The Future of Streetcars in Toronto

Correction Nov. 7, 2010: An error in the spreadsheet calculating the number of vehicles required for 501 Queen in 2020 (either Flexity streetcar or replacement bus) caused these numbers to be understated.  I have replaced the spreadsheets and modified the text in the article where appropriate.

The election of Rob Ford as Mayor of Toronto brought deep concerns to many about the future of transit as witnessed in the comment threads elsewhere on this site.  Much of this focussed on the existing streetcar network and the planned Transit City lines, but transit as a whole is a larger issue.

This article is not intended as the definitive defense of streetcars.  Indeed, the whole idea of “defending” them starts from a negative perception.  The challenge for those of us who see a future for streetcars and LRT is to advocate for them, for the role they can play in decades to come.  We also have to be honest about the tradeoffs.  No technology — buses, trolley buses, streetcars, LRT, subways, gondolas, dirigibles, even swan boats — is without its problems and limitations.  Pretending that any one of them is “the answer” is hopelessly shortsighted regardless of which one you might prefer.

The election brought a great deal of what I will politely call bovine effluent to the debate on the transit system, and many vital issues were simply ignored.  Nobody talked about fares, only about the technology to collect them.  Rapid transit networks were conceived to fit within funding that candidates thought could be available, rather than starting with the question “what do we need” and then addressing the cost and implementation.  Regional transit was ignored, except for occasional hopes that Metrolinx, that bastion of clear-headed thinking and far-reaching financial planning, would take at least part of the TTC off of our hands.

Transit City was the heart of much debate.  Whether your platform was “more of the same” or “Miller’s plans must be garbage”, campaigns ignored the fact that transit is much more than Transit City.

One note about terminology:  In this article, I will use the term “streetcar” to refer to the existing TTC system, including those lines operating in reserved lanes.  The operating characteristics of Spadina and St. Clair, with single cars using pay-enter fare collection at closely-spaced stops, really is little more than an upgraded streetcar.  I will use “LRT” for much of the Transit City network where:

  • service will be provided by 30m cars in two or three car trains,
  • all-door loading and proof-of-payment fare system will be standard,
  • routes will be substantially or completely on private right-of-way with transit priority signalling, and
  • stops will be more widely spaced than on the streetcar and bus networks.

We can haggle about definitions, and will always run up against the fuzzy boundary where a streetcar becomes an LRV. Indeed, the replacement of existing streetcars with new stock and a move to all door loading will address some of my “LRT” criteria above, but won’t change the basic fact that most routes spend most of their time dealing with traffic.  Either they run in mixed traffic, or have substantial interference at intersections.

Please don’t clutter the comment thread with this sort of argument as the real issue is the appropriate use of the technology, whatever we call it.  The name is important when trying to explain things to the public who have been ill-served by the deliberate fudging of the streetcar/LRT differences in the campaign.

As I write this, the political standing on streetcars and the Transit City LRT lines appears to be shifting.

  • Mayor-elect Ford’s YouTube video talks about streetcars as a source of traffic congestion, but does not mention eliminating them from Toronto.  They are portrayed as simply not the sort of thing we want in the suburbs, and a few subways would replace the much larger Transit City network.
  • Ford’s campaign literature does talk about removing streetcars from some city streets, and this was later clarified to indicate the right-of-way lines (Spadina, Harbourfront, St. Clair) would survive at least for a time.
  • Ford hopes to meet with Premier McGuinty and change the terms of the streetcar purchase, ideally to kill it.  Whether this position could be mollified by the arrival of new transit funding from Queen’s Park remains to be seen.
  • Councillor-elect Doug Ford (brother of the Mayor-elect) backpedalled on the streetcar issue and claimed that the idea that Ford would get rid of streetcars was an invention of the nasty lefties to scare their supporters.  The fact that Ford’s own literature and statements by candidate Ford directly contradict this position makes one wonder how much the brothers Ford actually pay attention to each other.
  • Recently, Councillor Karen Stintz, mooted as a new Chair for the TTC, made what I read as concilliatory statements about Transit City.  She would prefer subways, but is not unalterably opposed to LRT.  This is a change from her campaign stance where her representations of streetcars, LRT, especially where the latter is underground, and subways were either uninformed or “misleading” in the Parliamentary sense.  As TTC Chair, she would have quite a learning curve.

As I write this, it is unclear what a Ford administration’s position on streetcars might be.

We often hear that buses would be faster than streetcars, but one need only compare bus routes on comparable streets with (usually) 4 lanes much like those where the Queen and King car run.  Slow scheduled speeds are a function of the individual routes, the demands at stops, the street geometry and the traffic on those streets.  It is ironic that the Queen car has a faster scheduled speed over its long route than the Dufferin bus.

Route Speeds 2010.10

Although Ford’s literature claims that the average speed of streetcars in only 17kmh, the speeds planned for Transit City routes start at 22kmh (Sheppard East, Finch, Eglinton East surface section) and go up from there to be comparable with subways in the tunnelled section of Eglinton (28-31km/h).

Estimating the number of vehicles needed to replace streetcar lines turns not just on vehicle capacity, but on whether buses could match or better the speed of streetcars.  From historical evidence on Bay Street, buses were slower than the streetcars they replaced by a factor of about 10%.  Even on short routes like Junction and Mt. Pleasant, the trolley buses, and later the buses, could not make the running times of the streetcars they replaced.

The streetcar network has a backlog of additional peak service requirements going back close to a decade.  The TTC’s ability to add service is constrained by the combined effect of the decision to retire the last of the PCCs, service cuts of the mid-1990s, opening the 510 Spadina line in 1997 and the gradual decline in reliability of the CLRV/ALRV fleet.

Current schedules require 152 of 195 CLRVs, and 38 of 52 ALRVs.  Spares are over 20%, a generous allowance for transit vehicles.  If the TTC were able to attain a 15% spare factor (15 spares for every 100 in service), it could field 169 CLRVs and 45 ALRVs.  Five additional CLRVs will be required in January 2011 when the 504 King route returns to Roncesvalles Avenue (4 cars), and service is improved on 511 Bathurst (1 car).

The order for 204 new streetcars will very substantially increase the capacity of the fleet.  Taking a CLRV (the existing 4-axle cars) as a unit of “1”, an ALRV (two-section, six-axle cars) as a unit of “1.5”, the current fleet is equivalent to

195 (CLRVs) + 78 (equivalent of 52 ALRVs) = 273

The service actually on the street as of January 2011 will be

157 (CLRVs) + 57 (equivalent of 38 ALRVs) = 224

[Note:  For the careful readers, the number of CLRVs here does not match the total shown on the TTC’s Service Summary.  The reason is that there is an ongoing problem in this summary with the count of vehicles in service due to double-counting of cars that switch between routes during the AM peak.  The numbers I use are taken from the count of cars assigned to each route.]

Riding continues to grow especially on the downtown routes which were not as badly affected by job losses of recent years, compounded by high density residential construction on King, and already underway on or near Queen.  Both the King and Spadina routes are at the limit of service that can be operated in the AM peak without moving to longer cars or trains in the manner of services once seen on Bloor-Danforth and on Queen.

Over the past decade, it is not unreasonable to estimate a backlog of demand for the streetcar system of at least 15%.  Growth in future years, if only it could be accommodated, is projected to run at 2-3%.  Conservatively, that is at least 20% over the coming decade, and the combined effect would be about 40% allowing for compounding from 2001 to 2020 by which time the new fleet would all be delivered.

Applying this amount of growth across the board to every route gives an approximation of future fleet requirements.  Note that this is only for purposes of illustration.  Some routes will grow faster due to population shifts and new development, others will grow less quickly.  The overall effect is the point of the exercise.

