Around the Lakes

Robert Wightman is freshly returned from sailing around the southern lakes, and sends this report from his travels.  It includes a tourist’s eye view of Toronto.


I am back in Toronto after 58 days of travel around Lakes Huron, Erie, Ontario and the Trent Canal system so I feel like an expert on the Swan Boat debate but first some observations.

Cleveland, the Mistake by the Lake.

If you want an idea of what NOT to do with the water front visit Cleveland.  I stayed at two marinas which would be location wise like staying the the foot of Bathurst St and at Ashbridge’s Bay.  It was impossible to get by foot to any part of the city as you had to cross the Norfolk Southern main line (NS has the ugliest locomotives) and a 6 lane ground level expressway.  It is a $10.00 cab ride to the Rock and Roll Hall of fame which is on the waterfront, lake and river mouth.  There is the lake front LRT line which runs 30 min base and 20 min rush as an extension of the Shaker Heights LRT line and carried 8 people when I rode it.

Shaker runs 75 foot articulateds every 30 min base and 10 rush on each of the Van Aiken and Green Rd branches for a 15 min combined base service and 5 rush.  The “heavy rapid” line runs 15 base and 5 rush with two car trains of 74 foot, three door cars and there are still a couple of stations where you [pay] on the car.  This gives a combined headway of 2.5 minutes between the downtown terminal and East 55th street.   The services are combined under one operator they share one car house.  Both the Shaker cars and the rapid cars have the same number of seats and run in two car trains on the same headway it would be difficult to say which is LRT and which is HRT.  The system works but it is a minimal player in the transportation system.

Erie PA

The Erie Marina is at the foot of their main north/south street.  They run a free shuttle service every 20 minutes that will take you to just about anywhere that you would want to go in the downtown and yes there are actually places in downtown Erie where you would want to go.  Their bus fare is $1.00 with a 2 hour transfer for another dime.  This system is convenient but is probably not a major part of the commuting scene.

Hamilton ON

We stayed at the Hamilton West Marina at the foot of James St.  There was a free shuttle, 20 minutes that went from the waterfront to Gage park.  The Hamilton fare was $2.25 with a transfer that was good for 90 minutes from the time that the bus got to the end of its run.  The service is not as good as it was when the trolley buses ran but the transfers were well timed and convenient with service every 20 min or better.  The location of there garage out by Mt. Hope seems to put a lot of dead head miles and time for operators and buses running in and out of service.

Toronto ON from a tourist point of view

We stayed at the Toronto Island Marina, a true bargain, next to the Centre Island Docks.  This is the “Swan Boat” part of my travels.  Service was Scheduled every half hour but extras brought it down to every 15 minutes.  The loading and unloading was pitifully slow through the end ramps but people seemed to accept it as part of the charm.  Actually more time was spent loading and unloading than moving.  The Service on Queen’s Quay was much better than in Cleveland.  The operators and the locals were quite helpful and giving out directions.  Many people seemed surprised that they did not need to pay another fare to get on a bus or the subway.  They also seemed to like the street cars as a transportation mode compared to the buses.

Other Toronto observations:

There seem to be a number of people who have adapted to the new Dundas car routing and rode it directly to St. Mike’s or between other off line locations.

Bathurst desperately needs another Short Turn besides NB at Queen. On the day I rode it, control was turning every other car or better back to the Ex at Queen despite the protest of the operator that he had standing passengers and that he would still be late leaving the Ex.  They short turned three of the next 5 cars to get back on schedule rather than to carry passengers.  I think that King could benefit from a loop that ran East on Adelaide for one block then south to King even when they get Fleet loop back. Except when there is something on at the EX most of the passengers ride North From King and not South from Queen.  I also noted that the car going through the EX WB under the Gardiner were using the South Track and not the North track. Is this another example of excess wear or were they just too lazy to re set the switch?

It’s amazing how Transit Control seems to prefer having vehicles on time regardless of the impact on passengers.  This has been going on for years, and nobody at the TTC seems willing to do anything about it.

As for fares, the idea of a time-based fare is showing up more and more in this part of the world.  The TTC needs to move to this scheme as a prelude to all-door loading of low-floor vehicles.  I will return to this topic in a separate post.

“Mr. D.” sent a comment:

Hi Steve and Robert:-

Nice to see how we fare in comparison to other burgs around the lakes.  No doubt we do do many things well enough to appear right! Now if the fine tuning could …

Your witnessing of the unconsionable acts at Wolseley Loop are interesting too.  A carload of people, tired and now extremely frustrated should not have been dealt with in this manner.  This goes to the thread earlier this month about the Operator’s woes and what they are getting paid for.  Danger pay in this case!!!  Who in their right mind would want to do that face to face with a standing load of long suffering passengers?  Control is faceless so it’s easy to issue the order to offload.  But even when the Operator accurately informs those that be above it all and still gets over-ruled, well my, my, my.

