Buses Vs Streetcars on 501 Lake Shore Service

The year 2017 brought a long-term shutdown of the 501 Queen street service west of Sunnyside Loop to permit various construction projects on The Queensway, at Humber Loop and on Lake Shore Boulevard. Although work will not be seriously underway until the weather improves, the year-long shutdown also gives the TTC some breathing room in its ongoing problem of streetcar fleet availability as it awaits the long-overdue Bombardier Flexity order.

City TV recently reported that riders on Lake Shore are very pleased with the replacement bus service. That’s little surprise considering how much more frequent the buses arrive compared to the streetcars. A well-known aspect of service evaluation is that riders are much more sensitive to waiting time, especially in bad weather, than to in-vehicle travel time, especially if riding conditions are moderately comfortable.

There is also the question of comparative travel speeds with bus operations versus streetcars. Do the buses make better time than streetcars and, if so, when, where and why?

Continue reading

TTC Service Changes Effective March 26, 2017

The TTC plans for service changes in March 2017 are not extensive. They are detailed in the spreadsheet linked below. I have modified the format of this to include not just headways but also running times (including layovers). This was done to clarify situations where adjustments are made to deal with traffic conditions on routes and to show the amount of time added for diversions.

2017.03.26_Service_Changes

Construction Projects

Although diversions and bus replacements are inevitable for track construction projects, the degree to which the TTC and city are content to remove streetcars for construction outside of the streetcar lanes says little for the “transit first” language we often hear. There also appears to be little incentive to complete such projects as quickly as possible.

501 Queen

Construction projects affect sections of the Queen route for all of 2017:

  • Reconstruction of The Queensway right-of-way, the Humber bridge, Humber Loop and track on Lake Shore
  • Sidewalk reconstruction on Queen between Spadina and Bathurst (late March to late summer)
  • Reconstruction of the intersection of Coxwell and Queen (August)
  • Replacement of the overhead walkway west of Queen and Yonge linking the Eaton Centre to the Simpson’s building (now HBC/Saks)

For the period from March 26 to May 6, Queen cars will divert both ways via Spadina, King and Shaw. Replacement bus service will operate from University to Dufferin (terminating at Dufferin Loop south of King). Night service will operate from Yonge to Dufferin looping in the east via Church, Richmond and Victoria.

During the Queen diversion, running time will be added on 510 Spadina to allow for streetcar congestion and delays making turns at Queen and King. One cannot help wondering where “transit priority” fits in this situation considering that problems with this diversion were quite evident during 2016.

Starting on May 7, the route will be converted to bus operation end-to-end. This will have two branches similar to the streetcar service before 2015. One branch will operate from Neville to Long Branch, while the other will run from Neville to Park Lawn. Buses will run through the construction area from Spadina to Bathurst.

Because so many buses will be required and streetcars now on Queen will be released, streetcars will return to 511 Bathurst, 503 Kingston Road Tripper and the 504 King trippers.

Streetcar service on Queen between Neville and Sunnyside will resume in September, and over the full route to Long Branch in January 2018.

See also Ben Spurr’s article in the Star.

505 Dundas

Three projects affect the Dundas service during 2017:

  • Reconstruction of the intersection at Victoria and Dundas Square (beginning late March)
  • Reconstruction of the intersection at Dundas and Parliament (May-June)
  • Watermain construction between Yonge and Church (late March to October)

Effective with the March schedules, 505 Dundas cars will divert both ways via Bay, College, Carlton and Church.

During the May-June period when streetcars will not be able to operate through the Parliament intersection, a different arrangement will be required, but the details have not been announced.

504 King

Starting with the March 26 schedules, the King bus trippers will be extended north to Dundas West Station to avoid congestion at Sunnyside Loop.

With the May schedules, the Queen turnback at Sunnyside will end, and the bus trippers will be replaced by streetcars.

503 Kingston Road Tripper

With the May schedules, this peak period route will return to streetcar operation, but it will loop downtown at Charlotte Loop (Spadina, Adelaide, Charlotte) because Wellington Street will be under construction.

