Parliament and Roncesvalles 2010 Track Work (Update 11)

Updated December 19, 2010: Streetcar service resumed today on Roncesvalles Avenue to Dundas West Station.  The construction is not yet finished and this has predictably upset the neighbourhood.

The TTC seemed unusually ineptly prepared for this changeover.  Electric switches at many locations had not been reactivated requiring operators to throw points at commonly used junctions by hand.  The Sunday Stops on Roncesvalles which were not supposed to be part of the new design remain in place both at stop poles and in onboard stop announcements.  Indeed, the location of some stops appears to be a leftover from the shuttle bus operation.

At least one errant auto, parked in the wrong direction and foul of the southbound track, was struck by a passing streetcar.  Permanent signs indicating where people can and cannot park don’t exist yet, although a number of temporary “emergency, no parking” signs have appeared.

Anyone interested in watching service reliability can do so via various monitoring sites.

Meanwhile, Parliament Street reopened to regular traffic recently, and this morning, both the King and Dundas cars diverted bothways via Gerrard and Parliament to bypass construction on Broadview.  No pointman was provided for the westbound manual switch at Parliament, although on previous occasions the TTC has spent a small fortune manning this location for diversions.  Why the switch isn’t electrified is a mystery considering how frequently this diversion is used.

Updated December 2, 2010: The City has issued a notice regarding the suspension of construction activities from the coming weekend until April 2011.  The King shuttle bus will run bothways via Roncesvalles until streetcars return on December 19

Updated October 29, 2010: Construction proceeds apace on Roncesvalles north from the carhouse on the west side of the street.  New sidewalks have been laid to roughly High Park Avenue, and the new stop layouts with “bumpouts” of the sidewalks are taking shape.

The City of Toronto has an updated Construction Notice with more details on the work staging.  The TTC schedules taking effect on December 19, 2010, include restoration of streetcar service on Roncesvalles.  Preliminary work on overhead installation is already in progress.

This photo, taken on October 27, shows the stop southbound at Wright.  You can see where the old curb line was from the location of the hydro pole.  The space between the edge of the concrete and the track will hold the shared cycling/pedestrian space (see photo below).

This photo shows the southbound stop at Garden Avenue.  The area where new concrete is being poured will be a shared space for cycling and pedestrians (note the ramp down to street level at the end of the loading area).  The concrete is at a lower level than the adjacent sidewalk in preparation for a surface layer of pavers which will have a different look and texture to set this off from the pedestrian-only area.

Meanwhile on Parliament Street, the track construction is almost completed with only surface layers of concrete still to be placed just south of Gerrard.  The street has not fully reopened because of utility and paving work in the west curb lane.

Updated October 9, 2010: Today service on the 506 Carlton route returned to High Park Loop, and the 504 King route resumed operation via King between Church and the Don Bridge.

Entering a somewhat overgrown High Park Loop.  This area was not part of the project, but I couldn’t resist including this view of the streetcar coming through the bushes.

Looking south on Roncesvalles from Howard Park.  The north to east switch is visible at the lower left of the photo.  Concrete work stopped just short of the intersection as welding is not yet completed.

Looking east on Howard Park across Roncesvalles.  There is a slight grade across the diamond north to south, and the 506 cars lean a bit crossing the intersection.  Note also the overhead hanger which is pantograph compliant.  (The overhead at King & Parliament is unchanged as that intersection was not dismantled for the track construction project.)

Work on the west sidewalk on Roncesvalles is proceeding slowly north from Queen.  Unlike some other projects (such as Parliament Street) the road grade is also changing here, and the curb lanes must be rebuilt to bring everything into line with the new car tracks.

There is no sign of any work beginning on King east of Roncesvalles.  I am trying to get confirmation of whether this has been deferred to 2011 so that construction can concentrate on Roncesvalles itself.

Updated September 22, 2010: Work at Howard Park and Roncesvalles is now underway.  Because this project completely occupies the intersection and nearby streets, there is no attempt to operate transit service on either street, and everything diverts elsewhere.

The west-to-north curve, a last remnant of track serving Dundas Carhouse, will not be replaced, and this will leave the two curves in the south-east quadrant as access to Roncesvalles Carhouse for Dundas and Carlton cars.  Once the intersection is finished, the track south from Howard Park to Grenadier can be added.  This section was left as a construction staging area for the intersection project.

Trackwork will move to King between Roncesvalles and Close in mid-October.

Looking west on Howard Park to Roncesvalles.  The track panel on the trailer is the west-to-south facing switch.  These photos were taken on September 22.

Looking north on Roncesvalles to Howard Park.  The track panel is the trailing switch for the west-to-south curve.  At this point it has been lifted off of the trailer by the rail handling equipment.  The trailer will drive away leaving …

… the track in mid air suspended to the two rail handlers.  These machines are able to “walk” and deal with various elevations of the roadbed as shown here.  With the track in exactly the right location, they will lower the panel onto the concrete roadbed.

A side view of the equipment used to manœuvre the track panels.

Meanwhile, at King and Parliament, the intersection replacement began just after Labour Day.  The work also includes King Street itself to a point west of Berkeley.  This will repair curves that were not welded when they were installed in the previous iteration of trackwork at this location.  The photos below were taken on September 18.

Looking west on King across Parliament from the north side.

