Bathurst 511 Diverts to Union Station

Today, I was down at Fleet Street looking at the site of reconstruction planned for May and found that the 511 service is all running to Union Station.  The track on Fleet is in very bad shape including one quite serious drop in the rail height.

I just checked the Transit Toronto website where there is a description of the situation — a car derailed last week and the line is closed west of Bathurst.

Of course the TTC’s own website does not even mention this diversion.

28 thoughts on “Bathurst 511 Diverts to Union Station

  1. I believe the TTC was going to run a ‘test vehicle’ down the affected section of track either yesterday, or during the weekend. Therefore, they are probably going to re-open the track before it’s rebuilt in a couple weeks.

    It would be smarter to keep the track closed and rebuild it as soon as possible, because the tracks may break again under normal conditions (as is already evidenced). No point in keeping them open for a few weeks, and closing them again.


  2. Steve
    I was at the Union Station streetcar loop today to take the 510 Spadina car. While there, I did not see any signs or personnel in the area to inform the passengers why the Bathurst car was arriving there, why there was no 509 Harbourfront cars, how to get west of Lower Spadina and on to the EX. I wonder how many people waited, with holiday scheduling, for a Harbourfront car? A little information to the transit user would go a long way in making them want to use the system again!


  3. The TTC said they were going to increase Harbourfront service. It just did not happen the way we (or they) expected.
    Since this diversion could be retained for several months, it will be interesting to see the rush hour loadings that use this route to reach the downtown area rather than transfer.


  4. Are they running ALRVs into the underground tracks at Union, because I remember reading an earlier post of yours stating that they don’t use ALRVs in the undeground tracks because they are hard to remove if they break down?

    Steve: On the current schedules, ALRVs are only supposed to operate on the 511 on Saturdays. I have a suspicion it will be CLRVs. Whether they run any extras remains to be seen.


  5. It seems that this disruption is being kept unduly hush-hushed. Is this perhaps in light of the Transit City plan that would see concrete-encased rails in more of the city?

    Steve: Over the years, I have found that sheer incompetence and lack of co-ordination is a far better explanation than Machiavellian chicanery for most things that happen at the TTC.

    The problems on Fleet Street have been well-known for years, and the reconstruction of this track was held up first for approval of the Fleet Street redesign and then because Toronto Hydro can’t get it’s act together to co-ordinate a major city project without a few years’ notice. You would never know that we actually own this utility given the way it behaves.

    The track on Fleet was built “the old way”, and not very well at that. It should have been replaced years ago. The situation we have is a direct result of bad design and construction in years gone by, and of “making do” with a situation that would never be allowed in the subway for far too long. Given the prevelance of slow orders on the system, it’s amazing that Fleet Street remained in operation this long.

    The TTC talks a good line about safety, but is quite selective in its application.

    Mandatory stops were introduced at all facing point switches due to the unreliability of the electronics that replaced overhead contactors when the ALRVs began operation. This had never been the practice before in Toronto and is a noticeable cause of delay (not to mention passenger discomfort). Rather than fixing the problem with the switches, the TTC simply papered over the problem. If a car splits a switch, it must have been the operator’s fault, not the bad track.

    All of Transit City will be built with “new” style track even better than that now used on Spadina (the techniques have evolved since that line was built), and we can only hope that when future lines need rebuilding, the TTC won’t put things off until a line falls apart.


  6. I actually find it contemptuous that the TTC would not think it important to notify its riders of a significant service disruption like this.

    The SRT went down a little while ago, no news from the TTC. I shared an experience on this site about hour-long waits for the Forest Hill bus during the first stage of the St. Clair ROW, and nobody at the station could tell me when or even IF the bus was coming.

    If the passenger knows in advance (granted, not always possible) that there is a disruption, s/he can make alternate plans and probably get to their destination in more or less the same time.