For the July schedules (mostly in August), the intersection at Queen and Coxwell will be under construction, and so bus operation will return to the 503.

The 502 Downtowner service will remain a bus operation throughout.

506 Carlton

When the March schedules were planned, a diversion was to be implemented between Broadview and Coxwell to allow reconstruction of the overhead over that section of the route. This diversion has been deferred due to the shortage of buses, but the new temporary schedules were already in place for March-April. This will leave 506 Carlton service on its regular route, but with added running time and wider headways. The standard schedule will come back into operation in May.

Continuation of last year’s sidewalk construction and streetscape improvements is likely, but yet to be confirmed, beginning in June between Bathurst and Lansdowne. Service adjustments are yet to be announced.

Route Changes

73 Royal York

The peak period 73A service that now terminates at Dixon Road will be extended north following the same route as the 73C Albion Road service to loop via Knob Hill Drive and Oak Street in Weston. This branch will be renamed as 73D.

121 Fort York – Esplanade

The route will be extended west into Exhibition Place so that operators on the route have access to a washroom (in Exhibition Loop). Running times during certain periods will be adjusted to match conditions on the route.

131 Nugget Express

Two branches of this service operate to supplement the SRT while the fleet undergoes major repairs to extend its lifespan. The 131E runs from Kennedy Station to Old Finch, but the 131F runs only from Kennedy to STC. Due to low ridership the 131F service will be removed. Service on the 131E is unchanged.

Transit First For King Street?

Toronto’s Planning Department and the TTC hope to transform King Street as a realm primarily for transit vehicles and pedestrians with a pilot project aimed for fall 2017. Are the plans too aggressive, too timid, or just right? Is Toronto willing to embrace a fundamental change in the operation of a major downtown street?

On February 13, a crowd of hundreds packed into meeting rooms at Metro Hall for the launch of a new vision for King Street by the City of Toronto. Chief Planner Jennifer Keesmaat introduced the session with an overview of the project’s goals and the framework for upcoming studies and implementation. Top of her list is “Transit First”, a fundamental view of the street as existing primarily to move people in transit vehicles and, by extension, to shift from a street designed around automotive traffic to one built around pedestrians. This is not just an exercise in transit priority, but also a shift in street design beyond transit lanes to expand and improve pedestrian spaces.

Transit service is beyond capacity, and fast and reliable service cannot be achieved while accommodating the existing volume of cars. For the duration of the pilot, the transit experience should be improved.

Improving the transit experience on King Street should also transform the public realm experience for increasing numbers of pedestrians to help address open space deficits along the corridor.

King Street users are overwhelmingly pedestrians, not motorists, and yet the lion’s share of space is dedicated to cars, not to transit and those on foot.

kingstreetpilot_usersvsspaceallocation

Inspired by trial street interventions by other cities, Toronto looks to take a short-cut in reaching a demonstration of what is possible with pilot configurations using a minimum of construction. This has several advantages. A trial avoids the lengthy, complex and finality of a formal proposal assessment, which can take years before anyone has a chance to learn whether a scheme actually works. A pilot can use temporary, movable installations such as planters, signs and road markings that can be quickly changed for fine tuning, to test alternate arrangements, or to undo the changes. Residents, businesses and politicians can buy into a trial hoping to see improvement, or at least to determine that side-effects are tolerable for the broader goals, without fearing they are locked into major expense and upheaval that might not work.

This is a refreshing change from endless studies producing little action, with the only downside being that some changes are simply beyond the limitations of a pilot. If a trial works well enough, then more lasting changes requiring construction can follow.

King is not a street like others in Toronto where transit priority has been attempted. Spadina, St. Clair and Queens Quay are all wider, and options for increasing road space on King are few. Traffic patterns and business needs differ on each street, and a layout that works in one place may not be appropriate for others. Equally, the benefits or horrors of these streets do not necessarily apply on King.

