Buses Vs Streetcars on 501 Lake Shore Service

The year 2017 brought a long-term shutdown of the 501 Queen street service west of Sunnyside Loop to permit various construction projects on The Queensway, at Humber Loop and on Lake Shore Boulevard. Although work will not be seriously underway until the weather improves, the year-long shutdown also gives the TTC some breathing room in its ongoing problem of streetcar fleet availability as it awaits the long-overdue Bombardier Flexity order.

City TV recently reported that riders on Lake Shore are very pleased with the replacement bus service. That’s little surprise considering how much more frequent the buses arrive compared to the streetcars. A well-known aspect of service evaluation is that riders are much more sensitive to waiting time, especially in bad weather, than to in-vehicle travel time, especially if riding conditions are moderately comfortable.

There is also the question of comparative travel speeds with bus operations versus streetcars. Do the buses make better time than streetcars and, if so, when, where and why?

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TTC Service Changes Effective March 26, 2017 (Updated)

Updated March 27, 2017 at 7:50 am: The City of Toronto has deferred the work on Queen that would have required diversion of the 501 streetcar service between Spadina and Shaw to later in the year when the route will be operating with buses.

The TTC plans for service changes in March 2017 are not extensive. They are detailed in the spreadsheet linked below. I have modified the format of this to include not just headways but also running times (including layovers). This was done to clarify situations where adjustments are made to deal with traffic conditions on routes and to show the amount of time added for diversions.

2017.03.26_Service_Changes

Construction Projects

Although diversions and bus replacements are inevitable for track construction projects, the degree to which the TTC and city are content to remove streetcars for construction outside of the streetcar lanes says little for the “transit first” language we often hear. There also appears to be little incentive to complete such projects as quickly as possible.

501 Queen

Construction projects affect sections of the Queen route for all of 2017:

  • Reconstruction of The Queensway right-of-way, the Humber bridge, Humber Loop and track on Lake Shore
  • Sidewalk reconstruction on Queen between Spadina and Bathurst (late March to late summer) (summer)
  • Reconstruction of the intersection of Coxwell and Queen (August)
  • Replacement of the overhead walkway west of Queen and Yonge linking the Eaton Centre to the Simpson’s building (now HBC/Saks)

For the period from March 26 to May 6, Queen cars will divert both ways via Spadina, King and Shaw. Replacement bus service will operate from University to Dufferin (terminating at Dufferin Loop south of King). Night service will operate from Yonge to Dufferin looping in the east via Church, Richmond and Victoria. (Deferred)

During the Queen diversion, running time will be added on 510 Spadina to allow for streetcar congestion and delays making turns at Queen and King. One cannot help wondering where “transit priority” fits in this situation considering that problems with this diversion were quite evident during 2016.

Starting on May 7, the route will be converted to bus operation end-to-end. This will have two branches similar to the streetcar service before 2015. One branch will operate from Neville to Long Branch, while the other will run from Neville to Park Lawn. Buses will run through the construction area from Spadina to Bathurst.

Because so many buses will be required and streetcars now on Queen will be released, streetcars will return to 511 Bathurst, 503 Kingston Road Tripper and the 504 King trippers.

Streetcar service on Queen between Neville and Sunnyside will resume in September, and over the full route to Long Branch in January 2018.

See also Ben Spurr’s article in the Star.

505 Dundas

Three projects affect the Dundas service during 2017:

  • Reconstruction of the intersection at Victoria and Dundas Square (beginning late March)
  • Reconstruction of the intersection at Dundas and Parliament (May-June)
  • Watermain construction between Yonge and Church (late March to October)

Effective with the March schedules, 505 Dundas cars will divert both ways via Bay, College, Carlton and Church.

During the May-June period when streetcars will not be able to operate through the Parliament intersection, a different arrangement will be required, but the details have not been announced.

504 King

Starting with the March 26 schedules, the King bus trippers will be extended north to Dundas West Station to avoid congestion at Sunnyside Loop.

With the May schedules, the Queen turnback at Sunnyside will end, and the bus trippers will be replaced by streetcars.

503 Kingston Road Tripper

With the May schedules, this peak period route will return to streetcar operation, but it will loop downtown at Charlotte Loop (Spadina, Adelaide, Charlotte) because Wellington Street will be under construction.

For the July schedules (mostly in August), the intersection at Queen and Coxwell will be under construction, and so bus operation will return to the 503.

The 502 Downtowner service will remain a bus operation throughout.

506 Carlton

When the March schedules were planned, a diversion was to be implemented between Broadview and Coxwell to allow reconstruction of the overhead over that section of the route. This diversion has been deferred due to the shortage of buses, but the new temporary schedules were already in place for March-April. This will leave 506 Carlton service on its regular route, but with added running time and wider headways. The standard schedule will come back into operation in May.

