Kingston Road. On Morningside, also a four-lane street, the same cross-section applies.

The report is somewhat contradictory in its claims for Eglinton Avenue. As noted above, one goal is to save vehicles and money. Elsewhere, we learn:

It is anticipated that the bus lane will improve reliability and speed of existing services, which will allow the TTC to increase capacity on the corridor. This will impact the existing 47,000 customers who use the corridor daily.

It is anticipated that the bus lane will result in an average travel time savings of 16.5% for local services (two-to-five minutes per trip).

The increase in speed and reliability will allow customers to travel longer distances at a faster speed, reaching new destinations and services. [p. 16]

Capacity could be increased on the corridor today simply by running more and/or larger buses. The stated intent to save money earlier in the report clearly shows that capacity improvement is not a goal. This position was stated clearly by staff at the June board meeting.

The travel time saving is end-to-end over the corridor and only applies to riders making the entire journey. There is no calculation of the average saving in the report. The amount of time saved will be a combination of shorter travel time and whatever reliability benefits accrue from the reserved lanes. This varies by time of day and direction.

The TTC report includes a separate City report reviewing the Eglinton corridor. Among the points made there is the question of headway reliability, a factor on which I have often commented in route analyses on this site. The City notes:

An initial analysis of headways for October and November 2019 is shown in Figure 3. Each dot on the graph represents the observed time between two vehicles at the peak point of the corridor (Eglinton Avenue East at Markham Road). The maximum headway line is the headway value where it is calculated that if transit vehicles operated at this frequency, they would be operating at its crush capacity as it approaches the route’s busiest segment, and customers would be unable to board. The minimum headway line is the headway value where it is calculated that if transit vehicles operated at this frequency, they would be carrying fewer than 10 passengers per bus which is approximately one-third of the seated capacity for a 12m long bus. As seen on the graph, the eastbound headways on Eglinton Avenue East at Markham Road have a significant amount of variability with only 42% of headways between the maximum and minimum headway limits. [City report, p. 6]

This is shown graphically in the following chart.

A detailed review of headway reliability appears later in this article. Note that the format here is different from those in my charts later in this article in that each day is plotted only for one hour on the vertical axis. However, this shows that widely scattered headways are a daily problem, not something that happens occasionally.

As for travel speed, the City report notes that:

Although the average reliability and speed of the four routes are relatively good, there is room for improvement. [p. 6]

Later in this article, I will examine comparative speeds for the pre- and post-covid periods to contrast “normal” pre-covid conditions to those after traffic fell substantially to what wouldprobably be a “best case” situation with the bus lanes. Again, a caveat that some of the TTC’s anticipated savings will come from the consolidation of stops, not from the bus lanes per se.

Cycling

The City report notes that there are no current plans for bicycle lanes in this corridor, but it does explore what the road configuration would be if they were to be implemented.

Jane Corridor

The Jane Corridor situation is summarized in the TTC report:

This corridor has one of the slowest operating speeds. It provides an important north-south connection between Line 1 Yonge-University and future Line 5 Eglinton. It also traverses through many Neighbourhood Improvement Areas. Implementing a bus lane requires re-purposing of the existing curb lanes for transit. There would be no adverse impacts to on-street parking. Effects on other road traffic at the inter-change with Highway 401 and Highway 400 requires further additional analysis and consultation with MTO. [p. 11]

I have already reviewed travel times for this corridor in a previous article, and there is a potential for substantial savings especially in the PM peak.

The City report contains an analysis of Jane Street which I will address in a follow-up post.

Steeles West Corridor

The Steeles Corridor situation is summarized in the TTC report:

This corridor would provide a faster connection to either side of Line 1 and would serve York University. York Region would also benefit from the bus lane. The City has approval to initiate a Municipal Class Environmental Assessment study to widen Steeles between Bathurst and Hilda. Widening this section of Steeles Avenue West would facilitate the operations of the proposed bus lane by eliminating this existing bottleneck. [p. 11]

I will address potential travel time savings on Steeles in a future article. The City report also contains an analysis of Steeles.

Finch East Corridor

The Finch East Corridor situation is summarized in the TTC report:

This corridor shows significant growth in developments that are planned or under review. There are also important connections to post-secondary institutions. Effects on other road traffic at the inter-change with Highway 404 requires further additional analysis and consultation with MTO. [p. 11]

I will address potential travel time savings on Finch in a future article. The City report also contains an analysis of Finch.

