Further Adventures on the Queen Car

A few items have come in recently about service on the 501 that continues to leave people waiting in the cold for ages. I have collected them here to start a new thread.

Ed from Toronto writes:

I sent the following email today to Councillors Grimes and Giambrone. I am looking forward to seeing the analysis of the “improved” service, but my experiences the past few weeks has left me with little patience with the TTC.


Since buying a house in Long Branch two years ago, I have been a regular rider of the 501 Queen route to and from work at Spadina and Queen. I have often contacted the TTC because of unreliable streetcar service to Long Branch. I was present, and spoke, at the “Fixing the Queen Car” forum held December 4th 2007.

I am now regretting the forum because it has made things even worse for south Etobicoke residents.

Last night:

6:30 PM: I just missed a 501 LONG BRANCH car–it had pulled forward to turn south on Spadina. I walked to the shelter at Soho and waited.
6:37 PM: 501 HUMBER
6:41 PM: 501 HUMBER
6:52 PM: 501 HUMBER
6:54 PM: 501 HUMBER
7:11 PM: 501 LONG BRANCH

This is over a forty-minute wait for a streetcar travelling west of Humber loop.

And the sad punchline: I talked to the operator. He said, “CIS told me to turn at McCaul. I told them I had two hundred people trying to get home, so let me go through, and they agreed.” CIS is being infuriatingly stupid, and the TTC does not care about service to south Etobicoke. I was fortunate that one operator cared enough to get us riders home. Is this what it has come to–I make it home only because an operator is particularly conscientious and cares about his passengers?

This is not an isolated incident. When I wait for a westbound streetcar in the evenings, it is usual to have to let a couple of HUMBER and a one or two RONCESVALLES cars go by before a LONG BRANCH shows up. I have a colleague here at work who lives in Mimico, and his stories are the same. In the mornings, the service is nothing like claimed by the schedule. There can be gaps of twenty minutes or more, at which point two or three streetcars arrive together.

I think it’s pathetic that there had to be a forum to get the TTC to admit that there are issues with the Queen car.

And I find it absolutely infuriating that the only solution the TTC has to appease residents east of Kingston Road is to abandon any kind of reliable service west of Roncesvalles, and certainly west of Humber loop. It is utterly unacceptable that someone sitting at a desk somewhere in CIS central would try to short-turn LONG BRANCH cars even though there is already a huge gap in service to south Etobicoke, as was the case last night.

In talking with a number of operators on the Queen car, they all say:

“They’re not short-turning any cars in the east end any more, so the west end is totally screwed up.”
“Every other car should go to Long Branch, but you’re lucky if every fifth is a Long Branch car.”

Mitch Stambler can please come and live west of Humber loop, or even better yet west of Kipling, and experience for himself the completely unreliable service his organization is providing.

The TTC brain trust could compare the 2.5 km stretch between Woodbine loop and Neville loop, with the 8.5 km stretch between Humber loop and Long Branch loop. This stretch includes Mimico, New Toronto, and Long Branch, as well as all the new condos going up in the hotel lands. The TTC is alienating even committed riders, never mind people who might start taking the streetcar if it was reliable (but of course it isn’t).

I will follow up with Councillor Grimes on this matter. I am also sending this on to Ed Drass and Steve Munro. I am completely fed up with the TTC’s inability to actually provide good transit, despite numerous complaints by myself and many other people. I am looking forward to Steve Munro’s analysis of Queen service December 2007-January 2008, which should show that the “improvements”, sadly, aren’t.

Thanks for your attention.

I expect to receive the CIS data from the TTC for December and January in the near future, and we will be able to see what changes in line management are visible following the December public meetings. Yours is not the only complaint I have heard like this.

Mike Olivier wrote:

This is a recent complaint I made from the TTC online form:

I was standing at the south side of the sheltered platform, and there were 3 people inside the shelter at Long Branch Loop, as it was a bit windy and snowing.

The ALRV streetcar driver finished his break at the washroom building, accelerated the streetcar around the loop, right through the stop, and kept on accelerating through the intersection and through the green light, completely missing us 4 waiting

Once he passed the stop I yelled and screamed at the driver, but he was oblivious. At this point he was going so fast that I couldn’t read the ALRV number.

