Construction Season 2009 (Updated)

This morning, I took a ramble around the city to have a look at various projects affecting the streetcar system.  For those who don’t see all of the sights, here’s a roundup.

Updated 5:20 pm:  A link to a more recent design layout for St. Clair Phase 4 (west from Caledonia) has been added.

Updated 6:20 pm:  John F. Bromley provided a route history for the Roncesvalles Shuttle which I have added to this article.

St. Clair

The now-and-forever St. Clair project is beginning to look as if it might complete in our lifetime.  Eastward from Dufferin, new track is under construction, and the excavation is completed all the way to Oakwood.  Once this section is connected at both ends, there will be continuous track once more from Yonge to just west of Caledonia.  It’s a start.

Meanwhile, road and sidewalk construction is underway on the south side of St. Clair east of Winona, and Oakwood is less of a disaster area albeit not yet completely opened.  West of Caledonia, utility and sidewalk work progressed west from the Newmarket Subdivision bridge, and is further along on the north than the south side.

Some comments on other threads here suggest that the design will change the underpass between Old Weston Road and Keele.  Any proposal to widen the road here would certainly not be a quick project.  The plans shown in the EA involve no widening (see detailed layout part 1, page 2), nor is any shown in the February 2009 version (see pages 5 through 7).  If someone has other, definitive information, please let me know.


Work has just begun on watermain construction west of Bathurst Street.  This is supposed to end for September, but I will be astounded, given recent experiences with construction delays, if this happens.

All Carlton cars run to Dundas West Station, while the Dundas car goes to Bathurst Station, and a Dundas bus runs from Keele Station to Wolseley Loop.  Dundas streetcar service eastbound from Bathurst depends on how many cars actually reach Bathurst Station because short turns would miss the connection completely.


Overhead has been removed on Roncesvalles from Dundas to north of the carhouse except at the Howard Park crossing which now only has the east-west tangent wire for the eventual return of the Carlton car.

The streetcar track will be removed over the next two months to simplify watermain work, and will be replaced in 2010 on its new alignment as the street itself is rebuilt to the new design.  Considering that there has been streetcar service on Roncesvalles since 1908 (first a shuttle, then the Queen car, finally the King car), the absence of track and overhead will be a strange sight indeed.

Proposed changes at Queen and Roncesvalles are on hold, I believe, pending resolution of design issues including the eventual route of the Waterfront West LRT in this area.


Due to watermain and track construction, service on the Queen and Downtowner cars began diverting today as previously reported.  (For those who carp, with justification, about TTC signs, the diversion notice calls the route “Downtown” with a map showing the eastbound diversion running on Lombard, not Adelaide.)  This is expected to be in place for eight weeks.

Meanwhile, utility work west of Gladstone has reduced Queen to a single lane westbound through the underpass, and west from Noble (one west of Dufferin), construction occupies both curb lanes.

It will be interesting to see whether cars still take extended layovers at the ends of their trips, or simply short turn a lot.

Meanwhile, although the work is not visible from Queen, riders on the rail line above can see the considerable progress on the excavation of the new Dufferin Street approach from the north that will eliminate the jog at Queen for all traffic.  Just getting rid of the left turn queues in both directions should improve the streetcar and bus operations here.

History of the Roncesvalles Shuttle from John F. Bromley


Operational periods: 1908; 1909-1911; <1914-1921


TRC operation began. Daily from Harvard via Roncesvalles to Dundas and return to Harvard.

Note: One car was allocated to each track, in typical TRC fashion. The two cars may have operated in rush hours, but only one was in use in normal service.


Last day of operation. Service was suspended for the winter.

Note: Service was originally suspended for the winter on 081104, as the tracks were not connected to the main system and snow clearance was not possible. Incensed riders obviously made their feelings known, as service was reinstated at an unknown date, as was made clear by an 081211 report in the Telegram that ‘two dog kennels’ (a derisive local term for small double end cars used on stub services) were shuttling back and forth, one on each track. It is likely that there was an early snow in November (as is common in Toronto) and the service was suspended because of that, probably restarting as soon as the snow melted and the line was clear. On removal for the winter, the cars assigned were ‘derailed’ from the unconnected tracks and then re-railed for general use elsewhere on the system.