Dufferin Corridor

The Dufferin Corridor will be very challenging because this is not a “typical” six lane suburban street, but in places is more akin to the type of street found in the old City of Toronto with buildings at or close to the sidewalk line, four traffic lanes and off-peak parking. This is not an easy target for repurposing street space.

This corridor has the slowest operating speeds, however, it also has the greatest challenges for implementation. South of Rogers Road, Dufferin Street has a very narrow right-of-way and a lot of on-street parking. Additional analysis is needed to ensure impacts are minimized. [p. 11]

As with the Jane Corridor, Dufferin has a considerable potential for travel time saving particularly in the PM peak. I have already published an analysis of travel time data for this route.

Lawrence East Corridor

This corridor was added to the list by a motion at the June TTC board meeting, and it has not yet had any detailed analysis.

Travel Time Comparisons for the Eglinton/UTSC Corridor

The corridor from Kennedy Station to UTSC is used by two routes that cover different portions.

  • 86 Scarborough travels from Kennedy Station east via Eglinton, and then northeast via Kingston Road, but it does not operate on Morningside.
  • 116 Morningside travels from Kennedy Station east to Guildwood, then south and east via Guildwood to Morningside, and then north to UTSC.

I have not used the 905 UTSC express bus for comparison because its operation was suspended during the covid period and there is no point of comparison for it in pre- and post-covid traffic conditions.

86 Scarborough

Because I have not been tracking 86 Scarborough recently, I do not have early 2020 data for this route, but instead an using data from April 2018 to represent the pre-covid conditions. The comparison month post-covid is May 2020.

The charts here show the travel times between Kennedy Station and Kingston Road/Morningside which is the end of the portion of the proposed right-of-way used by 86 Scarborough.

In both charts below (one per direction), the average travel time for April 2018 is shown in green, while for May 2020 it is in blue. For westbound trips, the difference lies mainly between, not during the peak period. Eastbound trips are shorter from the end of the AM peak onward through most of the day.

Note that these are monthly averages and there can be a lot of variation within them.

The charts below show the same data subdivided by week. As we have seen on other routes, the travel times are shortest on average for the first week of May, and build up gradually from there although not to pre-covid levels. In any event, the difference in average travel times is not large, and lies in the range of 2 to 5 minutes.

For those interested in the details, here are the breakdowns of the data by week and type of day. Of note here are the higher values for Standard Deviation of some (but not all) of the 2018 data, notably during period when the 2018 averages are higher than the 2020 values. This can be seen in the scatter charts where the dots representing individual trip times are spread over a wider range in some of the 2018 data. If these values can be pulled into a tighter band, as occurred on King Street, this will contribute to route reliability.

Finally the next two charts compare average travel times at the detailed level for the two periods. There trend lines do not move far apart for each period’s data because there is not a big difference in speed at many times and locations on the route.

116 Morningside

For January and February 2020, the travel times between Kennedy Station and Ellesmere are higher than the May average by roughly 2 to 4 minutes. This  includes whatever time was saved on the southern loop through Guildwood that is not part of the proposed bus corridor.

In the weekly breakdown, as on other routes, the first week of May had the shortest travel times, and thereafter the values grow, but not to pre-covid levels.

The charts below show the speed comparison between the first two week of February and the first two weeks of May, 2020, for the route. Note that in the weekly charts above, the longest trips were during the last two weeks of February when the weather was bad. This is the type of difference that reserved lanes might address, in part, provided that they really are free of interference by other traffic.

Headway Reliability on Eglinton East

This section reviews the headways actually operated on the two routes discussed above and contrasts pre- and post-covid behaviour. Each of the charts below show the headway data for the first week of their respective month. A full set of charts showing all weeks and weekends is linked at the end of this section.

Each day of the week has its own colour. The dots are the individual buses, and the wavy lines are interpolated between the dots to show the overall pattern. In most cases, unless there is a severe disruption making one day substantially different from the others, the trend lines lie more or less on top of each other.

The TTC metric for “on time performance” is that a bus is no more than one minute early, or no more than five minutes late leaving a terminus. What it does in between is not measured, and this is a gaping hole in the TTC’s ability to report service quality as most riders experience it. In practice, the span of headway values is commonly well above six minutes. For frequent service, riders do not care if a bus arrives at 9:00 or 9:01 or 8:59, but rather that the service appears on a reliable spacing. This is not what the TTC delivers across most of its routes during most operating periods.

