Travels in The Beach

The following is a combination of two comments sent in recently by Renee Knight, and I’m putting them in their own thread.

The 501 Queen Car in the Beach is doing a terribly pathetic job of serving this neighbourhood. Even in the midst of summer and with tourists flocking to the neighbourhood, there seems to be no consideration to the people that live here and need to get out of the beach for work, doctors, medical appointments…

In the last 5 years the state of service on the streetcar has become so abysmal that people buy houses in the Beach thinking they can take the Streetcar to their offices downtown, and to often end up either driving to work or selling their homes and moving downtown where they can walk to work.

Today alone, I waited 20 minutes for a streetcar that’s supposed to go every 6 minutes, and then got turfed off at Connaught, and then again at McCaul, just to go to Trinity and Strachan from Queen and Wineva, and this at 10:00 a.m. on a Thursday. We’re not talking rush hour, no traffic problems, it’s a great sunny day.

The problem is that the people who decide on the short turns the drivers make aren’t anywhere near the route, and could care less if the schedule is being met, as in picking up passengers along the route. The focus is on the downtown core. TTC doesn’t get it that we also need to get downtown from the beach and back home again. Three streetcars and an hour an a half for a 40 minute trip is really pathetic, and it does not have to be this way.

I don’t believe that traffic congestion is the problem. I believe the problem is a negligent management so out of touch with its ridership that they just don’t care. And as far as that goes, this creates staff that doesn’t care either, if they can’t meet schedules, and are constantly being yelled at; after a while you give up and stop listening. That’s what we are finding on our route. Drivers have given up, their supervisors are not listening to them or us. What are we to do? It’s only going to get worse if no-one is looking at solutions!

For many years, the streetcar was very enjoyable to take, not so anymore!

I have called in to customer service, written letters that go unanswered… What can we do in the Beach to improve the service? Petition?

Any suggestions, Steve?

[2nd part]

Yes, this used to be the TTC’s motto before, The Better Way. What happened to the better way? It’s not better anymore.

I’ve taken the transit in this city for over 20 years, and the surface routes are painfully deteriorting in service. Particularly the Queen Car (501 – Neville Park – serving the Beach) I have never been more disappointed at the level of service on this route. My 64 Main bus does not disappoint, but anytime I have to take the Queen car, I am concerned, as 9/10 times, I will not get a streetcar for at least 20 minutes, often 30 or more minutes.

We always give ourselves around 15 minutes leeway to get to our desinations, assuming we should not have to wait to long for a streetcar that is scheduled to come to the stop (Queen & Wineva) every 6 minutes, so it isn’t a matter of people leaving late and blaming transit. It’s a matter of transit short turning 1/2 of the streetcars that are scheduled to come into the Beach, and that’s before any problems start on the line.

It’s just not an acceptable level of service.

I long for the days when I could see a car that wasn’t headed to Neville in a 20-30 minute wait, and trusting I’d see a car come my way before the one that just went down to Neville.

It used to take 30 minutes to get to Yonge & Queen from Wineva, now it takes an hour, trip time is still the same, what’s changed is the wait time. Very rarely are the traffic issues so bad that the neglect of not serving the Beach at least reasonably close to the schedule is actually neccesary.

What happens now, is that car returning from Neville Park will have one or two cars within minutes behind it, leaving terrible gaps in service that no-one seems to care about. The “we’re sorry for your inconvencience” from a Customer Service staffer just does nothing to remove the problem! In fact it’s like a slap in the face for bothering to call in!

The schedule, as we say in the Beach is “Published Fiction”. It’s a joke, and should be an embarrasment to the TTC, and those who supervise the line. I do not blame the drivers, they simply follow directions of their superiors, no matter how daft.

Steve:  I really am getting tired of the TTC’s lame excuses that all their problems would go away if there were no traffic congestion.  First off, the congestion is not anywhere near as bad all of the time on all of the routes as the TTC claims.  Second, there are ongoing problems with mismanagement of the service as described in Renee’s comments above.

For decades, the TTC has forgotten that many of the people who actually use the routes downtown live on the outer part of the line.  Screw up the service there and you drive away ridership.

