Waiting for the 501 — An Operator’s View

[Updated March 17, 2008: I have received various comments with schemes for alternate ways to operate the 501/502/507 in various combinations. None of these will be posted here as this debate could go on forever. The next round in the discussion will come with the TTC’s own proposals expected in May.]

On March 6, Ed Drass wrote about the Queen car’s problems and the various options that might improve service, some day. The article is not yet up on the Metro News website, but the link here will take you to an index of Ed’s columns.

Recently, I received a long note from an operator about the problems of the new way the line is being managed. These are grouped in blocks by general subject with my own comments interspersed.

The 501 route has been a problem for awhile now. But the focus is on it right now, after the meeting at Metro Hall. Restrictions were placed on short turns, since then the line has gotten worse. The eastend has seen some improvement in less short turns, but the westend is paying for it. Here are example of Queen and streetcars in general.

Route supervisors on Queen were told to stop short turning cars for relief and coffee breaks, plus reduce or stop short turns in general caused by delays.

So now you have a hold on the Queen line, a line of cars travel east together. The first goes through to Neville, the second car short turns at Kingston Road and all other cars go to Neville. The first car is still in a gap going westbound because not enough cars are turned.

An example:

Recently I was doing a 502 run. I came off of Kingston Road westbound, couldn’t see the streetcar ahead. Picked up heavy all the way to McCaul Street, turn into McCaul leaving a bunch of patrons at the stop there. When I came back out of McCaul I checked the switches to see if I was following a Queen and on the westbound side to see if a Queen had gone past yet. The westbound switch was still open and patrons I dropped off were still waiting.

At Victoria I finally met a westbound streetcar only problem it was the next 502, twenty minutes behind me. I continued along seeing all the patrons I left at stops waiting for a Queen car. At Parliament I met the next westbound car, it was a King car going to Bathurst Street. Finally at Sumach I met the first Queen car being followed by about ten cars. This would have been about a 40 minute gap in the middle of the day on a weekday. I appears there was a hold up in the Beach and nothing was turned back as you’re not to short turn going into the Beach.

I was having dinner one Saturday night at the Tulip at Queen and Coxwell. I saw 4 eastbound cars arrive at once. The first, third and forth cars were all signed for Neville only the second car short turned. A little while later the second car went westbound and about thirty minutes later the other 3 car came westbound all together still and late. Just like when they went eastbound the last 2 were empty.

It’s now common to see gaps of 30 to 60 minutes out on Lakeshore, because of no east end turning. It used to be practice that when traffic was slow in the Beach you short turn the Long Branch cars at Kingston Road to service out on the Lakeshore going. Not any more.

For a while the TTC was paying to have a chief supervisor sit at Kingston Road and Queen to watch for short turns. If he saw one [he would] call Roncy to find out why a Queen car was short turned. [The Queen line is managed from the CIS control room at Roncesvalles Division.]

This sort of behaviour is precisely the reaction I expected to see from the TTC rather than sitting down and trying to manage the line properly. We have a Commissioner, Sandra Bussin, from the Beach who organized her own public meeting (separate from the one at Metro Hall), and we have two senior TTC managers who live on the Beach. I know that one of them, at least, has little to do with the actual line management, but the perception is that everything gets fixed for the east end.

Meanwhile, the service to Long Branch falls into a black hole. Some might argue that if Mark Grimes hadn’t stormed off of the Commission in a huff, those folks would have better representation, but good service should not depend on whether your Councillor sits on the TTC and cares about your service. There were plenty of people from the west end of the line at Metro Hall, but the squeakiest wheels are in the east end.

You have an operator now running late who gets a break and then takes over another car. Supervisor can’t turn him/her for the break so the operator is late getting there. The streetcar they take over arrives first and now there is no one to take over it. So another delay and possible loss of a car for a time.

This plan to run Queen on head ways won’t work on the street in traffic. Just fix the schedule and they will get better results.

The TTC and Local 113 need to rethink how crew breaks and changes are handled especially on very long lines like Queen. When “recovery time” is included in a car’s trip, it is intended for use if needed, and operators are not supposed to assume that they get a 20 minute break no matter what. There are three problems here.

First, the actual amount of recovery time on Queen, especially at Humber and at Long Branch, has far more to do with making the two services blend eastbound than it does with actual operating conditions at various times of the day. However, operators get used to having a long break at the west end of the trip.

