Streetcar Network Changes Coming in September 2019

Several streetcar routes will be affected by construction, schedule changes and the continuing shift from CLRVs to the low-floor Flexitys effective September 1, 2019. I will publish the detailed service plans with my overview of all schedule changes taking effect on that date, but here is a preview of the route changes.

Kingston Road & Queen Construction

Two projects will block streetcar service from The Beach from September 1 until mid-November:

  • Watermain replacement
  • Special trackwork replacement at Kingston Road including Woodbine Loop

501 Queen Service

The 501 Queen route will be operated with several overlapping services:

  • Regular 501A Queen cars will operate between Humber Loop and Russell Carhouse.
  • Buses on 501R will operate between River Street and Neville Loop diverting via Woodbine, Lake Shore and Coxwell.
  • Service to Long Branch on 501L will be provided by low-floor cars running from Humber to Long Branch on ten-minute headways at all times.
  • Late evening service will run through from Long Branch to Russell Carhouse.

Tripper services will operate including the restoration of 508 Lake Shore:

  • Bus trippers on 501 Queen will operate westbound from Coxwell rather than from Kingston Road. In the PM peak, eastbound trippers will run through to Neville using the same diversion as the 501R.
  • Streetcar trippers will operate on 508 Lake Shore with five trippers in each peak period.
    • In the AM peak cars will follow the Queen route from Long Branch to Roncesvalles, then run east to Parliament via King Street. They will return to Roncesvalles Carhouse via Parliament and Carlton/College, a route used by Long Branch trippers years ago to provide supplementary westbound service on Carlton to the University of Toronto. Cars will leave Long Branch Loop between 6:40 and 8:10 am.
    • In the PM peak, the trippers will run east from Roncesvalles to Broadview via King, then loop via Broadview, Dundas and Parliament running west from King and Parliament to Long Branch. Cars will leave Church Street westbound between 4:20 and 5:40 pm.

Overnight service on 301 Queen will terminate at Russell Carhouse, and it will continue to operate on the recently-established 15 minute headway. A 301B bus shuttle will operate from Russell Carhouse east to Neville diverting around the construction zone.

502/503 Downtowner/Kingston Road

For the duration of this project, the 502 and 503 services will be consolidated as 503 Kingston Road, and this route will operate from Bingham Loop to York Street. There will be no 502 bus service to McCaul Loop.

Service will divert around the construction site via Dundas and Coxwell both ways.

The downtown loop will be changed from the usual 503 arrangement. Buses will not operate on Wellington, but will continue on King to York Street. They will then turn north on York to Richmond, west to University and south to King Street. The layover point will be on York Street north of King.

22/322 Coxwell

During weekday daytime, the 22B Coxwell service will use Coxwell-Queen Loop rather than the longer route via Eastern Avenue which will be blocked by construction.

Evening and weekend service on the 22A and 322 services to Victoria Park will divert both ways via Dundas Street but will loop south to Queen via Coxwell-Queen Loop.

512 St. Clair

With the addition of low-floor service to Long Branch operating from Roncesvalles Carhouse, the 512 St. Clair route will move back to Leslie Barns. The carhouse routing will be via Queen, King and Bathurst, and cars will operate with pantographs up over these trips. This will mark the first scheduled pantograph operation over portions of these streets.

The operator relief point will be moved east from Lansdowne to St. Clair Station.

Carhouse Allocations

The routes and vehicles will be allocated to carhouses as shown below. Note that these are the scheduled service numbers, not the total fleet including spares.

Current plans are to begin conversion of 506 Carlton to Flexity operation later in the fall, but the details of this have not yet been published.

Zero Short Turns Does Not Equal Better Service

For many years, the TTC has had a fetish for reducing short turns, or more accurately, for reducing short turn counts. Together with “on time” stats, this is a primary metric for TTC management, the one they get gold stars for.

When former CEO Andy Byford hired the current CEO Rick Leary, one of his first tasks was to reduce short turns. The result is that the CEO’s report concentrates on two factors to the exclusion of all other measures of service quality.

Here are two pages from the June CEO’s Report for streetcars. There are similar pages for the bus network.

In a recent newsletter to constituents, Councillor Brad Bradford, also a member of the TTC Board, included the following chart to show how the TTC is attacking the short turn problem. Short turns on 501 Queen were the lowest in number among all streetcar routes in early April, and fell to zero on Monday April 15 (along with a big drop on other routes too). This looks good, but as we will see later, has unintended side effects.

Bradford’s newsletter included this text:

We all know the frustration of too many short-turning streetcars, especially during rush hour.  As a member of the TTC Board I’ve been working hard with my colleagues to improve the streetcar service and reduce the number of short-turns.  I’m happy to report that April 2019 had the lowest number of short-turns since 2014, including the 501 streetcar which had ZERO short turns for several days.