Continuation of last year’s sidewalk construction and streetscape improvements is likely, but yet to be confirmed, beginning in June between Bathurst and Lansdowne. Service adjustments are yet to be announced.

Route Changes

73 Royal York

The peak period 73A service that now terminates at Dixon Road will be extended north following the same route as the 73C Albion Road service to loop via Knob Hill Drive and Oak Street in Weston. This branch will be renamed as 73D.

121 Fort York – Esplanade

The route will be extended west into Exhibition Place so that operators on the route have access to a washroom (in Exhibition Loop). Running times during certain periods will be adjusted to match conditions on the route.

131 Nugget Express

Two branches of this service operate to supplement the SRT while the fleet undergoes major repairs to extend its lifespan. The 131E runs from Kennedy Station to Old Finch, but the 131F runs only from Kennedy to STC. Due to low ridership the 131F service will be removed. Service on the 131E is unchanged.

TTC Service Changes Effective Sunday, January 8, 2017 (Updated)

Updated December 12, 2016 at 3:00 pm and at 4:25 pm: Details of the works planned for the west end of the Queen line during 2017 have been added to this article.

The planned service changes for January 2017 bring major restructuring of two routes, and a troubling indicator about the general availability of vehicles for TTC service.

Bus Availability

Several routes will have AM peak service cuts because there are not enough buses to operate the service. None of these will push the service over the loading standards, and these could be thought of of “trimming” excessive service. However, the explicit reason given is the lack of buses.

This is partly due to the slow delivery of new streetcars and to the operation of buses on many streetcar routes either to make up for missing fleet, or to cover for construction projects, but also because of additional demands for spare buses for maintenance.

Streetcar Availability

At the time of writing this article, car 4429 is about to leave Thunder Bay. This leaves Bombardier on track if they push out one more car to hit their much-revised delivery target for 2016. However, the rate of deliveries is not expected to speed up until the second quarter of 2017 and so it will be some time before we see streetcars return across the system.The shortage is partly due to late deliveries and partly to the increased need for cars in maintenance for rehabilitation pending receipt of more Flexitys.

As of January, the following routes or portions of routes are operating with buses:

  • 502 Downtowner and 503 Kingston Road
  • 501 Queen (bus operation west of Sunnyside Loop to Long Branch)
  • 504 King (bus trippers)
  • 511 Bathurst

Effective January 8, 2017, the 501 Queen service will operate with streetcars only between Sunnyside Loop and Neville Loop. A bus service will run from Long Branch Loop via Lake Shore, Windermere, The Queensway, Queen and Dufferin to Dufferin Loop. The same arrangement will be in place for night service, and so riders bound west of Roncesvalles will have to transfer to the night bus.

Beginning in the spring, The Queensway right-of-way will be rebuilt over its entire length including the bridge at the Humber River, the “Long Branch” side of Humber Loop will be rebuilt, as will the track from Humber Loop west to Dwight and Lake Shore (just at the point where Lake Shore straightens out). Streetcar service is not expected to resume until late in 2017 January 2018.

Update: The timing for various components of this project, tentatively, is:

  • Queensway track from Claude to Humber Loop will be rebuilt in concrete rather than with open ballast as at present. This work will occur over much of the construction season.
  • City work on the Humber River bridge will also run through the construction season.
  • Track on Lake Shore from Humber Loop to Dwight will be replaced in the spring.
  • A new substation will be installed at Humber Loop in the summer.
  • Track at Humber Loop and through the tunnel to Lake Shore will be replaced in the late summer and fall.
  • There are no plans at this point to change the stop at Parkside Drive which is not accessible.

Further to the above, the TTC advises that “most of the track work west of Humber Loop is the replacement of the rail and top layer of concrete only, and so the alignment does not change.”

[Thanks to Scott Haskill at the TTC for these details.]

A separate project to rebuild and reconfigure The Queensway east of Parkside to Roncesvalles, including replacement of the intersection and the junctions with the carhouse, is planned for 2019.

Concurrent with this change, some of the bus trippers on 504 King will revert to streetcar operation. Also, the 80A Queensway service to Keele Station will operate at all hours rather than cutting back to Humber Loop to preserve a connection with the 501 Queen bus service.

Metrolinx Construction on the Eglinton LRT

This project continues to affect more routes whose schedules have been adjusted mainly by giving more running time and stretching headways.

The major change in this regard is that the 25 Don Mills route will be split on weekdays at Don Mills Station into two separate routes so that construction delays on the south end of the line do not affect service north of Sheppard. The service levels on the 25 Don Mills local buses and 185 Don Mills Rockets have been slightly adjusted to reflect greater demand on the locals.