Looking west on King from the south side.  The excavation work behind the blue fence is unrelated work on a new condo side.

Looking east on King from Berkeley.

Work at the north end of the Parliament project is largely completed to Dundas Street.  The section from Dundas to Gerrard (not including either intersection) will follow soon.

Updated September 1, 2010: Work at Roncesvalles & Dundas has progressed to the point that the new special work is installed and most of the concrete work around the switches is complete.  Work on tangent rail south and east from the intersection focuses on Dundas Street so that streetcar service can resume on September 7.

On Roncesvalles, the excavation and track installation continues south toward Howard Park.  Construction south of Howard Park has reached Constance Ave., two blocks away from the junction with the 506 Carlton route, and track is in place to Grenadier.  At this rate, all track will be finished north and south of the intersection by mid-September.  No date for the intersection reconstruction has been announced yet.

Looking south on Roncesvalles at Dundas.

Looking northwest on Dundas to Roncesvalles.

Severe traffic congestion and transit delays occur eastbound on Howard Park because the traffic signals have not been re-timed to reflect this street’s temporary role as a major route through the area.  In particular, only a small amount of time is available for left turns east to north at Dundas even though the normal through flow on Dundas is cut off by the construction.  This is an example of a lack of attention to details in the management of construction diversions that makes the effect worse than might otherwise occur.

Meanwhile on Parliament Street, track construction occupies the stretch from Shuter north to Dundas Street.  This will continue to September 3, and work will then shift to the King & Parliament area.  Parliament will be completed south to King Street over the Labour Day weekend, and in following weeks, King (including the special work at Parliament) will be rebuilt from Power (east of Parliament) to Berkeley (the curve west of Parliament).  Streetcar service on King will divert bothways via Church and Queen.

The TTC’s website contains two pages detailing this project, one on their “Construction” sub-site, and one under “Diversions”.  This is an example of a structural problem with the site where overlapping and conflicting information appears under two separate branches.

Updated August 23, 2010: Work starts today on reconstruction of the section of Roncesvalles south from Dundas to Howard Park.  Work begins at the Dundas & Roncesvalles intersection and will close both streetcar lanes and the southbound traffic lane.  By August 30, the southbound lane will re-open, but traffic will be unable to cross the streetcar tracks to turn east on Dundas.

On September 7, the intersection work will be completed and Dundas Street will re-open.

Construction diversions in effect until September 7:

  • The 505 Dundas and 306 Carlton Night services will divert to High Park Loop.
  • The 504 King shuttle bus now has a meandering route diverting from Dundas and Bloor west to Parkside, south to Howard Park and east to Dundas (thence via its “regular” diversion down Lansdowne).  Northbound, the buses will turn east on Howard Park from Roncesvalles to Dundas, then northwest to Dundas West Station.
  • A separate 505 Dundas shuttle bus will operate between Dundas West and Lansdowne over the same diversion routing southbound as the 504 King shuttle.
  • The 313 Jane Night service will follow the same routing as the 504 King Shuttle bus and will loop at Sunnyside Loop.

During track construction on Roncesvalles north of Howard Park, only the northbound road lane will remain open using the same configuration as with the work south of Howard Park.  No date has been announced yet for the reconstruction of the Howard Park & Roncesvalles intersection.

Meanwhile, sidewalk and curb lane reconstruction has started on the west side of Roncesvalles north from Queen.  Work will begin at a later date on the east side.

Updated August 9, 2010: This morning, Roncesvalles was closed northbound at Fermanagh due to partial collapse of the roadway.  Buses were unable to use the street until this was shored up.  The concrete under the road surface is particularly thin at this location, and the soil underneath is sand.  Service resumed about 10:50 am.

Updated August 7, 2010: Photos of Roncesvalles Avenue showing various stages of track construction have been added at the end of this article.  Also added are photos of the reconstruction of the intersection at Queen & Parliament.

Updated July 25, 2010: Construction is proceeding quickly north on Roncesvalles from Marion.  It appears that for this project, track assembly will follow soon behind pouring of the foundation slab in the road.  This allows the foundation to cure even while track is put together, but not yet set in pavement.  Finishing the centre lanes is important so that traffic can shift to them allowing reconstruction and reconfiguration of curb lanes and sidewalks.  The new overhead poles will be installed as part of the sidewalk work because their location will change to suit the new street layout.

Updated July 24, 2010: The overall timelines for the Parliament Street project are:

  • Starting July 26:  Construction begins south from Shuter
  • July 30 to August 16:  Intersection of Queen & Parliament
  • August 20 to 23:  Intersection of Richmond & Parliament
  • September 4 to 7:  Intersection of Adelaide & Parliament
  • TBA in September:  A 10-day (two weekend) closing for the reconstruction of King & Parliament
  • TBA in September:  A 4-day weekend closing of King & Berkeley
  • TBA:  Construction north from Shuter to Gerrard, skipping the intersection at Dundas

Details including route diversions are on the project web page.  The work is expected to end in December.

Construction of new track on Roncesvalles is planned to start north of the carhouse exit on Monday, July 12.  This will be built to the “new Roncesvalles” design including sidewalk bump-outs at stops to permit direct boarding of streetcars from the curb.  The work is expected to take until November.

The King shuttle bus will divert southbound via Dundas and Lansdowne to Queen, then operate west to Sunnyside Loop, and east via King to its terminus at Shaw Street.  Westbound/northbound service will run via Roncesvalles where the east curb lane will be kept open for traffic.