Second, a far better location for any break would be at Roncesvalles where there are coffee shops and the division office. If there is any move to drop-back crewing (as on the subway), it would make far more sense to do this at the division.

Third, cars that are sitting for layovers draw are not in service. We hear all the time how there is a shortage of streetcars, but at any given time, many of them are sitting at layovers, not carrying customers. The scheduling of cars and crews needs to be changed so that, at least in peak periods, the fleet is used to its utmost for service.

We need to separate the concept of a schedule for the operators, who need breaks from the stress of driving and for calls of nature, from the schedule for the streetcars.

If my memory is correct 23 years ago when I started there were 4 traffic lights counting Woodbine in the Beach. There are now 7 traffic lights — this affects the schedule of the line.

Most transit priority traffic lights no longer work. When they first installed them, it was hard to get a red light on Queen, now it’s easier to get a red than it is to get a green light.

All along the Queen the route there are new traffic light or reconfigured lights, like at Lansdowne.

It’s next to impossible to eastbound from Bay to make it to Yonge without stopping a Eaton Centre crossing. You stop there and then pull up 100 ft to Yonge to stop again and catch another red light.

There should be no left turns from Eastbound Queen into City Hall parking garage, there is an entrance on the southside. But streetcars get held there all time.

The transit priority signals are good examples of how the TTC falls down on maintenance. Yes, they had an initial effect, even if those that work have the annoying habit of letting a car get away from a stop rather than holding it long enough for nearby passengers to catch it.

I too see priority signals not working in many locations for long periods. I don’t know if operators report these problems, and their reports just disappear, or if they have given up, or if there is some problem between the TTC and the roads department who would actually fix the problems.

As for the area between University and Yonge on Queen, the TTC and Council seem unwilling to confront congestion there caused by turning autos, and the usual melee of tour buses and food trucks, and the lack of transit priority at the “cattle crossing”.

I don’t know if you have heard of this master plan for St. Clair while track on Bathurst are replaced.

TTC is going to park 10 streetcars up on St. Clair, 3 on the street at Vaughan Road, 4 in St. Clair West Station and 3 at St. Clair Station. The 3 at Vaughan are spares in case of break downs. The TTC is going to have 24/7 security for those 3 cars and I believe someone during down time will watch other 7 cars.

A shuttle bus will be used to transport operators and fareboxes from Roncy to cars each day and back. If a car breaks down and can’t repaired on the street, the TTC will float it back to Roncy for repair and float out replacement. Why not shut St. Clair down until completed and use streetcars and operators on Queen, King and Carlton.

This really is an example of political impacts on transit operations. The St. Clair project has been such a mess that getting streetcars back on the line is a high priority. Why the TTC and the City couldn’t have scheduled work on Bathurst, at least between Hillcrest and St. Clair, to occur while the line was shut down is beyond me. This would have allowed a re-opened streetcar line to use Hillcrest for temporary storage. Instead, they scheduled work on the connection track to occur after the whole St. Clair project was originally to be completed.

This whole mess shows that the TTC’s response to service problems is still quite fragmented and much more attuned to political than operational needs.

25 thoughts on “Waiting for the 501 — An Operator’s View

  1. re: traffic lights on Queen in the Beach

    At least one (Elmer) and I believe a 2nd of the newer traffic lights on Queen replaced amber-flashing light cross walks with on request lights with significant delays before the light changed. The change (in this case) actually helps E-W traffic movement because the old cross walks were heavily used.

    Do the underground sensors degrade/break over time due to water seepage?

    Steve: There is an ongoing program to replace crosswalks with traffic lights. The TTC isn’t thrilled about this because the current detection scheme does not work for closely spaced intersections (the loop detecting a car is too close to make a real difference). I can’t help wondering why this info cannot be passed “down the line” from the nearby intersections, especially to those with traffic lights but no transit stop.

    As for why things break, no I don’t know, but if anyone has info about this, please. It would be interesting to know whether this is a design problem, an installation problem or an ongoing maintenance problem.


  2. Let’s see: computer controlled traffic lights (already have), GPS (either already have or going to be), “Einstein” of a programmer (don’t all raise your hands), actually pay for the software programming (the accountants have left the building).

    A team of computer programmers, if paid, could develop a system that ties in the current computer controlled traffic lights with the GPS on streetcars and buses, and then design it so the vehicles, the traffic lights, passengers, and short turns can be monitored and adjusted as needed. Would they try it? No, their hands are scratched from scrapping them along the ground.


