King Street Update: July 2018

This article is part of a continuing series tracking the behaviour of transit service on King Street during the pilot implementation of pedestrian and transit priority measures. The last update was in May, and I skipped June because there was little new to report.

Although we are now into the summer when conflicts with pedestrians and space constraints from recent takeovers of curb lanes with a variety of artworks and seating areas, travel times on King have not been affected. In fact, thanks to the re-activation of Transit Priority Signalling (TSP) at various locations on July 7, travel times have actually dropped during some periods.

Peak Travel Times

Continuing the tradition of these articles, here is the travel time chart for the 50th (median) and 80th percentile values westbound from Jarvis to Bathurst from September 2017 to the end of July 2018.

The collection of charts for five periods during the day for the two directions are linked here:

The following service disruptions show up in the charts above for the June-July period:

  • June 14, 20 and 26 eastbound: Congestion eastbound to University Avenue from 5-6pm (typically this is caused by north-south traffic blocking the intersection)
  • June 26 eastbound: Service held at Church Street just before 2pm (and therefore counting in the 1-2pm travel time stats) by a fallen overhead wire.
  • June 26 westbound: Service held at Peter Street at about 10:40 pm by a collision.
  • July 10 westbound: Service held east of Bathurst Street at about 1:15 pm by a collision.
  • July 25 westbound: Service held near Church Street just before 9 am. Reason unknown (no TTC eAlert was issued).

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Why Can’t I Get On My Bus (II)

Correction August 15, 2018: Off peak service for the Westway branch of 52 Lawrence has been corrected.

In Part I of this article, I reviewed the evolution of bus and streetcar fleet capacity measured by scheduled service over the period from 2006 to 2018. The central point was that there has been little improvement in the overall peak period capacity operated on the bus network for much of the past decade. On the streetcar network, two recent changes – the addition of buses to supplement streetcars and the replacement of old cars by new, larger ones – have provided some peak period capacity growth. However, in both cases, this growth is small seen over the long run. Off-peak service has improved more because the system is not fleet-constrained outside of the rush hours, but there is still a budgetary limitation which affects how much staff are available to operate these vehicles.

In this article, I will review several major suburban bus routes to compare service in January 2009 when the benefits of the Miller-era Ridership Growth Strategy had kicked in with service operated in January 2018. Given the results seen in Part I, it was no surprise that when I compiled this information, many routes have less capacity today than they did a decade ago and improvements where they do exist are not major. That is not a recipe for system growth. How did this happen?

First off, when Rob Ford became Mayor, he rolled back the RGS Service Standards and service just stopped improving. Several off-peak improvements were undone, but these affected periods outside of the range reviewed in Part I (mainly evenings and weekends). Ironically, the streetcar system suffered less because, thanks to the vehicle shortage (even a decade ago), the loading standards for streetcars in the peak period had not changed. There were few RGS improvements to unwind. When John Tory reinstated some of the RGS standards, this allowed growth to resume, but almost entirely in the off-peak period because neither the bus nor the streetcar fleets had spare vehicles.

Another more subtle problem lies in TTC scheduling. As congestion built up on routes, the reaction was to stretch existing headways (the space between vehicles) rather than adding more buses to a route. This responded to the vehicle crunch, but it gradually trimmed service levels across the system. Even though the same number of buses were in service, with fewer passing a point per hour the capacity of service riders saw declined. The TTC made excuses for this practice as simply running buses to the conditions, but the long term effect was to cut service to keep operational demands within the available fleet size.

The balance of this post summarizes the data for each route. The full set of tables is linked below as a PDF.

2009_2018_ServiceComparisons_V2

A few notes about these tables:

  • Services are grouped by corridor because, in some cases, more than one route operates along a street. For example, Lawrence Avenue West has been served by 52 Lawrence, 59 Maple Leaf and 58 Malton (now folded into the 52).
  • Service capacity is shown as buses/hour. The only adjustment for vehicle size is that articulated buses count as 1.5 so that 6 artics per hour is the same, from a capacity point of view, as 9 regular-sized buses. Where a headway is followed by the letter “A” in the tables, this means that artics are operated.
  • In some cases, routes have a branch where every “nth” vehicle takes a longer trip. For example, some of the services running through to York Region have every 3rd, 4th or 5th bus going beyond the “standard” destination. These do not provide net additional service where the branches rejoin in the same way as a branching route where half of the buses go one way and half the other. In other words, if a 5 minute service runs to Steeles and every 4th bus runs beyond on a 20 minute headway, the headway to Steeles is still only 5 minutes, or 12 buses per hour. These cases are noted with an asterisk “*” in the tables.
  • Some routes were affected by the opening of the Vaughan extension. In these cases, data are shown for November 2017, the last set of schedules before the routes changed, so that the evolution of service right up to that point is clear.

