A Short Trip to New Toronto

Now and then, in the interest of actually experiencing the wonderful transit system I write about so much, I make a longer-than-usual journey  that could work brilliantly or be a complete disaster.  Today was the occasion for such a journey.

My mission:  Travel from Scarborough Town Centre starting at 5:30 pm to Fifth Street in New Toronto for a 7:30 pm meeting of the Lakeshore Planning Council.

The outbound journey:

  • 5:30 Leave Scarborough Town Centre Station on the RT.
  • 5:42 Just miss a train at Kennedy.  The next train is held due to a delay in progress at Donlands.
  • 5:50 Leave Kennedy Station.
  • Hold westbound at Pharmacy due to queue of trains.
  • Slow trip westbound to Donlands until we clear trains bound for Greenwood Yard.
  • Hold westbound at Chester, Yonge, St. George and Christie to space service.
  • 6:42 arrive at Dundas West Station.   A quick calculation of the likely running time to Islington means I will miss the 110 Islington South and the next one is 24 minutes later.
  • Take the 504 instead — it is sitting on the platform and the operator re-opens the door for late arrivals even though he is running in to Roncesvalles Carhouse.
  • At Queen, the preceding 504 car was waiting for transfer passengers from my car.
  • At the westbound stop, many are waiting.  This could be a bad sign, or it could indicate I have arrived just in time.  A car bound for the carhouse is just leaving the stop westbound.
  • The next car after a wait is going to Humber, and I board to see where the passsengers are headed.  As we go west, I note that the switch at Sunnyside Loop is open indicating that the car two in front of us short turned there.  Nothing has been to Humber in a while.
  • 7:00 arrive at Humber Loop.  Several people get off my car and walk through the underpass to Lake Shore.  Many are there already waiting for a Long Branch car.
  • 7:15: two Long Branch cars arrive.
  • On the trip out Lakeshore, we passed a parade of three inbound cars including two 508 Lake Shore cars which are supposed to be much further apart.
  • 7:30 arrive at 5th and Lake Shore and walk to the meeting.

Notable on the outbound trip on Lake Shore were the people boarding even after a long break in service.  There is strong local demand on Lake Shore itself that is ill served by the chaotic service getting past Humber.

I arrived at my meeting more or less on time, but all of the padding I had included for grabbing a snack enroute was eaten up by delays and erratic service.  The locals at the meeting considered my experience on the 501 to be quite typical.  They took pity and fed me chocolate chip cookies.

We discussed many things:  The coming Regional Transportation Plan, the Waterfront West LRT and, of course, the 501 service.  The Lake Shore folks don’t have much use for the planned Park Lawn loop as all this will accomplish is to shift the turnback closer to the expensive condos from Humber, while leaving the service beyond to the Lake Shore community as it is today.  We talked about alternatives including the need for reliable service in to connect with other lines at least to Dundas West Station, if not to downtown.  I will leave a full discussion of the 501 until the TTC’s report comes later this month.

My trip home was uneventful.  The Lake Shore folks suggested my best strategy was to wait at Seventh and Lake Shore for the Queen car or the Islington South bus, whichever came first.  Considering that the 110 only runs every 30 minutes at this hour, that’s not much of a vote of confidence in the 501, but I got lucky and a 501 came along as I was getting to the stop.

  • 9:27 leave eastbound from Seventh Street.  There was a good indication of local traffic with people getting off at various stops in to Mimico.  The condos were bereft of traffic.
  • 9:42 leave Humber
  • 9:50 leave Roncesvalles
  • 9:57 leave Dufferin
  • 10:06 leave Bathurst
  • 10:16 leave Yonge
  • 10:25 exit from the 501 at Broadview
  • 10:27 board a 504 northbound from Queen
  • 10:35 leave Broadview Station

On the trip across Queen, the car stopped to board passengers at every stop from Colborne Lodge Road (the bottom of High Park) to Church Street.  This is an example of local demand.  People don’t board at one place, but all along a route.  Their destinations are everywhere.  Plans for transit networks of the future that ignore offpeak, local demand ignore a vital part of the transit market of which my view from the Queen car was a microcosm.