  3. Steve,

    I live in “lower mid-town” and don’t spend as much time on “my” beloved streetcars as I used to when I lived at Broadview/Danforth.

    I have been thinking on and off about solving the Queen problem, and each new post that you have on the site raises more questions and provides more information than I had previously, allowing me the opportunity to enhance and develop my concepts of an improved Queen Street service corridor.

    Initially, I had proposed a simple three-part solution. With routes running:

    From Long Branch to Victoria Street (serving both subway stops)
    From Neville Park to McCaul Street (serving both subway stops)
    From Bingham Loop to McCaul (serving both subway stops)
    From Roncesvalles to Russell carhouses in a highly intermediate capacity (every 10 to 20 minutes to fill in the gaps)

    I realize that vehicle availability presents a strong constraint to the nature of this option, but aside from that it seems like a relative no-brainer. Are you aware of other concerns that would prevent this kind of alignment/routing to take place?

    Steve: One of the important things needed here is a discussion of the frequency on each branch. For example, the current 502 service during the day is every 20 minutes on the schedule, often much worse due to short turns.

    Next, whatever cars operate between whatever points, they have to be managed as one service so that we don’t have nose-to-tail operation of a 502 and a 501 westbound from Kingston Road, picking up a 50x at Russell and running as a trio over to Victoria where they meet up with a 507.

    There is some debate about the need for the 507 to come all the way downtown at all service hours and whether King or Queen is the appropriate route. Given the service issues in Parkdale, my money is on King in the manner of the 508 Lake Shore car, but more frequently. The problem remains of what to do with it off peak and how to ensure a decent connection with the 501.

    I’m not too wild about a Ronces-to-Russell collection of extras unless they are properly managed. Moreover, if they really are extras, there is no reason that they couldn’t go to Neville when needed.

    Finally, any attempt to merely shuffle around the existing cars without addressing running times and crew scheduling, not to mention reliability of service, is doomed. We can cook up all sorts of ways to split up the routes into overlapping lines, but that is only the beginning of a much more complex process.


  4. I’ve mentioned this before, but if the route is split up, why do the smaller routes have to overlap?

    I don’t understand why they can’t be 3 distinct routes, with mandatory transfer points. Mini stations could be built, with actual useful facilities, both for TTC staff and riders. Washrooms, a couple of small stores, etc…

    I think most people would prefer shorter routes with mandatory transfers that are predictable, rather than intermittent unpredictable service on a long route.

    Steve: The problem here is that we are not designing a route out in the middle of nowhere where we can build a new terminus complete with coffee and souvenir shops. Also, there is the very real possibility that routes branch and otherwise overlap. Finally, of course, is the fact that a mandatory transfer creates an unwanted delay when cars are short turned on either side of the transfer.

    For example, suppose that we make Ronces & Queen the transfer point. A lot of 501s will never get past Dufferin, and many 507s will short-turn at Humber inbound. The only way to ensure the two routes actually meet despite the best efforts of TTC management to prevent this is to have them overlap so that even short turns still make connections.

    Downtown, there is a lot of demand coming from the east end to the near west side (eg to about Spadina), and similarly folks from teh west end want to go at least to Yonge. This makes an overlap in the centre mandatory.

    The average commuting distance is under 10km, so why are we designing the route structure so that riders can go from Long Branch to Neville Loop without a transfer? Seems like very few people actually want to do that. (although I enjoy that ride on a sunny Saturday…maybe just keep it on the weekends?)

    Steve: You won’t get any argument from me about the single long route. The only reason it was implemented in the first place was to allow a service cut on the combined 501/507.

    Has the TTC collected any data of rider origins and destinations along the route? Everyone isn’t just destined just for downtown, are they? Where are the biggest generators and destinations of riders along the route?

    Can’t this information be used to help restructure the route more effectively?

    I’ve said before, but I’d rather the route be broken into pieces so the western segment is just from Long Branch to Roncesvalles.

    Based on my experience riding the line, I would rather be forced to get off at Roncesvalles, if I knew that another Queen or King car was less than 5 minutes away. I find King much faster than Queen, anyway, most of the time.

    Steve: That’s why my own proposal takes the “508” downtown via King, not Queen.

    On Google Maps, I counted the number of cross-streets that intersect King and Queen, starting from Roncesvalles to Yonge.

    Queen has 64 “intersections” with cross streets…a number of them are off-set, making left turns more of a problem, although there are mostly one-way streets.