The city has three proposed layouts for a transit-first King Street. At this stage they exist only as general schemes, not as detailed, block-by-block plans. On that fine-grained level any new scheme will succeed or fail. Even if a plan achieves transit improvements, too many small annoyances, too many details overlooked could collectively derail a scheme. The planners flag this as a need for both a “micro and macro” view of the street – the big picture of better transit, and an awareness that every block, every neighbourhood along the street is different.

Common to all plans is a substantial reduction in the space available for cars and trucks. Some areas now used for loading, drop offs and cab stands would be repurposed either as through traffic lanes with no stopping, or as expanded sidewalk space into what is now the curb lane. Left turns would be banned throughout the area.

This demands a major re-think in how the street works for its many users both regular and casual.

The street is only four lanes wide, and along much of its length buildings come out to the sidewalk line. Only limited roadway expansion is possible, but not practically across the corridor. In any event, the focus is not on cars but on pedestrians and their transit service. Road improvements should not masquerade as benefits to transit.

In the illustrations below, the yellow areas indicate new space reserved for pedestrians while the blue lines show where cars would be expected to drive.

kingstreetpilot_blockoptions

Continue reading

How Fast Can The King Car Run? (Updated)

Updated January 31, 2017 at 12:20 pm:

Additional charts:

  • Saturday vs Sunday travel speeds
  • Detailed bus and streetcar speeds
  • Terminal layover times

As part of its TOCore studies, the City of Toronto is contemplating changes to King Street to alter the way it serves many users: cyclists, pedestrians, cars, taxis, delivery vehicles and, of course, transit. Recent media coverage latched on to a scheme to remove at least private automobiles from the street completely. This is only one option, but the focus on the “no cars” scheme, probably the most extreme of possibilities, leads to a polarized debate, hardly the way to launch into a proper study.

The primary beneficiary of a “new” King Street is supposed to be the transit service, but a vital part of any proposals and analysis is the understanding of just how the street and its transit work today.

Recent articles related to this post contain background information that I will only touch on briefly here:

The basic premise behind improving transit on King is that with less traffic in the way, streetcars (and buses) on the route will move faster, and this will allow better service to be provided without additional resources (vehicles, operators) that the TTC does not have, nor have budget headroom to operate even if they were available.

This sounds good, but it presumes that a large portion of the route is mired in traffic congestion throughout at least the peak periods, and, therefore, there are substantial “efficiencies” to be had by speeding up the service.

Continue reading

Analysis of 514 Cherry Service for December 2016

The 514 Cherry car has been running since June 2016. Although originally planned as a net new service, budget for the route fell victim to the 2016 round in which headroom for the “new” service was created by reallocating vehicles from 504 King. The purpose was to concentrate service on the central part of King where there is higher demand, but in practice, the original schedule did not work out. In November 2016 the headways on 514 Cherry were widened to compensate for longer-than-planned running times.

The 514 Cherry car has been something of an afterthought for the TTC in several ways. Planning and construction for it began years ago, but implementation was delayed until after the Pan Am Games were out of the way and the Canary District began to populate with residents and students in the new buildings. Another major blow has been the failure to build the Waterfront East LRT which is intended to eventually connect with the trackage on Cherry Street as part of a larger network. In effect, the spur to Distillery Loop is treated by the TTC as little more than a place for a scheduled short turn of the King Street service, much as trackage on Dufferin Street south of King is for the route’s western terminus.

Riders bound for the Distillery District face two challenges. One is that the older streetcars do not have route signs for 514 Cherry, only a small dashboard card wrapped over the “short turn” sign. Tourists might be forgiven for wondering if a 514 Cherry will ever show up. As new streetcars gradually appear on this route, this problem will decline, but it is an indication of the half-hearted way service was introduced that good signage was not part of the scheme.

New low floor cars now operate on 514 Cherry, typically two in off-peak periods and four in the peak. However, the TTC appears to make no attempt to assign these cars to runs that are equally spaced on the route, and so it is common to see both of them near one of the other terminus with a wide gap facing anyone who actually needs to wait for one.

Indeed, it is the same pair of runs that usually have a Flexity on them through much of December, and they do not provide evenly spaced accessible service over the route. The TTC is happy to crow about accessibility, but falls down in the execution.