Many suburbanites ( it would be interesting to know the percentage) who ride the Bathurst cars to and from the Ex are only on the streetcars at Ex time.  They know it’s a busy time for the TTC, but if this is their treatment, why bother with it next year, or when they go to soccer, or a trade show or … .  I’m sure that they’ll be convinced that ‘Transit City’ should not be supported either.  Why waste tax money on something that is unreliable and inconvenient.  Some PR eh?

I’d be interested to know how full the other cars were, what day it was and at what time of day these short turns at Queen took place. Still, this would not change the silliness, but it might make it appear a lot more unreasonable.

This short turning at Wolseley reminded me of having to let six cars being short turned pass me by at Coxwell and Gerrard, before I could get on one full one to Main Street a couple of months ago.  At the fifth I asked the Operator to ask Control what was going on. He said that it was service adjustment.  Surely to goodness, one of those six cars, maybe even the third, could have supplied a Service? to the eastern extremity of the Carlton Line?

Mr. D.

3 thoughts on “Around the Lakes

  1. With the South Asian Festival last weekend, the Carlton cars were horrifically out of sync. Westbound diverting south on Coxwell and then back up on Parliament – the driver had to use their ‘spoon’ to manually change the track junction at Queen/Parliament, drive through it and then switch it back. Everyone lost 2-3 minutes to do this (similar to when the Taste of Little Italy requires northbound Bathurst to eastbound College diversions). It’d be nice if they re-built a piece of non-rev line between Broadview and Coxwell (on Carlaw maybe?)

    I rode streetcars all over Europe (primarily Germany and Austria). There was the odd diversion, but I don’t ever remember being short turned in 3 years (and these cities have the same mixed traffic on their lines as Toronto). Then again, I never read Vienna’s, Mannheim’s or Munich’s equivalent of Steve though 😉

    Steve: I think that the time has come for Toronto to embrace the idea of a transit mall. When we close a street for a festival, the transit vehicles should continue running (it’s not as if service on a weekend is exactly frequent), and it should be clear that the middle two lane are not to be blocked by stalls, displays, stages, etc, etc. This would probably bring screams from the organizers of such festivals, but it would actually make them accessible by transit.

    A radical notion, I know, and I can hear all the usual excuses about “safety” ringing in my ears already.

    One other point you touch on is the way that the TTC handles switching for such diversions. The operator of the car should not have to get out, set the switch and then reset it losing several minutes in the process. Permanent diversions such as this year’s Dundas track work have pointmen at manual switches, and festival diversions, if they must persist, should have them too. More electric switches would be nice, but until the TTC can actually get electronics that work installed at its existing switches, expansion to others is not worth the bother.


  2. Just a little addition to add to these faceless “control” person tales.

    About 25 years ago, I was going to visit my girlfriend (soon to be my wife). I took the Dufferin bus from Rogers Road to Wilson. North of Eglinton, we were hit on the side by a car coming off the side street. Understandably, the bus was taken out of commission because it had major damage on it.

    The driver had flagged down the next two buses that “control” had authorized. We had a full bus originally. So, the next two buses also filled up rather rapidly. Well, I was on the second bus. WE DIDN’T EVEN MAKE IT TO LAWRENCE AVENUE!! “Control” took the bus out of service at Playfair under the driver’s repeated protestations.

    So, as you can see, things haven’t changed much in 25 years.


  3. Perhaps the TTC can take a lesson from YRT…

    Last Monday my daughter and I were heading to her soccer game and often it is easier for us to take the Bayview bus down to Highway 7 where we meet my wife coming from the west to head east to the game. The bus we boarded was running about 5 minutes late and the bus behind it caught up to it one stop south of Major Mac and leap-frogged past it. At the following stop, our bus remained in the traffic lane and stopped so the driver could talk to the other driver.

    In their discussion, the driver of the other bus suggested that our driver not stop to pick up passengers in order to make up some time. Shortly after this, control radioed our bus to ask its position and they made the same suggestion.

    Naturally, despite our driver attempting to give hand signals about the following bus, people waiting at a stop looked anywhere from confused to dismayed. At least it adjusts service while still PROVIDING service.

    Of course, according to TTC policy that I mentioned a few months back about full vehicles stopping instead of skipping, the driver would have to stop and tell the people he could not take them on!


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