What Is The Scheduled Service Capacity on Queen Street?

This article is a follow-up to my previous piece on 501 Queen Capacity and the staff response to a query at the TTC Board Meeting of June 15, 2017.

At that meeting, Commissioner Joe Mihevc asked whether the capacity operated by buses on Queen Street was the same at all hours as the streetcars that had been replaced. Staff, after a bit of hesitation, replied that it was. The exchange is available on YouTube.

My reaction to this gets into the territory of “unparliamentary language”, but at the time I tweeted:

The term “porkies” will be familiar to Andy Byford and any of his team from across the pond. I moderated this later on to suggest that staff were “badly advised”, the standard political excuse when a Minister is attempting to extricate him/herself from accusations of misleading the House.

Unfortunately, the actual schedule data do not back up staff claims. In the table below, note that the vehicle capacities are taken from the TTC’s Crowding Standards.

In graphic form, the scheduled capacities are:

In almost all cases, and certainly during all periods when the route is busiest, the scheduled capacity of bus service is less than that of the streetcar service.

An explanation of the February to March change in streetcar capacity is in order here. For the March schedules, the TTC planned on a service diversion that did not actually take place. Because they have no spare cars, they make up the extra running time by stretching the headway between vehicles thereby reducing the line’s scheduled capacity. In some off=peak periods, spare vehicles are added to compensate, but not during the peaks.

On a vehicles/hour basis, the buses come much more often than the streetcars because more of them are needed to provide the same service. If the buses can maintain an even spacing (which they don’t as demonstrated in my previous analyses), the shorter wait time contributes to riders’ impressions of better service when in fact there is less capacity on the route.

The one caveat I will make with respect to scheduled capacity is that the TTC is chronically unable to run ALRVs where they are scheduled. This has been a long-standing problem going back to well before any issues with vehicle shortages. Service Planning schedules a capacity based on larger cars, while Operations sends out shorter ones that are overloaded. This is no excuse for perpetuating the under-capacity situation with the replacement bus service.

In coming weeks, some of the currently surplus running time in the bus schedules will be eaten up by construction on Queen west of Spadina, and on Lake Shore west of Humber Loop. The surfeit of vehicles we now see on Queen at its terminals and salted away in places like Wolseley Loop will likely vanish.

As for TTC Staff, I asked for an on the record comment from Brad Ross, Executive Director of Corporate Communications. His responses were:

Thanks for your comments.

followed by

We will review, we just don’t have time today.

The charts above are intended to detail my claim that the scheduled service has declined based on the TTC’s own schedules to save TTC staff the difficult work of looking this up themselves.

As for the actual capacity provided on the street, there are charts covering the peak periods in my earlier article. These are based on TTC vehicle tracking data and reflect the actual mix of vehicles and headways on a day-to-day basis.

When a reply arrives from the TTC, I will update this article.

The Evolution of Streetcar Service from 1980 to 2016

Transit service on many of Toronto’s streetcar lines has declined over past decades and, with it, riders’ faith in and love for this mode. Unreliable, crowded service is considered the norm for streetcar routes, and this leads to calls to “improve” service with buses.

The historical context for this decline is worth repeating in the context of current debates over how Toronto should provide transit service to the growing population in its dense “old” city where most of the streetcar lines run.

When the TTC decided in late 1972, at the urging of City Council, to reverse its long-standing plans to eliminate streetcars by 1980 (when the Queen Subway would take over as the trunk route through the core), the level of service on streetcar lines was substantially better than it is on most routes today. Any comparison of streetcars versus buses faced the prospect of a very large fleet of buses on very frequent headways roaring back and forth on all major streets.

Service in 1980 (when the system was originally planned for conversion) was substantially the same as in 1972, and for the purpose of this article, that date is our starting point.

Ten years later, in 1990, little had changed, but the City’s transit demand was about to fall off a cliff thanks to a recession. During this period, TTC lost much riding on its network including the subway with annual travel dropping by 20% overall. It would take a decade to climb back from that, but various factors permanently “reset” the quality of service on streetcar routes:

  • During the recession, service was cut across the board, and this led to a reduction in the size of fleet required to serve the network.
  • In anticipation of the 510 Spadina line opening, the TTC had rebuilt a group of PCC streetcars, but these were not actually needed for the 509/510 Harbourfront/Spadina services by the time Spadina opened. “Surplus” cars thanks to the recession-era service cuts were available to operate the new routes.
  • Since 1996, any service changes have been  made within the available fleet, a situation compounded by declining reliability of the old cars and the anticipation of a new fleet “soon”.
  • By 2016, the fleet was not large enough to serve all routes, and bus substitutions became common.

Some of the decline in demand on streetcar routes came from changing demographics and shifting job locations. Old industrial areas transformed into residential clusters, and the traffic formerly attracted to them by jobs disappeared. Meanwhile, the city’s population density fell in areas where gentrification brought smaller families to the houses.