The 4 of us waiting passengers were in shock that the driver showed no indication of slowing and looking for waiting passengers and was constantly accelerating from standstill at the west end of the loop right on to Lakeshore Blvd.

Having heard that the TTC was implementing headway scheduling on the 501 route, versus time based scheduling, I wondered if this driver who bypassed us was trying to catch up to his slot, as he’d spent 5+ minutes at the end of the loop.

Sure enough, 1 minute after he left going eastbound, another ALRV arrived at Long Branch Loop.

What good is a transit service that doesn’t bother to stop or look for waiting passengers, especially on a wintry evening?


Date of Event 01 Fe 2008
Time of Event 9.12 p.m.
Employee Badge Number Unknown
Employee Description Unknown
Gender: Male
Vehicle No. (four digits) or
Run No. or
Licence Plate Unknown

Route Name and/or Number
Vehicle direction of travel East
Location of Occurrence Long Branch Loop

I received an email from TTC, Reference# 197906, acknowledging my complaint.

Mike Olivier

Finally, an article in the National Post rains scorn on the TTC’s claims of service improvements.

Mark Dowling writes:

“we need a realistic statement from the TTC about fleet availability for more service between now and the point we start seeing a new fleet.”

From the National Post:

Part of the problem is a streetcar shortage. Back in 1988, when TTC ridership peaked, the TTC operated 300 streetcars. Since then the TTC has cut 52 streetcars, to 248, while adding streetcar service on Spadina and Queens Quay. In fact, the TTC informs me, it has “a maximum of 186 streetcars currently scheduled for service.” The other 62 are in the shop.

Yesterday, outside a TTC meeting at City Hall, Mitch Stambler, manager of service planning, said the TTC is considering temporarily replacing streetcar service with buses on Bathurst Street and Kingston Road “on an interim, temporary, defined, limited basis only,” so they can add streetcars on the busiest routes (King, Queen and Carlton).

“The streetcar fleet is so stinkin’ old that options are very limited,” he said.

The change on Bathurst, at least, is only proposed for the morning rush hour. The service requirements for the PM peak are not as great as this is spread over a longer period.

I expect that we will see more information on this as part of the expected May report on reorganization of the Queen and King services.

As for Stambler’s remarks about the streetcar fleet, we need some honest answers about how many cars are really available for service, and how much of a constraint exists from the number of available operators. Although the peak fleet may be limited, nothing prevents the TTC from dealing with off-peak service and overcrowding on streetcar lines.

30 thoughts on “Further Adventures on the Queen Car

  1. “On an interim, temporary, defined, limited basis only.” The TTC has said this kind of thing before. The Spadina streetcar was removed to “save electricity”. The Rogers Road streetcar was removed to save streetcars. City Hall loop was supposed to be rebuilt after the Eaton Centre was built. I am suspicious of any plan to replace especially the Bathurst streetcar with buses lest the TTC decide to abandon it and merge it with the 7 Bathurst Bus (with the inevitable result: bus bunching just like on Dufferin).

    A better interim measure would have been to start rebuilding the CLRVs – several years ago. Or, better yet, order the new streetcars then.

    Steve: Actually, the Spadina streetcar was removed because it ran with double-ended cars and had no loops at either end. When they were retired in 1948, so was the line (along with the Weston Road car). The Rogers car was abandoned because York (then a separate city) would not pay the extra cost of repaving Rogers Road with streetcar track. City Hall Loop was replaced by the extension of the Dundas short turn to Church Street.

    The TTC needs to come out with a fair, correct accounting of its fleet availability so that we know just how bad the situation is for working cars, and how long this has been the case.


  2. Perhaps as a stop-gap solution to the streetcar shortage, the TTC should buy some second hand cars from Europe until the new ones come in 2011. Heck, if it’s so serious they have to consider replacement buses, they should even consider buying Soviet-era trams from Russia and quickly refurbish them so that we don’t have to wait 20 minutes for the 501.

    The last option sounds kinky, but we can’t wait another 3 years for the fleet to gradually expand.


  3. re: ““They’re not short-turning any cars in the east end any more, so the west end is totally screwed up.”

    That’s at odds with what I see – at least from a week or so ago when numerous streetcars were being turned back west at Kingston Rd and Queen.