Here we have two trips, one a real mess on a perfectly ordinary day, and the other a textbook case of how transit should work.  We need far more of the good ones.

26 thoughts on “A Short Trip to New Toronto

  1. When the GM Diesels were outfitted with the comfortable red and black seats (most of which faced forward and not in cattle car layout) and the bulk of the streetcars were PCCs, John Sewell wrote in the Globe and Mail about the crucial difference between a “Transit” system and a “Commuter” system. Since then, the TTC has institutionalised uncomfortable seats across the system and much perimeter seating and service on the “transit” system has deteriorated.

    The amazing thing is that, in this City, there are still transit customers who use the service for off peak and local journeys. These people have been ignored for 20 years and yet they still persist. While the TTC is a pale shadow of its former self, it is still (sadly) one of the best transit syems in North America.

    We keep holding the faith and the politicians keep letting us down. They say they want to reduce greenhouse gases, but their actions support the alternative. Nothing makes me madder than saying one thing and doing another.

    Stephen Harper may be anti-progressive, but at least he does what he says – no matter how reprehensible. Dalton McGuinty says he is supporting progressive causes, but he lies and does not. On balance, that is worse. At least we can vote against Harper and hope that the alternative is not lying. I don’t know how to cause McGuinty to retract his lies and act like a true progressive.


  2. I used to know people at Islington and Lakeshore, and I have done the STC to Islington/Lakeshore run dozens of times. I never used the route you mentioned to get there as I would rather wait a long time at Islington, then hop on as many as three streetcars as it would defeat the purpose of taking a route that runs every thirty minutes. Out in Long Branch during rush hour people I know, (I have done this too) use the Shorncliff bus to Kipling station, get off at Royal york, and go back to Lakeshore because trusting the 501 or 508 is really “naive.” I just hope your data on the 501 will shed light.


  3. What’s strikingly ironic about your delay getting there is that somewhere around 2/3rds (? I’m guestimating here) of the total delay seems to have been due to the subway rather than the streetcar… talk about unlucky.


  4. Would it be too picky to point out that 5th Street and Lakeshore is in New Toronto, not in Long Branch?

    Steve: Fixed. Apologies for the geographic screwup.


  5. I hope they were good chocolate chip cookies. Any problem in the world can be ignored when eating good chocolate chip cookies! Big, chocolaty, chunks……ooooohhh….Um, Anyway.!

    I can’t help thinking everything old is new again when you recommend a 507-type service from Long Branch to Dundas West Stn. Shades of decades ago when the Long Branch car ran to Roncesvalles Loop. Further proof that having eliminated such local service there is a lack of understanding of local travel patterns.


  6. Ironic that the 110 evening service increases from once every 30 minutes to once every 15 minutes next week – http://www.toronto.ca/ttc/pdf/110may08.pdf

    Perhaps those in the West can soon use the same technique that those in the East use to deal with the 501. Take the nearest, very frequent, bus to the Bloor-Danforth subway.


  7. Now that you mention Islington, any idea what will happen to the terminal now that SNC Lavallin has pulled out? I still think the proposed terminal for three routes is still too big (with too much roadspace) and I believe it is still better off to have a small corner terminal with 4 platforms.

    Either that or make Islington a through bus route. I can’t explain how many times I see hordes of Islington bus riders heading to the other route on the other side of Bloor.

    Steve: I have not heard an update on SNC Lavalin, and frankly always thought that scheme a bit shaky to start with. As for through routing the Islington services, this is a double-edged sword. As a standalone route, the 110 is guaranteed fairly reliable service.


  8. You were going to New Toronto, which is trying to rename itself “Long Branch Village” for no good reason I can tell. As such, you would not have cursed had a 501 KIPLING car shown up.

    The fifteen-minute wait at Humber Loop is, sadly, pretty typical, although it’s untypical that there were no Humber cars in the gap, and both cars arriving were signed for Long Branch (I would suspect that one of them may have ultimately been turned at Kipling).