The screenline for “East of Kennedy Station” is on Eglinton a short distance east of the bridge over the GO corridor. This measures the headway clear of effects in the terminal, but not, as we will see, in its immediate vicinity.

Eastbound from Kennedy Station

In April 2018, the 986 Scarborough Express did not exist, and its service was bundled with route 86 Scarborough. That is the reason for the very frequent service in the AM peak is that the 86E (now the 986) ran every 5 minutes. In the PM peak it ran every 9’45”. During the AM peak, the headways lay in a band from roughly zero (two buses nose-to-tail) to about 7 minutes. DUring the midday, the range of headways widens to 15 minutes, necks down to about 10 for the PM peak, and then rises again in the evening.

The May 2020 data are post-covid, and without the presence of express trips as that service no longer operates. For much of the day the headways are spread out over a range from zero to 15 minutes, but with an odd banded pattern. This also shows up in data for 116 Morningside and other routes I have not included here.

I believe that this banding matches the traffic signal cycle at Kennedy Road which, because of lane constraints of the Crosstown LRT construction, effectively meters traffic coming out of Kennedy Station to go east on Eglinton into bursts when there is a gap in the through traffic. This pattern shows up in data for other routes and locations where traffic signals routinely hold service.

Despite an average headway of roughly 7 minute, the actual service operates on scattered headways well beyond the TTC’s 6 minute “on time” window. Note also that this is the first week of May which in stats for all routes I have analysed has some of the shortest travel times in 2020. This scatter cannot be explained by traffic congestion, nor can it be put down to inadequate schedules as (a) almost all major routes have been revised with more generous times, and (b) reduced congestion and demand makes it even easier for buses to operate within their allotted schedules. This is simply a case that nobody is minding the store all day long.

Morningside buses show the same pattern leaving Kennedy Station with banded headways in both February and May 2020. The February data are pre-covid while May’s are post-covid. There is not much difference, even in the more benign traffic conditions of May, in the scattered headways, and therefore unpredictable service and uneven vehicle loadings.

Westbound to Kennedy Station

The westbound arrivals at Kennedy (actually at the screenline just east of the railway overpass) show scattered values similar to the eastbound data.

The Morningside bus was particularly bad arriving westbound at Kennedy in February 2020 with gaps well in excess of the average headway. The average itself looks good because the gaps are offset by very short headways with buses running in bunches.

The scatter of headways is not as severe, but still present in May.

Eastbound at Guildwood

By the time the service reaches Guildwood eastbound, the banding effect in headways at Kennedy has disappeared (note that this does not apply to April 2018 data), but the actual headways are spread over a wide range of values.

The situation in May 2020 is just as bad as in 2018.

The Morningside bus shows some improvement from February to May 2020, but bunching and headways double or more the average are not uncommon.

Westbound at Guildwood

Service arriving westbound at Guildwood is subject to the irregularity in terminal departures coupled with whatever happened along the way. Headways are consistently irregular on both routes both for pre- and post-covid conditions.

Complete Chart Sets

Each set of charts linked below contains 15 pages:

  • 1: Weekly averages and standard deviations
  • 2-9: Weekly breakdowns showing daily data and trends (1/2) and block-and-whisker quartiles (2/2) for each of four weeks
  • 10: Saturday averages and standard deviations
  • 11: Saturday daily data and trends
  • 12: Saturday block-and-whisker quartiles
  • 13-15: Same as 10-12 for Sunday/Holiday data

The charts:

14 thoughts on “Reserved Bus Lanes: Eglinton East in Fall 2020, More to Follow (Updated)

  1. Hmm. Just a temporary measure until the Eglinton East LRT is completed?

    Does that mean light rail is being thought about for the other corridors? 😇

    Steve: No. They are completely independent of each other. Frankly I think some of the TTC’s priority picks for BRT are a bit odd, but if we get even that much I will be amazed. It seems to take almost as long to deliver paint on pavement as it does to build a rapid transit line!

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  2. Just another TV opportunity for Tory. Talk, talk, talk. Says a lot. Does little as EVERY announcement spreads out for YEARS!

