Improving Service on the King Car

This week’s TTC agenda includes a report called Improvements to the 504 King Streetcar Service.  You can read the details on the TTC’s site, but here are the high points and my comments on them.

Installation of a temporary reserved right-of-way on a four-to-five block section of King Street as a demonstration project in July and August 2008.

This proposal is modelled on the successful scheme down on Queen’s Quay, although I doubt we will be so lucky as to see bike lanes and geraniums up on King.  It is unclear which section of King would have the trial, although there is a suggestion in the report that it go west of John to pick up the restaurant district.  If so, a 4-to-5 block stretch won’t make it to Yonge Street.

While this will be interesting to see, it will benefit offpeak operations as much as the peak if most of the reserved lane is in the theatre/club district.  However, it’s much harder to justify a reserved lane for the offpeak headway on King  given other interests who will want all four traffic lanes.  The TTC is using peak period demands and headways to argue for reserved lanes, but there are problems in the offpeak as well.

A much more reasonable proposal would have been to ban parking (see below).

Rescind the existing “transit lane” on King from Dufferin to John, and from Jarvis to Parliament, because it isn’t enforced anyhow.  Expand the peak no-parking period from 7:00 to 10:00 am and from 3:00 to 7:00 pm.  Designate King from Dufferin to Parliament as a “transit priority zone” where fines for traffic and parking violations would be doubled.  Expand the use of red-light cameras to include King Street intersections.

I think that the hours of “no parking” need to be expanded.  If we count up the number of spaces on King in the theatre district versus the number of seats in various theatres, it is clear that parking on King itself does not contribute much to the overall capacity for people coming to these venues.  The same argument holds for the restaurant strip west of John.  If we are going to talk about taking space for transit, the easiest source of that space is the parking strip.

Staff to report back on the feasibility and cost of constructing taxi lay-bys on King from Bay to York.

Again, we can use streets to store traffic, or to move it.  If the taxis in the financial district are considered essential, then make room for them so that there are two working lanes each way.  Otherwise, start towing.

Elsewhere in the report, staff note that they have added cars to provide extra capacity above what the Service Standards would otherwise dictate.  Well yes, but that was at least four years ago and riding is still climbing.  This extra service, taking the line down to a 2-minute headway, only operates in the AM peak and is timed to hit the inbound peak through Parkdale and the Bathurst/Niagara neighbourhoods.  The PM peak service remains every 4 minutes.

Congestion on King is not a serious problem in the AM peak.  Indeed, although there is congestion through the core in the midday and afternoon, there is also congestion in Parkdale (any problem on the Gardiner or special event at the CNE), in the Theatre/Club district (evenings from roughly Wednesday through Saturday), and on Roncesvalles Avenue (some weekends).  None of the TTC’s proposals addresses this.

The report claims that a previous scheme for dedicated reserved lanes and closing of King to much traffic was opposed by business owners and some Councillors.  This is understandable considering that a permanent installation is an all-day affair and the level of off-peak service on King is not all that frequent.  As I said above, it also gets tied up in areas other than the core.

There is a fascinating table showing riding on the King car from Dufferin to Parliament, and the PM peak from 5:00 to 6:00 (3040 riders)  is nearly as high as the AM from 8:00 to 9:00 (3450) even though there is less service.  Note that on a 2-minute headway, there are only 30 cars per hour, and obviously we are getting good turnover of passengers and bidirectional traffic to get that many riders per car, especially in the PM.

The transit market share on King is at or above 60% from Strachan to Yonge hitting a peak around 70% at Spadina.  I wonder how much higher it would be if we could fit more people on the service?

35 thoughts on “Improving Service on the King Car

  1. I was just on King route today, trying to brainstorm a fix to the problem. I hope you respond to this, because I have some ideas and some questions.

    first off, I dont like any ideas that will result in the street being closed to traffic. I know there is just such an idea floating out there, but the city is already choked with traffic, we should not cause more. I know that the TTC has a nice little ad with 50 cars turning into 1 streetcar, but the reality is that only about 1/3 of TTC riders have their own car, and another 1/3 access to a car. There are just some people that will never move over to transit.

    As for cutting off parking, that also makes me cringe. As I eluded to in the last paragraph, most people use cars, and want to use cars. This includes customers for the shopes along King street, and the people who live in the residences that dot parts of King.

    One idea might be grade-seperation, this would mean tunnels or raised track. a tunnel would be so costly that it would not be a good idea, and a raised track would be a magnet for protests.

    The “best” I can come up with is to make King, and Queen one way streets, this would mean you get one lane of free flowing traffic, which should help both cars and streetcars move faster. If you couple this with a single-lane RoW you could get some pretty quick movement though the area, but would people walk between King and Queen to go in a certain direction? And again we have the problem where parking would need to be removed along one side of the road.