Worst of all are the actual headways found on 514 Cherry. Although the schedule was revised in November, and cars should generally have time to make their trips, it is very common to see two 514 Cherry cars close together followed by a long gap. This problem originates at the terminals, the points where the TTC’s target for “on time” service is no more than one minute early to five minutes late. This six minute window is routinely broken by service on the route, and the problem only gets worse as cars move across the city.

In effect, the TTC has simply thrown out a bunch of extras for the King car and lets them run more or less at random providing supplementary capacity in the central part of the route.

Continue reading

How Much Service Actually Runs on King Street? (2)

In a previous article, I reviewed the capacity of service provided on King Street over the past few years to see just how much, if any, change there has been in actual capacity as the mix of streetcars and buses changed over time.

This article expands the charts with current data to the end of 2016 and with some historical data going back to December 2006. The periods included are:

  • December 2006
  • November 2011
  • March 2012
  • May 2013
  • July 2013 to January 2016
  • March 2016 to December 2016

Data for route 514 Cherry is included from June 2016 onward when that route began operation.

Methodology:

Vehicle tracking data gives the location of transit vehicles at all times, and therefore gives the time at which each vehicle crosses a screenline where values such as headway (vehicle spacing) and a count of vehicles by hour can be calculated. This is done for every weekday (excluding statutory holidays) in the months for which I have data to produce these charts.

The capacity values used for each vehicle type are taken from the TTC’s Service Standards.

  • CLRV: 74
  • ALRV: 108
  • LFLRV: 130
  • Bus: 51

In the charts linked below, the data are presented in several pages for each location:

  • By count of vehicles separated by type, by hour
  • By total capacity of vehicles, by hour
  • By total capacity across a four-hour peak period span

The most critical part of King Street where service quality and capacity are at issue is the section from Yonge Street west to Liberty Village.

For the AM peak, the capacity is measured eastbound at two locations, Bathurst Street and Jameson Avenue.

[Note: In these charts, the horizontal axis includes labels for every 13th entry based on what will physically fit. The exact days for each point are less important than the overall trend in the data.]

Items of note in these charts:

  • The effect of service reallocation to the central part of the route with the creation of 514 Cherry is evident from June 2016 onward. Cars that formerly operated over the full route were confined to the central portion between Cherry and Dufferin adding capacity there while removing it from the outer ends. However, the running time allocated was insufficient, and after schedule changes to correct this, the actual improvement in capacity on the central part of King was not as great as had been expected with the new configuration.
  • The capacity provided eastbound at Bathurst is only slightly better in 2016 than it was in December 2006 during the key hour from 8 to 9 am. Capacity is improved notably in the shoulder peak hour from 9 to 10 am.
  • Although bus trippers make up for the shortage of vehicles in the streetcar fleet, they do not proportionately replace capacity. The TTC’s characterization of these buses as being an “addition” to the streetcar service is misleading.

For the PM peak, the capacity is measured westbound at Yonge Street. In cases where service was diverted via Queen for construction, the measurement is at Queen and Yonge.

The PM peak period operates with wider headways (fewer vehicles per hour) and has some room for growth before hitting the practical lower bound of two minute headways (30 vehicles/hour) on a busy street in mixed traffic. Over the years, capacity has improved, although with ups and downs along the way. However, a good deal of the total capacity increase fell in the shoulder peak periods.

These charts show the capacity, based on design parameters that do not reflect packed cars, and it is likely that total loads are higher than shown here especially during the height of the peak periods. What these charts do not show, of course, is the latent demand for service that might appear if only there were room for passengers to board.

I have requested vehicle loading data from the TTC to determine how this can be incorporated with the service analysis to demonstrate how ridership and crowding interact with headways and overall capacity. The TTC has not yet replied to the request.

TTC Service Changes Effective Sunday, January 8, 2017 (Updated)

Updated December 12, 2016 at 3:00 pm and at 4:25 pm: Details of the works planned for the west end of the Queen line during 2017 have been added to this article.

