Those Vanishing Streetcar Stops

Readers who follow me on Twitter will know that the question of which streetcar stops are being removed has been a simmering issue for some time. The question has become less “what is the list” than “why is it impossible to get the list”.

A related matter is the degree of consultation, or not, that preceded implementation of the changes.

Several changes for The Beach (Queen Street East and Kingston Road) were announced in an email newsletter from Councillor McMahon, and the format of the list, complete with stop numbers, made it clear that this was a TTC document.

TTC will proceed with the following streetcar stop relocations on May 13 to support the deployment of new streetcars:

On Kingston Road:

  • Move the westbound stops #2786 (Malvern Avenue) and #2799 (Walter Street) to a new stop at the midblock pedestrian signal at Glen Manor Dr
  • Remove the farside westbound stop #2801 at Woodbine Avenue to a new stop nearside of the same intersection

On Queen Street:

  • Move the stops at Kent Road, and Woodward Avenue, to new stops at the pedestrian crossover at Woodfield Road
  • Move the eastbound stop #3055 at Laing Street to a nearside location at Alton Avenue
  • Move the eastbound stop #6807 at Kippendavie Avenue east to the signalized intersection at Elmer Avenue
  • Move the eastbound stop #6815 at Scarboro Beach Boulevard and the eastbound stop #6812 to the signalized intersection at Glen Manor Drive
  • Move the stops at the unsignalized intersections of Lee Avenue and Waverley Road to the signalized intersection at Bellefair Avenue
  • Move the westbound stop #6818 at Sprucehill Road closer to the pedestrian crossover at Beech Avenue

Courtesy of the fact that the TTC’s own website contains out of date information about stop locations while the list in NextBus is current, it did not take long to track down the remaining changes, but the bizarre part of this is that repeated attempts to simply get a list from the TTC ran aground.

Today, I took an inspection tour of the affected locations to verify what has happened, and here is my list:

On King Street:

  • Stops both ways at Trinity Street removed
  • Eastbound stop at Fraser replaced by a new stop at the signal at Joe Shuster Way where there is already a westbound stop.

On Queen Street (in addition to the above):

  • Stops both ways at Connaught removed. (How will operators ever change cars without a transit stop?)
  • Westbound stop at Simcoe replaced by a new stop at the signal at St. Patrick. Now if only the TTC would put an eastbound stop there to replace the one they dropped in the last round at McCaul, and thereby break up the long gap from John to University.
  • Eastbound stop at Gladstone farside replaced by nearside stop. [Thanks to a reader for spotting this.]
  • Westbound stop at Beaconsfield shifted east a short distance to align with the new traffic signal at Abell St.
  • Eastbound stop at Wilson Park shifted west one block to Triller where there is a crosswalk and an existing westbound stop.

On The Queensway:

  • As a result of the restoration of streetcar service to Humber Loop, the stop at Parkside is back in service. This is reflected on NextBus but not on the TTC’s own site.

On Dundas Street:

  • Westbound stop at Crawford shifted one block to Shaw Street where there is a traffic signal and an existing eastbound stop.

On College Street:

  • Stops both ways at Clinton removed. (Thanks to readers who pointed this out in the comments.) [Updated May 18, 2018]

Now that wasn’t hard at all, was it?

(There may be more that I have missed, and if anybody spots one, leave a comment and I will update the article.)

What is not clear is the degree to which local councillors or residents were consulted about this change. This gets us into a rather murky bit of TTC management bafflegab. When the original proposal was before the TTC board in May 2014, there were motions amending the staff recommendation including:

Chair Augimeri moved that the Board:

1. authorize staff to proceed with the recommended changes to the stops in the staff report where consensus has been reached; and

2. refer the remaining stops identified in the staff report back to staff for further consultation with local Councillors and for report back to the next meeting.

The motion by Chair Augimeri carried. [Minutes of May 28, 2014 Board Meeting, Item 14]

It is quite clear that the Board intended that the proposals in the report had to be accepted by those affected. (For the record, there never was a follow up report provided by staff.)

The current round of changes includes several stops that were not part of the original list. When I pressed TTC management on what appeared to be a lack of notice of the change, not even bringing the scheme to the Board for approval, I was told that the 2014 motion was by an old Board and the staff were no longer bound by it.

Say what? Management can simply make up whatever policy they want when the Board is replaced in a new term of Council?

This is not a question of a nerdish railfan wanting to track the locations of stops, but of a much larger issue that will affect many parts of the City when the TTC turns it attention to bus routes. Some of the stop spacings on bus routes are embarrassingly short, and if the same principles are followed as for streetcars, a lot of buses won’t stop as often, or as conveniently as they do today.

