Red Lanes for Jane Street?

The TTC and City of Toronto work on the RapidTO proposal for Jane Street has reached the public consultation stage. There will be an online session on Wednesday, March 8, 2023 from 6-8 pm, and in person Drop Ins on March 22 and 28. Details are on the City’s RapidTO page for the project.

The proposed area for transit priority lies between Eglinton and Steeles Avenues with varying degrees of transit separation.

Options For Discussion

Stop Removals

As with the Eglinton-Kingston-Morningside RapidTO lanes, the Jane Street proposal includes the removal of some bus stops in the name of speeding transit.

The TTC proposes removal of 7 of 38 stops (18%) even if no transit priority is implemented. For options 2 and 3 which provide a relatively high level of priority, there would be a total of 16 stops (42%) removed. For options 4 and 5 which provide a lesser degree of priority, 9 stops (24%) would be removed.

Of the 38 stops, 13 are shared by the local and express services and they are not affected. This means that there are 25 local stops, of which Options 2 and 3 would remove 16, or two-thirds of these stops.

The premise for the Option 1 locations is that these have no crossing protection and, therefore, create a risk for jaywalking pedestrians. The additional stop removals for Options 2 and 3 are justified as “optimizing” the spacing. The proposal changes the route substantially to the spacing of express stops.

The unanswered question is why these stops exist in the first place, and what local traffic pattern to they support. Should the change be to improve pedestrian protection and access rather than simply telling riders they must walk further to reach their bus?

Another important question here is how much of the supposed benefit of the project will be gained from stop removal as opposed to provision of an all-day reserved lane for transit. The TTC touts the travel time saving through transit priority, but does not net this out against increased walking distance to and from stops.

The City’s page includes maps showing the changes in the 4-minute walking distance catchment areas for transit stops. They do not include information about stop usage, population density or the effect on major traffic generators such as schools.

Revised Lane Allocation

Jane Street is different from the Scarborough RapidTO implementation in important ways:

  • Part of the Scarborough RapidTO area already had reserved bus lanes in peak periods.
  • Eglinton Avenue and Kingston Road are six lanes wide plus a median/left turn lane in places. Jane is generally a four-lane street with a shared left turn lane.

Here is the typical existing layout.

Options 2 and 3 reserve the curb lane for transit as well for vehicles turning onto and off of Jane Street.

Option 4 assigns the curb lane for high occupancy vehicles, and Option 5 leaves the street as is with selected widening for queue jump lanes where right turns delay traffic today.

How well any of this will be enforced is anyone’s guess, and the situation on King Street does not inspire confidence.

Travel Time Changes

The anticipated changes in travel time are summarized in the table below. Note that these are for trip over the full distance between Steeles and Eglinton.

The change in stop access times is averaged over the entire route. This dilutes the effect on riders at specific stops by including many riders whose access distance is unaffected. This understates the impact on those who are directly affected. (Note that at an assumed walking speed of 1m/sec the change in distance is equivalent to the change in walking time in seconds.)

The TTC has beaten the transit priority drum for queue jump lanes for years, with only a few examples to show for their efforts. In this case, the provision of such lanes is by far the most expensive option, the longest to implement because of road reconstruction, and the least beneficial to riders. This is really a tactic that should be reserved for key areas with very high transit vehicle congestion where there is very frequent service and a clear payback.

Option 1Option 2Option 3Option 4Option 5
Change in bus travel times (mins)0-5-4-2 to -3-2
Average change in stop access (m)None+55+55+45+44
Change in auto travel times (mins)0+3 to +4+2 to +3+2 to +3Minimal
Estimated Cost ($m)N/A$4.7$3.9$2.5$10.7
Time to Implement (years)N/A1 to 21 to 21 to 23 to 4

In a separate article, I will review the behaviour of the Jane 35/935 local and express services. A few key points from that review are worth making here:

  • The variation in headways (time between buses) can substantially exceed the travel time savings shown here. Operation of reliably-spaced service would improve the rider experience today with any priority savings coming as gravy on top. Conversely, if headway reliability is not improved, then the benefits of red lanes will be undermined by erratic service.
  • The difference in travel time for express and local buses over this section of Jane is comparable to the travel time saving foreseen in Option 2 (full bus priority). It is not clear whether this difference would persist especially in Options 2 and 3 where over 60% of the local stops are removed.

