King Street Update: January 2018 Data (Updated)

Updated February 5, 2018 at 2:30 pm: Charts showing comparative travel times between Jarvis and Bathurst for the period from March 2016 to January 2018 have been added to give a longer context to the effects of the King Street Pilot. Scroll down to the end of the article for the charts and commentary.

This article updates previous posts about the effect of the King Street Transit Pilot on TTC vehicle movements.

Please refer to previous articles for commentary on the transition from the pre-pilot to pilot results and for the period up to the end of 2017.


Toronto’s weather has been much harsher this winter than in previous years, and this affected some aspects of service quality through late December and early January, notably headway reliability. Low temperatures were not kind to the older streetcar fleet, and snow affected traffic conditions over the full route, not just in the pilot area. [Source, Environment Canada historical data for “Toronto City”]

WeatherStats_201709201801 [PDF]

Travel Times

Data for January 2018 show that the travel times through the pilot area between Jarvis and Bathurst Streets continue to be both below the pre-pilot values, and generally without the day-to-day “spikiness” in the range of typical travel times.

The sample below shows the travel times for westbound vehicles crossing Jarvis Street between 5:00 and 6:00 pm from September 2017 through January 2018. Horizontal lines give the daily values, while vertical lines bound periods where conditions changed.

  • The orange line is the 85th percentile below which most times fell, but it must be remembered that 15% of trips lie above this.
  • The blue line is the 50th percentile where half of the trips are above and half below.These two lines are close together because the data values are clustered over a short range in most cases, and so one gets from the 50th to the 85th percentile with a small increase in travel times.
  • The vertical red lines show the bounds of TIFF. For September 7-8, the travel times are tracked over the planned diversion via Queen Street and so they are much longer than trips via King.
  • The vertical yellow lines bound the period when Queen was closed at McCaul.
  • The green vertical line shows the beginning of the King Street Pilot. (Although it is green, this band may show up as black depending on your display.)
  • Where there is a gap or the value drops to zero (no examples on this chart), there were no vehicles making the trip on the day and hour in question due to a long delay or diversion.

The two sets of charts linked here contain data for five representative hours of operation starting at 8:00 am, 1:00 pm, 5:00 pm, 8:00 pm and 10:00 pm. These are in the same format as previous charts except for the addition of one month’s data.

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Streetcar Service Updated Effective February 18, 2018 (Updated)

Updated February 8, 2018: The TTC has announced details of changes to bus and streetcar services on the west end of the 501 Queen route. This information has been added below in the section on that route.

The February 2018 schedules will bring major changes to the streetcar system. I will include these in a coming article with all of the details for the new schedules, but with the scope of the streetcar changes and the interest in this topic, here is a wrap-up of what is planned for these routes.

King Street Corridor

The current schedule calls for trippers to operate, primarily buses and in the AM peak, over the entire 504 King route. These will be replaced with four ALRVs (articulated streetcars) operating from Sunnyside Loop to Broadview. As actually operated, the AM trippers are already using CLRVs (regular sized streetcars) swapped from the 505 Dundas route. Four more ALRVs will be used as standby “run as directed” cars to supplement service on King as needed.

January Schedule January Actual February Schedule
AM Peak
CLRV 33 33 33
CLRV Tripper 7
ALRV Tripper 4
ALRV Run as Directed 4
Bus Tripper 7
PM Peak
CLRV 33 33 33
CLRV Tripper 2
ALRV Tripper 1 1 4
ALRV Run as Directed 4
Bus Tripper 2

The tripper schedules have been changed so that they better cover the peak periods.

  • Eastbound trips leave Sunnyside Loop at: 7:41 a.m., 7:57 a.m., 8:12 a.m., 8:27 a.m., 9:10 a.m., 9:27 a.m., 9:42 a.m., 9:56 a.m.
  • Westbound trips leave Broadview & Queen at 3:07 p.m., 3:20 p.m., 3:33 p.m., 3:46 p.m., 4:50 p.m., 5:03 p.m., 5:16 p.m., 5:29 p.m.

The 503 Kingston Road Bus which now operates from Bingham Loop to York & Wellington during peak hours only will be replaced by a streetcar with service on weekdays peak and midday. This will replace the 502 Downtowner bus which changes to peak-only operation.

During the peak periods the 12′ headway of buses will be replaced by a 12′ headway of CLRVs on the 503 service, and it will be extended west to loop via Spadina, Adelaide and Charlotte Streets. Midday service will operate every 9′ replacing the existing 10′ service on the 502 Downtowner bus. This removes 6 buses/hour from Queen Street, and adds not quite 7 cars/hour to the section of King east of Spadina.