19 thoughts on “Travels in The Beach

  1. The route supervision on surface routes in general, especially 501 Queen, needs improvement. Even downtown, I have been able to walk west from Yonge to University while no westbound streetcars passed by. The route supervisors need to make sure that cars actually depart at regular intervals, which is clearly not happening (as you said in one of your earlier posts), and short turns need to be strictly limited. Schedule-based timing should be eliminated on all major routes, replaced with headway-based timing, except late at night, since scheduling does not work on busy routes. It is possible that the merger of 501 and 507 is causing some of these problems, but I’m sure that the service could be improved a lot without restoring the 507.


  2. I too have observed this problem with the City’s streetcar services in particular. Queen may be the worst offender, but Spadina and Bathurst, which both have enough TOTAL service, have the same problem.

    On days where there is no visible traffic impediment, even in the evening rush hour, headed north the subway, you end up with no streetcar for 15+ minutes, then all of a sudden there are 3! Now, I understand how a car accident or some other challenge could cause this once each month, maybe. But that does not explain how it happens almost daily.

    Clearly, operators, on their own, or with the help of route supervisors are simply ignoring the schedules.

    Bathurst is a short route. With no accidents, no visible congestion, in rush hour, how do you get 3 streetcars back-to-back-to-back northbound at King? For some reason the buses and subways are almost never this far off schedule.

    Our illustrious TTC Chair should take this up as a priority fix-it job.

    Steve: Alas, one thing Our Illustrious Chair also needs to learn is some skepticism for long-held excuses from staff about the source of ragged service.


  3. The suburbs fare no better. I was once waiting for a bus at Sheppard and Consumers to go the admittedly short distance east to Victoria Park. This was in the days as the construction of the Sheppard line was winding down, so traffic along Sheppard was chaotic. Nevertheless, I saw NO buses going either west or east. Finally a bus approached from the Consumers industrial area and turned onto Sheppard. I thought it was a 24A VICTORIA PARK, as that is where they turn to go back to Victoria Park and down to Danforth. Nope, it was an 85S SHEPPARD EAST Short Turn. Curious, I asked the driver how far he was going. He said with some resignation “Victoria Park”. WHAT?? Yes, I heard right. He was told to make the clockwise looping around the area for the next hour!!!! Both he and I were flabberghasted! What. sense. did. that. make?


  4. Hi Renee:-

    I wondered if you’d take a look at this site after our chat last Thursday a.m. You’re quoted phrase “published Fiction”, brought a big smile to my face and a hearty laugh, which I then had to explain to those in the household. (By the way I finished reading the other work of fiction that I had in hand that day we met)

    I thought of you today and our discussion of the fiction of the TTC’s posted schedule stating 5 1/2 minute service after a 10 minute wait at that same carstop at Wineva & Queen for a WB car. The wait was abandoned in favour of a 10 minute walk, 5 carstops west. I passed EB car 4203 at Lee. (it turns out there were no cars east of it) I walked past the next EB car at Bellfair, about three minutes behind 4203. I had been at work for 20 minutes before 4203 went west with a standing load, the first car to do so since my arrival at Lockwood Road. The car I’d walked by at Bellfair followed 4203 by 1 minute or less. But that’s not the best of it as the second car was about to pull up to a stop behind our fabled 4203 at The Kingston Road, a third car left Woodbine loop and inserted itself in the now 3 car bunchup.

    In his defence I witnessed that the operator of 4203 had had a difficult time of it for at Lee he had an elderly and very feeble gent get off, who easily took three light changes to alight. Too the traffic was extremely thick on the road, but ya know what? The sidewalk was jammed with people too, it being such a gorgeous day to be out and about in the TTCless Beach. The road traffic was moving far more quickly than those in the curb to storefront bidirectional sidewalk foot traffic.

    There was not another WB car past Lockwwod for 9 more minutes. This car had passed me EB when I was approaching Lockwood on my way to work. But again, this is not the best of it, for a CLRV went east, the first one to do so in about 12 to 15 minutes. It was followed by an artic that then went into Woodbine loop exiting Woodbine less than three minutes behind the previous WB. Then another artic went into Woodbine and exited within 2 minutes behind the previous one.