No date has been announced yet for track replacement on King between Roncesvalles and Close.  Watermain replacement is now in progress in this part of the street, and the south curb lane east of Roncesvalles is used for track storage.

Photos of Roncesvalles Avenue (August 7, 2010)

The construction on Roncesvalles has proceded very quickly northward, and I hope that this will become an example of the TTC and City doing a project quickly and with minimum disruption (allowing for the fact that the entire road and sidewalks are being replaced).

We have heard far too much about St. Clair, and it’s time we saw a counter-example.  Work began northward from Harvard Ave. (two blocks north of Queen Street) on July 12.  Three weeks later, the excavation is not quite half way to Dundas Street, and track installation is well underway.

Looking south across Howard Park Avenue, we can see the remnants of the intersection with the 506 Carlton route which continues to operate to High Park Loop.  This intersection will be rebuilt, including the west-to-north curve (the survey marks for it are in place already), one of the few remnants of Dundas Carhouse.

Looking south at Grenadier Road.  The rather uneven condition of the pavement is left over from the watermain work done in 2009 which required removal of the streetcar tracks.

Looking north at Westminster Avenue.  This is the north end of the excavation as of August 7, 2010.  Note the depth of the excavation.  As you will see in photos below, a completely new track foundation will be constructed, quite likely much better than what was removed.

Looking south from High Park Boulevard / Fermanagh Avenue.  The 504 King shuttle buses must pick their way carefully between the construction pylons, the excavation, the hydro poles and the existing sidewalk.  This is not a high-speed operation.  Meanwhile, this stretch of the excavation shows the base in various stages of being packed down and levelled in preparation for the concrete slab.

This view looks north to Fermanagh (the previous shot was taken from the pedestrian bridge visible here) again showing the depth of the excavation and the tightness of the single northbound lane.

Looking south toward Garden Avenue.  Here you can see track that has been laid in place but not yet assembled with ties while only a few blocks to the south, construction has progressed to laying the surface concrete slab holding the track.

Looking north across Garden Avenue.  This shows the second layer of concrete that goes from the base slab up to the top of the steel ties.  Future trackwork will only require the removal of the top layer concrete, the one holding the rails, while the tie and foundation structure remain untouched.

Also visible here in the completed track is the rubber sleeve which isolates the track from the ties and the concrete slabs to reduce vibration and to increase roadbed life.  All of the joints between the rails are welded (arc welding to make the track strings visible in the previous photo, thermite welding at the joints between the strings).

Looking south to Pearson Avenue.  The top layer of concrete is in various stages of completion here.

Looking north from Harvard Avenue.  The track structure is finished here, and temporary fill is being poured into the gap between the new and the old parts of the road.  Once the trackwork is complete, the curb lanes and sidewalks will be rebuilt.  This will include the portion of Roncesvalles from Harvard to the North Gate of Roncesvalles Carhouse.

Plans for reconfiguration of The Queensway including the roadway lane rearrangement at Roncesvalles (not the tracks) are on hold.

Photos of Queen & Parliament

This is a complex intersection which is 3/4 of a “grand union” having six of the possible eight curves plus the central diamonds.

Work began on July 26 with excavation of Parliament Street south from Shuter to Queen including the special work on the north side of the intersection.

Each of the eight track sections (four quadrants, two directions each) leading into the intersection was pre-assembled and delivered to the site on a trailer.  These were positioned for pickup by the TTC’s track panel moving system.  This arrangement is much simpler and faster than the older scheme whereby an intersection would be completely put together in a works yard, then disassembled, trucked in pieces to the site, and then re-assembled in the street.

This also allows much of the welding to be done in advance rather than during the street closure as only the joins between sections must be welded on site.

The view above looks north on Parliament to Richmond.

Starting on July 30, the main tracks on Queen Street were removed.  For the next two weeks, all streetcars service on Queen will divert via King and Church.  This view looks west on Queen to Parliament.  And, yes, power has been cut to all of the overhead wiring.

By August 3, the foundation slab has been poured, and much of the intersection has been assembled in the street.  This view looks to the southeast across the work-in-progress.  The yellow tent on the far corner is a combination sunshade and refreshment stand for workers on the very hot days while this work was underway.

This is a closeup view of the track on the north side of the intersection.  The rail with the orange paint is the south-to-west curve.  Note the rubber sleeves around both the rails and specialwork castings.  This isolates the intersection from the street, reduces noise from wheels crossing the diamonds, and makes the concrete last much longer.  An example of this construction technique, completed in 2009, is at Queen & Church.

The sharp-eyed will notice that all six of the facing point switches in the new intersection include provision for electrification.  The TTC has a large number of manual switches at intersections and the gradual electrification of all of them will be useful both to speed operations during diversions and short turns, and to avoid the operators’ need to manually set and reset switches.

Here is another closeup view showing the east-to-north curve crossing the westbound rail.

By August 6, enough of the intersection was in place to pour the track in concrete for the main-line Queen Street trackage.  This will cure over the next week and service should return on Monday, August 16.

With the cooler weather, the tent moved away from the intersection and provided an unusual frame for a view of the new track on Queen east of Parliament.

