This article arose from complaints I saw on Twitter about the poor service on the 63 Ossington bus during November and early December. The common thread is that service is extremely erratic, a common problem on many routes.
In the case of the Ossington bus, most trips are comparatively short because it extends only from Eglinton West Station to Liberty Village, and many trips are to or from the subway at Bloor. This means that wait times can form a substantial part of a journey on the route, sometimes more than half. Moreover, they are unpredictable and riders must allow time for this whether they will need it or not. This is not a formula for attracting demand back to the system from those who have a choice of travel some other way.
Service on 63 Ossington during November 2022 operated with schedules that had been in place for some time. The weekday schedules had been in effect since March 2022, and the weekend schedules since November 2021.
During peak periods, half of the service short turns at St. Clair via Oakwood Loop, but at all other times, all buses run over the entire route.
During November 2022, there was an enlarged south end loop to avoid construction at King & Shaw, but no additional running time was provided in the schedule to compensate for this.
The route has frequent opportunities to regulate headways with layovers at the terminals and at Ossington Station Loop. Note that recovery times are particularly large during weekday peak periods and midday. This is intended to deal with congestion due to Line 5 Crosstown construction at Eglinton West Station. Recovery times are more commonly only one headway or less.
Here is a brief update on various construction projects in progress.
Excavation continues on Roncesvalles at the north gate of the carhouse while the track panels for the new junction remain on trailers on King Street (see previous update).
Track installation has started south from Harvard Street toward the north gate.
The TTC has not yet announced a date for resumption of through service on Roncesvalles between Howard Park and The Queensway on route 504 King, nor for through streetcar service from downtown to Dundas West Station.
On The Queensway, the eastbound stop at Glendale has finally been taken out of service. Passengers are now directed to use westbound buses to access St. Joseph’s Hospital transferring at Roncesvalles or at Colborne Lodge Drive as appropriate.
The map below was tweeted by @ttchelps. As I write this, neither this map nor the diversion notice for the 504 bus service are linked to the route’s schedule page.
Construction continues on the new eastbound curb lane and the eastbound streetcar stop at Glendale. Work is also in progress on the track between Glendale and Parkside.
Overhead is still not in place at Sunnyside Loop although many span wires and hangers have appeared. The 501 Queen service cannot be extended from Dufferin to Sunnyside until this loop is available.
King & Shaw
According to a City of Toronto construction notice, this intersection will reopen on Friday, December 16. This would allow the 504 King and 63 Ossington services to resume normal operations here.
When the TTC announced their November service changes, this included a temporary option, once King & Shaw reopened, with half of the 504 service turning back at Exhibition Loop (the 504B Broadview cars) and half running through to Dufferin (the 504A Distillery cars). The 504C buses which loop at York Street would shift to a Bathurst turnback.
The TTC has not yet confirmed whether these arrangements will actually happen.
Construction has moved swiftly west on Adelaide and is now in the final stretch between Widmer and Charlotte Streets. The section east from York to Victoria will be rebuilt in 2023.
New overhead has not yet been installed on Wellington Street. The 503 Kingston Road bus is looping via York, Richmond and University from King. Streetcar service should return in the Spring when pantograph-friendly overhead on the downtown loop and on Kingston Road has been installed.
Dundas at Brock Street
A large sinkhole appeared under the streetcar tracks on Dundas at Brock due to a burst 120-year old sewer. The City expects the street to be restored by the end of December, but the TTC will then have to restore the track and overhead. Until that work is finished, tentatively by the end of January 2023, the 505 Dundas service is diverting both ways east of Lansdowne via College and Ossington.
Media coverage is available from CBC and CITY, among other sources.
The diversion of 506 Carlton streetcars around the College Street reconstruction project is expected to finish by the end of 2022. Streetcars continue to operate both ways via Bay, Dundas and Ossington.
The KQQR project is heading into the home stretch with work now underway on the North Gate to Roncesvalles Carhouse, and roadway construction and paving on The Queensway west to Parkside Drive. Alas, there is no announced completion date.
