In the midst of all the Transit City postings, something for those who love to monitor the reconstruction of our streetcar system. Here are the track plans for the TTC as published in the 2007 Capital Budget. Note that these will change between now and the actual proposed dates, but it gives a sense of what’s in the pipeline for the next few years.
- Dundas from Morrow to Sterling Road, and from Lansdowne to Broadview including all intersections that have not been recently overhauled.
- St. Clair: exact sections of rebuilding to be announced, but likely the far west end of the line as well as St. Clair West Station Loop. Further details when I get a definitive answer from the TTC.
- Fleet Street from Bathurst to Strachan (starting May 2007) including creation of reserved streetcar lanes between Fleet/Lakeshore and Fort York Blvd. This work also includes the special work at Fleet Loop which is closed at present as being unsafe to operate.
- Queen and Bathurst is listed, but this needs to be confirmed.
Also planned are:
- Changes at Roncesvalles Carhouse so that the first few tracks in the northeast corner of the property will no longer be stub tracks into which vehicles must reverse.
- A storage track inside Davenport Garage (!) at Hillcrest for indoor storage of the Peter Witt car.
- St. Clair: Whatever has not been done in 2007 will be finished in 2008. This will also include the short stretch of track on Vaughan Road from St. Clair south to Bathurst.
- Harbourfront tunnel.
- Bathurst from the bridge south to Fleet Street.
- Roncesvalles from Dundas West to Queen.
- All of the “non-revenue” trackage on Parliament, Wellington, Shaw, Ossington, McCaul, Dufferin, Richmond, Victoria, York (from King north), and Church. In this list, McCaul doesn’t entirely make sense as it was rebuilt (for the first time since pre-TTC days) not long ago and does not see intensive service. The one-way streets downtown will almost certainly lose their wrong-way track, but I hope that the TTC will take advantage of any intersection rebuilds to add missing curves that would be useful in the one-way structure.
- Church Street intersections at Queen, Richmond and Adelaide.
- Spadina intersections at Queen and Dundas. These really don’t make sense as they are less than 15 years old. It is possible that this is a partial rather than a full replacement.
- Bathurst from Bathurst Station to St. Clair including the entrance to Hillcrest Shops
- Queen East from Connaught to Coxwell plus Connaught Avenue.
- Spadina from Sussex to the Bloor Portal. Although this line only opened in 1997, this short section of track is badly worn for some reason.
- Spadina from King to Queen’s Quay, and Queen’s Quay from Spadina to the Harbourfront Portal. This is the original Harbourfront line built about 20 years ago. The track is badly corrugated in spots and causes much noise due to the way the track is build into the road slab with no mechanical isolation.
- King from Queen/Roncesvalles to Close. This completes the reconstruction of the King route.
- Kingston Road from Queen to Bingham Loop.
- Adelaide from Charlotte to Bay, and from Yonge to Church. Finally, Adelaide will be navigable again as a diversion track between Spadina and Church. It has been closed for many years after losing fragments to construction sites.
- McCaul Loop
- York street intersections at Queen, Richmond and Adelaide
At this point, all of the old-style track will be gone except on a few small sections, and the claim that streetcars are “noisy” should disappear with it. This shows the problems of short-term planning with long-term infrastructure.
The TTC tried to save money even after it officially was retaining streetcar operations by going cheap on its track construction. This is laughingly referred to as “state of the art” in the Capital Budget even though it wouldn’t have passed muster in the 1920s. In fact, the TTC stopped building robust track in the late 1960s. This, combined with the all-concrete construction and the use of untreated wood ties produced a network of junk that predictably fell apart in ten years. The CLRVs with their heavy axle loadings and their original noise-generating wheels did the rest. (The wheels were replaced once research proved that they were helping to destroy the trackbed, not to mention their rumblings through neighbourhoods.)
- Part of Roncesvalles Carhouse
- Queen and Parliament, and Queen and Vancouver (west end of Russell Yard)
- King and Bathurst, and King and Spadina (two grand unions!)
- Adelaide and Spadina
- Part of Roncesvalles Carhouse
- Spadina Circle
- Gerrard Street Bridge. This is probably timed to coincide with a city bridge project, but I worry that some of the track here won’t last until 2011. Some of this track was an early attempt at resilient track construction, but it was very poorly done and has been falling apart.
- Long Branch Loop
- King and Parliament
- Wolseley Loop
- Dufferin Loop
- Kipling Loop
- Dundas and ROncesvalles
- Queen’s Quay Loop
- Russell Yard — south end
Some of this work will obviously be affected by new lines now under study in the waterfront area.
[Please don’t send me comments asking how this list was constructed. I am just letting you know what the TTC’s plans are. If you have any authoritative updates, I will add them here.]
