Does More Running Time Improve Service?

[This is a long article, and I won’t hold it against anyone for failing to read all the way to the end, or not looking at every page of every chart. The issue here is a system-wide one of how service is scheduled and managed using routes where the TTC is attempting to improve operations as a reference.]

At the TTC Board Meeting of December 2015, Chief Service Officer Richard Leary gave a presentation “Performance Based Service” outlining the work done to date to improve the reliability of surface routes. [A YouTube video of the presentation is also available.]

The focus of changes made to several schedules has been that end-to-end running times should reflect actual on-street conditions rather than presenting drivers with an unattainable goal that cannot be met during typical conditions, let alone anything unusual such as poor weather or unusually bad traffic congestion.

The changes to date are summarized in the table below.

201512_Leary_AddedRTT

In some cases, the extra running time is provided simply by widening the headway. For example, if a route takes one hour, and it has a bus every 10 minutes, that’s six buses. Extending the headway to 11 minutes would change the round trip to 66 minutes with no added cost. In theory, if this allows vehicles to stay on time, better service might actually be provided because all buses would show up as planned. That, however, depends on them being properly spaced so that their capacity is evenly used.

In other cases, where the problem is not just scheduled time but also capacity, more vehicles can be added. In the example above, a seventh bus would allow the headway to stay at 10 minutes while the trip time went up to 70. With the long-standing problems of a constrained fleet, this is only possible in off-peak periods, or by raiding other routes for vehicles.

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Toronto To Propose Peak-Hour Extensions on Queen, Dundas, Carlton/College

The City of Toronto will hold three public meetings regarding proposed changes in rush hour traffic restrictions on Queen, Dundas and Carlton/College between Parliament and Roncesvalles.

  • Wed. June 17 at 6:30 pm: Mary McCormick Community Centre, 66 Sheridan Avenue
  • Thurs. June 25 at 6:00 pm: Scadding Court Community Centre, 707 Dundas Street West
  • Mon. June 29 at 6:00 pm: City Hall, Committee Room 2

Work underway by City Transportation Services and the TTC includes:

The project team is currently:

  • Analyzing GPS-based data for the streetcar routes along Dundas Street, College/Carlton Streets, and Queen Street West
  • Looking at how existing peak-hour restrictions function along the routes
  • Finding opportunities to improve streetcar travel times and reliability. For example, where streetcar travel times increase sharply after current restrictions end (e.g. 6pm), the project team is considering extending the peak period by a half-hour or hour on each end to improve the flow of transit, general traffic, and cyclists
  • In a few cases, where no clear benefit is observed from an existing extension, peak hours are being reduced

Additional measures to improve transit operations, in various stages of implementation, include:

  • Re-timing signals to give more green time to the priority direction
  • Active Transit Signal Priority (extended green or shortened red when transit vehicles are detected and meet certain requirements)
  • All-door boarding / Proof of Payment (POP)
  • Greater enforcement of restrictions

[From the “Overview” tab]

Disclosure: I have acted as a consultant to this project in the analysis of TTC vehicle tracking data.

TTC Service Changes Effective Sunday, August 31, 2014 (Update 3)

The August 31 schedules will see a return to fall service across the system as well as several other changes.  At long last (I have been distracted with other events, and there was a lot to do this month) here is the consolidated list of service changes. The list combines all types of change because there are overlapping seasonal, construction and service improvement effects.

The table linked here has been updated to correct errors missed in its creation. Thanks to Timor Urakov for catching these.

2014.08.31_Service_Changes (Revision 2)

Major changes include:

  • Return of streetcars to 510 Spadina
  • A major change of the 504 King schedule to provide added running time
  • Return of 504 King and 505 Dundas streetcars to Broadview Station
  • Route split of 501 Queen for Gardiner Expressway construction at Humber Loop
  • Route split of 116E Morningside Express to 198 UTSC Rocket

Something I have not included here, but will add in a future update, is a list of all of the Standby Buses (and a few streetcars) that are spotted around the city for various reasons. They don’t show up in the route-by-route info, but there is a substantial chunk of the fleet used to provide this service. Due to a bus shortage, the number of standby vehicles scheduled for fall 2014 is lower than originally planned.

510 Spadina

Streetcars will return to Spadina between Bloor and Queens Quay with all service running through to the south end of the line. The route will be scheduled based on CLRV capacity, and new Flexities will take over runs one by one as cars become available. Current plans are for through service to Union and a resumption of streetcar service on 509 Harbourfront in October.