    Posting something on the TTC website is the absolute bare minimum as a public service. But how do we let passengers already waiting at a streetcar stop on the street know their train ain’t coming, other than driving the route in another vehicle and informing passengers individually (and maybe slapping a notice on each stop). And what the heck, warm coffee in the winter too?

    When a delay happens people get frustrated. When they find out about it after waiting 30 minutes, they get angry. There’s a difference. In all seriousness, we’re talking about thousands or tens of thousands of people’s days potentially affected. They should treat this type of disruption as a planned service disruption and inform passengers accordingly through signage, etc.

    Do you think we will ever see LED displays at TTC stops? Also, it would be amazing to subscribe to an e-mail service that notifies customers of major service disruptions. What are the chances?

    Steve: In order to have meaningful displays, you must have meaningful data. For example, the current TTC vehicle monitoring system cannot accurately predict when a vehicle will arrive because, sometimes, it loses track of where they really are. This is a fundamental design problem that should, one hopes, be fixed with the next generation of vehicle location (GPS technology) and central route monitoring. Notices about disruptions can only be displayed if someone makes the effort to create them and keep them up to date. I have occasionally seen notices on the subway video displays, but not often, and of course there are far too few of them to be really useful for that sort of thing.

    Email notification has its limitations. How much email should the TTC generate? How big will the subscription list be for a major route? Will TTC emails be treated as spam by customers, something that has the same accuracy level as the printed timetables?


  7. Is this the diversion that they are planning on running while the Fleet St. Track job is happening? I drove east on Fleet today and there is a section of the Southr rail on the WB track that was not visible from my car windo as I drove by EB. I would be surprised if they re-open this line. There appeared to be a lot of rail in Exhibition Loop that is already welded together. While it would be nice if they started the work early I doubt if there is much chance of that because of Contracts and the need to coordinate with Toronto Hydro.


  8. The rail was all ready and welded together on Fleet Street last spring. It sat there all summer and was moved to Exhibition just before the snow. In this case TTC were ready and, as Steve has said, Toronto Hydro wasn’t.

    Notification to customers is an area TTC falls down on badly. The TTC website is still saying (Elevator Construction: St Clair Station) that the St Clair streetcar is replaced by buses and last weekend there was still a notice posted in Broadview saying that the subway diversion was still happening on weekends.

    The TTC needs to give the responsible for posting and removing paper notices from stations or stops to a person (Station Managers and Route Supervisors) and, as has been written about here and on Spacing, a new TTC website is greatly needed (and apparently happening) BUT if nobody is given the job of keeping it updated 24/7 it is rather useless. (I suspect the TTC web staff work ‘office hours’ Monday-Friday and with last Friday being a holiday there was nobody there to post info on the Fleet Street situation.


  9. For the e-mail, I was thinking a listserv, or RSS feed or something, almost like creating a “myTTC” account. The number of subscribers is irrelevant.

    I’m suggesting that instead of leaving it up to someone to “make the effort and create them and keep them up to date,” why not make that part of somebody’s job? I find it hard to swallow that an organization that moves hundreds of millions of people a year, does not have an action plan for communicating the unexpected.

    I called the TTC’s 393-INFO today to see if they had any updated information on the rerouting. According to the recorded message, service is continuing to run every 10 minutes or better to the EX. It has been three days since the derailment, and the TTC is OFFICIALLY telling its customers that service is regular on Fleet St. If they were a private company (and I’m sooo NOT advocating this), it could be called fraud. This is a fundamental disregard and lack of respect for the paying passenger. Plain and simple.

    Customer service begins before the passenger ever boards the vehicle. This is not an isolated incident, unfortunately, and gives the crusty commuter another reason to lose faith in the system.


  10. This may well be a blessing in disguise. A permanent routing of 511 Bathurst Cars to Union may well be a better service for commuters. Even if every other car went there with opposite ones going to the Ex.