Operation reinstated. Daily from Harvard via Roncesvalles to Dundas and return to Harvard.

Note: A typical TRC stub service, with one or more cars shuttling back and forth on each track, as required.


Daily from Queen via Roncesvalles to wye at Dundas and return to wye at Queen.

Note: Reconstruction of the intersection of King-Queen-Roncesvalles-North Queen finally allowed the operation of cars that connected directly with KING and QUEEN cars bound for downtown Toronto. The old, rather simple, track arrangement did not preclude wye movements but they were made difficult by the intensity of service by KING and QUEEN cars using the intersection. See KING for a sparse service of through cars on Roncesvalles in the PM rush hour from this date.


Last day of operation. See QUEEN for replacement service.


Route name resumed. Monday-Saturday from (the north end of) Roncesvalles Carhouse via Roncesvalles to Boustead Wye and return to wye at (the north end of) Roncesvalles Carhouse.

Note: No record has been found indicating the actual reinstatement date of RONCESVALLES cars, but they were operating at the time of the Barnes report on TRC service. Generally, as far as can be determined, the route operated as a rush hour gap-filler, when delays affected QUEEN, to carry passengers transferring from KING cars.


Last day of operation. No direct replacement service other than QUEEN cars already operating on Roncesvalles. Indirectly replaced by some KING cars extended via Roncesvalles from 210912, following the end of the 1921 CNE.

Note: No record has been found indicating the actual withdrawal date. The latter was certainly before 210901 but probably not by too many days. It might have been withdrawn at the inception of the CNE, which would have seen the last car operated on 210826, but this is speculation.

There was never a rollsign for RONCESVALLES. Assigned cars would likely have been single truck cars, many of which had only the original roof-mounted wooden or iron signs in any event.

14 thoughts on “Construction Season 2009 (Updated)

  1. The 501 Queen – I spent today on it. The wire seem to come off when going into Victoria Street going EB, going WB it got out on Parliament.

    In both directions the drivers made a clear announcements of the diversions and the routes, also the fact that there was no shuttle bus service between Parliament and Victoria Streets.

    I noticed the Church Street tracks continues south of King … where do they go to?

    I noticed today that the TTC drivers are so much friendlier than usual and I waited no more than 6 minutes for my streetcars (I spent all day downtown going around doing work stuff and today is the best TTC/Transit day I had in years).

    Thank you to the TTC on the 501 WB who helped me with directions.

    Steve: The Church Street track south of King leads to Wellington Street. This is the loop (via Church, Wellington and York) for the 503 Kingston Road Tripper.


  2. Why is there a left turn on the eastbound St. Clair at Keele Street? I would be using Gunn’s Road to make the left to go north. Removing that left turn lane and replacing it with a nearside streetcar platform would have been better.

    Steve: The drawings there are the original design, and this has been changed to a nearside platform because of the grade farside. I have updated the main post to show the more recent version of the design which is well-hidden on the City of Toronto’s website in a set of meeting minutes.


  3. I have newfound sympathy for those living near streetcar turns – I live at Adelaide and Church, and the squealing is quite something to hear. It’s too bad Victoria street is one-way south of Adelaide, as it makes for a very circuitous diversion.

    I must say that buses are still much worse in terms of noise pollution. Nothing like the sound of brakes at 3AM to disturb my sleep.

    Steve: Later tonight you will have the Queen night car to keep you company. As for the track, the intersection at Adelaide is in very rough shape. It has a slow order on it now, and is scheduled for replacement next year when the south end of Church is rebuilt. When that happens, it will lose the leads to the westbound track (similar to the change at Richmond where the eastbound rails and curves are gone). The overhead has already been restrung without the westbound leads.

    If the southern part of Dundas Square’s special work were not blocked off for the interminable construction at the new CITY studios, the Queen service could have been diverted via Parliament, Dundas and Victoria, although that might only be marginally better.


  4. Steve said: “… the Queen service could have been diverted via Parliament, Dundas and Victoria… ”

    Sorry. Last time I looked, no N to W curve at Parliament and Dundas, no curves at all in the NW quadrant at Queen and Victoria.

    Steve: You are correct. I have scrambled two intersections together.