Short turns disproportionately affect Bradford’s constituents as they live at the eastern end of the 501 Queen and 506 Carlton routes. However, irregular service which I have documented in numerous articles affects riders along the entire route. Gaps of 15 minutes or more in what is advertised as “frequent service” do not encourage ridership, and the unpredictability of service leaves many people walking or taking alternate modes to the TTC.

Measures of Service Quality

The count of short turns only tells us how many cars did not reach a terminal over the course of the day. It does not tell us:

  • What proportion of the service this count represents. The scheduled service to Neville over the course of a day (6 am to midnight) is about 200 trips with a similar count at Humber. 40 short turns represent about 10% of service assuming they are equally divided between the two terminals.
  • What time(s) of day were most affected. Certain times of the day are disproportionately affected by short turns, notably the hours immediately after the am and pm peaks, and through the evening especially on busy nights in the club district downtown.
  • Whether the short turn was successful in restoring more regular service, otherwise known as “filling the gap” on its next trip. There appears to be little or no management of cars re-entering service from short turns, and they may well reappear immediately ahead of or, even worse, behind a “through” car without reducing the headway. The average headway looks better, but it’s a bunch of two cars with a wide gap, not evenly-spaced service.

Unless one sees a breakdown such as the one published by Councillor Bradford, the numbers in the CEO report are accumulated for all routes over all periods of operation including weekends. This is a very generic average value, and it gives only the most general idea of short turning as a trend, rather than pinpointing problem routes and times of the day.

The other published metric is the “on time departure”. This is something of a misnomer because “on time” is defined as a window from one minute early to five minutes late, in other words six minutes’ grace relative to the schedule. For a route with a five minute scheduled service, three cars could depart close together and be “on time” for the stats.

The TTC does not report on headway reliability and bunching, issues which are at least as important as short turns. A rider on a Queen car bound for, say, Dufferin Street from Yonge does not care if their car gets short turned at Sunnyside, but they do care if no car shows up for 15 minutes or more, and they cannot board the first one in the parade.

If the scheduled times were 12:00, 12:05 and 12:10, the actual departures could be 12:05, 12:07 and 12:09 and fit within their allowed windows. The service is supposed to look like this:

X————X————X————X————X————X————X————X————X————X

But it can look like this and still be “on time”:

—————X—X—X——————————X—X—X——————————X—X—X——————

It would not take long for cars to bunch together as triplets running across the route. However, the on time measurement only applies at the terminals, and what happens after vehicles leave is not reported.

The TTC produced route-by-route statictics for five months, April to August 2018, but they have been missing-in-action ever since.

An important metric is the distribution of headways by time of day. Charts showing this information are published regularly on this site. (See this article about headways at Neville Loop and scroll down to charts showing the range of headways actually operated.)

The TTC would do well to report on the proportion of headways that are less than 50% of the scheduled value, or more than 50% over that value, broken out by by time of day and by location. Situations where vehicles are running very close together (except for the few routes and periods where the scheduled service really is that frequent) should be flagged. This is not a particularly challenging exercise, but potentially quite embarrassing.

As a quick check, I looked at 501 Queen westbound at Yonge on Wednesday May 1. Of the 215 trips crossing Yonge Street, 54 were on a headway of two minutes or less, or one quarter of the service. There were 25 trips on headways ranging from 10 up to 18 minutes, over 10% of the service. Those are all-day values, and the proportions vary by time period. (The eastbound stats are comparable.) Here is a chart of the day’s data. Note that the trend line sits at about 5 minutes for much of the day only slightly above the scheduled headway, but what riders experience is wide gaps followed by at least two cars.

(For those who might argue that this is the fault of a mix of new and old vehicles, 501 Queen and just about every other route in the system has looked like this for years.)

Although there will be more data to digest, the TTC would have a better idea of just what riders face. Exception reporting would quickly flag areas of concern, although from my own experience looking at these data, there would be a lot of “exceptions” until the TTC addresses the problem of service reliability, not just of “on time performance”.

Crowding statistics are produced from time to time, but these rarely are broken down in public reports. This should be a standard part of the CEO’s report. If the TTC does not identify when its service is overcrowded, how can the public or the politicians with responsibility for transit funding and oversight reconcile claimed service provision with rider experiences?

Crowding and headway reliability are linked in that uneven headways lead to crowded vehicles (the “gap” car) and underused capacity. The average load might look good, but the average experience is not. Most riders are on the crowded vehicles and the “average rider” will report an overcrowded trip not to mention the possibility that they boarded the first vehicle to show up with difficulty, if at all.