    At this point I lost track as I had other duties to keep me engaged but I know that the cars were seldom 5 1/2 minutes apart in the Beach today! The upthrust of it all, is that when one does watch the goings on closely, there are some things that really don’t make any sense at all in regards to dispatching and short turning streetcars on Queen East.

    By the way Steve, I really am not trying to take over your site. You’re doing a great job, but I told Renee about your site as we compared notes on the unreliability of Queen car service.

    Steve: In the midst of all of this technical rambling about headways and planning and the wonders of St. Clair Ice Cream, it’s nice to know that people are introducing friends to this site, comparing notes even. As for taking over, as long as people have something interesting to say, and don’t repeat the same arguments over and over, I will publish the comments. Happy reading!


  5. Ahh… I can say the same as well for Queens Quay today. No streetcar service, barely any shuttle buses to replace the streetcars, there was a few buses going from Union to wherever it is they go, and none going back to Union… I was watching someone wait for a streetcar (along Queens Quay, right a bit to the west of Harbourfront) as I ate my lunch, he was standing there before I got there, about 30 minutes later, I finished, he was still there and gave up and walked to Union instead. I decided to walk to Union, I never did once see a bus on my way to Union… which was weird since I thought there were suppose to be shuttle buses. Throughout the day, I saw only one bus travelling to Union, but that was when I just got downtown, and that bus was packed with literally no more space.

    Throughout the whole day downtown, I never really found out why the streetcars from Union were down and replaced with shuttle buses (the sign only said shuttle buses were at Front and Bay), unless I missed it.

    Steve: They were fixing a broken rail at Rees Street. Of course, one has to wonder how the track got so bad at that location that the line was shut down for two days to fix it, but that’s another story. We seem to be making great strides on major construction, but still are lagging on routine maintenance thanks to all of the deferred work over the years. The original Harbourfront track is scheduled to be replaced in a few years.


  6. Not on Queen Street but related to “bunching” street cars, I drove past the loop on Broadview north of Danforth last Sunday afternoon and noticed that there were so many streetcars parked in it that one streetcar was forced to park out in the middle of Broadview Avenue. How can this make sense on a Sunday afternoon?

    Steve: The cars have far too much scheduled layover time at both ends of the line for situations where there is no traffic anywhere along the line to hold them up. This is the classic “catch 22” of scheduling. Build in lots of recovery time to reduce short turns and you get terminal congestion as you saw. I live at Broadview Station and see it all the time, even in the rush hour.

    The related problem is that the cars tend to leave the station in pairs (or at least a long gap followed by a short one), possibly because the operators are having a nice chat, possibly because they know they have plenty of time to get back on schedule at the other end of the line. The result is ragged service with the wide gap getting wider as the pair of cars travels from one end of the line to the other, and clearly nobody at CIS control makes any attempt to regulate service.

    The result is that a scheduled 9 minute headway can wind up being alternating pairs of 14 and 4 by the time it reaches Parkdale outbound. Assuming an even distribution of passenger arrivals at stops, most people experience the 14 minute gap and will routinely claim, with justification, that the official schedule is a myth. That’s without any short turns at Dufferin or Roncesvalles.

    I have not yet had a chance to analyze Queen operations in detail, but expect to find wildly varying headways brought on by the same problem of excessive layovers at terminals.


  7. Hi Steve,

    Happy(that I’m not alone), yet sad to hear more of the same stories from 501 users down here in the Beach. Yes, nothing much has changed since my last comment. There are the good days, rare, and still the bad.

    I talked to a friend who works at the TTC (wishing to remain anonymous of course) who pointed out that upper management doesn’t really hear or see the big picture when it comes to 501 service. Actual headways EB out of Neville may be 33,2,14,25,1, and 6…..but when it is reported to the folks upstairs, they hear that 6 revenue vehicles cross Nev Pk Blvd, eastbound, in an 81 minute period averaging a 13-30 headway. While 13-00 service is not great, it certainly doesn’t sound nearly as bad does it?