  5. Will Roncesvalles car house still be operating Carlton and Dundas cars? I guess Dundas cars can just run up/down Bathurst to Queen/King, but Carlton would have to use Ossington and Dundas to Bathurst to Queen/King if the track map I consulted is accurate.

    Steve: Dundas east of Ossington is impassable due to watermain construction until fall 2009. Once that’s done, the simplest way for a Carlton car to go to Ronces from Dundas West is to simply run east as a 505 Dundas car and then south on Bathurst. Westbound, Carlton cars can turn south at Bathurst, although there is no electric switch on this curve.

    Bathurst may have an amazing variety of deadheading cars if/when St. Clair is back.

    It’d be logical if all Carlton cars ran out of Russell, with Roncesvalles picking up more King and Queen cars.

    Steve: Actually not. There are big advantages in staging service from both ends of the line as it means peak services can build up and down in both directions at once.

    Also, Steve writes apropos of Queen: “It will be interesting to see whether cars still take extended layovers at the ends of their trips, or simply short turn a lot.”

    Surely they should run to the termini, and then take a shorter layover so as to leave on schedule? Isn’t this what the long layover time was designed to address?

    Steve: Yes, but there are times that “recovery time” becomes “scheduled layover time” in the minds of some operators. With Queen being such a long route (to Long Branch), some recovery time is absolutely needed at the end of a trip. That’s one advantage of changing the length of the route by splitting it, and of modifying the crewing arrangements to use some form of step-back at crew change points. Shorter routes don’t need as much recovery or layover time per trip, and step-back crews build the work break into the schedule separately from the cars and their passengers.


  6. On Saturday night I just missed a 501 car while arriving at Long Branch loop via the 123. I don’t know what the headway is supposed to be around 11pm, but I waited a very long time before two more cars arrived together. The first operator seemed to be quite concerned about how late he was and responded to another rider’s question that it was because of the watermain work downtown. His CIS box showed -17.

    Steve: The headway is supposed to be 18 minutes at Long Branch.

    A late operator on this section of the line at this time of night provided a good example of just how quickly a car can cover the trip to Roncesvalles (the car was running-in to the carhouse). The trip took 24 minutes. Even that late in the evening there were enough customers along the route to make one for almost every stop if they had been spread out evenly. Unfortunately we had to stop a number of times to find out if the people at a particular stop wanted to go past Roncesvalles and briefly explain that another car was shortly following. Even with that the speed of the run was a welcome change and Roncesvalles was exactly where I wanted to get to. The only thing better would have been a CLRV. The poor traction and braking of an ALRV make those beasts go through sand like kids in a candy shop!


  7. Regarding kristian’s post … I don’t understand why the overnight cars get so messed up. They aren’t short-turned through their runs … are they?

    Waiting to get to work Saturday morning at 415, the eb car at Queen & Roncy should have been there at 420 ….

    Instead, 3 … yes, 3 double length cars came westbound headed for long branch ….

    I didn’t realise they had such a demand out in the west end at that hour.

    Steve: Yes, I have seen night cars and baby night cars short turned, a ludicrous practice when headways are so wide. As for that service to Long Branch, maybe it was a very congested day downtown and they had just arrived at Ronces.


  8. I had an opportunity to travel in along Queen from the east end this morning and the convoy of westbound streetcars trying to get onto King was impressive.

    It made me wonder if it might have been better to use King all the way in the east end rather than Parliament. I didn’t time it, but the streetcars seemed to be losing quite a bit of time waiting for the westbound left onto Parliament, and then the southbound right onto King. King at Queen is probably a lot easier turn, and King is not that far from Queen from Parliament east.

    Even if not all streetcars used King instead of Parliament, the TTC could have temporarily suspended service on the 502, running exclusively 503 cars via King. In addition to reducing the pressure on the congested turns at the east (and west) ends of the diversion, this could have provided an interesting comparison of the impact of consolidating the Kingston Road service onto a single downtown corridor and terminus.

    Steve: I agree.


  9. Steve writes in response to my question:
    “Dundas east of Ossington is impassable due to watermain construction until fall 2009. Once that’s done, the simplest way for a Carlton car to go to Ronces from Dundas West is to simply run east as a 505 Dundas car and then south on Bathurst. Westbound, Carlton cars can turn south at Bathurst, although there is no electric switch on this curve.”