    Your ride home in the evening seems to have been pretty slow: 39 minutes from Seventh to Bathurst. With the right operator, run 18 in the morning pulls away from 39th at about 8:43 AM, and arrives at Spadina pretty reliably at 9:32. That’s 49 minutes: just ten minutes more for a significantly longer distance!

    Steve: The return trip involved a lot of dawdling until we were at about Dufferin. With the amount of stop service time all along Queen, the operator finally decided we were late and started driving at a decent speed. The saddest part was that we ran at the slowest speed on the Queensway right-of-way and were, of course, held by traffic lights that should have been engineered to clear before we came to them.


  9. Steve said “… the other a textbook case of how transit should work.”

    That trip wasn’t particularly fast. Over an hour to cross just half of Toronto. Someone with a car would probably make it in 30 min or so.

    The 501 route is tailored for local / short range trips. This is important, too. However, I hope that the new TC routes will strike a better balance between the short and long range trips.

    Steve: Transit City is not intended for really long trips, but will almost certainly have stops further apart than on the Queen car. I wanted to write about this trip not just because of the service screwups, but to talk about the very strong local demand inbound at 10 pm. This is completely contrary to the usual view of local transit as being very commuter oriented, with all demand originating at a major rapid transit feeder.


  10. I wasn’t aware of this Lakeshore Planning Council. It may be/have been an oppty to push a better transit option than the blessed WWLRT and the FSE, and someone told me the sign finally came down.
    I still think we need something more direct core to Etobicoke with a few stops in between, as I think a lot of folks would adjust their trips to ease the load on the more locals, and thereby speed it up eg. loadings.
    It’s not always possible, nor universally popular, but going by bike for at least some of such a journey can be somewhat time effective, though it’s the working subway that really allows for longer hauls because it’s a big city.


  11. Ugh, typo on my part. When I wrote “Long Branch Village”, I meant to say “Lakeshore Village”. The boundary between Mimico and New Toronto (Lakeshore Village) is about Dwight Ave. (next street west of Royal York). The boundary between New Toronto and Long Branch is a little more indistinct; I’d put it somewhere just west of Kipling. (Streetcar history trivia: PCCs turning at Kipling loop were signed NEW TORONTO.) (If some of the earlier radial cars carried “MIMICO” signs, then all three south Etobicoke lakeshore villages have been signed as termini.)

    As for Hamish, “something more direct core to Etobicoke with a few stops in between” amounts to the GO train, no?


  12. Steve, could you summarize what was presented & discussed at the Lakeshore Planning Meeting?

    As a resident of the Lakeshore, and regular reader of the Etobicoke Guardian where such notices are usually advertised, I’m surprised this meeting wasn’t better publicized.

    Steve: I was an invited speaker at the meeting and was not taking detailed notes. I will add contact info here when I am at home and can pull it from my personal email.


  13. Wow, that’s a damming indictment of the lack of real transit service in the GTA. Two hours to get from STC to New Toronto??? That’s outrageous! If it took that long to drive it would be so remarkable a tale that you could use it to trump anyone’s tale of gridlock woe. According to google maps that’s a 45km trip by highway and probably a bit less by transit. There is no excuse for that trip to take more than 60-75 minutes. Incidentally, GO seems to think it would take about 60 minutes from Scarbourough to Mimico including a train change at Union. It’s really about time that transit got it’s act together, especially with the New York Times reporting transit ridership by in American Cities by staggering numbers and the Star reporting that GO can’t find the vehicles to transport all it’s potential customers.


  14. With all the local demand you mention existing on Lakeshore, perhaps the old 507 should be revived either as the local service it once was or it could run downtown like the 508. Or better yet don’t turn any cars back to eastbound at Humber.


  15. David,

    That’s exactly what those of us living on the Lakeshore are requesting – some 508 Lakeshore cars between Long Branch & Humber Loop at minimum, all day and evening, so we can get around.

    As soon as the TTC’s 501 Streetcar Report comes out (due at the May 23 Commission meeting), Rocket Riders and Sierra Club will be holding a followup Fix the 501 Queen Car Forum featuring TTC surface operations managers and interested persons, to see if their recommendations will improve 501 service reliability along the current entire 501 route. The Beach & the Lakeshore have both been suffering from very erratic service the last few years.