According to the TTC, track construction is planned on Wellington east of Yonge in May. It is not clear whether, when this is complete, the 503 will revert to its usual York street terminus as this would remove the added service between York and Spadina. Whether the Wellington Street work actually occurs remains to be seen as there were plans to defer this until 2019 to avoid complications with the King Street Pilot. The track recently became operational with the restoration of overhead on the one missing section between Church and Yonge westbound.

Service on 514 Cherry during the midday and early evening will be improved from every 15′ to every 10′ to provide added capacity on the King corridor. On Sundays from 10:00 am to 7:00 pm, service will improve from every 15′ to every 11′. (The 514 Cherry route is notorious for irregular headways at its terminals and so the scheduled headways may not match actual experience. This will be the subject of a separate article.)

In combination, these changes will increase the level of service on King Street with the effect concentrated downtown. In particular, there is little AM peak relief for riders inbound from Parkdale, Liberty Village and Bathurst/Niagara beyond a change in the timing of the trippers, whatever benefits the “run as directed” cars might provide and the gradual replacement of runs now operated with CLRVs by the new Flexitys as they become available.

501 Queen & 502/503 Kingston Road

As noted above, the 502 Downtowner midday bus service from Kingston Road to Queen & University will be replaced by the 503 Kingston Road streetcar operating to Spadina & King. Peak service on the 502 bus is not changed, and peak 503 streetcar service will operate at the same frequency, every 12′, as the former bus service. Midday service on the 503 streetcar will be slightly better at 9′ than the 10′ headway now on the 502 bus.

The 501 Queen schedules were written on the basis that Humber Loop would re-open, but work there will not be completed until later in the spring. The planned service would have seen 501 Queen cars operating from Neville to Humber with the 501L Queen bus running from Long Branch to Windermere. Pending the completion of Humber Loop, the streetcars will turn back at Sunnyside Loop, and the 501L buses will operate east to Roncesvalles. 501L buses will no longer run east and south to Dufferin Loop.

The looping and transfer arrangements for the 501L bus at Roncesvalles, and later at Windermere, have not yet been announced.

When 501 Queen streetcar service to Humber Loop resumes, the last service stop will be at South Kingsway because there will be no connecting services at Humber.

The 501M bus service via Marine Parade will be dropped because of low use. The 66 Prince Edward bus is available as an alternative, and it will continue on its diversion routing.

The 301 Queen night service is unchanged with two branches continuing to operate from Neville to Sunnyside (streetcars) and from Dufferin Loop to Long Branch (buses). This will be modified with the April schedules (details not yet announced).

Service on 501 Queen streetcar will be scheduled to operate with a mix of CLRVs and ALRVs on a more frequent headway than the current schedules that presume all ALRVs and their capacity. This has been a long-standing problem for Queen street where smaller cars attempt to handle demand on a service designed for larger vehicles. The improvement is about a 10% increase in cars/hour in the peak, and a 20% improvement off-peak.

Updated February 8, 2018

The planned changes to routes on the west end of Queen is different from that originally described in the service change memo. The following information is taken from the TTC Service Advisory page.

Effective February 18:

  • Streetcars will operate between Roncesvalles and Neville as originally planned.
  • 501L buses will operate between Long Branch and Dufferin/Queen looping via Gladstone, Peel and Dufferin instead of running south to Dufferin Loop as they do now.
  • 301L night buses will continue to run between Long Branch and Dufferin Loop.
  • The 501M Marine Parade shuttle will be discontinued as originally planned.

Effective April 1:

  • Streetcars will operate between Humber and Neville. However, Humber Loop will not be ready to reopen as a transfer point with bus routes, and so the connection to the 501L service will be at Windermere (if the information in the service memo still holds).

Effective early June:

  • Streetcars will return to the full route from Long Branch to Neville.

Work now underway at Humber Loop includes:

  • new streetcar tracks including new spur track
  • accessible platforms
  • new/wider pedestrian tunnel walkway
  • new sub-station building and underground conduits for electric cables
  • realignment of all existing overhead wiring in the loop and in the tunnel leading to Lake Shore Boulevard West

According to the TTC notice:

Track installation and some overhead adjustments for the Queen turn-back will completed by April 1, 2018, weather permitting. Remaining work, including passenger platform renewal, track renewal and overhead adjustments for the Lake Shore turn-back, as well as a wider pedestrian tunnel walkway will be completed by early June 2018.