    Steve: Frankly I have not figured out why the TTC hasn’t caught on to this a long time ago. Sending the 511 to Union does two things:

    Improves the service on Queen’s Quay
    Truly links the western part of Queen’s Quay to the rest of the city without the need for a transfer.

    The one detrimental part is that people living well west of Bathurst get worse service. By the way, off-peak service is already rather sparse, and your every-other-car scheme would make for very long waits on Fleet and at the CNE loop.

    The real question is whether the primary service to the CNE should be the Harbourfront car or the Bathurst car. There is a very long-standing tradition that people take the Bathurst car to the CNE going back about 80 years. Every attempt the TTC made to get people on alternate services has gone poorly.

    Originally, there were two separate routes: Fort and Bathurst. The Fort car went to the CNE during periods when the Bathurst car ran into downtown via Adelaide Street. Maybe we should return to this scheme with a separate Bathurst-to-Union service overlaid on separate lines to the CNE. Of course this would almost certainly mean improving service and we wouldn’t want to actually encourage people to ride, would we?

    This entire area needs a rethink for transit routings especially once the WWLRT start running.


  11. The Transit Toronto www-site now says the TTC have issued a statement about the 511. (Replaced by buses from Bathurst to CNE) Interestingly, the TTC’s own web-site remains silent on all of this. Clearly the TTC does not see their web site as an important way to communicate with customers – which may explain why it’s such a shambles. If the new site they are designing is not given far higher priority and 24/7 maintenance it too will be irrelevant, even if it looks better. Sigh!


  12. I was in this area yesterday and hopped the Bathurst car to Union. I did see a 509 bus pass by at Spadina and Queens Quay.

    The funniest part of all of this is that all the stops on Queens Quay and the Union Loop have a notice taped posted announcing the seasonal service increase to the 509.


  13. As a TTC surface route (bus) operator, I’m not at all surprised that the TTC web site is so behind the times on issuse like this. I can’t even begin to count the number of times that I have arrived at a subway station to find it overflowing with passengers who have been kicked off of the subway due to problems. TTC CIS can’t (or won’t) notify surface operators to expect large crowds at stations (or from a customer service standpoint to notify passengers on the bus that the subway is currently experiencing problems). The TTC is very poor at the public relations game. I constantly see outdated notices posted everywhere throughout the system. Noboby seems to be responsible for their removal (an operator can be disciplined for unauthourized removal of these notices however).


  14. I have had some experience with web sites, and the TTC website appears to be a ‘conventional’ website built by a professional programmer equipped with an appropriate HTML editor and access to the appropriate computer files. Maintenance of this type of web site is normally done only by the programming dept, and only when authorized by an appropriate work order. If my suspicion is true, the notification issue may have been that over the weekend there was nobody to authorize a work order, and no programmers available to make the changes.

    There are extensions that can be built into a website to allow non-professional people to post notices to the website (as the GO transit website does), and hopefully the redesigned TTC website will include such a section.

    Steve: I work in the IT business an Operations Manager for a very large system in Toronto, and know how web sites can be total pigs requiring central maintenance (also known as job security), or as content engines driven by users. What is so wonderful about the software that runs my personal site here is that I don’t have to do any programming. WordPress works for my needs right “out of the box”.

    Yes, the TTC’s site has more complex requirements, but they are not beyond the capabilities of competent site designers. We will see what comes of the redesign exercise and, once the cability is in place for instant updates, whether it is actually used.


  15. Steve

    While we are on the subject of the 511 Bathurst car and the south end diversions—I’ll put in my thoughts for the north end. I think they should extend the line north from Bathurst Stn to St. Clair West Stn. The positive thing about this would be that 1 ¼ miles of good track would put back into service, all the electric track switches are in place, and in a snow or ice storm the streetcars would be able to negotiate the hill north of Davenport better than the autos or buses can (providing that the autos and buses are not on the tracks). The drawbacks for this operation may be “car stop” locations on St. Clair and/or on Vaughan, loading and unloading areas at St. Clair West Stn, the S to E turnback into Bathurst Stn may be a little tight for in service cars. Maybe, they don’t have enough streetcars anyways, but I thought it would be nice to see the cars on that part of Bathurst again!

