What Should Be Done With Spadina and St. Clair?

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?

For instance:

  • 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.

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TTC Service Changes Effective September 4, 2022

Updated:

  • The spreadsheet detailing all of the changes has been added at the end of this post.
  • The number of the Mimico GO shuttle has been corrected to 176.
  • Transfer arrangements at Queen & Dufferin for the 501 bus and streetcar services have been clarified.
  • Transfer arrangements at Queen & Roncesvalles for the 501 and 504 bus services have been added.

Updated September 5, 2022:

  • The spreadsheet listing all of the changes has been corrected for route 504 King. The original version included a description of the route carried over from the August version. This has been changed to reflect the September arrangements.

The TTC will make many changes to its scheduled service on September 4, 2022 with restorations of previous service levels on many routes. This will not get the system back to 100% of pre-pandemic levels.

An important distinction is between three values:

  • The amount of service scheduled before Spring 2020
  • The amount of service budgeted for 2022
  • The amount of service scheduled for 2022

The TTC plans to be back to 97% of budgeted service for bus, 84% for streetcar and 92% for subway. The overall numbers are compared below.

Hours/WeekRegularConstructionTotal
January 2020 Scheduled185,8257,068192,893
September 2022 Budgeted186,3796,398192,777
September 2022 Scheduled177,9304,965182,895

In the original 2022 service budget, the TTC planned to be back to roughly the same level of service as in January 2020 by September 2022. However, slower ridership recovery coupled with staffing constraints produced a lower scheduled service expressed as hours/week.

There are further caveats:

  • The distribution of hours by time of day might not be the same in 2022 as in 2020 because of changing demand patterns.
  • Changes in running times to deal with congestion or service reliability can mean that the same service hours are stretched over wider headways. Not all vehicle hours are created equal.

All that said, there are many changes in service levels, and with the bus network being back to 97%, the schedules for September 2022 are often based on old versions before service cuts were implemented. Another change for this month is the reintroduction of school trips on many routes.

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TTC Service Changes Effective June 19, 2022

June 19 will bring the summer schedules on some routes, a return of streetcars at Broadview Station, and various minor changes scattered across the system.

Subway

There is no change in subway service.

Streetcars

With the completion of watermain work on Broadview in May, the streetcar service to Broadview station on 504 King and 505 Dundas will return.

504A Distillery to Dufferin service will remain, but will be blended with the 504B from Broadview Station to Dufferin. The combined service on the two branches will be more frequent in almost all periods than the 504A service now operating.

The 504/505 shuttle bus from Broadview Station to Parliament will no longer operate.

505 Dundas service will operate between High Park Loop and Broadview Station on the same headways as are currently provided just to Broadview. Dundas cars will not return to Dundas West Station until later in the year following completion of new platforms and overhead.

The 504C King/Roncesvalles shuttle bus will return to Dundas West Station, but, like all bus routes there, will loop on street and stop on Edna Avenue (north side of the loop) while work inside the station continues. Other bus routes currently diverting to Dufferin and Lansdowne Stations will return to Dundas West at the same time.

Work on Phase 3 of the King Queen Queensway Roncesvalles project including the North Gate of Roncesvalles Carhouse will begin in September.

Carhouse allocations of 504 and 505 will change with additional 504 cars operating from Leslie, and some 505 cars shifting to Roncesvalles. Allocations will change in August when construction work begins at Russell Carhouse, and again in September with the Phase 3 KQQR work.

There will be seasonal service cuts on several routes:

  • 503 Kingston Road AM Peak
  • 505 Dundas AM Peak bus trippers removed
  • 506 Carlton AM Peak bus trippers removed
  • 511 Bathurst all periods
  • 512 St. Clair almost all periods

See the spreadsheet linked later in this article for details.

From July 11 to August 1, 501L Queen and 301 Queen Night buses will divert westbound from Lake Shore via 15th, Birmingham and 22nd Streets during reconstruction of the intersection at Kipling. Eastbound service is not affected.

With overhead on the central section of Queen now converted for pantograph use, streetcars running between Leslie Barns and routes 510 Spadina and 512 St. Clair will operate via Queen west of the Don River rather than via King.

Buses

Routing Changes Due To Frequent CNE Closures

The following routes will be changed because streets in and near the CNE are often closed during the summer.

  • 29 Dufferin will loop through Liberty Village via King, Strachan and East Liberty.
  • 929 Dufferin will loop at Dufferin Loop.
  • 174 Ontario Place/Exhibition will operate via Fleet, Fort York and Lake Shore for the southbound trip.