  4. Hi Steve:-

    My experience is that there is still short turning at Kingston Road. My sense is it is less than it once was before the forum, but untrue that there is none.

    Of course these last two weeks we need to cut the TTC a bit of slack due to the fire. Tough to do I know after the recent months of past snubbings and apathy here. This does not excuse the ordeal that Ed from Toronto suffered through though!!!

    Mr. D.

    Steve: As I have said in other contexts, the TTC needs to adapt its operations to major emergencies like this. We already know that they accept the principle of running on a headway, not a schedule. If necessary, the line should have been broken up into manageable chunks to ensure that some level of service would remain across the city. The amount of short-turning suggests that TTC is still not really managing to a headway.


  5. All these problems with basically all the streetcar service in Toronto has made me wonder: even with the new lines, the improvements on St. Clair, and even the talk of building more lines and buying new vehilces, is there still a secret sect of TTC officials who want to get rid of streetcars entirely and replace them with buses. It sounds a bit as if they are hinting that these service problems would dissappear if they could have the “flexibility” of buses. It’s also starting to sound like the slow decay of the trolley bus system to the point where it was too expensive to fix the problem.

    Steve: If you had asked me about this, say, five years ago, I would probably agree with you because anti-streetcar sentiments would creep out now and then. The whole “traffic congestion” shiboleth is a leftover of that era. Why run good service when you can blame all of the problems on vehicles you want to get rid of?

    Today, the mood seems to be changing at the TTC, although they are still overly fond of rights-of-way that simply cannot be provided on streets like Dundas.

    The unavailability of streetcars lies back in the “old” era when the TTC didn’t need all of its fleet thanks to service cuts. At the same time, attempts to budget for a replacement fleet were rebuffed both by City Council and by Queen’s Park who strongly encouraged the TTC to rebuild its CLRV fleet instead. That project was on the books and would already be underway now except for the realization that accessability requirements made a new fleet mandatory. All of this delay and indecision leaves us where we are today.

    With the dubious state of funding for new streetcars, the City and Queen’s Park must decide this year whether they are going ahead on this without Ottawa’s help, or if the streetcar system will be held hostage to political posturing.


  6. If they are short of streetcars, perhaps they should put the two PCCs into service during the morning peak. I expect they are in better shape then some of the CLRVs that have been stored.

    Of course people would accuse the TTC of being so desparate they are running museum pieces.


  7. You’ve mentioned before how the CIS system is problematic at a functional level. Is the TTC effectively handicapped in managing headway until they move to GPS?

    Steve: Yes and no. The CIS information is reliable at most locations most of the time. As long as they manage within those limits, they should be able to space service. The big issue is that operators have a readout on their dash showing where they are relative to schedule. This needs to be changed to allow headway-based information, and that requires a major rethink of how CIS operates.


  8. What galls me most about the poor service on the Lakeshore-Queen line (and I live in New Toronto, in Etobicoke) is that the TTC has the audacity to spend $7 million dollars to move the Humber Loop 500m west to Park Lawn in the name of “it will provide better service to Etobicoke”.

    Really? It will provide minimally improved service to the few new condos in the motel strip. Period. Most of which are not even built yet…and may never be built in our lifetimes.

    Why there is still even a loop at Humber is beyond me. Run the old Lakeshore route from Long Branch to Roncesvalles!!

    At least if I get dropped off in the cold at Roncesvalles I can get run over to the car yard and raise holy hell for them to send out an idle car in the yard.

    I have actually seen this happen several times. They will bring a car out and send it west from the yard. Especially if you go over there and bitch about it…there’s even the magical “clip board TTC guy” standing at Roncesvalles who usually helps.

    But at Humber Loop? And Park Lawn? You are in no man’s land, my friend…that’s utter wilderness. No one around for miles. You can’t even get a taxi!

    So, one lesson for “Ed from Toronto”: don’t let other Humber cars pass you by waiting for the mythical Long Branch car. Just get on the first car you see…you never know what changes will happen further down the line.