    I guess what I’m saying is I don’t like the ideas being proposed, but at the same time, I don’t see what there is that can be done. It almost seems like there is no way to do it without either stopping traffic or parking.


  2. I passed this along to a friend that rides the King Streetcar Bathurst to Yonge and back, so he’ll be effected by this… it’s [tragically] funny that they would experiment to improve service in the summer months when it’s not so bad waiting at the side of the road, rather than in the depths of winter (this morning was an unpleasant wait) when waiting can be nearly unbearable… ah well, hopefully it leads to more permanent improvements.


  3. How about installing a signal priority system that gives advanced greens in front of an approaching streetcar so left-turning cars can move out of the way quickly. The streetcars would move faster and it would not be nesscesary to eliminate left turns.

    Steve: This is something of a double-edged sword. The moment we put in a left turn signal, it encourages people to use that intersection for turns and the queues in front of the streetcar just get longer. Often what happens in this sort of situation is that the queue is longer than the left-turn phase can handle, and the streetcar gets caught behind the leftover cars. If the driver holds to the TTC rule that they must be right at the stop, not twenty feet back, to open the doors, it takes yet another traffic light cycle just to get to the stop.


  4. I live on King West and regularly ride the King streetcar to and from the downtown core.

    Mr. Boragina’s comments regarding street closure or parking restrictions are rather contradictory. Steve already noted that eliminating street parking from Bathurst to Parliament on King would not remove a significant number of parking spaces, but it would provide 2 contiguous lanes for traffic. Even if one lane was to be reserved for streetcars, automobile traffic would not need to weave in and out of lanes.

    Moving the taxi waiting to a waiting bay between Bay and York is an excellent idea. The report also suggests increasing the fines vis-a-vis a “safety zone” for illegal turn, parking and stopping violations which is an excellent idea. The courier services would be the biggest receipient of most of these fines (and who weeps for UPS, Fed-EX, etc.?). All of these ideas would better serve both transit and drivers.

    Making Queen and King one-way streets would require huge investments in infrastructure as they currently have bi-directional transit routes that are heavily travelled. Adelaide, Richmond and Wellington are already one-way and do not have bi-directional revenue transit services (Wellington is used to loop 503 service to the east end).

    Bus service replacing streetcars is another huge myth as the back-end of a bus in traffic (carrying fewer patrons) ties up more traffic than a streetcar and would require more buses to service the same customer base (thus more drivers, facilities, translate cost more).

    A subway or raised trackage would require a huge investment and unless the city makes a killing off fines in the “safety zone” it can’t afford to build either.

    Car drivers only think of themselves and how important it is for them to get to where they want to go. The 60-100 of us on the streetcar are important people too. And we’re saving the environment and precious resources!


  5. If the King car is coupled in 3 CLRV’s or 2 ALRV’s for every pair, yet running the cars at the same 4 minute frequency, it would make things more efficient.

    What annoys me about streetcars is that they bunch up right behind each other, yet they are driven by 2 different drivers.

    If the TTC is so cash strapped, why are we paying for each streetcar’s driver when we can couple them together like a train? The Advantage of having tracks on a road is so that you can carry vehicles that are longer. If individual CLRV’s are driving like buses, why not just use Trolley Buses?

    With less bunching, and with long trains, KING will make transit better and cars will move better too. Also, its a good small step in showing what an LRT is…so that *typical* suburbanites can understand that an LRT is similar to a train…

    What’s the reason for not coupling cars? I do not get it.

    Steve: Many years ago, the CLRVs had couplers. Then one day, a late member of Metro Council was driving down the street when she was terrified by the image of the giant maw in her back window. This led to the removal of the couplers and the installation of the “Shiner Skirts” on the CLRVs.

    The TTC had intended to put couplers back on about 100 cars as part of the CLRV rebuild, but since that is now replaced by plans to order new cars, it won’t happen. A study has already been done for the TTC showing that coupled CLRVs would provide better service than single units. I take this with a grain of salt because the last time the TTC ran MU operations (on Queen), the trains wound up getting split apart much of the time so that half of the train could short-turn. The basic idea is that if two cars move as a unit, there is room for more units mixed in with the traffic light cycles which tend to regiment the traffic anyhow, and the loading delays (for other traffic) are lessened for a given capacity of service.

    However, one big problem the TTC has is that a lot of the service tends to leave the end of the line off-schedule (despite generous recovery times), and this ragged headway travels across the city. This is not a congestion issue, it is a line management issue.