    King, on the other hand, has only 43 intersections, very few off-set, and large stretches where there are just “T” intersections.

    I’m not sure which route has more traffic signals on it, but my perception is that the King route has greater potential to be a more reliable route due to fewer N/S crossing streets and the rail corridor that discourage N/S traffic connections that contribute to left turn problems.

    Has there been any thought given to maybe making King a type of “express” route with larger stop spacing?

    Or can any of the traffic signals be removed along the Queen route?

    Steve: As I wrote in response to another comment, the City now has a policy of replacing crosswalks with traffic lights at busy locations. You will be seeing more, not fewer, traffic signals, and the real issue is to make them work to the streetcars’ advantage. Clearly if they used to be PXO’s, they don’t need high priority for the crossing traffic.

    King express? I think the growing population in Parkdale, Liberty Village and Bathurst/Niagara would get rather upset if you started to cut stops. Bad enough that they can’t get on cars in the morning rush hour, you want to make them walk further too? We have to remember that people close to downtown deserve convenient transit too, and should not be revamping their lines as “express” routes to serve those from afar.


  5. As you say, the whole St Clair project has been a complete shambles, compounded by bad luck and bad politics. I find it amazing that the TTC had not realised that Bathurst was a key component of St Clair. How long do you thing it will it take them to re-do the tracks on Bathurst and can the 10 “stranded streetcars” actually survive for this long without proper maintenance?

    Any ideas on how they intend to schedule this summer’s trackwork? They were busy recently marking the underground utilities on Parliament so I suspect it may be first in line and I saw surveyors on Church recently too.

    Steve: I don’t have the schedule for this summer yet, just the list of projects. It includes:

    Parliament Street from Gerrard to King
    Wellington Street from Church to York
    McCaul Street and loop (Why bother north of the loop when it is so rarely used and was rebuilt back in 1990 replacing the last of the pre-TTC trackage?)
    Dufferin Street from Queen to CNE West Loop including the loop
    Richmond Street from east of Yonge to York
    Church Street from Carlton to King including intersections at Queen and Adelaide
    Bathurst from south of the railway viaduct to Fleet
    Bathurst from Bathurst Station to St. Clair including intersection at Hillcrest
    St. Clair (remaining) including Oakwood Loop and removal of Wychwood leads and Townsley Loop
    Queen and Vancouver (west end of Russell Yard)


  6. Hi Steve: I had to respond to the commentary about the so-called “priority signalling”. I was on Toronto City Council at the time that the TTC and Metro Transportation staff were “re-inventing” transit-priority signalling, a concept that had long been developed and perfected by several tech corporations including the massive Siemens and Philips entities. Literally thousands of installations were in place around the world on scores of light rail and streetcar systems.

    I challenged staff as to why they couldn’t just test and adapt existing devices. The answer typified the “ostrich-in-the-sand” attitude of Toronto. The much vaunted “computerized” traffic control system is a relic of the early 1960’s and is almost entirely a pro-active one, ludicrously attempting to reflect traffic patterns that are observed, at best, once or twice per year over a very brief period of time.

    Over the many decades since the initial installation in Toronto, traffic control systems have become the most cost-effective means to alleviate congestion and improve transity reliability on a global-basis. Except in this city which has not, nor even intends to, convert its traffic control system to a basic re-active one which would logically respond to real traffic situations as they occur.

    Inexpensive and successful transit-priority technology is based on reactive traffic control. Toronto’s “unique” concept is a rudimentary 20-second extension of the green-phase. Sort-of Rube Godberg-ish, made even more so by the Traffic Engineers’ insistence to use costly and complicated loop detectors, prone to breakdowns instead of simple and cheap contactors on the overhead. The staff could never justify their decision for this. Nothing has changed in the 18-years since.

    Steve: To be fair to the staff, buses don’t have overhead contactors; however, these days, radio-based systems with GPS can do just as good a job of locating transit vehicles.


  7. Steve,

    In one of the previous posts, you made a pretty good proposal on the 501 / 502 / 503 line splitting / reorganization. Any chance that the TTC will actually try it?

    If I recall correctly, that was:

    501: Neville to Humber via Queen, all day
    507: Long Branch to Yonge via King, peak only
    507a: Long Branch to Dundas West subway via Roncesvalles, off-peak only

    502: Kingston Rd. to McCaul via Queen, peak and midday only
    22a bus: Kingston Rd. to Coxwell subway, evening only

    504: Broadview to Dundas West via Broadview, King, Roncesvallles (no change to this route)

    Steve: That’s more or less it. Two important notes, though:

    The 503 is merged with the 502 to give good service on one route rather than spotty service on two. Also, I am undecided about leaving the 507 running downtown at midday the same way the 502 does from the east end.