    And at least you’re warm for the ride! 🙂

    Steve: Park Lawn Loop always had the smell of being a way to cut back the 501/507 service so that the TTC didn’t have to run cars all the way to Brown’s Line. Remember that this proposal dates back to the early 1990s and the first incarnation of the Waterfront West project. In that era, the streetcar system was far from safe even though we had just opened the Harbourfront shuttle from Union to Spadina.

    One sleeper issue is the bridge over Mimico Creek which is just west of Park Lawn. Moving the loop from its originally proposed spot at Legion Road to Park Lawn would have meant that reconstruction of the Mimico Creek bridge could be done without provision for streetcars. Since the TTC has now rebuilt all of the track all the way to Brown’s Line, the idea of abandoning the line is laughable, but we still must deal with leftover plans and assumptions.

    The missing piece here is the report, due in May, on restructuring the Queen line. Only when we know how the route might be split apart (if at all) can we make informed decisions about where a new loop might be.

    The TTC is fond of talking about how this will extend service to Etobicoke, but Park Lawn Loop is far short of existing and planned developments further west.

    Their latest report on Park Lawn shows a cost of $11.2-million (!!!) for which I would expect to see a small beachfront spa. The City’s page on the same subject includes display panels from public info sessions.

    I suspect that other work in the area has been larded onto this project.


  9. Not to distract from more important issues by following a 60 year-old tangent, but you wrote:

    Steve: Actually, the Spadina streetcar was removed because it ran with double-ended cars and had no loops at either end. When they were retired in 1948, so was the line (along with the Weston Road car).

    That differs from the more commonly-held history of a hydro shortage necessitating closure.

    I hope I haven’t resurrected an old debate that died out on transit ‘listservs’ in 1957…

    Steve: The actual reference on Transit Toronto is:

    In 1948, post war growth led to shortages of electricity. To help lower its consumption of power, the TTC agreed to “temporarily” convert the North Yonge (a streetcar line to Richmond Hill) and Spadina Streetcars to bus operation. It is possible that the TTC used this situation as a convenient excuse to make a change it had been planned to do anyway, as the double ended cars were nearing the end of their lives, but the TTC probably also felt that buses would operate the route more flexibly. Soon after conversion, the Spadina bus was extended to Dupont, something that could not have happened as easily had streetcars still been in operation.

    Sounds like a variation on “traffic congestion” to me.


  10. Has the TTC considered going to the streetcar museums or transit systems around the world and renting a few PCCs, Peter Witts, or other models from them? Even Philadelphia had rebuilt their PCCs for air conditioning and wheel chair lifts, which would be an improvement. Maybe if they have a few surplus cars, the TTC could do some body work and put them into service. The TTC could at least ask. The worst answer would be “no”.


  11. “It is possible that the TTC used this situation [bus replacement of NORTH YONGE and SPADINA] as a convenient excuse to make a change it had been planned to do anyway, as the double ended cars were nearing the end of their lives, but the TTC probably also felt that buses would operate the route more flexibly”.

    Let’s look at this from another angle : plus ça change…

    Of all the bus replacements of streetcar lines dating as far back as SCARBORO and PORT CREDIT, only one(!) reverted back to streetcar operation (SHERBOURNE is a possible exception, but that was war time). That was the NORTH YONGE line that replaced the bus service that replaced the LAKE SIMCOE line. It was because of public bitching that the streetcar service was retained (similar to Steve’s bitc…campaign to save the streetcars in th ’70’s in that it happened becuase of said bitching!) Could more bitching have saved other lines?

    The excuse that SPADINA, WESTON and NORTH YONGE were double-end lines, therefore best to convert to bus operation dosen’t fly either. Both SPADINA and WESTON required turning loops anyway for buses and trolley buses to properly operate. If the TTC really wanted to, SPADINA cars could have had a loop at Fleet, and could have looped via the Spadina “siding” at Bloor, back onto Spadina (…I THINK it was there in 1948 to connect Spadina Ave. to Spadina Rd…..) So the real issue is that the TTC didn’t want to pay for the infrastructure of new turning loops on all three double-end routes, as well as double tracking (and small extensions) of WESTON and NORTH YONGE, even though the old Yonge Blvd. bridge over the Don River (now a part of Hwy. 401) had an allowance for double tracks.

    The old story of “buses seem to be an easier solution” is an old Toronto problem.


