What Can We Do About the Queen Car?

The Rocket Riders will devote their December 4 meeting (Metro Hall, 6:30 pm) to a discussion of the Queen Car, its many problems and ways to fix them.  In support of this, I will start publishing analyses of that route’s operation here based on the CIS data from December 2006.

Yes, I have let that whole project slip out of sight in past months for a variety of reasons.  Mea culpa.

Here is an overview of my past writing on this issue:

Route Structure

The amalgamation of the Queen and Long Branch services was a disaster from the day it started, but the TTC has never acknowledged this problem or studied alternatives, publicly, in detail.  One extremely long line is impossible to manage.  The schedule includes a huge amount of padding for “recovery time” that is actually counterproductive because operators can basically run on any time they please and still have time for a lengthy break at the end of the line.

Service on the Long Branch section is very spotty with very long gaps quite common.

Service on Kingston Road is compromised by the difficulty of integrating the 502 and 503 services and by the very wide off-peak scheduled headway.

My proposed route structure is not definitive, and I am sure others will come up with various schemes.  The underlying theme is to shorten routes and to provide overlaps so that short-turns will not totally devestate service.

  • Queen car from Humber to Neville
  • Lake Shore car from Brown’s Line to downtown via King (Monday to Friday until early evening)
  • Lake Shore car from Brown’s Line to Dundas West Station (M-F evening, weekends and holidays)
  • Kingston Road car from Victoria Park to a single downtown destination

Peak Period Operations

A major problem exists on both King and Queen with the morning peak where many cars enter service off-schedule.  This plays havoc with service at the ends of the lines due to short turns and causes ragged headways at a time when there is no traffic congestion to blame for this situation.

The peak period Lake Shore trippers to downtown do not operate at predictable times even there is no possible way that “traffic congestion” can interfere with on-time operation.

Vehicle Allocation

[Note:  An ALRV is the 75-foot long two-section streetcars commonly seen on King, Queen and Bathurst.  A CLRV is the 50-foot long car seen on the system overall.]

The 501 operates with ALRVs on wide headways while the 504 runs with CLRVs on close headways.  The TTC should reverse this arrangement so that ALRVs are used on King where their greater capacity is badly needed.

Equally important will be that we actually see ALRVs where they are scheduled.  The number of times in the past year when I have seen CLRVs operating ALRV runs on Queen, overcrowded because they are carrying an ALRV headways, is quite ridiculous.  In my review of the King car, I found that the peak period extra ALRVs that are supposed to build capacity inbound through Parkdale in the morning are more often operated with CLRVs.

The TTC seems to be utterly incapable of assigning larger vehicles where they are required.

Service Levels

On Queen, the change to CLRVs on closer headways would improve the frequency of service even with the inevitable short-turns.

On Lake Shore, the change to CLRVs will improve scheduled headways, and integration to a single downtown destination will avoid the problems inherent with a few rogue trippers.  Combined with a shorter, easier-to-manage  route, this should make service in southern Etobicoke much more attractive.

On Kingston Road, consolidation of the 502 and 503 would provide one common, frequent service during the peak period that would have some hope of reliability outbound from a single downtown location.

On King, the change to ALRVs would provide additional capacity provided that current headways are maintained.


The Ridership Growth Strategy seeks to improve service quality, but little attention has been paid to the streetcar network on the grounds that the fleet is fully committed already.  This is certainly not true during off-peak periods, and the TTC needs to account for the large number of spare cars during the peak.

Proposals for transit priority must focus on “micro” changes to individual intersections and neighbourhoods with parking restrictions and signal improvements.  The “macro” scheme for reserved lanes through the business district does not address major sources of congestion, and diverts attention and effort from overall improvements to route operations.

There is no question that improving service level and quality on these major crosstown routes will cost more.  There should be a huge incentive for the TTC to improve line management.  Sadly, they will more likely trot out their usual complaints about congestion as the source of all troubles.  The cheapest service improvement comes from managing what we have properly.