At the end of the AM Peak, 508 Lake Shore trippers operate a westbound trip as 506 Carlton to provide extra capacity to the UofT St. George campus. These trips previously operated back to Roncesvalles Carhouse, but they will be changed so that the cars switch over to 510 Spadina which has more cars during the midday than the AM peak.

Previously, this interlining was done using 503 Kingston Road cars from Russell, but with the move of 510 Spadina to Roncesvalles, trippers from that division will be used.

504 King Running Time Changes

In an attempt to reduce the need to short turn much of the service to keep operators on time, the TTC is changing the round trip times during all periods of service on this route.

King Round Trip Time Changes September 2014

                    Weekdays     Saturday     Sunday
                    Aug   Sept   Aug   Sept   Aug   Sept
AM Peak             104+8 120+8
M-F Midday          100+8 122+5
PM Peak             115+8 135+7

S-S Early Morning                85+5  105+5  78+2  95+4
S-S Late Morning                 97+7  111+6  94+5  109+5
S-S Afternoon                    97+7  111+6  94+8  109+5

Early Evening        95+7 116+6  97+4  111+4  82+8  97+3
Late Evening         85+6  99+4  83+7  100+4  76+4  95+4

In the table above, the “before” times are shown under “Aug” and are taken from the schedules in effect until Aug. 30. The “after” times are shown under “Sept” and are taken from the schedules effective Aug. 31.

The time is given as running time plus recovery time. For example, the AM peak running time of “120+8” means that cars will have 120 minutes of driving time to make a round trip plus 8 minutes of terminal recovery time. Some of the changes increase the total time by 20%, a very substantial increase.

Whether this will translate into a noticeable reduction in short turns remains to be seen. One potential problem will be the accumulation of “early” cars at terminals where it is already possible to find lineups of cars. From my own knowledge of the line, some of these changes appear to be excessive and will probably have to be rolled back.

501 Queen & 508 Lake Shore

From September through December, reconstruction of the Gardiner Expressway at Humber Loop will close off the underpass between the loop and Lake Shore Blvd. The outer end of the Queen route will once again switch to a shuttle bus connecting with the streetcar.

Subway Changes

Yonge subway operations will be changed to base more trains at Davisville Yard. This will give more time for maintenance work as the last service trains will be clear of the line sooner than on current schedules. An early morning non-revenue train that carries Station Collectors to work will be replaced with a shuttle bus.

On the Bloor subway, service will be improved weekday middays and evenings, and on Saturday afternoons to reduce crowding.

Roncesvalles Yard

In anticipation of the arrival of more Flexities, some runs will be shifted to other locations. Exhibition Loop will now be used to store some 511 Bathurst runs as well as 512 St. Clair runs already at that location.

The 510 Spadina route will operate from Roncesvalles where the Flexities will be based, and to make room, all runs on 505 Dundas will operate from Russell.

Broadview Avenue

Streetcar service will return to Broadview Station after a temporary absence in July-August.

Since the re-opening of the Broadview & Queen intersection, carhouse trips from Russell westbound have resumed using the west-to-north curve that was taken out of service for safety concerns in October 2012.

Six Points Project

The reconstruction of the Kipling-Dundas-Bloor interchange begins in September and this will trigger diversions of various routes around Kipling Station.

Reconstruction of Dundas & Spadina (Updated August 8, 2014)

August 8, 2014

Regular streetcar service on McCaul Street is rare both because of how this trackage fits into the network and because the narrow street invites autos and trucks to park foul of the tracks. Below, a few shots of McCaul Street while the 505 Dundas route is still there.

Regular service through Dundas & Spadina resumes on Tuesday, August 12.

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TTC Service Changes Effective Sunday, July 20, 2014

Most of the changes for the July-August schedule period are triggered by construction projects. The detailed list linked from this report now includes a chart showing the expected duration of all projects in progress.

The 172 Cherry bus is affected both by the seasonal service to Cherry Beach and by an extension to improve the connection with 72 Pape.  The Cherry buses will now operate east on Commissioners to Carlaw looping via north on Logan, east on Lake Shore and south on Carlaw.

The Cherry bus has also been operating over its “standard” route via Mill and Cherry Streets through the Distillery District since June 21, although this route is occasionally blocked by parked cars that still behave as if the roads are closed and have no transit service. Recently, the westbound service changed back to the diversion via Lake Shore and Parliament because Metrolinx construction at the rail corridor makes bi-directional operation through the Cherry Street underpass difficult.

Water main construction was planned for Broadview from Danforth northward, but this project was cancelled after the schedule changes for July-August were already in place. Bus routes operating from Broadview Station will have slightly widened headways to allow for construction delays, and streetcar service will be replaced with buses on Broadview.