  8. I decided to venture down to Queen Street to take a short ride on the 501. It was very poorly managed, to say the least.

    Starting point: Woodbine, fresh off the 92. A fair size crowd was waiting at the westbound stop (target direction), and no streetcar was visible. Since I saw a streetcar heading east in the distance, we decided to head east and go through Neville Park loop.

    While waiting for the streetcar, there was a number of streetcars (ALRVs only used on 501, not 502 or 503) turning back at Kingston Road heading west. A gap bus came up 5 minutes later, and brought us to Neville, no streetcars passing us along the way.

    When we get to Neville, we see a loop full of streetcars. As we arrive in the bus, the first streetcar leaves, signed ‘Training’. Next is a Humber, Connaught (CLRV), Humber and finally a Long Branch, which we dash and board. All of these left at the same time, along with our bus.

    So there we were, 5th in a pack of 6. The CLRV left at Connaught (we assume), the bus turned at Coxwell and as we later saw, returned to the 22 (so a bus had to be pulled off a route to provide gap relief) and 2 more ALRVs joined behind ours (1 to Long Branch, the other to Parliament) straight out of Connaught and a 502 now joined listed as Broadview.

    Overall, a very poor management of short turns and those cars returning to service. I have no clue why ALL cars were turning back at Kingston except for the 5 in the loop, and why those 5 cars left at the same time, all uncontrolled.

    Steve: I hope you enjoyed the idea of a Kingston Road car short turning westbound at Broadview so that it would completely miss any outbound traffic from downtown. This is what passes for service and line management. They are still turning cars to get the operators on time and to hell with the passengers. As for the platoon of cars at Neville and those that joined the parade as you went west, all I can say is that if this is how “Subway Operations” is showing us how it’s done, they’re doing a disgusting job. It’s almost as if they are going out of their way to screw up the service.


  9. Steve said … “Subway Operations” — It’s almost as if they are going out of their way to screw up the service.

    Shhhh, not so loud. This tactic was passed down from their anti-Y forefathers.

    If they can make it seem that a headway based system won’t work, then they’ll be justified in returning to the old schedule-based system on Queen. See the parallel?

    When are you guys gonna give up with these people anyway? You can’t win you know.

    Steve: I was going to mention the Y, but thought that would be too low a blow.


  10. There’s a new weapon in line management: long-turns. A 501 HUMBER magically turns into a 501 LONG BRANCH at Roncesvalles. Amazing!

    I got off a King car at Roncesvalles, just before 10 PM, to wait for a Long Branch car. There was quite a crowd of people waiting already; by their hopping about I presume that they’d been there for a while and were hopping to keep their feet from freezing.

    At 10 PM, four cars showed up in a row: Kipling CLRV, Roncesvalles ALRV, Kipling ALRV, and Humber ALRV. I asked the Kipling ALRV operator if any cars were running beyond Kipling (because it’s a long walk from Kipling to Brown’s Line). He said that he’d just been told to short turn, although he had plenty of people aboard.

    At 10:15, a 501 HUMBER showed up over the horizon, but just before opening its doors, it became a 501 LONG BRANCH. So, this is the opposite of short-turning, therefore it must be long-turning.

    Postscript: there was no one waiting at Kipling and Lake Shore. Further on, we were passed by a CLRV wailing eastbound. It’s quite possible that the 10 PM Kipling CLRV was changed from Kipling to Long Branch somewhere west of Roncesvalles.


  11. The first post here asks if: “Do the underground sensors degrade/break over time due to water seepage?” A number of things affect them, the road/concrete breaks or cracks breaking the wiring, construction digging a hole cuts the wire, new pole put in but priority lighting wires not moved with it or the most commom after tracks are rebuilt they don’t reconnect priority lighting. It gets lost.

    The next post talks about GPS for transit priority lights. It’s being tested at 6 intersections King Street. With about 20 streetcars being equipped for test.


  12. Howard Levine said, “traffic control systems have become the most cost-effective means to alleviate congestion and improve transity reliability.”

