King Street Update: August 2018

This article continues the series reviewing the operation of transit service on the King Street transit priority pilot. August brings two major events that affect service on King Street, although the traffic problems are concentrated at the western part of the line: the Caribbean Carnival and parade on Saturday, August 4th, and the CNE from mid-August onward, especially with the air show in the final days of the month. Both of these bring congestion through Parkdale notably at the approaches to The Queensway and to Jameson Avenue westbound.

Peak Travel Times

As usual, we begin with the PM peak travel time chart westbound from Jarvis to Bathurst. The 85th percentile line has higher spikes in August, and the three largest relate to specific events:

  • Wednesday, August 8: A delay near Church Street held a few cars causing a jump in the 85th percentile value although the change to the 50th (median) percentile was much lower. The cause of the delay is unknown because the TTC did not issue a service alert.
  • Tuesday, August 21: Severe congestion westbound to Spadina from about 5:40 pm onward drove up both the 85th and 50th percentile values. Again, there was no TTC alert indicating a problem.
  • Friday, August 31: “Police activity”, as the alert put it, required diversion of streetcars in both directions due to an incident west of Yonge Street. The spike in the 85th percentile was caused by one car that crossed Jarvis at about 5:30 pm but was not diverted. As a result its trip, including the delay, was included in the 5-6pm data for the pilot district. As with the August 8 data, note that the change in the 50th percentile is small and on a par with typical day-to-day variations.

For comparison, here is the eastbound chart.

Here are the full sets of charts:

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The Decline of Service Capacity on 501 Queen (Updated)

Updated September 5, 2018: A history of service levels on Queen Street back to 1954 has been added at the end of this article.

While Toronto celebrates the success of the King Street Pilot, only a few blocks away on Queen Street transit service is not quite so rosy. Like much of the transit system, service on 501 Queen has not changed substantially over the years, and this has been compounded by various construction projects that disrupted service and fragmented the route.

One long-standing issue on Queen has been the type of vehicle assigned to service. Until February 2018, the service design assumed that the two section Articulated Light Rail Vehicles (ALRVs) would operate. However, it had been common for years to see the smaller CLRVs mixed in to the service despite their lower capacity. This was a direct result both of declining ALRV reliability and the concurrent use of these vehicles on other routes, King and Bathurst.

The February 18, 2018 schedules specify a mix of CLRVs and ALRVs on 501 Queen, and provide shorter headways (the time between vehicles) to compensate for the lower vehicle capacity. However, even this change did not completely fix the problems.

Although the ratio of service design capacities is about 3:2 for the two vehicles (108 vs 74 during the peak, 61 vs 42 off-peak), and 10 of the 35 cars on 501 Queen were scheduled to be ALRVs, the change in headways did not compensate for the lower average capacity. In the table below, the “after” vehicle capacities are a weighted average of ALRV and CLRV standards based on the proportion of vehicles scheduled. In practice, the TTC rarely achieved this ratio, and the capacity actually operated was lower. (Note that “capacity” here is the service design load, not the crush vehicle capacity.)

AM Peak Midday PM Peak
Before
Headway 5’00” 5’20” 5’10”
Cars/Hour 12.0 11.3 11.6
Vehicle Capacity 108 62 108
Route Capacity/Hr 1,296 701 1,253
After
Headway 4’15” 4’45” 4’50”
Cars/Hour 14.1 12.6 12.4
Vehicle Capacity 83.7 47.4 83.7
Route Capacity/Hr 1,180 597 1,038

When streetcar service returned west of Humber Loop, the scheduled service on the Neville-Humber portion was not changed. On the Long Branch portion, the service design calls for 7 CLRVs weekday daytimes supplemented by 5 AM Peak CLRV trippers that operate through to downtown. (These will be discontinued in September due to the shortage of cars.) In practice, at least one of the cars operating west of Humber is typically an ALRV, sometimes more, even though these vehicles should be on the Humber-Neville service.

