TTC Streetcar Network Changes in 2020 (Updated)

Construction projects and the ongoing shuffling of streetcars and buses between the 500-series routes will bring some changes over coming months.

Updated March 30, 2020

The planned switch to streetcars on 505 Dundas has been deferred to late April, and buses will continue to operate on this route.

In turn, streetcars will remain on Bathurst until Dundas switches to streetcars.

New overhead poles have begun to appear on Broadview at locations where the curves must be rebuilt for pantograph operation.

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Streetcar Service During the CLRV Era

With the retirement of the CLRV fleet on December 29, 2019, this is a good time to look back at how service on the streetcar network has evolved during the lifetime of those cars.

When they first entered service on the Long Branch route in September 1979, the new cars marked a real sign that Toronto was keeping its streetcar system.

Although Toronto decided to keep streetcars in late 1972, there was no guarantee that without renewal of the fleet and infrastructure the system could last very long. The last-built cars in the PCC fleet (the 4500s) dated to 1951 and, despite their simplicity compared to what we now call “modern” cars, they would not last forever. Second hand cars from other cities were older than the most recent “Toronto” cars. They were retired over the years even while the TTC undertook major overhauls on its own, younger fleet.

In 1980, the streetcar service was still dominated by PCCs as much of the CLRV order was still to come, and the ALRVs would not arrive until the late 1980s.

Yes, I know. What are all of those acronyms? Not every reader is a die-hard railfan with all of this information at their fingertips.

PCC: The President’s Conference Car was the product of work by a consortium of street railways to update streetcar design in competition with the rise of the private automobile. This was a large research project, especially for its time in the 1930s, and it produced a totally re-thought vehicle. The TTC was working with Hawker Siddeley on an updated PCC design in the mid-1960s, but nothing came of this thanks to a provincial fascination with new, high-tech transit. A license agreement for updated PCC patents held, in the 1960s, by the Czech manufacturer Tatra was never signed, and work on a new PCC for suburban routes stopped.

PCCs on King Street at Atlantic Avenue

CLRV: The Canadian Light Rail Vehicle. This car was designed partly by the TTC and partly by a provincial agency, the Ontario Transportation Development Corporation (later renamed as “Urban” to remove the explicit local reference). The design, from the Swiss Industrial Group (SIG), was very different from the car the TTC had worked on, but the UTDC needed a viable product after their magnetic-levitation project ran aground with technical difficulties. As a city streetcar, it was overbuilt in anticipation of high-speed suburban operation, notably in Scarborough. That scheme was supplanted by what we now know as the “RT”.

CLRV at High Park Loop

ALRV: The two section “Articulated” version of the CLRV was designed to run on heavy routes, notably the Queen car. These vehicles were never as reliable as the original CLRVs, and they were the first to be retired. At various times over the years, they ran on Queen, Bathurst and King.

An ALRV at “Old” Exhibition Loop

Flexity: This is the generic product name for Bombardier’s low-floor streetcars. It exists in many formats with Toronto’s version being designed to handle tight curves and steep grades. Delivery of the 204-car fleet was almost complete at the end of 2019.

Flexity on King Street at University Avenue

When the TTC decided to keep streetcars in 1972, they were still enjoying a long period of post-war ridership growth with constant expansion into the suburbs of bus and subway lines. Getting new riders was a simple task – just run more service. The downtown streetcar system was still bulging with riders thanks to a stable population and a robust industrial sector.

By 1980, however, the TTC hit something its management had not seen before, a downturn in ridership, thanks to the economic effect of the first Middle Eastern oil war and its effect on energy prices. Although the TTC continued to grow through the 1980s, a mindset of running just enough service to meet demand took over. This would be particularly unfortunate when the ALRVs entered service, and the new schedules merely replaced the capacity of former CLRV/PCC service on wider headways. With cars 50% bigger, the scheduled gap (headway) between cars increased proportionately. This combined with the TTC’s notoriously uneven service to drive away ridership, and the Queen car lost about a third of its demand.