506 Carlton & 505 Dundas

Service on both the 506 Carlton and 505 Dundas routes will be converted to bus operation. In addition to the streetcar shortage, several construction projects will affect these routes in coming months:

  • Track construction on Broadview from south of Dundas to Hogarth (north end of Riverdale Park) beginning in May
  • Track construction at Parliament/Gerrard in May
  • Track construction at Broadview/Dundas and Broadview/Gerrard in the summer
  • Track constuction at Dundas/Lansdowne in September
  • Water main construction on Dundas from Bathurst to Huron in September
  • Main Street Station construction through the summer

506 Carlton buses will run to Keele Station as their western terminus rather than to High Park Loop.

The bus replacements for streetcar service vary in the ratio of buses to streetcars depending on the time of day.

Dundas Streetcar Dundas Bus Carlton Streetcar Carlton Bus
AM Peak 18 27 32 45
M-F Midday 18 27 28 36
PM Peak 19 30 29 42
M-F Early Evening 14 20 18 25
M-F Late Evening 10 12 14 18
Sat Early Morning 10 10 14 15
Sat Morning 16 20 18 22
Sat Afternoon 25 28 25 30
Sat Early Evening 11 14 16 20
Sat Late Evening 10 10 13 16
Sun Early Morning 9 9 11 12
Sun Morning 14 17 12 17
Sun Afternoon 19 20 18 22
Sun Early Evening 10 11 12 13
Sun Late Evening 9 10 11 12
Night Service 3 3

511 Bathurst

The 511 Bathurst route will revert from bus to streetcar operation using CLRVs. All service will operate between Bathurst Station and Exhibition Loop.

Service on weekdays will generally be less frequent with the streetcars than the buses reflecting their larger capacity, although peak service south of King and west to Exhibition will improve with the elimination of the short turn 511C bus service.

Weekend streetcar schedules are the same as those used in November 2015. Saturday daytime service will be at similar headways with the streetcars as with buses reflecting demand at those hours. Sunday afternoon and early evening service will be slightly less frequent with the streetcars.

509 Harbourfront, 510 Spadina and 512 St. Clair

There are no changes to the schedules for these routes.

Roncesvalles Carhouse

This carhouse will close until late 2018 for construction in the yard. Service will be operated from the east end carhouses as below:

  • Leslie: 509 Harbourfront, 510/310 Spadina, 514 Cherry
  • Russell: 501/301 Queen, 503 Kingston Rd., 504 King, 511 Bathurst, 512 St. Clair

The King Street Pilot: Sorting Fact From Fiction (Part IV: Headway Reliability)

The King Street Pilot has been a success in reducing travel times for streetcars through the core area with knock-on benefits to the outer parts of the route in reduced short turns and more reliable service especially outside of the peak period.

Headway (the space between vehicles measured in time, not distance) is a big issue for riders, and it also affects crowding levels.

If a service is scheduled to show up every 4 minutes, and actually does so, then on average each car will have a similar load (subject to surges that will upset this), and riders can expect an average waiting time of half a headway. Even if they just miss a car, they know fairly certainly that the next one will be along soon, and it might even be in sight.

A chronic problem on all transit services is the bunching of vehicles that can yield two (or more) cars or buses close together followed by a long gap. When cars bunch, riders inevitably pack onto the first one. This is not simply a lemming-like desire to rush the first car, but the effect of years of experience telling riders than when there is a bunch, some of the cars will be short turned. If they are on the first one, they can at least drop back one car when this happens. If they are on the second or third in the parade, they may get dumped off and face the next big gap.

Some transit systems implement time points along a route where vehicles will hold for a scheduled departure time. A more sophisticated version of this is to hold in order to space out service regardless of the schedule. Riders do not care if a car (and its driver) are “on time”, only that the headway is close to the advertised value. It is the transit system’s problem to sort out operator crewing with schedules that can be achieved most of the time, but which are not excessively padded to the point service dawdles along a street. The latter has been a problem on some TTC routes where extra running time overshot the mark leading to annoyingly slow service and congestion at terminals where vehicles arrive early.

With the removal of much of the downtown congestion, and hence the variability in travel times for that part of the route, there was hope that headway reliability would improve. Results to date leave a great deal to be desired. There has been some reduction in the most annoying of wide gaps, but bunching remains a problem.

To be fair, when the scheduled headway is under 4 minutes, some bunching is inevitable. Even if cars leave the termini like clockwork, demands at stops vary as does the traffic enroute, and cars will get slightly off schedule. The follower will catch up, in part because of the lighter load from its shorter headway.