With the declining availability of ALRVs, if the present schedules are operated with 35 CLRVs rather than the 25+10 CLRV+ALRV mix now planned, the scheduled capacity is further decreased.

AM Peak Midday PM Peak
After
Headway 4’15” 4’45” 4’50”
Cars/Hour 14.1 12.6 12.4
Vehicle Capacity 74 42 74
Route Capacity/Hr 1,043 529 918

During July 2018, there were only 12 ALRVs operated in service at various times, and some of these disappeared as the month wore on. Some of these cars, notably 4207, were assigned to the AM peak trippers to conserve their limited availability.

By month-end, only 7 ALRVs were showing up on Queen, and the number has been declining through August. As I write this on August 31 at 9:30 am, only ALRVs 4221, 4226, 4240 and 4249 are on the route.

I wrote to the TTC’s Brad Ross to inquire about plans for service and capacity on Queen Street. Here is his reply:

1) The reduced availability of ALRVs in recent weeks is due to a deep inspection of the entire fleet to assess their condition, which is not good.

Service Planning is working at making further changes to the Queen route in the new year that assumes no ALRV availability to ensure that we are operating adequate capacity. If ALRVs are available, they would operate either as trippers or replace a CLRV as “bonus” capacity. All of our advance planning for construction service on Queen in 2019 assumed CLRV-only operation and was budgeted accordingly.

2) 501 QUEEN will be the next route to receive the new streetcars after the deployment on 504 KING is complete at the end of 2018. They will be deployed 1-for-1 to CLRVs and the proportion of service operated by low-floors will vary throughout the year as construction at King-Queen-Roncesvalles progresses and the streetcar portion of the route is adjusted.

The detailed plans for staging the trackwork at Roncesvalles as well as the reconstruction of The Queensway with reserved streetcar lanes west to Parkside Drive (the eastern limit of the existing right-of-way) have not yet been released. Riders can expect various replacement bus services, again, from late winter through (at least) early summer.

One unhappy consequence of declining capacity is that vehicles are more crowded, take longer to load, and discourage more riders from even trying to use the TTC. Lost riders are hard to recover, and incentives such as cheaper fares cannot compensate for inconvenience and the discomfort of packed cars.

The following section updates charts presented in an April 2018 article Service Capacity on 501 Queen with data to the end of July.

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Goodbye to 514 Cherry (Updated)

Updated August 28 at 11:45 am:

I inquired of the TTC whether the restriction at Distillery Loop was due to noise, and whether the CLRVs, when needed, could be operated on the 504B Dufferin service which does not go to the Distillery.

They have replied that:

  • “We have a commitment from Rick and community relations that we do not operate legacy cars into Distillery Loop. We will short turn any CLRVs on that branch at Parliament.”
  • “We were trying to avoid having any CLRVs operating through the peak point to maximize scheduled capacity. All the CLRVs are also scheduled as swing cars, so that had to be considered as well. As a result, we had to split the CLRVs between the two branches. We will prioritize LF deployment on the remaining CLRV runs on 504A first to minimize missed trips from Distillery.”

Thanks to Brad Ross for the update.

Original article:

Effective with the October 7, 2018 schedules, the 514 Cherry car will disappear from the streets of Toronto.

Since June 24 it has been on a temporary hiatus during the reconstruction of Broadview Avenue and a revised service on the 504 King car. On September 2, the “standard” service will resume on 504 King, 514 Cherry and 503 Kingston Road, but it will only last a month.

In October, the TTC will make the summer route split permanent and will operate two separate routes, both under the name 504 King:

  • 504A will operate from Dundas West Station to Distillery Loop
  • 504B will operate from Broadview Station to Dufferin Loop

The two services will operate at the same frequency and will be scheduled, to the degree anything like this actually happens on the TTC, so that they blend in the central part of the line rather than running in pairs. That will probably be greatest challenge given the TTC’s chronic inability to manage branching routes and the less than professional manner in which some operators run right behind their leaders rather than spacing out the service.