  • 504 King cars will loop via Parliament, Dundas, Broadview and Queen.
  • 505 Dundas cars will loop via Parliament, Gerrard, Broadview and Dundas.
  • 504/505 Shuttle buses will loop via Queen, River and Dundas.

A concurrent project at Spadina & Dundas (described in another post) requires all 505 Dundas cars to divert both ways via McCaul, College and Bathurst. No additional running time has been provided in the schedule to accommodate this.

Construction work at Roncesvalles Carhouse requires the reassignment of some peak period runs to Russell Carhouse. On 512 St. Clair, cars will be stored at Exhibition Loop overnight, and service during some periods will be improved so that this storage is only required between 10pm and 10am. A 791 Roncesvalles Operator Shuttle will ferry operators to and from Exhibition Loop.

Articulated buses will be operated on the peak period express services on 53 Steeles East. Currently, one in three express trips operates east to Staines Road, but this will change to one in two trips. The combined service on the express branches will change from 4’45” to 6’00” in the AM peak, and from 5′ to 7′ in the PM peak. The local service to Markham Road does not change.

2014.07.20_Service_Changes

Reconstruction of Dundas & Spadina

The TTC and Toronto Water will be rebuilding their infrastructure at Dundas & Spadina this summer.

Here are the preliminary plans for TTC service as supplied by Brad Ross:

  • July 14-28: Water main work in the intersection. 510 Spadina will run with buses over its entire route. 505 Dundas cars will divert both ways via McCaul, College and Bathurst.
  • July 28-August 11: Track work. 510 Spadina will be split into two routes. The northern section will run to Baldwin looping via College, Huron and Baldwin to Spadina. The southern section will run to Sullivan and will simply make a U-turn at that intersection.
  • August 11 onward: Bus operation will continue on 510 Spadina while reconstruction at Spadina Station Loop for new streetcars continues. The 505 Dundas car will return to its normal routing.

August 31, 2014 is the start of the next schedule period, and at that time new streetcars will make their debut in service on 510 Spadina running south to Queens Quay Loop. As previously reported here, service to Union Station is not expected until the next set of schedules on Thanksgiving weekend.

Toronto Deserves Better Transit Service Now! Part 4: Streetcar Riders Count Too

Much discussion of improved service has talked about bus riders in the suburbs who have long trips and whose bus routes lost peak service when the crowding standards were rolled back in 2012.

Peak period crowding standards had never been improved for streetcars because there were no spare vehicles, and so there was nothing to roll back. However, over past decades, that shortage of streetcars limited peak service in a way that the bus system didn’t have to deal with.  This was compounded by two factors:

  • The TTC opened a new Spadina-Harbourfront line without increasing the fleet.  This was possible because service cuts on the early 1990s left Toronto with “spare” streetcars.
  • The project to buy new streetcars dragged on for years thanks both to the embrace of 100% low floor technology, and the obstructions posed by Mayor Ford to streetcar and LRT plans in general.

Between 1998 and 2014, the total number of streetcars scheduled for the peak periods has risen only 10%, and there is no headroom for further growth with the existing fleet. Indeed, service quality is compromised by vehicle failures, and the scheduled service may not all get out of the carhouse.

This year, the TTC will finally take delivery of the first “production” vehicles in its new fleet, and claims that service will operate as of August 31, 2014 on 510 Spadina with the new cars.  Whether the line will convert 100% to the new fleet in one go remains to be seen.

The TTC Fleet Plan contains no provision for improving service on any streetcar route beyond the higher capacity that new cars will provide. This will come only as the new fleet rolls out line-by-line and some routes will wait until late this decade to see more capacity (and even then with less frequent service).  Existing cars would be retired at a rate that matches or exceeds the new fleet’s ability to replace service, and would also eliminate any spare capacity for growth on lines running older cars.

This is what passes for responsible planning in an organization that claims a dedication to “customer service”.

This article looks at each streetcar route in turn and at a possible revised fleet plan that would make provision for short term improvements as the new fleet arrives.

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Past and Future Streetcar Service Capacity

Now that the first Low Floor Light Rail Vehicle (LFLRV) is rolling through Toronto streets on test runs, the question of service quality and capacity for streetcar routes is once again an issue.

The most recent TTC document setting out their intended use of the new fleet appeared in the 2013 Capital Budget Blue Books.  These are not available online, but I presented the TTC’s fleet plan in an article last fall.  From the numbers of vehicles to be assigned to each route, one can work back to the service frequency and capacity numbers.  In general, peak period headways get a bit wider, but the capacity goes up, in some cases dramatically.

The TTC faces two challenges: one on the budget, and one in operations.

