Among various problems that became evident with the many route changes on May 7 was the deep mismatch between advertised and delivered service.
Both the 501 to Neville and the 505 to Bingham Loop were often missing in action short turning usually at Woodbine Loop (Kingston Road & Queen, named after the former racetrack).
Aside from the scenic tour the 501 Queen car takes via McCaul, Dundas and Broadview, plus the usual congestion on Dundas Street, another congested location was Broadview northbound between Queen and Dundas.
In that segment, three services, 501 Queen, 505 Dundas and 506 Carlton, were all queuing for the left turn at Dundas, compounded by 504/505 buses attempting to serve the northbound stop while blocking both lanes of traffic.
Under these conditions, it was impossible for any of these services to stay on time. The situation has been partly remedied by using traffic wardens to manage the intersection, but even that depends on ensuring that streetcars get priority all of the time despite the signal setup there.
As the week of May 7 wore on, I noticed that a lot of 506 Carlton cars were not getting east of Broadview. Riders complained about cars going out of service, and I received a tip from a reader about scheduled travel time changes.
This sent me into the electronic versions of TTC schedules which are published for use by trip planning apps and which also are the source for info on their own website. These files give a stop-by-stop schedule for each vehicle on a route and allow very fine-grained examination of the schedule design. What I found was quite surprising.
Over the portion of 506 Carlton common to the March 2023 schedules when all streetcars ran through to Main Station and the May 2023 versions with service diverting to Queen Street East, the running times were substantially shorter in May than in March. The schedule as designed could not be operated, and it has become common practice to turn most of the service back westward from Broadview. Here are charts comparing the scheduled travel times.
The eastbound comparison on the left covers the route from High Park to Broadview where streetcars turn off of their usual route. The westbound comparison covers the route from Parliament, where cars rejoin the route, to High Park. Each dot is one scheduled trip plotted with the departure time on the X-axis (horizontal) and the trip length on the Y-axis (vertical). Values move up and down over the day based on expected conditions on the route.
In almost every case the March travel time is longer than the May time. It is no surprise that streetcars have to be short-turned when the schedules work against them. How the schedules came to be designed this way is a mystery, but it creates big problems for riders.
This sort of thing cannot be corrected overnight, but in the meantime the TTC should formalize the route change and post notices everywhere so that riders know how the route will actually operate. New schedules will come in late July when Metrolinx closes Queen at Degrassi for preparatory work for GO corridor expansion and the Ontario Line, and all of the streetcar routes will shift north to Gerrard. With luck, they will reflect actual travel time requirements.
Shifting the westbound Carlton cars off of Broadview at Dundas reduces the number of turns that the intersection must handle per hour. A related issue will be the degree to which traffic wardens intervene to move transit vehicles through this choke point in the network. Both of these changes improve travel times for 501 Queen and 505 Dundas cars and could contribute to more reliable service east of Queen and Kingston Road to the two terminals. I will be monitoring this over coming weeks.
For the benefit of readers who don’t know the whole context, the 506 Carlton car normally operates to Main Station via Gerrard. During construction at Coxwell, it has been diverted via Broadview and Queen eastbound to Woodbine Loop. The westbound diversion runs via Queen, Broadview, Dundas and Parliament including a north-to-west left turn at Dundas because there is no track for a left turn northbound at Gerrard. (The TTC was planning to add one, but the message was lost somewhere in planning when the intersection was rebuilt.)
This is part of a larger set of diversions for construction projects that will evolve over coming months.
A Travel Time Comparison From TransSee
Darwin O’Connor has left a comment noting that you can get comparisons of scheduled and actual running times from his site TransSee.ca. Here is a chart comparing the situation for eastbound travel from High Park to Broadview in March (green) and May 2023 (red). The dots show actual travel times while the lines show the scheduled values.
Note that the green dots (March) are almost all below the green line, while the red dots (May) are almost all above the red line showing that with the new schedule cars would always be late, sometimes by a wide margin.
O’Connor notes that this type of analysis chart is available on his site free for the Toronto streetcar routes.
I already reach out to TTC because of the 501 diversion via Dundas. Since May 7, especially in the afternoon, the 501 is now more unreliable than ever. I had to walk home already four times after work because there was no 501 streetcar westbound. I don’t understand why TTC is not splitting the 501 into two routes: East To Church Street and back over King Street and West turning at McCaul. They are operating the buses anyhow and most of the people are getting off at Queen and McCaul. It would make the 501 a lot more reliable if not all streetcars have to go all the way to their final destination. I am looking forward what TTC is going to respond, if they do so.
Steve: Yes. The insistence on the streetcar making a subway connection on the west side even if it is simpler and faster to just walk east from McCaul produces a bad route design. An east end route could loop via Church, Richmond and Victoria making for a short walk to Queen Station. My gut feeling is that even after the Adelaide track is available, they should still run a split route.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thank you so much for these posts Steve. I thoroughly read each one.
Keep up the good work! I’m sure it’s quite time consuming and a lengthy process to condense into a single post.
Steve: Many thanks!
So, the 506 is turning around via south on Broadview, west on Queen, north on Parliament, with many cars stacked up taking a layover on Parliament…but wasn’t the Don River bridge on Queen supposed to be closed? Am I missing something, or doesn’t that mean a Kingston Road car could be running through to King for now?