Route Projection To 2020 [501 Queen requirements in 2020 corrected]

Including spares, about 155 167 of the fleet of 204 new streetcars will be required to handle growth on the existing system to 2020, assuming service replacement on a capacity-for-capacity basis.  In some cases, rather wide headways by streetcar route standards result, and this may require some additional cars so that waiting times do not come to dominate transit trips on these routes.

Other planned improvements include the eastern waterfront services on Queen’s Quay, Cherry and eventually into the Port Lands.

Line management on wider headways will be crucial to the success of the larger cars.  The TTC has a long history of creative writing in explaining why it cannot better manage its service, and this really must be addressed.  The single largest problem with service reliability is that cars are not dispatched at regular intervals from locations where control on departure times is practical.

Short turns on wide headways will produce unacceptably large gaps, and the TTC must move to a headway management philosophy rather than using short turns in an attempt to keep operators “on time”.  This will require a complete rethink of operator work practices by the TTC and the ATU.

The view from 2020 is important because this is roughly the timeframe in which some pronouncements about the streetcar system would have us roll the last car into the barns and retire it to life as a chicken coop.

When the projections are converted to an equivalent bus operation, we can see the effect on headways and on fleet requirements.  In this projection, I have used a replacement ratio of 2.5 buses for 1 Flexity streetcar on a capacity basis.  A separate calculation adds a penalty of 10% for slower loading of a bus fleet to see the effect.  This penalty assumes that headways would stay at the target level, but more buses would be used to handle the added running time.

[The following paragraph has been updated to reflect the correction to the number of vehicles required on 501 Queen in 2020.]

The peak vehicle requirement goes from 135 145 flexity cars to 336 363 buses, or to 370 399 buses if the 10% speed penalty is added.  (Note that spare vehicles do not consume operators and are not included in these figures.)  On some routes, the headway would become very short (55.8 buses per hour on King), while on others it can be argued that the bus headways would be more attractive because for short trips, a long wait for a vehicle can contribute considerably to travel times.  Conversely, fewer transit vehicles per hour reduces the interference, such as it might be, with other road traffic.  Other possibilities include articulated buses or trolleybuses.  These are not straightforward tradeoffs.

Bus Projection To 2020

[Again, this projection is to give a general idea of the combined effect of replacing streetcars with buses and accommodating reasonable expectations for riding growth.  Other scenarios are possible including one where transit is starved of resources to make a bus plan fit within a larger political agenda.]

Finally, turning briefly to Transit City, Mayor-elect Ford argues that the TC network will doom people to take hours getting across the city.  However, his Sheppard/BD subway loop plan leaves large areas without rapid transit notably the northeast and northwest quadrants of Toronto, not to mention the dense Eglinton crosstown corridor.  People in these areas will still have to ride buses to reach the rapid transit network.

If we are going to seriously talk about additional subway building, this must address actual needs for travel, not merely be an exercise in recycling the monies presumed to be available from cancelling Transit City.  If subways are to be “the answer”, then let us be honest about the scale of construction, and the cost both for building the network and operating it for decades to come.

As I said earlier, this is not intended to be the definitive article on the future of streetcars, and many other discussions will spring from points raised here and from the inevitable proposals at Council and at the TTC.

The future of transit, whatever it may be, requires well informed debate.  This should be based on more than a desire to get the Queen car out of the Mayor-elect’s way as he drives to City Hall.

94 thoughts on “The Future of Streetcars in Toronto

  1. Jacob Louy said: And building the Eglinton LRT to “subway specs” would allow subway trains to run on existing infrastructure? Wouldn’t the surface sections need to be converted to grade-separated track as well?

    I’m confused by what you mean by “existing” infrastructure in this context as nothing’s been built yet, but making Eglinton LRT subway spec is possible within the confines of the existing EA and can still be constructed with the same tunnel boring machines already on order. The biggest change involved is the vertical path designed for the tunnel boring machines to follow, plus some other changes in cut-and-cover areas (including stations, among other things). I specified that I was speaking only to the tunnel (generally between the Black Creek and Don Valleys). A subway spec would still be above grade when crossing Black Creek (both the creek itself and Black Creek Dr) and the Don Valley, it just wouldn’t be in the centre of the road, but beside the road (and not at the same elevation as the road, as that’s not possible/practical at subway spec).


  2. Mimmo Briganti said, “I’m willing to give the TTC one more chance, but if Sheppard turns out to be only slightly better than St. Clair, then I think all the LRT advocates should run for cover.”

    I have to concur with this. I have written before that Sheppard is the make-it-or-break-it of LRT in Toronto. With the exception of the portion west of Pharmacy, there will be no reduction of vehicle lanes that contribute cannon fodder for some anti-transit types, and even the lanes lost over that short section are currently somewhat bus-filled during heavy traffic times. The spacing of intersections help in the ability to have a decent form of transit-priority signalling. In a nutshell, Sheppard is perhaps one of the best places for median-operated LRT to work well. The TTC is being handed a showcase line on a gold platter that could have the rest of the city screaming, “We need that in our neighbourhood,” within a short time after opening. That said, the TTC could also fumble badly when it comes to operating it, not to mention any screw-ups that could occur during its construction. If that happens, as Mimmo said, “LRT advocates should run for cover.”

    Mimmo Briganti also said, “As for Eglinton, I don’t see how it could ever be upgraded to a subway.”

    I have had discussions (arguments) on that subject, and while I have been convinced that it is possible, I don’t expect it ever will. But that is okay, because I just don’t see it ever will be needed. Just because subway construction cannot be justified unless the ridership is at least 10k ppdph does not mean that LRT becomes useless at this level. In fact, there is a substantial overlap where subway is justified before LRT becomes inadequate. Eglinton running with three-car trains on a 90 second headway could easily accommodate 18k (conservatively assuming 150 passengers per vehicle). There are ways to push this even further, but the point is that with an initial passenger load of under 6k, there is a long way to go before this line will be “bursting at its seams” and should be converted to full subway, and I strongly suspect that we hopefully will have a more substantial network that will distribute that need well before that happens.


  3. Steve said … “What I do object to is people in Etobicoke whose entire frame of reference is a car-oriented suburban culture trying to impose that view of the world on the much different parts of the city.”

    And what about elitist uppity downtowners imposing their urban “streetcar only” view of the world on suburbanites? It goes both ways.

    I’m living downtown now (Annex) and I have to say that it’s vastly overrated. There was a shooting at Central Tech. Recently, another one near Ossington (in broad daylight I might add), tagging all over the place in the laneways, and a homeless/seedy element that you never see in the suburbs. And, the houses down here and old and need constant work.

    Sometimes I don’t think the tradeoff of living in a “vibrant” community is really worth it. That “vibrancy” includes an area where close to 40% of the population rents, and then we hear of bar patrons in the Annex puking and whizzing on the lawns of million dollar homes. Nice. So people here need to think about that the next time they slag the suburbs.

    Steve: As you well know, I do not have a “streetcars only” view of the suburbs. If the subway advocates persist in asking for “subways or nothing”, they will get nothing, or very close to it. Transit will be yet another of those things we “can’t afford”. It should be noted that there is a lot of travel around downtown areas that does not involve the subway, and there would be more if only the TTC ran attractive, reliable service. We will never have a subway under all of the downtown streets, especially not with closely spaced stations. The basic question is how to provide good service to as many as possible, not one or two expensive vanity projects that leave huge areas of the city without service.


  4. To Karl Junkin who commented on my post: “I think it is blanket comparisons to places like Zurich that have turned the City so off LRT.”

    I’m not sure what this sentence means other than an implied “shut up”.

    I was writing only about the existing streetcar system, not Transit City or any new LRT lines. That is why I only referred to “streetcars”.