The city’s population is now growing again, although the rate is not equal for all areas. Liberty Village and the St. Lawrence neighbourhood are well known, visible growth areas, but growth is now spreading out from both the King Street corridor and moving further away from the subway lines. This creates pressure on the surface routes in what the City’s Planners call the “shoulders” of downtown.

As the population and transit demand have rebounded, the TTC has not kept pace.

The changes in service levels are summarized in the following spreadsheet:

Streetcar_Services_1980_To_2016 [pdf]

510 Bathurst: In 1980, this route had 24 cars/hour during the AM peak period, but by 2006 this had dropped by 50% to 12. In November 2016, with buses on the route, there were 20 vehicles per hour, and with the recent reintroduction of streetcars, the peak service was 10.6 ALRVs/hour, equivalent to about 16 CLRVs. Current service is about 1/3 less than it was in 1980.

506 Carlton: In 1980, this route  had 20 streetcars/hour at peak, but by 2016 this was down to 13.8.

505 Dundas: In 1980, service on this route had two branches, one of which terminated at Church after City Hall Loop was replaced by the Eaton Centre. On the western portion of the route, there were 27 cars per hour, while to the east there were 15 (services on the two branches were not at the same level). By 2016, this was down to 10.3. [Corrected]

504 King: This route, thanks to the developments along its length, has managed to retain its service over the years at the expense of other routes. In 1980, there were 25.2 cars per hour over the full route between Broadview and Dundas West Stations with a few trippers that came east only to Church Street. Despite budget cuts in 1996 that reduced service to 16.4 cars/hour at peak, the route came back to 30 cars/hour by 2006. Service is now provided by a mixture of King cars on the full route (15/hour), 514 Cherry cars between Sumach and Dufferin (7.5/hour), and some trippers between Roncesvalles and Broadview. Some 504 King runs operate with ALRVs and most 514 Cherry cars are Flexitys.

501 Queen/507 Long Branch: In 1980, the Queen and Long Branch services operated separately with 24.5 cars/hour on Queen and 8.9 cars/hour on Long Branch at peak. By 1990, the Queen service had been converted to operate with ALRVs and a peak service of 16.1 cars/hour, roughly an equivalent scheduled capacity to the CLRV service in 1980. By 1996, Queen service was down to 12 ALRVs/hour of which 6/hour ran through to Long Branch. Headways have stayed roughly at that level ever since. The Long Branch route was split off from Queen to save on ALRVs, and as of November 2016 6.3 CLRVs/hour ran on this part of the route. Bus replacement services are operating in 2017 due to many construction projects conflicting with streetcar operation.

502 Downtowner/503 Kingston Road Tripper: In 1980, these routes provided 15.6 cars/hour, but by 2016 this had declined to 10/hour.

512 St. Clair: In 1980, the St. Clair car operated with a scheduled short turn at Earlscourt Loop. East of Lansdowne, there were 33.3 cars/hour on St. Clair. By 1996 this was down to 20.6 cars/hour. The next decade saw an extended period of reconstruction for the streetcar right-of-way, and service during this period was irregular, to be generous. By 2016, the service has improved to 21.2 cars/hour, but this is still well below the level of 1980.

What is quite clear here is that the budget and service cuts of the early 1990s substantially reduced the level of service on streetcar routes, and even as the city recovered, the TTC was slow to restore service, if at all. The unknown question with current service levels is the degree to which demand was lost to demographic changes and to what extent the poor service fundamentally weakened the attractiveness of transit on these routes. The TTC has stated that some routes today are operating over capacity, but even those numbers are limited by the difference between crowding standards (which dictate design capacity) and the actual number of riders who can fit on the available service. It is much harder to count those who never board.

In a fiscal environment where any service improvement is viewed negatively because it will increase operating costs, the challenge is to turn around Council’s attitude to transit service. This is an issue across the city and many suburban bus routes suffer from capacity challenge and vehicle shortages just like the streetcar routes downtown.

The bus fleet remains constrained by actions of Mayor Ford in delaying construction of the McNicoll Garage with the result that that the TTC has no place to store and maintain a larger fleet even if they were given the money to buy and operate it. Years of making do with what we have and concentrating expansion funding on a few rapid transit projects has boxed in the TTC throughout its network.

Transit will not be “the better way” again until there are substantial investments in surface fleets and much-improved service.

The Cost of Running the Queen Car

Update: Minor changes were made to add some details to the costings presented here at about 10:10 am on June 14.]

The debate over which type of transit vehicle should operate on Queen Street, and by implication on the wider streetcar network, will inevitably get into the question of the cost of streetcar operations. The TTC has cited large ongoing costs of the bus operation:

This summer, the TTC is spending an extra $1 million per month to run buses on the route, according to TTC spokesperson Brad Ross. It also takes 60 buses to provide similar service to the 501 Queen’s usual 45 streetcars.