The information for these comparisons is from the TTC Scheduled Service Summaries:

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Broadview Avenue Reconstruction Summer 2018 (Updated August 9, 2018)

This summer, the TTC will rebuild the special work at the intersections of Broadview with Dundas and with Gerrard, as well as replacing the tangent track between these two locations. Minor repairs are also planned between Gerrard and Danforth.

This post will track the progress of the work.

As of August 9, the TTC has announced that the intersection will reopen to traffic and normal routes for 504 King, 505 Dundas and 506 Carlton will resume on Sunday, August 12 at 7:00 am.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

By the fourth day of the project, the old intersection had been demolished and the new concrete foundation was nearly ready for the new track.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

On day seven, the intersection is fully in place, and work is in progress on various connecting tracks.

 

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

These photos illustrate the first stage in replacing track that was built with the now-standard three-layer technique. At the bottom is a concrete slab, and in the middle layer are steel ties with mount points for Pandrol clips that hold the rail in place. The top  layer of concrete goes from the top of the ties to the rail head.

In the first photo below, the machine is cutting away the concrete between a pair of rails to the depth of the first layer and throwing the spoil into a dump truck. The second photo shows the resulting structure with the rails still in place, but only a narrow band of concrete on either side. In the third photo, the remaining concrete is broken away from the track.

 

Friday, July 13, 2018

The photos below work north from Dundas Street. In some of them, the old track has been removed while it others it remains in place. The last photo shows the result after the track is removed with the connection points for the Pandrol clips exposed but not yet cleaned up for new track installation.

 

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The photos below show the progress of attaching new rail strings to the pre-existing structure.

In the first and second photos, the attachment points for the Pandrol clips are exposed, but the rail strings have not yet been placed.

In the third photo, the rail is positioned on the ties, and the rubber vibration insulation has been placed around the rail.

In the fourth photo, the clips have been installed locking down the rails.

In the fifth photo, covers have been added over the clips, and concrete work (in the foreground) has already begun. A gauge bar is used to verify the rail spacing. Although the attachment points for the clips effectively dictate the gauge, there is a bit of play, and the rail is checked and adjusted if necessary before the concrete pour.

In the sixth photo, the concrete pour is underway north from Dundas.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Demolition of the old intersection at Broadview & Gerrard is well underway. Work began on July 24.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Most of the concrete foundation is in place ready for track to arrive.

Monday, July 30, 2018

The central diamond had been placed and part of the southern quadrant was roughly in position when I visited about noon. The diamond is unusual in that it is not a 90 degree crossing, and there the curve coming out of the east side begins within the diamond itself. Also, the intersection slopes from south to north.

The only other intersections with a non ninety degree diamond are at Bathurst & Queen, Dundas & McCaul and College & Spadina.  [Thanks to reader “Max” who pointed out the Dundas/McCaul location, and L. Wall who pointed out Spadina & College both of which I missed in the original article.]

August 2, 2018

At midday, the intersection was almost completely assembled with only the approaches still in progress. The City of Toronto tweeted yesterday that the intersection work is ahead of schedule and should open on August 20.

Great news! Broadview & Gerrard St E expected to fully reopen by Aug 20, ahead of schedule as crews make excellent progress on TTC track replacement. Thank you for your patience during this work. [Tweet from @TorontoComms August 1, 2018]

Diversions in Progress

The assembly of the intersection will likely take the balance of the week through to August 4, and then there are the connection tracks to the adjacent structures. Once concrete is placed, it would be about a week before before traffic could return. This has now been announced for August 12.