    As for specific plans for breaking up the 501 route into more manageable segments, there is another post on this site.


  16. Hi Steve, good to hear you were in my end of Toronto! lol

    I have to admit, getting around in the west end (West of Humber Loop) can be quite a challange, but one little note, I just wanted to point out here, IF you had gotten too fed up of waiting for decent service on the 501 and you were trying to get to the subway, both the 76 Royal York South and the 66 Prince Edward, have somewhat decent service, both run a 15 minute frequency till around 10pm, where the 66 goes to 20 minute service till 11:07 then 30 minutes service thereafter, running time to the station is around 16 minutes, the 76 is 15 minutes service right til 12:47am,then last bus is 1:17, the 76 infact right now is kinda screwed up with construction on Royal York between Norseman and Bloor, buses are turning left at Norseman, travelling on Norseman to Islington and north on Islington to the station, then when leaving the station, travelling along Bloor to Royal York, turning there onto Royal York and picking up passengers at the south West corner of Royal York and Bloor beside the Rogers Video, then they are back on regular routeing, this detour involves both the 76 and the 15 Evans buses. according to the Supervisor I’ve spoken with this past week, this should continue for at least another week.

    Steve: My trip inbound was a breeze. I was only waiting at Humber outbound because I decided to ride west from Roncesvalles on a Humber car to see where people were getting off. All that service south from the subway is of little use when you have already made the decision to go down to Queen.

    I hate the service I have in my area after 10pm, you don’t even want to try coming home around here, it’s once an hour after 10pm, last bus being 12am. Options are a 15 minute walk to the 37 Islington, 15 minutes service till 1am then it goes BLUENIGHT at 2am.

    Steve: One of the oddities of the 110 Islington South at Lake Shore is that the late evening service is better there on weekends than on weekdays. Weekdays, half of the buses go to Long Branch via Horner, with only a 30′ headway getting down to Lake Shore. On Saturdays, the service all goes to Lake Shore on a 15′ headway. This will also take effect on May 11 for the Sunday schedule which previously ran a 30′ headway on the Lake Shore branch.

    So yeah your experience getting from STC is not TOO bad, I’ve done the trip many times, average time is 75-90 minutes, depending if I miss my home route.

    Steve: Another point to my post was to show how badly a subway foul-up can throw travel plans awry by pushing someone’s trip beyond the peak period window when service is relatively frequent. I had planned to use the 110 to get down to New Toronto, but with the subway delay, I was going to miss the bus and have a long wait thanks to the split service on the route. That’s why I opted to use the 501, but it’s foul-up more-or-less duplicated the wait I would have had for the 110.


  17. I commute from St. Clair West subway to Port Credit: Avenue subway and GO. I thought about moving to Roncesvalles, but the 501 to Long Branch is so slow, where I’d change to the Mississauga bus, that I am better off where I am! In fact, I am going to move somewhere walkable to Union to ease my commute.

    The TTC is in a parlous state. The subway is barely usable. I have completely given up on surface routes until TTC vehicles get signal priority, and the police do the enforcement needed to give these vehicles unimpeachable precedence. I’m also waiting for hell to freeze over.

    Steve, your trip was slow. I get home in about 70 minutes by GO and subway; I often commute by bike in 80 minutes. There’s a problem here.

    I considered Mimico, but then I’d have to rely on GO entirely, because the 501 is unusable. There’s not even Autoshare cars there. There also needs to be local and express streetcars, and both more frequently. I cycle at between 25 and 28 km/h, and have not yet seen the streetcar that can keep up with me.


  18. Steve, since you often preach the use of GO for long haul, would you have considered using GO for part of your trip (if service were more frequent)? The transfer at Main Street is inconveniently designed, but GO from Danforth to Mimico could have shaved off some time (this is assuming they run frequently, which they don’t right now). It’s a 15 minute walk from Mimico, but still faster than the 501. Ideally the Stouffville line would run regularly all the time from Kennedy, but that’s gonna be a while (more track to lay among other things).