Toronto Council has been extremely stingy with operating subsidies and “flat lined” the TTC over the past two budget cycles.  Hard liners will want the TTC to simply replace service on an equivalent capacity basis and maximize the savings in operator costs.  This would be a disaster for service quality even if the TTC actually ran cars on the headways they advertise.

On the operational side, any increase in headways brings even wider gaps when the service is upset by weather, random delays and short turns.  It is already a matter of record that the largest drop in riding over the past two decades came on the lines where 50-foot long CLRVs (the standard Toronto cars) were replaced by 75-foot long ALRVs (the articulated version) on an equivalent capacity basis.  Falling riding led to reduced service and the familiar downward spiral.  This must not happen when the new fleet rolls out across the system.

Since at least the mid-1990s, the TTC has told us that they cannot improve streetcar service because they have no spare cars.  In part, they are the victims of their own fleet planning.  The TTC originally rebuilt some of its old PCC cars (the fleet preceding the current one) in order to have enough to expand operations on the Harbourfront and Spadina lines.  However, by the mid-1990s, service cuts on many routes thanks to the economic downturn in that decade and the subsidy cuts by the Harris government, reduced the fleet requirements to the point where the PCCs could be retired and the Spadina line opened without buying any new cars.  When riding started to grow again, the TTC had no spare vehicles to improve service, and to make matters worse, the fleet was entering a period of lower reliability thanks, in part, to poor design.

Toronto waited a long time for new cars to be ordered, and this process was delayed both by the decision to go with all low-floor cars, and by political meddling at City Hall.  New residential construction along the streetcar lines pushes up demand, but the TTC cannot respond with better service until they have more cars.

Recent discussions about the new cars have included comments about how we cannot possibly have more streetcars on the road.  What many people forget is that the streetcar services were once much better than today.  In this article, I will look back at service levels once operated in Toronto, and at the service that we might see if the TTC actually operates the new fleet in the manner their Fleet Plan claims.

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Looking Back: Services to the CNE

With all the recent talk about Ontario Place, and with Exhibition season almost upon us, I thought this would be a good excuse for photos of streetcar services to the Ex.  Decades ago, the CNE raised much bigger crowds and there was a time it really was a showcase, an “exhibition”.  I remember when the “Better Living Centre” was brand new, and its intent was to give fairgoers a look at all that was new and exciting in household goods.  The Internet didn’t exist yet, and the phenomenon of the shopping mall full of goods manufactured anywhere but here was in its infancy.

The TTC ran many streetcar services into the Ex over the years, and parades of cars would leave the grounds following the evening fireworks.  (Transit Toronto has a short history of the CNE services on its website.)

The photos here have been chosen not just for the fact that cars might be operating on Exhibition routes, but also for interesting details about what is, or is not, still in the city today. Continue reading

TTC Service Changes Effective March 27, 2011

The list of changes for the “March” (actually almost April) schedule period is rather short because the TTC deferred implementation of service cuts on lightly used routes to May 8.

One intriguing side-effect of that decision is that the amount of service operated will be “over budget” because the cuts were incorporated in budget plans in November 2010, long before there was any public discussion, and at a time when rumours of cuts were met with denials from the TTC.

In our wonderfully new “transparent” Toronto, how many other changes are lurking, unpublished, in the budget?

Changes in Hours of Service

53F Steeles East Staines Express: Two new morning trips will be added weekdays from Morningside at about 5:21 and 5:48 am.

Diversions

505 Dundas: With the resumption of watermain work on Dundas, streetcars will divert via Spadina and College until late June.  Headways at all times will not be changed, but one car will be added to the route to handle the longer round trip times.  There will not be any replacement bus service on Dundas.

504 King: Reconstruction of Roncesvalles Avenue will resume to allow work by Enbridge Gas as well as completion of the sidewalk reconstruction.  During this period, the same bus shuttle that operated in 2010 will run from Dundas West Station to Sunnyside Loop, and King cars will loop through Roncesvalles Carhouse.  The Jane night bus, which runs on Roncesvalles, will not be affected.

In May, work is expected to begin on track replacement and paving between Roncesvalles and Close on King Street.  This will complete the rebuilding of the King route to the new resilient track standards.  While this is in progress, King and Lake Shore cars will divert via Queen and Shaw.  The work is expected to be completed before the CNE (with associated traffic problems in Parkdale) opens in mid-August.

Unlike the period of watermain work on King West in 2010, there will not be any replacement bus service on King west of Shaw.  I can’t help wondering why the TTC doesn’t simply route the 504 to Dufferin Loop so that service would be maintained for riders from Shaw to Dufferin whose access to Queen is limited by the rail corridor.