The TTC has a service quality target that all vehicles will leave their termini no more than 1 minute early or up to 5 minutes late. This is the only point on the route where schedule reliability is measured. (Until early 2015, the value was measured at several points along the route to provide a blended score, but this practice was dropped.) There are three basic problems with this scheme:

  • A terminus is the simplest place to monitor and dispatch service, and headway variations should always be the lowest at these points.
  • When the scheduled headway is small, the allowed 6-minute window for being “on time” permits vehicles to depart in bunches and still be “on time” because they remain within the allowed variation.
    • A perfect four minute headway would depart a terminal at 0, 4, 8, 12, 16, 20, 24 … minutes past the hour.
    • The same vehicles operating in pairs at 0, 7, 8, 15, 16, 23, 24 … would be “on time” because the alternate cars in the sequence are only three minutes late.
    • This problem is worse for wider scheduled headway because until the “five minutes late” line is crossed, the service is on time.
      • 0, 6, 12, 18, 24, 30, 36 … and 0, 11, 12, 23, 24, 35, 36 … are both “on time” but the latter actually provides a 12 minute headway of vehicles in pairs.

The TTC has, in effect, constructed a target for “on time performance” that considers bunched service to be acceptable even at a terminal. The problem with this is that as vehicles move along the route, the headway variations get bigger and bigger. It is ironic that even with this generous standard, actual service across the system does not achieve anywhere near the target on the streetcar or bus networks. The streetcar network itself went into a long slide through 2017 thanks to declining vehicle reliability and the proliferation of construction projects.

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The King Street Pilot: Sorting Fact From Fiction (Part III: Service Capacity)

An important issue for the King Street Transit Priority pilot is the rising demand on that corridor. Previous TTC stats showed a total of 65,000 riders using the 504 King and 514 Cherry lines combined, but this has now been updated to 71,000 even before the pilot began. Further growth comes from riders attracted to the improved service, and the line is now crowded beyond capacity at some times and locations.

The TTC has announced “improvements” from time to time on the King route, but this masks declines in service capacity.

The service design for the am peak period uses a base service about every 4 minutes overlaid by peak “trippers” that bring the headway down to about 2 minutes. However, the number of trippers has fallen over the years and in practice, the “wave” of very frequent service now lasts only about half an hour. This comes eastbound on King at Dufferin 6:50 and 7:20 am, westbound at Broadview between 7:45 and 8:15 am, and eastbound again between 8:55 and 9:25 am.

There are now seven trippers where once there were sixteen, and for some time streetcars on the trippers were replaced by buses at a lower capacity. Recently, peak vehicles were swapped between 504 King and 505 Dundas so that the trippers could revert to streetcar operation.

When buses began operating on 504 King, the TTC claimed that this was a service improvement. This was true for a time when buses allowed the service to build back to its previous high point, but over time the number of bus trippers fell.

Using the TTC’s vehicle tracking data, one can plot the actual capacity operated at various points and times on King Street. These are actual, not scheduled, capacities, and they reflect the day-to-day fluctuations in service and vehicle types. For the purpose of the charts here, the Service Standards planning capacities are used. These are not the crush capacity of vehicles, but a target level in Board-approved TTC standards for an average level of crowding that should not overwhelm the service with loading delays and severely uncomfortable conditions. Whether the TTC actually achieves this is another matter, but the numbers give an indication of the relative levels of service operated over time.

The Service Standards for peak period vehicle capacity are:

  • Bus: 51
  • Standard streetcar (CLRV): 74
  • Two-section streetcar (ALRV): 108
  • New five-section streetcar (Flexity): 130

[Service Standards at p. 10]

Here is an example of one chart showing capacity eastbound at Bathurst & King between 7:00 and 8:00 am from January 2016 to December 2017 (note that February 2016 data are missing).

The capacity provided here was at its height in the spring and summer of 2017 when ALRVs normally used on 501 Queen were redeployed to 504 King. In fall 2017, service levels were reduced because of the change in vehicle type.

Noteworthy in this chart is the growth in capacity provided by Flexitys first on 514 Cherry (building up to full low-floor operation by mid 2017) and more recently with the addition of the new cars to 504 King. Although they do not make up half of the vehicles operating on King, they account for half of the capacity in the central section.

For a longer-range view of capacity, here is the same chart with data (where I have the details) going back to December 2006. This illustrates the long period during which the capacity provided on 504 King was static even as land along the route redeveloped. This is a chronic problem on the streetcar routes because an order for new cars and a larger fleet was delayed so long.

The sets of charts below illustrate capacities at five locations and times. Each set contains four charts covering the peak periods from 6-10 am and 3-7 pm depending on which period is illustrated.

Jameson AM Peak EB

Service eastbound at Jameson does not include the 514 Cherry cars which enter the route at Dufferin. Flexitys appear here only after their recent addition to 504 King. Note how the capacity provided here drops in the hour from 8-9 am compared to those on either side of it.