Vehicle reliability is reported on an overall basis, not for its effect on service. Once a failure causes a delay of five minutes or more, it “counts”, but there is no distinction about the severity of the delay or the actions taken to restore normal service. Delays caused by infrastructure issues or by external events, and again the actions taken to counter their effects, are not reported. There is no metric for how well or poorly service was managed when things went wrong.

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TTC Service Changes Effective June 23, 2019

The TTC will make several changes in its service on June 23. Many of these are the usual summer service reductions, but others will see changes for construction projects, to improve reliability on some routes, and to redeploy the streetcar fleet.

Subway

On 1 Yonge-University-Spadina, the dispatching of trains will change to increase the use of the north hostler track and exit from Wilson Yard (all days), and to restore the full capacity of Davisville Yard following expansion of the carhouse (weekdays).

On 2 Bloor-Danforth, a gap train will be dispatched from Greenwood or Keele Yard in the AM and PM peak as needed to fill service gaps. There will also be the usual summer service reduction on this line.

On both routes, crew procedures at Finch, Vaughan, Kipling and Kennedy will be changed to single step-back operation.

Streetcars

The 501 Queen car will be formally scheduled as a low-floor route entirely with new cars. In recognition of their larger capacity, headways will be widened somewhat, but not on the scale Toronto saw when the two-section ALRVs replaced the CLRVs on a 2:3 ratio with correspondingly wider headways. Although in theory the scheduled capacity remains the same, the actual capacity could fall because new larger cars have already been operating on the shorter CLRV headways. I will explore this in a separate article.

Night service will be improved on 301 Queen to reduce overnight storage needs with the large number of new cars now on the property together with remnants of the old fleet, and the partial closure of Roncesvalles Carhouse for reconstruction. This continues a change introduced on 304 King in May.

CLRVs will continue to operate on the Long Branch segment of the route. This is expected to change to low-floor operation in September. The peak period trippers that run through from Long Branch to/from downtown will be dropped, but will return in the September schedules.

The 511 Bathurst route will revert to streetcar operation. The exact mix of cars will depend on availability and day-to-day decisions about allocation. The service memo shows a small allocation of ALRVs to the route, but these could turn out to be Flexitys instead just as happened on 501 Queen. (Click to expand the table below.)

Leslie & Eglinton

For the summer months, Leslie Street will be closed at Eglinton, and a temporary loop will be created north of the intersection. This will be used by 51 Leslie and by some of the 54 Lawrence East service. Weekdays from 5:15 am to 9 pm, and weekends from 8 am to 7 pm, the Starspray and Orton Park branches will terminate at the Leslie/Eglinton loop, and there will be a separate service running from Eglinton Station to Lawrence East Station via Don Mills & Eglinton. Outside of these periods, the Starspray and Orton Park services will run to Eglinton Station via Don Mills, and a supplementary shuttle will run from Leslie/Eglinton to Lawrence/Don Mills as part of the 51 Leslie route.

All 51 Leslie service will terminate at Leslie/Eglinton.

The 954 Lawrence East Express is not affected.

Service on 34C Eglinton East to Flemingdon Park will be increased slightly to offset changes to 54 Lawrence East.

See the linked spreadsheet for details of the various routes, headways and hours of service.

Lawrence Station

Because of construction at Lawrence Station, part of the bus loop will be closed for paving and the 52/952 Lawrence services will loop via the east side of the station. Service on 124 Sunnybrook and 162 Lawrence-Donway will be extended west and north to Roe Loop on Avenue Road. Transfers between these routes will move to surface stops.

Wellesley Station

Construction at Wellesley Station will complete and the 94 Wellesley will return to its normal operation with its eastern branch terminating there rather than at Queen’s Park.

Royal York Station

Buses were planned to return to Royal York Station on May 24, but the schedules will not formally be revised until August. Interlining of 15 Evans with 48 Rathburn, and of 73 Royal York and 76 Royal York South, will continue until then.

Bay Bus

Service on the 6B short turn at Bloor will be discontinued during the peak period and all buses will run north to Dupont.

Dufferin Bus

All service will terminate at Dufferin Loop rather than at Princes Gates due to frequent summer events that make bus operation through Exhibition Place difficult.

Road Construction in Scarborough

Several routes will be affected by road construction projects.

Danforth Road from St. Clair to Danforth Avenue:

  • 113 Danforth

Midland Avenue from Danforth to Lawrence:

  • 20 Cliffside
  • 57 Midland

Brimley Road from Progress to Huntingwood:

  • 21 Brimley

Huntingwood Drive from Kennedy to Brimley:

  • 169B Huntingwood

20190623 Service Changes

Analysis of 501 Queen: Why Are Trips Taking Longer?