30 High Park and 189 Stockyards Interline

Buses on routes 30 and 189 will interline to better use the running time on the combined route.

A new 30B High Park service will operate from High Park Station to the park via West Road and Colborne Lodge Drive. This seasonal shuttle will run separately from buses on the combined 30/189 service.

Seasonal Changes

The following routes are affected by seasonal reductions in demand:

  • 39/939 Finch East
  • 102 Markham Road
  • 905 Eglinton East Express
  • 927 Highway 27 Express

Miscellaneous Changes

  • 21C Brimley service to STC will be adjusted on Sundays.
  • 44/944 Kipling South service will divert both ways around track construction work at Lake Shore from July 15 to August 1.
  • 363 Ossington night service will return to Eglinton West Station Loop.
  • 72 Pape service will be adjusted during all time periods for reliability.
  • 86 Scarborough will have a trip added at 2:13 pm weekdays from Kennedy Station to fill a gap in the schedule.
  • 118 Thistle Down service will be improved in peak periods.
  • 134 Progress service will be adjusted on Saturdays.
  • 172 Cherry service will continue to bypass the Distillery District due to road construction.

600 Run As Directed

The number of scheduled RAD buses has been reduced substantial on weekdays from 40 to 5 crews. On weekends there will be more RAD buses with 39, up from 25, on Saturdays, and 32, up from 21, on Sundays.

Mount Dennis will not have any RAD buses. Details of the crew allocation are in the spreadsheet below.

Detailed Tables of Service Changes

Peak Vehicle Usage

TTC Service Changes: May 8, 2022

Several of the service cuts implemented in November 2021 will be restored with the May 2022 schedules. This includes express service on several routes. Although planned service will be 6.2% lower than the original budget for this period, the TTC intends to resume restoration of full service through the fall to the end of the year.

Information in this article is taken from the May 8, 2022 Scheduled Service Summary and from a copy of the detailed memo on service changes which was provided by a source. Normally the TTC sends these to various people in advance, but for some unknown reason, the document has not officially been sent to the normal external recipients.

There are some conflicts between information in the two documents and I have tried to reconcile these with my own judgement about which is correct because it is not unusual for there to be discrepancies in descriptions of service changes.

Rapid Transit Services

There are no changes in rapid transit services.

Streetcar Services

  • The 501H/501L Queen replacement buses for service on the west end of the route will be shortened to turn back downtown via University Avenue, Adelaide Street and York Street rather than operating to Broadview & Gerrard or Broadview Station.
    • Eastbound buses will operate as 501U.
    • Bus service will be provided from Birchmount, Queensway and Eglinton divisions.
    • There is no change to the existing 501 Queen streetcar service between Neville Loop and Bathurst Street (Wolseley Loop), nor to the 301 Blue Night Bus operation.
  • Headways on 505 Dundas and 506 Carlton will be blended to allow for the shared terminal at High Park Loop.
    • The 505 Dundas routing change to High Park Loop will be officially recognized in the schedules.
    • Service will be reduced during most periods on both routes as a seasonal change.
  • 306 Carlton Blue Night will operate with buses to Dundas West Station.
  • 509 Harbourfront: Seasonal service increase evenings and weekends.
  • 512 St. Clair: Service increase on weekdays.

Bus Services

Routes With Express Service Changes/Restorations

  • 29/929 Dufferin:
    • Local service improved during most periods on weekdays.
    • Weekend service rescheduled for articulated buses.
    • Weekend express service restored using artics.
  • 939 Finch East Express:
    • Weekend service restored.
  • 41/941 Keele:
    • Local service changed from articulated to standard buses on weekdays with improved frequency of service.
    • Midday express service restored.
    • Express operation changed to articulated buses.
  • 43/943 Kennedy:
    • Minor service reallocation on weekday local service.
    • Peak period express service restored.
  • 52/952 Lawrence West:
    • Service reliability adjustments weekdays
    • Express peak period service improvements
  • 60/960 Steeles West:
    • Seasonal service reductions
    • Reliability changes
  • 68/968 Warden:
    • Reliability changes and some weekend service improvements.
    • Peak period express service restored.
  • 85/985 Sheppard East:
    • All 85 local service on weekends will now operate with standard sized buses rather than with artics.
    • Weekend 985 express service restored.

Diversions

Note: These diversions are described in the service memo, but are not reflected in the scheduled service summary.

