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.]

44 thoughts on “Queen Street and New Streetcars: Less Service, Fewer Stops, Wider Gaps?

  1. Published fleet planning aside, I would be very surprised if the TTC completely retired the CLRV fleet before being confident that they hadn’t shot themselves in the foot for having too few vehicles. Full conversion to non-trolley pole compatible overhead could be deferred until funds for additional rolling stock (should it be required) became available to fill in the gaps. With yard capacity for an additional 40 or so LFLRVs beyond what has been ordered (quoting an earlier estimate you made Steve), I would think the operational cost of hanging on to (but not necessarily investing much in maintenance thereof) a portion of the old fleet as insurance would be marginal.


  2. I wish TTC would think faster streetcars instead of bigger cars. Increase in average speeds also increases employee and streetcar productivity by making more trips per day which carries more riders or uses less streetcars. Faster is also better service, bigger is not.

    Steve: “Faster” is limited in part by the acceleration forces passengers can handle, and the top speed possible in traffic. PCC cars were designed for stop-start traffic better than the CLRVs (which were needlessly heavy and underpowered for their weight). How operators will deal with the much larger LVLRVs, and how they will perform, remains to be seen. In any event, extra speed to the point that a car could make an extra trip is simply not possible without major changes to the way traffic operates on Queen. Existing cars are capable of faster operation if only the traffic wasn’t in the way. All door loading, and sufficient capacity that time isn’t wasted stuffing one more passenger onto the car, will help too.


  3. The idea that streetcar service on Queen could get *worse* makes me want to catch the next moving van out of this city. It’s already a nightmare at rush hour.


  4. Told you so. I raised this issue long ago … that the # of seats passing by any given stop (per hour) would not change.


  5. Traffic congestion caused by on-street parking, narrowing the road to 1 lane in each direction, is a major problem on Bayview Ave between Davisville and Eglinton, this causes significant delays to bus route #11. The city ought to eliminate on street parking and force drivers to use TPA parking lots (which this section of Bayview, the Beaches, and many similar neighbourhoods have). For many businesses, this might actually increase business because traffic congestion discourages customers from shopping there.


  6. Steve, do you think the main problem of the Queen Line is the fact that there is so much congestion in the downtown core? I always find that from Bathurst to Broadview is always packed and it results into that typical bunching of streetcars. I know many riders hate being on a streetcar that short turns at Kingston road.

    I just find the immediate solution isn’t the number of street cars or size of the streetcar. I find that it needs to be a focus on solving the traffic and congestion at this point of the line. How do you reduce the number of drivers on Queen Street downtown?

    In my own opinion, I find that there needs to be more of a focus on traffic reduction and perhaps NO parking from 7am to 9pm on Queen Street. I hate seeing one lane of traffic on Queen Street and a car trying to drive around the streetcar and it begins to be more of a safety concern with those drivers passing when the doors are open. I know the less parking could result in less people going to the small businesses stores and such, but just like most circumstances, people will adapt and find parking somewhere else. (Sides streets)

    Steve: Yes, the section west of University is particularly bad and from there out to Roncesvalles is always the most congested part of the route. Banning parking, or increasing the hours when it is banned and then actually enforcing that ban would help, but you’re not going to get far with that if the merchants have anything to do with it. It’s the old problem of asking whether we want streets to move traffic or to store cars.


  7. Steve:

    The “acceleration forces that passengers can handle” are already tested by the Orion low floor buses. I don’t think that the entire TTC Operator cohort has been magically denied their ability to make a smooth start since the retirement of the GM Diesels. It is much more likely that the Orions have not only grabby brakes, but also an accelerator that is not user friendly.

    Steve: Yes, yet another reason why I don’t like riding buses as a standee.


  8. They seem to be applying the “enhancement by dehansement” theory to buses too. They increased the wait time for service on the 41 Keele and 89 Weston routes last year, and touted it as an improvement. It seems they’ve done the same for the 40 Junction bus recently too. I can now walk from Pacific Ave. along Dundas West carrying groceries and get to Dundas West and Abbott or further on weeknights. On the weekends I don’t even bother trying to catch the bus. No point. The 504 streetcar south isn’t a lot better either. I can walk to Roncy and Marion easily before I see a streetcar.

    Its really looking like the car is the better way these days.

    Steve: Those increased wait times were mainly caused by the decision to cut the Service Standards and pack more people onto each bus, a strategy supported by TTC Chair Karen Stintz as part of the 2012 budget machinations at City Hall.