    I also agree with you about the excessive layovers and I also think the route is just too long to manage effectively. MAIN 64 bus comes like clockwork, every 11min, WOODBINE SOUTH, same thing, every 15min without fail….COXWELL…same thing. The only time in recent memory that service on Queen was reliable was during the various trackwork projects over the last decade and some. The replacement 201 QUEEN buses running between Neville and Coxwell ran perfectly every 10 or 15 minutes. Any time of day, any road conditions and even bunched the odd time due to excessive running times which proves that even in rush hours, traffic conditions on Queen East were not a factor.

    Run some cars from Neville to Russell and back….most of us would not mind the ‘inconvenience to passengers” of transfering vehicles. Toss us off at Broadview…anywhere. Within reason, no one cares what the headways are…we only care that a vehicle will be there when it is scheduled to be. Forget the published 6 min headway, make it 12 or even 15. Just make it as reliable as possible.

    Same in the PM rush. If a ‘gap’ shuttle ran from the carhouse to Neville, no one would miind the transfer. Just ask the flock who regularly gather at KR and Queen(the stop by the way is on the wrong side of the street to catch the PM 143 buses who run local from there eb in the evenings.)


  8. Steve: They were fixing a broken rail at Rees Street. Of course, one has to wonder how the track got so bad at that location that the line was shut down for two days to fix it, but that’s another story.

    I actually live at Queen’s Quay and Rees, and there is no sign of anything: no construction, no crews, no broken track, nothing. As of Monday morning, there are still no streetcars on Queen’s Quay, making it the fourth day on which there’s been no Queen’s Quay service.

    The TTC website only mentions the Fleet Street construction, and the signs in Union Station (such as they are) give no real information except for the intersection where the buses are boarding. Luckily, I can walk to Union Station, but still…


  9. I’ve described in past comments that lack of supervision means that service east out of Long Branch loop can be irregular and late. By the time these late-running cars have reached Roncesvalles, the CIS has beeped and, sure enough, “501 KINGSTON RD & QUEEN” have been run up; kind of like the jolly roger for Beach(es) residents.

    There’s plenty of room to make up time between Roncesvalles and Long Branch. In fact, the section west of Roncesvalles should be helping keep the rest of the line on schedule–delays caused by traffic on Queen St. can be made up on the Queensway ROW and fairly fast running along Lakeshore Blvd. Trying to make up time on Queen St. is dicey, so a Neville-Humber route would have to rely more on short turns.

    Of course, the TTC is relying on a whole lot of short turns anyway. At least most LONG BRANCH cars actually make it out to Long Branch; there is probably less short-turning at the west end (given that half the cars turn at Humber anyway).


  10. A Sunday afternoon on Lakeshore (around 4:15 pm-5:30 pm):

    I had some photo time yesterday afternoon and decided to visit Lakeshore Blvd. between Royal York and the condos west of Park Lawn. One car showed wb up at Royal York, then nothing for about 15 minutes. By this time I’ve walked to Mimico Ave and THREE cars show up within about two minutes, almost in a convoy. The last one was a Kipling short turn. I walked to the condos and waited another 10+ minutes. One car showed up. 10+ minutes later another car showed up, short turning to Kipling.

    By this time I had to head home (around 5:10). I walked all the way back to Royal York and nothing came westbound (15-20 minutes). I got into my car and as I drove west on Lakeshore past Kipling there were a dozen or so people still standing there from the the short-turned car, STILL waiting for the next car to get them west of Kipling. I’d bet another three car convoy showed up about 10 minutes later. Why short turn a car at Kipling when there’s nothing behind it for at least a half hour? At least the first Kipling short turn was the third car in the group and was all but empty.

    If this is how service is being run to make up time for the east-of-Roncesvalles and west-of-Kingston Rd portion of the route, New Toronto and Long Branch residents are facing the exact same dilemma as Beach residents: erratic and unpredictable service.

    Steve: The TTC has huge problems understanding that there are riders who want to ride somewhere east of Broadview and west of Bathurst street on many lines. The effect of short-turning and other follies is that people on the outer end of the line get crappy service, if any at all.