At the North Gate, recently completed utility work allows the area to be excavated in preparation for the new special work. This track has not yet been rebuilt to current standards (a program that will take years to complete as the cycle time is 20-30 years) with a concrete foundation, pre-welded track mounted on panels, and a top layer of concrete that can be removed for repairs without disturbing the two layers below.
The new track panels are sitting on trailers on King Street east of Roncesvalles awaiting installation.
Meanwhile there is some preliminary work on new overhead leading north into this area, but the main installation cannot occur until the new track is in place and overhead trucks can drive under the new wire.
On The Queensway itself, overhead has begun to take shape at Sunnyside Loop, but it is still not operational. This leaves the 501 Queen service turning back at Dufferin Street.
On King Street east from The Queensway, conversion of overhead suspension to pantograph compliance has finally started. This area and Kingston Road are the last two major areas to be converted.
Along the south side of The Queensway, much of the new curb is now in place and concrete for the new curb lane will likely appear soon, weather permitting. At Glendale eastbound (St. Joseph’s Hospital) the bus stop is even more rudimentary than on previous visits. Passengers wait in the temporary crossing area (which is now at least concrete rather than a wooden bridge), and then move across the traffic lane to board a bus when it arrives.
Between Claude and Parkside (the easternmost part of the existing streetcar right-of-way) excavation is in progress to remove old track and wooden ties in anticipation of completing the new trackwork between Glendale and Parkside.
This article was originally going to be a very long reply to a comment left in the Spadina vs Bathurst thread, but I have moved it to its own article for better exposure.
I received the following comment from someone whose identity I will keep to myself. You know who you are.
Steve, I am a political strategist at the municipal level here in Toronto. I have a meeting with some new inner city Councillors next week (+ the Mayor) who are interested in this issue of streetcar speed and reliability (as am I as a fervent reader of your blog!).
Putting aside cost and political barriers for the moment: from a purely technical perspective, what measures would you recommend implementing on the Spadina and St. Clair streetcar routes to speed them up without losing ridership?
Are there any stops on the Spadina line, near or far side, that could be eliminated while still retaining the riders who use those stops via other stops?
What kind of TSP [Transit Signal Priority] extension would yield the best results if having to choose between the two: extending the seconds of green light extension OR maintaining the green light extension window while simultaneously allowing for more active TSP (ie rather than just if it’s late)?
How much time would be saved if all far side stops were eliminated on Spadina and St Clair?
How much delay does the lack of grade separation for the final/first leg of the St Clair route (ie when it’s entering or leaving the station and having to wait for cars and pedestrians) cause? Would installing a signal system for that unprotected stretch that prioritizes the streetcar result in any substantial gains?
Open to all thoughts and suggestions – many thanks 🙂
I am replying to this in public because (a) the comment was left in the public thread rather than sent in a private email, and (b) my answers will be of interest to other readers.
Back in August 2021, I published an article about running times on the 510 Spadina streetcar including comparisons with the nearby 511 Bathurst car. Despite being on its own right-of-way, the Spadina car is almost always slower than the Bathurst car.
There are various reasons for this including double stops at signalled intersections and longer stop service times due to the demand level on Spadina.
That article used May 2021 data which reflected mid-pandemic traffic conditions. With demand and traffic rising in past months, I return to the subject using October 2022 data.
The situation has not changed much in the intervening year and a half. 511 Bathurst cars still win the race during most time periods, although on a few occasions the 510 Spadina cars take the prize.
Comparing Travel Times
Here are comparative running time averages for October weekdays on the two routes. Two sets of values are shown here:
The solid lines show average travel times between Bloor and Front each way.
The dotted lines show the average travel times between Bloor and Richmond each way avoiding problems with congestion and enroute layovers at the south end of these lines.
Throughout these charts, data for Spadina are plotted in red while data for Bathurst are in green.
During most weekday periods, Bathurst cars have the lower average travel time between Richmond and Bloor, but the results are mixed between Front and Bloor.
Here are the comparable charts for Saturdays and Sundays. Bathurst almost always wins out.
The charts below subdivide the weekday data by week to show that the numbers are not always exactly the same. There is even more variation on a day-to-day basis. I include these to illustrate the importance of not taking averages over long periods at face value because this can hide variations.