  9. The TTC is only now admitting what any intelligent person knew from day one: less streetcars means less frequency. There is no way around this. So yes, the terrible service we have now on the 501 Queen car will only get worse once the new streetcars are in full use.


  10. “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.”

    Steve, you really should come to these meetings in the beach if you can. Mitch is a nice guy and toes the party line very well however, as you know, he lives right here in the beach and even Mitch cannot tell a lie to his literal neighbours. I saw two or three of his next door neighbours at the meeting and not even Mitch can lie in front of them.

    Steve, you could probably toss a number of pointed questions Mitch’s way and I’m sure you would get a truthful answer!

    I must say, Stambler is one of the people who actually rides ‘his’ routes. I see him all the time on weekends riding on the 64, 12, or 501. I know he also rides the 64, subway and 7 bus to work every day so you have to give him a few points.

    Steve: I have known Mitch Stambler for decades and, yes, be lives down in the Beach. His name appears in the article only because it is in the quotation I used from the Beach Community News. My beef is with the TTC who cannot talk coherently about the effects of new vehicles on service levels, and who have published contradictory information on this subject.

    As for public meetings, I attend some, but there are many of them around the city and I have a life outside of transit commentary.


  11. Perhaps they should reconfigure the Queen and King routes. 501: Neville loop, Queen Street, Roncesvalles, Dundas subway. 504/508: Broadview subway, Broadview Avenue, King, Queensway, Lakeshore, Long Branch loop.

    Each of the new routes will be shorter than today’s 501 and, hopefully, more manageable. Of course, the key ingredient is actually making efforts to manage the lines; but the reduced length might help.

    Steve: As discussed here before, there is actually a better case to be made for routing a Long Branch service to Dundas West Station with an overlay of “Lake Shore” cars providing peak service into downtown (probably via King as at present rather than via Queen).

    Long Branch to Broadview Station is only a few km shorter than Long Branch to Neville, and this does not really deal with either the problem of route length or the operation through the congested Queen West section of the existing route. Outside of peak periods, traffic on Lake Shore is over 50% oriented to local travel, and preserving reliable service in the west end would support this demand.

    If the Queen route goes to Humber (roughly the same distance as heading north to Dundas West Station), this would provide, at least for cars that made their full trip, an overlap of routes and simplification of transfer connections. It would also mean that Queen would be served by one route, not by an overlay of two as it is today thereby simplifying service management.


  12. They need to get rid of on-street parking on arterial roads and “move” those parking spots underground (build or expand nearby Green P underground parking garages).

    At the end of the day though Toronto is still a very motor-centric city and the government doesn’t want to step on the majority’s toes. That is what this resistance to abolish on-street parking on arterial roads is about. The city would face a lot of backlash.

    I looked at travel characteristics on the City of Toronto’s website (data circa 2006 though) and in only 8 wards out of like 44 (27 & 28 Toronto Centre-Rosedale, 19 & 20 Trinity-Spadina, 22 St. Paul’s, 14 Parkdale-High Park, 18 Davenport, 30 Toronto-Danforth) the majority of people do not use a car to get to work. For non-work trips, auto trips are only a minority for 2 wards (28 Toronto Centre-Rosedale and 20 Trinity-Spadina). I don’t know how people in Toronto can tell me with a straight face that you don’t need a car to live in Toronto when the majority of non-work trips, save for two central wards, are made by private automobile.

    Only alternative transportation advocates, those who can’t afford a car (gotta make due with what you have financially) and people who don’t know how to drive say that. The TTC is a joke by worldwide standards. For a city of 2.6 million+ people, they should be building out the infrastructure a lot more. A lot more. Even downtown, the auto trip figures are too high.

    Steve: At the risk of sounding like a granola crunching alternative transportation advocate, you undermine your argument with gratuitous remarks that relegate those who don’t support your position to some sort of inferior social status.

    Yes, I am a transit advocate, but I have the good sense to know that cars are not going to disappear. It is a question of whether we simply abandon the city to them, or try to strike some balance. I and many others like me who choose to go car-free can perfectly well afford to own a car. I don’t have a license, but there’s nothing preventing me from acquiring one if I needed it. When I do need auto transport, there are taxi cabs which, for the number of times I need them, are a lot cheaper than owning a car.

    I agree that we need much more and better transit, and this must serve the entire city, not just a few pet corridors that have political support. There is actually a good analogy here with GO Transit. They have an extensive network, but one can’t use large chunks of it either because service is infrequent/non-existent, or because feeder service to it by local transit systems is inadequate. Building a few subways in Toronto will make life better for those who can use them, but there is much, much more to building and operating a transit network.


