King/Bathurst Reconstruction Project (Update 8)

Update 8:  August 10, 2011 at 7:40 am:

Construction of the new safety islands has completed early, and the 511 is back to its normal routing.

Update 7:  July 26, 2011 at 8:00 am:

The TTC has revised dates for resumption of service through the intersection:

  • Wednesday July 27:  504 King and 508 Lake Shore routes return to King Street
  • Saturday July 30:  511 Bathurst route returns temporarily for Caribana
  • Tuesday August 2:  511 Bathurst route resumes diversion via Spadina
  • Monday August 15:  511 Bathurst route diversion ends

Update 6:  July 24, 2011 at 5:00 am:

An excellent overhead view of the completed intersection dated July 17 is available on Flickr.

Service on King Street through the intersection resumes on Monday, July 25.

Update 5:  July 18, 2011 at 10:20 pm:

Views of the intersection from overhead were sent to me by Michael Vanner, one of the regular contributors to comment threads here.  See the July 16 section in the photo gallery.

Update 4:  July 18, 2011 at 4:20 pm:

The rail installation is now complete except for the connections to the existing tangent track approaching the intersection.

More photos of construction progress have been added at the end of this post.

Update 3:  July 14, 2011 at 11:30 am:

Photos of construction progress have been added at the end of this post.

Update 2:  July 13, 2011 at 4:40 pm:

The severe queuing of streetcars I anticipated at various intersections on Spadina did not materialize.  A few days’ observation revealed that operators are taking opportunities to make turns whenever they arise rather than waiting for the “transit priority” phases.  Typically they are using regular green time rather than waiting for the “white bar” call on.

At times, this even means that they may be facing a “transit red” but a “traffic green”, a common situation at Queen’s Quay and Spadina.  The fact that operators have come to use signal phases in this manner shows that they are losing respect for the way traffic is officially managed, and that the “official” way has not been working long enough for this behaviour to become ingrained.

I was of two minds about even posting this, fearing that the safety police at the TTC will leap into action and further hamstring transit operations rather than fixing the underlying problem.  In any event, the level of service on the south end of Spadina is quite impressive with all of the diversions.

Many King cars are short turning westbound at Bathurst via Wolseley loop rather than running through to Roncesvalles.  Spadina cars are short turning southbound via Dundas, Bathurst and College.

Construction is proceeding swiftly and as of 0800 today, concrete pouring had begun and the central diamonds were sitting on a trailer just south of Adelaide Street.  I will add photos as the project progresses as we don’t get to see a grand union rebuilt very often.

Updated: A table showing the consolidated level of service on parts of the diversion planned by the TTC has been added to the end of this article.

The TTC has announced that the intersection of King and Bathurst, one of three “grand unions” in Toronto, will be rebuilt starting on Monday, July 11.  As if there aren’t enough diversions already for long-suffering riders of the King car, this will add even more.  It will also likely further foul up Queen Street West which is already taking overflow traffic from the project east of Roncesvalles.

The existing intersection was built “the old way” with individual pieces being assembled and welded together (usually) on site.  The track is not mechanically isolated from the concrete, a practice in use for since 2003 on special work (switches, frogs and diamonds).  The intersection has been coming apart over the years since it was installed in 1995.

The work and the diversions will have several stages (dates subject to change):

Monday July 11 to Sunday July 24:  Intersection closed.

  • 504 King and 508 Lake Shore cars divert via Spadina and Queen.  There will be no service on King west of Spadina.
  • 511 Bathurst cars divert via Queen, Spadina, and Queen’s Quay.

Monday July 25:

  • 504 and 508 services resume operation via King to their existing diversion at Shaw Street.

Friday July 30 to Sunday August 1:

  • 511 Bathurst streetcars return to their normal route for Caribana weekend.

Monday August 2 to Sunday August 14:

  • 511 Bathurst diversion resumed to allow construction of larger safety islands at the southbound (new) and northbound stops (replacement).

Monday August 15:

  • 511 Bathurst service returns to normal.

The intersection of Queen and Spadina is going to be interesting, and I will be amused to see whether we get some traffic cops to manage all of the streetcar traffic rather than guarding traffic cones at nearby construction sites.  Similarly King and Spadina will be a mess because there is no protected transit phase for streetcars turning west to north.