504 King and 505 Dundas buses have shifted to use the roads connecting to Gerrard at St. Matthews. 506 Carlton buses divert via River, Dundas and Logan both ways. When the intersection reopens to traffic, the replacement bus service will operate on the normal route. Streetcars return to 504 and 506 on Sunday, September 2.

Ooops!

The TTC has confirmed that although the Board approved addition of a north-to-west curve at this location back in 2010 (along with other changes), corporate amnesia caused this to be omitted from the current work.

King Street Update: May 2018 Data (Part II)

This article continues the analysis of the King Street Pilot with May 2018 data. Part I is in a separate article.

Many topics are covered here, and the intended audience is those readers who want to look at the details of how routes operating on King Street behave. The sections include:

  • Headway reliability on 504 King both in the downtown pilot area and at the terminals.
  • Short turning on the 504 King car.
  • Headway reliability on 514 Cherry and 503 Kingston Road.
  • Headway behaviour for the consolidated 504, 514 and 503 services downtown.
  • A detailed review of 504 King operation on certain days in May 2018.

A common factor through this article is that while travel times in the pilot area have improved thanks to the transit priority scheme, the headways on all affected services are erratic, especially on 514 Cherry and 503 Kingston Road.

The pilot transit project on King is intended to make service more attractive to riders, and this can occur in various ways:

  • Travel times through downtown are shorter and more reliable than during the pre-pilot period.
  • Route capacity has improved partly from schedule changes and recapture of excess travel time, but mainly through the replacement of the older streetcars used on King with larger ones, primarily the new Flexity cars.
  • Headway reliability (consistent times between cars) can be improved if random congestion events are reduced or eliminated, and reliable travel times lessen the need for short turns.

No one change by itself “solves” King Street’s problems, and all three are needed to achieve benefits that will attract riders.

An important part of a transit journey is the time spent waiting for a vehicle. One reason the subway is so popular, aside from its speed, is that trains come frequently and reasonably reliably, although this has become a sore point in recent years. Surface route reliability has always been an issue, and although trips may be faster, there is still the issue of how reliably vehicles actually show up to carry riders.

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King Street Update: May 2018 Data

This article is part of a continuing series reviewing operations on King Street during the transit priority pilot. In Part I here, I review travel times and line capacity in the King Street Pilot’s area. In a follow-up Part II, I will look at headway reliability not just downtown but on the outer ends of the 504 King, 514 Cherry and 503 Kingston Road lines, as well as details of 504 King operation on days when it was badly disrupted.

There has been enough accumulation of data since November 2017 to establish that the pilot has a benefit, although the exact nature varies depending on location, weather and other factors. I will not publish this analysis again until August by which time the effect, if any, of the revised route structure to take effect on Sunday, June 24 will have been in place long enough to accumulate sufficient data. By then there will also be a number of major downtown events to use as reference points in how well the pilot area sustained its transit service.

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505 Dundas Streetcars vs Buses: Part II – Headway Reliability and Capacity

In Part I of this series, I reviewed travel times for the 505 Dundas service operating with streetcars and buses. As I have reported for other routes, the buses are slightly faster only when they operate on uncongested sections of a route where the more aggressive driving style of bus operators gives them a slight advantage. On the portions of the routes in the older city, generally west of Parliament Street, there is little difference between the two modes.

This article reviews service reliability and capacity on Dundas.

As with the analysis of 506 Carlton, the headway data are presented in three formats to illustrate different aspects of route behaviour.

As a general observation, the reliability of service on Dundas has not been good for several years and this worsened during the period of construction diversions in 2017. The TTC does not report on service quality, and when they do, it is on an averaged basis that hides a great deal of the variation that, to riders, translates to “where is my streetcar” and disbelief in the “official story”.

Service is ragged leaving the terminals, and it becomes more bunched and “gappy” as  it moves across the line. Buses run in pairs commonly, even from terminals, in direct contradiction of the TTC’s goal that service be evenly spaced at least at the ends of the line.

There are a lot of charts in this post, and I have included them all so that readers can select items of interest.

As for the capacity charts, they show how Dundas has received no improvement in route capacity for years and, if anything, capacity has fallen.

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TTC Service Changes Effective Sunday, June 24, 2018

The June 24 schedule change brings a major upheaval to the streetcar routes and the usual round of summer service cutbacks.