  13. Hi Steve:-

    If widening the headway will improve service because bunching will be lessened, then how can the TTC explain the awful service on the Bloor Danforth night bus on Sunday mornings? Seldom are there other traffic conditions that cause the vehicles to be held up. With a scheduled 15 minute service EB at Ossington at the time I take it, frequently buses are not on time. I might see the 6:55 a.m. bus less than 50% of the time at that time. More often than not, 3, 4 or 5 westbound buses will flow by on both branches within that same 15 minute wait period. Repeatedly, as last Sunday proved, 3 nose to tail. Sometimes EB will have a couple of buses together. With 15 minute service, this is acceptable?

    (A light bulb just lit. The TTC’s line management must have been trained by the elephant handlers at Barnum and Bailey. For this they get perfect marks.)

    With that said, yes and double yes, lack of line management is what is killing a reasonable and reliable service. TTC is talking a good game, but after 92 years of experience, without counting in the imported expertise from 1861 on, present conditions are possibly worse than when the private company was merely out for profit. Surely not being able to supply a reliable service on a 15 minute headway route which seldom suffers from conflicting and impeding traffic, is indicative of a sad state of affairs at our TTC.

    What oh what will become of our streetcars with this demonstrated clumsiness showing in those continually deeply rooted, accepted management thought and justification processes as we are experiencing? The rhetoric by Mr. Stambler should be chewed on for a while longer, for as it stands, we will all choke before we get any nourishment. The recent examples of unrepaired service improvements suggests that one should question his perceived fix! It hasn’t happened yet and without a better track record, how can that future actually be brighter?

    Dennis Rankin


  14. One thing I’ve noticed about streets like King and Queen during rush-hour is the inordinate number of cruising taxis that make those already-busy thoroughfares even busier. (Sometimes they represent as much as 50% of all vehicles.) The cabs are cruising those streets because they know that there are bunches of prospective customers gathered every three-four blocks: Frustrated TTC riders tired of waiting for the streetcar. And, of course, the streetcars are delayed by (among other things) the cruising cabs. It’s the perfect vicious cycle.

    If the city could somehow REDUCE the number of taxi licenses (they’d have to buy them back), cabbies would be able to earn more and wouldn’t have to cruise as much (with all the congestion, pollution and safety consequences). And the streetcars would be able to move more quickly. A virtuous cycle.


  15. People who live a car-less lifestyle are not of some inferior social status. However in Toronto it is tedious to get around with the TTC if your destination or starting point is far from a subway line. Public transit is fairly time inefficient for the user in general. But it is a necessary beast when vehicular traffic is bad or when the user can’t afford auto ownership or can’t drive for one reason or another.

    Seperated right-of-way surface transit is going to take road space away from motorists and piss them off (not everyone that makes use of the corridor uses the corridor for the entirety of their trip. I make use of Hurontario in Mississauga often but I live near Mavis, not Hurontario. So I need an efficient way to get to Hurontario. The most efficient way to do that is to drive because walking 7 mins to the Eglinton bus stop on Mavis and then taking the Eglinton bus and then having to wait for the Hurontario transfer is a slow alternative.

    My nearby corridors don’t have rapid transit so I’m going to drive and oppose policies that slow me down on the road).

    Toronto, Ontario and Canada should be more forward thinking and build out the TTC subway network. In Europe they build out the subways first before the commercial and residential development. In the GTA, they build transit (poorly) to (poorly) meet the needs of the existing commercial and residential development.


  16. I agree with Chris, and what he says is even more true in the downtown core, where I live. There is simply no space for right-of-way surface transit – even the current streetcars are effectively rolling road-blocks – so that, eventually, more subways will have to be built (starting, hopefully, with the long-discussed Downtown Relief Line, then others along Queen and a real subway along Eglinton).

    An interim solution would be to replace the streetcars with (trolley-)buses that at least have some ability to (1) pull over at stops to permit vehicles to pass, (2) make short detours to avoid (eg.) accidents, improperly-parked cars, etc., and (3) leap-frog each other so that they don’t become increasingly bunched-up as the route progresses. (I have always wondered whether there has ever been an analysis of the true cost of maintaining the streetcar system, what with the cost of road maintenance, the overhead wires, etc.)

    Much though we may hate to admit it, Toronto – with its growing population, large number of commuters, increasing density and broad sprawl – is not like (among cities I have visited) Zurich, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Budapest or Stockholm where walking, bicycling and streetcars can provide an effective solution to most transit needs. And even these cities have more extensive underground networks than Toronto does.