Schedule changes for 501 Queen pending on June 23 are, in part, related to a growth in travel times. This article examines the evolution of the route’s operation and travel times over the past year.

There are a lot of charts in this post in part to show many aspects of the discussion and in part so that readers can refer to different parts of the route of interest. All charts are clickable to open a larger version.

Previous articles in this series are:

The growth in 501 Queen travel times from 2018 to 2019 is summarized in the following chart of monthly averages across the route westbound.

This prompted theories both by readers and by me about possible causes including:

  • Longer dwell times caused by new streetcars
  • Greater congestion caused by changes in traffic signal timing

The charts below, included in a previous article, compare average travel times by hour in each direction and show slightly longer averages for Flexitys compared to CLRVs. A valid question here is whether the CLRV times are artificially higher because they catch up to Flexitys and then travel at a lower speed than would otherwise happen. This is difficult to verify because there is already much bunching leaving Neville and Humber Loops, and “gap cars” (the first car in a parade) slows following vehicles regardless of which type it is. However, a detailed review of the headways in front of each type of car shows that in many cases Flexitys tend to be carrying wider gaps. This is not, however, consistently the case.

As to the concern about signal timing, a factor that affected the King Street Pilot for part of its run, this did not pan out for the route as a whole, but was a factor at one location. City staff advised that the only place that was changed was at the Queen/Lansdowne/Jameson intersection where work is underway, and transit signal priority has been shut off. Elsewhere, the signal timings were not modified.

A further question lies in a jump in travel times midway through April. Both the CLRV and Flexity travel times went up and also became more varied from day to day in weeks 3 and 4 of April. This implies some change affecting the route overall, not just one vehicle type. A review of detailed data showed:

  • The proportion of service provided by Flexitys did not change in the second half of April. Any effects due to their operating characteristics should be the same throughout the month.
  • An unknown activity between Sherbourne and Jarvis slowed traffic during the late morning hours of the last two weeks in April. Some other congested locations such as the Lansdowne/Jameson and Bay-to-York areas also worsened during this period.
  • The TTC instituted one of its periodic “no short turn” policies start in mid-April. While this makes the management statistics look good, the effect is to create larger gaps which, in turn, drive up average travel times as packs of cars follow each other and gaps are not filled.

Total trip times can be affected by extra dwell time at stops, by slower operating speeds, or by a combination of the two. In reviewing the data for April in both 2018 and 2019, I found that changes in speed were more marked than changes in dwell times.

Of particular note is that some of the areas where streetcars go slower in 2019 are areas of bad track where slow orders have been implemented. The number of these locations is growing on the streetcar network, and there is reason to worry that the TTC is not keeping ahead of this problem. Most notable is the track at Queen/King/Roncesvalles including the carhouse entrance and Sunnyside Loop. This has been on the books for replacement for a few years, and that work was delayed yet again to 2020 due to problems at the City with planning and contracting for the work. However, this is not the only place on the route where slow orders are a quick fix for track that needs repair. The TTC has a generic “go slow” policy for all intersections which slows streetcar service across the system.

I will update this tracking with May and June 2019 data as they become available.

In the next article in this series, I will review operations on 501 Queen during the period when there appears to have been an embargo on short turns.

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501 Queen: Low Floor Cars But Wider Headways (Update 2)

Updated May 20, 2019 at 4:40 pm:

Another factor in the travel time conundrum may be related to a “no short turns” edict that went into effect for the second half of April 2019. One effect of this can be that there are often large gaps and associated loading delays which drive up travel time. This will be the subject of a separate article.

Updated May 21, 2019 at 8:45 am:

Charts for detailed changes in eastbound travel from Humber to Neville have been added to this article.

With the June 23, 2019, service changes, the TTC will officially make route 501 Queen a low-floor streetcar route. Concurrent with this change, the number of cars on the route will be reduced during all operating periods. The degree of reduction should be cause for celebration because reduction in cars is nowhere near the ratio of low-floor to CLRV capacity. However, at the same time, the TTC will substantially increase running times during many periods. The combined effect of fewer cars and longer scheduled trips will be much wider headways than are now provided, especially on weekdays.

The number of cars/hour will be cut by about one third on weekdays and one quarter on weekends. This is very much the sort of change Queen Street riders saw when the two-section ALRVs replaced the shorter CLRVs, and the end result, thanks to the lackluster line management, was a loss of 1/3 of the route’s riding. This is precisely the opposite direction the TTC should be moving at a time when there is known demand on the streetcar lines as shown by the King Street Pilot.