64 thoughts on “Parliament and Roncesvalles 2010 Track Work (Update 11)

  1. So they cut up roncesvalles to fix things/enlarge sidewalks/whatever, then they redid the street without allowing space for streetcar tracks, now they will tear up roncesvalles again for the streetcar tracks………..hmm isn’t this technically wasting? When they re-installed the street the first time they perfectly knew that there would be streetcar tracks.

    Steve: They put the street back together because of the technical drawings and contracting for the trackwork were delayed by last summer’s municipal workers strike. There has also been some co-ordination problems between the TTC and City, I understand. I will be astounded if they finish by November. The problem is that the track will be back in, but the last work to be done is the sidewalks, and the power poles cannot be installed until the sidewalks are done. Hence we will have track but no overhead. Possibly the 504 will coast downhill from Dundas to Queen, but northbound trips will be a challenge.


  2. That King shuttle bus is not very useful. Why not just put extra service on Lansdowne Ave. between Bloor and Queen, looping close to Roncesvalles? Also, beef up service between Keele and Lake Shore along Parkside Dr. (use the U-turn east of the pedestrain bridge to turn around)? Redirect riders to the appropriate station; for the north end of Roncesvalles, there’s the Dundas car.

    Steve: There’s the little matter of accessibility. You cannot walk east from Ronces to Lansdowne, and Parkside is quite a hike to the west. This would be rather like my suggesting that the Queensway bus is an alternative for service on Lake Shore.

    I swear that, around the time of the B-D construction, TTC buses used Indian Road. No one else remembers this happening, though. But I’m also fairly certain that there were “Bus Stop” poles along Indian Road, too. (Most of the poles had been replaced by about seven or eight years ago, but there was an old wooden pole with “Bus Stop” on Indian Rd. in the vicinity of High Park Blvd.)

    Steve: Some recycled poles that had remnants of TTC stop markings showed up in various places around the city. I remember seeing one on a hydro right of way that actually was once an interurban line. A complete, but amusing, coincidence.

    The King proper shuttle could continue Sunnyside–Shaw (actually Strachan). At least this routing would be useful and kept out of the Queen/Lansdowne/Jameson traffic mess.

    I don’t see why *anyone* would ride the shuttle for more than half its route! So no need to give a one-seat ride from one end to the other.

    Steve: Probably the annoying thing in the design is that when the shuttle was a loop southbound via Lansdowne and northbound via Roncesvalles, people bound for Ronces could just ride around the loop. Now they will have to change buses to pick up a northbound 504. I am sure this will confuse everyone for a few days. However, as for the one-seat ride, the portion of the King route west of Dufferin has a fair amount of traffic to and from Dundas West Station, and outbound cars (when the line was all in one piece) started picking up outbound riders once they were in Parkdale.


  3. I suppose it’s too much to expect that the possible turns from/to Parliament at King and Queen will be expanded to allow additional turning possibilities. Parliament is a useful and used short-turn and diversion route and increasing the possiblities would surely be useful.

    Steve: The sharp angle of turns in the northeast quadrant work against that proposal, and an earlier scheme to put Parliament Loop back in service are no more as the TTC sold the land. The next two options for a King car short turn will be either the proposed loop on Broadview north of Queenm, east side, in the existing parking lot, or Cherry Loop at Mill Street.


  4. The reason for the faded “Bus Stop” signs on Indian Road, was that there used to be a bus along Indian Road to downtown from a on street loop at Jane and Annette. Parkside Drive was a narrow Keele Street like Indian Road, and both “Keele Street” and Indian Road merged where the Queensway overpass is today. That is why there is a jog to the west for Parkside Drive as it goes north under the railway overpass. Indian Road would have forked to the east, if it wasn’t for the Queensway being built in the 1950’s.


  5. Other than issues with stop announcements and saving a few pieces of cardboard on temporary stops, is there a reason Sorauren or Sunnyside aren’t used for the southbound bus alternate? Sunnyside would be ideal, but even Sorauren is vastly more useful than Lansdowne for a Ronces diversion.

    Steve: Speed bumps.


  6. Speed bumps are so common in Ottawa, it’s no problem even for 60-foot artics. C’mon TTC, don’t wimp out.

    As a kid, I remember an old bus stop from 59 NORTH YONGE Richmond Hill service reused as a hydro pole on a back lane behind Yonge just south of Fairlawn.

    Heck, I’ve even got one in my back yard (OK, OK, I put it there myself…)


  7. Here is a TTC map from 1948 which shows the route of the High Park Extra Fare City coach route going along Indian Road.

    These days Indian Road has a stop sign every 20 meters making it unsuitable for as bus route.


  8. The new track ladders for Roncesvalles Division are sitting in semi-assembled form at the south end of Danforth Division yard. Good picture-taking opportunities abound.


  9. There are also at least two pairs of PCC trucks sitting over there. It appears they are used to move strands of rail and assembled track panels. There are lots of subway car trucks, too. It’s worth a visit, if the TTC police wannabes don’t pinch you.

    Now, wouldn’t this make a fine site for a TTC Transit Visitors and Heritage Centre? Nah. Better we should shove up to an as-yet undefined location on North Yonge, far away from any streetcar system connection.


  10. Regarding the Indian Road bus, that’s very interesting! Of course, I only remember back to the early ’60s, around the time of the Bloor-Danforth construction. (We lived on Radford Ave., which ran between Indian Road and Alhambra Ave.)