The planned service changes for January 2017 bring major restructuring of two routes, and a troubling indicator about the general availability of vehicles for TTC service.

Bus Availability

Several routes will have AM peak service cuts because there are not enough buses to operate the service. None of these will push the service over the loading standards, and these could be thought of of “trimming” excessive service. However, the explicit reason given is the lack of buses.

This is partly due to the slow delivery of new streetcars and to the operation of buses on many streetcar routes either to make up for missing fleet, or to cover for construction projects, but also because of additional demands for spare buses for maintenance.

Streetcar Availability

At the time of writing this article, car 4429 is about to leave Thunder Bay. This leaves Bombardier on track if they push out one more car to hit their much-revised delivery target for 2016. However, the rate of deliveries is not expected to speed up until the second quarter of 2017 and so it will be some time before we see streetcars return across the system.The shortage is partly due to late deliveries and partly to the increased need for cars in maintenance for rehabilitation pending receipt of more Flexitys.

As of January, the following routes or portions of routes are operating with buses:

  • 502 Downtowner and 503 Kingston Road
  • 501 Queen (bus operation west of Sunnyside Loop to Long Branch)
  • 504 King (bus trippers)
  • 511 Bathurst

Effective January 8, 2017, the 501 Queen service will operate with streetcars only between Sunnyside Loop and Neville Loop. A bus service will run from Long Branch Loop via Lake Shore, Windermere, The Queensway, Queen and Dufferin to Dufferin Loop. The same arrangement will be in place for night service, and so riders bound west of Roncesvalles will have to transfer to the night bus.

Beginning in the spring, The Queensway right-of-way will be rebuilt over its entire length including the bridge at the Humber River, the “Long Branch” side of Humber Loop will be rebuilt, as will the track from Humber Loop west to Dwight and Lake Shore (just at the point where Lake Shore straightens out). Streetcar service is not expected to resume until late in 2017 January 2018.

Update: The timing for various components of this project, tentatively, is:

  • Queensway track from Claude to Humber Loop will be rebuilt in concrete rather than with open ballast as at present. This work will occur over much of the construction season.
  • City work on the Humber River bridge will also run through the construction season.
  • Track on Lake Shore from Humber Loop to Dwight will be replaced in the spring.
  • A new substation will be installed at Humber Loop in the summer.
  • Track at Humber Loop and through the tunnel to Lake Shore will be replaced in the late summer and fall.
  • There are no plans at this point to change the stop at Parkside Drive which is not accessible.

Further to the above, the TTC advises that “most of the track work west of Humber Loop is the replacement of the rail and top layer of concrete only, and so the alignment does not change.”

[Thanks to Scott Haskill at the TTC for these details.]

A separate project to rebuild and reconfigure The Queensway east of Parkside to Roncesvalles, including replacement of the intersection and the junctions with the carhouse, is planned for 2019.

Concurrent with this change, some of the bus trippers on 504 King will revert to streetcar operation. Also, the 80A Queensway service to Keele Station will operate at all hours rather than cutting back to Humber Loop to preserve a connection with the 501 Queen bus service.

Metrolinx Construction on the Eglinton LRT

This project continues to affect more routes whose schedules have been adjusted mainly by giving more running time and stretching headways.

The major change in this regard is that the 25 Don Mills route will be split on weekdays at Don Mills Station into two separate routes so that construction delays on the south end of the line do not affect service north of Sheppard. The service levels on the 25 Don Mills local buses and 185 Don Mills Rockets have been slightly adjusted to reflect greater demand on the locals.

2017.01.08_Service_Changes

Travel Times on Route 504 King (Updated)

Updated on January 28, 2017:

Changes include:

  • Addition of data for November and December 2016.
  • Reformattied chart pages so that data for years 2014, 2015 and 2016 appear on separate sheets.

With the launch of Toronto’s TOCore project, the city set in motion a complete rethink of what “Downtown” means and how it will evolve in coming decades. On some counts, one might argue that this work is long overdue as concentration of office and residential space in a very small area brings many problems for residents and businesses, not to mention a very competitive demand for a crucial resource – road space.