2017.01.08_Service_Changes

501 Queen: Construction Effects on Service (Updated)

Since May 8, 2016 and continuing until Thanksgiving weekend, route 501 Queen is diverting around water main construction on Queen west of Spadina. The westbound diversion takes streetcars south to King at Spadina, west to Shaw and back north to Queen, and eastbound service follows the same route in reverse.

This article compares the line’s operation before and after the diversion took effect.

Updated July 26, 2016 at 4:00 pm: A chart has been added shown the delaying effect on King Street service eastbound at Spadina caused by queues for left turning eastbound Queen cars.

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Reviewing the New Schedules on 501 Queen for January 2016 (Part II)

In January 2016, the TTC implemented new schedules on route 501 Queen making the following changes:

  • The route was split into two sections with an independent Humber to Long Branch service (in effect, a return of the long absent 507 Long Branch route), and
  • Running times were increased so that scheduled and real-world travel times were better matched and short turns could be reduced.

The first article on this subject reviewed headway behaviour (the space between cars) with the new schedules. This article turns to running times (the time required to get from A to B) and service behaviour at terminals.

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Reviewing the New Schedules on 501 Queen for January 2016 (Part I)

Effective January 3, 2016, the TTC introduced a major revision in service on the 501 Queen route. The changes included:

  • Substantially more running time was allocated for almost all periods so that cars would not fall late thanks to congestion and heavy demand, and most of the service could reach the terminals.
  • The route was split at Humber Loop (see note below) so that the Humber-Neville service operated independently of the Humber-Long Branch service, the arrangement that had been in place until March 1995. This is supposed to be “temporary” pending the availability of enough cars to operate the full line with the longer ALRVs or new Flexitys. Service to Long Branch operates with CLRVs (the shorter streetcars) except for some runs that are through-routed from the main part of the route.
  • The section of the route west of Humber Loop was added to the “10 minute network” so that it is guaranteed frequent service at all hours (except overnight).

(Note: Due to the condition of the “Long Branch” side of Humber Loop, the service captive to the west end of the line was discontinued for the last week of January, and “Long Branch” cars ran through to Roncesvalles Carhouse as their eastern terminus.)

The “before” and “after” service designs are summarized in the following table.

501_ServiceHistory_201601

In this article, I will review the operation of the 501 Queen route in December 2015 and January 2016 with a focus on headways (the time between cars), reliability (variation in the headways) and the quality of service on outer ends of the line (the compound effect of reliability and short turns). In the second part of this article I will turn to the effect of additional running time in the schedules.

General Observations

Service in January 2016 is much more reliable, especially on the outer ends of the route as the need to short turn cars simply to stay on schedule is much reduced. On the west end of the line, service on Lake Shore is considerably improved both because this is now part of the “10 minute network” and because cars are now dedicated to serving the segment west of Humber.

Short turns still do occur, although for the most part this is now due more to local incidents such as collisions than congestion. In other words, short turns occasionally spike at a specific time and day rather than being chronic throughout all days and hours of service.

Weekend service was particularly bad in December partly because there is less (or no) unscheduled extra service to fill gaps, and partly because line management seems to apply to weekends with the focus being on “on time” performance rather than actual service levels. This problem is reduced but not eliminated in January.

Wide gaps in service and the complementary effect, bunching, were much more prevalent in December than in January, but unreliable headways are still a problem, albeit at a lower level. Combined with the higher likelihood that cars will run through to their advertised destinations, the length of time a rider must await a through car, and the anguish about whether one will ever appear, is improved.

Cars depart inbound from terminals more reliably, generally within the TTC’s goal of a six minute “on time” window. However, this goal still allows for uneven spacing relative to a six minute scheduled headway, and by the time cars reach Yonge Street, the unevenness of terminal departures is magnified. On Lake Shore, headways are uneven at times even with the dedicated local service simply because cars do not leave terminals on a regular spacing. A six minute “on time” window allows most of these to hit the target, but they still contribute to uneven service

The added running time allows more service to reach its scheduled destination, but during some periods it also contributes to noticeably slower operation. If the schedules are padded, then it should be possible to space service midway along the route. From a traffic viewpoint, the question then becomes whether it is better to have streetcars sit killing time at key locations rather than dawdling along the route to burn up excess time in the schedule.

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Does More Running Time Improve Service?

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

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

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

The changes to date are summarized in the table below.

201512_Leary_AddedRTT

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

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

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501 Queen Service Design Effective January 3, 2016

The TTC has now split the 501 Queen route at Humber Loop on a temporary basis to allow concentration of the larger “ALRV” streetcars (the two-section articulated cars) on the main part of the route east of Humber, while “CLRV”s (the standard one-section cars) provide service from Humber to Long Branch on a more frequent service than before.