  12. The TTC isn’t the least bit interested in the two PCCs they have now so they won’t be rushing out to “buy”, “rent”, or “lease” any derelicts that might be available. They don’t even have parts for them – almost everything that they require to keep them running comes from the Halton County Radial Railroad. At least the museum had the presence of mind to keep some parts for their own PCC fleet which has turned out to be a boon for the commission more than once.


  13. If the “loaner” PCCs/Witts required any serious modification (CIS?), training or maintenance then I can’t see how that’s cheaper than rebuilding some of the “grounded” CLRVs.


  14. I’m a little new to streetcar service (the subway usually runs where I want to go) – when a streetcar is ‘short-turned,’ this means that it is turned around before reaching its scheduled destination? And am I also correct in assuming this is done to eliminate bunching/preserve headway?

    If so, it seems to me that a better solution if there is bunching is to ‘express’ the front streetcar ahead (ie, not allow it to pickup any additional passengers). Those passengers not picked up will have another streetcar following in close succession, so they are accommodated and the headway is preserved.

    Or maybe I’m just crazy…

    Steve: In theory, short-turns are to correct from delays and to restore headway, but many of them are to keep operators on time regardless of what this does to the service. The TTC is planning to move from a schedule based operation to a headway based one to reduce the need for short turns that are counterproductive.

    As for express cars, I have seen this done in other cities, but Toronto seems loathe to do this because “it might confuse passengers”. This doesn’t seem to stop them from running streetcars express when they are going to the carhouse.


  15. Just received the following email from TTC Chair Adam Giambrone regarding my 501 Long Branch bypass complaint:

    “Councillor Giambrone”
    À : “Mike Olivier”
    Objet: Re: Bypassed waiting passengers by 501 Streetcar on Lakeshore Blvd

    Dear Mike,

    I have heard this from different riders recently. I am glad that you have also brought this to the attention of TTC staff. I am sure that
    they are looking into this issue and will respond to you shortly. I requested to be copied on their response.

    Should you require any additional assistance, please feel free to contact our office at 416-392-7012.

    Yours truly,

    Adam Giambrone
    Toronto City Councillor
    Ward 18 Davenport
    Chair, Toronto Transit Commission (TTC)


  16. I spoke with a regular 501 Long Branch rider, who takes it from 23rd & Lakeshore west to Long Branch loop in the morning, & east in the afternoon, to connect with the GO Train there.

    He said he and others had been bypassed a number of times by 501 streetcars at Long Branch loop blowing by passengers waiting in the large, poor visibility transit shelter there. He called these incidents in, and now has the TTC complaint line on speed dial because of it.

    I’m not recommending we replace the transit shelter, cuz it actually has character, is quite large, and I’ve seen it quite full on cold evenings. This loop also serves the 23 Lakeshore & 5 Dixie MT routes.


  17. On the issue of by-passing passengers, I find it odd to read this now, as only a few days ago my boss at work (who knows about my love affair with transit) told me that both a 96 and 165 bus (empty and in service) by-passed him at Wilson and Avenue. I told him that this was not supposed to happen, but it was only until I read this blog entry that I remember myself, as a newcomer to the city, getting by-passed by 34’s, 86’s, and 116’s while waiting for a bus at Eglinton and Mason.

    Anyway, back to the headway issue. It seems that the TTC does not take this seriously. How long has this issue been raised? Dare I say the TTC just does not care. As for the idea to take streetcars off Bathrust and Kingston Rd, I say if that’s what is needed, then do it. Bathurst is the only non-row North-South streetcar route in the city, and at it’s northern end it connects with a bus line. When the TTC finally gets some articulated buses, they could run this as a single bus route from the Lakeshore to Steeles. As for Kingston Rd, the reality is during the mid-day the service is so sad, that running a streetcar here does seem a bit silly. What I think would work best, however, is to split the Queen route immediately.

    Steve: The demands on Bathurst north and south of Bloor are largely independent, and keeping this as two separate routes regardless of mode is preferable.

    By the way, the King car is a north-south route on both Broadview and Roncesvalles which, between them, are roughly the same length as the Bathurst car.

