There And Back Again: Neville to Long Branch and Return

Intrepid travellers, egged on by rosy tales in National Geographic, may find themselves attempting a round trip on the 501.  All manner of dangers lie in wait for the unwary — just to get started, you have to actually find a Queen car at Neville Loop!

As a public service, I have reviewed the Queen car data to see what might await our adventurers.  [Yes, you thought I was finished with the 501, didn’t you.  Fooled you!]

The first charts I created show the running times all the way from Neville to Long Branch.  One fact leaps off the page right away — few cars actually make this trip especially at certain times of the day.  Short turns usually intervene.  All the same, for those cars that do cross the entire route, here are the results.  Note that times refer to departures from Neville.

501 Trip Times Westbound Neville to Long Branch

  • On weekdays, the running times are clustered around 80 minutes in the early morning (plus or minus 5) rising gradually to centre on 90 at midday (plus or minus 10).
  • On weekday afternoons, the number of cars making the trip thins out drastically.  Running times stay in the 90-to-100 minute range peaking at 120 for a few cars around 1700.  These peaks only occured on three days where there was severe traffic congestion in Parkdale.
  • On weekday evenings, the times settle down by 1800 and cluster around 80 minutes through the evening.
  • On Saturdays, trip times peak at about 1400 at around 105 minutes (plus or minus 5).  As on weekdays, morning and evening times sit at about 80 minutes.
  • On Sundays, the pattern is the same as on Saturday, but the peak is lower at about 95 minutes (plus or minus 5).
  • On Christmas Day, the time is consistently 80 minutes through the main part of the day, and on Boxing Day, around 85 minutes.

Eastbound trip times are a bit tricky because of the CIS black hole that swallows cars from roughly Wineva to Neville Loop.  Reliable arrival times at Neville are hard to get on some days, and layovers at Neville may be counted in the trip times.  Times cited below are departure times from Long Branch.

501 Trip Times Eastbound Long Branch to Neville

  • On weekdays, trip times cluster around 90 minutes, but around 1500 there is a drop in the number of through trips to Neville and an increase in the trip time with peaks over 120 minutes again corresponding to a few days when congestion was bad.
  • On weekday evenings, trip times settle down to cluster around 90 minutes.
  • On Saturdays, trip times lie mainly between 90 and 100 minutes for the main part of the day.
  • On Sundays, the rangs is between 85 and 95 minutes.

To get a better sense of what was going on, I looked at different trip segments.  In order that the many short turns at Woodbine could be included, I plotted trip times from Greenwood to Long Branch.

501 Trip Times Westbound Greenwood to Long Branch

  • Weekday times are clustered in a band roughly 15 minutes wide rising from an average of 70 at 0800 up to just over 80 by 1500 dropping back to 70 again through the evening.
  • On Saturdays, the pattern is similar except for a lower average in the early morning (no rush hour) and a peak around 90 at about 1500.
  • Sundays are similar to Saturdays, but the peak is much flatter topping out around 80 minutes.

Looking at the eastbound service (times are departures from Long Branch) :

501 Trip Times Eastbound Long Branch to Greenwood

  • The weekday pattern is similar to the westbound times, but the afternoon peak is higher rising to about 90 just after 1600.
  • On Saturdays, the eastbound peak time clusters around 85 minutes, and the peak is not as marked as for westbound service.
  • On Sundays, times are clustered between 70 and 80 minutes for much of the day.

Finally, looking at the segment from Neville to Greenwood, the running times are fairly consistently in a range from 13 to 17 minutes with some outliers, particularly in the late evening.  Times on Saturdays are slightly higher.

501 Trip Times Westbound Neville to Greenwood

Whether we look at the route end-to-end, or in segments to bring in more partial trip data points, we see a fairly consistent view that typical one-way times are around 100 minutes with outliers up to 120 on a few days out of the month for limited time periods.

Our travellers will have to build in waits for a car to show up at Neville and for the considerable probability that they will be short-turned somewhere in at least one direction of their journey.  At Long Branch, there is a good chance that two cars will be in the loop at once, and if our tourists are smart, they will move forward one car for the return trip.  Otherwise, they may sit for 15 minutes or more during a layover.

Worst case, yes, they could take 4 1/2 hours which, under extreme weather might stretch to five.  I’m not sure this would make for good sightseeing.  At least there are lots of bars in The Beach where they can drown their sorrows and regale the locals with tales of their adventures in the western lands.

[With apologies to J.R.R. Tolkien for borrowing the title.]

Postscript (Updated):

I have updated the charts for the trips from Neville to Long Branch and return (above) so that the level of the scheduled running time and the layover is shown along with the actually observed data.  This appears on pages 5 through 7 of the linked files.  The TTC only gives broad descriptions of when the times are in force, and I have arbitrarily broken up the day using three-hour increments.  This gives a general view of the schedule.

The recovery time (the difference between the running time and the total trip time) is driven mainly by the mechanics of merging services eastbound from Humber.  Note that there is no recovery time for the late evening schedule on weekdays and therefore only one line is shown.  I have divided the time evenly between trips in each direction although actual data shows that layovers at Long Branch are much longer and most of the recovery time is used there.

The trip times fall below the scheduled times moreso in the westbound direction than eastbound.  This is ironic considering that the westbound trips tend to get more recovery time when it is the eastbound trips that run long.  Running times are particularly tight in the pm peak and this contributes to the oft-observed lack of service to the Beach after the rush hour.