Many of the changes are quite reasonable and take into account the fact that there are now both crosswalks and traffic signals at locations where they did not exist when the transit stops were first installed. This type of change has less to do with new streetcars than simply reflecting the updated street design.

Another justification for elimination of stops in the 2014 round was that this would speed service. In fact, the effects were minimal because many stops that were dropped were not at traffic signals, and they did not represent much delay to streetcar service. This time around, most changes are relocations.

Memo to Councillors with bus routes: Pay attention to what the TTC is up to in your ward.

King Street Update: April 2018 Data

This article continues the series reviewing streetcar service on the King Street Pilot area between Jarvis and Bathurst Streets. Previous installments are available here.

Except for two major storms, April 2018 continued more or less in the pattern of previous months. Schedule changes in mid-May will reduce the scheduled travel time across the route, and this should reduce queuing at terminals. However, it could also lead to an increase in short-turns when the line is under stress. This is always a balancing act in schedule design.

Because of this, I will not publish an updated headway reliability article this time around, but will return to that subject later in the year when a few months’ experience with the new schedules has accumulated.

The charts in this article contain the same data as in the March versions with the addition of April 2018 data and a few cosmetic fixes.

Updated May 11, 2018 at 10:10 am: Capacity charts reformatted to correct headings and date ranges. No change in content.

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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.

King Street Update: March 2018 Data (Part II)

The King Street Pilot project is well regarded for the improvement in travel times it brought to transit riders, and for the large jump in ridership on the route. In past articles, I have reviewed the statistics for travel times, but another important aspect is the reliability of headways – the intervals between streetcars. Early results showed a distinct improvement, but this has not been sustained. Moreover, headway reliability outside of the pilot area remains quite erratic, especially near the terminals.

This brings us to the TTC’s assertion that if only the service would depart on time from the ends of its many routes, the problem of irregular service in the middle would look after itself. This is a completely bogus claim on two counts. First off, erratic service at terminals is the norm, and regularly spaced departures usually depend on hands-on service management by supervisors on the street. Second, service has a fair latitude to be considered “on time”, and even with this leeway, gaps and bunches quickly form that exceed TTC targets.

In theory, if travel times are more consistent thanks to the pilot (or any other transit-supportive changes), then it should be easier to keep service properly spaced. Reality is somewhat different from theory.

This article examines headway behaviour at Yonge Street for the 504 King car, as well as the combined service of the King and 514 Cherry cars. Although these are thought of as “blended” services, like all branching TTC routes, there is no co-ordination between the two routes and the Cherry cars fill gaps in the King service by accident, not by design. Beyond the limits of the Cherry cars (Sumach in the east, Dufferin in the west), the King service is as erratic after the pilot’s introduction as it was before.

Also included is a review of 514 Cherry service on the outer ends of the route. Only recently has the service to Distillery and Dufferin Loops become more reliable and the improvement has more to do with revised schedules than with the King Street Pilot.

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A Detailed Review of King Street Travel Times

The purpose of this article is to delve into the data on the behaviour of King Street transit at an even more finely-grained detail than in past articles. The presentation here focuses on:

  • Hourly variations in travel times.
  • Daily variations based on the day of the week, including weekends.

The data are the same as those used for previous articles, but with changes in presentation to bring out different aspects of the “story” that they tell. In particular, it is important to examine the data at a level of detail sufficient to see where variations exist and where they do not. Averages over several days and over multi-hour periods simply do not reflect the way the line behaves.

A fundamental purpose of the King Street Pilot is to “shave off” the worst of the transit delays caused by congestion. For periods when traffic is free-flowing, there will be little or no change because nothing was “in the way” to begin with. Expectations of large savings in travel time can really only apply to periods when service was likely to be disrupted. This can vary from hour to hour, by day of week, due to special events, weather, and other factors. The whole point is that if the worst of the disruptions are eliminated, service will more reliably be at close to “best case” conditions.

The source data for this and all other studies of transit operations I have published come from the TTC’s vehicle tracking system. Subject to the caveat that some data must be discarded thanks to wonky GPS readings of vehicle location, this represents as close to a 100% sample as one is likely to achieve. The data are from January 2016 to February 2018, except for February 2016 which I do not have.

There are several sets of charts here, and this article is intended to take the reader through progressively more detailed views.

Complete chart sets are provided in linked PDFs, and only a few of these are presented as illustrations in the body of the article to save on space.

I leave exploration of the charts to readers with the hope that this shows the kind of detail that is available, and that a closer look is needed to see how the route behaves under various conditions. As the year goes on, I will update these charts periodically with additional data to examine whether better weather, more activity and special events disrupt what has been, so far, a clear improvement in transit’s performance on King Street.

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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.

Weather

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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