    I would argue that the streetcar system in Zurich in the early 70’s was very similar to the existing streetcar system in Toronto. I would also suggest that the residents of Zurich are generally very pleased with what has been done over the last decades to improve the system. Obviously Toronto is not Zurich. That does not mean that there are not lessons to be learned from a city that has gone from a very similar situation to Toronto’s to one that is very different. Wheels do not always have to be re-invented — especially when they turn out to run as well as those in Zurich.

    My overall point remains that a relevant system that works really well can be used to influence technical people but als0, more importantly, the political generalists who, at the end of the day, will be the ones making overall decisions. “Defence” is not going to be enough. Great examples backed by significant policy work contribute to a positive “offence”.

    I am only trying to be helpful here. :-)

    [Steve: I have merged two comments from the same author together here.]

    Toronto and Zurich streetcar systems.

    The population of the City of Zurich is roughly 375,000. The streetcar system serves the entire city.

    The population of the old City of Toronto was roughly 650,000. The streetcar system serves a subset of that population.

    Comparison of the two systems is appropriate. It could also be helpful. :-)


  5. The inner suburbs are not all leafy streets with nice middle class homes. The reality is that there are also areas such as Malvern, Jane & Finch and Thistletown that are mixed populations, but definitely include a significant segment of the less prosperous. These areas also have the sad distinction of being very poorly served by transit. Many residents of these communities have to undertake long and punishing commutes on overcrowded buses. Transit City is/was a significant first step towards providing some transit equity for those communities. It is not only unfair, but seriously off topic, to try and equate transit Transit City with some special self interest exhibited by “inner city elites”. This is hardly an original thought, but it needs to be reiterated again.

    Whatever one’s views about car oriented communities and car inspired development, it does seem likely that the economic viability of suburban communities will be jeopardised as gasoline prices rise. Whether “peak oil” is truly upon us is open to debate, but the concept of cars each carrying 1.25 passengers cannot be sustained in the long run based on congestion issues and associated societal costs alone. Improved suburban transit is a necessary requirement for a successful future. It is not a question of any group (elite or otherwise) imposing an unwanted solution.


  6. @Brian Williamson:

    When I was google-mapping Zurich, I saw a lot in common with Gothenburg, Sweden, which has a great, extensive tram system – no metro. I see similarities in both built form and street layout. Population for Gothenburg is a little more than 500,000, and the metropolitan area is over 900,000. Zurich’s metropolitan area, meanwhile, is over 1 million. That metropolitan figure is critical for these comparisons, I think it should be noted.

    Contrast that with Toronto’s population of 2.5+ million, and the GTA of about 6 million. There is an issue of population scale being out of sync in this comparison. A comparison between Gothenburg and Zurich would work great, but neither of those two work in a comparison with Toronto. It’s just a fundamentally different scale, by a factor of about 6.

    Yes, I do find these Euro-comparisons to Toronto becoming a tired old song that doesn’t ring true, but while I will be brutally honest with you, I won’t be rude to you.


  7. Steve, my “downtown uppity” comment was a knock against the 20-something Urban Toronto condo LRTistas, not you. They seem to think that their downtown condo-shoebox lifestyle is superior to suburbia, and I’m trying to point out that downtown living is not all honky dory.

    When you live in the suburbs, you’re accustomed to traversing large distances quickly, and downtown travel on a streetcar is a “raising your blood pressure” painfully slow experience — hence, the preference for subways and roads that are free of streetcars.


  8. @Karl Junkin:

    I’m reasonably familiar with the Toronto streetcar system having used it every day for many years. My first reaction on using the Zurich system about 10 years ago was “this feels like Toronto”. I quickly realized that, in fact, it was very different in performance. I went back into the policy decisions that had made it very different and thought that the tradeoffs that they had made would be very informative for both TTC and City officials and politicians. This difference was reinforced a few years later with an afternoon trying to use a clogged Spadina line in Toronto.

    Obviously, Greater Toronto is larger in area and population than Greater Zurich. Planning discussions around new extended transportation corridors of whatever sort are going to be much more complex and difficult for Toronto. Zurich is not particularly relevant for this.

    In a large metropolitan area, there are roles for regional rail, subway, light rail, rapid bus, local bus, etc. That wasn’t what I was addressing here. As before, I am writing only about the existing Toronto streetcar system in hopes of defending it from Rob Ford’s promise to get rid of it. One of the ways of defending it is for a critical mass of Torontonians to understand just how well it has been done in a relevant other system. Zurich is relevant in order of magnitude terms: population served, area served, and size of system (number of cars).

    I am familiar with streetcar systems in many cities (Dusseldorf, Berlin, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Prague, Melbourne, etc.) Zurich is the only system I am suggesting as particularly instructive.

    “Finding Euro-comparisons to Toronto a tired old song that doesn’t ring true” sounds a lot like the TTC saying “That’s not the way we do it”.

    There’s a big difference between google-mapping Zurich and actually using the Zurich streetcar system.

    Not to sound like Marie Antoinette, let’s spend a day together riding around on the Zurich system. If, at the end of the day, you don’t say “WOW, Toronto has a lot to learn from this”, I’ll be disappointed but happy to provide dinner and drinks.


  9. Brian Williamson said: Obviously, Greater Toronto is larger in area and population than Greater Zurich. Planning discussions around new extended transportation corridors of whatever sort are going to be much more complex and difficult for Toronto. Zurich is not particularly relevant for this.

    In a large metropolitan area, there are roles for regional rail, subway, light rail, rapid bus, local bus, etc. That wasn’t what I was addressing here. As before, I am writing only about the existing Toronto streetcar system in hopes of defending it from Rob Ford’s promise to get rid of it. One of the ways of defending it is for a critical mass of Torontonians to understand just how well it has been done in a relevant other system. Zurich is relevant in order of magnitude terms: population served, area served, and size of system (number of cars).

    This is why I think this comparison falls apart. You cannot simply ignore the other modes of a transit system, nor its broader ridership pool. The streetcar system not only connects with the subway system at several points, but they’re also on the same fare. The streetcar system also connects with GO Transit services, including Union Station (among others), albeit on a different fare with no discount program (and, by extension, low levels of transfers between them).

    The “area served” by the streetcar network in any geographic area cannot be taken in isolation, and that appears to be the context you are trying to frame from what I am reading in your comments. The streetcar network is not restricted only to the population within its geographic area, especially when it is also linked to other services such as subways on the same fare. As well, I wouldn’t use the number of cars alone to measure the size of a system, but would also include the capacity of each car, and the double-track-km in the system. Otherwise, the comparison becomes abstract.

    There’s a big difference between google-mapping Zurich and actually using the Zurich streetcar system.

    You’re stating the obvious; that’s why I brought up the Gothenburg system – I have ridden that system extensively, and am familiar with its ins and outs. Apart from some routes’ headways, it’s a fantastic system. I don’t find Gothenburg comparable to Toronto though, and given the similarities I find between Zurich and Gothenburg that I can observe without going to Zurich personally, I am saying that Zurich is simply not comparable to Toronto either. Zurich is therefore not instructive from my perspective. This does not mean Zurich doesn’t have a great system; I just think the differences between it and Toronto are very substantial, and thus there are major impediments to importing practices.

    Whatever solution is going to be put forward for Toronto has to be tailored for Toronto’s built-form. In order to do that, understanding the built-form in any city being used in a comparison, along with the traffic patterns/uses related to it, and how it differs from Toronto’s, is critical. Without that, it’s a setup for failure.

    As far as the prospect of getting rid of streetcars is concerned, expressions have been published in the media that even right-of-centre Councillors aren’t on board with that idea. I think that numbers, and the interpretation of those numbers in terms of congestion impacts and financial impacts, make a very strong case. I don’t think pointing to other jurisdictions holds much sway when it’s the local impacts that will be of the highest concern when votes are cast.


  10. @ W.K. Lis: LOL. Obviously, the “intersection” of Parkside and The Queensway is a fairly unique situation for transit in Toronto. To the best of my knowledge, there won’t be any similar constructions required for an Eglinton LRT.