Bathurst AM Peak EB

Service eastbound at Bathurst includes the 514 Cherry cars and the growing contribution of Flexitys on this route is evident from June 2016 onward.

Yonge PM Peak WB

The PM peak service design is different from the AM in that there are few or no trippers (depending on which schedule one considers), and so this location has been less affected by cutbacks in that part of the service. However, service capacity has not changed much over the past two years especially during the peak 5-6 pm hour.

Bathurst PM Peak WB

The situation at Bathurst is similar to that at Yonge, although it can be affected by cars short-turning at Spadina. After the 503 service is added in February, the capacity at Yonge will be slightly higher than at Bathurst.

Jameson PM Peak WB

The capacity of service outbound west of Dufferin is, if anything, lower now than it was in past years. This reflects the concentration of service east of Dufferin with the coming of the 514 Cherry route.

In summary, riders who believe that service, as measured by capacity, has been better in the past are in many cases correct. An important part of the King Street Pilot will be to determine how much latent demand can be attracted to the route through the combination of lower travel and wait times, and greater route capacity.

King Street Pilot: TTC January 2018 Update (Corrected)

Updated January 19, 2017 1t 12:45 am: The TTC advises that the numbers that were included in the speaking notes of the Powerpoint presentation regarding Presto usage were incorrect. The info I used showed the change for both 504 King and 501 Queen to be about equal, begging the question of how this could show a King-specific ridership growth. Correct data now appear in the article.

TTC Staff presented updated information on the King Street Pilot to the Board at its January 18, 2018 meeting.

The changes in travel times are shown for all periods during the day, not just for the peak periods as shown in the City’s December 2017 dashboard.

These numbers are different from those reported by the City because the TTC uses a different definition of the peak period (6-9 am, 3-6 pm) while the City’s figures cover begin and end one hour later in both cases. In either case, averaging over a three hour period reduces the benefit during the peak hour.

The TTC emphasizes that the benefits involve not just the pilot area, but the entire route through improved service reliability and reduced wait times.

Original reports of rididership growth cited only the peak eastbound hour at Spadina where demand rose from 2,100 to 2,600. Additional information about ridership growth based on Presto card usage shows that the improvement is more widespread. The table below compares the rise in Presto card usage on King and Queen streets from November 1 to January 8 with other routes. Both show higher figures than the balance of the system.

Correction: The following section includes figures that were taken from a TTC-supplied Powerpoint that had incorrect information in the speaking notes. Corrected info appears below..

It is unclear whether this simply represents a faster uptake of Presto by downtown riders than an increase specific to King Street. Indeed if Queen were showing similar riding growth, one would expect calls for much more service on that route too.

The original, incorrect, numbers for Queen were: AM Peak 32%, PM Peak 48%, Off Peak 44%, All day 43%

The corrected data shows that the change in Presto usage on Queen lies in the same range as on other routes while on King it has gone up substantially. This is not just an AM peak value, but an all-day one indicating a general rise in demand on King throughout its operating periods.

AM Peak PM Peak Off Peak All Day
King 36% 48% 39% 41%
Queen 20% 27% 29% 26%
Other 26% 25% 25% 25%

[Source: Speaking notes to Powerpoint presentation, p. 4, corrected version for Queen from Stuart Green at the TTC]

Although an all-day ridership on the King corridor was previously cited as 65,000, a recent count was 10% higher at 71,000.

In mid-February, service on 514 Cherry will be improved during the off-peak. 503 Kingston Road will revert to streetcar operation between Kingston Road & Victoria Park  and King & Spadina during weekday peak and midday periods. This will replace the 502 Downtowner bus which will now operate only during peak hours to Queen & University to shift some capacity to King Street.

Schedules will be adjusted to meet peak demand periods. Additional unspecified changes will occur in May based on updated ridership information.

Full operation of 504 King with low floor cars is planned for the end of 2018 with most of the route converted by the fall.

The King Street Pilot: Sorting Fact From Fiction (Part II: Travel Times)

On the Torontoist, I wrote an article reviewing experience with the King Street Transit Pilot and some of the preliminary claims and reactions to it. This piece is the first of the technical follow-ups to that article with more detailed data about the behaviour of transit service on King.

Note that this analysis only covers the operation of transit vehicles, not of general traffic. For information on other data collected by the City of Toronto, please refer to the “data” page on the project’s site.

This article deals with travel times on various parts of the King route both inside and outside of the Bathurst-Jarvis pilot area. Following articles will address capacity and service reliability.

