Harbourfront News (Updated)

Updated May 18:

Service to Exhibition Loop resumed today with normal operations on the Bathurst and Harbourfront cars to Exhibition Loop.

Updated May 15:

For those who were wondering why the TTC is fixing the track on Fleet Street when it is supposed to be replaced later this month, here is the answer:  our friends at Toronto Hydro can’t handle two projects at the same time, and since they’re busy on St. Clair, Fleet will have to wait.  Come back in the fall.

Streetcar service should return to Fleet Street once the patchwork on the track is completed.  The schedule for May-June still shows the cars running to Exhibition, and so the TTC should be able to restore service once there is track to run on.

More news when it’s available. 

The original post follows below.

I spoke with Jim Teeple of the TTC this evening about the Harbourfront line and found out what is going on there.

First off, contrary to some reports, the problem is not in the tunnel, and it is at Rees Street as previously reported.

There is a problem with the track sinking for reasons they don’t yet understand, and the effect is that the track brake drags on the concrete (that’s why they want to grind some of it off).  If the track brakes get badly hung up, this could cause a derailment.

The delay in activity is caused by the fact that the TTC wants to dig to see what is happening under the trackbed, but cannot do this until the utility companies come and mark where their services are.  Apparently they are taking their time about it.

Dare I ask what whizbang designer had the idea of putting utilities under the tracks in the first place?  The usual scheme is to put them in the curb lanes where they can be repaired or modified without disturbing the transit service.

11 thoughts on “Harbourfront News (Updated)

  1. Hi, Steve!
    The Rees Street, Queen’s Quay land was all reclaimed in the 1920’s. A recent pipe break at Rees Street and Lakeshore Boulevard West revealed that the sandy soil is prone to washing away. The streetcar braking problem may relate to that “washing away” soil.


  2. What utilities are taking their time? I have used “Ontario One-Call” a few times and they are fast at coming out to mark services (24-48 hours), but they tell you when you call what they mark and what you have to go directly to a utility provider for.

    Steve: That was a direct quote from the person at the TTC in charge of track construction.


  3. It is interesting to note that for at least the past 6 months (probably longer), streetcars travelling over the that section of the track have often slowed down significantly. I have often wondered why (and why the track dipped so much)–I guess we know why now. But this does illustrate that people have seen the symptoms of the problem for quite a while, well before track closure. Makes me wonder how long the TTC has actually been waiting for the utility companies to get off their collective behinds.


  4. Are those utility companies run by the city, like Toronto hydro? If so then a TTC representative (AKA the city) should talk to a Toronto Hydro representative (AKA the city). Just the thought of one grown man moving from chair to chair on opposite sides of a table arguing with himself should be enough to get Toronto hydro, or whoever it is, to smarten up and do their job.


  5. Steve,

    There are buried utilities everywhere – water, sewer, storm sewer, cable, phone, private data networks, gas, electricity, etc., etc. There also all different sizes – big water/sewer/high voltage lines are meters in diameter, and somelines there just a thin buried cable (e.g. rogers). It’s a bit of a shock when you see them all marked out to see just how many things are underground.

    Most of the utilities would (I hope) be running vaguely perendicular to the tracks, but I gather it can get a bit competitive for space in places, especially when you have to go around underground structures like parking garages and manholes (for the aforementioned buried utilities).


  6. I’ve had two bad service experiences along Queen’s Quay recently.

    Last weekend, during the closure, I was waiting at Spadina for an eastbound 509 bus. After 25 minutes one arrived 99% full. Two people managed to squeeze on and about 20 were left behind. I gave up and took a 510 north to find another way.
    What really got me was a man from Buffalo who was there with his two kids. They were hopelessly lost in TTC short-turn hell and had no idea what their alternatives were to get back to their hotel. I tried to help them out, but we were going different ways. Anyone, even someone from Toronto who doesn’t use the TTC often, would have a very bad impression from that.

    Last night I went to visit a friend who lives on Queen’s Quay. I arrived at the Union terminal and after what seemed like a long wait I looked at my watch and it said 7:40. At 7:50, the waiting area was starting to fill up quite a bit. At 8:00, there was still no streetcar and people were starting to leave to walk or find another way. Finally at 8:07 a 510 showed up. That was at least a 30 minute wait. A lot of people were left behind at stops along Queen’s Quay as far as I rode.

    I don’t understand how service could be that badly bungled at a spot with two routes going in, one of which is 100% ROW. What is going on down there?


  7. Hi Steve:-

    One thing that this points out is a major policy shift in how to treat a track problem. Somewhere in the TTC’s thinking, streetcar track has been equated to high speed intercity railways, whereby a small problem creates a slow order rather than a temporary ‘safe enough’ repair.

    In the past, a rail subsidence of this nature would have been dug up ASAP, even if found after hours and the night crew had to go in and do it, even at the expense of complaints due to noise in the wee hours. The rail would have been shimmed, braced, re-tiebarred, whatever was necessary to get the cars running agian. Then a temporary paving patch would be put around the excavation.

    I can hear the cries of, you couldn’t do that it won’t be safe and the MOTORISTS will be up in arms with the potholes. Well if you noted (I know you did Steve) one of my earlier comments discussed piece of railing the northern portion of the Yonge carline. Well this would have been as I described above, but probably for a broken rail versus sinking, by shimming, tiebarring, in a relay piece of rail, and then repaving, probably with paving stones. This line carried a two car train of very heavy cars at about two minute intervals, and continued to operate safely while being a patch job from Eglinton to Glen Echo.


  8. Hi Steve:-

    If my memory serves correctly, when the track was built along Queen’s Quay there were no utilities under the track per say. Down the devil strip, and a few feet under it, indeed under the track’s foundation, is a conduit with I’m not sure what in it. I thought it was mostly just the reinforcing grounds for the carline, but there well could be more in it. Immediately under the rail though, there was nothing but concrete between the rail/fasteners and the foundation.

    The foundation is seldom more than 3 inches under the rail base along the length of QQ between Spadina and the portal ramp, which at times had proved problematical to the poor Foreman responsible for installing the anchor bolts. All of these bolts were installed by drilling about three or more inches into the foundation and then epoxying the anchor bolts in the drilled hole.

    So with that knowledge, I would be really surprised if they found anything other than streetcar ground cable on top of the foundation.


  9. Steve,

    The large positive 600 Volt D.C. traction power cables run in a shallow duct bank between the 2 tracks. At regular intervals a power feed is tapped off and a smaller cable runs under the track, across the street and up the poles to connect to the overhead contact wire. Substation remote control communications cables share the same duct bank.

    The track repair people are following their safety protocols. A dangerous condition can arise should the workers excavate without obtaining a utility mark-up.



  10. Part of the difference in repair policies may have come about because of the difference in roadbed construction. Originally the tracks were attached to wooden ties then paved with granite setts in a sand base. This design can still be seen on Robina (Oakwood loop) today. Repairs were a minor job and noise was not a problem, but the roadway was rough for cars.
    In order to make the road better for cars, they first tried replacing the “cobblestones” with Asphalt then cement. The cement made the roadbed noisy but was arguably easier for cars. It also made it more complex to perform track repair, since a repair could take days rather than hours.


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