    Who’s going to pay for the subways? The money will have to come from all three levels of government (and, I think, residents and commuters would be willing to pay extra taxes if they could see real progress), plus fees from those who develop new condominiums along (and benefit from) the new subway routes.

    Otherwise, I fear that Toronto will choke on its own success. And when businesses have trouble recruiting staff because employees can no longer manage the 1- and 2-hour commutes, then they will begin to move elsewhere, and the GTA will really start to pay the price of its half century of inaction.


  17. @Peter

    a) In order for buses to have a place to pull over to let cars pass, wouldn’t Queen street need to be wider to allow for the bus cut outs?

    b) Wouldn’t you have to remove street parking to create a space for buses to move out of the way if cut outs aren’t an option?

    c) Wouldn’t you have to add more buses/trolley buses just to maintain current service levels with the increased operating costs involved in having more drivers needed to do the same work?

    d) Wouldn’t trolley buses have the similar requirements for maintenance of wires?

    Switching from streetcars to buses just seems likely to be a trade of high capital costs for high operating costs with no actual benefit when it comes to quality of service. At the end of the day, both buses and streetcars occupy the same lane of traffic when there is street parking on narrow streets like Queen St. My guess is that Toronto needs the equivalent of Calgary’s 7th Ave; a transit/emergency services only road that cuts through the city allowing rail/bus operation to move without competing with other types of vehicles.


  18. Kevin:

    You are right about the wires, of course. But I was hoping to head off any concerns about diesel fumes, etc. Maybe hybrid buses of some sort. Or battery-powered electric.

    Good point about the possible need for more drivers – but I suspect that the added flexibility of buses over tracked vehicles might permit the same number of drivers/vehicles to be more efficient (eg. no “bunching”). To be tested. (Or do we already have some data from those times when, on King or Queen, buses have had to replace streetcars in the past?)

    Steve: The difference in vehicle capacity is considerably more than what is lost to uneven distribution thanks to bunching today. Also, as you will soon see in a coming analysis of 29 Dufferin, buses can be just as screwed up as streetcars. It’s not the vehicle, it’s the absence of active management.

    I don’t think the buses would need cutouts: Surely they can just pull to the curb where we now already have streetcar stops. At least they’re not an actual impediment to auto/truck traffic while they’re stopped.

    Steve: Actually they are. Current city rules for transit stops require a longer no-parking area for buses than for streetcars because the bus needs room to pull into AND align with the curb. A common problem is that the ass end of a bus blocks traffic behind it when it cannot pull completely in to the curb.

    And while a transit/emergency only road might be ideal (and even possible in suburban areas), I just don’t think it’s a viable option in already-heavily-built-up areas like downtown Toronto: Where would we put it?

    The fact of the matter is that we have only a limited, already-crowded amount of “surface”, while we have a vast, largely untapped area of “underground”.

    Steve: And if you have at least $350m/km to build it, that will “buy” you the road space above. To put this in context, we will spend less to rebuild the falling-down western half of the Gardiner than it would cost to get a subway on Queen from Yonge to Bathurst.


  19. I believe that there is no political will to eliminate parking on most parts of street car routes so let’s do the next best thing. Put in bump outs at all the stops for passenger loading and eliminate all left hand turns in rush hour. While this might sound counter intuitive it would speed up traffic flow in the long run.

    Just as the rights of way on St. Clair and Spadina force cars into a more controlled traffic flow this would cause traffic on these streets to be less turbulent. The 2 spots where this doesn’t is at St Clair and Old Weston Road and at Spadina and the Gardiner. This is not the fault of the road design but of capacity restraints caused by physical limitations of the areas. Let’s forget about getting the transit vehicles out of the road of cars, rather get the cars out of the road of the transit vehicles.


  20. I certainly agree, Steve, about the lack of active management: How much, precisely DOES the TTC pay those purple-jacketed fellows who stand at intersections and have the power to consign the streetcar you’re on to “Short Turn” status? But, given a single track, I suppose there is only so much they can achieve.

    And if transit stops are currently too short to allow buses to pull all the way into the curb, I’d say that removing one or two car-parking spaces is a great deal cheaper than installing cut-outs.

    AND, finally, we can go back and forth all day (or for a half-century, to be more precise) about whether or not Toronto can afford to build more subway lines; the fact is that they will eventually have to be built, and the longer we put it off, the more expensive (to the city’s functioning, and in terms of real dollars) it will be.

