Analysis of 501 Queen: Part I – Introduction & Christmas Day 2006

The Queen streetcar is the subject of much discussion here, and I have been remiss in failing to post an analysis of the CIS (Communications & Information System) data for this route to substantiate many of my (and everyone else’s) observations.  Over the next few weeks, in preparation for a Rocket Riders’ meeting in early December, I will post a series of articles looking at the line’s operation in detail.

For those who are unfamiliar with the sort of analyses that will appear here, please read all of the articles about the King route filed under Service Analysis on this site.  As I write this, there are nine of them (with one more to come), and you should read them in order.  They include some of the background on how the CIS system works and the various ways I have sliced and diced that data.  I will not repeat this information here in the interest of brevity.

By way of introduction to the data, this post deals with Christmas Day, 2006.  This is important for a few basic reasons:

  • Operating conditions on Christmas were as close to ideal as one could ask for.
  • There was no traffic congestion.
  • There was no inclement weather.
  • Passenger loads were modest.

Collectively, this means that the observed behaviour of the line shows what happens when most of the sources of random delay are eliminated. Continue reading

Thirty-Five Years

November 2007 marks the thirty-fifth anniversary of the TTC’s decision to retain streetcar operations in Toronto.  Godfrey Mallion wrote me recently asking if I would reflect on the events of past decades prompting this post.

When the Streetcars for Toronto Committee formed in 1972, our goal was to fight the proposed removal of streetcars from the St. Clair route which, at the time, ran from Keele Loop to Mt. Pleasant & Eglinton.  The TTC had surplus trolley buses from the Yonge 97 route (Eglinton Station to Glen Echo) that was replaced when the subway opened to York Mills Station, and these buses were to operate on St. Clair.  The fact that the TTC didn’t have anywhere near enough trolley buses to replace the streetcars, and a substantial service cut was required to make this work, undermined the proposal from the beginning.

The TTC’s long-range plans foresaw removal of all streetcars by 1980 when the Queen Subway would open.  Pause here for laughter because it was clear, even then, that a Queen line was not going to be built any time soon, if ever.  However, the streetcar fleet was wearing out, and St. Clair’s conversion was to be the beginning of the end.

A few years earlier, the TTC had worked with Hawker-Siddeley (whose Thunder Bay plant is now owned by Bombardier) on the development of a new streetcar for Toronto.  Its cost was quite reasonable for its day, and one big advantage was that it evolved from the existing PCC, a car long-proven on Toronto’s streets.  It did not have to be re-invented.  Work on this car stopped cold when Queen’s Park got into the high tech transit business with Maglev trains and GO Urban.

Toronto’s decision to retain its streetcars came at the beginning of a light rail renaissance in North America, although the real leadership came from cities like Edmonton, San Diego and Calgary.

Over the years, Streetcars for Toronto, and later I as an individual advocate, were involved in many issues:

  • Implementation of trolleybuses on Bay Street as a hoped-for first step in renewal and expansion of the network.
  • Advocacy for LRT technology to build a network of suburban lines at a time when much of the suburbs did not yet exist.
  • A detailed review of operational practices on downtown streetcar lines to address service quality.
  • Advocacy for increased transit funding, not just as capital megaprojects (usually subways), but for day-to-day operations.
  • Advocacy for what became the Harbourfront and Spadina streetcar lines.  This started in the 70s, but only bore fruit two decades later.
  • Advocacy for improved service quality as a TTC goal leading to the Ridership Growth Strategy.
  • Renewed advocacy for LRT leading to the Transit City plan.

Continue reading