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  3. Steve said: The TTC metric for “on time performance” is that a bus is no more than one minute early, or no more than five minutes late leaving a terminus. What it does in between is not measured, and this is a gaping hole in the TTC’s ability to report service quality as most riders experience it. In practice, the span of headway values is commonly well above six minutes. For frequent service, riders do not care if a bus arrives at 9:00 or 9:01 or 8:59, but rather that the service appears on a reliable spacing. This is not what the TTC delivers across most of its routes during most operating periods.

    86 Scarborough
    The May 2020 data are post-covid, and without the presence of express trips as that service no longer operates. For much of the day the headways are spread out over a range from zero to 15 minutes, but with an odd banded pattern.

    Despite an average headway of roughly 7 minute, the actual service operates on scattered headways well beyond the TTC’s 6 minute “on time” window. Note also that this is the first week of May which in stats for all routes I have analysed has some of the shortest travel times in 2020. This scatter cannot be explained by traffic congestion, nor can it be put down to inadequate schedules as (a) almost all major routes have been revised with more generous times, and (b) reduced congestion and demand makes it even easier for buses to operate within their allotted schedules. This is simply a case that nobody is minding the store all day long.

    By simply connecting the dots, we see that nobody is minding the store. It’s time something is done about it.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Assuming the TTC chose to run sufficient service (and has the buses), how would the speed & capacity of a reserved Eglinton bus lane paired with a similar lane on McCowan compare to that of the existing SRT?

    Steve: I don’t have tracking data for the McCowan service and so cannot comment on the improvement, if any, a McCowan bus lane would provide. The SRT has the advantage that it has 2km spacing for its stops from Eglinton to Ellesmere, and that will be hard to overcome even with a reserved lane.

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  5. If you eliminate 13 out of +\-30 existing bus stops on a route, you can claim the bus runs faster perhaps more reliably…and passengers ‘save time’ on their trips. But does anyone count how much further potential passengers have to walk to get to the reduced number of stops? Is their total trip, door to door actually ‘faster’?

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  6. Why is the rollout so slow?
    Aren’t they just painting the road?

    Steve: They have to study the effect of clearing off that lane from traffic. Eglinton is easy because it already has an HOV lane. Other streets are more challenging, and frankly I don’t expect to see all of them converted.

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  7. This is a colossal waste of money because unless there is enforcement, cars will not stay out of the lane. Look at the bus lanes on Bay the original lanes on King Street, Dundas west of Kipling. Cars make too many right turns for this too work. Queue hopping lanes at intersections and proper TPS would do just as much for a lot less.

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  8. I think there’s a difference in compliance between time-limited, bus-and-taxi lanes like Bay and “true” bus-only lanes. Dufferin between Sheppard and Finch was bus-only pre-TYSSE and seemed to work fine without any special enforcement.

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  9. Do your buses get stuck in traffic? It’s amazing what a difference it makes to life the city when public transit is treated as a first-class alternative to driving, as it is in Amsterdam, and many other cities in the Netherlands.

    Steve: I was amused that when I tested your link, I got an ad for Volkswagen.

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  10. Off topic. Sorry. You speak of reserved bus lanes but what about reserving walking lanes? Should sidewalks be reserved for walking? While walking, I have been hit a number of types by bicycles and very wide motorcycle type e-bikes speeding on very crowded sidewalks. You might as well allow motorcycles on sidewalks if you are going to allow these very wide e-bikes racing on crowded sidewalks. Why nobody complaints about this and why is there no enforcement?

    Steve: One reason behind the push for safe, reserved bike lanes is to get them off of sidewalks. I agree that cyclists have no place there and can, on occasion, be rather puffed up about their “right” to cycle on whatever surface is available.

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  11. “I have not used the 903 UTSC express bus for comparison because its operation was suspended during the covid period and there is no point of comparison for it in pre- and post-covid traffic conditions.”

    903 is the Scarborough Center- Kennedy Express, I think you meant to say “905 UTSC express”.

    Steve: Thanks for catching this. I will fix the article.

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  12. This type of Bus Lane on Kingston Road would have worked well with abandoned transit plans. (1) extend B-D subway to Kingston Road (east not north). This connects to the LSE GO, plus some additional north-south bus routes.
    (2) connect STC via the SRT and Eglinton LRT. Since this is no longer available, an alternative would have to be found – and Hamish Wilson would no doubt suggest that the Gatineau Hydro corridor and Don Valley is part of the solution.
    Once again, our previous bad decisions hamper our ability to make good ones now.

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