    Only the achievement of some sort of car- and truck-free utopia will ever permit surface transit to be fast and efficient south of (say) Eglinton.

    Steve: The attitude that subways are inevitable and so we must build them now ignores the fact that every single rider (and motorist) has their own pet street under which we should build a subway. This is simply not going to happen. Toronto is not a city with the density of New York or London or Paris, let alone the car-free environment of a century ago when that density could drive extensive subway construction.

    A subways-only policy effectively dooms us to doing nothing.


  21. Yes you may, sadly, be right, Steve – and that we will, in effect, do nothing for another half century. But I would suggest that the density of Toronto – especially in the downtown core and certain satellite neighbourhoods – has been going through the roof. (Note today’s announcement of another federal riding that recognizes, basically, all the new condo developments along the lake.) New York was not always as densely populated as it is today – which is why all the early, privately-owned subway companies (the IRT, etc.) went bankrupt. But the existence of those subways made intensification possible.

    Sure, everyone wants a subway under THEIR street, and of course that’s not going to happen. But imagine how much more efficiently the entire transit system (including buses and, yes, even streetcars) could be managed if there were at least a halfway-decent grid of subways underground, with hubs all across the city. Montreal is a great example of that.


  22. Steve,

    While I agree with your idea to split the Queen route by reinstating the 507, it might need more cars and operators that are currently available. How about splitting the route at the Ronces carhouse?

    508 peak only route will be cancelled
    501 West will run from Long Branch to Ronces depot every 10 minutes all day. Since this section of the route has almost no traffic congestion on Lakeshore and a ROW on the Queensway even the TTC using current operating practices will manage to keep it on schedule
    People living along the corridor will know that a streetcar is passing by their house at 7, 17, 27, 37 minutes etc. past the hour all day. +-3 minutes, of course.
    Transfering to King or Queen at the carhouse would be easy. Safely in a large crowd J-walk across the Eastbound Queensway and board the launched into service King car. I used to do it every morning. The easiest transfer on the whole streetcar system.
    Since the 501 West route is much shorter (round trip time 60 minutes) there might be no layover needed at the Long branch. That will save space, especially with the introduction of the new cars.
    In case of a major delay a car can still be short turned at Kipling. That should not happen very often.

    This proposal will probably won´t improve service east of Ronces. However, it will drastically improve service on the Queensway and Lakeshore and reduce car dependency in this area. With the existing budget, fleet and workforce.

    Steve: I am not interested in working within constraints of the existing fleet as we have new cars on order and long-overdue service increases will be possible. The new cars will also change workforce considerations.


  23. I don’t see why we cannot have bumpouts, parking, street trees and street furniture using the linear space between sidewalk and roadway.

    It’s a good mix of space and functionality-and breaking up the space is better than long lines of continuous parking.

    Cheers, Moaz


  24. Single occupancy vehicles and parking are the two least efficient (most wasteful) uses of road space and should not be the primary consideration when proposing changes.

    Buses and more vehicles reducing bunching? Will you guys be here all week? I get the feeling the only time these people encounter the TTC is when they have to stop for a streetcar or let a bus pull in.

    It will be just as fun when bunched up buses are blocking the roads waiting for the bus ahead of it to pull out of a stop.


  25. Peter said:

    “[subways subways subways]”

    It’s too bad stevemunro.ca is in a blog format rather than a website format, so that new readers can simply navigate to Steve’s one-time responses to frequently proposed ideas. For advocates of the Queen Street subway debate, here’s a helpful page.

    Steve: I would not want to give the impression that I never change my mind, but we have been over many of these issues a lot through the years, and the only thing that has really changed is that there is even less money available today than there was in 2007 when I wrote that article.


  26. Montreal has about the same population density as Toronto (Montreal has about ~60% of the population and land area of Toronto) and they have a much more comprehensive subway network. Stockholm, Sweden has about the same population density of Toronto (much smaller in land mass. We’re talking like <30% the size) and they have like 105km+ of rail. It's all about what you are willing to spend. Toronto, Ontario and Canada does not want to spend on building out the TTC subway network.

    Putting dedicated rights-of-way along corridors is not going to win much public support. For it to even have a chance of working, you need a comprehensive network of light rail. Like the Hurontario example I used in Mississauga. How does the Hurontario LRT benefit me when I live 2.2 km away from Hurontario/Eglinton? My options are to walk 27 minutes. Or walk 7 mins to my nearest intersection (Mavis/Eglinton), wait for the Eglinton bus, take it for 6 mins to Hurontario, cross the street and transfer to the Hurontario bus stop (2 mins) and then wait for the Hurontario LRT to arrive. Why would I want to do that when it would take me 5 minutes by car to get onto Hurontario? You have to go through the same motions when you take the TTC so let's not act like the issue in my neighbourhood is unique to Mississauga. Driving is the most direct way to get to where you want to go.