“Queen is a good example of a route where streetcars make good sense because of the capacity that they offer you in the downtown to reduce congestion,” Ross said, adding that Toronto’s streetcars produce lower emissions than buses.

[From CBC News Toronto]

The ratio of buses to streetcars in this quotation is somewhat misleading for a few reasons:

  • The bus service is scheduled with extra running time in anticipation of construction delays, although the actual construction has not yet begun. This is responsible both for the accumulation of large numbers of buses at terminals.
  • The replacement ratio of 1.3:1 is well below values the TTC normally uses in comparing transit modes, and in their own crowding standards. The design capacities of vehicles for service planning is 51 for a standard bus, 74 for a standard-length streetcar (CLRV), 108 for a two-section articulated streetcar (ALRV) and 130 for the new low floor Flexitys. This implies a replacement ratio of 1.45:1 for CLRVs, 2.12 for ALRVs and 2.55 for Flexitys. These numbers would be adjusted downward to compensate for faster operating speeds with buses, if any, although that adjustment would vary by time of day and route segment as shown in my analyses of operations on the route.
  • The capacity of scheduled bus service is less than the scheduled capacity of streetcars at the beginning of 2017. Service for 501 Queen is based on the capacity of ALRVs.
  • The actual streetcar service on Queen before buses began taking over was scheduled to use 33 ALRVs and 7 CLRVs (November 2016 service). The CLRVs were dedicated to the service between Humber and Long Branch Loops.

The TTC’s methodology for allocating operating costs to routes is based on three variables:

  • Vehicle hours (primarily the cost of drivers and related management and overhead costs)
  • Vehicle kilometres (part of the day-to-day cost of running and maintaining buses including fuel)
  • Vehicles (part of day-to-day costs for work such as dispatching, routine inspections and maintenance, cleaning)

The cost of routine streetcar track maintenance is included in the vehicle kilometre cost. This does not include major projects such as the replacement of track which are funded from the Capital Budget.

The factors for the two modes as of 2015 were:

                   Per Hour      Per Km        Per Vehicle
                                                 per Day
     Buses         $ 92.30       $  1.88       $  150
     Streetcars    $ 95.40       $  3.42       $  515

     [Source: TTC Service Planning via Stuart Green in TTC Media Relations]

As 2015 costs, these numbers contain almost no contribution from the new Flexity fleet, but they will be influenced by the cost of maintaining decades old CLRVs and ALRVs. The hourly component of streetcar costs is probably influenced by the relatively higher level of route supervision on that network than on the suburban bus routes.

The TTC’s most recently published detailed statistics for their network date from 2014. (The lack of timely data on route performance is an ongoing issue, but one that is separate from this article.) For 501 Queen, the daily factors for 2014 operation were:

     Vehicle Hours    595
     Vehicle Km     9,100
     Vehicles          36

The number of vehicles listed is lower than the peak requirement, and this will affect the calculated cost as discussed below.

When the streetcar costs are applied to these factors, the daily cost of the Queen car comes out to just over $100k (2015).

     Hourly costs     $ 56,763  53.3%
     Kilometre costs    31,122  29.2%
     Vehicle costs      18,540  17.4%
     Total            $106,425

Adjusting this for the higher number of streetcars actually shown in the schedules would add 4 vehicles (40 vs 36) at a daily cost of $2,060.

On an annual basis (taking one year as equivalent to 305 weekdays, the factor used by the TTC to account for lower demand on weekends and holidays), the Queen car costs about $32.5 million (2015) to operate.

Update: This does not include the cost of the 502 Downtowner nor the 503 Kingston Road Tripper cars. Annualizing the premium for bus service quoted by the TTC to $12m/year puts the relative cost by their estimation in context.

The important point here is that the hourly costs account for about half of the total, and so any calculation is most sensitive to the number of operators required to provide service. Larger vehicles have a strong advantage over smaller ones. Also, larger vehicles mean lower costs for vehicle distance travelled and per vehicle costs, but it is not certain that for a large-scale change in fleet composition that these cost factors would remain stable depending on just which cost components are allocated to each category. For example, a carhouse costs the same amount to operate whether it has 200 small cars or 100 large ones in it. Extrapolation to an all-Flexity environment should be done with care.

In the case of a bus operation, provided that the average speed could be increased during peak periods, this would reduce the total vehicle requirement and bus hours, but it would not change the bus kilometres in comparison to buses scheduled at the same speed as streetcars. (Fewer vehicles travelling at a higher speed run up the same mileage.) The big difference would come in vehicle (operator) hours because of the lower capacity of buses.