If Fleet is reconstructed this year between Bathurst and Strachan, are they installing the switch from Fleet onto Fort York? Seems a shame to put decent track in there and then cut into it in a few years time.
I’m sure I will get flamed for this, but maybe it is time to replace them with buses??? While I know they could go much faster, most times they are painfully slow and are held up by left turners, while other motorists are held up by street boardings, let alone driving on the tracks can be tedious. They are not handicap accessible meaning customers with special needs must find another means of commuting downtown, slow down to a crawl on turns, and if an incident occurs on the route the entire line is shut down.
And let’s not forget, the money being used to update these tracks could be used on other projects.
Steve: I am tired of hearing people slag off streetcars for accessibility. The new ones we will be buying are low-floor vehicles and this issue will go away. Streetcars/LRVs all over the world are accessible and this is not an inherent drawback of the mode.
As for the usual traffic-related arguments, people never seem to take into account that you need many more buses to provide the same capacity as a streetcar line, especially when the new cars are taken into account. This both drives up operating costs and increases road congestion because there are buses stopping everywhere. On 4-lane streets, this usually means a bus with its tail-end out in the traffic.
On King, for example, we would need a bus roughly every 80 seconds to carry the loads the line handles today, never mind what it will grow to. At that headway, there would always be a bus at every intersection (the traffic light cycle is 80 seconds).
With the future mobility of our fair city now seemingly dependent on LRT (you must be one proud pappa, Steve!), do you know if the TTC is designing the current track replacement projects with future reconstruction in mind?
Torontonians know that living through a TTC track reconstruction project is a painful experience. But I’ve lived through track replacement in other cities and was surprised to see it done without the pain of replacing the service with buses for several months or shutting down the road entirely. In one particular instance the LRT service was replaced with buses for only one weekend while the tracks, trackbed and granular base were all dug up. New tracks were put into place, supported by wooden blocks and steel rods only, in time for rush hour on Monday morning (the LRT service was floating through the construction site). The granular base and trackbed were built up to the tracks over the next several months while LRT service continued and the only inconvenience experienced by riders was a slower travel speed through the construction site.
With the new Transit City LRT network not fine enough to allow for detours of LRT service around future reconstruction efforts, hopefully the TTC is looking at the impact of reconstruction efforts with the current projects. It would be interesting to see if the trade off of better/continued service is worth whatever extra cost is added by a different construction method.
Steve, can you give a little detail about how the track wears out? Is it mostly from the streetcars themselves or is it the winter freeze/thaw that does them in?
Also, are there any plans to install or fix automatic switches? I see a lot of TTC workers manning the “switch out of service electrically” intersections these days (like at King/Church and Parliament/Gerrard). I’ve even heard operators complaining about the abundance of manual switches out there. On the same token, what about some overhead maintenance where the trolley poles frequently come off (like Dundas at Victoria)?
Steve: Actual wear is caused mainly by friction by streetcar wheels on the rail which is most severe at stops and on curves. However, the trackbed needs to be well-built to avoid self-destruction through vibration, cracking and freeze/thaw. The new construction method in use since the early 90s addresses this problem (although a few places have suffered from poor concrete quality), and the TTC intends to expand their use of resilient track to intersections as well.
Another big problem is that the TTC stopped laying continuously welded rail in the late 1960s, welding together only the top of the joints, and stopped doing even that in the 1980s. This, combined with track set directly in concrete with no rubber insulation caused the “tick tick” of all those joints to become a “bang bang” as the concrete disintegrated and the joints fell apart. Track these days is welded in long continuous strings, and these strings are themselves welded together when they are assembled in the street.
In another reply, I told the story of the fouled-up technology of the track switches which, finally, the TTC plans to address in its current capital budget (I have forgotten which year). As for overhead, I believe that much of Dundas and Victoria is quite recent, and if there are regular dewirements, the overhead crew should be by to fix it. Of course when we convert to pantographs this won’t be an issue.
How much use does the Fleet Loop get? Seems like an unnecessary expense since wherever there are switches cars all slow down greatly when facing the switch and there is additional wear involved as well. There are switches here in both directions for some reason. All this for the odd situation when cars need to be short turned. Couldn’t Wolseley Loop suffice? Even Harbourfront Cars could be sent north if necessary.
Steve: Fleet Loop is normally the west end of the 509 Harbourfront car during the morning period. It only goes over to the CNE in the afternoon and evening (hours vary by season). Fleet Loop is also used a lot to short turn Bathurst cars and King cars, although the latter now go to Queen’s Quay or use Charlotte Street. How, you ask, does the Bathurst car need to be short-turned? That’s one of life’s little mysteries. Even a tiny little route like Bathurst gets screwed up. The main reason is to have an alternative when there is a complete closure of the CNE for special events. This is something the TTC has to think through if the WWLRT is going to come through the CNE grounds — closing the line is no longer an option.