For a review of operations up to the end of November 2017, please see:

Averages versus Individual Data

In reporting the change in travel times, the City of Toronto cites averages, maxima and minima for the “before” and “after” conditions. For example, in the chart below, eastbound trips in the PM peak before the pilot ranged in length from 13.0 to 25.0 minutes with an average of 18.9.

However, the “before” numbers omit some of the worse cases for travel times:

  • The period of the Toronto International Film Festival from September 7-17, 2017. During early days of TIFF, service was diverted via Spadina, Queen and Church adding greatly to travel times. Even after King Street nominally reopened, service was interrupted from time to time with unannounced diversions.
  • The period of track construction at Queen and McCaul Streets from October 16-27, 2017. This period saw 501 Queen streetcars shift south to King adding turning movements at Church eastbound and Spadina westbound that took place generally without any transit priority. Some traffic spillover from Queen to adjacent streets occurred, but this was not measured.

Gray: Pre-pilot Pink: November Mauve: December

Although omission of these two periods puts the best possible light on the “before” conditions and avoids criticism that the project is making a worst/best case comparison, it is a fact of life that service and travel times on King are routinely affected by various projects including construction and special events. A valid test for the pilot will be the street’s operation during a Queen Street shutdown for an event at City Hall or at Much Music. How will transit service and other traffic behave when part of the downtown network is taken “offline”? This remains to be seen.

The averages are the most commonly cited data in the press and in political comments. However, these averages hide a great deal.

  • Travel times vary considerably from hour to hour, and from day to day.
  • A three-hour average over the peak period includes many trips that occur under less-than-peak conditions, and this pulls down the averages.
  • Averaging data for several weeks smooths out the effect of daily variation.
  • Averaging over the entire pilot area merges data from areas where the pilot’s effect is small with those where it is large.
  • Averaging over only the peak periods misses the benefits, if any, of the pilot for off-peak operations.

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TTC Streetcars and Buses Swap Routes in February 2018 (Updated Jan. 19, 2017)

The TTC has confirmed the following changes in the allocation of streetcars and buses to various routes effective with the February 18, 2018 schedules:

  • Streetcars will return to 511 Bathurst.
  • The 502 Downtowner bus will continue to operate, but only during peak periods (Bingham Loop to Queen & University).
  • The 503 Kingston Road car, normally a peak only tripper, will operate Monday to Friday peaks and midday (similar to the existing 502). The 503 car will run between Bingham Loop and Charlotte Loop (King & Spadina) to supplement service on King Street.
  • The 505 Dundas and 506 Carlton routes will be converted to bus operation.
  • Updated: The 514 Cherry service will be improved during the off-peak period.

The buses for 505/506 will come from a variety of sources:

  • Existing buses operating on 503 Kingston Road,
  • Tripper buses originally scheduled for 504 King but swapped to 505 Dundas since December, and
  • Buses that have been freed up from construction service and the route reorganization following opening of the Vaughan subway extension.

Both Dundas and Carlton will be affected by planned construction projects this year that would require partial replacement with buses even if there were no streetcar shortage.

  • Main Station construction and Hydro work
  • Broadview Avenue track replacement from south of Dundas to Wolfrey (north end of Riverdale Park) including intersections at Dundas and Gerrard. This will also affect the east end of 504 King.


  • The TTC has confirmed that they are reviewing stops on both routes for the need to remove adjacent parking spaces that would prevent vehicles from pulling in fully to the curb. Bus operation will use the same POP rules as on the streetcar routes.
  • At the TTC Board meeting on January 18, Acting CEO Rick Leary stated that although the bus conversion of 505/506 was originally announced for all of 2018, he hopes that with delivery of new streetcars this can be reversed sometime in the fall.

In other news:

  • Roncesvalles Carhouse will close for the remainder of 2018 for maintenance work, and operations will be centralized at Russell and Leslie.
  • 501 Queen service to Humber Loop is planned to return with the schedule changes planned for May 13, 2018.
  • The King-Queen-Roncesvalles intersection replacement, the associated road reconfiguration and the extension of the right-of-way east from Parkside Drive to Roncesvalles remains in the 2019 schedule.

Even if buses were not filling in for streetcars, the TTC has no plans for bus service increases.

The bus replacement service is not preventing us from making bus improvements. In 2018, we do not have any budget for new improvements. Any improvements we make will be through reallocation. [Email from Stuart Green at the TTC]

More information is expected at the TTC Board Meeting on January 18, 2018. Also, the detailed memo of service changes for February should be out soon, and I will publish the usual condensed version when it is available.

Thanks to Stuart Green at the TTC for the information.