    This doesn’t answer the question of what the TTC is *actually* doing. I never assume that the “simplest way” is the way things will get done.

    Carlton cars running in via Roncesvalles always provided service as far as Howard Park and Roncesvalles (and even to Queen and Roncesvalles, which I’ve used from time to time); this served 99.X% of westbound passengers just fine. Turning a westbound Carlton car at Bathurst to go out of service kills service from that point west. There’s a lot of early-evening demand through Little Italy, and with the Dundas car hors de combat, it must be pretty miserable.

    (Maybe they’ve beefed up Wellesley service like they did when College trackwork was being redone?)

    Steve: There has been no change on Wellesley. An alternative way to run in westbound would be to turn back at Lansdowne and then east via Dundas. I don’t know the details of the carhouse routings. Maybe one of my regular readers at the TTC can supply this info.


  10. O my goodness try wating for the 501 westbound to Long Branch at Roncesvalles at around 3:30. You can wait up to 40 mins and the streetcar is packed like a can of tuna. I dont know if its the construction or the driver (because I notice it’s the same driver every time).


  11. The Saturday Globe & Mail had an article that said that “St. Clair West’s long-running construction nightmare is about to spead [to all areas having a Transit City line]. Next stop: Sheppard Avenue East.

    The article mentions “squabbles” between utility companies and the TTC.

    Did you once say that these “squabbles” have been resolved? Another problem mentioned was that the small contractors hired were unreliable in getting on with the job.

    Steve: There were problems with Hydro not sticking to planned dates for this work, and this caused other parts of the project to go off schedule. Also, some work has been rearranged to suit the wishes of local councillors, and the fire department stuck in its oar a few times. The business about small contractors was not that they were unreliable, but that they didn’t have the resources to throw extra shifts at the work to suit last minute changes or screwups by others. All of this points directly to extraordinarily poor project management and a lack of will by all agencies concerned to work together.

    As you may have read in a recent Sun article on the same subject, the City now has an overall co-ordinator for this sort of thing, and I believe that’s one reason for the recent changes to TTC track plans so that they would co-ordinate with water works.

    I understand that the old Public Utilities Co-ordinating Committee which looked after this sort of thing pre-amalgamation was dismantled in the megacity, likely on the assumption that one big city didn’t need co-ordination. One of Mel’s many legacies.


  12. This weekend we had two more sinkholes on Finch Avenue West.

    Are there any more potential blowouts where the road was elevated over a ravine or there is a creek that was sent underground? What does this mean for construction of the Finch LRT?

    Steve: Depending on the location, and how well (or poorly) the road an its utilities were built, yes this could be an issue that the LRT designers will have to include in their plans. Looking at the sinkhole, it’s under the middle of the street, and I suspect that, like on Sheppard, the sewers will be rebuilt and relocated to the curb lanes. This both fixes the old infrastructure and puts it somewhere that is easier to maintain.


  13. I wrote the following to Councillor Mihevc’s office:

    “Good Afternoon, Will there be a thorough analysis of the St. Clair ROW before any part of the Sheppard East LRT is built?” (Sherman)

    In response, Councillor Mihevc wrote the following: “Absolutely there will be … in fact I am doing an analysis from my perspective as a Councillor, and will be pushing the city and TTC to do the same.” (Joe Mihevc)

    How long do you think these analyses would take to be completed?

    Steve: Considering that some work begins this fall on Sheppard East (utility relocation and the grade separation at Agincourt), this needs to happen quickly. I know that some in the City are very sensitive about how badly St. Clair was screwed up, and I am waiting to see signs of change in other projects. The fact that they can bring forward proposals for TC lines that omit major options and/or include nonsensical proposals doesn’t give me a lot of confidence.


  14. A couple of months ago I completed an online survey that the TTC had commissioned to gauge the public’s opinion, comments, concerns, questions etc. on the Transit City projects in general, now that things are heating up.

    One of the sections (“To what extent are you concerned over the following?”) included the comment, “Is this going to be like St. Clair? I hear that was a major fiasco.”

    That to me is a sign that St. Clair is a sore point at the TTC.


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