    Steve comments that beefing up parallel bus service ignores the problem of accessibility to Roncesvalles. That was true when at least one direction of the shuttle ran on Roncesvalles. The new shuttle arrangement is only good for the very northern and southern ends of Roncesvalles. If you want Roncesvalles and High Park Blvd, you have a good hike; it’s considerably closer to walk in from Parkside Dr. and High Park Blvd. Correct that it’s not possible to walk from Lansdowne to Roncesvalles.

    It’s too bad that running the shuttle down Parkside Dr. runs into the problem of getting over to Queen/Roncesvalles. Parkside Dr. strikes me as a much better shuttle route than Lansdowne.


  11. I was in Amsterdam last month, the trams were kept running while work was being done to sections of track. Fascinating to watch as workers stepped back every few minutes when the tram rumbled past on the 2-300m section they would work on.


  12. Isn’t what Peter is talking about what the TTC used to do?

    Steve: Yes. However there are two issues.

    First, the track reconstruction for the past decade has involved complete replacement down to the lowest slab in the road, not just the surfacve layer including the track. Second, track in Toronto is built to carry heavy truck traffic. The track in many European cities is not laid in concrete that has to cure properly for long-term strength. When comparing systems and practices, it is important to compare the fine details of operations and infrastructure.


  13. @ Miroslav Glasic: You said “So they cut up Roncesvalles to fix things/enlarge sidewalks/whatever, then they redid the street …” I think that’s an overly complementary depiction of the paving job on Ronces after the water main work. They were constantly digging holes, filling them in, and redigging them again – the road hasn’t been “redone yet”, they just slapped asphalt back on top very roughly, in case they needed to go back in – makes sense to me that they left the final repaving until the pipe work was completed.

    @ Karl Junkin and David Cavlovic – regarding Sorauren. They have on occasion run 504 replacements south on Sorauren and north on Sunnyside during the Taste Of Roncesvalles (or whatever they call it). I can’t speak for the Sunnyside portion, but Sorauren yes, has speed bumps, but also is fairly narrow south of Wabash, and with street parking and those buses having to go pretty slow not only for the bumps but to also avoid sideswiping cars… and remember, that street is littered with kids. I understand that at Wabash there was a bus garage many years ago – I also gather that at that time the northern end of Sorauren was more industrial, so residential concerns didn’t apply. I expect that is why Wabash itself is such a wide street. But at any rate, I fear that Landsdowne is the best bet. I live on Galley, and find – in the warmer months – that it’s more convenient to walk down from Dundas West than futz with the replacement bus.

    Lastly, I have heard that the track rebuild on Roncesvalles, factoring in the bump outs for passengers, will coincide with the demise of the Sunday stops, which on a street that has a church on every corner is a nuisance. They are a generally a quaint relic from Toronto’s past, and in some cases are reasonable – but look at the southbound stops of High Park Blvd and Fern – the stops are only 1 1/2 blocks apart, and then they put a Sunday stop at Wright in between. Ugh.


  14. In 1897, Sunday streetcar service was finally introduced after approved by a second referendum. The Sunday stops was probably a result of a concession to getting the approval vote. Of course, the rich would have still had their own transportation to get to church.


  15. CRCE is going to be awarded the Parliament Street contract next week and the City says: “This contract is expected to start on July 26, 2010 and end on December 3, 2010.”

    Steve: Considering that Broadview is torn up for track repairs at MountStephen Street (which, by the way, intersects Munro Street), it’s a good thing they didn’t start earlier.


  16. Sorauren is way too narrow for buses south of Wabash, sometimes two cars can hardly pass each other and it would create a danger for walkers and cyclists.


  17. Sometimes there are ways of keeping service operating. I remember when they were building the west leg of the Y under Bloor at University, they built a set of detour tracks for the Bloor trains on the sidewalks. I guess the construction time was more than 2 weeks though.


  18. Streetcars going southbound to the carhouse on Roncesvalles sometimes carried passengers. That meant 504 Roncesvalles, 505 Roncesvalles, and 506 Roncesvalles streetcars had passengers for their return trip, at least up to Queen/Queensway. With the construction, the southbound trips are nonexistent.


  19. It seems like this track work never ends. Is it true they’re going to rebuild Spadina soon, after only 13 years? I thought all this new track was supposed to last at least 25 years.

    Steve: Roncesvalles and the west end of King are among the last pieces of “main line” trackage that have yet to be built to new standards. The intersections (including those on Spadina) didn’t get the new treatment as soon, and that’s why the Spadina crossings are coming up for replacement. By the way, don’t forget that as intersections they had traffic on them from east-west lines from the moment they were rebuilt, and they date from 1996, the year before the 510 Spadina route opened. Still, not exactly a record to be proud of.

    One other big piece of “old” track is the original Harbourfront line (including Spadina south of King) that is now 20 years old and falling apart. This track is extremely noisy because it was not built with mechanical isolation of the rail from the track slab.

    The fact that the TTC is now working through the “non-revenue” trackage shows how they have more or less caught up with the near-disaster caused by late 1980s track construction techniques that guaranteed a very short track lifespan. Church was done last year, and Adelaide is planned once various construction sites get out of the way. York, Wellington and part of Richmond are also outstanding.