When the fact that 501 Queen is already partly served by the larger Flexitys, the capacity on the route will actually be reduced on June 23 compared to what is operating today.

In the peak periods roughly half an hour will be added to the scheduled round trip time from Neville to Humber (from 149 to 176 minutes AM, and from 169 to 205 minutes PM) resulting in much wider headways that would be provided if the Flexitys ran on the same operating plan as the existing service.

TTC management seek to reduce or eliminate short turns with extended running times, but in the process produce a service plan that will be demonstrably worse for all riders. The wider scheduled headways will be compounded by the uneven spacing of cars that is commonly seen on Queen and other routes, and it would not be surprising to see pairs of cars travelling on headways over 10 minutes almost all of the time.

This would be a far cry from the type of service that clearly warrants transit priority on King Street. Any discussion of priority for Queen would first have to ask why the streetcars that are so infrequent would deserve so much road space to be devoted to them.

Such a large change in scheduled travel time raises the question “why”. Is this simply a padding of schedules to minimize short turns and make life easier for operators, or is it a shift to recognize a change on the route? If the latter, what has changed and how have travel times evolved over time.

Looking into the details, what appears is that there has been a build-up in travel times across the route over the past year, and particularly in recent months. Further exploration will be needed to determine what is happening, but the situation is cause for concern when there can be such a large change in travel times and, in turn, a degradation in service frequency.

501 Queen Trippers

The schedule in effect in May-June 2019 includes five tripper cars operating from Russell Carhouse (at Greenwood/Connaught) in both the AM and PM peaks. Three of these provide through Long Branch/Downtown service. In the AM peak the other two provide two round trips between Greenwood and Sunnyside Loop (runs 83 and 84 below). In the PM peak , they make only one trip from the carhouse west to Humber and back to Neville (runs 88 and 89).

The choice of timepoints below may look a bit odd, but these are the ones used in schedules exported by the TTC to NextBus. Glendale is the St. Joseph’s Hospital stop west of Sunnyside Loop. Triller is the first stop east of Roncesvalles.

In the June-July schedule, buses will provide three trips each way from Kingston Road to Sunnyside in both peak periods. These are separate vehicles, six in all for both peaks. These are one-way trips. With the peak design load of a bus being about 40% of a Flexity, this does not represent a substantial amount of service beyond what the streetcars will provide.

Eastbound from Sunnyside:

  • AM: 8:15, 8:20 and 8:25
  • PM: 4:30, 4:40 and 4:50

Westbound from Kingston Road:

  • AM: 8:15, 8:20 and 8:25
  • PM: 4:35, 4:45 and 4:55

The 501L Long Branch service is not affected by the schedule change according to the service memo. I will verify with the TTC that the Long Branch/Downtown tripper streetcars remain in the new schedule.

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Analysis of 501 Queen: January-April 2019 (Part II – Headways at Humber Loop)

In Part I of this series, I reviewed the operation of the 501 Queen car at the east end of the route, specifically to review the amount of short turning and the regularity of the service. Now in Part II, I turn to the west end of the main segment of the route at Humber Loop.

It is no surprise that the results here are quite similar to those at Neville. Specifically:

  • The average headway at Humber is somewhat wider than at Roncesvalles, just east of Sunnyside Loop where some service scheduled for Humber short turns.
  • There is a peak in the difference between these locations just after the morning peak, and again after the pm peak showing the effect of recovery actions from those periods.
  • Headways (the time between cars) are quite erratic leaving the terminal at Humber, and this pattern continues east over the route.

An important issue here is that both short turns and erratic headways can have similar effects on riders, and they might not always know the difference.

If you are riding a car that is short turned, you know about this because you get turfed off and must transfer to the following car whenever it appears. However, if you are waiting for a car and there is a long gap, this could be due to a short turn (one or more cars is missing) or simply due to bunching (all the cars are there, but running in packs). Short turns affect riders on the outer parts of routes, while bunching affects riders across the entire line.

The TTC reports riding stats from time to time, although not anywhere as often as they should, and these are calculated as hourly averages. The problem with this is that averages do not reflect the uneven wait times, nor the uneven loading that results from a gap car carrying more passengers than its follower. Indeed, a route’s average load may lie within standards, but most of the riders are actually on crowded gap cars. This is a long-standing problem on the TTC and with the reporting of demand versus service. Also, of course, riders who never board are never counted, and we do not know the latent demand if only service were provided more reliably and with capacity for all to board.

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King Street Update: March-April 2019 Part III (Revised)

May 13, 2019 at 9:00 am: In response to a reader’s comment, I have modified the analysis of operations at Dufferin Loop to split out time spent within the loop itself from queuing southbound on Dufferin approaching the loop.