    Steve: The TTC looked at this some years ago, and the basic problem is that people who are coming down on the Bathurst Bus want to get to the Bloor subway. Forcing them to transfer at St. Clair West for a 2 km streetcar ride would be counter-productive. Similarly, people coming along on the St. Clair car are generally bound for the subway and points south and east of Bloor and Bathurst. The travel patterns don’t fit into reactivation of this chunk of Bathurst as a regular streetcar service.


  16. I rode the Bathurst Car to work today and I was impressed to see that someone from the TTC was posting photocopied service announcements on the notice hooks inside the car. That’s a good start. Now if they could get everyone involved in the process… It’s too bad that no announcements were made on the car, or that some cars were still signed for Exhibition loop


  17. Do the 511 cars have a 511 Union Station sign? The TTC’s website refers to this service.

    Steve: Yes


  18. On the subject of posting diversion info: web site notices are great, but easily forgotten if it isn’t your usual route. The TTC also needs to inform more people as they’re travelling on the system.

    I got off the subway at Dundas today thinking I’d catch the streetcar. As soon as I got to street level, I remembered the Dundas diversion, but by then it was too late. Either of two things would saved me a walk:

    I’d been reading the news on the platform video screen as I waited for a subway, and might have noticed a bulletin delivered in the bottom line that’s reserved for TTC use.

    I don’t know how easy it is to update those new automated stop announcements, but if I’d heard “College station is next. Due to construction, exit here for Dundas streetcars”, that would have clued me in.


  19. Matt,

    The only problem with your idea is that the announcement would remain long after streetcars returned to Dundas!

    An announcement by the driver would probably work better. Today, the driver on my eastbound BD train to Kennedy did a very good job describing the revised bus connections at Main and Warden.


  20. Today, Friday 13th April, the TTC were busy repairing the Fleet Street track – well they were all huddled in their trucks but work had been done, in several locations. This work was all just to the west of Bathurst so I suspect that this section of Fleet will be replaced in 2008 when they have scheduled replacement of the short stretch of Bathurst from the bridge to Fleet. I assume the new ROW section to be done in 2007 will start west of these repairs and this work remains scheduled for May but …


  21. Fleet St. update: The tracks on Fleet St. are indeed receiving ’emergency repairs’. Starting from the Bathurst stop and working westward, there are many new cement patches where repairs have been completed. They are currently working around the Fleet loop with two excavations about 2 feet long between the tracks. It appears as though they are shimming up sunken tracks and welding separated joints. There are several spots that are marked out and it appears as if they may remove the special work at the Fleet loop. From the current progress it appears as though street car service may be returned as originally predicted.

    In the opinion of one Bathurst operator, comments from passengers are going five to one in favour of retaining the Bathurst service to Union station. From one observation today at 9:15 am, most people travelling down Bathurst were gone by King St, but there was heavy pickup from the new appartments between Bathurst and Spadina so most of the seats were filled going into Union.


  22. To Centre Island, via the 511 Bathurst streetcar (diverted to Union)

    Between April 2007 and March 2008, when the 511 Bathurst streetcar was diverted to Union subway station via Queens Quay (and pulled into the Queens Quay Ferry Docks underground stop), I used this streetcar to get to Harbourfront Centre. It provided some extra service on Queens Quay West. I wouldn’t be too surprised if people heading to the docks, to take the ferry to Centre Island, took this (diverted 511 Bathurst) streetcar when they went down to the Queens Quay. It (the streetcar) made stops at the Queens Quay Ferry Docks underground stop en route to Union. Then they’d (visitors to Centre Island) be and taking it again after they stepped off the ferry when back on the main land.