Most of the recovery time (layovers) will be scheduled at Dufferin and Distillery Loops so that streetcars are not sitting in subway station loops with queues extending out onto the street.

All service will be scheduled to operate with new Flexity low floor streetcars, although until the end of 2018, the TTC expects to be short a few cars and will substitute CLRVs (standard sized old streetcars).

Some CLRVs will operate in the peak periods through the end of the year and will be designated on runs that operate outside the busiest hour in the morning and afternoon peak periods. These will be replaced by low-floor streetcars, as available, at the divisional level.

Where a 504A streetcar is designated for CLRV, these cars will turn back via Parliament, Dundas, Broadview, and Queen, at the divisional level, as CLRVs are restricted from entering Distillery Loop. [From the Service Change Memo for the October 2018 Board Period]

This arrangement means that there could be random gaps in service to the Distillery depending on vehicle allocations of the day, and operators of these cars will lose their east end rest break.

The effect of the new service design varies depending on the day of the week and the location on the route.

On weekdays, the total number of cars in service goes down, although this is offset by the scheduling of larger Flexitys replacing the CLRVs. All will be well if the TTC actually fields a full service of Flexitys unlike the situation on 501 Queen where for many years CLRVs were sent out on schedules intended for the larger articulated ALRVs. [That was nominally “fixed” with the February 2018 schedules, but this was a very long-overdue correction to reflect the TTC’s inability to actually muster a full service of ALRVs.]

  • AM peak service between Dundas West and Dufferin, and between Broadview Station and Sumach (the point where the Cherry line branches off) will change from a mixture of CLRVs and Flexitys every 3’40” to a Flexity every 5’15”. This is, just barely, a one for one replacement of capacity, but not on the peak part of the route.
  • PM peak service on the outer ends will change from a CLRV/Flexity mixture every 4’15” to a Flexity every 6’00”.
  • Midday and evening service on the outer ends of the line will also be less frequent, and it will be essential that all service actually reaches the terminals.
  • Service in the middle part of the route from Dufferin to Sumach will generally be more frequent and will operate with all Flexitys once they are available.

On weekends, the total number of cars in service goes up during all periods. The effect is that even though only half of the service is scheduled to run through to Dundas West and to Broadview Stations, the change in frequency is small. The central part of the line will see better service both in frequency and capacity.

Service to the Distillery District will be improved compared to the 514 Cherry schedule during all periods. (This change was quite evident with the summer 2018 schedules, and will no doubt be missed for the period from September 2 to October 6 where the “old” Cherry service will operate.)

Overnight service on 304 King will continue to operate between Dundas West and Broadview Stations, but all runs will be scheduled with Flexitys.

The PDF linked here shows the details of the changes. I will publish the full list of October service changes in a separate article.

20181007ServiceChanges_504King

As a parting thought, it will be intriguing to see how many years it will take for the last of the signage, advertising and other TTC materials (notably the onboard route maps) to lose the 514 Cherry car. At least, only two months after the change, the cars are not all calling “Short Turn” at every stop.

King Street Update: July 2018

This article is part of a continuing series tracking the behaviour of transit service on King Street during the pilot implementation of pedestrian and transit priority measures. The last update was in May, and I skipped June because there was little new to report.

Although we are now into the summer when conflicts with pedestrians and space constraints from recent takeovers of curb lanes with a variety of artworks and seating areas, travel times on King have not been affected. In fact, thanks to the re-activation of Transit Priority Signalling (TSP) at various locations on July 7, travel times have actually dropped during some periods.

Peak Travel Times

Continuing the tradition of these articles, here is the travel time chart for the 50th (median) and 85th percentile values westbound from Jarvis to Bathurst from September 2017 to the end of July 2018.