The real blow came in the early 1990s with an extended recession that saw the TTC system lose 20% of its ridership falling from about 450 million to 360 million annual rides over five years. The effect was compounded when Ontario walked away from transit subsidies when the Mike Harris conservatives replaced the Bob Rae NDP at Queen’s Park.

The TTC planned to rebuild and keep a small PCC fleet to supplement the LRVs in anticipation of vehicle needs on the Spadina/Harbourfront line. However, when it opened in 1997 service cuts had reduced peak fleet requirements to the point that the PCCs were not required and the network, including 510 Spadina, operated entirely with CLRVs and ALRVs. This locked the TTC into a fleet with no capacity for growth, a situation that persisted for over two decades and which the new Flexity fleet has not completely relieved.

The combination of rising demand, in turn driven by the unforeseen growth of residential density in the “old” City of Toronto, and of commercial density in and near the core, leaves Toronto with unmet transit needs, latent and growing possibilities for transit to make inroads in the travel market, and a customer attitude that “TTC” means “Take The Car” if possible.

The problem with service inadequacy and unreliability extends well beyond the old city into the suburban bus network, but this article’s focus is the streetcar lines. I have not forgotten those who live and travel in what we used to call “Zone 2”, but the evolution of service on the streetcar system is a tale of what happens when part of the transit network does not get the resources it should to handle demand.

The evolution of service and capacity levels shown here brings us to the standard chicken-and-egg transit question about ridership and service. Without question there have been economic and demographic changes in Toronto over the years including the average population per household in the old city, the conversion of industrial lands (and their jobs) to residential, the shift of some commuting to focus outward rather than on the core, and the shift in preferred travel mode.

Where service has been cut, ridership fell, and it is a hard slog to regain that demand without external forces such as the population growth in the King Street corridor. The lower demand becomes the supposed justification for lower service and what might have been “temporary” becomes an integral part of the system. However, the level of service on any route should not be assumed to be “adequate for demand” because that demand so strongly depends on the amount of service actually provided.

This is a challenge for the TTC and the City of Toronto in coming decades – moving away from just enough service and subsidy to get by to actively improving surface route capacity and service quality.

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Service Changes Coming to 506 Carlton in October 2019

With the shift to the larger low-floor streetcars, the TTC will begin schedule changes on Sunday October 13 (Thanksgiving weekend) for route 506 Carlton. In many periods of operation, the headways will widen in recognition of the capacity of the new cars, although the change will also bring a capacity increase.

The schedules are designed on the basis that most service will be provided by Flexitys, especially in the off-peak period. This could lead to problems such as those seen on other routes where CLRVs operate on headways designed for larger cars and are badly overloaded as a result. A lot depends on there being enough new cars to fully populate the route.

On the schedules, the only CLRVs remaining in operation will be the 506 Carlton trippers and 511 Bathurst (which is planned to start conversion late in 2019).

The TTC Service Standards set design capacities for vehicles which in theory dictate the level of service a route received. The standard is more generous for off-peak than for peak service.

Peak Off-Peak
CLRV 74 42
Flexity 130 70
Ratio Flexity:CLRV 1.76 1.67
Ratio CLRV:Flexity 0.57 0.60

If service were replaced purely on the basis of scheduled capacity, then there would be about 60% as many Flexitys/hour as on a schedule for CLRVs.

The new service design (click to enlarge, or retrieve PDF version) is shown below.

The change in AM peak and midday headways is from 5’40” (340 seconds, 10.6 cars/hour) to 7’50” (470 seconds, 7.7 cars/hour), a decrease in cars per hour to 72% of current service. This will be partly offset by the larger capacity of the new cars plus the benefit of trippers scheduled during the height of the peak period.

The change in PM peak headways is from 6’00” (360 seconds, 10 cars/hour) to 8’30” (510 seconds, 7.1 cars/hour), a decrease in cars/hour of to 71% of current service.