  11. I first found this website when I became involved in the Ashbridges Bay Streetcar Facility “consultation” – which proved to be a very eye-opening experience – and then the BD second-exit initiatives (it would nice if you could post an update on that for your readers btw).

    Steve has proven himself to be a generally open-minded and reasonable person. However, I find the whole discussion on this thread to be somewhat frustrating, and I believe it is partly (and I intend no offence here) because Steve is largely ‘preaching to the choir’. I notice quite a few of the posters here are of very similar mindsets, and there is often open derision and approbation for posters with other opinions. I think that’s really unfortunate, because Toronto needs some vigorous discussion around transit centred on real issues of importance to the entire city, by ALL the citizens of this city as well as non-residents who use the TTC. If we put everyone’s needs and opinions on the table – equally – we just might find there are more similarities than differences. We might also find that the somewhat artificial divide between urban and suburban, streetcar vs. subway vs. bus, will fade into the background if we instead concentrate on everyone’s transit needs.

    One of the tendencies of the “choir” on this website that I find problematic is the sometimes George Bush style (you’re either with us or against us) assertion that, despite evidence to the contrary, all streetcar riders want to keep them, and only car drivers are opposed. The truth is much more nuanced, and frankly apparent, than that. For instance, here in Beaches/East York Ward 32 – where constituents would not consider themselves to be suburban – there were two transit issues very hotly discussed (there was no actual debate because there was overwhelming consensus in both the candidates debates and at the door within the Beach “triangle”):

    1) the Ashbridges Bay LRV facility was almost universally opposed by the community,
    2) overwhelming support to change the 143 Express into a regular fare route with more frequent service (there was also mention of support for a similar solution on Kingston Rd).

    I would hardly call either of those items a ringing endorsement in support of streetcars by those who ride them. (And I would appreciate if all of those posters ready to reply with snide comments about “yuppies” etc… would keep their personal attacks to themselves and instead concentrate on the issues at hand, which should include my right to decent transit as much as theirs.) I notice that quite a few posters from the west end of the 501 hold similar opinions to those in the Beach. And I have great sympathy for those in the far suburbs who seem to get very little air-time in the overall discussion of how transit should work, or how it affects their communities. I think we do ourselves a disservice by making this discussion one of pro/anti streetcar, instead of asking ourselves *where* and under what conditions are streetcars/subways/buses/LRV/LRT appropriate (where do they fit synergistically within the communities through which they run), and where and under what conditions are they inappropriate. I was a supporter of streetcars, until I was forced to use them by those decision-makers in the downtown core who don’t seem to care much about whether those at the ends of the lines are inconvenienced or not.

    So, while I’ve taken a generally ‘anti-streetcar’ stance of late I’m not actually anti-streetcar. I *am* anti-streetcar in certain situations: Queen St. East of Woodbine being one of them. Those who are blindly pro-streetcar would be advised to take a walk past 1982 Queen St. East – the former location of a popular restaurant that burned down during the streetcar track replacement in 2005 (fire trucks had problems accessing the site due to track work) that has yet to be rebuilt 5 years later. It’s not available on-line, but the Beach Metro did a controversial front page story which was a photospread showing all the papered-over businesses that went bankrupt during that time. It would be one thing to say that this is a hugely unfortunate but necessary expense which would produce long-lasting benefit for the impacted community. But the feedback during this last election would indicate that it didn’t. Streetcars in certain situations provide a real benefit. But those supporters who, to preserve streetcars in places where they are of benefit, force their use on those communities where they aren’t and treat honest attempts to discuss the pros/cons with derision, run the risk of the democratic process swinging the pendulum the other way by forcing those votes (and voices) to universally oppose streetcars as the only way to oppose them within their own communities.

    I think it would be instructive for the City to provide an open forum for transit discussion and idea-building, and start by inviting each of the new councillors (and, for that matter, all candidates) to provide a ward-by-ward breakdown of the transit issues that were identified in the election. That would be a quick way to identify the transit “pain-points” in each community. Until we’ve done that, and have created a generally accepted (which means city-wide) measurable definition of a “good” transit system – which includes a reasonable discussion of where streetcars are and are not appropriate – all else is largely ineffective and needlessly divisive (sorry if this term offends, but I think it fits here) intellectual wanking.

    Steve: The issue with Ashbridges Bay is the location of the facility including its effect on Leslie Street and on land now viewed as open space by the community. This was not an anti-streetcar position, but the streetcars get sideswiped because the TTC does such a transparently bad job of skewing how they present their case. The idea of importing a Canada Post spokesman who didn’t even know how his own plant was laid out relative to alternative access proposals shows just how bad things can get. All that said, the carhouse has to go someplace, and some street between Queen and Lake Shore is likely to be the access route.

    Support for the 143 is understandable given the way the TTC operates the Queen car. TTC management (or mismanagement) has created a whole generation for whom streetcars equal bad service. However, the 143 (and its western counterpart) only address the symptom, not the basic problem. Why, for example, does the TTC get away with running the 502 every 20 minutes (even assuming it is on time and reaches both McCaul Loop to the west and Bingham to the east) during the daytime, but runs the 22A every 10 minutes or better? The 502 has low ridership because you need a search party to find the cars.

    Out in Etobicoke, a community group has been trying to get the TTC to restructure the streetcar service for quite some time, and I have been active with this fight. TTC staff are absolutely intransigent that they will not revise the structure of the 501 and every chance they get, they misrepresent the options and downplay the possibilities of alternatives they didn’t think of. The locals have not been helped in their effort by their Councillor (Grimes). Speaking of Councillors, I cannot help mentioning that about-to-be-ex Councillor Bussin gave me no credit for all the work I did documenting problems with the Queen car, but that’s ok. I am still here, and she isn’t.

    Streetcar track construction is going to occur from time to time, as is watermain work such as that which closed much of Roncesvalles last summer. The problem is to get the various utilities to take seriously the need to get in and get out quickly and co-ordinate their work. This was a huge problem on St. Clair. By contrast, the track and paving work on Ronces (which I have documented here at length) this summer went amazingly quickly. Yes, some borderline business were affected (mainly in 2009) and I’m not going to downplay that beyond saying that roads and sidewalks are torn up for reasons other than streetcars.

    As for transit pain points, it will be important to sift those that relate to TTC operations and management generally (there are lots of screwed up bus routes too) from those that are attributed to streetcars because that’s what happens to be on the street in question.

    Finally, the choir here tends to be supportive because too many of the anti-streetcar folks don’t bother posting on my site. The trolls for who personal insults and superficial analysis of issues constitute “debate” don’t get their posts past my filtering. They are the intellectual wankers of the bus and subway crowd, and they have a home elsewhere on the net where they can babble to each other and insult me mostly in absentia.


  12. Anne said: “Those who are blindly pro-streetcar would be advised to take a walk past 1982 Queen St. East – the former location of a popular restaurant that burned down during the streetcar track replacement in 2005 (fire trucks had problems accessing the site due to track work) that has yet to be rebuilt 5 years later.”

    I really wish you hadn’t brought up the 7th Wave fire in that way because you paint it as though the streetcar construction was the only reason why it had to be torn down after the fire when it was only part of the reason.

    I say that because you left out the other three contributing factors: The fact that it started in an abandoned building behind the Starbucks resulting in a low chance of it being caught before it became a major fire. Next, the phone lines were dead which forced the owner to run to the fire station at Woodbine giving the fire more time to spread. Finally, the age of the building which resulted in it being constructed under different building codes than the Starbucks next door resulting in the Starbucks surviving while the 7th Wave did not.

    Really, it’s this kind of skipping over important facts that does a major disservice to both sides of the streetcar debate and results in the mess we have today.