This article continues the analysis of 504 King operations in early 2019 with the following posts:

A major problem with 504 King car operations at both Dundas West and Broadview Stations is the queuing of streetcars approaching the station but unable to enter because the platform space is occupied. As the route changed over from the “standard” length streetcars around which these stations were designed to the double-length Flexitys, what had been an occasional nuisance is now a daily experience.

Living near Broadview Station, I am quite aware of this problem (not to mention the flocks of 505 Dundas buses which are quite another matter), but with the TTC’s May 12, 2019 schedule changes that will add running time to 504 King, there is the potential for this problem to become even worse. This article looks at the situation at all four of the loops used by the 504A/B King service: Broadview Station, Distillery, Dufferin and Dundas West Station in April 2019. I will update this information when data for May is available and a before-and-after comparison will be possible.

Unlike the travel time charts in other articles where the route segments extend over many city blocks, the “map” used for this analysis is very finely-grained with screenlines at spacings of under 100 metres. Please refer to the Appendix to this article for notes about methodology and the choice of screenline locations for calculation of travel and queuing/layover times.

The chart below is taken from my summary of the May 12 service changes.

  • During most weekday periods, the number of streetcars in service goes up, but the headway stays the same or gets wider. The result is that cars have more time to get from one end of the line to the other.
  • During weekday early evenings, headways widen from 6’30” on each branch to 8’00” and running times are increased.
  • On weekends, there is a combination of wider headways and/or added cars to produce additional running time.

From the actual data showing time spent by streetcars at the four terminals of the 504 King route (Broadview Station, Distillery Loop, Dufferin Loop and Dundas West Station), it is far from clear than any additional running time is actually needed during many periods of operation. The TTC appears to be making a broad brush change to the schedule rather than targeting fixes to periods and locations where they will actually improve service.

Moreover, at a recent meeting of City Council, TTC staff advised that there would be more cars on King starting in May, but neglected to mention that this would not improve the scheduled service level, and in some cases would actually reduce service. Further changes on 504 King are expected in the fall, but the details are not yet available.

Apologies to readers for the plethora of charts in this article. I have used excerpts from chart sets for each location and included a link to the full sets for those who want them.

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Analysis of 501 Queen: January-April 2019 (Part I – Headways at Neville Loop)

A recent report by the CBC on May 8 claimed that the “transition to new streetcars will help alleviate short turns on major routes”. TTC spokesman Stuart Green, citing the May 2019 CEO’s Report, said that a large increase in short turns during March 2019 was caused by, among other things, the mix of new and old cars on the route with the strong implication that things will be better once Queen goes 100% low-floor in late June.

The CEO’s Report cites various factors:

Over the five-week period, the 501 Queen route made up approximately 40% of all short turns. This increase on the 501 route was due to several factors:

First, the reduction in Run-As-Directed (RAD) streetcars beginning in Week 8 (from 6 a.m./p.m. to 3 a.m./p.m.) has hurt the operational flexibility to respond to incidents and service gaps on all routes.

Second, the Queen route is largely serviced by CLRVs. These legacy vehicles experienced a high number of mechanical delays and disablements in March.

Finally, the Queen route is in a transition period with LFLRVs making up a small portion of the vehicles on the route, mixing with the CLRVs that have historically operated on the route. The different speed and operating characteristics of the two vehicle types inherently leads to more bunching and gapping on the route. [p 37]

The situation on Queen is even more complex than this and includes factors not listed in the CEO’s report:

  • Weather varied substantially over the winter months and yet short turns were at a substantially lower level in January and February.
  • Many delays on streetcar routes were caused by the City of Toronto’s failure to clear snow resulting in many cars parking foul of the tracks.
  • There is a persistent problem with uneven headways (bunching and gapping) leaving terminals, and little evidence of attempts to evenly space service. The mix of vehicle types can compound this problem depending on the capacity of the “gap car”.

From a rider’s point of view, irregular service and short turns may be indistinguishable especially for someone beyond a common short-turn location. On the east end of Queen, this is Woodbine Loop. It does not matter whether a 20 minute gap to Neville is caused by a short-turn at Woodbine, or because the service is running in packs separated by long gaps. In practice, most of the scheduled service does reach Neville, but it neither arrives nor leaves on a reliable headway (the time between cars).

At the May 8 TTC Board Meeting, Acting CEO Kirsten Watson noted that there had been a change in operational strategy in April whereby operators who were “late” to the schedule short-turned by trading vehicles with another car near a terminal rather than physically short-turning their own car. The result is that the operator gets back on time while their original car continues to the terminal.