The “507 Long Branch” route is back in everything but name except for late evenings when some cars from Neville run through to Long Branch.

Service between Humber and Long Branch Loops is provided by a dedicated fleet of five or six cars operating at a 10 minute headway until mid-evening every day. Early evening service is provided by five cars on all days.

Starting at about 10:00 pm, some of the service west of Humber is provided by through trips originating at Neville Loop. Three cars remain on a Long Branch to Humber service with generous recovery times to make the integrated 9 minute headway work properly. It will be interesting to see how well managed these cars are (or not) and whether they actually split the gap between cars to and from Neville, or run close behind them. If the latter, then the advertised “ten minute headway” on Lakeshore will fall apart late in the evening.

Eastbound from Humber, there will be a mix of cars from Long Branch as well as Queen service scheduled to turn back at Humber. This is, in effect, the current schedule with every other inbound car originating from the two terminals. Again, an essential part of service reliability will be that these cars leave on the scheduled 9 minute spacing, not with a pair every 18 minutes.

The service transitions occur at different times depending on the location and direction of travel:

  • First car from Neville destined for Long Branch: About 9:00 pm
  • First car from Yonge destined for Long Branch: About 9:30 pm
  • First car from Long Branch destined for Neville: About 10:40 pm

During the late evening, service at Humber will be provided on two separate platforms for each direction:

  • From roughly 11 pm and 1 am, eastbound service from Humber Loop will be provided by a mix of cars originating from Long Branch, and cars from Neville terminating at Humber. These use different platforms because of the track layout. It is not yet clear whether the cars from Neville will load on the outbound track (as they did 20 years ago) or on the poorly paved area beside the inbound track.
  • From roughly 10 pm to 2:40 am, westbound service from Humber Loop will be provided with some service on the “Long Branch” side of the loop and some on the “Humber” side outbound. For some reason, the TTC has scheduled the last outbound car, weekdays, on the Long Branch side at exactly the same time as a car on the Humber side, so that there is a scheduled pair of cars westbound to Long Branch. The weekend schedules work better.

Some of the information on the published schedules for the new service is wrong in that some running-in trips to carhouses are mis-identified, and Long Branch trips do not appear on westbound timetables for the east end of the line implying considerably worse service than is actually scheduled. The complete schedules are accurately available in the TTC’s Open Data feed, but making sense of this requires some scripting to assemble the raw information into a comprehensible format.

Concurrently with these changes, running time increases are provided over much of the route to improve schedule performance. The table below shows a few of the changes as examples.

Neville to Humber Round Trip    Travel   Recovery   Total
                                 Time      Time
Weekday Midday
December 2015                    136'       12'      148'
January 2016                     158'        7'      165'

Saturday Afternoon
December 2015                    136'       14'      150'
January 2016                     172'       10'      182'

Sunday Afternoon
December 2015                    126'        6'      132'
January 2016                     164'        7'      171'

How well the service will operate under the new schedules will depend a great deal on line management. It is one thing to stay “on time” and quite another to maintain spacing, especially where services merge as at Humber Loop. In theory, being “on time” should ensure this, but the TTC’s interpretation of that phrase has enough leeway to accept very erratic service as “on time”.

Meanwhile, thanks to a technical foul-up with the schedule feed to NextBus (which might be either at the TTC or NextBus end), vehicle position displays and arrival time projections on this route are totally unreliable as of the launch date, January 3. None of the service west of Humber, and much of the service east of there is missing. This makes tracking of line performance by observers, let alone use of NextBus by riders, impossible. (Displays for other routes with new schedules, notably 510 Spadina, are also affected.)

TTC Service Changes Effective January 3, 2016 (Updated)

Updated December 8, 2015 at 12:30 pm: I checked with the TTC about the termination of both the 509 Harbourfront and 511 Bathurst routes at Fleet Loop rather than simply running one route between Bathurst and Union Stations. Here is the reply from TTC Service Planning:

We considered running a 511 (Bathurst Stn-Union Stn) service but ruled it out for two main reasons. Firstly, stop usage on Fleet west of Bathurst has greatly increased in the last year, and serving these stops only with the shuttle bus would introduce a transfer or longer walk for too many people. Secondly, because of the road configuration and traffic patterns, it is not possible to have a northbound stop for through 511 cars on Bathurst at Lake Shore. The nearest stop would be the existing 509 stop on Bathurst farside of Queens Quay. This adds to the walking distance for customers heading to Fleet Street, and requires customers to cross an inhospitable intersection.

The original article follows below:

The new year brings changes to some routes, mainly on the streetcar system, to deal with the shortage of new Flexitys and a construction project while improving service on 501 Queen, 502 Downtowner and 503 Kingston Road to better reflect actual conditions.

2016.01.03 Service Changes

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