    Updated:The track on Roncesvalles was previously rebuilt from Queen to Boustead in 1968, and again in 1985/86.


  20. I wonder how the TTC is going to handle track rebuilds on the TC lines. How do we justify shutting down light rail lines for months at a time and replacing them with buses, and at the same time say that buses can’t handle the projected growth on these lines? Should we not encase the tracks in concrete and build something similar to the Queensway?


  21. M. Briganti wrote, “I wonder how the TTC is going to handle track rebuilds on the TC lines.”

    I have wondered that myself. The design is to have cross-overs every 2-3 km, but I cannot say if these will just be trailing point crossovers for turn-backs only (common in Melbourne) or whether they will be both leading and trailing (used in Cleveland, St. Louis, and Sydney to name a few) to make left-hand running easier over parts of the line. This can greatly reduce disruptions during major track work by allowing service to continue, albeit at a more restricted minimum headway. Supplementing service with buses is easier if the LRT continues to operate at a reduced headway through the construction zone.

    Steve: There is also the question of how the roadbed is built. If this is done in a way that allows quick excavation down to the layer where the tracks are bolted to the steel ties, then the top layer can be stripped off and service can continue to run. Changing out the track would be like a subway replacement, done quickly and overnight. The only real issue is the time needed for the fresh concrete to cure, although the TTC has been doing stop rail replacements on Broadview (which uses the new design) over weekends.

    It will be the stops that wear out first, and we will get a sense of how the TTC will handle this. As for crossovers, I believe that the lines will be set up for bidirectional operation on either track.


  22. Is the TTC installing any track switching systems that don’t require stop-and-proceed? I’ve noticed that on the 510, some operators stop every time a truck bogie crosses the switch (so streetcars stop 3 times at intersections: once due to lack of transit priority, again after the first truck bogie crosses the switch, again for the station and passengers on the other side).

    Will this be an issue with the new Streetcars, since we’ll have 3 different car lengths?

    Steve: This is a big problem thanks to the TTC’s penchant for “safety first” rather than actually fixing the problem and replacing the bad electronics in systems that were installed to deal with the ALRVs. There is a capital program to upgrade, but who knows how long it will take to undo the mandatory stop at every switch. Imagine if the subway operated like this!


  23. Vancouver did some bi-directional running while they took one track out of service. They scheduled 2 trains to go through one close behind the other one way, then 2 trains in the opposite way. This way they were able to maintain the schedule on the rest of the system. Obviously this was not a frequent service.


  24. Shouldn’t a process like track repairs be pretty much never ending, if you need to replace track every 25 years or so, then you want it to take 25 years to get through all the trackage, so that the specialized crews that do the track repairs, do the last piece of track, then start over at the beginning. In theory though you want the modern design where repairs are essentially taking off the top layer, unbolting a piece of track, laying a new rail, welding it in place, and then laying a new top layer.

    Steve: Once we get to the end of rebuilding the last of the really bad track, the volume of annual work should drop. What happened over the past decade was that two generations of track wore out at the same time. One was the track that had reached its natural useful life of about 25 years, and one was the track that fell apart in 15 years or less thanks to bad construction.


  25. Steve said … “Imagine if the subway operated like this!”

    In almost every way I can think of, the TTC holds the subway system up to a much higher standard, whereas they don’t see the streetcar system as being as important. How can the operators see how the switches are positioned at night, in the rain, when there’s snow?


  26. Yesterday afternoon just after 6PM anyone on a westbound King or Queen car spent at least ten minutes crawling from Lansdowne to Roncesvalles. While the light timing at Roncevalles creates a natural blockage, the fact that car parking is still allowed in the curb lane did not help at all. Just two vehicles (legally) parked a short distance east of Roncevalles slowed all the cars and streetcars and King shuttle to almost a standstill.

    It’s a sign of the lack of priority and cooperation that parking is still allowed, when Queen is overloaded by traffic due to both King Street construction and cars trying to escape the Jameson bottleneck on the Gardiner.

    1) The TTC should request, in no uncertain terms, “Emergency no stopping” along Queen street west from at least Sorauren to Roncesvalles
    2) The city should think of these measures before projects that make a mess of things are undertaken.

    From what I know of stores along that stretch of Queen, steet parking is not a big requirement for them to stay in business. Anyway, with all traffic at a standstill, it’s faster for their customers to walk, anyway.


  27. I have a grandstand view of the King/Church intersection, and of the many Queen Street Cars that continue to be diverted due to the trackwork at Queen and Parliament. The trolley pole of better than one in three cars turning from southbound Church to eastbound King come off the overead wire. Specifically the pole follows the westbound wire instead and evenually comes off. There have been all manner of maintenance crews there trying to fix it, even to the extent of installing a new switch (I am not sure if that is correct terminology since there are no movng parts), but to no avail.

    Is there something fundamentally wrong with this trolley pole system? Can it not be made to work? Or is it a maintenance issue.

    Come the new longer streetcars the driver will have a longer walk to the back to re-engage it.

    Steve: This may be a design issue with the location of the frog combined with the fact that most traffic turns south-to-west and wears the frog into this turn. A new frog should have fixed that implying that something is awry in the position.

    For the new cars, the shoes will be longer, and they will have their own issues at intersections, I am sure. Pantographs eventually, but I am not holding my breath.


