IMAX Streetcars

Coming soon to an IMAX theatre near you!

blogto has a nice article about a streetcar documentary now in production.

This includes a link to “The Red Rocket Trailer”.


Posted in Transit, Vehicles | 5 Comments

John Tory’s Mythical Subway

I think people forget, for example, that we have to rebuild the LRT in 25 or 30 years, just like we have to with the Scarborough RT. With a subway we won’t have to do that. The Yonge Street subway just celebrated its 60th anniversary and it’s still in good shape.

[John Tory in an interview for Metro News, April 7, 2014, courtesy of Matt Elliott]

The false comparison of long-lasting subway with a comparatively short-lived LRT is the sort of comment I expect to hear from (former TTC Chair and Mayoral candidate) Karen Stintz, or from the subway-loving Brothers Ford.  The number “100″ is often bandied about as the longevity of a subway investment by analogy to the much older networks found in cities like New York, London and Paris.

I have written before about this and won’t belabour the details here, but now that a major candidate for the office of Mayor has taken up the line, it’s worth revisiting the topic.

Continue reading

Posted in Elections, Scarborough RT/LRT/Subway, Transit, Urban Affairs | 71 Comments

Queens Quay Reconstruction 2014

This post has been added to track the reconstruction of the streetcar right-of-way on Queens Quay leading to the resumption of 509/510 Harbourfront and Spadina services on August 31, 2014.

Track construction has begun on Queens Quay between Lower Simcoe and Robertson Crescent (the east side of the Radisson Hotel at Rees Street).


Looking west toward Rees Street.


Looking east toward Lower Simcoe Street.

The next section to receive new track will be between York and Lower Simcoe.  The section west from Rees to the Peter Slip bridge awaits completion of utility work in the area, and much more underground work remains west of that bridge to Lower Spadina and Yo Yo Ma Lane (the west limit of the project).

The current detailed construction notice sets out the status of work on various sub-projects.

Posted in Transit | 3 Comments

A Much Delayed Streetcar Ride on Kingston Road (Updated)

For those who missed a beautiful Spring day in The Beach, this post has been updated with photos.

Original article from March 25, 2014:

After the road construction project of 2013 that rebuilt Kingston Road from Queen to Victoria Park including streetcar track, water mains, sidewalks and roads, the TTC had planned a celebration last December with free rides on a Sunday afternoon.

Then there was a little storm.

Streetcar overhead wires were thickly coated in ice, tree branches were down everywhere, and the celebration was put on hold.

Now, Spring has arrived!  (Trust me, really.)

On Sunday, March 30 from noon to 4:00pm, the TTC will operate a PCC shuttle on Kingston Road between Woodbine and Bingham Loops.  For the railfans among my readers (you know who you are) this will be a rare chance to see a car looping back east from Woodbine Loop rather than the much more common short turns in the opposite direction.

Updated March 31, 2014 at 11:00am with photos:

For the sharp eyed, these photos were taken over the course of several trips between Woodbine and Bingham Loops.  They are presented here by location rather than by time.

On the last round trip, I rode the car and enjoyed one of the treats visible only from inside: a reflection of 4549 in the shop windows as we passed.


4549 pulls out of Woodbine Loop onto Queen Street.

Continue reading

Posted in Kingston Road, Transit | 22 Comments

A Subway Anniversary & A Few Old Transfers

The Yonge Subway celebrates its 60th birthday this weekend on March 30, 2014.  In honour of the occasion, I have scanned in a few transfers from the era predating the opening.  With the exception of the souvenirs from 1953, these were rescued from oblivion when the TTC was cleaning house of old files at Hillcrest Transportation many years ago.

Continue reading

Posted in Looking Back, Transit | 11 Comments

TTC Board Meeting: March 26, 2014

The Toronto Transit Commission Board will meet on March 26, 2014 at 1:00 pm in Council Chambers at City Hall.  The Agenda contains a number of items of interest.

  • An update on the Union Station project (Revised to add info from Metrolinx)
  • The March 2014 CEO’s report
  • Purchase of 10 additional “TR” subway trains for future demand growth
  • A report on Community Bus services
  • A proposed design for Kennedy Station’s interface to the Eglinton LRT line
  • A report on a temporary bus terminal at Islington Station

Continue reading

Posted in Eglinton LRT, New Subway Cars, Transit, Union Station | 25 Comments

Toronto Deserves Better Transit Service Now! Part 4: Streetcar Riders Count Too

Much discussion of improved service has talked about bus riders in the suburbs who have long trips and whose bus routes lost peak service when the crowding standards were rolled back in 2012.

Peak period crowding standards had never been improved for streetcars because there were no spare vehicles, and so there was nothing to roll back. However, over past decades, that shortage of streetcars limited peak service in a way that the bus system didn’t have to deal with.  This was compounded by two factors:

  • The TTC opened a new Spadina-Harbourfront line without increasing the fleet.  This was possible because service cuts on the early 1990s left Toronto with “spare” streetcars.
  • The project to buy new streetcars dragged on for years thanks both to the embrace of 100% low floor technology, and the obstructions posed by Mayor Ford to streetcar and LRT plans in general.

Between 1998 and 2014, the total number of streetcars scheduled for the peak periods has risen only 10%, and there is no headroom for further growth with the existing fleet. Indeed, service quality is compromised by vehicle failures, and the scheduled service may not all get out of the carhouse.