Analysis of Routes 501 Queen and 6 Bay: November 2017 (Part 2: Preliminary King Street Pilot Review)

This is the second article reviewing the effects of the pilot King Street transit priority scheme. Part 1 looked at the behaviour of the 504 King streetcar route, and Part 2 concerns the operation of 501 Queen and 6 Bay during the same period.

Among the effects anticipated from the pilot was an increase in traffic on parallel streets with the effect reaching as far north as Queen Street. Queen suffers badly during the shutdown of King for TIFF in September, and by extension some problems were expected to show up with the pilot’s changes changes on King.

Another effect that was expected was congestion on the north-south streets crossing King. Only one transit route in mixed traffic, 6 Bay, operates on such a street.

The City of Toronto is monitoring traffic behaviour on many streets in the study area and will publish their own preliminary findings in mid-December.

The charts presented here are in the same two formats as those in Part 1:

  • One pair of charts shows the travel times between Bathurst and Jarvis on Queen, and between Dundas and Front on Bay, both ways. Each day’s data are plotted individually to show the difference between individual trips, the evolution of travel times over the day, and the degree of dispersion in travel time values (i.e. the predictability, or not, of travel time for any journey).
  • One pair of charts shows average times, by hour, for each day to illustrate daily fluctuations and any before/after changes concurrent with the King Street Pilot.

For both routes, there is almost no change in the average travel times after the pilot began. Values on Queen bounce around a lot, but they do so both before and after the pilot began.

There is a quite striking weekly pattern with much higher than usual averages during the PM peak eastbound on Queen and southbound on Bay with low values usually on Mondays, and much higher values later in the week. This shows the importance of studying route behaviour over several days, while remaining aware that external events can create patterns in the data, or can create one-time disruptions for special events such as parades or sporting events.

501 Queen:

6 Bay:

Analysis of Route 504 King: November 2017 (Part 1: Preliminary King Street Pilot Review) (Updated Dec. 5, 2017)

Updated December 5, 2017 at 8:15 am: Charts showing travel speed profiles in the pilot area have been added at the end of this article.

Updated December 3, 2017 at 10:50 am: Charts showing hourly average travel times by day have been added in a section at the end of this article.

The pilot operation of King Street as a transit thoroughfare began on Sunday, November 12 and will continue for the next year.

This post is the first in a series of articles reviewing the effect of the new configuration on the operation of 504 King and related routes.

The methodology behind the processing and presentation of TTC vehicle tracking data is explained in Methodology For Analysis of TTC’s Vehicle Tracking Data on this site.

The first sets of charts show the running time for 504 King streetcars westbound and eastbound between Jarvis and Bathurst Streets.

Within each set, there are five pages corresponding to weeks (or partial weeks) of the month with Monday-Friday data, and separate pages for all Saturdays and all Sundays.

Worth noting:

  • The break between “before” and “after” data occurs at Week 3, Monday, November 13. There is a clear difference in running times over the pilot segment after the implementation.
  • Sunday, November 5 was a home game at BMO field for the Toronto FC, and its effect on King Street traffic is clear.
  • Sunday, November 19 was the Santa Claus parade.

The change in running time also had an effect on the quality of service provided on the route. This showed up in more reliable headways (less scatter in the actual values around the average) which, as with the link time charts, is visible starting in week 3. The benefit is visible both at the terminals and at Yonge Street. I have also included a chart for Dufferin eastbound to show service coming into Liberty Village.

The charts are in the same format as for the link times above, but show headways between cars at various locations on the route, not travel times between them. Note that 514 Cherry cars are not included here.



The improvements in travel time are not uniform across the study area, but are concentrated in certain segments of the route.

(Note that for these calculations the screenlines are in the middle of the cross street. This means that dwell time at stops will shift to a different segment if a stop at a screenline was nearside before the change, but farside after the change.)

The afternoon of November 2 saw severe congestion across the west end of the route, and this appears consistently for all segments.


  • From Jarvis to Yonge there was never much congestion except when triggered by construction or a similar event that blocked the curb lane. There is little change here in running times.
  • From Yonge to University running times are very slightly reduced, but again this is a segment that was not severely congested before the pilot.
  • From University to John there is almost no change.
  • From John to Spadina there is a quite noticeable change in both the length and the consistency of travel times. A considerable amount of this is due to the elimination of delays from turning traffic at Spadina.
  • From Spadina to Bathurst there is also a change in running times, but mainly in the evenings when the club district is active. This change also varies by day of the week.