    Yes, there are congested areas on the King car, but they are generally not in the AM peak, and moreso outside University-to-Yonge core than in it. Any scheme to reduce congestion impacts on the service is doomed to failure if it attacks the times and locations that are not the primary source of problems.


  6. In the morning rush, the eastbound 504 route between Sudbury and Spadina is beyond capacity. It is a rare morning that riders aren’t turned away at any of these intermitent stops. Especially dense around Shaw and Strachan, replete with (hopeful) riders from the King West and Liberty condo/townhouse developments.

    As construction of the Toy Factory lofts finishes, the stops from Dufferin to Atlantic will also fill in, leaving riders further down the line in even more of a predicament.

    Perhaps it would be different if the route were granted right-of-way, not being caught up in traffic, but service is currently irregular at best, with intervals anywhere from 15seconds to 10minutes.

    In the evening, walking home past peak, I am usually able to walk from John to Strachan before being picked up by a streetcar. I’m certainly looking forward to more amenable biking weather…


  7. Doesn’t look like there is a viable option here, other than one-way or subway. If the street did go one-way, then one streetcar track could be express and the other could be local. Interesting, but who knows what other problems it would cause.


  8. So we should move from unenforced bylaws to enforced ones. The difference? Higher fines for TPS to collect. Hmmm… that might even work! I have worked at King and Bay for three years and rarely have I seen TPS officers at that intersection and I don’t think I have ever seen people caught turning right illegally onto Bay southbound.

    The sticking point with removing King parking might be that while you are removing onstreet parking, the construction of buildings such as the TIFF building are taking out off street parking. Thus retailers will claim they are being hit on the double unless off-King multilevel parking is introduced to compensate in a way that doesn’t cause overspill onto King but remains within reasonable distance.

    One small part of the solution might be to work with the theatre and cinema operators on Metropass affinity schemes to encourage people to take transit to the Entertainment District. There is an unofficial one that seems to have only attracted some small retailers but the recent mention of an affinity scheme by the TTC Chairman might mean some action on that side.

    However, would you want to get all dressed up for theatre, sit on a streetcar not all that clean after a day hauling commuters and risk getting short turned six blocks from your destination? Well, actually I would but not there aren’t enough people like me to reduce the need for parking on King West and thus other options are needed.

    Steve: There is a parking structure under the Princess of Wales Theatre as well as Roy Thomspon Hall / Metro Hall. The biggest problem they have is everyone trying to get out at the same time. The single biggest contributor to parking problems in that area is the Dome.


  9. As a new resident of Toronto (I moved to the city over the summer, living in the Richmond/Sherbourne Area, and I’ve recently moved to the Roncesvalles/Queen Area, all the while working in the King/Bathurst area), I find this discussion a bit confusing – why aren’t we talking about improving service on Queen?

    Living, as I did, near Richmond/Sherbourne, I avoided the Queen car for all of my Westbound trips; the service was simply too unreliable for any purpose – I’d regularly have to wait 20 minutes for a car (sometimes, I’d just give up and start walking – and on more than one occasion, I made it to John street before I saw a streetcar).

    Now, living near Roncesvalles/Queen, my eastbound trips take far too long through the Queen West area – the time it takes to get between Dufferin and Bathurst is almost unbearable, with one lane of moving traffic per direction, and parked cars all the way down either side of the road – I avoid the 501 like the plague.

    On the other hand, the 504 car is reliable (I’ve rarely had to wait more than 5 minutes), and fast for all but the longest trips across downtown.

    I think the overcrowding problem has more to do with people avoiding the 501 for it’s unreliable, slow service than it does with any inherent problem with the King line (though getting those taxis off of King in the Financial District would be wonderful….)

    Steve: You have raised an intriguing point here. Loading on the Queen route has dropped about 25% since the late 1980s while King’s has risen. Some of the latter is due to the many new condos on King, but as you describe, some may have migrated from Queen out of frustration.


  10. The other day it took me over an hour to get from College and Grace to King and Sherbourne (College and King streetcars, but ended up walking much of it). This is simply assinine, and leads me to give up on surface transit.

    In most cases, it makes more sense for me to walk north to Christie Station, no matter where I am going in the city, no matter how far out of the way that takes me; unless it makes more sense to walk or cycle. If you are going to live without a car in Toronto, as I do, you need to live close to a subway station, and have a membership with Autoshare for other occassions.

    There are dozens of ways, most listed on this site, to make transit work better in this city: it’s not going to happen, sorry. Give up dreaming. There is neither the political will (at Queen’s Park, or in Ottawa), nor the popular commitment (among the population to get over the car-fetish).

    Live near a subway, use your bicycle or ‘shank’s mare’. Transit priorities in the city suck, but if you manage not to get creamed by a car while on foot or cycle, at least you’ll be in great shape.