The problem of projecting a replacement cost then becomes one of “twirling the dials” of various factors to determine what the replacement service might look like. One obvious starting point is that this must be based on normal route conditions, not on the non-standard schedules now in use for the construction period. Possibilities include:

  • Using an ALRV:Bus replacement ratio of 2:1
  • Using a lower replacement ratio such as 1.5:1 (a sensitivity test to determine how costs would change with larger buses)
  • Using the 2:1 capacity ratio, but assuming a higher average speed for buses
  • Using the higher capacity of Flexitys

The results from these assumptions should be taken with considerable caution because it is far from certain that the cost factors can actually be relied upon across the different vehicle types and usage patterns.

  • On a 2:1 replacement ratio, the cost of bus operation is about 50% higher than for ALRVs. Costs allocated per vehicle are lower, even though there are more buses, but this is more than offset by higher costs for the hourly and mileage components.
  • On a 1.5:1 replacement ratio, the cost of buses is about 10% higher than for ALRVs.
  • On a 2:1 replacement ratio, but with a 10% increase in average speed, bus costs go down about 8%, but are still about 1/3 higher than the cost for ALRVs.
  • For Flexity operations, assuming cost factors are unchanged (valid for hourly costs, but mileage and vehicle costs are another matter), the replacement bus service would cost about 75% more than the streetcar service.
  • Flexity costs fall by 1/6 relative to ALRVs because of the larger Flexity design capacity. This is a comparatively small saving on Queen because the route is already scheduled (if not actually operated) as if it had the larger ALRVs on it. If we were looking at 504 King, for example, the schedule is based on CLRVs and so the replacement by buses would require many more vehicles proportionately than for the Queen route, and replacement by Flexitys would require many fewer vehicles to provide the same scheduled capacity.

[Note: I have deliberately not published exact numbers here because this is only a rough estimate subject to alteration as and when the TTC refines its cost base and the assumptions behind a comparative service design. Also, it is based on 2015 cost data and 2014 schedules.]

These costs do no include major capital projects including ongoing renovation of streetcar track, and one-time costs to bring infrastructure (notably the overhead power distribution system) up to modern standards.

The annual cost of surface track and special work (intersections) varies from year to year based on the scheduled work plans. The average for tangent track over 2017-26 is about $21 million/year although the amounts for 2017 and 2018 are particularly high due to the extent of planned work in those years. From the point where the TTC decided to retain streetcars in late 1972 until 1993, their track construction was not of a standard required for the long life expected of rail assets. Track was not welded, untreated wooden ties were used, and there was no mechanical isolation for vibration between the track and the concrete slab in which it was  laid. The result was that roadbeds fell apart quickly and the lifespan of the infrastructure was about 15 years.

Beginning in 1993, the TTC changed to a much more robust track structure using a new concrete base slab, steel ties, welded rail and rubber sleeves to isolate the track from the concrete around it. The structure is designed so that when track does need to be replaced, only the top layer, the depth of the track itself, needs to be removed. New track can be attached to the steel ties that are already in place. Conversion to this standard across the entire system is almost completed, and track reconstruction costs will drop due both to longer lifespan and simplified renewal work.

The average for special work over 2017-26 is about $14 million/year. Starting in 2003, the complex castings were set in a vibration-absorbent coating. Construction techniques have also advanced so that intersections are pre-assembled and welded off-site and then trucked to street locations for installation in large panels. The most recent intersection, Dundas and Parliament, went from initial demolition of the existing track to full assembly of the new intersection in one week. (Further work was required to complete other road upgrades, and new intersections are typically allowed to cure for a few weeks so that the concrete does not suffer vibration before it has properly set.) With a roughly 30-year cycle for special work replacement, the TTC is only about half way through rebuilding all of its intersections to the new standard.

Update: The Queen route represents about 28% of the track in the streetcar system, and so is responsible for about $10m of the annual capital work averaged over its lifetime. This is a relatively high proportion for one route, especially in relation to the amount of service operated there. 504 King, for example, is much shorter and has considerably more service than 501 Queen.

The cost of track replacement is essentially a fixed value that varies little with the level of transit service, although some of the lighter routes could turn out to have greater lifespans. This capital cost, therefore, represents an investment in the future of the streetcar system and the ridership growth that it could accommodate if only the TTC ran enough service. (The frequency of many routes is very much lower today than it was a few decades ago, and there is a lot of room for growth as residential density builds up along these routes.)

I will review the TTC’s Capital Budget for streetcar infrastructure in the next article in this series.

Any examination of streetcar replacement with buses must consider a variety of factors, but most importantly must look not at the streetcar system as it is today with service levels essentially frozen at or below the levels of two decades ago, but at what it can become as the backbone of travel in the growing “old” City.

Comparison of Streetcar and Bus Operations on 501 Queen (Part IV)

In this section of my review of bus and streetcar operations on Queen Street, I turn to a comparison of operating speeds by each type of vehicle over the route. The charts presented here show operating speeds for the first week of May 2017 (streetcar) and the second week (bus) between Neville Loop and Roncesvalles.