There is a very good chance that the combined headway of streetcars on Spadina will exceed the time allowed by the traffic signals, especially for the turn phases where these are provided and actually working.

This may provide a spectacular example of the poor design of “transit priority” and the general mismanagement of traffic during unusual route arrangements for construction.

What amazes me in this is that the TTC has designed a scheme that is almost guaranteed to produce chaos on many routes. The current peak hour service is:

Route          AM/PM
511 Bathurst   12/13
504 King       25/18 (AM: 15 plus 10 trippers)
508 Lake Shore  3/4
501 Queen      11/10
510 Spadina    21/28

This means that there will be:

61 cars in the AM peak hour each way on Spadina from Queen to King
33 cars in the AM peak hour each way on Spadina from King to Queen’s Quay
51 cars in the AM peak hour each way on Queen from Spadina to Bathurst
40 cars in the AM peak hour turning to or from Queen onto Spadina
28 cars in the AM peak hour turning to or from King onto Spadina

This will completely overwhelm the capacity provided by our so-called transit priority signal system on top of the spillover traffic problems from having King Street closed at Bathurst.

Even assuming that the priority system works, it depends on all of the electric switches actually being in service to detect turn requests.  Plugged or inoperative switches cannot signal the presence of a turning streetcar, and the priority phase, if any, will not be initiated.

Finally, just for extra spice, the loop at Charlotte Street is not available due to construction blocking the track on Adelaide Street.  Whether this will be cleared in time for the diversion, I don’t know.

Photo Gallery

Monday, July 11

Construction began with excavation of the intersection from the west to the east side.  The King Street portion of the track will be replaced first, followed by the north-south special work for Bathurst Street.

The excavation, track removal and preparation work continued for several days.

Wednesday, July 13

By Wednesday morning, July 13, the intersection’s central diamond had been delivered and was sitting just south of Adelaide on a trailer together with the two track cranes used to move the large assemblies of castings into position.


In this close-up, the coating now used for all special work is clearly visible.  This reduces vibrations transmitted from the track into the concrete pavement lowering both the noise level and minimizing the breakup of concrete between the many elements of a complex intersection like this.

While excavation continues on the east side, the foundation pad for the diamond takes shape in the centre of the intersection.

On the east side of the intersection, old castings are collected from the excavation.

Thursday, July 14

By Thursday morning, the diamond plus one half of the intersection’s west leg have been installed.

This may be an early example of TTC product placement.

Looking west on King toward Bathurst:  Part of the east leg of the intersection sits on a trailer ready to be dropped into place once the foundation for it is ready.

Saturday, July 16

This view is from the southeast corner of the intersection.  The southbound approach panel including two facing point switches has just been moved into position.

A broader view of the same scene.  The northbound track panel and the linking curves have not yet been installed.

Looking north on Bathurst from the south end of construction.  The old warning standard for the safety island is still in place, but this will be removed when a new, larger island is installed later in the project.  In the distance, a 511 Bathurst car on diversion turns east onto Queen.

The following three photos were taken by Michael Vanner.  This may look like a model train set, but it’s 1:1 scale, the real thing.

Looking down on the northeast corner of King and Bathurst.  The crane is carrying the rails that will form the west to north curve.

Dropping the west to north curve into place.

Moving the northbound switches into position.

Monday, July 18

All special work has been installed and the grand union is completely visible.  The second pour of concrete covering the ties is mostly finished.

Welders wait for a freshly poured thermite charge to cool off.  This is the east to south curve.

Looking east on King across Bathurst to downtown.

This is the west approach to the intersection.  A short section of the existing track was exposed during the excavation, and the new track that will be cut to size and welded in sits above.

32 thoughts on “King/Bathurst Reconstruction Project (Update 8)

  1. What was the combined headway on Queen between King and Broadview before the Bloor Danforth Subway opened? It had to be more than the combined headway of King, Lakeshore, Spadina and Bathurst. If I recall correctly King has 30 cars per hour in the a.m. (at least in the winter), Lakeshore is 3, Bathurst is 10 or 12, and Spadina is 24. Granted that this is a lot of cars to run up and Down Spadina, especially when 50 or so want to make a left turn at King and Queen.