This change comes on top of wider headways introduced in August in an attempt to improve route reliability by giving streetcars more running time and longer terminal layovers in a bid to cut down on short turns.

The capacity goes up, but the service frequency worsens. This will almost certainly be compounded by the TTC’s inability to maintain even spacing of vehicles as they move across the route. Even though they might leave their terminals somewhat “on time”, this situation quickly deteriorates into bunches and gaps.

There is always a challenge when the TTC substitutes larger vehicles on a route and widens the headway. Laissez-faire route management that might work tolerably on shorter headways falls apart when headways are wider. If two vehicles nominally ten minutes apart actually operate as a pair, then there is a twenty minute gap and the service might as well not exist at all. Equally, the short-turn stats might look wonderful because both cars have time to reach their terminal, but riders see the same gap they would have if one of the cars short-turned.

The TTC has a huge challenge in this regard, but shows little sign of trying to fix the problem preferring to assume that more running time and longer layovers will do the trick.

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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]

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.

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.

506 Carlton Streetcars vs Buses: Part III – Fine Tuning The Charts

This article is a followup to two previous analyses of the 506 Carlton route’s behaviour:

Based on feedback from readers, I have experimented with alternative presentations of the data that better illustrate what is happening on the route. These versions will be added to the repertoire of charts I will use in future analyses, notably for the 505 Dundas route which is the next one in line for review.

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TTC Service Changes Effective Sunday, May 13, 2018

The May 2018 service changes bring:

  • Addition of two AM peak “gap trains” on 1 Yonge-University-Spadina and other operational improvements.
  • An update to the schedules for service on the King Street Pilot to reflect the improved travel time on the street and to reduce vehicle queues at terminals.
  • Changes to all routes serving Main Station during construction that will close the loop to transit vehicles.
  • Diversions of the Parliament and Carlton routes around track construction at Gerrard & Parliament.
  • Changes to Don Mills bus schedules to reflect actual operating conditions and Crosstown construction effects.
  • Seasonal changes to reflect declining ridership to post-secondary institutions during the summer.
  • Summer improvements including extension of 121 Fort York Esplanade to Cherry Beach during all operating periods, improved weekend service on 92 Woodbine South, and later service to the Zoo.
  • There is a new summer route 175 Bluffers Park on weekends between Kennedy Station and the park’s parking lot.
  • Service cuts and running time reductions on 6 Bay.
  • Weekend reliability improvements on 96 Wilson and 165 Weston Road North.
  • Weekday reliability improvements on 199 Finch Rocket.

2018.05.13_Service_Changes

Here are the highlights:

1 Yonge-University-Spadina

Two “gap trains” will be added to the morning peak schedule to provide additional service as needed southbound on Yonge. One train will be stationed in Eglinton pocket track, and the other on the hostler track at Davisville.

Trains leaving service in the evening to Wilson Yard will now do so southbound from Vaughan rather than northbound at Wilson. This avoids conflicts between the yard movements and southbound service.

King Street Pilot

Running times on 504 King will be reduced during almost all operating periods, and the saving will be converted into slightly shorter scheduled headways with no change in total vehicles. The four peak period ALRV trippers will be replaced by six CLRV trippers. Flexity cars will now be formally scheduled to cover part of the service with priority going to runs that stay out all day.

514 Cherry service will be improved during the AM peak, weekday early evening, Saturday afternoon and Saturday early evening periods by the addition of one or more cars.

Peak period crewing practices will be changed to step back operation to reduce terminal delays.

Main Station

Main Station Loop will be closed until September 2018 for construction. During this time routes serving the station will be reorganized:

  • 20 Cliffside and 62 Mortimer will be interlined as a single route from Broadview to Kennedy Station.
  • 23 Dawes will be extended west to Woodbine Station.
  • 64 Main will be extended north to Eastdale.
  • 87 Cosburn will loop on street via Danforth and Chisholm.
  • 113 Danforth and 135 Gerrard will be cut back from Main to Victoria Park Station.
  • 506 Carlton will be extended east to Victoria Park Station via Gerrard covering the mileage of the shortened 135 Gerrard route.

