Queen Street and New Streetcars: Less Service, Fewer Stops, Wider Gaps?

The Beach Metro Community News reports on a recent meeting to discuss traffic problems on the east end of Queen Street.  Some comments echo the type of remarks one hears elsewhere in the city about increased traffic from redevelopment, the absolute essential nature of parking to prevent business bankruptcies, and the need to rebalance road space to serve all travellers, including cyclists, not just motorists.

Most troubling are comments by the TTC:

TTC’s Manager of Planning Mitch Stambler talked to the residents about plans to change the Queen Street route. With the new streetcars being introduced next year, two or three of the stops will be eliminated, said Stambler. This is a result of the length of the new streetcars.

Stambler also admitted that less streetcars will run along Queen Street because of its increased capacity. Cost of operation and studies related to ridership will dictate how many and how often the new streetcars will run.

One resident who lives at the east end of Queen Street expressed concerns with streetcars stopping idle near the Neville loop. Stambler said he hopes that with the decreased frequency of the bigger streetcars the issue will be eased.

The TTC has been inconsistent in statements about how the new cars would affect service.  Initially, the idea was that larger cars would provide more capacity, badly needed on many routes including Queen.  A few years later, thanks to the penny-pinching budgets of Mayor Ford and TTC Chair Stintz, the idea of actually improving service capacity vanished.  Indeed, the TTC has already relaxed its off-peak loading standards for streetcars to allow more standees in a bid to save on operations.

Add to this the highly irregular headways on Queen and other routes, any proposal to run fewer streetcars can only mean one thing: service, which declined substantially when headways were widened for the 75-foot long articulated light rail vehicles (ALRVs), will get even worse with the new larger low floor cars (LFLRVs).

The TTC likes to talk about how running fewer cars will improve service by reducing the bunching inherent when cars are scheduled more frequently than traffic signal cycles.  This does not, and has not, applied to Queen Street for many decades.  Indeed, the TTC tries to make virtue out of wider headways by generalizing an hypothesis originally developed for a simulation of operations on the busy King streetcar downtown during peak periods.  There is no comparison to the Queen car in The Beach.

As for stop spacing, there have been many comments on this site about the excessive number of stops on Queen and other routes.  Among the most likely to vanish are the Sunday stops especially if any special sidewalk treatment or fare machine installations would be required.  (All of the Sunday stops on Roncesvalles came out as part of that street’s redesign.)  Some other stops are simply too close together, and these are often leftovers of historical traffic patterns dating back to the 50s and beyond.

With all its emphasis on “Customer Service”, the TTC owes streetcar riders in Toronto a clear statement on its intentions for service with the new cars.  Moreover, as a long series of service analyses here have demonstrated, the TTC must aggressively improve its line management to ensure that the headways it advertises are actually delivered to customers.  No more excuses.  No more “mixed traffic, congestion and TTC culture”.  No more bogus stats that use averages to hide the widespread TTC failure to deliver reliable service.

[Thanks to James J. for sending me the link to this article.]