    Has anyone else noticed that year by year it is less worthwhile to go out further from home in the city, because of poor transit?


  11. Mimmo Briganti said …
    “Doesn’t look like there is a viable option here, other than one-way or subway. If the street did go one-way, then one streetcar track could be express and the other could be local. Interesting, but who knows what other problems it would cause.”

    I was in New York over the weekend and this idea of Express and Local service is something the intrigues me intensely.

    They seem to have it figured out extremely well there, with trains that stop every 5-ish stations and transfers to trains that stop @ every station, and this idea interests me…

    I would like to know if it would be smart to convert a street to one way for this… judging how putting a 4 track subway under any street in Toronto is completely unjustified


  12. I just read the report. The TTC keeps bragging about how nobody in the world runs a 2 minute service in mixed traffic. Didn’t the Bloor streetcar run on a 45-second to 1-minute headway before the subway opened?

    Does the TTC have amnesia? More streetcars = better service, even if there is bunching and gaps. Since the road is too narrow for a private ROW, why is conversion to subway not discussed as an option, or at least burying the streetcar line?

    Steve: There are many things the TTC has to do before we even begin to think about burying the line including:

    Provide more capacity. As you mention, the Bloor-Danforth streetcar service ran with a very frequent service of two-car PCC trains. When we eventually get new, larger cars, they should replace the current ones at a better ratio than two for three so that there is a net increase in capacity.
    Admit that the two-minute headway only actually exists on King for about one hour in the AM peak, not over the entire route in both peaks. The TTC badly overstates the level of service actually available to most riders on the route.
    Implement proof-of-payment fare collection to speed loading at busy stops. This will be inevitable with the new fleet and all-door low-floor entry.
    Manage the service more effectively. My analysis of CIS data (coming soon) shows quite clearly that cars are not regularly spaced even when they are nominally on time, and little effort is made to correct this problem.
    The City needs to significantly improve enforcement of traffic bylaws so that road capacity is available to move transit. Talk of one-way systems and express tracks is worthless if we give over 50% of the street to parking and stopping, legal or otherwise.


  13. I think that federal and provincial politicians would spend more money on public transit if they saw with their own eyes how crowded and unreliable it is, and how congested the highways (particularly the DVP and the Gardiner) are. Trouble is, they are largely sheltered from these day-to-day hassles. $6 billion for an extensive LRT plan over 20 or so years is not a lot to spend, considering how much the Conservative projects (a subway to Vaughan and the 407 extension to Oshawa and Peterborough) cost.


  14. I drive most of the length (Dundas West Station to Broadview) of the King Street route occasionally, during peak time (8am).

    In addition to delays caused by loading/unloading times, I see the same problems with this route at specific intersections, every morning. I think focus could be placed on these intersections:

    Roncesvalles/King/Queen. The light south through this intersection is very short. Streetcars frequently have to wait for more than one light. By this point cars are occasionally bunched up. I respect that making the light longer could affect Queen traffic (including the Queen streetcars). Streetcars entering service from the yard also seem to contribute to streetcars starting to bunch at this intersection. Finally, there always seems to be a “trickle” of passengers trying to get on, and walking onto the road, despite the streetcar doors being closed. This blocks car traffic, and is not a safe situation.

    Jameson. Cars turning left and right, combined with many peds (including a ped crosswalk) cause problems at this intersection. This spot seems particularly bad for loading delays. Streetcars really start to bunch here on some days. When they do, I believe service on the rest of the route gets messed up. I’d love to see a human traffic controller at this intersection to manage traffic.

    Dufferin. Cars turning left and right, many peds crossing (preventing cars from making the left turn) and cars turning right make this intersection a mess. Not to mention the SYSCO truck supplying the Subway (sandwich store) parked on King, east of Bathurst, combined with the street narrowing.

    Bathurst and Spadina are always problematic, but these intersections don’t appear to “cause” bunching (if cars are bunched before this point, they remained bunched, but if they are not, they don’t become bunched).

    Less importantly to the service (in terms of bunching) I see the same problems at Dundas/Bloor every morning:

    Streetcars and busses get clogged trying to enter and leave the station. Problems are due to cars stopping in front of the station to drop off subway (and streetcar) passengers, peds jay walking across Dundas to enter the station, plus traffic turning right onto Bloor through lots of ped traffic. Entrances to the station from other corners of the intersection (especially the East side of Dundas), and better enforcement of the “no stopping” (I suspect it is the same people, every morning) would go a long way to solve these problems (not to mention the safety issues).

    I’ve tried to find what the “plan” for this station is, but I’ve never seen anything concrete.