  13. Anne — the LRT proponents here don’t want you to read this …

    TTC Report on Queen Car Operations, January 2010

    The report pretty much says it all. Streetcars don’t (and never can) work effectively on Queen, not with the traffic level downtown today. The lightrailistas still think it’s Queen St., 1970.

    Steve: I do not agree that the report supports the conclusions you reach. Without going into a critique of how the TTC manages service, and the degree to which operators and supervisors actively attempted to sabotage the split route operation, all this report demonstrates is the difficulty of managing an extremely long line, and the need to decouple the operator schedules from the vehicle schedules. The constant “fix” of making running times longer and longer only leads to queues of vehicles at the terminals where they often are quite early. This is a waste of manpower and infrastructure. Imagine if the subway had built in 10-minute layovers for every train?


  14. Anne said: “overwhelming support to change the 143 Express into a regular fare route with more frequent service (there was also mention of support for a similar solution on Kingston Rd).”

    I’m not exactly sure what is being proposed here. Are you saying the 143 Express route should be changed to a regular bus route with typical stop spacing all the way to Yonge? That would essentially amount to replacing the 501 entirely. I fail to see how buses along Queen East would be significantly faster given the streetscape (frequent traffic signals, tons of on-street parking, waiting behind turning vehicles who in turn are waiting for pedestrians to cross).

    Or are you asking for the 143 to become like a Rocket, with a few stops in the Beaches, then on to Downtown, blasting through Leslieville, Riverdale, etc. while those residents are consigned to the streetcar. If that’s the case, then I would have an issue with what would be tantamount to “two-tier” transit service. How soon before the people who use the Avenue Road, Mount Pleasant, and Humber Bay Express services demand the same thing? If they become regular fare services, how do we propose the TTC cover the revenue loss plus the increased costs for equipment and manpower?

    I’m all for your proposal for community feedback about transit concerns, but part of that has to be an open discussion on how to pay for it. Some people who advocate for streetcars and LRT might do it for reasons of nostalgia or personal preference, but I am sure that people like our host do it because they sincerely believe it is the most cost-effective way of improving transit services to the widest number of communities possible. I’d love to criss-cross the city on a subway like I could in New York, Hong Kong or Paris, but the people advocating for it, mayoral candidates or otherwise, have yet to demonstrate to me that they have a rational, politically-feasible way to pay for it. Taxes and tolls are anathema to the majority of suburbanites who want them, so they fall back on concepts like air rights, P3 proposals and the like without solid research to back it up.

    Steve: There was a proposal to make some of the premium fare services regular fare (only those paralleling the Yonge subway) in the 2010 budget, but it was dropped for lack of funding.


  15. Another point of view.

    My problem with transit in Toronto is CARS.

    Mainly on north/south roads. Spadina/Avenue, Yonge, Bayview and Leslie, no where near any streetcars. Too many cars , too many couriers parked in the right hand lane and too many bicyclists riding up Yonge Street south of St Clair in rush hour running Stop Signs and Traffic Lights.

    The same problem exists driving East/West where, again, there are no streetcars, i.e. 401, Gardiner, Bloor, Eglinton, Lawrence.

    I drive through the centre of the City, where there are streetcars, every day and I have routines to deal with traffic problems and with streetcars when they are a real issue.

    Have you ever been in the Concord Area on Hwy 7 around Hwy 400 at rush hour?

    The problem is not a Central Toronto problem, so what is the solution North of St. Clair? Widen the roadways?

    As per the City of Toronto web site there are some 5000 km (+) of roads in Metro Toronto. Say 1200 km /- of arterial roads. Streetcars lines 100 km +/-.

    I am just trying to make a point.


  16. Note for Karl: there’s only one real difference between Toronto’s streetcar system/GO transit and that of Zürich’s streetcar system and the electrified S-bahn. Simply put, their’s are extremely well managed and theirs work. As of course does Gothenburg, where we are in complete agreement after several visits (although they have no S-bahn).


  17. I agree with whoever suggested that the 143 become a regular-fare, all-day service, and that something similar be done for Kingston Road (at least during rush hour); even when the Queen car is running properly it is excruciatingly slow to ride it all the way from the Beaches to downtown. Clearly a bus has the advantage of running along Lakeshore East which is relatively fast even during peak times. The same would be true for the 145 on Lakeshore West if not for heavy congestion on Gardiner/Lakeshore; given this though the best solution is probably splitting the 501 combined with more trains on the Lakeshore GO line and a new GO station at Humber Loop. Clearly though the downtown core needs streetcars for their high capacity, I think we should seriously consider whether the extremities of the network are best served by bus, revised streetcar service, GO train or some combination of the above.

    Steve: The more general problem here is that most parts of the city do not have a handy parallel and comparatively uncongested route into downtown. We need to address the problems of service quality on routes throughout the system (bus and streetcar).


  18. Anne said: I think that’s really unfortunate, because Toronto needs some vigorous discussion around transit centred on real issues of importance to the entire city, by ALL the citizens of this city as well as non-residents who use the TTC.

    About all we have had over the past several years is talk. Meanwhile, the city grew and congestion, commute times, and dissatisfaction increased. Less talk, more action, is what’s needed at this point.


  19. Anne writes ” … here in Beaches/East York Ward 32 … the Ashbridges Bay LRV facility was almost universally opposed by the community”

    I’m calling BS on this one. I’m in Ward 32, and I haven’t heard much complaining about building the LRV facility. I’m sure there are some … particularly on Leslie … but the general stuff I’ve heard is … so what … good jobs … vacant land … can’t we build it sooner?

    The alternative to that LRV yard is more big box stuff on that corner. I have a hard time wondering why anyone wouldn’t be thrilled about such good employement, except perhaps a few who might live very close to Leslie. Do we want more minimum wage Canadian Tire jobs?

    Steve: It would be amusing to see the response if the TTC said it would bus the streetcars in the Beach, but would have to put the new garage at Ashbridge.


  20. Andrew says “I agree with whoever suggested that the 143 become a regular-fare, all-day service, and that something similar be done for Kingston Road (at least during rush hour); even when the Queen car is running properly it is excruciatingly slow to ride it all the way from the Beaches to downtown. Clearly a bus has the advantage of running along Lakeshore East which is relatively fast even during peak times.”

    Clearly such an arrangement has the serious disadvantage of not serving any stops between Woodbine or Coxwell and its downtown loop. What portion of the ridership rides to intermediate destinations, such as Leslieville, Broadview, etc?

    Also, what people ask for, and what actually works, are two different things. There was (apparently) lots of enthusiasm for an express bus from the west end. I was at workshops where people said “yeah!!” when an express bus was mooted. The councillor, who is not famous for having a user’s view of the transit system, backed the express and we got the 145.

    Alas, with a peak loading of about six passengers on just about every 145 I’ve seen in operation, it’s a failure that continues to run only because of the councillor leaning on the TTC. All that enthusiasm for an express bus? Talk is cheap.

    (I have a bad attitude to those people who say, “The Queen car is so bad, I don’t ride it”, and then come up with ideas that — in theory — would get them back riding the car. My skeptical point of view is, 95% of them won’t be back if their idea was implemented. There will always be another excuse not to ride, while doing one’s civic and environmental duty by ‘supporting’ public transit.)

    “The same would be true for the 145 on Lakeshore West if not for heavy congestion on Gardiner/Lakeshore; given this though the best solution is probably splitting the 501 combined with more trains on the Lakeshore GO line and a new GO station at Humber Loop.”

    Now, I don’t know that much about the Beach ridership, but I have taken the streetcar from Long Branch loop to downtown lots of times in the past year, probably a hundred times. The streetcar is ten times as popular with riders as the Humber Bay express bus, which should tell you something. Make the express bus regular fare, and maybe that margin would drop to five-to-one. However, I’m not terribly convinced that it’s simply the extra fare that discourages ridership on the bus, as the GO trains carry way more people to and from the lakeshore stops as does the bus, and the GO train is also a premium fare (plus has inconveniently fewer stops).