As for the stopping at facing point switches, that is one of those long-leftover problems from bad technology. When the ALRVs came in, the TTC changed from overhead contactors to detector loops. There were many problems including bad software in the switch controllers, failing power supplies and failing radio detectors. Rather than actually fixing this, the TTC simply instututed a full stop at all facing point switches. The most amusing are at switches that do not go anywhere such as the entrance to Broadview Station Loop before the south track opened. With one technological stroke, the TTC added a good 20 seconds to a streetcar trip (and some jostling for the passengers) for every facing point switch. Roncesvalles Carhouse is particularly sad in this regard.
I’m questioning why Long Branch and Kipling loops are being replaced in the same year. Kipling would obviously be the turnback when Long Branch is being reconstructed, so why would you close that loop at the same time?
Also, is the TTC possibly thinking of creating new streetcar service to Dufferin Loop if they’re rebuilding it? It hasn’t seen service for years, and can’t be used for turnbacks.
Steve: If the two jobs are not done simultaneously, service can go to Kipling while Long Branch is being done. It should only take a weekend to do the special work at Kipling and Lakeshore given that there is so little to do. I would almost expect them to drop the east to north turn which is of no use to anyone but railfan charters.
Dufferin Street is a favourite short turn for the King car, and an occasional Queen car.
Any idea if the storage track to be installed in Davenport Garage will be able to accommodate the PCCs as well as 2766? Storing them outside, all winter long at Russell, doesn’t do them much good.
Steve: The project in the budget only mentions the Peter Witt car.
Fleet Loop is also used as the de-facto loop-the-loop track of Exhibition loop, allowing cars to drop off passengers at the Ex, head out, turn around in the loop, and store themselves in the Ex storage tracks, to handle special event crowds.
In times long past the TTC used temporary shoo-fly tracks around construction areas that allowed regular streetcar service to continue during construction. Temporary tracks were built on the adjoining roadway, or even on the sidewalk as they did at Bloor and Avenue Rd, while they built the tunnel under the road. In recent years there have been safety concerns expressed, so now they replace the streetcars with busses. This argument appears to be somewhat of a smokescreen since busses are running where the shoo-fly might otherwise have been. The main result is to have the street is still open (somewhat) to vehicles (including emergency vehicles).
Steve: The TTC tried an experiment with portable crossovers on Coxwell between Lower and Upper Gerrard so that they could rebuild the northbound and southbound sections separately. The problem here was that the single track stretch was too short. This sort of thing definitely will be required to maintain service on the LRT lines. Of course, they could always just install crossovers for use as short turn points and have them double as locations for single-track operation when necessary.
Are the switches going to be single or double bladed – you had mentioned something a few months ago that this was going to be an issue when they update from the ARLV/CRLV.
Steve: I believe that the intention of the specification is that cars be capable of handling single-blade switches. Changing out all of our special work to double-blade switches would just about doom the project to get new streetcars.
Steve wrote, “Of course, they could always just install crossovers for use as short turn points and have them double as locations for single-track operation when necessary.”
I have experienced Metrolink in St. Louis about a year ago when they were working on the connections with the new branch at Forest Park station that was under construction at the time. In the evenings, they would operate on a single track between several stations to allow the work to proceed with little effect to passengers.
Good planning is needed, but it is clear that it works quite effectivley.
In one of the new Alstom tram systems in France – can’t remember which – there is a *permanent* single track section of about 300m to accommodate the need to get through a narrow street. Makes one wonder whether this could solve any choke points in the Transit City alignments.
Steve: Given that the Transit City routes are primarily on wide streets (and where they are not, they are not for blocks on end, not 300m), I think this is not an idea with much applicability. However, it does show that systems where the street geometry is the old European narrow pattern are not immune to LRT treatment. Speed and high capacity may be another thing, but there are situations where this is warranted.
I am wondering why the TTC is putting as much attention as they are on the non-revenue tracks, as there are currently no plans to use them.
Steve: These tracks are used quite regularly for short turns and diversions.
Also, about building a storage track at Hillcrest, it would make sense to store St. Clair cars there too instead of having them go to Roncesvales. Is there enough space there for that?
Steve: The problem with storing the cars there is that operators are paid travel time from their home division which would be either Russell or Roncesvalles, and it is assumed that this is done via transit. There is no longer an operating subdivision at Davenport Garage to act as a home base for the St. Clair crews.