    I guess that the TTC wouldn’t try something innovative like running the Bathurst cars just Queen and Church and putting buss on the bottom end. I know that all lines have a pre-determined diversion route but what happens when they all need to use the same one at the same time? I am sorry I won’t be able to see it.

    Steve: I have updated the main post with information about the number of movements on Queen, King and Spadina that will be required for these diversions. Comparable information for Broadview and Queen in 1964 is that there were 125 cars/hour during the AM peak each way between River and Broadview of which 45 turned at Broadview. Lineups of streetcars back to the Don Bridge were not uncommon.


  2. The Bathurst streetcars used to run east on Adelaide Street to Church Street, before it was merged with the Fort streetcars in 1966 when the Bloor-Danforth subway opened. It also went westbound on Adelaide Street until 1960 when Adelaide was made one-way (shifted westbound on King).


  3. It’s interesting to see that they are reconstructing and constructing new safety islands at Bathurst and King. Is this the first time in a while that they’ve built a new one on non-ROW streetcar lines? Any links to the design of the islands? I think there’s many places in the system that could use new/reconstructed islands.

    Do you know if the overhead is going to be redone at King/Bathurst? Will be interesting to see pantograph-compatible wires on a grand union.

    Steve: The City report on this issue includes a drawing, but this shows only the islands, and you have to mentally project the track onto it. As for the overhead, it would be very difficult to make changes to the overhead on top of an intersection that was dug up for reconstruction. That will have to wait for another day. Dufferin and King is a more likely candidate as the overhead on King from Shaw to Roncesvalles is to be rebuilt later this summer.


  4. At least the platforms will be long enough to accommodate a new LFLRV. I wouldn’t have put it past some moron to forget that little point.


  5. There was no mention of the 509 Harbourfront cars during this construction. To enter service I assume they will head east on Queen from Roncesvalles Carhouse to Spadina and then go south to Queens Quay OR are they to be replaced by buses?

    Steve: Queen to Spadina seems a logical route. Of course, some of the 509s come from Russell and they would likely go via King as they do today.


  6. For context, the cycle length on Spadina at King and Queen is 90 seconds, or 40 green lights per hour. If there are 40 streetcars turning per hour from Spadina onto Queen, that means an average of one per cycle. (With Queen’s reliability, the actual distribution of streetcars will be different.) If a turning streetcar arrives at the wrong time in the cycle, you can see how easily a queue of streetcars will build up.

    At the intersections south of King, the cycle length is two minutes or more… again, we’re looking at more than one streetcar on average per cycle. Maybe this will be the impetus needed to deal with the signal timings at Spadina and Lake Shore…


  7. “Dufferin and King is a more likely candidate as the overhead on King from Shaw to Roncesvalles is to be rebuilt later this summer.”

    Hopefully it will be rebuilt! When I was walking down King on Friday the overhead was missing east at Dufferin! 🙂


  8. What is the base service along this section of Spadina. I realize that 508 will not be there and the 504 has reduced service but 510 Spadina is usually higher in base service than either rush hour.

    The midday services are:

    511 Bathurst 4'30" (13.3 cars/hour)
    504 King     4'15" (14.1 cars/hour)
    510 Spadina  2'00" (30.0 cars/hour)
    Combined     1'03" (57.4 cars/hour)


  9. Hi Steve
    I am pleased that the TTC is constructing a safety island at this location. I only wish that one would be put in at Adelaide. Getting off a streetcar here is not for the faint of heart as cars regularly disregard open doors.

    Steve: A good question. Considering how close Adelaide is to King, it’s a logical piece of work, but they probably wanted to keep the cost down by doing only the stops right at the intersection. The same problem exists further south too.


  10. I’m not particularly fond of “safety islands”. I find them particularly unsafe.

    Try coralling a 2-year old on one of those narrow islands with shelters that don’t have any ends with traffic ripping by both in front and behind you. Not for the faint of heart.


  11. You don’t need a two-year-old to enjoy the fun of safety islands on Lake Shore. The west end of Lake Shore (all stops have safety islands west of 31st St.) has plenty of truck traffic. A truck is basically as wide as the distance from the island to the centreline. All you need is a truck meeting a truck or streetcar going the opposite way where there are facing safety islands (such as at 39th St).