    The more I get to see other cities, the more I am convinced that in Toronto, traffic control systems have become the most cost-effective means to INCREASE congestion. It is almost like the powers that be don’t want to properly fund transit, so they look for ways to make car driving more inconvenient. The trouble is, making congestion worse for cars seems to have a triple effect on transit. Congestion does have a negative effect on transit, though not as bad as the TTC’s usage of it as an excuse suggests.

    Aside from better transit priority signaling for LRT and streetcar systems, I have noticed much better timing of traffic signals for cars when no transit vehicle is present. The extreme of this that I have seen is in the Dallas area where traffic light cycles seem to be excessively long – though even though you might spend 3 or 4 minutes waiting at a light, you WILL get through even if you are the 20th in line. When was the last time you saw an intersection in Toronto where the green light cycle was on longer than 8 to 10 vehicles to get through? Given that many drivers drive like they are the only one in the whole universe and are off in a world of their own when the light changes, a few extra seconds per vehicle really adds up when the cycles are short and therefore more frequent.

    Before anyone chimes in with the “you’re just getting a longer stretch of the same half of the cycle” excuse, let me point out that the non-productive part of the cycle with yellow and overlapping reds has a very significant effect when the cycle times are low.

    A couple of months back, while waiting for a bus at an intersection with countdown timers, it became obvious that the green light was on for 24 seconds each way, and the non-productive time was 6 seconds, making a full cycle for both directions 60 seconds. That means that 12 of each 60 seconds is “nothing moves” time, or to extend it to a full day, FOUR HOURS and 48 minutes each day! Doubling the green time to 48 seconds each way means that 12 seconds out of 108 seconds is non-productive time. That is only TWO HOURS and 40 minutes per day.

    While this one example is rather simplistic, and does not take into account the effect of nearby traffic lights, it does show the effects of having traffic light cycles that are too short. Too short cycles increase congestion. Congestion slows transit and gives the TTC excuse fodder.


  13. Yes, Steve, Great Discussion.

    Last Sunday I was on the 501 Long Branch.. Decided to take it to the loop and enjoy the long ride from Coxwell. I did that, then took a bus northbound to go to Sherway Gardens.

    It took me 2 hours from Coxwell just to get there. I don’t know if that is the right time, but I peeked behind and I saw 2 (1 Humber, 1 Long Branch behind me). For a sunday that is quite amazing. That’s during the day.

    Now what I don’t get is, why don’t they just use the Russell Division Yard and short turn a streetcar and get it to go ahead of the full crowded one that I was on, so it can somewhat control the situation.

    What’s amazing is that the TTC says they are doing a lot, but they just do enough to not create much controversy. What they need to do is take a stand, and make an effort to statisfy the riders, and themselves. Maybe try some investing rather than just complaining to the Governments of their poor spending of their servies. (Let’s not get there) Yes, the governments are not giving their share, but just face it and stop trying to depend on it and try to live without it until they eventually one day give it.


  14. Question with regards to traffic on Queen in the downtown. Would it make sense to divide the route, so that eastbound cars between Church and Bathurst take Queen, but westbound cars take Richmond? If so, would it make sence to extend the trackage to Parliament?

    Steve: You would also have to extend track on Richmond to Bathurst, not to mention adding a north to west curve at Bathurst and Richmond. It might make more sense to dodge up one traffic light further east where the intersection is simpler. By the way, you have not explained how you would handle the situation at Bathurst.

    Beyond that, if this is feasable (and assuming you could find a way to deal with the situation at Bathurst, which I think I have) could you then not make King and Queen one-way streets between Bathurst and Parliament and run the streetcars on a Queen-Richmond and King-Adelaide route though the core? Car drivers would be happy because they get one free (no parking, no streetcar) lane. Streetcar operators would be happy because they are no longer blocked by people turning left; And if you went the next step, you could move the streetcar tracks to the sidewalk and deal with the accessibility issue.

    Steve: Now you have eastbound King cars on Adelaide which requires track from Spadina west to Bathurst. This does not address problems in the business district caused by the usurpation of road space for cab stands, nor does it deal with the serious congestion (especially on Adelaide) for club traffic in the evenings. Furthermore, it moves the subway connections off of main streets (Queen and King). Finally, it would make Queen one way eastbound in front of City Hall, not an arrangement likely to find favour with anyone.

    I believe that any one-way scheme is a non-starter, and indeed there are arguments that Adelaide and Richmond should revert to two-way operation.