    LRT is not going to make Toronto and Mississauga motorists take light rail. It's going to make them relocate to Stouffville. lol. You are going to drive people away from Toronto. People are not going to want to live, work and play in Toronto anymore if their roads are undriveable. A lot of my peers (young adults) in Mississauga don't even bother "going downtown" except for the odd Air Canada Centre concert because of the already existing traffic congestion and expensive parking. Taking away entire lanes is not going to make the traffic problem any better for them. What's happening to Toronto is similar to what you have seen in downtowns across America. People who have moved to the suburbs decided, "why would I go through the hassle of driving downtown when I can just get go to the local strip mall/shopping mall?" Downtowns across America have become wastelands.

    Businesses and people will move out of Toronto when people have reached their breaking point with traffic congestion and into distant places like Stouffville. The Metrolinx doomsday scenario (110 minutes/day) is not going to happen because businesses will get fed up and leave before that happens. The Toronto economy will suffer. But at the end of the day, there's nothing wrong with suburbs becoming self-reliant. Mississauga for awhile now has more jobs than they do workers living here. The median commute distance circa 2006 was like 10.3 km. That beats the 30 km commute to downtown Toronto. The question though is, how will Toronto's economy fare when more and more suburbs become self-reliant and people stop "going downtown" to work and play? How will Toronto's economy fare when Toronto motorists (looking at statistics, the majoirty of non-work trips in all but 2 wards is made by car. So "Toronto motorists" are indeed the majority, even downtown) move out of Toronto to a suburb where they don't have to put up with the crappy TTC, traffic congestion and expensive parking?


  27. Its 2013 not 1913 – streetcars operating in mixed traffic on busy streets like Queen will never be able to move people effectively. Doesn’t matter how new the train is, how big or small they are, or how far apart the stops are. The streetcar can only be effective in a ROW. If it’s to operate in mixed traffic at the very least they should get their own lane in peak times and no car should be permitted to turn left.

    However it seems that allowing the streetcar to have its own ROW on Queen or King will never happen for many reasons as others have mentioned. TO needs to step it up. Discussion should be focused on how to raise the money for a DRL, which is the only viable solution to improving movement east-west through the city. Enough with the streetcars. Steve says TO can’t afford to build a DRL (in previous posts as someone linked to). This is a booming, affluent, progressive city – I think he’ll be proved wrong.

    Steve: I never said we can’t afford to build a DRL, and in fact have been supporting this line since long before it was fashionable to do so. What I have said is that TO can’t afford to build subways everywhere, but must (a) choose what it builds carefully and (b) recognize the fact that there will not be a subway to replace every streetcar and major bus route in the city.

    I don’t mind being quoted, but do it accurately.


  28. ” A lot of my peers (young adults) in Mississauga don’t even bother “going downtown” except for the odd Air Canada Centre concert because of the already existing traffic congestion and expensive parking.” — Chris

    “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.” — Yogi Berra

    Also, to answer:

    “”why would I go through the hassle of driving downtown when I can just get go to the local strip mall/shopping mall?”

    You shouldn’t. Any more than a downtown Toronto resident will drive to Erin Mills Town Centre or some strip mall on Burnhamthorpe to do their shopping.

    It seems to be a suburban mindset that there is one place for shopping, and everyone must go there. (Possibly because in a lot of suburbs, this is the case. The “city centre” is the one and only mall. There’s no other place to go.) This simply doesn’t work for all the GTA, which is much too big to have only one shopping destination within it, and certainly not for the old retail strips of Toronto.

    “Downtown” Toronto will survive quite nicely even if it is boycotted by Stouffville’s shoppers.


  29. Feb 12, 2007

    The Queen Street Subway Debate

    “I have been truly astounded that the post on the new streetcar plan has turned into a pitched battle between the pro and anti LRT/subway forces on this blog. Frankly I am getting a little tired of it because, after all, this is my blog and I happen to believe that LRT is going to rule the day.

    This will happen for three reasons:

    We cannot afford a subway network,
    We do not need a subway network, and
    We must not put off transit improvement in the vain hope that someday the tooth fairy will give us the money to build one.”