This year, the TTC will finally take delivery of the first “production” vehicles in its new fleet, and claims that service will operate as of August 31, 2014 on 510 Spadina with the new cars.  Whether the line will convert 100% to the new fleet in one go remains to be seen.

The TTC Fleet Plan contains no provision for improving service on any streetcar route beyond the higher capacity that new cars will provide. This will come only as the new fleet rolls out line-by-line and some routes will wait until late this decade to see more capacity (and even then with less frequent service).  Existing cars would be retired at a rate that matches or exceeds the new fleet’s ability to replace service, and would also eliminate any spare capacity for growth on lines running older cars.

This is what passes for responsible planning in an organization that claims a dedication to “customer service”.

This article looks at each streetcar route in turn and at a possible revised fleet plan that would make provision for short term improvements as the new fleet arrives.

Continue reading

Posted in Bathurst Car, Dundas Car, King Car, Kingston Road, New Streetcars, Queen Car, Service Cost and Quality, Spadina Car, St. Clair Car, Transit | 76 Comments

Metrolinx Contemplates Relief (4)

Public meetings regarding the Metrolinx Yonge Corridor Relief Study and the City of Toronto/TTC Relief Line Project Assessment have been announced:

  • Saturday April 5, 9:00 am to 1:00 pm at the Sheraton Centre Dominion Ballroom (Queen Street opposite City Hall)
  • Tuesday April 8, 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm at Richmond Hill Presbyterian Church (10066 Yonge Street, north of Major MacKenzie) (Metrolinx study only)
  • Thursday April 10, 5:30 pm to 9:30 pm at Riverdale Collegiate (1094 Gerrard Street East at Jones Avenue)
  • Saturday April 12, 9:00 am to 12:00 noon at Holy Name Parish (71 Gough Avenue, Danforth one block west of Pape) (City/TTC study only)

A new website has been created under the name with links to various aspects of these studies.  There are three main branches only one of which contains new content.

  • The Metrolinx branch takes readers to the Metrolinx Regional Relief Strategy project page which reflects the status as of the February 2014 board meeting.
  • The City of Toronto branch goes to a subsite dedicated specifically to the Project Assessment for the Relief Line.  This includes a mechanism for public participation in formulation of the Terms of Reference for this study.
  • The York Region branch goes to the VivaNext page for the Yonge subway Richmond Hill extension.

I will update this article if new material appears before the public meetings.

Posted in A Grand Plan, Beyond 416, Downtown Relief Line, Subways, Transit, Yonge Subway Extension, York Region | 52 Comments

Toronto Deserves Better Transit Service Now! Part 3

In previous articles, I wrote about the decline in transit service thanks to the budget cutbacks of the Ford/Stintz regime, and about the potential for short term improvements.

This article looks at improvements in more detail in light of a recent policy announcement by Mayoral candidate Olivia Chow that she would increase service by 10% to reduce crowding.

What would a service increase look like “on the ground”, and what resources would it require?

Continue reading

Posted in Elections, Finance, Service Cost and Quality, Transit, Urban Affairs | 36 Comments

When is “LRT” not LRT?

In all the debates about transit options, be they in Scarborough or elsewhere, one of the most abused and frequently misunderstood terms is “LRT”.

The term appears in various contexts over the years under both the guise “Light Rail Transit” and “Light Rapid Transit”.  The difference can be more in local preference including marketing aims.

One can even find “LRRT” where a proposal tries to be all things to be all people.  The Buffalo line, which incongruously runs on the surface downtown, but in a tunnel elsewhere, originally used this term, but was rebranded “Metro Rail”.  The “LRRT” term, however, is still in current use as a Google search will demonstrate.

The term “Light” contrasts “LRT” with systems that require more substantial (or “heavy”) infrastructure such as:

  • mainline railways including commuter rail operations such as GO,
  • “subways” as the term is used in Toronto (with other words such as “Metro” and “Tube” found in other cities),
  • any technology requiring a dedicated, segregated guideway and stations either because of automated control systems or because the right-of-way cannot be crossed for various reasons.

Life gets very confusing because there are overlaps between technologies and their implementation.  One of the oldest streetcar systems in North America, Boston’s, exhibits every conceivable type of operation with the same vehicles running in mixed traffic (little of this remains on the network), on reserved lanes in street medians, on private rights-of-way that run “cross country” relative to the road network, on elevated structures, and in tunnels just like a subway.  (The “Blue Line” running under the Boston harbour was originally a streetcar tunnel, but was converted to “subway” operation in the 1920s.)

The Boston Green Line is the oldest subway on the continent, and it runs with “streetcars” that morph into “light rail vehicles” not because of magic performed where they leave the street pavement, but because of the way the vehicles are used.  This is central to the concept of “LRT” – the ability to operate in many environments as appropriate to demand and local circumstance.

Unlike what Toronto calls a “subway”, an LRT network can adapt to its surroundings and this is a fundamental characteristic of the mode.  The original Scarborough LRT would have run at grade with some road crossings enroute, and a Malvern extension was on the books, but never built.

Continue reading

Posted in Elections, Scarborough RT/LRT/Subway, Transit, Urban Affairs, Vehicles | 82 Comments