    Steve: Thanks for these insights. I am going to compare them with what I am seeing in the detailed analysis of route operations I am in the middle of right now. One thing that is quite evident is that there are irregularities in the service southbound from Dundas and Bloor, but this goes on all day, and generally at all times and even on quiet Sundays. Similar patterns are evident southbound from Danforth and Broadview. There doesn’t seem to be any effort to smooth out the service along the route and so the unevenness just gets worse as cars travel across the city.

    I agree strongly that the TTC needs to concentrate on “micro” engineering at specific locations rather than the “macro” approach of asking for a completely dedicated right of way they will never get.

    As for Dundas West, the current layout is “the plan”. Two tracks are supposed to keep the Roncesvalles-bound traffic from interfering in the Dundas traffic and vice-versa. Here and at Broadview is does work after a fashion, but the generous recovery times and the absence of any actual dispatching of cars contribute to uneven headways leaving the termini for much of the day.


  15. To answer Bryan A, one of the biggest flaws in our subway is that it’s strictly a 2-track local system. With 4-track systems you can offer local, express, and 24 hour services with no maintenance problems.

    We are now seeing capacity problems on YU and BD that would not exist had the systems been designed for 4-track. Mind you, our streets aren’t wide enough for that (except for University), but a lower level could have been roughed in for future express services.

    Of course $$$ always comes into play. Look at the 2nd Ave. subway under construction in Manhattan right now — it’s only 2-track, and the new subway in San Fran is 2-track as well. Doesn’t look like anybody in the world can get a 4-track system approved financially anymore.


  16. I’d be skeptical as to how one way operation on King and Queen would work. For most of the run there’s 3 blocks between the two, which isn’t that far, but would be a pain if I was (let’s say) a block North of Queen and Lansdowne (assuming the one way stretch went out this far), having come out on the Westbound Queen car, and wanted to go back East to the Beaches. That being said, regular and express service does sound interesting, and for a good chunk of that distance there’s Richmond and Adelaide nearby for traffic going in the opposite direction.

    As an aside, I’m curious about the option of building elevated lines on Queen and King. Has this been considered? How does the cost of elevated lines compare to subways?

    Steve: Without going into the details (this has been discussed in other threads), the problem with elevateds is the impact they have on the sidewalk life of the street below when you have a four-lane street with old buildings right at the sidewalk. The street is perennially shadowed by the el, not to mention the noise of passing trains, and stations are a nightmare covering the entire street to make room for platforms and access paths. From a cost point of view in dollars, elevated structures are not as expensive as subways, but they are more expensive than staying on the surface. Their economic impact on the neighbourhood through which they travel is enormous.


  17. I’m sold on reserved transit lanes and removed parking on King St.

    I would be very cautious about any suggestions of switching King and Queen to one-way. Mimmo Briganti may be aware of this, but one-way arterial streets have a wider impact on the neighbourhood. In New York, where people have a lot of experience with them, one-way streets are not welcomed by anyone except motorists.

    One-way street discussion here

    Also, in New York 120 to 200 pedestrians a year are killed in traffic, which, based on what I’ve seen there, I would attribute at least partly to the miniature expressways all over the city’s core.


  18. I was walking southbound on Young street the other day around mid afternoon. When I came upon King Street, a westbound CLRV pulled up, after it stopped to pick up passengers I noticed a TTC Route Supervisor wearing a safety vest step out of the back doors. Much to my surprise he started to let passengers with a pass or transfer in through the back doors. This seemed to really speed up the loading of riders.

    I got the impression that this was just an extra person who was hanging around the car house and was sent out to to this rather than something more official or regular. Do you know what it was?

    Steve: Actually, the TTC schedules someone to work at King and Yonge loading passengers at the rear doors. If this really was a Route Supervisor (and not simply scheduled ground crew), he was probably just helping out to speed the service. Loading delays are a major problem on heavy routes, and all-door loading makes things a lot faster and gets better use out of space at the back of the cars.


  19. Steve, thanks for the info on elevated lines. I had heard abut visual impact problems before, and I could see the problems with that. I’d been wondering about costs, so thanks for that too.

    Out of curiosity (and hopefully not off topic), do you know if anyone has considered anything like stacking the double track vertically instead of side by side (Say Eastbound at 1 above, Westbound at 2 above)? I’m not sure what the visual impact would be in the North/South dimension on an East/West line (probably not great for the North side of the street) but it would be better for the East/West view down the street, as it would be easier to see down the length of the roadway.

    I realize that an elevated line would have an assortment of other problems, such as station placement and spacing. I’m just wondering if anything like this has been tried or would be worth considering.