Steve: My understanding is that the bridge will close this coming weekend. They will have to turn back via Dundas rather than Queen.
Lots of confused passengers in the east end, and you need a PhD to translate the streetcars’ esoteric language: “Queen via Dundas” is going the same way as “Dundas via Queen”; “505 Short turn to Victoria” is actually going all the way to Victoria Park; and “Not in service” means a Carlton car that may or may not pick you up at Parliament and Dundas, and then tell everyone on the west side that it’s going via Queen. But at least the notices at stops help you understand last weekend’s diversions around a marathon.
Steve: Oh you are such a cynic 😉
LikeLiked by 2 people
Other non-North American countries put their trams on a right-of-way, leaving just one traffic lane for automobiles, on their narrow streets. Only a raised dividing strips separates the trams from the single lane automobile traffic, allowing for emergency vehicles to use the right-of-way when needed.
However, in Toronto, the single-occupant automobile has a higher priority than public transit, so the city refuses to provide priority for our streetcars. View this video from Melbourne, Australia to see how they give priority to their trams.
Steve: There is a larger problem than auto priority. Merchants scream if they lose parking, and this has been the bane of plans to improve transit flow on the streetcar lines. With parking, the streets are effectively one lane each way anyhow, but take away that parking and the world will end. There is a bona fide issue with deliveries, taxis, etc., and so it’s not a straightforward issue. King Street was a special case because of the development pattern along the Bathurst-Jarvis segment. Dundas and Queen are quite a different story.
LikeLiked by 2 people
I’ll make a guess here and it’s along the lines of planners not setting foot outside their office walls in millennia. End result their cafeteria napkin-based planning is out of touch with the real world.
They’ve already backpedaled with the reinstatement of the partial 503 route. If they have no intent of operating the 506 past Broadview they need to go all the way and pull the 505 back to Woodbine and push the 503/22B back out to Bingham.
Any guesses on how many days after the 519 starts running before they realize they screwed up there too and change its eastern loop?
Steve: On the schedules, I suspect someone picked up an old set of timing points for the 506. As for the routings, the next major change is in late July when the Queen/Degrassi bridge closes for Metrolinx work. That’s the next chance for a major rethink of the diversions. Also by then the Don Bridge on Queen will be open again, but construction will remain on Broadview until early 2024.
LikeLiked by 2 people
The Link Times chart on TransSee can show this data with both actual and scheduled travel times.
Here is an example.
This link can be slow to come up. Trying again helps.
This a free for streetcar routes, but for bus routes it requires TransSee premium.
Steve: I have placed a copy of the chart with comments in the article. Thanks!
I was reminded to check back here to read the comments. A picture‘s worth a thousand swear words: (A thousand and forty three with inflation).
LikeLiked by 1 person
I have been wondering why the TTC diverts 506 Carlton to Woodbine Loop instead of simply turning back west at Broadview and Dundas. That would relieve some congestion on Broadview south of Dundas.
I’ve seen the traffic wardens at Broadview and Dundas. They are standing there doing nothing but chatting with the crossing guard. Their presence is a joke when 4 Streetcars and 3 buses are waiting on a northbound light that doesn’t even have an advance green signal. If the city actually cared then the light would be an advance and the wardens (of which there are 2) do their jobs. Shame on the city.
LikeLiked by 1 person
I’m surprised to see that on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, that almost every 506 turned at Broadview. Though I guess that’s one way to fix the impossible schedule.
If I was a cynic, I’d think that the completely impossible and grossly incompetent new 506 schedule was an attempt by some staff to subvert the planned detour, and force it to use the cheaper (less vehicles) turn at Broadview.
So not gross incompetence, but dark state genius wagging the dog.
Especially as the 505 schedule looks quite reasonable (though there’s too many cars turning at Woodbine, causing gaps on Kingston Road).
Seems optimistic to think that they’d fix this for the next board, given that last summer’s 506 schedule was so poor … and only slightly tweaked all summer.
On the sliver-lining side, the 506 bus substitution schedule is very good, and service has been excellent; it really helps that the bus never has to deal with downtown and west-side traffic! For people like me whose trips on 506 are mostly local, instead of downtown, it’s great. I can’t wait until it starts going up to Coxwell station as well! That will save me some walking!
You should do this comparison on Lakeshore weekend GO train service pre-covid, versus today. If I’m correct weekend travel times have increased by 5 minutes. Trains are constantly dwelling at Burlington, Oakville, Clarkson, Mimico, Scarborough, Pickering, and Ajax. All due to this extra travel time. I’m surprised no one has really called them out yet.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Matthew Howe wrote:
Conspicuously so! I was on the Kitchener line outbound today. Got on at Bloor off at Malton late morning. No stops at Etobicoke North…one would presume a fast trip…no? No!
Same thing, lengthy stops at other stations. In the event it’s just as well, as since the train went straight-through Etobicoke North, one area of the psyche registers it, the arithmetic side doesn’t, and I had to suddenly unlock my bike, and pop on the front wheel as the train brakes were squealing. I got off ‘just in time’…only to realize the train sat there for close to five minutes. lol…and three minutes into that, a woman who’d “been on my phone” ran off the train. Two of us saved by the late bell.
Track lights were green, but the ‘conductor’ was going by his watch.