How To Kill Ridership: The Saga of the Queen Car

The Queen car was once the pride of the streetcar system.  It carried more people every day than the entire GO Transit network.  This is a story about how demand on that line has been killed off through poor management, service cuts, technology changes and utter indifference to the needs of the riding public.

Route History

Back when I started riding the streetcar system a lot, the Queen car had just been moved onto the Queensway right-of-way from the old alignment on Lake Shore Boulevard through Sunnyside amusement park.  The route has run from Humber Loop in the west to Neville Loop in the east for quite a long time.  For those who use route numbers, it’s the 501 car.

Meanwhile, the Long Branch car ran west from Humber Loop to Long Branch Loop along the Lake Shore with rush hour trips extended downtown via Queen to Church Street.  This route was numbered 507 but this disappeared when the line merged with the 501 to give through service all the time (when it wasn’t being short-turned).  There are now a few trips on 508 Lake Shore that run into downtown via King from the west.

In the east end, the Kingston Road car runs from Bingham Loop at Victoria Park to McCaul Loop, and the route is effectively a branch of the Queen car.  The current name Downtowner arose from a failed scheme to run extend the line west and north to Bathurst Station thereby providing an alternate route into downtown (much as the pre-1966 Bathurst via Adelaide service did).  This didn’t work, not least because chronic short-turning prevented many cars from ever reaching Bathurst Station.  This is route 502 where the route name stuck, but the routing didn’t.

The Kingston Road Tripper (now just Kingston Road or 503) also originates at Bingham Loop and runs via Queen and King Streets to loop downtown via Church, Wellington and York returning east via King.  Again, this is functionally a branch of the Queen line. Continue reading