  • From Bathurst to Spadina there is a change in running times which, like the eastbound data, is mainly in the evening.
  • From Spadina to John, there is little change.
  • From John to University, there is an improvement, although on Wednesday and Thursday, November 29-30, there are extended running times during the pm peak period. This backlog was west from University Avenue implying that something was preventing streetcars from crossing quickly to the east. (Some readers here and on social media have commented that there are days when north-south traffic crossing King prevents service from clearing intersections.)
  • From University to Yonge, the running times are more consistent after the pilot began, but the averages stay roughly the same.
  • From Yonge to Jarvis, running times are slightly higher. This reflects the shift of the busy Yonge Street stop east of the screenline at Yonge.


In future articles, I will review:

  • Details of specific days when the line was disrupted.
  • Detailed speed profiles in the pilot area.
  • Operation of 501 Queen and 6 Bay before and after the pilot.
  • Operation of 514 Cherry.
  • Capacity of service provided on King Street.
  • The effect of TIFF on the King, Cherry and Queen cars.

My thanks to TTC staff for pushing the November data out the door on December 1 to permit early publication of these results.

Updated December 3, 2017

Average Travel Times

The charts above show data for the individual trips across portions of the route together with trend lines showing the overall pattern through each day.

The following charts are organized to present hourly averages for each day of the month to illustrate the contrast between the “before” and “after” conditions. The times on the charts refer to the hourly periods when vehicles entered the segment westbound at Jarvis or eastbound at Bathurst.

Each set contains four pages corresponding to the AM peak, midday, PM peak and evening periods, followed by all Saturdays and all Sundays.

  • In the AM peak, there is not much change in average travel times before and after the pilot.
  • During the midday, travel times are lower on average by 2-3 minutes.
  • During the PM peak, average travel times are lower, and dramatically so compared to some days early in the month. Note that November 6 is a Monday, and these are typically the least congested weekdays on King.
  • During the evenings, average travel times are lower and more consistent after the pilot begins.
  • Results on weekends are less dramatic than for weekdays. The effect of the Santa Claus parade is visible on the 19th and this is particularly striking for eastbound service.
  • In some cases there were no cars for specific days and times due to a major blockage or diversion. These show up as “zero” values for the averages in the charts.

I have created but did not include charts of Standard Deviation values. Although they do show some improvement after the pilot begins (lower SD values indicate less scatter in the individual travel times), the values are rather “noisy” because the number of data points for each day and hour is small.

Another issue for service capacity is that the number of vehicles crossing the pilot area varies quite a bit on a day-to-day basis for each hour of the day. If the service were “on schedule”, these values should not change much (±1 vehicle), but this is not the case. I will review this as part of the service capacity analysis in a later article.

Updated December 5, 2017

The charts in this section compare the travel speed through the pilot area in detail for the week of October 23-27 (pre-pilot) to November 13-17 (first week of pilot). Early November was not used for “before” data because the route was diverting around bridge repairs on Queen at the Don River, and travel speeds downtown could have been influenced by operators driving faster than usual to make up time.

As a guide to reading these charts, here are two sample pages showing travel speeds in each direction for the hour beginning at 4:00 pm. The blue lines show the “before” data and the green lines show “after” data. The charts should be read in the direction of travel with westbound going left to right, and eastbound going right to left.

Where the pilot speeds are faster than before the changes, the green line is higher than the blue one. One immediately obvious change is that the dips in average speeds at stops shift from the nearside to the farside of interesections. However, delays caused by traffic signals at some locations are common to both sets of data.

A common problem on King before the pilot was a backlog of traffic from certain intersections, notable Spadina westbound. This shows up in much lower speeds not just at Spadina but for a considerable distance east of it. These dips are wider in periods when congestion backed up from problem intersections is the worst.

By paging through the full sets of charts linked above, one can see the evolution of travel time patterns over the day rather like a flip chart animation. Areas and times that were not congested before the trial generally show the same travel speeds for before and after except to the degree that stop placement affects behaviour at intersections. Where speeds are improved by the pilot, the green line rises above the blue one, and the separation changes through the day.

There is a marked difference between the patterns in the AM peak, midday, PM peak and evening hours.

As other charts have shown, the average travel times through the pilot area are not affected as much in the AM peak when competing traffic is less of a problem, but later in the day, problem areas show up in the “before” data. There is a peak at midday when travel times have now been considerably improved and another, of course, in the afternoon rush. During the evening, the benefit in the financial district drops off, but it remains west of University Avenue.

At the beginning of the pilot, all transit signal priority was turned off to see how the street would operate without it, although this mainly affected crossings with less important streets. This shows up as “double stops” at locations where there is now a farside stop and approaching streetcars can be caught without extended green time to clear an intersection.

As the pilot continues, this type of chart will provide a base for comparison of the effect of various changes and of seasonal effects.