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TTC Updates Flexity/CLRV Replacement Schedule

Over past months there has been some inconsistency in TTC statements about the fate of the “legacy” CLRV and ALRV fleets with conflicting information that

  • some legacy cars would survive into early 2020,
  • all of these cars would be retired by the end of 2019,
  • all of the buses now operating on streetcar routes would be available for bus service improvements in 2020.

It is self-evident that these statements cannot all be true.

The situation is now clarified in two reports on the TTC Board’s Agenda for May 8, 2019.

The CEO’s Report includes the following:

On streetcar services, we’ll address crowding through the continued rollout of new high-capacity, low-floor streetcars. Low-floor vehicles are expected to be on all streetcar routes by early 2020.

Supplementary bus service may be used on some routes during the busiest times.

With the continued delivery of new low-floor streetcars, we are advancing their deployment on more routes.

Currently, the 504 King, 509 Harbourfront, 510 Spadina and 512 St Clair are fully served with low-floor streetcars. We began deploying these streetcars on the 501 Queen in January 2019. We expect that all service on Queen, between Humber Loop and Neville Park Loop will be operated by low-floor streetcars by early summer.

Subsequent routes for streetcar deployment will be: 511 Bathurst (summer 2019), 501 Queen (Long Branch Loop to Humber Loop, fall 2019), 506 Carlton (late 2019), and 505 Dundas (spring 2020). Low-floor streetcar service on Kingston Road will be introduced in 2020 following a review of streetcar services as part of our Five-Year Service Plan. [pp 11-12]

The CEO’s Report now shows the decommissioning plan for all legacy cars in 2019 as “Projected” [p 39].

The 2019-2023 Accessibility Plan includes:

By the end of 2019, the remainder of the order of low-floor streetcars is expected to be received and the TTC plans to retire all high floor streetcars from regular service. [p 27]

The Five-Year Service Plan mentioned above will not be out until December 2019, but with the Capital Investment Plan now showing spending on a further order of streetcars in the mid-2020s, there will be an extended period where expansion of streetcar capacity will be limited to whatever can be provided with supplementary bus service. From King Street, we know that there is a latent demand for better service on the streetcar network, but actually addressing that will be challenging in the current climate.

Crowding is a problem on all parts of the system, but the political focus is on new subway lines that will not address most of these problems, and certainly not in the short-to-medium term. The CEO’s Report now includes a table showing crowding levels, although on a system-wide basis, not for individual routes.

These numbers should be understood in the context of “periods” as defined in TTC schedules. There are five periods through the day:

  • Weekdays: AM Peak / Midday / PM Peak / Early Evening / Late Evening
  • Weekend: Early Morning / Late Morning / Afternoon / Early Evening / Late Evening

The transition points between these periods vary from route to route depending on local demand patterns.

In the chart below, the combination of routes and periods shows that in the first quarter of 2019, 41 bus routes were overcrowded during 82 periods, but this means the combination of one route and one period. With 82 representing only 4.5% of the total, this means that there are over 1,800 possibilities for the bus fleet.

The methodology of counting weekend days individually yields 15 periods overall for most routes. (Some routes do not operate in the Early AM period on the Sunday schedules.) The reason for this is that there is a common schedule for all weekdays, but separate schedules for each of the weekend days. However, this methodology consolidates the majority of the service (weekdays) into only one third of the period count undervaluing the number of riders affected by weekday problems. Moreover, crowding that varies by day-of-week could be masked by averaging over a five-day period.

There also appears to be a mathematical problem for the subway where 7 periods are claimed to be 13.5% of the total. This implies that there are over 50 subway “periods”, but with only 3 lines and 14 periods per line (no early Sunday service), this is impossible (it is unclear where the SRT fits in here). This chart needs work to improve its content.

Reliability of the new Flexity fleet bounced back from a big dip in January 2019, but the mean distance between failures of 13,223 km is still below last year’s performance and less than half of the contracted target. This does not bode well for any move to extend the existing contract with Bombardier.

CLRV reliability continues to track at under 4,000 km MDBF, and the TTC no longer publishes stats for the ALRVs as they have been out of service over the winter. The May schedule plans show a return of five ALRVs to 501 Queen, but this is tentative and the affected runs might simply show up with CLRVs or Flexitys. The CEO’s report notes:

As this legacy fleet is scheduled to be decommissioned by end of this year, maintenance staff will continue to ensure the vehicles are safe to operate in service. However, technical efforts moving forward are being shifted to the new LFLRV fleet and to providing Bombardier with additional assistance. [p 40]

King Street Update: March 2019 Part II

In the first part of this review, I extended previous charts showing travel times through the Jarvis-Bathurst “pilot” area to the end of March 2019. This installment turns to the question of headway reliability – how regularly do streetcars arrive – as opposed to how long they require to cross the pilot district. A rider’s experience is affected by both of these factors, not to mention the basic question of “can I get on” when a streetcar does show up.

