This article is another in a series reviewing the behaviour of routes where RapidTO “red lanes” exist or are proposed.
Updated August 8, 2021: A reader pointed out that the 929 Dufferin Express existed pre-pandemic, although I did not include any data for it in this article. I was not tracking this route between its debut in October 2018 and February 2020 because historical bus tracking data from the new Vision tracking system were not available until mid-2019. I do have March 2020 data and have added this to the article. It shows very clearly the transition in travel times as demand and road traffic fell during that month.
Previous articles in the series:
- Red Lanes, Express Buses and Service Reliability in Scarborough
- A Dashboard for Scarborough Red Lanes
- Service Reliability on 35/935 Jane
The 29 and 929 Dufferin services operate between either from the western gate Dufferin Loop or the eastern gate Princes’ Gate Loop to Wilson Station. Except for the stopping pattern, the routes are identical between King and WIlson Station, the portion of the route reviewed here.
The 929 Dufferin Express bus began operation in mid-November 2020 with standard sized buses, but converted to the larger artics in the second week of May 2021 at roughly the same headway thereby increasing route capacity. The 29 Dufferin local service has been operating with articulated buses throughout the period of the data presented here.
Schedules for both the local and express services were adjusted on May 9, 2021, to add more running time for reliability.
This article deals with:
- The change in travel times for the local 29 Dufferin Jane service between King and Wilson (the portion of the route proposed for Rapid TO) from pre-pandemic traffic conditions and their evolution through the low point of demand and congestion in 2020 through to June 2021.
- The difference between local and express services.
- The reliability of service.
The High Points
Although the Dufferin corridor saw a drop in travel times co-incident with the pandemic’s onset, this effect was short-lived and travel times have grown in the past year, in some cases above April 2018 (the reference date for “before” conditions).
(Why April 2018? This was the point where bus tracking started the transition from the old “CIS” monitoring system to the new “Vision” system and historical tracking data for bus routes were not reliably available for an extended period.)
Dufferin has suffered from construction interference at Eglinton on-and-off for several years, although this effect varies. However, that is not the only location where slowdowns occurred. Any review of red lanes needs to consider which locations will provide the greatest benefit, although these tend to be places where resistance to dedicating capacity to transit will be very strong.
There is a consistent difference in travel speeds between local and express services, although for some periods and locations, the pre-pandemic service was faster.
Headways on Dufferin are quite irregular and much of the service is bunched. In late June, travel times rose markedly due to construction, and headway reliability declined even more. This condition probably persisted into July, and the data for that month are still to come.
Reliability issues occur in the off-peak and on weekends, not just during the traditional peak periods.
An important distinction in discussing transit priority lanes will be the degree to which they contribute to service reliability. The King Street transit mall was a very different location from the bus routes where red lanes are proposed. King Street has very frequent transit service and strong transit demand, not to mention pedestrian activity and crowd-generating events year-round. It also has parallel streets to which traffic could shift.
How much benefit can actually be achieved on Dufferin is quite another question. A political challenge lies in the fact that there are problem areas on Dufferin, but not all of the time. Red lanes are a 7×24 change in a street’s configuration and their overall benefit must be strong enough to survive challenges. A good analogy on King Street is the carve-out for taxis that was implemented and contributed to motorists generally ignoring the traffic rules even before 2020.Continue reading