    In addition, I can tell you that in the west end, many people ride through from Lake Shore Blvd., not only to Roncesvalles, but Dufferin, Bathurst, and Spadina, and many of the minor stops in between. An express to the downtown core would be of no benefit to them. “Transfer at Roncesvalles” isn’t the answer, even if the express bus routing allowed that, because the bus isn’t a whole lot faster west of Roncesvalles, and the streetcar isn’t exactly quick through Parkdale. There would be no advantage to the majority of current west-end Queen car riders to extend the express bus service. The failure of the 145 demonstrates that I think.


  21. As I’ve mentioned before, I think the 14x premium is unduly punitive – only about 30-40% for Metropass holders but 80-100% for cash/token holders. If TTC can’t afford to abolish the premium, they could at least make it a lower premium, such as $1 plus cash/token.


  22. @Mark Dowling – interesting site. Thanks for the reference.

    @Mimo – ditto – and thanks to you too.

    @nfitz and Nick L – You suggest that I am using semantics to skew the discussion. I’m not, but it’s a fair point to discuss. @Nick L. – I’ll concede your points. However, even when they are added to my post above you will still find that the streetcar track replacement was ONE of the factors (and if you happened to be one of those people who were trying to get anywhere on Queen St. that night, and witnessing the very frightening mad chaos of fire trucks that couldn’t get near the site due to streetcar track construction you might be forgiven for thinking it was a large factor). However, I note that you neglected to address my following point, which was the Beach Metro coverage of all the businesses that went bust during that time. While we’re at it, I think we should add that this situation was exactly what the neighbourhood feared – particularly in light of the fire hydrants along Queen St. that were turned off and covered during track construction. Not to mention the lack of response to residents to their enquiries as to when said fire hydrants would be reconnected after those sections of track work were finished.

    @nfitz – You wrote: “Anne writes ” … here in Beaches/East York Ward 32 … the Ashbridges Bay LRV facility was almost universally opposed by the community” …
    I’m calling BS on this one. I’m in Ward 32, and I haven’t heard much complaining about building the LRV facility.”

    I notice that you chose to take my quote out of context. My point was referring to the Ward 32 candidates debates and door-to-door canvassing. I’ll concede that I could have been clearer. However, you obviously didn’t attend either of the Ward 32 candidates debates, where the AB facility was by far the hottest item in the second debate, and about neck and neck with Tuggs at the first. It was indeed “hotly discussed” – with all councillors (except the soon-to-be-former Ms. Bussin) opposed. That “almost universally opposed by the community” quote was taken verbatim from one of the debate questions/comments from the audience, which was repeated by at least two candidates (according to my notes from the debates). Which would tend to substantiate that they were indeed hearing “almost” universal opposition from the community at the door.

    @Steve I’m sure our new councillor will be much more more willing to give credit where it’s due. Your point about streetcars getting sideswiped by the AB facility is another fair point. However, I know of a large number of people who supported RF (who aren’t ‘natural’ RF supporters) as the only way they could find to oppose that facility – which is what prompted me to write this post. Years of bad decision-making and heavy-handedness by the TTC has unnecessarily turned many streetcar riders and supporters into opponents.


  23. @Ed – generally speaking, over the last 18 years, (my ‘home’ stop is Neville Loop), the AM 501’s are full by Woodbine and the 143 express buses are also pretty packed by Woodbine. That’s not to say there isn’t the odd 501 or 143 that has a lot of room, but on the whole, during the heavy part of the AM rush, standing room by Woodbine for sure for both routes.

    The east 501 portion is different than the west half in that ‘most’ people get on the WB 501’s wherever, and the majority stay on all the way downtown. Cox, Greenwood, Jones, Pape, Carlaw, Logan, Broadview etc..there’s nothing really there as a destination so most folks go right to Yonge.

    Personally, the 143 ride (when I’m going to Yonge) is a great, fast route and I have no problem coughing up the extra fare. The other benefit is in the PM rush the 143 going east runs as a ‘local’ bus , at ‘regular’ fare, picking up and dropping from Eastern & Queen to Neville Loop.


  24. I really like what Calvin had to say in his latest post in this thread although we really have no way of knowing whether the Eglinton LRT will ever reach ridership levels to justify or require conversion to a full subway. Perhaps it’ll happen and perhaps it won’t but I do see it being maybe the most highly ridden fo the Transit City lines. Although, as I’ve stated before on this site, my tendency to be somewhat more of a subway advocate than you, Steve, I also find that I absolutely, positively have to go along with your position on using LRT to get better transit service to more people as opposed to building subways serving fewer people. I do feel that any BRT or LRT should be built with every possible provision for upgrading to whatever order of transit is above it. The big problem with any mode of transportation is, as I’ve mentioned before, is an overinclination of a given mode’s advocates of seeing it as a be all and end all at the expense all other modes.


  25. @nfitz – If you haven’t heard any complaining about the AB facility – well I won’t call BS on you, but I will suggest you ask around a bit more. Admittedly your councillor (and mine) isn’t talking these days, but apparently the councillor in the ward next door is.

    Funny how more issues come to light (coincidentally the same ones residents were trying to raise all along) the day after the election.

    But really, you’re proving my initial point: that the proponents of streetcars who (some of them almost contemptuously at times) dismiss the legitimate concerns of residents whose communities are negatively impacted by them do themselves no favours, nor do they do any favours for those like Steve who are attempting to support them.

    Steve: The point in Councillor Fletcher’s letter about the 1 year required to remove the “mound” on the site is interesting. The question is whether an alternative site, without a lead time like this, could be available in roughly the same timeframe as Ashbridge. All through the process I had the feeling that the TTC were trying to ram through this option and claiming that the decision had to be made “now”. Many times, they are their own worst enemy.


  26. Rob Ford is not a transit expert. So who advised him that replacing streetcars with buses is the solution to traffic congestion? Was it a corporation involved with buses or automobiles? Firestone Tire? Chevron Corporation? General Motors? Can he provide proof that replacing one streetcar with 2½ buses (and 2½ times the number of drivers) will be of benefit? He should prove how replacing streetcars with buses will help the transit rider and not the single-occupant automobile.

    Steve: Rob Ford’s policy advisor and a key member of his campaign team penned a pile of drivel about the TTC on his own blog (no longer available) back in February. It’s a reasonable assumption that although the campaign disavowed what he had written, that the general outlook seen in that piece has informed much of what Rob Ford advocates. I reviewed the post, and followed up with comments on Ford’s transportation platform. Although Mark Towhey’s blog is no longer online, the article in question remains in cache on some search engines.


  27. Karl,

    I would suggest that you call Rob Ford’s office about the reasons that you listed which will make it nearly impossible, or prevent, the underground portion of the Eglinton LRT from being converted to HRT in the future. And, also, perhaps offer to hand deliver a summary to City Hall for completeness.

    I contacted him a few days after he won the mayor’s office about an entirely different matter. I was surprised, but he really did follow up in a timely manner and, at least in the case of my query, he really was helpful.

    Steve: Considering that Karl works in Councillor Thompson’s office, this should not be hard for him to accomplish.


  28. It’s interesting to compare P. Coulman’s experience on the east side of the Queen run with my experience on the west side. The routes work quite differently. In the west end, you are likely to get a standing load by Humber loop inbound in the morning, although not necessarilly. I’d be waiting for the end of the world should the 145 get a standing load, or even filled all its seats….or even filled half its seats (and this on a New Flyer LF).