The collection of charts for five periods during the day for the two directions are linked here:

The following service disruptions show up in the charts above for the June-July period:

  • June 14, 20 and 26 eastbound: Congestion eastbound to University Avenue from 5-6pm (typically this is caused by north-south traffic blocking the intersection)
  • June 26 eastbound: Service held at Church Street just before 2pm (and therefore counting in the 1-2pm travel time stats) by a fallen overhead wire.
  • June 26 westbound: Service held at Peter Street at about 10:40 pm by a collision.
  • July 10 westbound: Service held east of Bathurst Street at about 1:15 pm by a collision.
  • July 25 westbound: Service held near Church Street just before 9 am. Reason unknown (no TTC eAlert was issued).

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Why Can’t I Get On My Bus (II)

Correction August 15, 2018: Off peak service for the Westway branch of 52 Lawrence has been corrected.

In Part I of this article, I reviewed the evolution of bus and streetcar fleet capacity measured by scheduled service over the period from 2006 to 2018. The central point was that there has been little improvement in the overall peak period capacity operated on the bus network for much of the past decade. On the streetcar network, two recent changes – the addition of buses to supplement streetcars and the replacement of old cars by new, larger ones – have provided some peak period capacity growth. However, in both cases, this growth is small seen over the long run. Off-peak service has improved more because the system is not fleet-constrained outside of the rush hours, but there is still a budgetary limitation which affects how much staff are available to operate these vehicles.

In this article, I will review several major suburban bus routes to compare service in January 2009 when the benefits of the Miller-era Ridership Growth Strategy had kicked in with service operated in January 2018. Given the results seen in Part I, it was no surprise that when I compiled this information, many routes have less capacity today than they did a decade ago and improvements where they do exist are not major. That is not a recipe for system growth. How did this happen?

First off, when Rob Ford became Mayor, he rolled back the RGS Service Standards and service just stopped improving. Several off-peak improvements were undone, but these affected periods outside of the range reviewed in Part I (mainly evenings and weekends). Ironically, the streetcar system suffered less because, thanks to the vehicle shortage (even a decade ago), the loading standards for streetcars in the peak period had not changed. There were few RGS improvements to unwind. When John Tory reinstated some of the RGS standards, this allowed growth to resume, but almost entirely in the off-peak period because neither the bus nor the streetcar fleets had spare vehicles.

Another more subtle problem lies in TTC scheduling. As congestion built up on routes, the reaction was to stretch existing headways (the space between vehicles) rather than adding more buses to a route. This responded to the vehicle crunch, but it gradually trimmed service levels across the system. Even though the same number of buses were in service, with fewer passing a point per hour the capacity of service riders saw declined. The TTC made excuses for this practice as simply running buses to the conditions, but the long term effect was to cut service to keep operational demands within the available fleet size.

The balance of this post summarizes the data for each route. The full set of tables is linked below as a PDF.

2009_2018_ServiceComparisons_V2

A few notes about these tables:

  • Services are grouped by corridor because, in some cases, more than one route operates along a street. For example, Lawrence Avenue West has been served by 52 Lawrence, 59 Maple Leaf and 58 Malton (now folded into the 52).
  • Service capacity is shown as buses/hour. The only adjustment for vehicle size is that articulated buses count as 1.5 so that 6 artics per hour is the same, from a capacity point of view, as 9 regular-sized buses. Where a headway is followed by the letter “A” in the tables, this means that artics are operated.
  • In some cases, routes have a branch where every “nth” vehicle takes a longer trip. For example, some of the services running through to York Region have every 3rd, 4th or 5th bus going beyond the “standard” destination. These do not provide net additional service where the branches rejoin in the same way as a branching route where half of the buses go one way and half the other. In other words, if a 5 minute service runs to Steeles and every 4th bus runs beyond on a 20 minute headway, the headway to Steeles is still only 5 minutes, or 12 buses per hour. These cases are noted with an asterisk “*” in the tables.
  • Some routes were affected by the opening of the Vaughan extension. In these cases, data are shown for November 2017, the last set of schedules before the routes changed, so that the evolution of service right up to that point is clear.