    Steve: Yes, but the way things are arranged now shows just how badly GO and TTC are designed for integrated use. The first problem is the fare. I have a Metropass and so the marginal cost of my TTC trip is zero, but for someone who pays as they go, there is a combined TTC and GO fare at a rate that, unlike places like Oakville, GO does not subsidize. So much for “regional integration”.

    Next, as you suggest, GO Danforth is the least problematic of the connections, although it’s not a nice walk in bad weather or for someone who doesn’t walk up hills easily. Problems with other candidates are:

    Eglinton: The Bellamy bus runs from STC to Eglinton Station, but very infrequently and makes lousy connections with trains.
    Scarborough: This station is south of Kennedy Station and so a bus transfer would be needed. Better to use the subway to go to Danforth.
    Kennedy: Of course there is no inbound service on the Uxbridge Sub, let alone through service from there to Mimico.

    Looking at the GO schedule, I find that the service westbound at Danforth is hourly. There is a train at 1710 and another at 1807. However, neither of these stop at Mimico and I would have to change at Union to another train with arrival times at Mimico would be 1756 and 1901 respectively. I may as well shoot for the 1827 from Danforth which gets to Mimico at 1901, but I had better not miss it thanks to any delays on the subway.

    Then we get to Mimico Station on Royal York Road. It’s a bit of a hike from there to Fifth Street south of Birmingham. Fine for me who may feel like a walk in good weather, lousy as a selling point for someone who has a car or for whom long walks are out of the question.

    The Royal York bus has “frequent service” until around 7:15 passing by Mimico Station, and every 15 minutes thereafter. That would get me at least to a street that connects with Birmingham to cut down the walk west. If I go all the way down to Lake Shore, I’m back in the tender mercy of the 501.

    My itinerary, then, is:

    1750 Leave STC via the RT
    1800 Transfer to the subway at Kennedy
    1806 Leave Kennedy (I make this transfer daily, and would allow this much due to service irregularities on the subway).
    1817 Arrive Main Station and walk south to GO Danforth. I will assume that some sort of farecard is in use and I don’t have to waste time buying a ticket.
    1827 Leave Danforth Station
    1901 Arrive Mimico Station
    1904 Walk out to Royal York bus
    1912 Board Royal York bus (half a headway’s wait assumed)
    1918 Depart Royal York Bus and walk west
    1933 Arrive at my destination

    I have now managed to save at most 20 minutes in my two-hour trip, and I have a guaranteed 1 hour and 40 minute trip with several transfers, numerous opportunities for service screwups that would demolish the plan, and two walks.

    In short, the surface routes in Toronto are not set up to serve GO stations, but to serve the subway, and GO doesn’t really want local traffic within the 416. If GO Lakeshore is to become part of the REX (Regional Express) network, fare integration, easier access to the stations from the TTC network and better service overall are essential.

    Why do I advocate more use of GO? To relieve the pressure on long haul trips in major commuiting corridors where otherwise there is pressure for subway expansion. The trip I was taking, diagonally from non-core to non-core points, is an example of the sort of ride that transit has great difficulty handling even though, superficially, there is a major line connecting the two points.


  19. >Steve:The trip I was taking, diagonally from non-core to non-core points, is an example of the sort of ride that transit has great difficulty handling even though, superficially, there is a major line connecting the two points.

    Does this not argue for TTC / Metrolinx to think about developing some more radial service from the downtown and not always following the grid in design of new service?

    Steve: Not necessarily. Toronto is a grid city, not a radial one, and there are few corridors that would make up a full radial network. The real problem is to arrange service so that it does not concentrate on the obvious subway-to-downtown trips but also provides service between many parts of the city.

    In the case of my trip, I was making an inbound trip from Scarborough during the outbound peak period, and I was trying to get across the Bloor subway which is almost a Berlin wall for some trips because of the way it breaks up routes.


  20. Yikes. I know it doesn’t necessarily need stating but such a trip by car would take, even at rush hour, not more than 45 mins. Probably around 20 mins without traffic (it’s pretty much all expressway – 401, DVP, Gardiner). Public transits needs to do such a better job than it currently is – speed really is a salient factor for the majority, who can afford a car. More to the point, this is why we need all day GO service across the GTA, to address these types of trips in the same way the German S-Bahns or French RER trains do. Subways/streetcars really only work well for <10 km trips, I would guess. Just my two cents.