In these charts, the warmer colours (red through light green) show data for the Spadina car while the cooler colours (blues and purple) show the Bathurst car.
These charts show the general shape of average data, but more a more detailed view is needed to compare the routes’ behaviour.
The priority transit lanes and other traffic measures have been in place on King Street between Jarvis and Bathurst Streets since the fall of 2017, five years ago. This article updates past charts and observations with data to October 2022.
There are three quite separate areas on these charts:
2016 to fall 2017: This is the pre-priority era in which travel times were longer and, during parts of the day, quite unpredictable.
Fall 2017 to March 2020: This is the era of transit priority pre-pandemic. There is a marked reduction in both the length and variation in average travel times during most periods.
March 2020 to October 2022: This is the pandemic era. A further drop in travel times occurred almost immediately as this period began, and values have only begun to climb upward in recent months.
A troubling question, difficult to answer this early in the “recovery” period, is how far up both average trip times and the variation in these values will climb. Motorist have had free rein on King Street for two and a half years, and the “priority” scheme is a shadow of its former self.
The situation will be further complicated when Queen Street closes for Ontario Line construction and traffic diverts onto Richmond and Adelaide with, no doubt, some spillover to King. There is no sense that robust priority measures will be in place for transit, but instead that the focus will be on moving traffic generally through downtown. Transit will benefit, to the extent it might, from the “rising tides lift all boats” philosophy that sees any benefit to auto traffic as having a spin-off value to transit. That is a false but commonly used analogy.
In the charts below, there two galleries, one with westbound and one with eastbound data. This allows a reader to open the gallery and step back and forth through different hours of the day to see how the data change.
All of the charts have the same layout.
The x-axis gives the date over the past five years.
The y-axis is time in minutes with the bottom of the axis at 10 and the top at 40. This gives more “breathing room” for the variations as there are “zero” values in the chart only where there are no data due to a diversion or missing data in the TTC feed. The upper value of 40 clips some of the very high peaks, but these are rare.
There are two lines showing the 50th percentile (mean, blue) and 85th percentile (yellow) for the travel times.
There are various vertical bars marking significant events including the start of the King Street pilot (green), the onset of Covid (brown) and the annual film festival (red, omitted for 2020 and 2021).
Updated November 20, 2022: Information regarding diversions for 504 King and 503 Kingston Road has been updated with current details.
The TTC is making a few service changes for the November board period affecting mainly streetcars and the Yonge subway (Line 1).
With the complete implementation of Automatic Train Control on Line 1, the full route will switch to one person train operation (aka “OPTO”). Service will be improved during peak periods as well as some off-peak. Some running times will be reduced.
The peak service improvement is achieved through a combination of running time reduction and the conversion of two of the “gap” trains in each peak to regular service trains.
The originally announced service for 501 Queen in October would have seen the route extended to Roncesvalles from Dufferin. This proved impractical, and the route continued as it had been in September. The official schedule now reverts to September’s version for both the streetcar and bus services. There is almost no change to scheduled headways.
503 Kingston Road
The 503 Kingston Road car will be converted to bus operation until March 2023 to allow overhead conversion on Kingston Road. The buses will operate to the “standard” downtown route 503 destination at King & York via Wellington.
Update: The downtown loop of the 503 buses will be via King to York Street, north to Richmond, west to University, south to King and returning east.
The intersection of King & Shaw is expected to reopen in early December for streetcars and buses. In anticipation, the November schedules are based on the service plan after the reopening.
Update: The TTC has posted a service change notice dated December 1, 2022 stating that the reopening will occur in “early December”. December 1st is a Thursday, and so it is not clear exactly when this change will take place. There is no comparable notice for 63 Ossington which is also diverting around King & Shaw.
All 504 King cars will operate to Exhibition Loop, but they will not serve stops on Bathurst or Fleet Streets.
In practice, much of the 504 King service has not reached Exhibition Loop in recent weeks short turning either at Fleet Loop or at Charlotte Loop (King/Spadina).
504A Distillery cars will operate to Dufferin Loop.
504B Broadview Station cars will operate to Wolseley Loop (at Queen & Bathurst).