The information for these comparisons is from the TTC Scheduled Service Summaries:

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Broadview Avenue Reconstruction Summer 2018 (Updated August 9, 2018)

This summer, the TTC will rebuild the special work at the intersections of Broadview with Dundas and with Gerrard, as well as replacing the tangent track between these two locations. Minor repairs are also planned between Gerrard and Danforth.

This post will track the progress of the work.

As of August 9, the TTC has announced that the intersection will reopen to traffic and normal routes for 504 King, 505 Dundas and 506 Carlton will resume on Sunday, August 12 at 7:00 am.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

By the fourth day of the project, the old intersection had been demolished and the new concrete foundation was nearly ready for the new track.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

On day seven, the intersection is fully in place, and work is in progress on various connecting tracks.

 

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

These photos illustrate the first stage in replacing track that was built with the now-standard three-layer technique. At the bottom is a concrete slab, and in the middle layer are steel ties with mount points for Pandrol clips that hold the rail in place. The top  layer of concrete goes from the top of the ties to the rail head.

In the first photo below, the machine is cutting away the concrete between a pair of rails to the depth of the first layer and throwing the spoil into a dump truck. The second photo shows the resulting structure with the rails still in place, but only a narrow band of concrete on either side. In the third photo, the remaining concrete is broken away from the track.

 

Friday, July 13, 2018

The photos below work north from Dundas Street. In some of them, the old track has been removed while it others it remains in place. The last photo shows the result after the track is removed with the connection points for the Pandrol clips exposed but not yet cleaned up for new track installation.

 

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The photos below show the progress of attaching new rail strings to the pre-existing structure.

In the first and second photos, the attachment points for the Pandrol clips are exposed, but the rail strings have not yet been placed.

In the third photo, the rail is positioned on the ties, and the rubber vibration insulation has been placed around the rail.

In the fourth photo, the clips have been installed locking down the rails.

In the fifth photo, covers have been added over the clips, and concrete work (in the foreground) has already begun. A gauge bar is used to verify the rail spacing. Although the attachment points for the clips effectively dictate the gauge, there is a bit of play, and the rail is checked and adjusted if necessary before the concrete pour.

In the sixth photo, the concrete pour is underway north from Dundas.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Demolition of the old intersection at Broadview & Gerrard is well underway. Work began on July 24.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Most of the concrete foundation is in place ready for track to arrive.

Monday, July 30, 2018

The central diamond had been placed and part of the southern quadrant was roughly in position when I visited about noon. The diamond is unusual in that it is not a 90 degree crossing, and there the curve coming out of the east side begins within the diamond itself. Also, the intersection slopes from south to north.

The only other intersections with a non ninety degree diamond are at Bathurst & Queen, Dundas & McCaul and College & Spadina.  [Thanks to reader “Max” who pointed out the Dundas/McCaul location, and L. Wall who pointed out Spadina & College both of which I missed in the original article.]

August 2, 2018

At midday, the intersection was almost completely assembled with only the approaches still in progress. The City of Toronto tweeted yesterday that the intersection work is ahead of schedule and should open on August 20.

Great news! Broadview & Gerrard St E expected to fully reopen by Aug 20, ahead of schedule as crews make excellent progress on TTC track replacement. Thank you for your patience during this work. [Tweet from @TorontoComms August 1, 2018]

Diversions in Progress

The assembly of the intersection will likely take the balance of the week through to August 4, and then there are the connection tracks to the adjacent structures. Once concrete is placed, it would be about a week before before traffic could return. This has now been announced for August 12.

504 King and 505 Dundas buses have shifted to use the roads connecting to Gerrard at St. Matthews. 506 Carlton buses divert via River, Dundas and Logan both ways. When the intersection reopens to traffic, the replacement bus service will operate on the normal route. Streetcars return to 504 and 506 on Sunday, September 2.

