116 Morningside: The Effect of BRT Lite

This is a companion post to the article on the 86/986 Scarborough bus services and the effect of the Eglinton-Kingston-Morningside BRT corridor on them. It follows the same general layout and readers will be able to compare charts for the two routes.

116 Morningside shares with 86 Scarborough the portion of the BRT corridor from Brimley & Eglinton east to Guildwood & Kingston Road. From that point, route 116 turns south and then east through the Guildwood neighbourhoods, then north via Morningside. The route extends to north of Finch, but the BRT corridor ends at Ellesmere.

As with the 86 Scarborough bus, the travel time savings occur at locations where stops have been removed. The routes share this effect on Eglinton Avenue. Only one minor stop was removed on Morningside.

Unlike the Scarborough route, 116 Morningside has no express service, and so the speeds for all vehicles both pre and post-Covid are for local services.

The travel time savings on 116 Morningside are smaller than those on 86 Scarborough because it spends less time on the portion of the BRT segment where stops have been removed.

Travel Time Savings Between Kennedy Station and Ellesmere

In the historical data for travel times over the BRT-affected section of the 116 Morningside route, there are classic “peaks” in the AM and PM for April 2018 (red below) as well as for January (yellow) and February 2020 (light brown).

The AM peak does not return in the era from March 2020 onward which bottoms out in May (light blue), but the PM peak builds up gradually to September (green). In October, which includes three weeks with the BRT operation in place, travel times have fallen on average to early summer values. The average will fall again slightly for November because it will be all BRT-era data.

The differences shown here, however, are not substantial, only a few minutes. The real benefit, when it comes, would be to prevent a return to pre-Covid peak travel times.

For the month of October, the change from the first two weeks is evident, although again not substanial for some periods in the day.

Westbound data are similar with the pre-Covid months showing clear peaks, especially in the AM, and a gradual return (except for the peaks) to pre-covid travel times through the summer of 2020. October 2020 brought a drop in travel times, but as with the eastbound operation,of only a few minutes most of the time.

Within the month of October, weeks 3 to 5 show a drop in travel times with week 3 being transitional.

Plotted day-by-day, the overall pattern of travel times shows a few effects:

  • Pre-Covid travel times are generally higher than post-covid although as seen in the summary charts above the values are pushing back up again particularly starting in September 2020.
  • The variation in the median value (blue) and of the 85th percentile (orange) is small and the two lines lie close together most of the time. There is no problem with day-to-day variability to be solved as there was on King Street.
  • Longer term, the issue will be whether travel times stay below the pre-Covid values, and by how much.

(Note that the downward spikes correspond to periods when there was no VISION data for the days and times in question.)

Eastbound

Westbound

Headway Reliability

As on the 86/986 Scarborough routes, the weak spot in service is headway reliability. Bunching is common as are gaps well above the average headway with much of the service spread over a 15-minute wide range.

Eastbound from Kennedy Station

As on the Scarborough route, service eastbound measured east of the overpass over the GO line is marshalled by the traffic signal. This is a clear case of a signal impeding rather than helping transit. Even though the stop at this location was removed, service is still held.

There is little difference between September and October data.

Saturday shows the same problem, but with a wider range of headways. The problem evident in September is also obvious in October.

Sundays are a bit better than Saturdays, but show a similar pattern of scattered headways.

Southbound at Ellesmere

Although Ellesmere is not the terminus for 116 Morningside, it is the north end of the BRT lanes. The charts here show the condition service is in before if even reaches a point of transit priority.

The charts are quite similar to those for buses leaving Kennedy but with less marshaling of the service by the traffic signals. Many buses run close together, and many are in gaps well above the average headway.

Saturdays are no different with bunching and gapping that are just as bad in October as in September.

Sundays are only marginally better than Saturdays.

Travel Speeds in Detail

These charts compare the average speed of vehicles along the 116 Morningside route between Kennedy Station and Ellesmere for weekdays from October 1-9 (pre-PRT) and October 19-30 (post BRT). In the chars the data are green and purple respectively for the two periods.

The trend lines (dotted) through the charts show the overall spread, if any, between the two groups of data.

All stops are shown along the horizontal axis. Stops with a single asterisk (*) were removed post-BRT. Stops with a double asterisk (**) were removed and then reinstated.

As a general observation there is little difference in the data values from Guildwood Parkway east and north. This is not surprising because there was no physical change through the Guildwood area, and only one minor stop was removed (south of West Hill Collegiate) on the Morningside BRT leg.

As with the 86 Scarborough route, the travel speeds for the “before” period are lower mainly where stops have been removed.

Eastbound

For Eastbound service the charts should be read left to right as that is the direction of travel. Speeds typically spike downward at places where buses are stationary (stops or traffic signals) rise between them.

Westbound

Westbound charts work the same way as eastbound, but should be read from right to left.

As with the eastbound service, the difference between pre- and post-BRT data lies mainly where stops have been removed.

Chart Sets

To view the evolution of travel times over the full day, download the full set of charts from 6 am to midnight below.

3 thoughts on “116 Morningside: The Effect of BRT Lite

  1. Hi Steve,

    On an unrelated note, I noticed that the city is accepting applications for the TTC citizen board. Would you consider applying? I’m sure you’d be their biggest asset.

    Steve: I answered this question on Twitter too. Basically, I have much more freedom to comment on and advocate for better transit from outside of the TTC than from being on the Board. Taking such a position (even if I could get Council’s approval) would bring many restrictions about confidentiality as well as confusion about whether I was speaking on my own hook or as a Board member. I would also be one of a small minority who think that the organization needs more hands-on policy making by the Board and much more responsive management.