  21. On this issue, I just downloaded some European transit maps. I lived in Dusseldorf as a student in 1993 (so that’s a good place to start): the Rhein-Ruhr transit authority (VRR) that covers the area between Dusseldorf and the Ruhr Region – this should give people a sense of what the GTA could achieve (all these lines run all day at least every 30 minutes).

    Imagine what Metrolinx could accomplish given the chance (also note: this map doesn’t include local transit (e.g. buses and streetcars). Wow.


  22. I actually managed to go from Warden station to Islington all the way to Long Branch and over to Neville Park in approx 1 h 34 mins.

    Steve: I don’t believe you. The one-way trip on the 501 at the best of times is 75 minutes. Your 94 minute trip could not possibly have included a Warden-to-Islington subway ride (roughly 40 minutes) or a trip on the 110 from Islington Station to Long Branch (20 minutes).

    It was a lot harder than it should have been given that all I did was connect at Islington to the 110A. By the way Steve what is with Islington station. I have never seen bus platforms been rearranged so poorly before, its so confusing with all the temporary platform changes, I mean there are something like 3 buses to a bus bay now.

    Steve: The old station is falling apart, and in anticipation of complete replacement of the station, buses have to double up in the bays that are useable.


  23. Steve had a pretty bad day going from the STC to New Toronto. However, such a bad day is possible in a car as well.

    On the Monday before the TTC strike, I had a large package that I needed to hand deliver to the city. The location was near the Danforth-Coxwell intersection. I came in during the mid-afternoon, and encountered minimal traffic delays on the 401 (Mississauga Road to Mavis is perennially clogged), the 427, the Gardiner and Lakeshore boulevard. I entered the city around 2:30 and managed to deliver my package at around 3:15 — a 45 minute trip from Mississauga boundary to Danforth and Coxwell.

    But then I had to meet somebody near Mimico. So, I trekked back through the city. But this time it was rush hour.

    It all went well, driving Lakeshore Boulevard and the Gardiner from Woodbine to Yonge, but then I looked ahead and saw a sea of red lights in front of me. Some accident or delay or something. So I immediately switched to Lakeshore, which wasn’t much better, being backed up with cars struggling to get on the Gardiner between Yonge and Bay, and then backed up with cars struggling to get _off_ the Gardiner from York to Spadina. I dealt with stop-and-go traffic all the way to Humber.

    At least it was a pleasant day and I had my iPod. But I finally made my appointment with no time to spare, at 5 p.m., 90 minutes after I started — almost as long as Steve’s trip, and not as far across the city. I was reminded yet again why, whenever I come to Toronto, I always park on the outskirts and take the subways or streetcars the rest of the way. Of course, delivering the package on the subway would have been no picnic, but nine times out of ten, I’m glad the choice is available.


  24. Actually Steve I clocked it on my cell phone’s stopwatch. Keep in mind there was no short turns but there were two operator changes and a run number change along the way.

    Steve: What you claim is physically impossible. You would have used most of the claimed time just getting from Warden to Long Branch, let alone returning to Neville. Unless, of course, the 501 was flying at such a speed that relativistic time dilation set in.


  25. I’m not sure where from the west James Bow came into the city from – but most nearby cities have regular (almost hourly) Greyhound service. Most of these are non-stop/limited stop into the downtown terminal for about $20-25 round trip. (Driving cost about $0.40 a km with all the costs – gas, wear and tear) – so even a 200 km round trip is costing about $80.)

    The Gardiner W-bound after about 3:30 is always very congested. There’s no point listening to your I-pod. Listen to a radio station with regular traffic reports. (On the Greyhound – you can listen to your I-pod or read a book.)

    Better advice is to plan a different itinerary. Unless one is serving a warrant or supoena, I’m not sure why anyone would need to hand deliver something these days.


  26. oo that was not taking into account the subway, the time stated was for the streetcar portion only.


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