By way of introduction, here is one page from a set of charts.

On this chart, streetcar data are plotted in orange and bus data in blue. The streetcar data are “on top” so that bus data peek out from behind showing the peaks where buses are operating faster than streetcars.

Each chart set has many pages, one for each hour of the day from 6:00 am to midnight. The values plotted give the average of vehicle speeds along the route. The example above shows vehicles westbound on Queen during the PM peak hour of 5:00 to 6:00 pm. The chart should be read from left-to-right, the direction of travel. (Charts for eastbound operations have the same layout, but should be read from right-to-left.) The sawtooth form of the chart arises from locations where vehicles stop and the spaces in between where they are in motion.

Approaching a stop, especially one where there is a backlog of traffic from the stop, there will be a gradual decline in speed, but then a fast pickup afterward as the vehicles move off. Locations with serious congestion and queueing will show up as an extended area of low speed corresponding to vehicles creeping forward to the stop.

The evolution of traffic speeds over the day can be reviewed as an animation by stepping back and forth through the pages. This shows both the rise and fall of speeds hour-by-hour and the change in the degree to which buses operate faster than streetcars in some locations.

Continue reading

Comparison of Streetcar and Bus Operations on 501 Queen (Part III, Updated)

Updated June 17, 2017 at 7:30 pm: A new set of charts has been added at the end of this article to display the service capacity actually operated at various points and times on Queen in a manner that more clearly slows what is going on. The original charts have been left for reference.

This article continues the comparison of bus and streetcar operations on 501 Queen by reviewing the capacity of service actually provided on the route.

The chart below shows the hourly scheduled capacity of the route for its basic service in the central part of the route. This does not include the contribution of any trippers, only the regular service passing Yonge Street in each direction.

For all but the last two entries (May and June 2017) service is scheduled to be provided by ALRVs which have a design capacity for planning purposes of 108. For the last two months, service is provided by buses with a design capacity of 51.

There are minor variations from fall 2013 to February 2017 that are mainly caused by schedule changes related to whether or not the route operates as one continuous Neville to Long Branch line, or if it is broken at Humber. For the through service, headways are slightly different because of the need to blend service on the two branches.

In March 2017, running time was added to the route to accommodate a construction diversion that was not actually implemented. This was done only by stretching the headway, not by adding cars to the route thanks to the overall shortage of streetcars. The result was a drop in both the cars/hour value and the scheduled capacity.

In May 2017, streetcars were replaced by buses, but thanks to the shortage of buses, the capacity of the scheduled service was well below the level that streetcars had been providing. Although there were many more vehicles/hour, their much lower capacity meant that the scheduled capacity was below that of the streetcar service (especially when February 2017 or earlier is used as a base). The reduction was 17% in the AM peak and 27% in the PM peak, and this on a route that (a) the TTC knows is running over capacity and (b) has not had a service increase for many years thanks to the shortage of streetcars.

Providing equal capacity would require that buses operate more frequently than they are now scheduled to do.

This type of scheduling has been used in many places across the TTC system where requirements for extra running time have  been achieved by running vehicles less frequently.

Continue reading

Comparison of Streetcar and Bus Operations on 501 Queen (Part II)

This article continues a topic begun with Part I regarding the replacement of streetcars by buses over the entire Queen route due to several construction projects affecting the route this summer.

In the first article I reviewed vehicle tracking data for April 2017 when Queen was operating with streetcars between Neville Loop and Roncesvalles with data for May 7-31 after the route had been converted to buses. This look at month-long averages gives an initial impression that buses are faster under certain circumstances (period of lighter load and less traffic congestion), but this prompted me to look at other data to see if the pattern was consistent. What quickly appeared was that April 2017 was an unusually bad month for the route, and so average travel times in some areas were pushed above what is seen in other periods.

This article explores a more detailed look at historical travel time patterns on Queen. Apologies to readers who only want the highlights. I have included many charts in this post because some of you like a lot of detail and the ability to “look under the covers”. An important consideration here is that there is a great deal of variability in conditions on any route, and averages do not tell the full story.

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Comparison of Streetcar and Bus Operations on 501 Queen

The summer 2017 conversion of the entire 501 Queen streetcar route to bus operation presents an opportunity to compare the behaviour of the two modes on this route.

Apologies to readers in advance for the length and number of charts, but that’s the nature of the subject.

Background and Data Sources

The raw data for this article comes from the TTC’s vehicle tracking system, CIS, for which much thanks, but the processing and interpretation are entirely my own. The machinery behind the digestion and presentation of TTC data is explained in Methodology for Analysis of TTC’s Vehicle Tracking Data.