Service on 905 Eglinton East Express

Beginning March 26, 2023, the 905 Eglinton East Express bus will run less frequently due to a combination of the new TTC Service Standards and the route’s conversion from standard sized to articulated buses.

The vehicle change was not included in the information in the TTC’s overview report discussed at the February 28 Board Meeting, and service comparisons published by me and others were based on a reasonable assumption of equal vehicle capacity.

New Service Standards

The new standards were included in the 2023 Operating Budget [p. 26]:

Route adjustments will be based on ridership demand in the busiest portion of the route, in the busiest direction and hour within each time period of service.

The realigned service proposes to:

1) Resume pre-COVID vehicle crowding standards in peak periods, which were temporarily suspended during the pandemic to provide more physical distancing. (50 customers per bus, 130 customers per streetcar, 1000/1100 customers per train on average during the busiest hour)

2) Increase the pre-COVID vehicle crowding standard at off-peak periods with capacity for each route and time period planned based on the busiest hour for 45 customers per bus, 90 customers per streetcar, and 600-650 customers per train on average.

There is no reference to articulated bus capacities. In the previous service standards, the peak crowding value was 50% higher for artics, but the offpeak value was only 28% higher. The offpeak ratio was lower because the old standard was based on a seated load, and the artics have proportionately more standee space.

In the table below, the “new” values are based on the budget quotation above with the articulated bus values set at 50% higher than those for standard buses.

PeriodStandard OldStandard NewArtic OldArtic New

The TTC cites 50/bus peak and 45/bus offpeak in the quote above. Therefore the new artic standards would be 75/bus peak and 68/bus offpeak using a 50% capacity increase over standard buses.

The old and new hourly route capacities below are based on vehicle types and planned headways. Note that offpeak capacities generally go up because of the substantial increase in standees. Reductions in peak capacity are very small and could be due to assumptions I have made about the TTC’s vehicle capacity standards.

PeriodOld HdwyOld Bus/HrOld CapNew HdwyNew Bus/HrNew Cap
AM Peak9’15”6.529316’00”3.75281
PM Peak8’00”7.533814’00”4.3322
Early Eve11’00”5.519814’00”4.3292
Sat Morning10’00”6.021614’00”4.3292
Sat Afternoon10’00”6.021617’00”3.5238
Sun Morning12’00”5.018017’30”3.4231
Sun Afternoon10’00”6.021615’30”3.9265

Service Reliability

However, the problem with 905 Eglinton East is not confined to the capacity, but to the reliability of the service. We hear a lot about the wonders of Red Lanes for service, but it does not take long to find examples of erratic spacing between buses.

The following sections review January and February 2023 headways in detail looking at service departing eastbound from Kennedy Station and southbound from Ellesmere. The vital point here is that headway reliability is already not good on this route (as on many others in the network), and past experience shows that when scheduled service is reduced problems like this only get worse. Laissez-faire approaches to service management might work tolerably (at least in management’s eyes) for frequent service, but they fail when service is less frequent.

Service standards accept a six minute window (from -1 to +5 minutes) of “on time” performance relative to the schedule. Combined with the new headways proposed above, this will allow gaps of 20 minutes and more to be counted as “on time”. This is a severe penalty for riders, and can undo much of the benefit of “express” operation.

In many of the charts showing individual headways (left column in the collections below), note how often the data points are spread over a range from 0 to at least 15 minutes or more. The TTC routinely fails to attain the quality of service it claims as a target.

As the TTC adjusts schedules to its new budget limitations, the biggest problem for riders will remain the quality of service as shown in reliable headways (or not). Service quality could deteriorate and further inflame riders who already complain about unpredictable waits for and crowding on buses, or the TTC could actually make good on its claims of better service management.

I will return to this in May after the new schedules have been in operation for six weeks.

The remainder of this article contains detailed charts showing service quality on 905 Eglinton East for those who love all of the details.

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