    One complete stupidity the TTC never manages to get past is that they run express buses and local streetcars when there are special events at the CNE. Their claim is that people will step off the curb to board streetcars that don’t stop. Nothing like wasting piles of money on operators driving buses when you already have high capacity vehicles. The real issue, I suspect, is a shortage of streetcar-trained operators. Meanwhile, riders on Bathurst Street will learn very quickly what “Express” means.

    Kingston Road deserves much better service, and its riding has all but been killed off thanks to appallingly bad service.


  18. Steve said: “This doesn’t seem to stop them from running streetcars express when they are going to the carhouse.”

    I assume from your comment that these “Express” cars are the “Not in Service” streetcars one often sees and I too had wondered about them. Charitably, I assumed they were somehow defective and going for repair but I understand now it is just a way to get a driver back to base before overtime kicks in. If this is correct it is certainly not offering good customer service. Naturally TTC management prefers not to pay overtime but sometimes it is surely ‘the cost of doing business”. They cannot pass the streetcar ahead so why not pick up passengers – perhaps they would have the wrong transfers! (Now, there’s another odd thing, how much does it cost to print transfers daily for each route?)

    Steve: About $830K per year. There was a three-year contract approved at the TTC in July 2006 for the 2007-2009 transfer order at a total cost of just over $2.4-million.


  19. I remember when I was a kid riding the PCC streetcars and sitting behind the driver. I had access to the trash can. The driver would drop the transfer stubs in the trash can and I would pick them up to take home. So I was able to pretend to be a streetcar driver with the stubs. Or write note on them.

    The buses did not have a trash can accessible to us kids, and the new CLRV’s do not have access to the trash cans either.

    Too bad the kids nowadays can’t get the transfer stubs to play with.

    Steve: So did I!


  20. Wait a minute, there is something I completely don’t understand here with the express runs to carhouses, you see often enough streetcars with “Roncesvalles” and “Connaught” (or “Coxwell” for 506) in their destination signs. Wouldn’t these be cars that are bound for the carhouse, but in service until they get there? (Why run some carhouse-bound runs in service with others out of service?)

    Steve: Exactly. Some do, some don’t. As a would-be passenger, I get confused so easily [grin].


  21. I knew that there were streetcars that used “Roncesvalles” or “Connaught” as destinations signs, but wasn’t aware if the practice still continued, or how many do or do not use this.

    Back in December, I wrote (http://lrt.daxack.ca/blog/?p=17) about the common practice in Melbourne of running “route 00” trams when returning to the depots (carhouses), and wondered why this practice couldn’t be used more widely, even for buses. Naturally, avoidance of overtime costs are a concern, and the TTC’s transfer system limits its use to the run only while the vehicle is travelling along the correct street, but it strikes me as a way to provide a little better service for little extra cost.

    More importantly, it can provide a huge increase in “better service perception” for that same little cost. Few things piss off people more than seening three or four “Not In Service” vehicles passing them while waiting for their ride. Even making one of them a revenue run back to the carhouse/garage goes along way to eliminating these bad feelings that travel like a rumour on a telephone wire (pardon the musical reference that dates me).


  22. I heard from TTC drivers that in training they told them that buses out of service are not allowed to pick up passengers, but that streetcars out of service had to.


  23. Hi Steve:-

    I seem to recall that a number of years ago it was a contract issue that buses would not carry passengers when running into and out of service, but this was not negotiated with streetcars and they are still to be available for riders when they are running-into and out-of service.

    Mr. D.

    Steve: At the risk of stating the obvious, if this is a contract issue, it should be changed. Moreover, schedules should be built so that a running in trip for a bus operates as a real route with a short turn.


  24. Peter Kucirek Says:

    February 29th, 2008 at 5:16 pm

    I’m a little new to streetcar service … when a streetcar is ’short-turned,’ this means that it is turned around before reaching its scheduled destination? And am I also correct in assuming this is done to eliminate bunching/preserve headway?

    If so, it seems to me that a better solution if there is bunching is to ‘express’ the front streetcar ahead (ie, not allow it to pickup any additional passengers). Those passengers not picked up will have another streetcar following in close succession, so they are accommodated and the headway is preserved.

    Or maybe I’m just crazy…

    You are not crazy. I’ve often wondered why a streetcar operator could not designate his car as “DIS-EMBARK ONLY”. hey have those LED signs now, or they could have a flip down board (like “shorturn”) that says “dis-embark only”, and then waiting passengers will be picked up by the soon coming next streetcar. Is this not headway scheduling?