  15. Re: Transit priority signals

    “The transit priority signals are good examples of how the TTC falls down on maintenance. Yes, they had an initial effect, even if those that work have the annoying habit of letting a car get away from a stop rather than holding it long enough for nearby passengers to catch it.”

    I’m confused. How are they supposed to work? My impression was that they were supposed to hold the light green to allow an approaching streetcar through the intersection, no?

    In any event if you stand and watch at King and Jameson you’ll see that they only serve to increase congestion — generally what happens is that an approaching streetcar in either direction trips the system and the light holds green while the streetcar is loading — JUST long enough for the doors to shut and the light goes red. There is no reason at all why cross traffic can’t proceed during that period, and all that happens is that it takes longer to clear the intersection for everyone, including the streetcar.

    Steve: My comment was a cynical one. In “the old days” I could expect a light to turn red and hold a car that was loading so that I could catch it. Now the green time is extended and the car escapes.

    Of course as you point out, at heavy stops this generally means that extra green time is wasted while the car loads that could have been used for the cross-street, and the light turns red just in time to catch the departing streetcar.

    The system needs a way for operators to indicate whether they want to hold the green cycle, let the cross street red begin, or “go now”. As we move away from rudimentary loop-based detection to something more sophisticated, this should be possible. Whether it happens is quite another matter.


  16. I’m not sure anyone has suggested this before, but the 407/ETR uses radio transponders to collect toll data (in addition to the license plate scanning for vehicles without transponders). A similar transponder technology could be used in TTC vehicles to operate transit priority signals and with the GPS data vehicle identification and location. I realize this sounds much like the existing CIS system, but I suspect that the technology the 407 is using is much more of the off-the-shelf variety. It seems to have become reliable after a few teething pains.

    I also think the TTC and ATU really should stop bickering about salaries and benefits and start thinking about how to keep their jobs. (I do think that the TTC employees do deserve a fair salary and benefits.) If there was to be a “Mike Harris” clone city council elected the TTC could end-up being sold off like a aforementioned 407! I know there are some that wouldn’t shed a tear, but I think public transit has to be publicly owned and operated (take that York Region).

    Also, a previous post mentioned “express” service on King Street. I live on King West and I’d be making the trek to City Hall and/or Davisville to make sure that never happened. To borrow a phrase; we’re already “riding on the roof”.

    Steve: As mentioned in a previous comment, the TTC is experimenting on King with converting its vehicle detection to GPS and radios. This will use the GPS already installed for the stop announcement system. The intriguing thing will be to see if more sophisticated algorithms are used for signal management now that they are not tethered to physical positions of detectors in the pavement.


  17. Adelaide isn’t a promising candidate for a transit corridor. It’s quite congested much of the day from University to Church, especially during the PM rush, when it’s basically a two-lane road. Cabs, courier vans and delivery trucks to the retail concourse take up the curb lanes even at rush hour. Add to that the lanes taken out at Bay St due to the two buildings under construction on either side of the street. It can routinely take up to 10 minutes to get from York St. to Yonge St. In addition, many of the tower parking garages empty out on to Adelaide, and that volume can’t be redirected to King. It’s probably worse than King as the volume is mostly headed for Jarvis or the DVP while King seems to clear up past the cab stands around Bay St. King wouldn’t be bad at all if the cabs didn’t block the curb lane at all times from York to Yonge.


  18. The interesting omission from the list of trackwork in 2008 is Ossington Avenue.

    As far as I know, the tracks on Ossington haven’t been redone in a dog’s age, and still look in pretty good shape despite all the Carlton and Dundas diversions along there in the past few years.

    The leftover tracks on Rogers Road also looks in surprisingly good shape thirty years after abandonment, before they were finally pulled up.

    Better-standard trackwork from the 1970s?

    Steve: Ossington is in the 2009 plan along with Shaw, York, Victoria and Adelaide. As for that track on Rogers: that section was rebuilt even though the line was going to be abandoned because the old lousy paving was destroying buses on the Keele route.


  19. Adelaide is terrible in the evenings. I occasionally take the express bus back to the Beaches, and it’s shocking how slowly the traffic moves. All that Robert Lubinski says is true! Cars and delivery trucks sitting in the curb lane even for a few minutes completely mess up traffic in that lane and the one next to it, because all the vehicles behind have to move over into the adjacent lane. I can’t understand why parking enforcement isn’t scooping them up left and right. If even the express bus can’t move fast through there, I don’t see how a streetcar can.