    Steve: Note that I said “a subway network”, not “the DRL”. Long ago, in the early days of this blog, I published something called “A Grand Plan” that included among other things a Don Mills to downtown LRT. My view of that line has evolved over time, and for several years I have spoken of this only as a subway line.

    The argument goes like this:

    Transit City proposed a surface LRT line from the Danforth north including operation on narrow city streets through East York. This was a totally impractical idea and I said so at the time. If we put the line underground south of Eglinton (with a bridge spanning the Don), then when it reaches Danforth it would make more sense to continue through as a DRL subway to downtown. Making Pape Station, say, the location of a forced transfer would complicate passenger flows at the station and would require more extensive infrastructure than a simple through route.

    The debate then becomes whether a DRL should end at Eglinton with service further north provided by buses (or LRT if demand warrants), or if a subway line should be pushed ever further north much as was done on Yonge and on Spadina.

    You are using my quotation out of context, and not taking into account the evolution of my position specifically on the DRL over the past six years.


  30. Peter wrote:

    “New York was not always as densely populated as it is today – which is why all the early, privately-owned subway companies (the IRT, etc.) went bankrupt. But the existence of those subways made intensification possible.”

    If you look at Manhattan demographics, even the current population (1.6 million) is a lot lower than when it peaked in 1910 (2.3 million).

    It was the drop in population in Manhattan, and the increase in car usage in the other boroughs that drove the old companies to bankrupty. Even Brooklyn and the Bronx have dropped in population from their peak. And while Queens has increased in population, I bet that increase isn’t the section that does have good subway coverage.


  31. Thanks for the insight Steve, hopefully Keesmaat and Stintz will hit you up for useful insight in the future.

    On the topic of headways and service along Queen, the current situation while unbearable is perhaps the best that can be done with the current service management and supervisory regime. This isn’t true only of the streetcar. Its an issue with the TTC. they need to be more proactive in how they choose to short turn their streetcars. Don’t pick the last out of 3 bunched cars to short turn but certainly don’t leave those cars bunched while folks going the other way wait 20 minutes for a streetcar.

    The same goes for buses. This morning as so often is the case 4 Scarlett buses packed together [are] travelling north in front of me. When I looked at their live GPS locations there were no buses anywhere near to service southbound trips. These buses were mostly empty. Turn one back at least and regulate the service southbound.

    Steve, I wonder if you know about the feasibility of installing crossover X tracks on streetcar right of ways like St. Clair to perhaps get around disabled vehicles.


    Steve: The question of crossovers has come up here before, and there are a number of important technical issues. First, this would add yet another set of locations where streetcars would have to slow approaching a facing point switch. There would also need to be some way to ensure that “wrong way” cars didn’t enter the other track unless it actually was clear. Several sets of crossovers would be needed to minimize the length of the single-track operation. Also, traffic signals and sensors are organized for one direction of flow, and motorists would not expect to see “wrong way” cars at intersections.

    With the advent of new cars, we should have fewer disabled vehicles and that’s a more important target than the complexities of adding a lot of new special work and figuring out how to manage single-track operations.


  32. Chris said:

    LRT is not going to make Toronto and Mississauga motorists take light rail. It’s going to make them relocate to Stouffville. lol

    Chris, LRT is not intended to “convert” motorists any more than subways, expanded GO service and road tolls are going to “reduce” congestion.

    The whole point of LRT is to provide better (faster, more reliable) service for existing transit users with some room for future growth.

    The Big Move is going to … add 30 years of missing investment … over a period of 30 years. If we are lucky and The Big Move is wildly successful, by the time it is finished 30 years from now, we will be in the same congestion situation as we are in 2013 … if we are lucky.

    As for those people who moved to Stouffville … 20 years from now they will be facing the same congestion situation they are facing in North York … and YRT will be talking about the Stouffville Side Road LRT line to Yonge St.

    Cheers, Moaz


  33. I understand the purpose of LRT is to improve service for existing transit users and not to the benefit of motorists AT ALL. That is the problem. Motorists are the majority in Toronto (as I’ve said, if you look in the City of Toronto ward profiles, every ward save for 2 makes the majority of their non-work trips via automobile. 8 wards make the majority of work trips through alternative transportation. There are 44 wards). Motorists need to “buy in” to this idea. The TTC commute needs to be faster than their current automotive trips for them to even care. By artificially slowing down automotive trips by taking away lanes, you are just going to ignite the rage of motorists who are happy with the status quo.