    Another difference is the sheer distance from Long Branch to Yonge, versus Neville to Yonge. For anyone thinking it’s ‘excruciatingly slow’ from Neville to Yonge, that’s what, a half-hour or forty-minute trip even in rush hour? From Long Branch loop, half an hour gets you to Roncesvalles, and another half hour to Yonge (could take longer around 9 AM and 5 PM). And of course every (in theory) Queen car runs to Neville Park, while only every other (in theory) makes it to Long Branch loop. The Lakeshore 508 does about as much good as the Kingston Rd. pair, which is to say not much.

    Another key difference is that there are a lot of west-end destinations. While there certainly are people who ride through from Long Branch to Yonge — I was one of them, and there were other regulars — there are also a lot of intermediate destinations. This difference might explain the vast difference in success between the Beach express and the Humber Bay express. (Plus, of course, the the option of taking GO from Long Branch or Mimico station if you really want to get to the business core as quickly as possible.)

    Steve: A common factor in observations from both ends of the line is that the cars are full long before they reach downtown. This slows down operations because handling stops takes longer with a crowded car, and it discourages riders who cannot get on. We need to sort out the problems that arise from the quantity of service from those that are due strictly to the technology that provides it.


  29. Steve comments: “Steve: A common factor in observations from both ends of the line is that the cars are full long before they reach downtown. This slows down operations because handling stops takes longer with a crowded car, and it discourages riders who cannot get on.”

    The amazing thing is that the last few inbound morning Queen cars I’ve been on have been standing-room only passing through Humber loop, and the people waiting at the loop crowded on anyway. It makes me wonder if the line management has made service on Lake Shore more reliable (so it seems to me) while really disrupting Humber service. Surely anyone who waits at Humber loop soon learns to wait for an empty Humber car turning around instead of boarding a through car with no seats left….unless they’ve learned that “squeeze on the first streetcar that comes, ’cause you don’t know how long it will be ’till the next one shows up”.

    These streetcars then leave people behind at the stops from Roncesvalles through to at least Bathurst. The fact that those left behind stare very unhappily back up the street tells me that there’s no following car that turned at Humber or Sunnyside.


  30. Does canceling Transit City require council approval, or simply negotiations between the mayor and Provincial Government?

    Steve: Strictly speaking, Ontario could tell Toronto to get stuffed and build Transit City anyhow. In practice, they need municipal approval and co-operation. Council is already on record strongly supporting TC, and they would have to reverse this decision before Ford could legitimately claim that he spoke for the city on this subject.

    It’s worth pointing out that a politician’s campaign literature does not become a binding document just because he gets elected, and many will have voted for Ford based on his proposals to rein in taxes, not for specifics of his transit plan.


  31. Anne said: “However, even when they are added to my post above you will still find that the streetcar track replacement was ONE of the factors.”

    Yes, but my response was not in regards to the track replacement being a contributing factor but to your language which suggested that it was the only factor.

    We can say with certainty that the way the 7th Wave building was constructed contributed to why it ultimately was torn down after the fire since Starbucks survived with only minor damage even though it faced similar conditions but was built to modern standards. However, what’s not so clear is if the 7th Wave was already gone by the time the trucks left the station. It’s 300-400 metres from the 7th Wave to the fire station and the delay caused by running that vs being able to successfully call 911 first might have made the difference.

    Also, did the deactivated fire hydrants actually make it more difficult to fight the fire? Simply put, they were not an unexpected event and fire crews are not dependent on nearby access to fire hydrants due to the storage tanks in the pumpers (although, it does make their lives a lot easier). If they were able to connect to a working hydrant before the tanks ran dry, then the issue is moot. If they weren’t able to do so, then that definitely would have made it more difficult. As a result, that’s something that we really need to see what the report on the fire says on the matter.

    One final point to consider, did rubbernecking slow down the response time of the fire crews? You made mention of “people who were trying to get anywhere on Queen St. that night” and large groups of people force emergency vehicles to be driven much more cautiously regardless of lane reductions to avoid additional injuries as a city tv cameraman recently illustrated. I’m not trying to shift blame, but rather stating human nature.

    Now, without reading the incident report, no one here can say for certain what was the “most responsible” factor and that might not even offer a straight forward answer. As a result, we really need to have all facts on the table when we are faced with multiple contributing factors in a situation like this before we can consider which one made all of the difference. That was why I was frustrated with your original post because without looking at all the factors, you potentially don’t solve anything and establish the potential for a worse disaster than the loss of a local business next time.

    Anne said: “However, I note that you neglected to address my following point, which was the Beach Metro coverage of all the businesses that went bust during that time.”

    Why would I need to restate the obvious? There are always impacts on the local economy during any transportation construction project from the beginning (expropriation and business relocation), duration (traffic disruptions), and aftermath (shifting traffic patterns and changes in taxes & rents due to property value fluctuations) with the impact during each stage being determined by the project’s scale and the ability (or desire) to manage them in a way that minimizes them. That said, this is something that the TTC has been horrible at managing for a very long time (look at what was levelled during the construction of the first section of the Yonge line just to give an extreme example). It’s only the loss of tolerance for the “we know best attitude” over the past 20-30 years with government agencies which has forced the TTC to change their attitude with questionable results.


  32. Steve:

    What a good thing it is that you continue to provide this forum for reasoned (mostly) and intelligent (mostly!) discussion about transit and its importance to the future of Toronto. Thank you.


  33. Anne said: “However, I note that you neglected to address my following point, which was the Beach Metro coverage of all the businesses that went bust during that time.”

    I have seen more businesses closed on Bloor than on St. Clair or Dundas west of Bathurst. There are no Streetcars on Bloor or construction.


  34. Steve: For reasons that will be obvious, I have left this comment exactly as it was posted, save for the interpolation of my comments.

    I hate streetcars period!
    Nostalgia has no place on our over crowed roads, it only creates grid locks.

    I am livid over our lovely Roncesvalles Ave., now being converted into a NO CAR ZONE! Yup, you read correctly, NO CAR ZONE.
    Are you ready for this, Councilor Gord Perk has extended our sidewalks to meet the streetcars, so that those stepping off or on to the streetcar don’t have to walk on the road. Unbelievable!

    Now, car drivers can no longer pass these clunkers. New or old, they are still grid lock creators. No longer can drivers make a U-turn on Roncesvalles. We will have to go seriously out of our way, down side streets to back track. In other words, Roncesvalles is now going to be a 1 way street. (yes, north & south bound, but no way to turn around or pull over).
    We just lost 30 parking spaces to accommodate these streetcar platforms.
    In other words, when a car is behind them, that car is stuck making ALL the stops with no way to escape except to turn down a side street and avoid Roncesvalles all together.
    And what about all the delivery trucks… they too will add to the grid lock as they will have so much trouble finding parking as there is no more an area for anyone to pull over, wait for traffic to pass and then back up.
    Wait, it gets better. During rush hours, sometimes there are 3-4 streetcars back to back coming down the street. And if a car is sandwiched in between them, and sees a possibility of a parking spot……the entire street will come to a halt waiting for the other car to pull out and for the car on the road to somehow make it into the spot.
    Most women need 2 or 3 tries to back into a spot. Meanwhile, the traffic will build down to Queen St. and around the corner, or North towards Bloor. This is a reality.
    We have already experienced this with the construction……and now Gord Perks is making this grid lock as a way of life for us bcos he favors streetcars over buses.

    Buses can pull over and allow cars to pass. But no, that is way to easy. Lets just create
    more grid lock. Car shoppers will not tolerate this and will shop elsewhere. What a bright move.

    People use their cars to load up on tons of food staples to feed their families, yet bcos of the archaic streetcar being forced upon us on Roncesvalles with these extended platforms instead of buses, we will now be forced to avoid these wonderful stores and do our shopping in car friendly strip malls.

    Talk about a major revenue loss for the shop keepers. They already lost 30% or more of business revenue due to construction and they know that people with cars will just continue to avoid Roncesvalles & do their shopping in car friendly areas.