  • 31 Greenwood:
    • Effective approximately May 18, service will be diverted to Coxwell Station while the loop at Greenwood Station is closed for Easier Access construction. This work will last about one year.
  • 57 Midland
    • Service reliability adjustments.
    • Northern terminus shifted to the Redlea cul-de-sac via Steeles and Redlea.

Other Changes

  • 365 Parliament Blue Night Bus:
    • Weekend service that was removed in error in fall 2021 will be restored.
  • 73 Royal York and 76 Royal York South:
    • Service reliability improvements
    • During some periods, the 73B Eglinton service will interline with the 76B Queensway service.
  • 83 Jones
    • Recovery time reallocated to the south end of the route to reduce conflicts near Donlands Station.
  • 95 York Mills:
    • Stops added on Durnford Road and Rylander Blvd for the 95A Port Union extension. These will be reviewed in advance of the September 2022 schedule changes.
  • Service reallocation affecting some periods on the following routes:
    • 16 McCowan (peak periods)
    • 17 Birchmount (peak periods)
    • 36B Finch West (am peak and early evening)
    • 81 Thorncliffe Park (peak periods)
  • Service reliability changes which generally widen headways during most or all periods:
    • 30 High Park
    • 31 Greenwood
    • 57 Midland
    • 62 Mortimer
    • 77 Swansea
    • 93 Parkview Hills
  • Service reliability changes rebalancing driving/recovery time with no change in service level:
    • 33 Forest Hill
    • 101 Downsview
  • Service improvements:
    • 31 Greenwood (peak periods)
    • 33 Forest Hill (peak and weekday midday)
    • 83 Jones PM (peak periods)
    • 86 Scarborough early evening Zoo shuttle (restored, seasonal)
    • 92 Woodbine South (weekends, seasonal)
    • 996 Wilson Express (weekday midday and pm peak)
    • 175 Bluffer’s Park (restored, seasonal)
  • Service reductions:
    • 75 Sherbourne: AM peak and midday (seasonal)
    • 600 Run As Directed: The number of crews/buses assigned to RAD service will be reduced by about one third as full scheduled service returns.

With the restructuring of bus service in the waterfront and the creation of the 121 Esplanade-River route, there is no existing route to provide seasonal service to Cherry Beach or Ontario Place. Two new routes, 172 Cherry Beach and 174 Ontario Place-Exhibition will operate instead.

172 Cherry links Union Station to Cherry Beach. It will operate from Eglinton Division.

174 Ontario Place links Exhibition Loop to Ontario Place. It will operate from Mount Dennis Division.

Details of the changes are in the spreadsheet linked below.

TTC Service Changes: September 5, 2021

September 2021 will see expansion of TTC service in anticipation of returning demand including in-person learning at schools and universities. Many express bus routes will be improved or enhanced.

In a reversal of past practice, schedule adjustments for “on time performance” will actually reduce rather than add to travel times in recognition that buses do not need so long to get from “A” to “B”, and that they can provide better service running more often on their routes than sitting at terminals.

Full details of the schedule changes are in the spreadsheet linked below.

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Travel Times on 512 St. Clair

This article is a follow-on to How Slow Is The 510 Spadina Car? and an update of The Gradual Slowing of 512 St. Clair (Parts 1, 2 and 3).

Like the Spadina route, St. Clair operates in a reserved lane with many farside stops. The route has also been through the transition from CLRVs to Flexitys, and is subject to many of the same operational rules as the Spadina car. However, there are a few significant differences: St. Clair has fewer intersections (special track work) where slow orders apply, and the transit priority signalling is supposed to be active except at major intersections where cross-street capacity takes precedence.

The charts here are in the same format as those shown in the previous Spadina article for ease of comparison.

Looking west on St. Clair from Caledonia, June 30, 2010. Photo by Steve Munro.
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The Gradual Slowing of 512 St. Clair (Part III) (Updated)

This article is rather technical and is intended as an exploration of an alternate way of presenting dwell time statistics for routes to quickly identify where vehicles spend a lot of time, and in particular where there are extra stops near and farside of intersections.

Anyone who is interested in this discussion, please leave comments. The data presented here appeared in Part II of this series, but in a different format. This is an attempt to improve on the presentation.

Updated March 15, 2021 at 9:25 am: Charts have been added for 505 Dundas for weekdays and Saturdays in February 2021 as an illustration of the very different stopping behaviour on a mixed traffic route where all stops are nearside.

Updated March 14, 2021 at 9:00 pm: A sample chart has been added at the end of the article including a few changes in format.