This arrangement reduces the number of transit vehicles attempting to use Dufferin Loop while this is still the western terminus for 501 Queen streetcars.
The 504C King shuttle bus was originally scheduled to operate to Exhibition via Strachan, but instead it will run east to Bathurst and King looping via Bathurst, Adelaide and Portland. Additional service will be provided if necessary from the run-as-directed pool.
929 Dufferin Express
All trips will terminate at Dufferin Loop.
86 Scarborough service on Saturdays to the Zoo for Terra Lumina will now end at 9:20 pm to match the planned earlier closing time.
172 Cherry Beach weekday service will be discontinued for the winter (typically until May).
The changes are summarized in the spreadsheet linked below.
Various track construction projects continue into November, but there are signs of progress at some locations.
Updated November 6, 2022 at Noon: Photos of the current state of the King-Queen-Queensway-Roncesvalles project added.
College/Carlton Reconstruction and Diversion
Effective November 2, the intersection of Carlton and Church reopened for streetcars after a long delaty. This had been caused by an unexpected hydro vault under the intersection that conflicted with the new, deeper foundation that is placed under streetcar track.
The 506 Carlton service now operates on the originally planned Dundas Street diversion from Bay to Ossington while College Street is under construction. Here is the updated diversion map from the TTC’s Service Advisory.
The replacement 506C bus continues to operate via Harbord and Hoskin from University to Ossington, and via Gerrard from University to Parliament.
This configuration is expected to last to the end of 2022.
Track reconstruction has shifted east into its second phase between St. George and Bay Streets. Here is a view west on College from University showing the track structure with the old rails removed. The steel ties and attachment points for Pandrol clips are ready to receive new rails.
The City of Toronto’s project webpage contains more information about this status and details of the planned road reconfiguration.
King & Shaw
Construction continues at King and Shaw, but should be finished in time for service restoration on 504 King and 63 Ossington for the next schedule period on November 22. This has not yet been confirmed.
The service alert on the TTC’s website shows the correct routing for 504 services in the west end, but still includes the Queen/Parliament diversion to the east which ended a few weeks ago.
Queen & Carroll
Stop rail replacement on Queen east of the Don Bridge will occur over the weekend of November 4-7. 501 Queen and 504B King/Broadview Station services will divert via Parliament, Dundas and Broadview as shown below.
Although the map does not show this, the 504A King/Distillery service will continue to run on its normal route.
Installation of new overhead is underway on Wellington, and the 503 Kingston Road car is supposed to resume its loop via Church, Wellington and York with the November 22 schedule changes. This has not yet been confirmed.
Track construction has begun on Adelaide Street to restore the link between Spadina and Victoria that has been inactive and unusable for decades. This will provide the eastbound diversion from York to Church for 501 Queen service during Ontario Line construction at Queen & Yonge. The track west to Spadina was included in the project as it will be useful for other diversions including the 504 King car during the film festival which typically closes King Street from Simcoe to west of John.
The construction work will occur in phases as described in the City of Toronto’s project page.
Phase 1A runs east from York to Victoria. This involves the replacement of an old watermain, work that is necessary before the tracks can be rebuilt. This is now in progress.
Phase 1B runs west from York to Simcoe. This is the first phase of track replacement. Initially only the eastbound track area will be excavated. The westbound track will be removed later.
Phase 2 will begin after phase 1B completes. It runs west from Simcoe to Widmer, and is expected to begin on November 7 subject to completion of work further east.
Phase 3 will begin after phase 2 completes. It runs west from Widmer to Charlotte where it will connect with existing track.
Once all of this work is finished, phase 4 will see the pavement marked for a revised configuration with the bicycle track relocated to the north curb lane from Bathurst to Parliament.
In 2023, a separate project will see new southbound track installed on York between Queen and Adelaide, and installation of new track from York to Victoria. The date for this work has not yet been announced.
In the map below, a shared lane is shown on the south side of Adelaide through the construction zone. The lane is actually on the north side of the street, at least as of November 2.
Adelaide Street looking east (on the left) and west (on the right) at University.
Here is a view looking west on Adelaide on July 1, 1967, west of Simcoe. The neighbourhood has changed quite a bit in 55 years.