I will leave the debate on many of these issues to other people and forums, but as this is a transit blog, my focus is on understanding how transit works (or doesn’t) and what effects might result from various proposals.

In the Globe & Mail, Oliver Moore writes about “Complete Streets” and how this design philosophy could affect Toronto. Without question, better attention must be paid to improving the safety and usability of major streets by pedestrians (who are also transit riders) and cyclists who collectively outnumber the motor traffic.

King Street has long been the busiest of the downtown streetcar routes carrying about 65,000 riders every weekday. But these riders do not all travel to and from the business district at King & Bay, nor do they all travel in conventional am and pm peak commuting times. New demands on the shoulders of downtown such as Liberty Village and the St. Lawrence district include not only residents bound for jobs at Bay Street, but workers and students headed to offices and schools on counter-peak trips. Indeed, the term “counter peak” can seem odd when one looks at some of the demand patterns.

In 2014-15, I was retained by the City’s Transportation Department and the TTC to review the major streetcar routes with a view to identifying locations on the shoulders of peak periods where parking and turning restrictions should be extended beyond the traditional two hour window. As a result of this and other surveys conducted by the City, traffic regulations were changed in several areas. This brought some improvement, typically eliminating anomalies where the pm peak, for example, actually was worst for transit service in the hours just before and just after the “official” rush hour.

However, that review was considerably smaller than the goals of TOCore. A redesign of a street like King is an all-day effort, and one that could, depending on its scope, affect a great deal of the streetcar route. This is not a case of tweaking a few hours a day, but of reinventing the street.

Continue reading

The Travails of Cherry Street

A recent meeting of the Corktown Residents’ and Business Association included a discussion of problems with the new 514 Cherry service. As reported by thebuletin.ca

… a resident of the King/Sumach area … commented that the screech of the streetcars turning at King and Sumach was so loud as to prevent sleep. Apparently the issue has been ongoing since the inauguration of the 514 (Distillery Loop–Dufferin) line on June 19.

The issue—which took the meeting somewhat by surprise—was amplified by other attendees, who also noted that there were substantial problems with streetlight timings at the Cherry/Front and Cherry/Eastern intersections, as well as with poorly-delineated turning lane stripes which have led to vehicles accidentally getting onto the streetcar right-of-way and then being unable to get off. (There have been earlier, similar incidents with the slightly older right-of-way at Queen’s Quay.)

Deputy Mayor and area councillor Pam McConnell’s office was aware of the issues and noted that streetcar service was now suspended (replaced with shuttle buses) between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. A public meeting was subsequently scheduled with the councillor’s office and the TTC.

Problems at King & Sumach have continued since the 514 opened for service including:

  • dewirements causing overhead to be pulled down
  • derailments
  • traffic signals that do more to delay transit service than “prioritize” it (this is also a problem further south on Cherry)

When the TTC began rerouting the 514 service late in the evening, the alleged purpose was “railgrinding” and this is still reflected in the URL for the service notice which is called “514_railgrinding.jsp”. The activities underway at the intersection were clearly aimed at the derailment problems by altering the rail profile on the curves.

There is a long-standing slow order for east-west operation on King that has nothing to do with this, but is no doubt related to a few cases of overhead failure.

Meanwhile, the traffic signals here and at other locations on Cherry appear to be on a fixed cycle that has no relationship to whether transit vehicles are present. So much for “transit priority”.

On the subject of wheel squeal, the TTC’s official line is that the new streetcars are supposed to be self-lubricating, and that this would be triggered by GPS information. That’s a good line, but it does not fit with actual conditions.

  • There is a wheel greaser on the southbound approach to Distillery Loop.
  • The GPS-based automatic greasing has not yet been turned on for the new cars. (Anyone with contrary information is welcome to correct me in the comments.)
  • Most of the service on 514 Cherry is provided by CLRVs that do not have automatic greasers.

I have outstanding requests for further information on these issues to both the TTC and to City Transportation, and will update this post as and when they reply.