2018.06.24_Service_Changes

Construction Projects Ending

Queensway & Lakeshore

Streetcar service will, after a long absence, be restored west of Humber Loop. The new service design is similar to the pre-shutdown arrangement where a separate service, the old “507 Long Branch” in everything but name, will operate between Humber and Long Branch Loops. Late in the evening and overnight, streetcar service will run through from Neville to Long Branch.

                         Weekdays   Saturdays   Sundays
First EB through trip    11:02 pm   10:42 pm    10:32 pm
First WB through trip    10:09 pm   10:00 pm     9:52 pm

During the AM peak, five trips will operate through to downtown via Queen arriving at Yonge Street starting at 8:05 am and every 15 minutes after to 9:05.

Midday service at 9 minutes will be slightly better than the 10-minute network would require because the dead-head time to and from Russell Carhouse for one car is not worth the effort.

Recovery time for the “Long Branch” service will be scheduled at Humber Loop to maximize the overlap with the main service on 501 Queen for transfers between cars.

Gerrard & Parliament

With the completion of construction at Gerrard and Parliament, the 65 Parliament and 506 Carlton routes return to normal through this location. However, the 506 Carlton will divert a bit further east (see below).

New Construction

Broadview Avenue from Dundas to Gerrard

The track on Broadview from Dundas to Gerrard, including both intersections, will be rebuilt over the summer months. This affects many routes.

For the duration of the project, the 504 King, 514 Cherry and 503 Kingston Road routes will operate as a single “504” route with three services:

  • 504A streetcars will operate from Dundas West Station to Distillery Loop. This will be scheduled entirely with low-floor cars to preserve accessibility on Cherry Street. Note that the ramps will not be deployed on Roncesvalles because the “bump out” stops are incompatible with the ramps. This problem will be fixed in 2019 while streetcar service is removed from Roncesvalles for the intersection reconstruction at Queen Street.
  • 504B/C streetcars will operate from Dufferin Loop to Bingham Loop (weekdays daytime) and to Woodbine Loop (evenings and weekends). This service will use CLRVs.
  • 504D buses will operate from Broadview Station to King & Parliament.

Overnight service will operate with a 304 streetcar service from Dundas West Station to Woodbine Loop, and a bus service from King & University to Broadview Station. The streetcar service will be scheduled to use low-floor cars.

With the shuffling of buses between routes, the 502 Downtowner peak period service will revert to streetcar operation for the summer using CLRVs.

While construction is underway south of Gerrard to Dundas, diversion routes will be:

  • 504D King bus: From Broadview Station south to Gerrard, west to River, south to King, west to Parliament looping via Parliament, Front and Berkeley.
  • 505 Dundas bus: From Broadview Station south to Gerrard, west to River, south to Dundas.
  • 506 Carlton bus: No diversion.

While construction is underway at Gerrard and Broadview (starting in late July), diversion routes will be:

  • 504D King bus: From Broadview Station south to Jack Layton Way, then west and south via St. Matthews Road to Gerrard, and west via the River Street diversion as above.
  • 505 Dundas bus: Same diversion as 504D King to bypass the intersection at Gerrard.
  • 506 Carlton bus: Via River, Dundas and Logan both ways.

These diversions will add a lot of turning buses to the intersections at River & Gerrard, and River & Dundas. One can only hope that the City Transportation Department will adjust the traffic signals to suit this arrangement.

Main Station

Construction continues at Main Station, but new work by Hydro has further affected routes in this area, and diversion routes around work on Main will be implemented as needed through the summer.

The 87 Cosburn and 64 Main routes will be interlined. On weekends, 64 Main buses will divert northbound via Kingston Road and Woodbine to Danforth on weekends due to City road construction.

Keele Yard

Due to maintenance work at Greenwood Carhouse, movements to and from the yard will be reduced during the daytime weekdays. Four peak trains that normally return to Greenwood between the rush hours will instead use Keele Yard.

Lawrence West Station

Paving work at Lawrence West Station will prevent buses from using it as a terminus. The 52G Lawrence to Martin Grove service will be extended east to Yonge Street, along with the 59 Maple Leaf route. 109 Ranee buses will serve the station from the street.

Summer Route Changes

The 29 Dufferin bus will not operate into Exhibition Place during the summer because of many events that block roadways. All service will terminate at Dufferin Loop.