In this article, there are data from two separate time periods:

  • April 1-30, 2017: At this time, 501 Queen service consisted of two overlapping routes. 501 streetcars operated from Neville Loop to Roncesvalles, while 501L buses operated from Dufferin to Long Branch. A local shuttle, the 501M, provided service on Marine Drive in the Humber Bay area, but it is not part of this analysis.
  • May 7-31, 2017: All service on the 501 operated with buses on two branches. 501L buses ran between Neville and Long Branch Loops, while 501P buses ran between Neville and Park Lawn Loops. Buses alternated between the two branches so that, in theory, there would be a 501P half way in between every 501L east of Windermere and The Queensway where the routes diverged.

Many readers will be familiar with charts on this showing the distribution of monthly headways (time between vehicles) and link times (time required to travel between two points). In addition to the detailed data, these charts include summaries of values by hour including averages and standard deviations. The latter values indicate the degree to which actual values differ from the average, and the higher the SD value, the worse the dispersion of individual values. This translates to “bunching” of vehicles which, in the worst case, sees buses running in pairs and trios.

For the purpose of this article, I have created charts pulling together the statistics for streetcar (April) and bus (May) operation. In the case of May, only data from the 7th onward when the route had been converted are included.

Are These Data “Typical” and “Representative”?

In the process of working through the data, I became concerned at the gap between bus and streetcar times. In order to verify whether the April 2017 streetcar values were typical, I also pulled the values for January through March and found that travel times were generally lower for streetcars, although there remain periods (notably evenings) when the bus times over the route are shorter than the streetcar times. However, the difference is not as great as the April 2017 streetcar data implies.

The chart below shows the travel time from Roncesvalles to Silver Birch by month from January to May. (Silver Birch is used as the origin rather than Neville Park because vehicle layovers at the end of the route sometimes occur west of that street, and measurements from that point could include layovers.) May data is bus only, and the other months are streetcar.

This chart shows clearly that April (blue) was an unusual month, and streetcar travel times are higher than for previous months. The May (green) data is for buses which are slightly faster in the evenings, but which lie in the same travel time range as streetcars for the months of 1Q17. The same data can also be shown as a percentage difference relative to the May (bus) data.

Where the values fall below the 0.00% line, the streetcars are faster. As we will see in the detailed charts for April and May below, the advantage varies over the route and by time of day.

The differences westbound are not as striking, but they are still an improvement over the April-to-May comparison.

The moral of the story here is that a data comparison may not be what it seems, and a few weeks’ data are not necessarily representative. For example, if the first part of September were used as a reference, this would be during the traffic mess downtown brought on by TIFF and especially the 504 King diversion. This would not be representative for either mode.

Similarly, the situation under poor weather may not produce the same comparison as under the generally fair weather experienced in May, the base month for the bus comparison here.

Continue reading

TTC Service Changes Effective Sunday June 18, 2017

The TTC’s June 2017 schedule changes bring the summer schedules with cutbacks in service on many routes. The effects of lower than expected ridership numbers, fleet and budget pressures show up in the following comment in the covering memo for details of pending changes:

The total number of weekly hours of regular service planned for the June board period will be approximately 2,600 hours below the level specified in the planned 2017  Service Budget for June (August 3, 2016 version). This is a result of current bus and streetcar fleet limitations as well as deeper summer cuts than originally budgeted for.

To put this number in context, the budgeted hours were 175,410 compared to the schedule hours of 172,807, a reduction of about 1.5%.

Scheduled hours to deal with construction-induced delays and diversions are also down from a budget of 38,022 to actual of 24,365 over the first half of 2017. This translates to savings partly in the Operating Budget (costs the TTC absorbs itself), the Capital Budget (service operated to deal with projects like the TYSSE) and recoveries from other parties.

At some point, the fleet limitations will cease to be a valid explanation for service levels, and the TTC will face increased costs simply to operate the service its own standards dictate. Worth watching for will be the fall 2017 schedules and the degree to which the summer cuts are actually restored. TTC’s recent mixed messages complain of lower ridership while observing that service on some major routes is well below the level of demand.


Streetcar Diversions

The rider challenge for this summer will be to figure out where all of the streetcar services are actually running.

  • 501 Queen continues with bus operation over the entire route due to various construction projects. Streetcars will return to parts of the route in stages through the fall, but will not operate over its full length from Neville to Long Branch until January 2018.
    • Streetcar service resumes between Connaught (Russell Carhouse) and Roncesvalles in September.
    • Streetcar service will return to Neville in mid-October, but there will be a diversion around trackwork at McCaul & Queen until late November.
    • Streetcar service resumes west of Roncesvalles in January 2018.
  • 502 Downtowner remains as a bus operation at least until mid-fall.
  • 503 Kingston Road Tripper will continue with streetcars in June/July, but will revert to bus operation thanks to construction at Coxwell & Queen later in the summer. Construction on Wellington requires a continued extension of the route westward to Spadina.
  • 505 Dundas will continue its diversion via Bay, College, Carlton and Church around water main and track construction east of Yonge Street until October.
  • 506 Carlton will have two diversions. Bus shuttles will cover the gaps.
    • In the east, for June/July, overhead work requires a diversion via Queen between Coxwell and Broadview/Parliament (EB/WB).
    • In the west, completion of City roadwork begun, but botched by the contractor in 2016, triggers a diversion via Bathurst and Dundas until October.
  • 504 King, 509 Harbourfront, 510 Spadina, 511 Bathurst, 512 St. Clair and 514 Cherry remain on their regular routes with streetcar operation.