    It seems so ridiculous to have a completely PACKED car stop at each stop and have the schedule slowed down even further by people who won’t get on anyway! The operators just seem so frustrated but can’t do anything about it. Occasionaly I’ll hear an operator’s strongly worded..”the doors are closing!” and wish she’d just glide past stops if no one wants off.


  25. I was on a Grand River Transit bus a month ago and essentially the driver checked in with Transit Control for permission to set down only but given that it was on the busy 7 route through Waterloo to Kitchener Terminal the assumption is that someone else will pick up the slack. A setdown policy might work on Eglinton but maybe not the quieter routes.


  26. Having retired again, at least until September, I have time to venture into Toronto and check out the streetcars service or listen to it on my scanner. On a scanner you can listen to the inspectors try to coordinate service between the east and west ends of routes. I think that if the inspectors could do this without interference from the schedule mavens at control service would be better. Some of the more interesting things I have noted:

    – Three 501 cars in Kipling loop or on Kipling with another two west of Kipling Meanwhile they were turning 3 EB Queen cars at Charlotte to send back west on Queen. I have no idea what the service to Neville Park was like. This was during the fire diversion. Later a transport tried to park on a Snow Bank on the South Side of King opposite Charlotte and nearly fell over towards the North. It ended up fowling the EB ling cars and the Spadina cars that were looping. They ended up sending 4 Spadina cars East to Church to turn them before they caught the problem and sent them to Queen’s Quay. Meanwhile the EB King cars went North on Spadina, East on Adelaide and South on Charlotte to continue East. This really screwed up the Spadina service. When the afternoon Spadina Inspector checked in at Dundas he said, “I have A Queen car SB at Dundas, a King car NB and what looks like a two minute headway on Queen St. What is going on here?”

    – They also seem to be trying to get cars to the end of the line more often since you can here the inspectors talking to each other to decide how they are going to the service straightened out and still running on the ends. They seem to be doing on street change offs more to get the operators in place for a relief or break while letting the cars continue to run. One day while clearing a bad delay on King they got a couple of cars that were running in to provide service on Roncesvalles while they got the King cars headed back East. They ran one of these cars back to Shaw because the Inspector realised that people actually road from Roncesvalles to King St. in Parkdale.

    -The King via Parliament short turn is becoming so common that people actually seem to look for these cars as I watched people let King Broadview Station cars go by because they saw a Parliament car behind it and then proceeded to ride it up Parliament to Dundas.

    – One morning around 10:00 a car at Connaught derailed trying to head South from the car house on Connaught and got stuck against some parked vehicles. While this was happening 1 run Kingston Rd. died at Main St. and had to be pushed by 2 run to the car house except that the car house was also disabled. They had to push 1 run onto the trailer track and back 2 run out onto Queen St. to get it back into service. The East end inspector actually radioed the West end guy on Queen and got him so send a Queen car up to Victoria Park instead of leaving a 40 minute gap. While this was going on a snow plow broke down in the North Gate at Roncesvalles completely fowling it. Over an hour passed before both car houses were back in service. Short turn King cars had to take the scenic tour of the yard.

    – One afternoon there was a big gap NB on Spadina and they sent a couple of Queen extras, it was during the diversion, up to Bloor but they were told not to send them past Queen’s Quay as they could not load on the curved platform in Union. I know they don’t like to run ALRV’s into underground stations because they cannot push them out but this is the first that I have heard of a problem loading at Union.

    From listening to them it seems that most of the line inspectors are trying to get some service to the ends of the line but then there are times when control has them short turn a string of cars before the end of the line or before they get to Yonge St. so they avoid the subway crowds, It is much easier to maintain service when you avoid most of the riders. One question is bothering me right now though. What are they doing with the St. Clair car since they can’t short turn it? Are they running herds of cars in circles at Oakwood loop to get them back on time?


  27. Not that this needs to be a gripe-fest thread (you could fill a whole blog with that), but I thought I’d write in and let you know of my experience on the Spadina car today.