  28. MarkE is quite right about the ‘pole problems” at King and Church but another problem is that the track switches need to be operated manually. When there is a major diversion the TTC has a ‘switchman” there to do this but at other times the drivers have to do it. As this junction was rebuilt in 2003 or 2004 it seems ‘unfortunate’ that the automatic feature does not work – though I have seen many TTC trucks looking as though they are trying to fix it.

    Steve: Only the left turn, west-to-south, is electrified. The TTC spends a fortune on pointmen for diversions, although electric switches are finally beginning to appear at intersections. Eventually, the need for pointmen should disappear, but it will take a while.


  29. Given that I usually cycle Shuter eastbound on my way home, I’ve seen the progress of the track work on Parliament. It does seem it recent years there has been quite a bit of track work, though I suspect much of it was overdue.

    Having said that, I’m sure the constant sight of track work is yet another thing those arguing for subways over LRTs might use. Indeed one of the mayoral candidates makes her case in favour of subways on her website:

    “… Subway tunnels can last over 100 years. When compared to surface-transit streetcar systems, which must be entirely rebuilt every 30 years due to ground frost, expanding our subway system is the clear winner in long-term value-for-money. Should we choose to go ahead with LRT expansion, we lose both in terms of value-for-money and cost to our environment”

    While that statement is a classic case of “comparing apples to oranges”, it could still sway many further to the notion that subways are the only way (the above could even be used to argue all rail transit, including GO, should be underground).

    As for trolley pole vs pantograph, I would think that upgrade of the wire overhead to be compatible with pantograph would something the TTC should begin, especially as delivery of the new low-floor streetcars are still a few years away. I was in SF when they converted from PCCs to the Boeing Vertol LRTs and did extensive rebuild of the overhead. The initial test cars were fitted with trolleypoles but the overhead was pantograph-ready once the rolled out the new fleet.


    Steve: Sarah Thompson is far off the mark on several parts of her statement. First off, while the TTC has been doing a lot of trackwork in the past decade or so, the sheer volume of work is to make up for the shoddy construction used up to about 1993 which lasted only from 10-15 years. In effect, two generations of track had to be redone at the same time. The new construction is intended to be much more long-lasting, both for the base slab (which does note even exist for much of what has been excavated) and for the robustness of the top structure.

    As for subways, the TTC replaces track in the subway quite regularly, but of course we don’t see this happening except when there are major works such as the St. George crossover that cause weekend-long shutdowns. The subway tunnels do not last 100 years without repair as we have seen from many projects to repair water penetration and damage to finishes, not to mention the big project to repair the North Yonge tunnel where the tunnel liners have gone out-of-round through a combination of a weakness in design and the pressure of the earth above. Subway cars have a lifespan of about 30 years, the same as streetcars.

    As for the overhead, TTC is slowly moving to pantograph-friendly overhead, and the three prototype LRVs to be delivered next year will have both a trolley pole and pantograph to allow testing.


  30. Steve comments: “The new construction is intended to be much more long-lasting, both for the base slab (which does note even exist for much of what has been excavated) and for the robustness of the top structure.”

    Too bad that the TTC has no rail grinders for streetcar tracks. There are lots of noisy sections of track, for instance the Lake Shore Blvd curve just east of Royal York. It’s nice that the base will last a long time, but how long will residents put up with howling, chattering wheels? Especially in the middle of the night — the faster the streetcars are running, the louder the noise, and at 4 AM there are no covering sounds.

    Going back to your updated comment: “This is an example of a lack of attention to details in the management of construction diversions that makes the effect worse than might otherwise occur.” The same happens with mis-set traffic lights all over the city, either not tripping an extended green for transit, or tripping it in the wrong direction. For example, if a Bathurst car is sitting at Richmond, Richmond gets an extended green. Figure out the sense in that!

    The TTC should be out there ensuring that its buses and streetcars aren’t stuck in traffic. I’m not even talking about true transit priority signalling, I’m talking about faulty signal detection or logic, or construction backups like the one cited above, that could be recognized and solved very easily. Maybe the project managers are overworked. Or maybe (shades of CIS) they think they can project manage out of their office cubicle, and couldn’t possibly need to visit the site in person.

    Steve: Places where the traffic lights impede transit stick out like a sore thumb in distance-time graphs of transit movements now that streetcars (and some buses) have GPS. This sort of analysis should be child’s play. Of course, the TTC still owes us a report re transit priority on Spadina Harbourfront from 2005. I am not holding my breath.


  31. Ed Says: The same happens with mis-set traffic lights all over the city, either not tripping an extended green for transit, or tripping it in the wrong direction. For example, if a Bathurst car is sitting at Richmond, Richmond gets an extended green. Figure out the sense in that!

    Are you sure that’s not due to a Queen car? The Bathurst & Richmond and Queen & Bathurst Intersections are setup for the exact same green times, they cycle identically (maybe half a second apart) because they are so close together. If a Queen car trips transit priority and gets Queen an extra long green, Richmond St will as well.

    Not to say there aren’t many other intersections where priority hurts more than it helps.


  32. Construction has started on Coxwell Loop replacement as well; seems they are tearing up track on Coxwell when I went past.

    Steve: Yes, that project has reached the point where the special work and track leading to the loop have been removed, and the new track panels are sitting on trailers further up Coxwell awaiting installation. The loop itself will be done in the next stage. Meanwhile, the 22 Coxwell bus takes a small sightseeing tour via Queen, Eastern, Woodward, Queen, Greenwood and Dundas to route.