The 30 Lambton bus will be extended into High Park on weekends.

The 121 Fort York–Esplanade bus will be extended to Ontario Place.

Evening service will be improved on 509 Harbourfront and all recovery time will be scheduled at Exhibition Loop to avoid delays at Union Station.

New/Improved Services

The 83 Jones bus service will be improved off-peak to provide more frequent access to Leslie Barns as the infrequent evening and weekend operation interferes with operator access and crew changes.

There is a particular irony to better service on this route. In 1972, a group of local residents forced the TTC to hold its Board meetings in public as required under the Municipal Act with the intent of making a deputation asking for a bus on Jones Avenue. This was the beginning of open meetings at the TTC, a residents’ group lobbying for a route the TTC did not want to run.

A new route, 176 Mimico GO, will operate between the Lakeshore/Park Lawn area and Mimico GO Station during peak periods on a 30 minute headway to improve access to the GO service.

 

Those Vanishing Streetcar Stops

Readers who follow me on Twitter will know that the question of which streetcar stops are being removed has been a simmering issue for some time. The question has become less “what is the list” than “why is it impossible to get the list”.

A related matter is the degree of consultation, or not, that preceded implementation of the changes.

Several changes for The Beach (Queen Street East and Kingston Road) were announced in an email newsletter from Councillor McMahon, and the format of the list, complete with stop numbers, made it clear that this was a TTC document.

TTC will proceed with the following streetcar stop relocations on May 13 to support the deployment of new streetcars:

On Kingston Road:

  • Move the westbound stops #2786 (Malvern Avenue) and #2799 (Walter Street) to a new stop at the midblock pedestrian signal at Glen Manor Dr
  • Remove the farside westbound stop #2801 at Woodbine Avenue to a new stop nearside of the same intersection

On Queen Street:

  • Move the stops at Kent Road, and Woodward Avenue, to new stops at the pedestrian crossover at Woodfield Road
  • Move the eastbound stop #3055 at Laing Street to a nearside location at Alton Avenue
  • Move the eastbound stop #6807 at Kippendavie Avenue east to the signalized intersection at Elmer Avenue
  • Move the eastbound stop #6815 at Scarboro Beach Boulevard and the eastbound stop #6812 to the signalized intersection at Glen Manor Drive
  • Move the stops at the unsignalized intersections of Lee Avenue and Waverley Road to the signalized intersection at Bellefair Avenue
  • Move the westbound stop #6818 at Sprucehill Road closer to the pedestrian crossover at Beech Avenue

Courtesy of the fact that the TTC’s own website contains out of date information about stop locations while the list in NextBus is current, it did not take long to track down the remaining changes, but the bizarre part of this is that repeated attempts to simply get a list from the TTC ran aground.

Today, I took an inspection tour of the affected locations to verify what has happened, and here is my list:

On King Street:

  • Stops both ways at Trinity Street removed
  • Eastbound stop at Fraser replaced by a new stop at the signal at Joe Shuster Way where there is already a westbound stop.

On Queen Street (in addition to the above):

  • Stops both ways at Connaught removed. (How will operators ever change cars without a transit stop?)
  • Westbound stop at Simcoe replaced by a new stop at the signal at St. Patrick. Now if only the TTC would put an eastbound stop there to replace the one they dropped in the last round at McCaul, and thereby break up the long gap from John to University.
  • Eastbound stop at Gladstone farside replaced by nearside stop. [Thanks to a reader for spotting this.]
  • Westbound stop at Beaconsfield shifted east a short distance to align with the new traffic signal at Abell St.
  • Eastbound stop at Wilson Park shifted west one block to Triller where there is a crosswalk and an existing westbound stop.

On The Queensway:

  • As a result of the restoration of streetcar service to Humber Loop, the stop at Parkside is back in service. This is reflected on NextBus but not on the TTC’s own site.

On Dundas Street:

  • Westbound stop at Crawford shifted one block to Shaw Street where there is a traffic signal and an existing eastbound stop.

On College Street:

  • Stops both ways at Clinton removed. (Thanks to readers who pointed this out in the comments.) [Updated May 18, 2018]

Now that wasn’t hard at all, was it?