    It (now) takes two – that is the number of streetcars both ways – to and from Harbourfront Centre , located along Queens Quay West, on Toronto’s central waterfront. The “509 Harbourfront” streetcar will continue to run on the tracks on Queens Quay West and Fleet Street until the last weekend of this month. Sunday, July 29 will be the last day before they (the streetcars) are replaced with shuttle buses.

    Steve: Actually, Saturday, July 28. The new schedules go into effect on Sunday.

    As long as the “509 Harbourfront” streetcar is still running (before it gets replaced with buses), I shall continue to ride it, as a “connecting” streetcar to and from the “511 Bathurst”, to get to the central waterfront – to the Harbourfront Centre and/or the Island Ferry Docks.

    Also, it takes two of them (streetcars) for me to get to and (home) from the Harbourfront Centre and the Island Ferry Docks, because the “509 Harbourfront” is the only streetcar (route) running on the Queens Quay tracks these days. It connects with the “511 Bathurst” streetcar between the Bathurst and Fleet Streets intersection, where Queens Quay ends, and the Exhibition Loop.

    This (the eventual replacement of streetcars with buses on the “509 Harbourfront” route) brings back memories of 2007 and 2008 (with a break for the summer tourist season) when buses ran on this route so that TTC track work on Fleet Street could be carried out. At that time, the “511 Bathurst” streetcar was diverted to the Union subway station, via Queens Quay West.


  24. Buses on the “509 Harbourfront” route will bring back memories of Fleet Street track construction.

    As of this Sunday, July 29, all streetcars on the “509 Harbourfront” route – including the PCC – will be replaced with buses. This is so construction on Queens Quay could begin.

    The TTC track work on Queens Quay is in rough shape and is in urgent need of repair, and the concrete which the tracks are embedded in is breaking up in most places. In order to go ahead id get this work done, the TTC removes streetcars from its “509 Harbourfront” route and replace them with buses, which manoevre better in and around construction. Like the streetcars before them, the buses will run between Union (subway) station and the Exhibition loop, via Queens Quay West and Fleet Street.

    This – the temporary return of buses to the “509 Harbourfront” route – will bring back some memories of 2007 and 2008, when TTC track work on Fleet Street was being done (with a break in summer 2007 for the peak tourist season). Buses ran on that (“509 Harbourfront”) route between the Queens Quay & Spadina loop and the Exhibition grounds. AT the same time, the 511 Bathurst streetcar was diverted to “Union” subway station via Queens Quay West, between Bathurst Street in the west and Bay Street in the east. Back then, the TTC took streetcars off the “509 Harbourfront” route (and replaced them with buses) and replaced the “509” and “Exhibition”, and changed it to “511”, but left the “Union Station” intact. Thus, the temporary signage read “511 UNION STATION”, when the streetcar was destined to head south from the Bathurst subway station). Do you remember this?

    Steve: Actually, the destination sign “511 Union Station” has existed for a long time and it is used whenever the Bathurst car is diverted away from the CNE to Union.


  25. In 2007, when the 511 Bathurst streetcar was diverted to Union station via Queens Quay West, it was likely that many people used this streetcar to get to Harbourfront Centre (and also the Island Ferry Docks) and back to the Bathurst subway station just north of Bloor Street.


  26. The track work on Queens Quay shall be completed, and streetcars return to the “509 Harbourfront” route, just in time for next year’s busy tourist season.

    In the mean time, although I miss the streetcars, I’ve gotten accustomed to taking the “509 Harbourfront” shuttle buses running along Queens Quay West, when going down to Harbourfront Centre while work on this route is being done; these buses move quickly and and run frequently – and navigate more easily around construction zones.

    When streetcars finally return to the “509 Harbourfront” route, which is in late spring of next year in time for the tourist season, I’d be getting accustomed to them (like I did with the ‘shuttle’ buses), and taking them again when heading down to the central waterfront as part of the journey there.


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