    As for Stouffville due to face the same traffic congestion issues in 20 years as North York, that is the circle of life. Development will then move on to another suburb. Mississauga is dealing with these challenges right now (actually that is old news. Markham is dealing with them). So as long as I can do 27-28 kph to my Mississauga office, which is only 8-ish km away, I’m not too bothered by the traffic congestion. If they built a Mississauga Eglinton LRT (my pet corridor! lol) *and* Hurontario LRT with the estimated 32 kph travel time (a generous estimate on my part. The LRT will be just as fast as a car in zero traffic but you need to account extra time for stops), it would still take me 33.75 mins to get to work (15.75 mins total LRT travel, 15 mins walking, 3 min wait for transfer). Though I could leave my place 11 mins earlier than I would today with Miway. By car, it’s a 17-18 minute commute for me plus walking from the parking lot (I park all the way in the back because I’m paranoid other drivers will hit my car) to the office building. For me to even begin to think about LRT, vehicular traffic on my route would have to be at 16 kph, not 27. And that’s with an Eglinton LRT to sweeten the pot for me.

    Plus people actually want to actually exit the city when they want to (if you have these seperated right of ways all over the place, it’s going to make it difficult to get on the 401, Gardiner, DVP, 404, etc.) and use their car for doing errands after work. When I drove to my bank branch and then drove to Costco before heading home, it occured to me how tedious this would have been if we lived in LRT heaven with tracks all over the place.

    There are two options available to Toronto and the GTA in general stuck in the middle-zone between too much density for cars and too little density for subways: Build density to justify subways or relocate. I’m not in a rush to move to Stouffville just yet. Businesses and people on Queen Street West are welcome to move to Stouffville. Or build more condos and commerical establishments on Queen Street.


  34. Chris says

    “I understand the purpose of LRT is to improve service for existing transit users and not to the benefit of motorists AT ALL”

    Surely getting more people out of their cars, and onto transit, is going to greatly improve the life of the motorist, with less traffic.

    And as the new LRT in Toronto is being installed with virtually no reduction in car lanes anywhere, surely the elimination of all the buses blocking cars on Eglinton, Finch West, and Sheppard East is also going to significantly help cars.

    I have to wonder if subways are so great, why the east-west street I always avoid on the rare occasion I actually have to drive into the Bloor/Yonge area downtown in rush hour is Danforth, and instead find Gerrard or Dundas less congested!


  35. Chris, it doesn’t matter if motorists are in the majority. Eventually growth will run into the walls placed around the GTA. They will either be forced to use more efficient transport methods or sit in traffic regardless of what you might prefer.

    Private autos waste the most space on the road and move the fewest number of people and you will never be able to provide the amount of road space to support everyone driving around in their own car. Replacing road lanes with lanes for rail cars is one way of improving the productivity and throughput of scarce road space.

    More long term more success will be had if the built form of suburbia is improved so that you have banks, grocery stores, and other things closer to residential areas so that dependency on car trips is reduced (it’s not just density).


  36. Nfitz said:

    Surely getting more people out of their cars, and onto transit, is going to greatly improve the life of the motorist, with less traffic.

    Again, it’s not so much about getting existing drivers out of their cars as it is about having more space for current and future public transit users.

    Chris said:

    Motorists need to “buy in” to this idea. The TTC commute needs to be faster than their current automotive trips for them to even care.

    I’d agree that little has been done to sell the benefits of LRT to motorists.

    What makes LRT better for drivers are things like:

    that the LRVs stay in their place, unlike buses in mixed traffic which can and do occupy every lane available. That means that traffic flow is smoother.
    The reduced number of mid-block stops means fewer pedestrians crossing mid-block in front of drivers … meaning roads will be safer.
    encouraging commuters to use transit instead of driving means less added future congestion … meaning commute times will stay at “terrible” rather than move to “horrible” … or worse.
    Operating costs (partly paid for by city subsidy coming from property taxes) are lower than for buses. The capital costs are higher in the short run but the can be spread out over space and time.
    In most cases lanes will not be lost.

    I’ve also noticed that in the case of narrower roads in city centres (Brampton, Hamilton, Kitchener) Metrolinx is looking at splitting the LRT routes to run 1-way on different roads that they can maintain a minimum 4 lanes for cars.

    I think they might also do this for the Dundas St. BRT through Cooksville, which is only 5 lanes wide (2+1+2) … maybe running eastbound buses along King Street between Confederation Parkway and Cliff Rd … or they are going to have to expropriate and tear down almost all the buildings along Dundas between Confederation Parkway and Shepard Avenue.

    Cheers, Moaz


  37. