Updated July 20, 2020 at 5:00 pm: A comparison of travel times for local 39 and express 939 service on Finch East has been added at the end of the article.
This article continues a series comparing travel times on proposed bus priority routes in the “pre-covid” era of what we once thought of as “normal” traffic with the conditions since mid-March 2020. The latter probably represent the best case for any future prioritized transit operations and a comparison can set some expectations on what might, or might not, be achieved.
It is easy to draw a line on a map and say “Put transit priority here!”, but this quickly runs into the fact that others, notably motorists, also use the road and one must be able to make a pro-transit case based on evidence that there actually will be an improvement, at least for transit riders.
Such a case must deal with several factors:
- The benefit to running time is usually location and direction sensitive, not to mention varying by time of day.
- Locations where congestion is a problem are also those where taking road space away from motorists will be most difficult.
- The level of service on some routes during off peak periods coupled with low potential time savings makes permanent reservations hard to argue for especially where lost parking would be an issue.
- Even in the less congested conditions of recent months, the reliability of TTC service leaves a lot to be desired. (I will turn to this aspect of service in a later article for all of the bus lane proposals.)
The offsetting benefits are:
- Reduced and more reliable running times with the worst case delays “shaved off” in the manner seen on the King Street pilot.
- A small reduction in the number of vehicles required to provide service, or conversely, the ability to improve service without adding vehicles.
Better service can result from a combination of more frequent scheduled vehicles and more reliable headways. Indeed, riders could see more benefit simply from buses showing up regularly than from actual in-vehicle travel time. Sadly, the TTC’s focus is on saving money first, not on improving service reliability and capacity, and this will potentially undermine the entire transit priority project.
This article reviews data from 39 Finch East, and will be followed by reviews of 60 Steeles West and 54 Lawrence East in future articles.
Technical note: Finch East is a route whose behaviour I have been following on and off for several years, and I therefore have a sampling of data going back to 2011.