    Southbound Bathurst approaching King is pretty bad. The safety islands will help. Car traffic will become worse I suspect. Right now there are effectively three southbound lanes of traffic approaching King, with the rightmost (unmarked) lane being a right-turn lane. The three lanes are squeezed in already; the safety island will likely end this arrangment. Backed-up cars will of course back up Bathurst streetcars.


  12. Thanks for posting this… Just saw the sign up warning the intersection will be closed today. Funny they only manage to get it up 4 days (2 work days) before they close the intersection…


  13. I’m still in shock that the TTC and the city are building a new safety island for streetcar loading.

    Is there any thought into the construction of safety islands at ALL streetcar stops where existing road space permits? This would include some lengthy sections of Carlton (Euclid – Parliament), Queen & Ossington, Bathurst south of Queen, Lake Shore west of Humber Loop, just to name a few. With the coming of the new LFLRV’s, and the “conflict of interest” one often witnesses between motorists and pedestrians, the more safety islands that exist, the safer the network will be.

    Plus it’d be a good sell for Mr. Ford … “If you install a safety island sir, traffic can freely pass a stopped streetcar, just like a bus pulled over at the curb.” … “Sold!”


  14. Steve reports of Queen and Spadina, “At times, this even means that they may be facing a “transit red” but a “traffic green”, a common situation at Queen’s Quay and Spadina.”

    The only time that can happen at Queen and Spadina is if the northbound or southbound left-turn is green for cars. I would question the safety of a streetcar trying to turn right or left while the left-turn lane to its immediate right has a left green arrow.

    Otherwise, if the main signal is green for cars, it’s green for transit. So I’m not quite sure what you were seeing.

    Steve: Sorry if I was unclear. There are locations where a traffic green holds the streetcars because left turning cars don’t have their own lane/phase. Also, there are right turns that may get a protected white bar phase, but streetcars will make the turn on the regular green if the way is clear. Operating practices have been evolving over time in part in reaction to the lack of “priority” for transit. At Queen’s Quay and Spadina, it is fairly common to see transit turns on the traffic green without a white bar. Whether this is strictly legal, especially if the head labelled “transit signal” is red, is quite another matter.

    At Queen and Spadina (and also at King) there is no east-west “transit” signal, and in those cases, yes, a green for traffic is the same as a green for transit. North-south on the other hand has transit-specific signals. These only give a transit white bar when the signal system “knows” that there is a streetcar waiting to turn, and that is linked to the electric switches. If the switch is not active (many are disabled for a variety of reasons) or if the operator could not get through when the white bar was presented, then the streetcar has to make its way around the corner as best it can.

    I saw an example of this earlier today northbound at King and Spadina where the north-to-east switch is out of service. There may be a transit signal, but it won’t show a white bar for that turn because the operator sets the switch manually. It took two complete signal cycles to make the turn, and then the car blocked traffic eastbound while the operator ran back to reset the manual switch, a standard TTC operating procedure. This is an example of the compound effect of signal design, maintenance issues and operating practices that screw up the intent of “transit priority”.


  15. I passed by today, and noticed the overhead wires were really taking a beating by the construction equipment. The lines had snapped in 3 places. It seems to me it would’ve made a lot of sense to just take all the overhead down beforehand and redo it afterwards to the new standards. As it stands, it’s going to definitely need a lot of repairing.


  16. Left-turning motorists were unpleasantly surprised to see almost every streetcar making their surprise left-turns during the dedicated left/U-turn phase. Left/U-turners were blocked by illegally turning streetcars. Almost every streetcar seemed to have received an angry honk, which made me chuckle.


  17. I transferred between a Queen car and a King car at Queen and Spadina around lunch time Saturday.

    Truly amazing seeing the eastbound parade of cars approaching Spadina: 501 ALRVs and CLRVs, 510 CLRVs, and 511 CLRVs and ALRVs. I think I got to see at least one of each before a 504 showed up.

    A pity that I didn’t have my camera when three 510s did simultaneous right turns in three directions (west to north, east to south, south to west). I guess some Spadina cars were being short-turned, while others were entering service from Roncesvalles and Russell.