Although one end of a journey might be within the pilot, many trips on the King car begin or end beyond the pilot’s limits. They are affected by service quality along the whole route, not just in the core. This article begins by looking at March 2019 service at Yonge Street, and then moves further afield including the termini of the route.

The weather varied considerably over March 2019, but this did not play a big factor in the data overall, and statistics for most weeks and locations are similar. The larger issue is that service at the terminals is irregular most of the time, and this makes it impossible to have a properly “blended” service in the central part of the route.

The measurement shown in this article are taken at various screenlines along the route.

  • Southbound on Broadview crossing Danforth (leaving Broadview Station)
  • Northbound on Cherry crossing Mill (leaving Distillery Loop)
  • Westbound on King crossing Parliament (blended service from 504A/B). Note that any short turns coming south on Parliament are not included.
  • Westbound on King crossing Yonge
  • Southbound on Dundas crossing Bloor (leaving Dundas West Station)
  • Northbound on Dufferin crossing Springhurst (leaving Dufferin Loop)
  • Eastbound on King crossing Strachan (blended service)
  • Eastbound on King crossing Yonge

Headway Reliability at Yonge

The service at Yonge Street includes both the 504A and 504B branches of the King route. Their schedules normally have the same headway and so in theory this should be a blended service of cars alternating between destinations on a combined headway half that of each branch.

There are various ways of presenting the headway data each of which reveals a different aspect of the operation.

Headway Scatter Chart

Each dot on the chart represents one car with different colours for each day. The horizontal position is the time of day, and the vertical position is the headway in front of the car when it crossed Yonge Street. Note that because of the farside stop, few values are right at the zero line because cars tend to wait their turn and do not cross within the same 20-second interval used by the vehicle tracking system.

The wavy coloured lines are best fit curves threaded through the data to show how the values behave over the course of the day. Note that even though the dots for each day may be in different locations, the overall values as shown by the trend lines is quite similar for each day. In other words, one day is very much like another.

The scheduled combined headways of the King branches in March were:

  • 2’38” in the AM peak
  • 3’30” in the midday
  • 3’00” in the PM peak
  • 3’15” in the early evening
  • 4’30” in the late evening

The trend lines lie generally on the scheduled values as one would expect at the middle of the route where there should be no effects from short turns and all service is present.

The full Service Summary for 504 King is shown below.

Averages and Deviations

Another way to look at the same data is to see the hourly averages and standard deviations (a measure of how dispersed the values are around the average).

On this chart, each week’s data is displayed in a different colour (the red line corresponds to the week 1 data on the previous chart). The solid line shows the hourly average values and the dotted lines show the standard deviations. The latter values are of some concern because they lie close to the averages. This indicates that the band of data values around the averages for over half of the headways is close to the scheduled headway itself. In other words, many cars are running two headways apart, and by implication others are running very close together. This is evident in the scatter diagram, but the chart of averages and SDs shows that this is a consistent pattern for all weeks in the month.

Note that “week 1” actually is six days long because March 1 is a Friday and is included with the following week.

Quartiles

The chart below shows the week 1 data in “block and whisker” format breaking down the range for each of four quartiles.

Each column displays the data for one hour within week 1.  The green and blue boxes show the range of the second and third quartiles with the dividing line being the median value for the data. The red “whiskers” at the bottom show the range of the first quartile data, while the upper purple whiskers show the fourth quartile.

This chart shows that one quarter of the service operates well below the median headway, close to zero, and another quarter operates well above reaching values of 10 minutes and more throughout the day. The other half of the service lies within the green and blue boxes. The shorter this box is, the closer to the scheduled headway half of the service is operating, but the “whiskers” ideally should not be so long.

This is a simplified view of the scatter chart above. From a rider’s point of view, wait times are important and more people will accumulate at a stop during a wide headway than a narrow one. More riders “see” the gaps (and following bunches) even though the average and median headways might be close to the scheduled values. This also affects crowding on cars.

Weekends show little difference. The Saturday data are shown below, and the Sunday data are quite similar except for the early morning hours.

All of the charts above are for westbound service. The eastbound charts are quite similar. Full sets for both directions are available below.

A classic argument about transit service is that bunching is inevitable given the vagaries of traffic and the impossibility of running precisely to a schedule. By the time the service reaches Yonge in either direction, what might have been a well-behaved service has fallen apart. At least that’s the story. However, when we look further away, this is not born out by the data.

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