    Steve: There are several problems presented by this type of scheme. First off, you would have a structure at least as high as a three storey building, in other words the same height as the buildings on Queen Street. This is a huge visual intrusion into the neighbourhoods through which the line passes and it would destroy any hope of vibrant commercial activity on the street. Also, the taller structure would require a stronger support structure. Either way (single or double level), the support columns have to go somewhere in the middle of the street or spanning the street to the sidewalks.

    A double level structure would make installation of turnbacks much more complex as a “crossover” would have to get between the two levels.

    The short answer is that elevated railways have no place on city streets and there is no magic solution that will make them work. And, in anticipation of other writers, I don’t want to hear about the light, slender structures of monorails or ICTS systems. An elevated is an elevated is an elevated.


  20. Instead of turning King and Queen into one-way transit runs, why not use the existing one-way Richmond and Adelaide that run between them? Re-soute Queen cars – some, not all, to maintain the local service – down on Bathurst and across to Jarvis or Parliment where it rejoins back with Queen (and the reverse when travelling West). I know that doesn’t resolve some of the busiest sections on Queen west and east of the area, but it could be a mini cross-downtown with stops spaced further apart than on Queen or King and seperated from traffic (barrier or virtual).

    heck, run it down Bathurst, across Adel/Rich to Eastern and up Broadview and you have some relief for downtown…

    Just idle speculation….

    Steve: The Adelaide/Richmond pair are only useable between Parliament and Bathurst. This proposal does nothing for the people in Parkdale and Bathurst/Niagara who cannot get on the service. Also, Adelaide especially can become badly congested and is at least as bad as King for eastbound service. On the east side of downtown, Richmond is well north of King while most of the population is well south of it. The extra walk north to pick up the “express” service for a comparatively short ride would not be worth it.

    As for a connection from Broadview, this is an option in the eastern waterfront plans — Broadview to Cherry to Queen’s Quay to Union Station.


  21. Steve is right. Elevated lines above streets are an eyesore — it’s always better to go underground. The idea of a King Transit Mall with three lanes and alternating curb lanes is probably just as disruptive as changing the street to one-way operation — it will never fly.

    So like I said before, if the TTC is throwing their hands up in the air on their busiest streetcar route, then that $2B currently being spent on the Spadina Subway extension would be much better spent as a King “Stubway” eventually going from Dundas W Stn. to Broadview Stn. Not only would it solve the King problem, but the overcrowding problems on the central BD section and Yonge line south of Bloor — and I’m sure it would draw additional ridership away from Queen to make it viable.


  22. Alright. I can see how complicated it could be to install an elevated line, and I can see where there would be resistance to large overhead structures. I’d just like to pursue this to the outlandish and slightly crazed solution attempt that is wiggling in my brain…

    How about this: a bi-level structure supported by posts from the roadsides at regular intervals, with streetlights, electric transmission wires, traffic signals and signage built into it. Basically everything that would be overhead on a street incorporated into the structure. To supplement sunlight on the “dark” side of the street, mount mirrors on the structure that track the sun and reflect it down to the pavement. Build the first stretch to start and end in sections of the run that are wider than usual. On Queen this might be from Spadina to River. This would allow the first and last station stops to be side by side, allowing cars in both directions to ease down to grade. If, as proposed elsewhere, we get LRVs with doors on both sides, any given double level station could be on only one side of the street. Would all of this cut down on visual intrusion, or will my mad plan kill us all?

    Sorry for the madness, I just had to get this out of my head.

    Steve: This is the last post I will entertain on this thread. Madness, yes, madness. Hope you feel better soon.


  23. A Globe & Mail article today titled “TTC-only lanes in plan for King St.” stated that “Commuters waiting last night for the King streetcar complained that service on their overcrowded route hasn’t kept pace with development. And left-turning drivers regularly force the streetcar to a crawl.”

    It also quoted a King car rider: “It’s really bad from Yonge over to Spadina. It’s cars blocking the streetcar when they shouldn’t be.”

    The comments suggest that the King Street ROW would be a good idea.

    The article is here:

    Steve: I wouldn’t object to the proposed right-of-way, but my point is that it does not address problems elsewhere on the line that contribute to the loading problems inbound from Parkdale in the morning peak period.


  24. I’ve ridden on an elevated transit line in Philadelphia and it was depressing to see the dilapidated streetscape, literally metres away. It gave the impression that this was a poor neighbourhood and the line was routed with no regard whatsoever to the buildings. It did nothing to enhance them in any respect. I think that any transit line, surface or elevated, must respect and ideally enhance its surroundings.


  25. I had an interesting experience on the King car around noon Thursday. A tow truck was towing a car through the financial district on the westbound tracks when it was struck by a taxi. The tow driver refused to move till the police arrived so he could show the authorities where his truck got hit. The driver claimed it had to do with his insurance.