Parliament & Gerrard

During the reconstruction of this intersection, buses will divert:

  • 65 Parliament will divert via Sherbourne between Dundas and Carlton.
  • 506 Carlton will divert via Dundas between Sherbourne and River.

Bay Bus

Service on 6 Bay will be reduced by the elimination of one or two buses during most operating periods, and headways will be widened as a result.

This route suffers from excessive running time as shown in a previous analysis I published, and I will be updating this with current data in May.

506 Carlton Streetcars vs Buses: Part II – Headway Reliability & Capacity

Updated April 24, 2018 at 6:15 am: The axis title on the headway history chart at the end of this article has been corrected from “Minutes” to “Seconds” to reflect the units by which headways are stated in the chart.

In Part I, I reviewed the travel times for buses and streetcars on 506 Carlton since September 2017. In Part II, I will turn to headway reliability – the degree to which service actually operates with evenly spaced vehicles – as well as the capacity of service provided. A followup section looks back to September 2015 to compare operations over a longer timespan.

When the TTC reports on service quality, they have a very limited target: that vehicles leave their terminals no more than 1 minute early or 5 minutes late. Performance stats at the route level have not been published for three years, although there are plans to resume this practice soon. However, there are problems with summarizing data at the level the TTC reports:

  • Results are consolidated for entire days and months so that variations are smoothed out, and the raggedness both in hour-to-hour and day-to-day performance is hidden.
  • Relatively poor performance in peak periods can be masked in averages by better performance in the off-peak. Even though there are fewer off-peak vehicles, there are more off-peak hours and hence more trips.
  • There is no measure of service quality except at terminals even though that is not where most riders use the service.
  • The absence of mid-route measurements means that there is no penalty in a missed “target” for line management quality over the length of a route.
  • The six-minute window (+1 to -5) allows pairs of vehicles on routes with short headways to depart from terminals while still being considered “on time”.
  • Route capacity is wasted because some vehicles run half-empty close behind their leaders, and the average rider experience is that vehicles are infrequent and crowded. The TTC has no metric to identify and monitor this problem.

Service on 506 Carlton has been erratic for many years and the shift to bus operation in February 2018 has not improved route performance. Although buses are scheduled closer together for capacity reasons, headways remain erratic and in some cases the variation in headways has widened since the move to bus operation.

Looking at these charts, it is a wonder that anybody tries to ride this line at all. It is a textbook example of providing bad and slowly declining service on what was once a trunk route in the system. As density builds up along the “shoulder downtown”, routes like Carlton have an important role, if only the TTC would make the effort to provide more attractive service.

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506 Carlton Streetcars vs Buses: Part I – Travel Times (Updated)

Updated April 23, 2018 at 9:30 am: A section has been added following the original article to discuss travel times over the full route from Main Station to High Park including weekend data.

With the temporary conversion of the 505 Dundas and 506 Carlton routes to bus operation for much of 2018, there is a chance to compare how these routes operate with each vehicle type. In this and future articles, I will review travel times across the routes as well as headway reliability.

Data for 506 Carlton that I have collected runs from June to October 2017, and from January to March 2018. For the purpose of speed comparisons, weekdays from January 8-19 (streetcar) and March 19-28 (bus) 2018 are used. This avoids major storms as well as periods when schools were closed and traffic was lighter than normal.

There are seasonal variations in travel times due to the nature of streets and neighbourhoods transit services run through. As the year progresses, it will be possible to compare data for warmer months when the streets are busy between 2017 and 2018 data, although this must be tempered with the effect of diversions that were in effect during 2017.

There is a slight improvement in travel time at certain periods of the day and certain locations/directions for buses, but this is not large or widespread even in off-peak periods. Buses tend to reach higher peak speeds between stops where conditions permit, but in many cases the speed profiles are comparable for the two modes.