    There is huge irony that we run an express bus to The Beach because we can’t make the Queen car run reliably, and we are planning an LRT line to Long Branch! Maybe they will short turn those cars at the CNE westbound just so that residents of the Queensway and Lake Shore don’t get spoiled by good service.


  11. Once upon a time, I remember seeing TTC supervisors on the sidewalk along routes with a notebook in their hand in which they would seem to write something every time a TTC vehicle passed. Often they would speak with the driver. One time I overheard a driver complain that a supervisor had criticized him for being 1 minute late. (The driver said he had missed a traffic light.) It seems times have changed.

    Steve: In the old days, the Inspectors, as they were called, were usually just marking down that a car had passed on their copy of the timetable. However, good Inspectors did the important job of spacing out the service to provide some semblance of regularity. Many of them also maintained a good rapport with the operators and had a good idea of how the line worked.


  12. Hi Steve:-

    Outer ends of the lines not getting good service is why, after a particularly trying time waiting in the cold for a Carlton car home to Main St. I made a ‘single truck Birney’ CLRV out of one of TTCs cardboard models. My thought was that this could be the prototype for a Queen/ Coxwell to Main St Stn Gerrard street shuttle. Of course if implemented, this service would be unable to work well since all of the laying over High Park cars at Queen would hold it up.

    Maybe a half dozen of these would be ideal to serve Bingham to Neville thus giving two poorly served routes access to the popular end of the Queen line. A half dozen extra cars inserted here might even come close to the Beach’s fabled 5 1/2 minute ‘fictional’ headway. Hmm?

    Ya’ I know we would need a new curve but dreaming is OK isn’t it?


  13. Timing points indicate that a 501 Streetcar leaving Long Branch Loop during peak hours(basically daylight on most weekdays) has between 87 and 90 minutes to reach the end of the line at Neville Park Loop. That is 27 kilometres of track that needs to be traversed in 1 hour and a half for the schedule requirements to be met.

    The streetcar must be averaging a speed of near 20 km/hr to make the schedule.

    There are no less then 93 service stops along this route. 90 minutes to service 93 stops. An average of one stop per minute along 27 km of mostly downtown traffic.

    Not surprising that streetcars are often unable to keep time.

    The TTC solves this problem with short turns, and by placing extra cars on the line. The short turned car fills the gap coming from the end of the line, while the extra cars can be directed into the loop and give service for the end stretch.

    Extra cars are rarely if ever available. There are some extra cars automatically built into the line but these are full handling the massive passenger loads found along the downtown core on Queen st.

    Basically, the traffic jams and passenger loads are so heavy that the end tips of the entire line are missing out service.
    These ‘end tips’ all had their own dedicated lines at one time(Roncessvales, Long branch), but dropping people off for connecting streetcars requires a dedicated railstation due to crowd size.

    My best suggestion is to close off a section of Queen street for a dedicated platform allowing the safe exchange of passengers from East and West travel. Split the route into East and West and provide a safe connecting grounds for passengers.


  14. This is also an issue on the suburban bus routes. While not as bad as the Queen situation, my local bus(95 York Mills) I notice bunches up almost from the start of the route, and I don’t get that.
    I know for a fact there is no traffic east of U of T Scarborough, yet even in the early morning, buses are still coming in in bunches. I really don’t understand how this happens basically right at the start of the service.

    Overall I can’t complain about TTC timetables. My bus for the most part operates like clockwork. But I do notice during rush hour this weird thing of the buses bunching basically at the start of the route, and it makes no sense.


  15. Michael Binetti is correct, the headways on the 95 route as observed at Fenside Drive are bizarre, you may have 3 buses parked at the stop or wait 15 minutes for the next bus. There is a short turn 95 York Mills bus that takes York Mills eastbound to Victoria Park, turns south and then back to the subway on Parkwoods Village drive. It is about 20 minutes to the subway from Victoria Park. Every driver parks in a bus bay for 12 minutes on Victoria Park before resuming their route. Shouldn’t they be picking up riders?