    Eventually four King cars were lined up behind this tow truck. Passengers suggested that there should be a traffic ticket for this sort of thing. Which raises the question: is there? If not, can we start lobbying our politicians to get police to issue traffic tickets for drivers who tie up streetcar lines like this? And does the TTC sue drivers for damages (overtime for late-in operators etc.) in these situations? or is it just handled by insurance?

    Oh, and the final indignity: it was a CAA tow truck.

    Steve: The TTC has been known to sue for unreasonable delay to service. Whether that would apply in this situation is hard to say. If only four cars were held, and there was a bona fide accident, then it might not be a clear cut case.


  26. It seems that one of the biggest problems with the King route is the left turners. It would seem that either more turn restrictions are needed in the core or, more likely, more enforcement of existing restrictions are needed. Why not have regular blitzes on this?

    Also, is it possible for the city’s new powers to allow them to create a special “increased fines” zone like is now done for some communities? We have a street in our neighbourhood that recently became a “community zone” where the fines are doubled – this applies to both speeding and running stop signs, two things that tend to be a problem.

    Steve: Creating a King Street “community zone” with doubled fines is among the things the TTC has asked of City Council. Alas, the brouhaha about the reserved lane will probably drown out debate on the more realistic suggestions.

    As for enforcement, we have the ludicrous situation that the police don’t want to let “special constables” issue tickets for violations that impact the transit system, but when the Police Service is asked to provide staff to actually enforce the traffic bylaws, their answer is that they have no staff to spare. They can’t have it both ways. In Vancouver, tow truck operators don’t even need a constable to authorize a tow, and tow trucks lie in wait all over downtown just before the rush hour. Magically, the streets are clear of illegally parked cars when rush hour starts. If they can do it in BC, there is no legal impediment to doing it here.
    Perhaps a better experiment for King Street might be to try out Hook Turns like they use in Melbourne (


  27. It doesn’t sound like hook turns would work on a narrow street such as King, because there would be left turning cars sitting in the right lane, which would block cars that wanted to continue straight or turn right. True, that would greatly speed up streetcars, but all other traffic would be at a virtual standstill anytime a car needed to turn left.

    The TTC should install cameras on the front of every streetcar so that they can photograph cars that are turning left illegally. Those pictures could then be used to issue tickets. Coupled with increased fines, people would soon get the message and would stop making illegal left turns. I know that doesn’t solve all the issues on King, but it’s certainly one of the biggest problems.


  28. I think loading times are part of the issue. A POP system like on Queen may be helpful as people would be able to get on more quickly (especially at Yonge, University, Bay, Strachan).

    I think running a couple of buses between Sudbury (condos) and Jarvis (George Brown) eastbound in the morning would help with some of the volume in the morning. (Not sure where the high volume areas during the morning coming from the west.)

    For the afternoon rush there’s a large number of people who get on at Jarvis (George Brown), and then 80% of the people get off at Yonge for the subway. They’re of course replaced by a lot of people coming from the subway, and streetcars keeping filling up until about Spadina. People start getting off at Portland, but by the time Dufferin/Jameson are reach the streetcars are mostly empty.

    I think if more vehicles can be added (buses would be more flexible) to help in these areas I think it would help alleviate things. Is there any reason why only one type of vehicle has to run on a route? It may cause some confusion at first, but people would probably get used to streetcars and buses both having the “504” in the route display.

    Steve: I would prefer that the route be kept to one mode so that we don’t have comparatively small buses mixed together with CLRVs and ALRVs. Having said that, the question you raise — of having additional service in the middle part of the line from, say, Dufferin to Parliament, is a valid one. Several years ago, the TTC planned to build a new loop for King cars in the old Parliament Loop. This was cut from the budget as a cost saving measure.

    You mention that westbound cars are more or less empty by Jameson. The western end of King plus Roncesvalles Avenue has its own demand patterns oriented more to Dundas West Station than to downtown. A great frustration for riders on Roncesvalles is the amount of service that short-turns at the carhouse leaving large gaps up to Bloor and Dundas.


  29. The idea of converting King and Queen to one way operation (whether for the cars or the streetcars) became more interesting with the follow up idea of using one of the existing tracks for an express line and the other for local line. However unlikely it is to be put in place, it is still an interesting idea.

    I suppose that if this were done, the 4 lane street would be turned into something very interesting…1 lane for local driving, 1 lane for local streetcars (mixed traffic), 1 lane for express streetcars (ROW), and 1 lane for further driving.

    On street parking would definitely have to be sacrificed.

    Would this kind of arrangement improve the flow of vehicles and transit along these major streets without causing too many problems?

    Steve: What really bothers me about schemes like this is that it ignores the fact that service is so infrequent at most times of the day. Taking over a street for express tracks and banning parking asks a lot of a neighbourhood who might reasonably ask for better service first. This is a fundamental problem with the TTC’s proposals.

    TTC likes to compare the number of people carried on a bus or streetcar versus in cars to establish their case for taking roadspace. However, when vehicles run every 6 minutes or worse, and highly unreliably at that, their argument falls apart.


  30. “You mention that westbound cars are more or less empty by Jameson. The western end of King plus Roncesvalles Avenue has its own demand patterns oriented more to Dundas West Station than to downtown. A great frustration for riders on Roncesvalles is the amount of service that short-turns at the carhouse leaving large gaps up to Bloor and Dundas.”

    Exactly. Maybe one solution for this route is to split it up into segments. Very few of the people who board at Dundas West ride all the way downtown, and vice versa. This leads, for instance, to me waiting for 20 minutes at Garden and Roncesvalles at 9 am almost every day, while the cars I am not seeing have been turned to service the downtown car. It would make sense to me to either extend the Junction 40 bus all the way to Queen, or run off shoots of the 504 for that section, and possibly other sections of the route. Maybe all those cars going out of service at the yards at the tail end of rush hour could travel up Roncesvalles first, since all the other cars were turned at Dufferin?


  31. Leo Gonzalez said, “It doesn’t sound like hook turns would work on a narrow street such as King, because there would be left turning cars sitting in the right lane, which would block cars that wanted to continue straight or turn right.”

    You miss the beauty of hook turns — they provide a pseudo lane for left turners where there is none due to the width of the street. Granted, the length and capacity of the hook turn waiting space is limited to the width of the cross street (i.e.: probably only two car lengths for most downtown streets).

    Basically, a left turner must be in the curb lane. When the light turns green, they proceed out into the intersection and shift to the right so that they are waiting between the right lane and the pedestrian crosswalk. The first car moves practically to the other side of the intersection where they are now positioned to make their turn when the light changes to green for the cross street, thus placing them in the first postion for through traffic. This can impact a car on the cross street being able to make a right turn on a red, but we are talking about downtown Toronto where this can be difficult at the best times. Simply make no right turns on red for a hook-turn intersection (but this, of course, needs the enforcement issue to be tackled as well).

    Steve: Any intersections downtown that I can think of don’t have space between the right lane and the pedestrian crosswalk unless you move the crosswalk away from the corner. This, plus the loss of right-on-red is a high price to pay so that people can make left turns, counter-intuitively, from the right lane.


  32. Splitting the 504 King into lettered branches (eg: 504A is from Dundas West Stn-King (Roncevalles)) would help to create some dedicated cars running on portions of the route often left with sub-standard service due to turnbacks. Branches are often used on bus routes, why not apply them to streetcars?


  33. The idea of streetcar branches would make sense if there was an abundance of places to turn the streetcars.

    Unlike buses, streetcars do not lend themselves to being turned around. At surface loops require the streetcars to cross into traffic, which unless guarded by signals sometimes causes even more delay. If you want an example, check out Adelaide-Charlotte-King-Spadina, where the Spadina cars short-turn. Traffic frequently holds up turning streetcars. Getting back onto King and Spadina are the worst part. The turning Spadina streetcars don’t help the King service out either.

    The second problem is locating the loops. On street loops like the one above are rare and from what I’ve seen are problematic. Off street loops like Wolseley north of Queen and Bathurst require considerable real estate. Real estate is something that the TTC has been selling off especially in the core. And certainly can’t afford to buy!

    Even streetcars short turned at Dufferin or Parliament to service the heavily travelled core of this route don’t really help much. There just stuck in traffic with all the other streetcars!


  34. Relief streetcars could leave the TTC yard at Queen & Roncesvalles to service Roncesvalles to Dundas West Station. Often 504 cars are so late that when they finally arrive at Queen & Roncesvalles, large crowds await at each stop up to Dundas West Station. I’ve even heard TTC drivers, finishing a shift wondering why an inspector doesn’t send a relief car up to the station!

    On-street parking and “stopping” seems the reason for most our congestion problems. Council should ban it on Queen and King, starting downtown. Perhaps more parking garages could be built. Tokyo has valet serviced parking towers.

    Blocking streetcars (accidents, left turns) should become a serious offense. Cameras on the streetcars would help. So would allowing TTC’s “special constables” to issue traffic tickets. A strong publicity campaign informing drivers would help.

    How about another TTC staffer to speed loading/un-loading, especially on the double streetcars(CLRV)? They could check passes, tranfers and accept fares and generally assist the driver.


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