    I got to the Sussex stop today at 9.17 am to go southbound. There were a few people waiting there already, and a streetcar was just passing us on the other side, going northbound into the station. As I saw two other NB streetcars coming up, I assumed I’d only have to wait a couple of minutes. Wrong, of course.

    In fact, fully five NB streetcars had entered the station before the first SB car came out! Since there’s only space for 3 CLRVs on the platform, there must have been two full cars of passengers unable to disembark! Of course, when the first SB car came, it was the same one I had seen entering the station upon my arrival the stop. And of course it was fully crush loaded. I waited for the second car (only 30s later), which was also crush loaded, but I took it anyway. The CIS readout had -11. Lord knows how far behind schedule the leader was…

    See how badly the TTC can screw up a stop adjacent to the terminal, with plenty of cars available on an ROW?


  28. The past couple of mornings there has been an inspector sitting in a private car at Humber loop, taking notes as cars pass through. Even with the heavy snowfall this morning, and some overhead trouble westbound around Mimico Creek, service was about as good as I’d expect. There was even a shuttle bus out, presumably because of the streetcars stuck behind the line truck fixing the overhead.

    Monday morning, an inspector boarded the (20 minutes late) car I was on, but I was too far back to overhear anything.

    There are visible efforts being made.

    Evenings, though, there’s no inspector at Humber. Last night, there were at least three Humber cars in a row before a Long Branch car came through. Taking some people’s advice, I took a Humber car and waited at the loop. This is as not-exciting as I expected.

    So, some progress in mornings, but evenings (6-9 PM) are still rough. The current 501 schedule has six occurrences of two Humber cars back-to-back. Five of these occurrences are roughly 6-8 PM slot (depends where you’re waiting) and one is around 10 PM.

    The latter is an interesting case. Westbound at Spadina, there’s a Long Branch car at 10:13 and at 10:39, with two Humber cars between. That’s a scheduled 26-minute gap between Long Branch cars. At Bathurst, the gap is 25 minutes. At Dufferin, it’s dropped to 24 minutes. At Roncesvalles, 23 minutes, which is maintained until Kipling where the gap closes to 22 minutes.

    The schedule obviously assumes that the later streetcar can operate significantly quicker than the earlier streetcar. This may or may not be magical thinking. It does not take care of the inordinately long gap between Long Branch cars if you’re waiting anywhere east of Bathurst.

    When I see multiple Humber cars in a row, I presume that the Long Branch car got short-turned somewhere, like McCaul or Shaw or Roncesvalles.


  29. I think it would be very interesting, though difficult to organize, to have some kind of “exchange” program for TTC staff and operators with another European city using similar equipment/running comparable service.

    My feeling from these posts is that it’s really easy for everyone at every level (from the cleaning staff to the GM) to get into a “that’s just how we do things” attitude, and not consider more creative solutions. [An attitude remnant of the the cutbacks and tight budget days of 90’s?] After all, Toronto is just one of many cities operating transit under major constraints.

    Without going to model cities like Zurich, Switzerland there are places like Lausanne (where i’m studying) which manage to provide decent service without heaps of money.

    Meanwhile the foreign operators in Toronto could also learn a thing or two about how things are done and make their own suggestions. I remember TTC staff and riders being friendly and helpful during my childhood. Oh yea, and those stop-the-bus-and-run-into-the-coffee-shop moments are priceless.


  30. How I wish the Bathurst streetcar could be replaced with a bus! Because it’s so close to my house, I’ve made the mistake of waiting for the Bathurst streetcar at Harbord St. When I finally see it coming, I’d still be waiting for the cars in the left-turn lane to go so that the streetcar could get close enough to open the doors. Sometimes that involves multiple green light cycles. Each time I see that, I think “Gee, wouldn’t a bus be faster, since it could just pull right over?” And then it keeps repeating further down the line.

    Once, I was freezing my butt off, inside Bathurst Station, waiting for the streetcar. There were around 80 other people. Over the 25 minutes or so, at least 4 buses came and went. I kept thinking it would have been SO much more efficient if they could just have those buses continue going down Bathurst.

    Steve: Sounds to me like an intersection screaming out for a left turn phase that is triggered by the presence of a streetcar. It’s amazing how basic problems like this are not addressed. It’s not the streetcar, it’s the traffic signal operations.


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