  20. Regarding comments on Adelaide and Richmond -I say status quo for that pair. Keep them one-way with no streetcar service. In the meantime, Queen and King between Parliament and Bathurst should become ‘transit malls’, where rubber-tired vehicles are local access & deliveries only. Cars are welcome to park there, but it’s not a through route (that job belongs to Adelaide & Richmond). This essentially recalls the TTC’s proposal for King from a while back.

    As for fixing the 501, if the routes are split then an overlap would be most advantageous through the ‘transit mall.’


  21. Dave Says on March 9th, 2008 at 3:02 pm
    “I’ve mentioned this before, but if the route is split up, why do the smaller routes have to overlap?”

    I see such overlaps as providing higher levels of service for the busier downtown section of the existing 501 route. Most 501 cars I’ve been on downtown are standing room only, no matter what time of day, and could additional streetcars would easily fill

    Note that this is an ideal scenario, where extra streetcars and operators/drivers are available, and the TTC is willing to run streetcars more often than 3 minutes or whatever Mitch Stambler said was the critical minimum frequency for preventing streetcars from bunching up needlessly. As we already have this bunching up, his argument is null & void.

    Steve: The “three minute rule” is very ad hoc and is based on some rather dubious assumptions about the interaction of streetcars, passengers, traffic and signals. One can argue that if the headway is less than two cycle times (typically 80 to 90 seconds at many intersections), there will always be a streetcar present in one direction or the other and it will interfere with the orderly flow of traffic. Also, as headways get even tighter, pairs of streetcars are virtually guaranteed because the signal system will marshall them into platoons. Farside stops overcome this to an extent, but this depends on how much priority the streetcars actually get.

    A major issue as we move to larger cars is that the loading area for a streetcar stop will be more than double what it is today. Right now, the main crowd heads for the front doors, and there is some traffic at the rear where there is a ground crew. With the new cars, the doors will be spread along the length of the car and people will enter through all of them. Mind you, the entire turnover will probably be faster with all-door, low-floor loading, but we won’t know the full tradeoffs until the cars are in service. Wider headways will mean that pedestrians boarding and leaving streetcars won’t be in the traffic’s way as often, but when they are, the pedestrians will completely take over.


  22. As the 501’s getting more erratic than ever, I’m going out of my way to avoid it now. Made the mistake of taking it home west from downtown this aft.

    I was on a jam packed westbound Humber car that was short turned at Shaw. There should be some TTC guideline that says if there is a streetcar or bus is full, it should not be short turned under any circumstances. What’s the point of dumping out a carload of passengers just to pick up another load of passengers?

    The TTC should factor in it’s calculations that a grumpy crammed carload of passengers being short turned are just as pissed off as an equivalent carload of passengers waiting forever at a stop.

    The time I experienced on the crammed Humber 501, and the even more crammed Long Branch 501 that picked us up 10 minutes later, seemed to last forever, though it only took a very reasonable 1 1/4 hours to get home to Long Branch.


  23. There should be some TTC guideline that says if there is a streetcar or bus is full, it should not be short turned under any circumstances. What’s the point of dumping out a carload of passengers just to pick up another load of passengers?

    I would add to that that full mean that there are standees and no free seats, not that people are passing out from being crammed in.


  24. This week, I once again paid as I got off the streetcar. There was no way to get in the front doors of the Long Branch car at University. Good thing I squeezed on because at no time was there any car visible behind; and ahead of the car was a minimum fifteen-minute gap. At this point, I will squeeze on a Long Branch car even if I have to hang from the poles like a monkey.

    Friday night/Saturday morning: I get to Superior Ave. and Lake Shore in Mimico at 12:01 AM for the Long Branch car that leaves Humber at midnight.

    501 KIPLING shows up a few minutes later.

    Perhaps unwisely, I let it pass. Waiting at Kipling is worse than in Mimico, and it’s a twenty-minute hoof from Kipling to Brown’s Line.

    501 LONG BRANCH shows up at 12:40, a forty-minute gap. The operator told me “I’m not even supposed to be here. I should be at Bathurst!”

    Time to rattle some Councillor’s cages on Monday.

    Steve: This is yet another example of two effects. First, “congestion” or whatever is screwing up the Queen car, is not confined to the peak period or even the prime hours of daytime. Second, service to the outer ends of the line remains highly unreliable to the point that it is not a credible mode of transport.

    Any scheme to repair service on this line must look at the whole line and the whole day, not cherry pick a fix for The Beach at the end of the afternoon rush hour.


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