504 King

Some of the peak period trippers now operated on King are being removed because of the “on-going delivery of new Low Floor streetcars”. The line is still scheduled as CLRV operation although many ALRVs, freed up from 501 Queen, now operate there at all hours. The real question, of course, will be what will happen in the fall when streetcars return to Queen and the ALRVs are not available for King. Moreover, current plans are for the Flexity cars to go next onto 512 St. Clair, and it is unclear just how the growth of the new fleet removes the need for trippers.

This ties into plans for a King Street transit priority scheme to go into effect late in 2017. It will be counterproductive for the TTC to cut back in service on 504 King just when better priority might be provided.

Keele Yard

The yard east of Keele Station (originally named “Vincent Yard” after the former Vincent Loop) has not been used for revenue vehicles for many years, but the shift of all of the T1 fleet to Line 2 BD has forced the use of all available storage. The TTC will shift four trains to Keele Yard, with remaining capacity (the yard extends underground beside Dundas West Station and can hold eight trains) to be used by work cars. Moves to and from the yard will occur at the beginning and end of service providing added maintenance time in the overnight break in service.

This yard is in a residential neighbourhood, and with its long inactivity the TTC is aware of the potential for disturbing the neighbours:

Morning service train preparations and noise control

Each night, four trains will typically return to Keele Yard at around 2 – 2:20 a.m., when crews will run system checks to ensure the trains are safe-ready for morning service. The trains will then leave the yard between about 5:45 – 6 a.m. Currently, the first westbound train is scheduled to travel past Keele Yard at 6:01 a.m. Local residents are likely to hear two short horn sounds – required for safety – whenever a train is about to move inside the yard, as well as the sound of trains moving. Efforts to minimize noise will include ongoing noise monitoring, regular reminders to staff at Keele Yard to keep noise to a minimum, sounding subway horns only when necessary for safety and ensuring that the warm-up periods of subway workcars parked on outside storage tracks is kept to a minimum.

Subway workcars will generally leave Keele Yard shortly before the four passenger trains arrive at the yard for the night, and workcars will return to the yard minutes before the passenger trains leave the yard for morning service. Workcar storage in the yard will fluctuate depending on scheduled work in the west. [From TTC Notice]

Presto Effects

A new section has been added to the service memo listing changes that will require new Presto transfer definitions. For June 18, this section reads:

506/306 CARLTON – streetcar diversion/shuttle bus operation requires customers transferring between cars and buses for through travel

There are many cases where Presto cannot deal with legitimate transfers, and the TTC expects operators and riders to know how the rules vary from route to route. Even their own web site is inconsistent on this point:

On the main Presto page, they say:

Transfers using PRESTO

If you have a PRESTO card you no longer need a paper transfer. This is because a transfer is applied to your PRESTO card when you first tap onto a card reader. The transfer for your one-way continuous journey is valid for two hours from the first time you tap your card on a reader. Standard transfer rules apply.

More extensive descriptions of bus-to-other mode transfers are on the bus Presto page. Again, the rule is that no transfer is required.

But on a completely different page, the general one for bus routes, the TTC tells riders of an exception:

PRESTO card customers require a paper transfer on the following routes.

Transfers must be shown to station staff when entering Union or Royal York stations and to operators when boarding these buses. Please make sure you obtain a paper transfer at the start of your trip.

15 Evans
121 Fort York
72 Pape
48 Rathburn
73 Royal York
76 Royal York South

This information does not appear on the pages for the individual routes, nor does it appear on the pages describing fare rules.

501 Queen Construction Projects for 2017

The TTC has announced the timing of various projects affecting the 501 Queen route through the 2017 construction season.

Previously announced work includes:

  • Reconstruction of The Queensway from Parkside to Humber Loop including the bridge deck at the Humber River
  • Reconstruction of Humber Loop and installation of a new substation to improve power on Lake Shore west of the loop
  • Reconstruction of track on Lake Shore to Symons Road (surface layer only) to replace rail prematurely corroded by electrolysis
  • Reconstruction of track on Lake Shore from Symons to Dwight (full reconstruction)
  • Toronto Water construction from Spadina to Bathurst
  • Replacement of the pedestrian bridge west of Yonge over Queen

Starting on Sunday, May 7, route 501 will be operated by buses with a structure similar to the streetcar service before it was split at Humber Loop. The turnback point for half of the service will be Park Lawn. This arrangement will be in place until Sunday, September 3 when streetcars will return to the central portion of the route.

