A few weeks ago, in a conversation on Twitter, there was a remark about the tendency of express and local buses to run in pairs on the Keele route. Normally, when I do service analyses, I keep the express and local routes separate partly to see each service on its own, and partly because some riders can only use the local service at the origin or destination of their journeys.
That comment led me to examine the two services in the same set of charts to see how they behaved. First off, however, a look at them separately. An important issue for all local/express pairs is that the chronic unreliability of TTC headways means that there is no “blended” service in any sense even when it is scheduled that way. Moreover, the difference in travel times over the length of an express route is usually fairly small. Achieving that “saving” can be offset by the unpredictable wait for an express bus to actually show up.
The data presented here are from June 2022.
Updated August 18, 2022 at 11:55pm: Charts of travel time averages for express and local services have been added at the end of the article.
Service on 41/941 Keele
Service on Keele is provided by local route 41 from Keele Station to Pioneer Village Station. This runs at all hours, all days. The express service on route 941 runs from Keele Station to Finch West Station. It operates only on weekday daytimes. Express trips run with articulated buses while locals run with standard sized vehicles.
The schedules in effect for both services during June 2022 took effect in early May.
The express service is relatively infrequent with just over 4 trips/hour compared to 7-to-9 trips/hour for the locals. The wait for an express bus, even on the scheduled headway, can be considerable and could include letting one or two locals pass by the stop.
The two routes are the same except for their northern termini. Northbound, buses operate north on Keele to St. Clair, jog east to Old Weston Road, then north to Rogers Road and west to rejoin Keele Street. Southbound, buses run west on Rogers from Keele to Weston Road, then south onto Keele Street at St. Clair. This arrangement reflects the gap in Keele Street between Rogers and St. Clair, as well as the difficulty of using Old Weston Road southbound because of the streetcar right-of-way at St. Clair. (Keele buses used to operate both ways via Old Weston Road.)
41 Keele Local Service
Here are headway charts showing the distribution of headways by week on the local service northbound. As a general note, the average values in the first chart of each set, and the trend lines in the weekly charts, both lie roughly at the level of the scheduled service shown above. This indicates that all of the service was operating (i.e. the number of buses per hour was what was expected), but the scatter in values shows the actual bus-by-bus headways riders would experience.
Where the dots in the weekly charts are close to the x-axis (zero line), these are buses that left the terminal as a pair. They did not become pairs (or worse) through congestion enroute.
The southbound service at Finch is shown below.
A few points to note about these data:
- There are wider average headways in the 6-8am period in weeks 4 and 5 of June, particularly northbound. This corresponds to a new schedule period, but there was no actual change in the advertised service. Moreover, tracking data on the TransSee website (which archives tracking data for the TTC and other systems) does not reflect the wider headways from June 20 onward, and this appears to be a problem with the tracking data supplied to me by the TTC. (Note that some functions of TransSee including display of operating charts are a paid service. TTC streetcar routes can be viewed free of charge as a teaser.)
- The standard deviation of headways (a measure of how scattered the values are) lies in the 3-5 minute range northbound from Keele Station, and in the 4-6 minute range southbound at FInch. These values grow slowly over the course of the day. The actual scatter of headway values can be seen in the week by week charts.
- There is no particular “spike” in values through the day and no individual day stands out from the others. This indicates that there is no specific period of severe headway disruption, nor was there any time-limited event (such as short term roadwork) only affecting a few days’ service.
941 Keele Express Service
Here are the headways northbound from Keele Station for the express service.
And here are the southbound headways at Finch.
- The same problem with missing data occurs on the express service in the last two weeks of June.
- The standard deviation values lie in a wide range up to 10 minutes showing extremely irregular departures from both terminals. This is reflected in the scatter of data points over a range from under 5 to over 25 minutes. There is no way that this service could be called “reliable”, and waiting for an express bus could be extremely frustrating.
- As with the local service, there is no “spike” in values either on a repeated daily basis nor for a short term congestion problem, and the behaviour shown here is typical for any day.
Daily Service Charts
This section includes charts tracking the movement of buses on both the local and express services on three days in June. Note that data for early on June 29 are incomplete as mentioned above.
- The solid lines on the charts are local trips, and the dashed lines are express trips.
- There are few instances of chronic congestion. These show up as places where the slope of a line becomes more horizontal because buses spend more time in one place. These show up regularly northbound to Lawrence and southbound at Wilson, as well as in the segment from St. Clair southward.
- On most trips all day long, buses are able to lay over at terminals for a period. Quick in-and-out turnaround show up as a “V” in the chart whereas a layover shows up as a horizontal line joining the arrival and departure. Generally speaking, inadequate scheduled travel times are not an issue here.
- The comparison between local and express trips is easy to make by tracking the degree to which solid (local) and express (dashed) lines diverge. Express buses often pass only one local, sometimes none, during their trips. On occasion, an express and a local will run together as a pair.
- Although there are gaps and bunches visible in these charts, they do not persist as they do on some other routes and tend to get sorted out for return trips at the next terminus.
Thursday, June 2
The charts below show the combined operation of the 41 local and 941 express services on June 2.
Tuesday, June 14
Here is June 14, a few weeks later. This is quite similar to June 2 above.
Wednesday, June 29
Data for the early part of June 29 (and for other days from June 20 onward) are incomplete before about 7:30 am. Compare the tracking data from the chart below with comparable periods above. On June 2 an 14, buses appear as one would expect at a terminal for their first trip. On June 29, some of them appear midroute and all of them later than scheduled.
The cause of this problem is under investigation between me and TTC IT staff as it affects multiple routes and continues into July.
Once we get past the early morning period, the tracking data are similar on June 29 to other days.
Local and Express Comparative Travel Time Averages
The following charts show the average travel times between a point north of Keele Station and just north of Finch (and just south of Finch West Station) for the local and express services. The difference between their values is roughly five minutes fairly consistently. Also, the standard deviation of the values is quite consistent over the time of day and weeks of the month with values of 3 to 5 minutes.
This means that most of the travel time values will lie in a band 6 to 10 minutes wide. The very best express times versus the worst in local times can better the difference in averages, but overall the values are consistent with the pattern shown above that express buses typically make up one local headway or less in their journey.