Updated March 14, 2021 at 1:00 pm: The westbound charts originally published here were the wrong set and covered the period January 12-23 which includes two Sundays and excludes Fridays. The eastbound charts are for January 20-31 which includes only weekdays. All westbound charts and downloadable files have been replaced with new versions. The primary change is that replacing Sundays with Fridays increases the number of observations and strengthens the effects seen in peak periods.

I have received a request for raw data files so that people can play with their own versions. WordPress does not allow uploads of files that potentially could include executable code, macros, etc. If you want the data, please leave a comment and include a real email address.

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The Gradual Slowing of 512 St. Clair (Part II)

This article is a follow-up to my review of travel times and speeds on the 512 St. Clair route starting with the completion of the reserved lanes in 2010 and tracking forward to January 2020 just before the onset of the pandemic.

See: The Gradual Slowing of 512 St. Clair

The charts in this article are based on the same six two-week periods used for the travel time analysis.

One issue on not just St. Clair, but on all of the TTC streetcar routes with reserved lanes, farside stops and supposed transit priority signalling is that riders and operators find that “double stopping” is a common event at traffic signals: once on the nearside to await a green, and again on the farside to service the stop. This is something of a mockery of the word “priority” suggesting either that it is not working very well, or that it is not working at all.

This is an important consideration in light of pending TSP proposals in Toronto:

  • Both the Eglinton Crosstown and Finch West LRT lines will have “priority”, but it will work similarly to TSP installed on other routes. This does not bode well for speedy travel.
  • There is a proposal to change the TSP algorithm (to the extent that it is active at all) so that only streetcars that are “late” to their scheduled times would get any priority treatment. This is counterproductive in a city where schedules are padded, and falling “late” is difficult to achieve. It is a recipe for no priority at all. (Moreover streetcars on diversion and extra service do not have a reference schedule at all, and it is unclear how they would be treated.)

The charts in this article illustrate where along the St. Clair route streetcars actually spend their time.

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The Gradual Slowing of 512 St. Clair

When the St. Clair right-of-way went into operation after an extended construction period and a lot of political upheaval, streetcar operation was scheduled to be faster than the old mix-traffic model. The TTC even produced a before & after comparison that is still posted on their Planning page (scroll all the way down to “Miscellaneous Documents”).

Alas, the 512 St. Clair is now scheduled to operate more slowly than in pre-right-of-way times. This article reviews the evolution of the route since July 2010 when it fully opened from Keele to Yonge to early 2021.

Looking East at Spadina Road

This is a long article, and I will not be offended if some readers choose not to delve into the whole thing. My intent in part was to show the level of analysis that is possible with a large amount of data stretching over a decade, and also to examine the issue in some detail.

As a quick summary:

  • Scheduled travel speeds for the 512 St. Clair car have slowed since the right-of-way opened in July 2010, and they are now below the pre-right-of-way level in 2006.
  • There was an improvement in 2010, but this has been whittled away over the decade with progressively slower schedules.
  • Separately from travel times, scheduled terminal recovery times have increased from 2010 to 2020 especially during off peak periods. This does not affect speed as seen by riders, but it does show up in longer terminal layovers. This recovery time now accounts for a non-trivial portion of total time on the route.
  • Driving speeds are slower in 2020 (pre-pandemic) than in 2010. This is a characteristic across the route, not at a few problem locations, and is probably due to differences in how the new Flexity cars are operated compared to the predecessor CLRVs. A few location, notably the constricted underpass between Old Weston Road and Keele Street, have seen a marked decline in travel speeds over the decade.
  • Many locations have “double stop” effects where streetcars stop nearside for a traffic signal, and again farside to serve passengers. Transit signal “priority” clearly needs some work on this route.

It is important to stress that this gradual decline in speed does not invalidate the right-of-way itself. Routes without reserved lanes have fared worse over the past decade, and St. Clair would certainly be slower today without them. The big challenge, especially with pandemic-era ridership declines, is to maintain good service so that wait times do not undo the benefit of faster travel once a car shows up.

Scheduled Speed

The charts below show the scheduled speed over the line from 2010 to 2021 with 2005 (pre-construction) shown at the left side as a reference point. The information is broken into two charts to clarify situations where there are overlaps.

In 2005, the AM and PM peak values were the same, but from 2010 onward the PM peak had a slower scheduled speed. In the off-peak, the midday and early evening speeds are the same from 2010 until 2018 after which midday speeds drop considerably.

The big dips in the charts correspond to periods of construction when travel times were extended to compensate.

The transition from CLRV to Flexity service began in 2018, and by September it was officially recognized in the schedule.