  16. As a bus scheduler you come to understand that the major problem you face while scheduling is trying to find a place for the buses to layover. It’s astonishing how many residential streets the TTC is allowed to travel on, in L.A. due to complaints we are losing turn around loops and layover locations every year. Given the frequency on 95 and the fact that there isn’t really a good place for a short turn turn around between Victoria Park and the Scarborough RT, it’s not surprising they would have a 12 minute layover on 95A. In addition, to make sure the full length bus isn’t too crowded it would be fairly common to schedule the short turn bus to leave right before the one going the full distance.

    Steve, I disagree with you about congestion on Queen St. Every time I have ever walked or driven on Queen St, with the exception of late nights and early weekend mornings, it’s been very congested. I can’t imagine driving that streetcar and stopping everyblock to pick people up, wait for a red light, or wait for someone to turn left. Due to rush hour parking restrictions it wouldn’t surprise me if the 501 was more reliable during rush hour. I would be tempted to remove a great deal of stops on that route to make sure it only stops once every 1/4 km. I would agree to cutting it in half – downtown to Neville Park and downtown to Long Branch – but the eternal question is – where to layover downtown? I don’t think we want to have them hanging out in the middle of Church or Bay St.

    But I’ve always thought it would be better if the King car went to Neville Park and Long Branch and the Queen car went to Broadview and Dundas West.

    Steve: I’m not denying that congestion exists, merely saying that the TTC uses it as a one-size-fits-all excuse for poor service when bad route design and line management both contribute their share.


  17. Queen E. streetcar service sucked badly when I lived there 3-6 years ago. You could sometimes see convoys of five or six cars, ocassionally you could have maybe as many as ten in view, counting both directions.

    One time, I tried to go to the Beach(es?) on a sunday afternoon and was short-turned. So everyone got off and onto the next car after a bit of a wait only to have that one short-turn still far away from the Beach(es?)!


  18. Hello Steve,
    Appreciate your site and being able to communicate with frustrated riders like myself.

    I have noticed counters recently on the 501 route, meaning that with the abysmal service we are getting they are considering cutting service!

    I have heard that they are counting to not only cut the “published fiction” schedule, but on a daily basis they are turning drivers back for no reason other than at certain stops part-way downtown, there are not enough people waiting at the stop, so they tell the drivers not to go through. I’m sure that they do this to both ends of the route!

    Steve: If anything, service on Queen should be improved. Do you have any further info about cuts or about instructions that drivers not run through downtown? By this do you mean 502 Downtowners that short turn at Church westbound?

    Okay, so I have to ask: How in God’s name can you post a schedule and have absolutely no intention of meeting it? Doesn’t the TTC realize everyone notices, and if people aren’t at the stop, it’s because they’ve given up for unreliability after waiting forever at the stop, took a cab or walked.

    It’s one thing if there are genuine problems on the line. This new news if true, and I suspect it is, as I’ve seen the counters myself. Surely, TTC would deny cutting back streetcars beyond necesary short turns, just as Adam Giambrone would deny getting my e-mail, that he did not respond to. Oh, by the way, Sandra Bussin did not respond either. It’s time to make politicians and chairs accountable for responding and following up to taxpayers and riders.

    We pay both taxes and fares to support the TTC. Why can’t we have decent service? It’s not as if we get discounts for living in the Beach and suffering abyssmal service on a daily basis on the 501!

    We do need to do something as a group, a petition or something, as working one individual calling and writing at a time is not getting us anywhere! The TTC simply continues to ignore what’s really going on with the 501 Streetcar.



  19. by the way, Adam has been communicating a lot better since this post and the meetings at Metro Hall and City Hall.

    It’s been over a year since the petition on the 501 was written, and Steve submitted some ideas for route changes.

    Have we moved forward at all on this route?

    Blessings, Renee (Yoga Rani)

    Steve: As you may have seen in another thread, there is supposed to be a report on the Queen car in this week’s Commission Agenda, but it’s not online yet. As usual, we will probably see it at the last moment, and be told it has to be approved “now” with no time for consultation.


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