Due to persistent fog, I have not visited KQQR but plan to do so soon. I will update this article with the current status and photos in the next few days.
Updated November 6, 2022 at Noon
Here is a gallery showing the current state of the KQQR project.
The watermain reconstruction on Roncesvalles north of Queen completed recently. Concrete around the old track at the north gate has been broken up in preparation for removal of the special work.
At the Glendale stop (St. Joseph’s Hospital) formwork is in place for the new eastbound platform, but buses are still stopping beside an unmaintained dirt area on the south side of the street.
The walkway across the tracks to the eastbound stop has been repaired since my visit a few weeks ago and the handrail is now in place on the full length of both sides.
The new curb along the south side of The Queensway is progressing slowly.
Work at Sunnyside Loop was delayed for construction of a Bell Canada manhole on the south side of The Queensway, but poles required to string the new loop overhead are not yet installed.
According to the most recent construction update from the City, the TTC is considering changing the route of the 504C replacement bus to provide some service on Roncesvalles south of Howard Park, but nothing has been decided yet.
I have often written here and on Twitter about the proliferation of service change cards and posters as the constant changes in streetcar routes occur. Combined with conflicting and out-of-date online information, it is common to find at least two different versions of notices at the same stop, not to mention “stop not in service” notices in locations where streetcars are actually running.
Without question, the constant shifts in the operating plan are challenging to keep up with, but the lack of attention to removal of out of date information, particularly when new notices go up at the same location, does not serve riders well at all. Operating staff, in good faith, give out incorrect info leading passengers astray, and I have rescued a few lost travellers over past weeks.
This is a very serious issue given the amount of construction that will affect TTC routes (and not just the streetcar network) in coming years. Riders have enough challenges with service quality without having to divine whatever route their service might be taking today. There is a clear fragmentation of responsibility for keeping route information up-to-date and consistent within the TTC. Even in a recently announced reorganization, the responsibility for “closures and diversions” is in a separate branch (Operations and Infrastructure) of the TTC from “service delivery” (Transportation and Vehicles).
The phrase “Beware of the leopard”, for those who know the reference, seems particularly apt for some TTC “communications”.
The TTC needs to figure out how communications about service plans and changes can be centrally accessed and administered so that all notices speak with the same voice and contain current, accurate information.
Updated October 9, 2022 at 11:40pm: It turns out that there are four pages within the TTC website where service information might be found. At last count, the list includes:
There is the parent Service Advisories which links three of the four above. Some but not all of the items in the Updates page are also displayed on the main page under “Latest News”.
Although the same topic might be found through different pages, the text is not always the same indicating that multiple versions of the information have been posted. In this situation it is easy for their content to drift thanks to selective updating.
Effective October 1, 2022, the 504A branch of the King car will return to Distillery Loop. The 504B branch will continue to operate to Broadview Station via Parliament and Queen as shown below.
This is a temporary arrangement pending completion of the re-electrification of switches at King and Sumach. Once that is completed, expected within a few days, the 504B will revert to the standard route via King between Parliament and the Don Bridge. If this situation lasts to Monday, October 3 or later, the 503 Kingston Road car will also continue to divert via Queen and Parliament.
This change will reduce streetcar congestion at Broadview Station because only half of the service will go that far east on the line. It will also eliminate some of the wheel squeal problems at King and Parliament, although not completely until the 504B service returns to its normal route.
Service will return to the Sumach and Cherry Streets that have been without reliable service since the beginning of August. The 504 shuttle bus was extremely erratic with very wide gaps in service, and it as cancelled completely on September 4 even though signs remained on transit shelters advertising its existence. The area is also served by the 121 Esplanade-River bus which has its own problems with reliability.
Updated October 1, 2022 at 7:10 am: The west end of the King car will divert to Wolseley Loop at Queen and Bathurst rather than operating to Exhibition Loop due to trackwork on Fleet Street. This also affects 511 Bathurst which diverts east to Charlotte Loop and 509 Harbourfront which short turns at Spadina and is replaced by a bus shuttle from the to the Exhibition. Normal service resumes on Monday, October 3.