Recently, I published an article about the evolution of travel times and service quality on the Eglinton-Kingston-Morningside corridor since the installation of the transit priority “red lanes”, a project which has been branded RapidTO by the City. See: Red Lanes, Express Buses and Service Reliability in Scarborough
For clarity, although I have done work for City Planning as part of the King Street Priority project, I was not involved in the City/TTC Scarborough project. Analysis presented in my previous articles is my own work separate from the official reports.
One of the challenges of presenting this material is that there is a lot of data between transit vehicle tracking, ride counting and general traffic monitoring. In my articles, I only deal with the transit tracking component and even that is a lot. The City and TTC have boiled down the data further to present the major issues.
The City’s project page contains an overview and links to various resources including the TTC’s RapidTO page. The heart of reporting on the project is in the Project Dashboard which summarizes data showing effects on transit and general road user travel times as well as service reliability.
The High Points
The RapidTO lanes in Scarborough were the low-hanging fruit of potential transit priority projects. Much of their length already had peak period diamond lanes. The streets were not dependent on parking to serve commercial properties along the route, and they were mostly wide enough to leave two traffic lanes in each direction even after dedication of the curb lanes for transit.
Travel time changes were modest, and the savings cannot all be ascribed to the red lanes because other changes were made concurrently or after implementation, notably the elimination or relocation of stops.
Traffic and ridership volumes have not yet returned to pre-pandemic conditions and so we are not yet seeing either the roads or transit service stressed to previously-normal levels. Whether the red lanes will limit transit times from rising back to or above 2019 levels will probably not be known until sometime in 2022.
Service reliability continues to be the bugbear of TTC operations, and we are finally seeing figures to support this in a report from the TTC. When only half of service can achieve a rather generous target range of headways (time between buses), the service is not very reliable.
Update: Of particular note is the high reliability factor shown for the express routes, particularly 905 Eglinton East. The metric is defined as ±50 percent of scheduled headway, and the express routes have much larger headways than the 86 and 116 local Scarborough and Morningside services. Therefore, service on the 905 can be much more erratic because there is a wider acceptable window of values using the 50 percent rule. This is not necessarily better service, only a side-effect of a poorly-chosen metric.
The City and TTC present this metric as an “improvement” relative to October 2019, but the change is only a slight improvement on appallingly bad service. If this were a report card, it would generously have changed from an “F” grade to “E”.
External, physical changes to the route environment such as reserved lanes and stop consolidation will not, by themselves, produce reliable service, and the TTC has yet to address headway reliability management as a core function.Continue reading