A recent exchange on Twitter piqued my curiosity with the question “Is the Spadina car slower than it used to be”. A quick review of my archived tracking data for this route gave a simple answer “yes”, but there is more going on that just the speed of vehicles.
A related question dates back to a 2005 Globe article by Stephen Wickens comparing travel times on the 511 Bathurst streetcar which operates in mixed traffic to times for 510 Spadina which operates with “transit priority”. The Bathurst car won, much to the TTC’s displeasure.
Travel Times on Spadina: 2006 to 2021
Regular readers of this site will be familiar with the travel time comparisons I have published for many routes, most recently on RapidTO corridors. On parts of the streetcar network, I have been collecting data for many years, and this allows a review of route behaviour over an extended timeline.
The following charts show travel times between Bloor and Front Streets on Spadina subdivided by hour of the day at various times from late 2006 to mid 2021. The screenlines for these measurements are in the middle of intersections, and so a time “at King” is the time at which a streetcar crossed the intersection. Similar, “at Bloor” is the time a car passed under Bloor Street in the entryway to Spadina Station.
Each block of values contains monthly averages within one hour. For example, the leftmost block below contains data for the hour from 6 to 7 am. The bright red column within each block at January 2016 corresponds to the point where Flexity streetcars officially replaced the older CLRVs.
The bright yellow and bright pink columns (May 2015 and 2021 respectively) are months used for the CLRV vs Flexity comparison in the next section.
Because there is so much data, I have split each direction into two panels with data before 3 pm in the first, and after in the second. (Click to see an expanded version.)
Data for weekends are similar to weekdays. The charts are included in the full chart sets at the end of the article.
There is a consistent pattern over the years, although there is a more sustained rise in travel times northbound than southbound particularly later in the day and evening.
CLRV vs FLexity Speeds
January 2016 brought the schedule change where headways and running times were based on Flexity operation rather than CLRVs. Charts in this section compare operating speeds for mid-May 2021 with those for mid-May 2015 when the Flexity fleet was very small and almost all vehicles on Spadina were CLRVs.
The charts below are a selection of times through the day from the AM peak, midday, PM peak and mid-evening on weekdays. In each case the red line shows the May 11-22, 2015 data (mainly CLRVs) while the green line shows May 10-21, 2021 (Flexity) speeds. (For the full hour-by-hour charts, download the files linked at the end of the article.)
For southbound charts, the direction of travel is right to left. There is a regular sawtooth pattern corresponding to the location of stops. Speeds are high as cars accelerate away from a stop and then fall as they approach the next one. The effect of double stopping with nearside stops for signals and farside stops to serve passengers is clear.
The dotted lines show overall trends in values, but they are not moving averages (which would be very jagged due to the constant change in values). For the most part, the red 2015/CLRV speeds are higher than the green/Flexity speeds with a few exceptions.
A consistent characteristic of the CLRV data is that speeds are faster on departure from stops and particularly leaving Spadina Station and climbing the ramp up to Sussex. An important distinction here is that this could be due to inherently better acceleration and driving practices on the CLRVs, or to the pervasive slow orders now in place on all intersections with other streetcar routes. With most stops being farside, the better CLRV acceleration probably dominates this effect.
Note that these charts do not show dwell times.
On the northbound charts, the direction of travel is left to right. As with the southbound data, the CLRV trend lines (red) tend to be higher than for Flexity data (green), but not by as much.
Bathurst vs Spadina
This section compares weekday travel speeds for the period May 10-21, 2021 on routes 510 Spadina and 511 Bathurst. As in the section above, four hours are shown as examples and the full sets of hourly charts covering 6 am to midnight are linked at the end of the article. Both routes operate entirely with Flexitys, the only streetcars remaining in service, and so any differences are related to route characteristics, not to vehicle type.
In the charts below, the 511 Bathurst data are shown in green, while the 510 Spadina data are in red. In almost all cases, the Bathurst speeds are higher than on Spadina.
An important issue about minor stops is that if a streetcar does not have to drop out of the regular traffic flow, it will probably stay in the “green wave” even without transit priority at signals associated with those stops. On Bathurst this can make for speedier trips than on Spadina where farside stops guarantee that streetcars will fall out of the green wave. The absence of transit priority can then prevent streetcars from getting through the next intersection without being held.
The Bathurst cars have several advantages over those on Spadina:
- Bathurst stops are nearside, and when a streetcar crosses an intersection, it does not have to slow down again until the next stop. Many Spadina stops are farside, and streetcars have the double penalty of stopping twice and waiting for left turn traffic which has priority.
- Between Bloor and Harbord, both routes have one stop at Lennox/Bathurst and Sussex/Spadina. This can be a double stop for southbound Spadina cars, but a single stop for Bathurst cars.
- Although both streets have stops between Harbord and College at Willcocks and Ulster respectively, Spadina cars must operate more slowly around Spadina Crescent while Bathurst cars have a straight run. Also, Bathurst cars do not always stop at Ulster because of low demand.
- Between College and Queen, both streets have a stop between College and Dundas at Nassau, and they each have a stop between Dundas and Queen at Sullivan/Spadina and Robinson/Bathurst. Overall, the Bathurst cars win out, but not by as much as further north.
- At Adelaide Street, Spadina cars can be held by south-to-east left turning traffic that has priority over streetcars even though there is no streetcar stop here. Spadina cars no longer serve the Charlotte Street loop regularly, and most southbound streetcars are headed straight through the intersection.
- Bathurst is a narrower street than Spadina with much simpler intersections.
The direction of travel in the southbound charts is right to left. In most cases, except where noted, the legend on the charts refers to the intersection with Bathurst. King and Bloor Streets are used as references because these are at the same relative location crossing both streets. Other intersections are slightly offset due to the wandering nature of some streets notably Front, Richmond, Dundas and College.
Northbound charts are read from left to right, the direction of travel. Bathurst cars do well compared to Spadina cars in sections north of King, between Queen and Dundas, and in much of the distance from College to Bloor. Some of this is due to lighter demand at intermediate stops and some to intersection design.
Full Chart Sets
Travel times for 510 Spadina 2006 to 2021:
Speed comparison for 510 Spadina May 2015 vs May 2021:
Speed comparison for 510 Spadina vs 511 Bathurst May 2021: