Transit City Revisited (Part III, Updated)

(Updated at 3:00 pm, February 1.  I omitted a section on the proposed Sheppard subway extensions to Downsview and to Scarborough Town Centre.  This has been added.)

In this, the final installment of my review of Transit City, I will look at the unfunded (or underfunded) TTC transit projects.  Some of these spur passionate debates and the occasional pitched battle between advocates of various alternatives.  There are two vital points to remember through all of this:

  • Having alternatives on the table for discussion is better than having nothing at all.  It’s very easy to spend nothing and pass the day on comparatively cheap debates.  The current environment sees many competing visions, but most of them are transit visions.  The greatest barrier lies in funding.  Governments love endless debate because they don’t have to spend anything on actual construction or operations.  Meanwhile, auto users point to the lack of transit progress and demand more and wider roads.
  • Transit networks contain a range of options.  They are not all subways or all buses or all LRT.  Some are regional express routes while others address local trips.  Most riders will have to transfer somewhere, even if it is from their car in a parking lot to a GO train.  The challenge is not to eliminate transfers, but to make them as simple and speedy as possible.

I will start with the unfunded Transit City lines, and then turn to a range of other schemes and related capital projects. Continue reading

Service Changes Effective August 2, 2009

For mid summer, there are only a few schedule changes on the TTC network, and they take effect at the start of August running through to Labour Day weekend.

Changes for September are much more extensive, and I will deal with these in a separate post.

Bingham Loop Reconstruction

Due to the reconstruction of Bingham Loop, routes 502 Downtowner and 503 Kingston Road Tripper will be replaced by buses.  Combined streetcar service of 7’30” will be replaced by bus service of 6’00”.  The off-peak 20’00” headway is unchanged.

Diversions at Bingham Loop will change from time to time as construction progresses.  This also affects the 22A Coxwell, 12 Kingston Road, 322 Coxwell and 324 Victoria Park Night Buses.

Roncesvalles Reconstruction

Running times on the Roncesvalles shuttle bus will be increased at some times to compensate for actual start of construction and the diversion of southbound service via Dundas, Lansdowne and Queen.

501 Queen

The test of a modified step-back crewing operation will end, and normal crewing will resume on this route.

77 Swansea & 71 Runnymede

Running times on these interlined routes will be increased.  In the AM peak and midday, this will be done by reducing recovery times scheduled at terminals.  In the PM peak and evening, headways will be increased.  PM peak headways on the common section of the route will go from 10′ to 11′ with a change from 20′ to 22′ on the Runnymede branches.  A similar change will occur in the early evening, but at that time only half of the service runs south of Bloor.

Caribana

Additional service will operate for the parade on Saturday, August 1 on 511 Bathurst, 509 Harbourfront and 29 Dufferin, as well as express buses from Keele, Dundas West and Lansdowne Stations.  The 329/316 night routes will divert around the CNE grounds as described in the next section.

Additional service on 509 Harbourfront, 510 Spadina and 6 Bay is also planned for the Sunday, August 2 events on Toronto Island.  Whether these will actually occur given that the civic strike has shut down the ferries remains to be seen.  All of the added service is operated “at the divisional level”, meaning that the work is easily cancelled or reassigned if the party ends up at a new location.

Canadian National Exhibition

Additional service will operate on all of the usual routes including 511 Bathurst, 509 Harbourfront, 193 Exhibition Rocket and 29 Dufferin.  Overnight service on interlined routes 329 Dufferin and 316 Ossington will not operate through the CNE grounds, but will connect via Fraser and Liberty.

All Over The Waterfront (Update 4)

Update 1, March 17, 5:50 pm:  More details have been added about the various alignment options for the Waterfront West line through Parkdale.

Update 2, March 24, 7:55 pm:  Feedback from the TTC about Parkdale alignment details.  Details of Queen’s Quay public meetings added.

Update 3, March 25, 6:00 am:  The preferred option for the Kingston Road line is BRT.

Update 4, March 28, 11:10 pm:  The presentation from the March 25 public meeting on the Queen’s Quay redesign is now available online.  Note that this file is almost 18MB for those of you with slow network links.  The document is quite extensive, and I will review it in a separate post.

Transit planning on Toronto’s waterfront leaves much to be desired thanks to the patchwork of overlapping studies and projects for two decades.  Options for the portion between Parkdale and Bathurst Street have changed with the recent cancellation of the Front Street Extension, but no planning based on ths possibility has ever been conducted.

Throughout its history, planning for the waterfront has been fragmented and compromised to fit around whatever other projects had real political clout.  To help focus discussion of the waterfront as a whole, this post gives an overview of all of the projects and schemes from Long Branch to West Hill. Continue reading

Routes 501/502/503 in January 2008: Blended Service? (Updated)

Update:  The charts in this post have been updated so that each route has its own colour.  Thanks to a reader, Brent, who spotted the problem with rendering them only in B&W.

One of the little myths of TTC schedules is that routes with branches, or streets with overlapping routes, actually have something like “blended” service where some care is taken to even out vehicle spacings.

In some cases, the schedules do make an attempt to do this with identical headways on different services, but after that, the service is pretty much left to its own devices to “blend”.  For many years, the 502 and 503 services on Kingston Road had similar but slightly different headways.  This would mean that there were large scheduled gaps followed by pairs of cars during periods when the departure times at Bingham were almost in sync.  As it happened, this problem was at its worst right at the peak of inbound travel.  Poor service by design, and in time this was fixed.

An example of overlapping routes where the blend is troublesome lies on Eglinton Avenue east of Yonge where many services run together:  34 Eglinton East, 54 Lawrence East (with two branches of its own), 100 Flemingdon Park, 56 Leaside, 51 Leslie and 103 Mt. Pleasant North.  The 103 doesn’t overlap for long and there is no service on the 51 and 56 at some times (although this will change if the proposed Ridership Growth Strategy full-service standards come into effect in November 2008).

On Eglinton there are three major services, each on its own headway.  This causes scheduled bunching and wide gaps.  Given the different requirements of each route, this is inevitable, but it’s important to remember that many riders will see packs of buses and wide gaps and wonder just what is going on.

Down on Queen Street, there are three services merged westbound between Kingston Road and the Don River, and two services between the Don and McCaul.  It’s not uncommon to see cars from different routes running in pairs, and I started wondering just how frequently this happens. Continue reading

Routes 502/503 Downtowner / Kingston Road in January 2008

This is the second part of my analysis of service on routes 502/503, both of which provide weekday daytime service on Kingston Road.  For general comments about the route, please refer to the previous post.

Service in January was not as badly affected by snowstorms or shopping-related congestion as in December.  Except for the week after after New Year’s Day, there were no major storms disrupting service or creating barriers of cars parked foul of the tracks.  Even so, service on Kingston Road was far from ideal. Continue reading

Routes 502/503 Downtowner / Kingston Road in December 2007

The Kingston Road streetcar services are often forgotten by the TTC.  The service itself is highly unreliable, and for no apparent reason, this street has much worse service during weekdays than in the evening or on weekends.  Yes, the riding is a shadow of its former self, but with the almost complete lack of service at times, it’s no wonder.

In the recent review of the Queen car, the TTC totally ignored the question of Kingston Road.  How often should service run?  Should the Downtowner and Kingston Road Tripper be combined into a single route?  Is the line mismanaged, or worse, simply left to its own devices?

In this post, I will look at the service operated on the Kingston Road routes in December 2007, and I will follow up later this weekend with a review of January 2008.

Continue reading

Kingston Road LRT Update

The Environmental Assessment for the proposed Kingston Road LRT will hold three open houses on March 26, 27 and April 2.

The project’s March 2008 Newsletter includes the meeting locations, a map of various proposals and a breakdown of travel in the corridor.

There are two primary options depending on whether the line stays on Kingston Road all the way west to the existing streetcar network at Bingham Loop (Victoria Park & Kingston Rd.), or if it travels west along Danforth Avenue. Sub-options include connections to the subway at Victoria Park or Main Station.

At the risk of prejudging the evaluation, the route north from Kingston Road either to Main or to Victoria Park would be quite difficult. Victoria Park is a narrow, 3-lane residential street south of Gerrard. Main is a narrow, 4-lane residential street, and has a curved alignment (not shown on the map) and a grade down to Kingston Road. I believe that a connection north to either station from Kingston Road is not practical. (Anyone who wants to argue this point is urged to actually visit the neighbourhood or at least look at Google Maps before taking on this issue.)

The Danforth alignment is more straightforward, and also provides a better connection to the rapid transit network. In the origin-destination survey, only about 1/4 of the respondents showed their AM peak trip as going “downtown”.

Planning for the revised Victoria Park Station (warning – 10MB file) does not show a possible streetcar service, but could accommodate it.

Finally, the Walk 21 conference last fall included a paper about redesigning Kingston Road into a strong shopping and pedestrian community in the Cliffside area. This neighbourhood is now dominated by strip commercial and parking lots, but its transformation is supported by the business community with the new LRT line as a catalyst.

This project is in an odd state of existing in theory, but never appearing on maps showing our bold new Transit City network. This very strange situation makes many wonder whether there is any hope of the project actually being funded and built.

Transit City Update

At the TTC meeting last week, there was a long presentation about the status of the various Transit City projects. The TTC’s website contains only the two page covering report with absolutely no details, but lucky for you, my readers, here is an electronic copy. As and when the TTC actually posts this report on their own site, I will change the link here to point to the “official” copy.

Warning: 7MB download: Transit City February 2008

While there may be individual issues to prompt kvetching in this report, overall I am impressed by what is happening. For the first time in over 30 years, we have not only a unified plan, but a unified set of studies. I may be naïve to expect all of this will actually be built, but we are in far better shape knowing what might be than if only one or two lines were on the table.

Here is an overview of the report along with my comments.

Overall Priorities

Of the various Transit City proposals, three have been selected as the top priority for design, funding and construction: Sheppard East, Etobicoke Finch-West and Eglinton-Crosstown. All lines were scored against various criteria, and those coming out on top overall got the nod. This doesn’t mean work stops on the others, but at least we know the staging.

Projected total ridership is highest for Eglinton, Finch and Jane, with Sheppard East in 5th place. Partly, this is due to the length of the routes and their catchment areas. Note that Waterfront West brings up the rear, unsurprising given the area it draws from.

The lines rank roughly the same way for the number of car trips diverted to transit and the reduction in greenhouse gases. There’s something of a compound effect here as several measures all vary more or less as a function of ridership.

Transit City, again with the exception of Waterfront West, touches the City’s priority neighbourhoods where better transit is needed to increase mobility and economic opportunities for the residents.

What’s Missing

Notable by their absence are the Waterfront East lines (Queen’s Quay, Cherry Street and Port Lands) as well as the Kingston Road line in Scarborough. EAs are aready in progress for these, but they don’t make it onto the overall status report.

This is a shame because we must stop making distinctions between “Transit City” itself, and other related transit projects that will compete for attention and funding. Continue reading

Analysis of 503 Kingston Road Tripper (Updated)

In a previous post, I discussed the chaotic headway situation on the 502 Downtowner car.  Now, I will turn briefly to the 503 Kingston Road Tripper.

Updated Dec. 17 at 6:45 am:  Information about the combined 502 and 503 services on Kingston Road added.

For those who are unfamiliar with the service design for Kingston Road (the street), here is how things work between Queen Street and Bingham Loop (at Victoria Park). Continue reading

Analysis of 502 Downtowner: Part I — Headway Reliability

In past route reviews, I have started out looking at a few days’ operation in detail to get an overview of the route.  By now, readers are familiar with the conventions of the charts I have been creating, and for 502 Downtowner, I will jump in to the middle of the discussion.

This post gets headway information about Downtowner online in advance of the public meeting on Tuesday, December 4 about the Queen car of which the 502 is functionally a branch.

Downtowner (originally called Kingston Road) operates, on paper, from Bingham Loop at Victoria Park and Kingston Rd. to McCaul Loop west of Queen and University.  Although service on Kingston Rd, including the 503 Tripper interlined with it, was once quite frequent, headways are now much wider and reliability of service becomes crucial to the sense that there is any service at all.  Offpeak scheduled service is every 20 minutes, and this is one of the few places that has better service evenings and weekends (when the 22A Coxwell bus serves Kingston Road) than during weekdays.

The four charts here show the distribution of headways at Woodbine and at University.  Why did I choose these locations?

Woodbine shows us the service leaving Kingston Road inbound before it merges with Queen, as well as the effect of any short-turns at Woodbine Loop.  Yes, cars intended to serve Kingston Road are short-turned before they get more than a few hundred metres onto that street.

University shows the service eastbound from McCaul without various artifacts in CIS data near McCaul Loop, but more importantly at a location that is not polluted by CIS errors in tracking short turns on Downtowner.  As we will see in a future post, a lot of the 502 service never gets to Yonge Street, and this plays havoc with service as seen by would-be riders.

Westbound at Woodbine Ave.
Westbound at University Ave.
Eastbound at University Ave.
Eastbound at Woodbine Ave.

There are five pages for each chart of which the last shows the distribution of headways over the month.  Pages 1-4 show the detail for each week including trendlines.  Those trends generally follow the level of the scheduled headways, but the unreliability of service causes huge swings, especially in the offpeak when gaps of 30-40 minutes are common at Woodbine.  At University, the situation is much worse because of short-turns east of Yonge Street with gaps of nearly one hour on several days.

There is really very little to say about this situation.  After looking at the Queen car, I am running out of ways to express my disgust at what passes for service from the TTC.  I knew that service on the 502 was spotty, but actually seeing it “in print” is shocking.

In a coming post, I will look at the link times for this route and, yes, there is congestion on Kingston Road itself between Woodbine and Victoria Park.  This usually occurs during the afternoon rush hour and has little impact on the service quality at other times.

I will also review the combined 502 and 503 services in the morning and afternoon peak periods when, in theory, these lines combine to provide a blended, regular service.

As for the 502 itself, this is an excellent example of how the TTC destroys the attractiveness of transit service by cutting service and failing to properly manage the leftovers.  Back in the days when headways were five minutes or better, careful line management was less important because cars simply couldn’t get too far apart.  Now, with headways of 10 to 20 minutes, routes can become badly disorganized and riders have no idea when a vehicle might turn up.