    I am not documenting small projects like Coxwell-Queen Loop in detail here because the intention of this article was to track two major projects in the hope that they would be done briskly, well and on time. So far, Ronces and Parliament have both proceeded as expected. Of course, the mayoral candidates who paint St. Clair as “typical” are ignoring these projects because they are being done properly and, in the case of Roncesvalles, with extensive local input and support.


  33. I just noticed on the TTC website, that streetcars are coming back to King between Roncey and Shaw starting next week.

    Are they way behind on the track replacement – or am I just going insane from the watermain work outside my house?

    Regardless of what happens – for the month that the streetcars apparently come back – hopefully it does something to ease traffic… Parkdale is a mess right now.

    I see the Queensway work will now, in a way, create the Steve-inspired 507, albeit a bus and not a streetcar.

    Steve: I suspect that they are putting the streetcars back on King for a time because there are only so many track crews and spare buses to go around. The trackwork on Ronces seems to be going quickly and more or less on schedule, and I had thought that they would move to King Street immediately afterward. However, there is the small matter of finishing Roncesvalles (curb lanes, sidewalks, overhead) to get the streetcars back up to Dundas West. Possibly the work on King itself has been deferred to 2011. I will check into this.


  34. Nice photos of the areas and how new track is installed from its foundation up.

    Gee. TTC may need your photo archives some day of things they had not kept in their files.

    Steve: I am deliberately documenting this construction in detail to show those who complain about the work that (a) it can be done efficiently and (b) there is a reason that the first build to the new standard takes so long.


  35. I agree that the Parliament rebuild of the TTC track is moving along very well and should be finished in the next few weeks, at least from King to Dundas (the short section from Dundas to Gerrard is still untouched.) Of course the City then needs to fix the sidewalks and roadway but they seem to be working on the west side of the street already so this too may all be done before the supposed completion date of “December.” Of course there are still some silly problems with lack of coordination; they just poured new sidewalks at Queen and Parliament without removing old and ‘de-wired’ poles and I expect the same to occur at the King/Parliament junction – unless someone from the TTC reads this!


  36. There seems to always be a traffic jam of automobiles trying to turn left from King Street West to The Queensway. (Westbound Queen at that intersection is another story.) In my own imagination, I would have shifted the tracks more southwest to allow a left turn lane for the automobiles, putting the tracks in their own right-of-way, if possible. Or at least a left-turn hook turn, keeping the tracks clear. See this video at to see what I mean.


  37. Concerning Reg’s commernt: This info is on the TTC Route Diversion page for the 504 ‘track maintenance’ “Additional track construction will begin on King Street West at Jameson Avenue in October.”

    The Parliament Construction page remains vague about the King/Parliament closure dates while, as you note, the Route Diversion page gives the full story. It is indicative of the TTC’s lack of communication skills that the TTC Community Liaison Representative in charge of the Parliament Street work (and others) has no listed email while the City engineerr has. The Customer Service Panel recommended that all TTC staff get email addresses – it would seem that their “Community Liaison Representatives” should be top of the list and that these email addresses should be public!


  38. There may be a problem with the new track on Roncesvalles. In three spots that I know of the track is distinctly crooked, the crooked track runs for about 10 meters before it is corrected. There does not appear to be any reason for the aberration. It just looks like a mistake. I have pictures I can send if you wish.

    Steve: These locations may correspond to stops where the car “pulls in” to the extended sidewalk (which has not been built yet). It’s a rather odd way to do things, I must admit.


  39. What does the rail handling equipment do that can’t be done with a regular crane? It seems like sometimes invented a circular rotating device.

    Steve: A regular crane cannot pick up the track panel given its length and weight, nor manoevre it into position. Lest this appear to be some TTC technology boondoggle, it is a standard piece of rail maintenance equipment elsewhere in the world, and saves a lot of time/labour.

    Because the track handling cranes can “walk” over uneven terrain, they can be used in locations where it would be very difficult if not impossible to use a crane.


  40. This is a comment that could go either go with the lakeshore article or this one.

    The bus substitution on Lake Shore runs to Dundas West station on weekends.

    Last weekend, I took it both ways, Long Branch to Dundas West, and a few hours later back again. At ten-thirty Sunday morning, I saw at least six buses between Long Branch and Park Lawn. Sunday evening, when I got back, there were three buses sitting in Long Branch loop. (Yes, the buses loop along the tracks to the north of the shelter, instead of the bus loop to the southeast.)

    Today, I saw two westbound 501 buses nose-to-tail in the curb lane, with a third 501 right beside them in the left lane. This somehow reminded me of typical rush hours on 39 Finch East.

    The lesson here is that rerouting Long Branch cars does nothing without route supervision. The TTC is pretty generous by laying on way more buses on the weekend than we’d get streetcars, which is okay because none of them is going to be packed, so the frequency increases without exceeding the capacity of any one vehicle.

    As far as the trip to/from Dundas West station, the inbound bus went pretty much as fast as it could and the trip took some 35 minutes. The outbound trip was in the afternoon, and was slower. It was fairly odd being on:
    1) A bus signed 501 Long Branch
    2) Eastbound on Dundas, east of Sorauren, crossing the railway bridge


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