8 thoughts on “There And Back Again: Neville to Long Branch and Return

  1. National Geographic says the 501 is one of the top ten trolley lines on the planet? Soon they will say the Scarborough RT is an innovative technology with a great view!

    I could care less about the sights, get me from point A to point B quickly without a long wait and we can talk about the so called importance of this after the route is fixed. I can hear the next excuse, “The 501 is in the top ten of best trolley lines on the planet, we don’t need to fix it.” My New Year’s Resolution for 2008 is….. Avoid the Queen car at all costs!

    Steve: I miss the view of the pickle vats beside the RT, even after Bick’s installed modesty panels so that we couldn’t see what they really did with raw pickles. The recycling plant that’s there now just doesn’t have the same rustic charm.


  2. Oh you have heard that same rumour about Bicks? It’s the same one they use to say about Dunnville location. They had a bus however to get workers to the plant.

    “The Bicks Bus”

    Steve: It was no rumour. Originally, you could see men standing in hip waders in the pickle barrels shovelling product onto the conveyor belts. The panels installed along the north side of the RT structure blocked most of this view. The plant is gone, but the panels remain, an artifact of bygone days.


  3. The first Sunday of integrated Queen/Long Branch service, I made my way to Neville Loop and caught a Long Branch car.

    Some time later, I stood at Kipling and Lake Shore, watching my stretcar pulling into Kipling loop.

    As I recall, I have tried Neville to Long Branch a couple more times: the second time, foiled again at Kipling; the third time, success and saddle sores.

    I do think that Carlton is a more interesting route. It also has the most turns which breaks up the trip somewhat.


  4. Don’t forget the fresh smell of wet cardboard when there’s a drizzle. Midland station, the bold freshness of a spring rain with the smell of a soiled washcloth.

    Steve: I try instead to concentrate on the wonderful odours from the cookie factory that waft across the square at STC now and then.


  5. Hi Steve and Karem:-

    The Bick’s Pickles vats were not urban myth and I understand that the reason why the plant erected the privacy screen was not so much that the secrets of the production methods be hidden from potential gherkin purchasers or industrial spies but so that no one would see the drowned racoons being ladled out of the open topped barrels. It was a favourite fishing hole for the furry critters whose hunger overcame their need for their own life preservation, for they sure were pickled afterwards; nyuck, nyuck!



  6. Hi Steve and Ed:-

    I agree with you whole heartedly Ed that the curvy Carlton Car is the ride to take. An exceptionally good cross section of our city can be seen from the windows of this car with some of the best urban scenery that any city could offer. A number of different residential styles of homes along the line, Little India, Little China Town, the historic Don Jail, urban renewal in Regent Park, Allen Garden’s greenhouse, Maple Leaf Gardens, Eaton’s College Street, The General Hospital, the Provincial Legislature buildings, the University campus, the El Macambo, and finally High Park. I’m breathless.

    A side transfer to take the rider up Broadview and back down to Gerrard would also be recommended and not too extra time consuming as the view across the valley to the city’s towers is worth the extra effort.

    And the casual urban rider could well be rewarded with feeling like a native East-ender; being short turned at Coxwell. Ah the sights and smells of little India!



  7. The 506 Streetcar is one of the unique lines, but the 501 line is much much more better for many reasons. For example, the gap between Neville Park to Woodbine is considered The Beach. So many nice stores, resturants, and right by the lake. Anyone can spend one day just going around there and seaching around.

    Woodbine to Greenwood. This gap is different because this area is slowly being renovated with new town homes, houses, and condos. It is becoming a great residential point of this line. Also it is where a lot of lines meet and a lot of short turns occur. Don’t forget the many movie threatres on Queen.

    Greenwood to Broadview. This Gap is again residential, but also historical. There are a lot of old buiildings, and connecting points in which a lot of different cultures meet.

    Broadview to Sherbourne. The famous bridge over the DVP, and little shops, and many people who need our help.

    Sherbourne to University DOWNTOWN.. I don’t have to expain that.

    University to Lansdowne. This is like the west end residentail, cultural community group. Then Lansdowne to Humber Loop and Humber Loop to Long Branch Loop.

    Now I have to say: YES the 506 line is more unique as in diversity, but the 501 line is the better line as in historical way of things and since its 50km length it is length makes it much better than the 506 for a tourist viewpoint. As an 18 year old High School Student who goes to school in the east end.. and having the chance to take both lines.. I think the 501 is better for short term travel, but the 506 is better for long term travel. As we all know the 501 has some serious issues.


  8. For those who are curious as to what sights along the Queen line there could possibly be to interest folks, keep an eye on the Toronto Star because they are doing a spread on it for an upcoming issue. I had one of their photographers on board last week, riding the line and taking pics. I got to chat with him for a bit while we sat…. IN THE NEVILLE LOOP.

    *aside to Steve* Sorry for my absence lately. I seem to have had trouble getting onto your blog ever since my last contribution in the Broadview Station thread. Oddly enough, since I’ve changed residences and use a different IP, I’m not having that trouble now. I have concluded (perhaps erroneously) that my IP was blocked. If I am perceived as a nuisance, please say so.

    Steve: Nobody is blocked. There are two possibilities.

    First, if you have inherited an address that was blacklisted by Spamhaus, then you should get a message to that effect.

    Second, the ISP through which my site is hosted has had a lot of network problems lately, and the site was down for extended periods just before Christmas. We expect this issue to be resolved later in January, and everyone should notice a big improvement in performance.


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