    The thread about service changes seems pretty dead, so I’ll leave an observation here. I caught a Sherway-bound 80 Queensway bus at High Park Ave. and Parkside Drive around 2 PM Saturday. Much to my surprise, the bus had close to 30 people aboard. Half or so got off at Lake Shore, presumably heading to Sunnyside Pool. So on hot weekend days, the Parkside Dr. section of 80 Queensway gets plenty of patronage. With additional passengers getting on, I don’t think the number of passengers dropped below 15 in the section between High Park and Humber loop.

    This of course is the section of the route that does not operate on Sundays or holidays any more. Maybe the TTC did their scientific survey of ridership late on a February evening, and concluded that no one wanted to go to High Park or Sunnyside Pool.

    Steve: The TTC gets very defensive when challenged on their ridership numbers, and this just adds to the suspicion that they are done infrequently and do not necessarily represent how a line behaves. A related problem is that they do not report how many vehicles were bunched or destined for short turns close to the point where the count was taken. The lack of attention to actual service quality and the headways riders typically experience results in situations where “average” counts and scheduled headways don’t match what people see on the street.


  18. Steve, a question about track construction at intersections…….why the wooden sleepers? I thought the TTC’s new standard of construction entailed steel sleepers? This what I observed during the construction along St. Clair and I see from the pictures the curves are on them, why not the diamond?

    Steve: The problem is that large complex track panels require long ties (sleepers) with what are more or less random attachment points for the various track components. It is simpler to use wooden ties for this. These ties are treated so that they do not rot in the ground, a problem faced by some of the track installed a few decades ago when the TTC was building track almost guaranteed to fall apart quickly. New standards for tangent track were implemented in the early 1990s, and for intersections about a decade later. Where there is only a pair of rails (tangent track, or the simple curving parts of an intersection), steel ties work well and that’s what the TTC uses.


  19. Hi Steve

    I am really amazed by the pace of the construction of the intersection. I saw it on Sunday and came back this morning for a few more pictures and the rail just about done. Every now and again the TTC can do things that are really impressive. I have noticed that the track on Charlotte is still not in use but there does not seem to be any construction activity.

    Steve: Toronto Water was working around the Charlotte Street Loop. I don’t know if it is officially open again yet. Meanwhile, some Spadina cars are short turning via Dundas, Bathurst and College.

    One question, if I may. In the days before thunder track, how did the intersections manage to last as long as they did? I remember the TTC rebuilding all kinds of tangent track but never touching the specialwork. Is it due to the weight of the CLRV’s?

    Steve: Two factors. Yes, the CLRVs are about 25% heavier than the PCCs, but also the “newer” intersections were not always well built, the pieces were assembled onsite and not welded together as robustly, and their alignment left much to be desired. If you go back to the era before all track was paved in concrete to the railhead, construction techniques were better, and the road could easily shift around being made of paving setts, rather than cracking and disintegrating.


  20. How long does it take for the freshly poured concrete to cure?

    Steve: That depends. For intersections, I believe that the TTC uses fast curing concrete so that service can resume as soon as possible. All the same, there is a difference between concrete reaching the point where cars can drive on it, and hardening to the point where you can add streetcar traffic. It’s not uncommon to see streetcars back on an intersection a week after work starts, but that’s usually for a simpler junction. At King and Bathurst, the constraint is the size of the project.

    Another important change in modern TTC construction is that they are rebuilding from the concrete foundation up, and so there’s a more robust base as a starting point. The track itself has rubber padding to isolate it from the concrete, and so damaging vibration isn’t chipping away at the street the moment service resumes.


  21. I just walked up Bathurst from Front and see that the TTC have used this opportunity to string new wire on (at least) the section of Bathurst from Lake Shore to King. I also saw some broken wires at the intersection itself so I suppose they may totally re-string the intersection too.


  22. I thought wood ties were also partially responsible for absorbing and isolating vibration, helping to take stress off and reduce wear at bolted joints and frogs. Is this just a side-effect or completely untrue? All subway special-work trackage is also done with ballasted wooden ties.