Streetcars displaced from 501 Queen will be used on 511 Bathurst, 504 King (trippers) and 503 Kingston Road Tripper. 502 Downtowner will remain a bus operation.

Additional work is planned through the year that cannot be scheduled concurrently with City activities over the summer, and this will trigger other diversions and bus shuttles later in the year.

Toronto Water work on Coxwell will affect the intersection at Queen, and the 503 Kingston Road Tripper will revert to bus operation in August.

Track replacement at Coxwell will occur in September. Although streetcars will return to 501 Queen, they will only operate between Connaught Avenue (Russell Carhouse) and Roncesvalles. Shuttle buses will operate from Neville to Carlaw, and from Roncesvalles to Long Branch. It is unclear whether this actually means a return to shuttles as far east as Dufferin, or if the TTC plans some other scheme for the eastern terminal of the “501L” service. This arrangement will remain in place until October 14. Streetcar service to Neville will resume on October 15.

Track replacement at McCaul will occur in October/November, and this will require the familiar Church, King, Spadina diversion of all 501 cars around the site. Shuttle buses will operate between the Church and Spadina via Queen. This schedule will be in place until November 25, although if past history is repeated, the streetcars may come back to Queen once the work at McCaul is completed and the concrete has time to cure.

Streetcar service beyond Roncesvalles will not resume until the end of 2017.


Reconstruction of The Queensway and Humber Loop

Through the spring and summer of 2017, the TTC will be rebuilding all of the track and overhead on The Queensway from the beginning of the right-of-way east of Parkside Drive to Humber Loop, and the loop itself.

This project also includes the reconstruction of the bridge over the Humber River which will be done in three stages:

  1. March to June: Work will take place in the middle of the bridge; TTC tracks and deck will be removed.Bearings on the bridge will also be replaced. A new bridgedeck will be constructed including waterproofing and paving.
  2. June to September: Work will take place on both the north and south sides of the bridge, with traffic moving to the centre of the bridge. New sidewalks, parapet walls, light poles and metal railings will be constructed. A new bridge deck will be constructed including waterproofing and paving.
  3. September to December: Work will consist of installing replacement TTC streetcar tracks. TTC will reinstate overhead electrical wiring to support service when it resumes. The top layer of asphalt will be installed along with permanent road lane markings.  [From City of Toronto Construction Notice, March 3, 2017.]

This post will be a repository for photographs of the construction work as it progresses.

Reconstruction west from Humber Loop on Lake Shore Boulevard to Dwight Ave (the point where Lake Shore straightens out for its run west to Brown’s Line) will follow later in the year.

The segment east of Parkside to Roncesvalles is planned to be rebuilt and reconfigured as reserved transit lanes during a project in 2019 that will also include replacement of all special work at Queen/King/Roncesvalles including the carhouse entrances.

April 18, 2017

Following up on comments regarding both the track construction planned for Lake Shore Boulevard, and the trees on The Queensway, I asked the TTC’s Brad Ross for further information.

The Lake Shore track is comparatively recent and would not be due for replacement for a decade at least, and that under heavier service wear than service west of Humber Loop will ever see. It turns out that there is problem with electrolysis of the rails.

In 2002 TTC rehabilitated the entire track structure on Lake Shore Blvd West between Humber Loop and Symons Street due to state of good repair – end of life cycle of the rail and concrete.

Due to accelerated galvanic corrosion to the base of the rail we are now undertaking a rail replacement only project between Humber Loop and Symons Street. The top 150 mm of concrete will be removed to expose the existing rail and fasteners for replacement, and new top concrete will be placed. The occurrence of premature corrosion of the rail will be addressed with the construction of a new sub-station inside the Humber Loop this year.

In addition, we will be undertaking state of good repair – end of life cycle track replacement from Symons Street to Royal York Road, and from Royal York Rd to the west side of Dwight Avenue, which were last rehabilitated in 1998 and 1996, respectively. [Email from Brad Ross, April 18, 2017]

With respect to the trees, the project description on the TTC’s site states:

Tree line along streetcar r-o-w on The Queensway

269 deciduous trees on the narrow turf boulevard along the north and south side of the streetcar r-o-w will be removed. While the majority of the trees are in good condition, they are in the path of construction and will be affected by construction work/activities. All 269 trees will be replaced in the same general areas where they were removed with similar trees – a variety of native species having a tolerance to road conditions. Another 28 existing trees will be protected during construction.

Brad Ross adds:

We worked closely with City Forestry to ensure the right species were planted.

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