Source: Scheduled Service Summaries
Source: Scheduled Service Summaries

Schedules are one thing, but what is the actual “on the ground” behaviour of the route. Here are two charts showing the evolution of travel times between the two terminals westbound in the 8-9 am and the 5-6 pm peak hours. Regular readers will recognize the style of the charts, but there are several points worth mentioning.

  • The data run from July 2010 when the right-of-way was completely open to February 2021, although there are gaps. I did not collect data in every month over the period. However, the overall pattern is fairly clear. Unfortunately, I did not collect any data between July 2010 and September 2014 and yet there is a clear jump between the two.
  • Travel times build up to late 2019 and remain high to January 2020. Then comes the pandemic and the times fall, but not by much (the change is much more noticeable on other routes that operate in mixed traffic).
  • There are upward spikes in values. A few of these are caused by delays that affect several cars so that even the median value (green) rises. However, if only one car pulls onto the spare track at St. Clair West and lays over, this pushes the maximum (red) way up while leaving the other values lower. (Layovers can also occur at Oakwood Loop, and at Earlscourt Loop eastbound.)
  • Occasional downward spikes of the minimum values (blue) do not represent supercharged streetcars, but rather bus extras that ran express for at least part of their trip.
  • When comparing these value to the scheduled speeds above, there are subtle differences:
    • The scheduled speed is based on end-to-end travel including arrival and a short layover, notably for passenger service at St. Clair Station. “Recovery time” (about which more later) is not included in the scheduled speed calculation.
    • The travel time is measured between two screenlines: one is in the middle of Yonge Street, and the other is just east of Gunn’s Road so that the entire loop is west of the line. This does not include any terminal time at either end, but does include layovers, if any, at St. Clair West Station Loop.

Here are the corresponding charts for eastbound travel.

Full chart sets including midday and evening travel times are in the pdfs linked below for those who are interested.

These charts show changes have occurred, but where and why?

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TTC Service Changes Sunday, February 14, 2021

There will be few service changes in February 2021 in anticipation of the reassignment of bus services with the opening of McNicoll Garage at the end of March.

Weekday service will be trimmed in response to passenger demand on the following routes:

  • 2 Bloor-Danforth
  • 509 Harbourfront
  • 510 Spadina
  • 512 St. Clair

The 9 Bellamy and 913 Progress Express routes will be changed to operate via Progress Avenue. Bellamy buses will no longer serve stops on McCowan Road, Corporate Drive and Consilium Place (these are served by other routes).

The service changes are summarized in the table linked below.

2021.02.14 Service Changes (ver 3)

The project list has been updated to reflect construction on various parts of the streetcar system as announced by the TTC. This includes:

  • Overhead and station construction work on the east end of 506 Carlton.
  • Overhead reconstruction on various parts of 501 Queen.
  • The King-Queen-Queensway-Roncesvalles project.
  • Reconstruction of Dundas West Station Loop including expansion of streetcar platforms.

Between the construction projects and the reduced streetcar service, the peak scheduled streetcars now number only 126 (AM) and 127 (PM). Out of a fleet of 204 cars, this leaves a lot of room for “maintenance spares”. We must hope that when the TTC puts the entire network back together again late in 2021 that they will have enough working cars to operate it.

In spite of the considerable surplus of streetcars, there are still bus trippers scheduled on 505 Dundas and 506 Carlton.

The bus fleet will operate at less than capacity with a scheduled peak service of 1,520 vehicles compared to the garage capacity of 1,675 and a fleet size of over 2,000. Run-as-directed (RAD) buses are not included in this total, although there are fewer of them now that “regular” service levels have been restored on many routes.

The project list also includes some items for 2022 from the City of Toronto’s map of planned construction work, TOInview. This includes:

  • Completion of the KQQR project from Queen to Dundas (stop modifications).
  • Reconstruction of Broadview Station Loop. The status of a proposed expansion of streetcar platforms is not yet known.
  • Track construction on College from Yonge to Bathurst, and at the intersection of Church & Carlton. Whether the TTC will add curves in the southeast quadrant here to simplify diversions is not yet known. In a previous project at Broadview & Gerrard, the “institutional memory” forgot that there were plans to add a north-to-west curve, and a once in 25 year opportunity was missed.
  • Replacement of the intersection of King & Shaw.
  • Reconstruction of Adelaide Street from Charlotte to Yonge. It is not yet clear whether this will only involve the removal of long-inactive track or the restoration of Adelaide as an eastbound bypass for King and Queen service between Spadina and Church.