Bus headway reliability has been a topic of some discussion on Twitter along with the capacity of the replacement service, but I will turn to those issues in the second part of this analysis.

Route History

The 506 Carlton route changed from time to time over the past year, and this affects the travel times reported here.

  • June 18, 2017: Service diverted via Dundas and Bathurst both ways for streetscape work on College. This increases travel times on the west end of the route starting in mid-June.
  • June 19 to July 9, 2017: Service diverted via Queen between Parliament and Coxwell for construction on Gerrard.
  • July 10 to 25, 2017: Service diverted to Coxwell-Queen Loop for construction on Upper Gerrard. Bus shuttles provided service east of Coxwell.
  • July 26, 2017: Service returned to Main Station. West end diversion via Dundas continues.
  • October 14, 2017: Service resumes standard routing.
  • February 18, 2018: Conversion to bus operation. Western terminus extended to High Park Station.

Chart Formats

The charts presented here are similar to those I have used in previous articles with some minor changes.

In the chart sets containing percentiles of travel time values, there are three groups of charts.

  • The first three pages show the 85th percentile values by hour through the day. Most trips fall within this range, and using the 85th percentile shaves off the worst of the peaks.
  • The next three pages show the 50th percentile values by hour. The format is the same as in the first group, but the values are the medians – half of the trips take longer, and half take shorter.
  • The last four pages show four percentiles from 25th (only 1/4 of trip take this time or less), 50th (median), 85th (most trips) and 100th (maximum values) for four one-hour periods through the day representing the am peak, midday, pm peak and early evening.

For the collection of 85th percentiles, the travel times rise and fall through the day. Detailed comments appear later in the article, but a few points are worth noting here:

  • Travel times in the summer (until Thanksgiving weekend) were longer than in the fall and winter.
  • Some of the highest values fall not in the AM peak but in the late morning.
  • Where there is a spike up, this indicates a delay severe enough to push the 85th percentile to a high value. Where there is a spike down to zero, there was no service over thr route section and direction during the hour in question (for example below, on September 22 between 11 am and noon).

Data are grouped based on the hour when a vehicle enters the section being measured, in this case crossing Yonge Street westbound.

Sample 85th percentile values for 6 am to noon

The charts with the four percentile bands give a sense of the range of values. At the low end, the 25th percentile (purple) gives a sense of the best case times as only one quarter of the trips achieve this time or better. At the high end, the 100th percentile (red) shows the maximum that can occur. This might only be one vehicle or it could be several. The space between the lines gives a sense of how spread out the values are.

Sample percentile values for the AM peak hour

The charts showing average speeds are organized differently to show vehicle behaviour over the length of the route.

  • There are 20 pages to each set of charts, one for each hour from 6-7 am to 1-2 am.
  • To allow the charts room to “breathe”, the data are split into the east and west half of the route divided at Yonge Street, and there are separate chart sets for westbound and eastbound travel.
  • Westbound charts should be read left to right. Eastbound charts should be read right to left.
  • To the degree that the blue (streetcar) line hangs below the green (bus) line, this shows areas where streetcars travel, on average, more slowly than buses during the hour in question, averaged over the period. Where the blue line rises above the green line, the streetcars are faster.
  • One can get a sense of the evolution of travel times for both modes over the course of the day by stepping through the pages to view the rise and fall of values.
  • Late at night, the number of vehicles in service falls, and with that the number of data points. Charts for the period from 1-2 am have less granularity as a result.

Methodology: From the tracking data, we know where each vehicle is every 20 seconds, and from this can derive the speed at that location and time. The route is subdivided into 10m segments, and the calculated speeds are allocated to wherever the vehicle is observed at a given time. The total is then divided by the number of observations to produce average speeds. The downward notches in the charts correspond to places where vehicles stop, or at least slow, typically on the approach to a transit stop or signal. Not all trips stop at all locations, and so a non-zero average can result. Where the downward “notch” approaching a stop is wide, this indicates vehicles queueing on the approach due to congestion.

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