(There may be more that I have missed, and if anybody spots one, leave a comment and I will update the article.)

What is not clear is the degree to which local councillors or residents were consulted about this change. This gets us into a rather murky bit of TTC management bafflegab. When the original proposal was before the TTC board in May 2014, there were motions amending the staff recommendation including:

Chair Augimeri moved that the Board:

1. authorize staff to proceed with the recommended changes to the stops in the staff report where consensus has been reached; and

2. refer the remaining stops identified in the staff report back to staff for further consultation with local Councillors and for report back to the next meeting.

The motion by Chair Augimeri carried. [Minutes of May 28, 2014 Board Meeting, Item 14]

It is quite clear that the Board intended that the proposals in the report had to be accepted by those affected. (For the record, there never was a follow up report provided by staff.)

The current round of changes includes several stops that were not part of the original list. When I pressed TTC management on what appeared to be a lack of notice of the change, not even bringing the scheme to the Board for approval, I was told that the 2014 motion was by an old Board and the staff were no longer bound by it.

Say what? Management can simply make up whatever policy they want when the Board is replaced in a new term of Council?

This is not a question of a nerdish railfan wanting to track the locations of stops, but of a much larger issue that will affect many parts of the City when the TTC turns it attention to bus routes. Some of the stop spacings on bus routes are embarrassingly short, and if the same principles are followed as for streetcars, a lot of buses won’t stop as often, or as conveniently as they do today.

Many of the changes are quite reasonable and take into account the fact that there are now both crosswalks and traffic signals at locations where they did not exist when the transit stops were first installed. This type of change has less to do with new streetcars than simply reflecting the updated street design.

Another justification for elimination of stops in the 2014 round was that this would speed service. In fact, the effects were minimal because many stops that were dropped were not at traffic signals, and they did not represent much delay to streetcar service. This time around, most changes are relocations.

Memo to Councillors with bus routes: Pay attention to what the TTC is up to in your ward.

Track Replacement at Gerrard & Parliament Streets (Updated May 20, 2018)

Updated May 18, 2018: Photos added.

The first of three intersection renewals on the Carlton and Dundas routes began on May 14 at Gerrard and Parliament Streets. Intersections at Broadview/Dundas and Broadview/Gerrard will follow in June and July, as well as track renewal on Broadview between Dundas and Gerrard. Planned renewal of the track from north of Gerrard to Hogarth (the north end of Riverdale Park) has been deferred to a future year, as yet unknown.

Demolition of the intersection began on the morning of Monday, May 14, and by late afternoon Wednesday, May 16, the new foundation was in place and ready to receive track. I happened to drop by just as the first track panel was being unloaded and placed in the street.

Intersections are pre-assembled at Hillcrest before they are delivered to the site so that they can be installed in panels rather than individual parts, a much more labour intensive process once used by the TTC. Preassembly also allows pre-welding of all components in one panel, and the only on-site welding required is to join panels to each other and to odd pieces of track that individually complete the junction and approaches.

Day 4: May 17, 2018

At the time of my visit in the early afternoon, the south quadrant had been installed and assembly of the middle of the intersection was in progress.

 

Day 5: May 18, 2018

As of mid-day, most of the north-south trackage is in place including the run off tracks that will link to the existing track beyond the work site. Welding was in progress. The eastern quadrant appears ready to receive its track panels.

Day 6: May 19, 2018 (Rain day, no  photos)

Day 7: May 20, 2018

The intersection is now almost completely assembled. Concrete work will follow in two separate stages: one to the height of the ties, and another to the railhead. This arrangement makes repairs easier because only the top layer needs to be demolished.

505 Dundas Streetcars vs Buses: Part I – Travel Times

This article continues the comparison of streetcar and bus operations which began with a review of the 506 Carlton route in the following articles:

Both Carlton and 505 Dundas were converted to full bus operation in mid-February 2018 to deal both with the shortage of streetcars and with numerous construction projects affecting both routes.

The question often arises of which is the faster mode, and that came up in 2017 when Councillor Michael Ford wanted the bus substitution on Queen to continue into the fall so that there could be a controlled test. I have already written about the situation on 501 Queen:

This article deals with travel times on the 505 Dundas route. Part II will review headway reliability (the spacing between streetcars or buses).

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