Meanwhile on Queen Street: Comments

With all the activity on the York U subway lately, I’ve been remiss in posting the feedback I received on the state of the Queen Streetcar.  Here are some of the comments that have come in.

A streetcar operator (who shall remain nameless) wrote:

As a TTC streetcar operator, I read this article with a great deal of intent. I did not simply laugh this off.

It’s no secret that service planning pays little or no attention to the needs of the system. They do their little ridership checks in the most barren places, and at off peak times, and apparently adjust service for the whole day based on these numbers. Of course, ridership on many routes will be less at 10:45am than it would be at 7. Common sense would dictate that the ‘rush’ hour would be busy. But where is service planning at this time? Heck, they don’t start work until 9. And I bet you most of them drive. And you wonder why? Cuz I bet even they know service sucks.

I agree with what is written here, but let me add this about ’short turns’. While they are not perfect, they do add to the fluent operation of the system when timed correctly. Granted, this lies with the route or line supervisors, as they are the ones that dictate the turn. We, as operators, do not simply short turn ourselves for the joy of it, but we hear about them all the time. When the supervisor is doing his/her job properly, a short turn is not only rare, but is essential at that particular time. Sometimes they do it to cover their own butts when they let the system slack. And when we offer our opinion on how to adjust the route ( since we are actually out there on the road ) we get told to mind our own business and drive. Ok fine, that is what I will do. And I will tell people when they get booted off because of an unnecessary short turn that it is not up to me anymore. I just shake my head.

Specifically, re-creating the 507 makes sense, but I do not agree with it going to Dundas West. Roncesvalles can already get congested with the 504 and regular traffic. Not to mention the 505 up there at DWS as well. Perhaps the 507 could go as far as the Roncesvalles yard, since many 501’s get short turned at Sunnyside loop anyway, they could meet there and minimize overlap.

Although I understand the reluctance to send the 507 up to Dundas West Station, there is method in my proposal.  Service on Roncesvalles can be spotty thanks to short-turns at Sunnyside on the King car.  If the 507 goes up there, the Ronces folks have a reasonable guarantee of service now and then.  I personally have often walked down from or up to Dundas West with nary a car in sight.

As to station capacity, remember that during peak periods, the 507s would go downtown.  Off peak, the King and Long Branch cars would both use the inner track, the one for cars going down Roncesvalles (including Dundas cars running out of service).

Finally, turning cars at Roncesvalles Loop (the big long loop around the carhouse) is rather time consuming and could get caught up in off-peak carhouse traffic.  It would also deprive Long Branch riders of an option of a one seat ride to/from the subway.  Transfer traffic at Queen and Roncesvalles will be tricky — rider education would be needed about where the cars stop and when — but not impossible.  Indeed, changing at Humber might be simpler assuming tha 501s actually got that far.

Darwin O’Connor writes:

I recently moved to one of the new condos in Swansea on the Queensway, so I’ve started taking the Queen streetcar regularly. After reading the horror stories, I’ve been pleasantly surprised how good the service has been. I haven’t had to wait a long time too often and the streetcars generally move without too many problems with traffic, although I usually travel in the later part of the peak period. It have proven quite useful even for short trips to the grocery store by Humber loop.

I do see how small problems that do occour would become large problems for those on the Lakeshore section, which is where most of the new condos are.

I do agree that ALRVs should not be on the Queen line and should be on the Spadina and King line, where headways are less of an issue. The TTC hasn’t put them on the King line because they are waiting for both tracks at Broadview station to be available and they haven’t put them on Spadina because they are worried the back end of the ALRV will hit someone on the Union station loop because the driver can’t see around the bend. This can be fixed with mirrors or closed circuit video cameras to allow them to see the back end.

The TTC should really try to deal with vehicle spacing. It is something that will really improve service while not costing a lot. I was thinking of a system that will track the position of vehicles on a line with frequent service and have the driver speed up and slow down to try to keep them as evenly spaced as possible, rather then using fixed schedules that they do now.

The only way to extend Kingston Road service eastwards would work is if there was a connection to Victoria Park station.

Your suggestion on how to change the 501 is a good one. I’m not sure the TTC will go for it until they build the Exhibition loop – Dufferen loop connection, which would allow them to send Lakeshore cars downtown on a ROW.

Part of the reason for the Lakeshore cars going downtown via King in the peak period is that they do this already (route 508 Lake Shore), but there are not very many of them.  I would make this service more frequent with every car going downtown so that riders did not have to make an appointment to catch a “via King” car.  The whole Waterfront West project deserves comments of its own, but I will leave those to another day.

Tim Foran writes:

Re: Queen car post & If I had a billion dollars

Indulge me for a minute, though I know your feelings on new subway lines (made worse no doubt by today’s York U line extension story in the Star), but if you did have a couple billion dollars to spend, and it had to be a mega project, where do you think the densities are to support a new line?

Though streetcar fans, and I’m one of them, are right in that the Queen subway line would have decimated much of the streetcars, let’s leave that aside and wonder if Queen, between Roncesvalles and Woodbine, would be one the best places for a subway line, made up of nice short stops?

(Leaving aside politics, relief of the Yonge line, and disturbance to businesses, and focusing simply on service and performance delivery). Or do you the densities elsewhere?

Frankly, I don’t think that there are densities anywhere to support a subway line at the scale of the Yonge or Bloor lines, especially if they are built with widely-spaced stations that won’t serve the kind of built form the new Official Plan advocates.

With respect to Queen, the idea of having close stations sounds nice, but that’s not how we build lines these days.  Stations are very expensive, especially when you have to shoehorn them into built-up areas like Queen Street.  Count on close to $100-million a pop.  These stations would also be quite messy for pedestrian access because we like those funky old buildings on every corner, and knocking them down to make room for subway entrances wouldn’t play very well.  The sidewalks are generally too narrow. 

Imagine Broadview and Queen:  you have a choice of an entrance through a convenience store, The Real Jerk, Dangerous Dan’s (home of the coronary burger) or Jilly’s strip club in the Broadview House.  This would certainly make TTC destination advertising more interesting!

I wrote a post elsewhere about what the Yonge and Bloor lines would look like built to “modern” standards with half of the stations disappearing.  Be careful what you ask for.  Click here.

I am planning a post on a what a real, committed region-wide approach to transit might look like.  Stay tuned.