    Do I hate streetcars…….you bet your life I do!
    I hope Rob Ford annihilates them once and for all. :)

    Steve: Nostalgia has little to do with it. Yes, I like streetcars, I admit it, but I liked the older ones better than the newer ones, probably because that’s what I grew up with. My interest is much more in seeing the streetcar system operated with vehicles that actually work reliably, with enough service on the street so that riders can actually get on, with reliable headways rather than the litany of excuses about how it is impossible to run transit service in mixed traffic, with a technology that once carried far more riders than it does today, and which has the capacity to rise to the challenge of increased population density in our city. (I could go on, but regular readers here have heard this rant before.)

    The new design for Roncesvalles was the product of much community consultation, far more than for typical city projects. The widened sidewalks are intended to make the streetcars more accessible while leaving room for parking between the stop zones. Speaking of stops, the number of stops on Roncesvalles will be less than today with the result that fewer places will be blocked for transit operations (bus or streetcar).

    The construction last year on Ronces had nothing to do with the streetcars, but was required to replace a 100-year old watermain, the original service from the era when this neighbourhood changed from rural to the outskirts of a growing city. This year’s street reconstruction, annoying though it may be, has actually gone very quickly for a project of this size. It would have finished much sooner, but the startup was delayed about three months thanks to the civic workers’ strike last year — the folks who prepare the designs for contracts were on strike, and then there was both a backlog and an overload of work thanks to the provincial and federal stimulus funding.

    The idea that buses will pull out of the way of cars at stops is quaint on two counts. First, it is quite typical for buses to stop at an angle to the curb because cars and vans are parked so close to intersections that there isn’t enough room for the bus to properly swerve into the curb lane. Among other effects, this blocks following traffic and makes leaving by the centre door a challenge for anyone who cannot easily handle very high steps. People with mobility problems then use the front doors by choice, and this slows loading and increases stop service times. Second, the number of buses will almost certainly be greater than the streetcars they replace, and so traffic will be blocked more often by them stopping.

    I love the idea that we need special provision for women who seem incapable by your measure of parking properly. Maybe we should just ban them from the streets everywhere to speed up traffic since there are far more of them than streetcars.

    Shops on Ronces get some, but certainly not all, of their traffic from those who drive and park. This is a local shopping area like many others in the city. I have walked and TTC’d up and down the street many times, and don’t see a lot of turnover at the parking spaces. People are walking to the stores, and that’s the backbone of the trade. Even if both sides had parking allowed all day, this could not begin to provide enough space for customers to sustain all of these shops.

    As for Councillor Perks, well, he got over 50% of the vote in the recent election, and so he must be doing something right.

    Rob Ford is Mayor-elect, not Dictator, and there are many other issues about keeping streetcars that will bear on any decision to retain or eliminate them.


  35. I was expecting to be infuriated by Missy’s comment, but I was left chuckling.

    Speaking of Roncesvalles, do you know if there would be additional left-turning restrictions? Also, the kerb lane between streetcar stops would effectively be for parking all day?

    Steve: I believe that there are no new turn restrictions, and that some of the farside stops are intended to allow left turns to occur behind streetcars serving these stops. The curb lane between stops is intended as a parking and loading zone. I’m not sure if there are specific areas reserved for loading (i.e. with very restrictive parking periods).


  36. Hi Steve
    I, too, agree with Jacob Louy’s comments on Missy’s post. I would like to mention to Missy that cars themselves have created the traffic gridlock that we now have. Our unceasing rush to create low density neighbourhoods that cannot support public transit has resulted in far too many cars. Reading other areas of Steve’s website and a trip out to car land will back up the facts of what cars have created. (John Sewell’s book “Shape of the Suburbs – Understanding Toronto’s Sprawl” is another excellent read on this subject.)

    One of the most interesting, and graphic, demonstrations of car congestion was a poster that London Transport did many years ago. It showed a street full of cars and showed that all of this congestion could fit into one bus (note that a streetcar would have cleared out much bigger street) and the street was cleared of traffic.

    Steve: The TTC has done the same sort of thing. Look at the 2009 Operating Stats page and scroll down to “On The Environment”.


  37. Steve, your comments on Missy’s post were well stated. Of course, I had to stop laughing before I could read them – I just love Missy’s form of ‘newspeak’ where the definition of a “1 way street” is one that allows travel “north & south bound”, though I imagine that definition includes “east & west bound” for streets oriented that way! ;-)

    I still giggle just because of bcos.

    Seriously, the new arrangement for Roncesvalles has been working well on Trondheimsveien in Oslo for many years.


  38. When riding the subway between Summerhill and Rosedale, it can get quite shaky if the subway is moving fast. Also, the 501 Streetcar gets really shaky when the streetcar driver is gunning it down the Queensway. The streetcar isn’t as shaky when it guns down Lakeshore, however. Is this because the pavement holds the tracks better, but the tracks on the Queensway have less support?

    And so is it better to pave all new trackage (including Transit City)?

    Steve: This is a question of maintenance. Track laid on ties in ballast can shift around, and the ballast itself can develop hard and soft spots. There seems to be an ongoing problem with the TTC not keeping its ballasted track in good order.

    Paving all of the track adds to maintenance costs because you have to break up the concrete to get at the track, but reduces short-term costs because the track is in a more rigid structure. “Penny wise and pound foolish” is the expression that comes to mind.


  39. Back in 1976, due to a fire in Philadelphia Carbarn fire, SEPTA purchased thirty used PCC cars the TTC at $12,500 each. The cars were re-gauged by TTC crews at Hillcrest Shops from Toronto gauge (4′ 10-7/8″) to SEPTA gauge (5′ 2-1/4″) at an additional $4,000 each. The trolley cars on the SEPTA system were equipped with wheels at the tops of the trolley poles to receive power. The Toronto cars arrived with slider-shoes on the poles instead of wheels, and it was decided to retain sliders on the cars as an experiment. During 1976 it was decided to convert all SEPTA surface rail vehicles to the slider-shoe type of power collection. See this article for the complete story.

    While the CLRV would start to arrive in 1977 and revenue service in 1979, the TTC still had a surplus of PCC’s. Today, the TTC has a shortage of streetcars due to cutbacks in the last part of the 20th century. When accounting dictates policy at the TTC instead of operations, we end up in the situation today where we don’t have enough vehicles to operate the streetcar network efficiently.


  40. Steve wrote, “There seems to be an ongoing problem with the TTC not keeping its ballasted track in good order.”

    This may be another ugly face of “TTC Culture.” At one of the Transit City open houses, I had a chat with someone I know involved with one of the projects and told me that the track maintenance people hate ballasted track. The implication was that they oppose it where ever possible and this was a major reason why side-of-the road alignments are avoided. Naturally, driveways are a practical reason against side-of-the-road, but in the few places within Toronto where this is not the case (Eglinton west of Don Mills and the Richview lands for example) the official word is still “driveways” even though there are none for the first example and there are currently none in the second (and building the LRT first can dictate how development will take place to keep it that way).


  41. I searched and searched to find a streetcar thread … and this is what i came up on… so I’ll just ask it here…

    Do you know what the projected timeline is to have overhead reinstalled on routes that have been missing it forever?

    The wires on Dufferin could easily be replaced now that the jog has been completed… same with parts of adelaide…

    And while I’m at it.. what’s the deal with the switches on Roncey that are now NA disabled?!

    Steve: I will inquire. The absence of overhead here makes short turn options for the King and Queen cars more difficult, and the replacement is overdue. Adelaide isn’t just waiting for overhead but for track, and that’s not even in the current five-year plan. As for the switches, I have never been able to figure out why the TTC takes so long to re-establish automatic operation at intersections (including reinstalling and connecting transit priority detection) after track construction.


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