Ooops!

The TTC has confirmed that although the Board approved addition of a north-to-west curve at this location back in 2010 (along with other changes), corporate amnesia caused this to be omitted from the current work.

King Street Update: May 2018 Data (Part II)

This article continues the analysis of the King Street Pilot with May 2018 data. Part I is in a separate article.

Many topics are covered here, and the intended audience is those readers who want to look at the details of how routes operating on King Street behave. The sections include:

  • Headway reliability on 504 King both in the downtown pilot area and at the terminals.
  • Short turning on the 504 King car.
  • Headway reliability on 514 Cherry and 503 Kingston Road.
  • Headway behaviour for the consolidated 504, 514 and 503 services downtown.
  • A detailed review of 504 King operation on certain days in May 2018.

A common factor through this article is that while travel times in the pilot area have improved thanks to the transit priority scheme, the headways on all affected services are erratic, especially on 514 Cherry and 503 Kingston Road.

The pilot transit project on King is intended to make service more attractive to riders, and this can occur in various ways:

  • Travel times through downtown are shorter and more reliable than during the pre-pilot period.
  • Route capacity has improved partly from schedule changes and recapture of excess travel time, but mainly through the replacement of the older streetcars used on King with larger ones, primarily the new Flexity cars.
  • Headway reliability (consistent times between cars) can be improved if random congestion events are reduced or eliminated, and reliable travel times lessen the need for short turns.

No one change by itself “solves” King Street’s problems, and all three are needed to achieve benefits that will attract riders.

An important part of a transit journey is the time spent waiting for a vehicle. One reason the subway is so popular, aside from its speed, is that trains come frequently and reasonably reliably, although this has become a sore point in recent years. Surface route reliability has always been an issue, and although trips may be faster, there is still the issue of how reliably vehicles actually show up to carry riders.

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King Street Update: May 2018 Data

This article is part of a continuing series reviewing operations on King Street during the transit priority pilot. In Part I here, I review travel times and line capacity in the King Street Pilot’s area. In a follow-up Part II, I will look at headway reliability not just downtown but on the outer ends of the 504 King, 514 Cherry and 503 Kingston Road lines, as well as details of 504 King operation on days when it was badly disrupted.

There has been enough accumulation of data since November 2017 to establish that the pilot has a benefit, although the exact nature varies depending on location, weather and other factors. I will not publish this analysis again until August by which time the effect, if any, of the revised route structure to take effect on Sunday, June 24 will have been in place long enough to accumulate sufficient data. By then there will also be a number of major downtown events to use as reference points in how well the pilot area sustained its transit service.

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505 Dundas Streetcars vs Buses: Part II – Headway Reliability and Capacity

In Part I of this series, I reviewed travel times for the 505 Dundas service operating with streetcars and buses. As I have reported for other routes, the buses are slightly faster only when they operate on uncongested sections of a route where the more aggressive driving style of bus operators gives them a slight advantage. On the portions of the routes in the older city, generally west of Parliament Street, there is little difference between the two modes.

This article reviews service reliability and capacity on Dundas.

As with the analysis of 506 Carlton, the headway data are presented in three formats to illustrate different aspects of route behaviour.

As a general observation, the reliability of service on Dundas has not been good for several years and this worsened during the period of construction diversions in 2017. The TTC does not report on service quality, and when they do, it is on an averaged basis that hides a great deal of the variation that, to riders, translates to “where is my streetcar” and disbelief in the “official story”.

Service is ragged leaving the terminals, and it becomes more bunched and “gappy” as  it moves across the line. Buses run in pairs commonly, even from terminals, in direct contradiction of the TTC’s goal that service be evenly spaced at least at the ends of the line.

There are a lot of charts in this post, and I have included them all so that readers can select items of interest.

As for the capacity charts, they show how Dundas has received no improvement in route capacity for years and, if anything, capacity has fallen.

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