    Steve: Yes, the wooden ties do absorb some of the vibration. However, that deals mainly with the vertical load on the ballast, and the flexing of track that is bolted, not welded together. Where track is laid in concrete, it is important to provide horizontal as well as vertical damping of vibrations. Track that’s loose enough to move around at bolted joints is a bad idea because this means that there are pockets where rain and snow can get into the track structure, freeze, and fracture the concrete. The new construction techniques minimize these problems.


  23. “How long does it take for the freshly poured concrete to cure?”

    The curing process itself takes many months. That being said, the fresh concrete sets (ie it can be walked on) in six to ten hours and is usually strong enough to take traffic the next day. For streetcars, I would guess that three or four days should be more than enough.


  24. Have you seen how many of the switches are electrified? Is there any change from the previous count?

    Steve: That’s tricky because empty boxes for switch machines are built into every facing point switch, but that doesn’t mean they will actually be used. For example, when Queen and Parliament was rebuilt in 2010, there was provision for automating the switches on Parliament, but they are all still manual. This may be related to the pending replacement of the electronics for all of the surface system’s switches which have been unreliable for a very long time.

    Many switches that should be automatic are out of service, and the TTC has pointmen throwing them manually for diversions. Two current examples are Queen and Spadina east-to-south and Gerrard and Broadview north-to-east. Sometimes they are short staff, and the switches are unmanned.


  25. I walked the intersection this afternoon, 24 July 2011, and it looks finished. All the concrete is in. I can’t say the same for the overhead. King looks like it is OK but I would hat to try a curve of go South on Bathurst. The TTC is putting up Pantograph compatible overhead from Fleet to King and it has a long way to go. There are 8 to 10 overhead poles south of the Bathurst St. Bridge that have four 4×4’s or 6×6’s strapped around the pole to keep them from falling over. This is always a reassuring sign.

    Steve: Only the King service returns on July 25. Bathurst won’t be back until the weekend for Caribana. Lots of time to finish the overhead. Then the Bathurst cars divert again for a while to allow construction of new loading islands at King. All will be done in time for the CNE.

    An interesting observation on Front St. east of Bathurst. There is an add for an upcoming condo library park to be built over the rail corridor. It show a picture of a NB Bathurst car on the bridge south of front. The car is 4141 and it has left hand doors. They took a picture of 4141 and reversed it before superimposing it on the artists rendering. If you want to know what a CLRV looks like in England go down and take a look.

    There is also a lot of long rail sections on the south side of Front at Napier, half way between Bathurst and Spadina. Is the TTC storing track there for some up coming job on Bathurst or Spadina or are they going to put the track back in on Front between Bathurst and Church? Just a thought.

    Steve: Spadina south from King will get new track starting in mid-October. Queen’s Quay follows next year as part of the reconstruction/redesign.


  26. The paving operation was beginning this morning. But I’ve seen no sign of safety island construction starting though on Bathurst.

    The overhead was removed on King St. over the weekend for the removal of the tower crane at the condo being built just east of Bathurst (quite the sight to watch). Also on Saturday the electricians were installing the wiring for the switches and embedded loops. I have additional overhead pictures of the work that I haven’t downloaded from the camera.

    Steve: Thanks for the update. Although service was supposed to be back on King this morning, it was still diverting. I’m waiting for an update on the situation from the TTC. The safety islands are not supposed to be built until after Caribana weekend.


  27. “Also on Saturday the electricians were installing the wiring for the switches and embedded loops. “

    Shall we have a pool — ‘in which year will the switches be energized?’


  28. Hi Steve

    I went past King and Bathurst at about 5:20. I would say that the paving is about 50% completed. The damaged overhead is also fixed but the “Power on – Power Off” signs are still in place.


  29. Hi Steve

    I see that the King cars were back between Spadina and Shaw as of 1:00pm today.

    Steve: This appears to have been temporary because the whereismystreetcar map shows several King cars running on King west of Spadina. Now that King is open again but Bathurst is still closed, I wouldn’t be surprised to see short turns looping via Spadina, Queen and Shaw.


  30. Somewhat late, but, for the preliminaries, are surveyors still sent out to take measurements, or, is some sort of CAD used?

    Steve: There are surveying marks all over the street, and those who watch carefully will see some preliminary work for next year’s jobs. CAD is great, but as any engineer will tell you, “as built” is not the same thing. There are drawings for the new intersection, but they have to be sure this fits with what is already there.


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