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  2. I am not a fan of “BRT Lite.” BRT tends to not work in Toronto unless there are physical barriers to keep lawless car drivers out of the bus lanes.

    On the other hand, I am a fan of proper BRT. Which means barriers to keep out scofflaw car drivers and signal priority that actually works so that people are not delayed at intersections. When done right, proper BRT has two great advantages:

    1. It can be implemented quickly.

    2. It can be implemented cheaply.

    The downside is that the capacity is less than proper LRT or subways. So no, BRT will not substitute for LRT in Hamilton. The demand is too high.

    Here is a video about Bogota’s “TransMilenio” BRT system, on its 10th anniversary. It is a good example of proper BRT, but note that the system is currently at capacity.

    Steve: I have to jump in here and observe that almost all of the photos of TransMilenio show it on extremely wide streets well beyond the width of any arterials in Toronto. When at a minimum the BRT requires four lanes, plus two additional for passing at major stations, that is most if not all of the road width of many of our streets. If we had a road the width of the 401 where Yonge Street is, we too could carry 40k+ with buses, assuming we didn’t want to do much else with the street. TransMilenio is a BRT poster child, but it is utterly inapplicable to many situations. Impressive, but very much a product of the local road geometry and a clear political will to take huge amounts of road space for transit, and to invest in very frequent high capacity service. In Toronto, we are willing to spend millions on transit priority infrastructure, and then run infrequent service.

    In my opinion, a street that is a good candidate for BRT in Toronto would have one or more of the following characteristics:

    1. A wide ROW that is currently (or at least pre-Covid) packed with private cars going very slowly during peak hours.

    2. A feeder route to higher-order transit.

    3. Local demand along the route.

    One example that would be a good candidate for BRT is Bayview Avenue between the Sheppard Subway and the Eglinton Crosstown. It has a wide enough ROW. Pre-Covid, it was a parking lot during peak hours, with private cars travelling very, very slowly. This also affects the existing TTC buses. Currently (pre-Covid), there are no bus lanes so TTC buses are obstructed by private automobile operators and crawl at a rip-out-my-hair-in-frustration speed. It would be an excellent feeder to the Sheppard Subway and Eglinton Crosstown at each end. And it has Sunnybrook Hospital and York University’s Glendon Campus providing high local demand.

    Although the current non-Covid transportation demand on this street is much higher than can be serviced by private automobiles, it is unlikely to wind up being higher than can be serviced by BRT.

    Steve: I hate to say this but Bayview is hardly a BRT corridor. There is little local demand because of the land use and demographics. Sunnybrook Hospital may generate trips, but these occur over the entire day, not concentrated in peak periods. Moreover, people come to Sunnybrook from a wide area because it is a regional hospital. As for Glendon Campus, it has a population, under normal circumstances, of a bit over 2,000.

    The huge challenge for Toronto is that the corridors where priority is needed also tend to be places where there is not enough room to produce this priority without a major effect on other road users. Slapping paint on roads that were not particularly busy (by comparison) is an easy task, but not representative of what is possible city-wide.

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  3. Steve wrote: “When at a minimum the BRT requires four lanes, plus two additional for passing at major stations…”

    Kevin’s comment: I am used to regarding that as a maximum, not a minimum. I am not aware of any BRT system that uses a larger amount of ROW than that. Which, of course, raises the question of what truly is the minimum required for legitimate BRT. And does the recent TTC “BRT Lite” meet that minimum.

    Steve: It was you who cited TransMileneo, and my comment was with respect to that system whose capacity depends on a massive dedication of road space (not to mention very wide roads). And, yes, there are BRTs that require passing lanes at stations. Another problem I didn’t mention was the volume of pedestrian traffic to/from station platforms on a very busy system.

    In my opinion, there needs to be three things before we can legitimately call a system BRT. These are:

    1. A dedicated lane each way, with physical barriers to keep out illegal intrusion by automobile drivers.

    2. Signal priority at intersections.

    3. Fare payment methods that do not cause any delay.

    Without these things, the system will not be “rapid.” Moreover, the vast majority of people will always tend to use the means of transportation that is the fastest, easiest and most convenient way of safely getting from A to B. The TTC’s suburban BRT Lite system fails in most cases to be faster, easier and more convenient than driving a private automobile. For that reason, I predict that it will be a failure, with most passengers being lower-income people who cannot afford a car.

    Indeed, it is quite disturbing to read the proposed BRT Lite corridors described with words such as:

    “Bus routes on these corridors serve lower-income communities in Toronto’s inner suburbs where transit ridership has remained high during the pandemic as a result of employees in essential sectors like health care, manufacturing and food distribution relying on the TTC to get to work.”

    from The Star.

    A rolling ghetto is not my vision of public transit. Proper BRT, with the three items listed above, implemented on streets that are currently very slow due to too many private automobiles, will indeed be much faster, easier and more convenient than driving a car. And will therefore be used by people in all social classes.

    Steve: There is a double-edged sword in a lot of recent transit advocacy that has linked support for projects to the idea that there is a transit underclass. Part of this comes from a sense of equity – that people who cannot afford to drive need and deserve transport too. We spend billions on roads, and why not on transit, or so goes the argument. It’s a valid position, but it reflects the big difference between travel in the suburbs where transit is definitely a second class choice compared to the central city which is much better served. The “we deserve subways” mantra is a skewed response to suburban problems because subways are presented as the only way suburbs will get good transit.

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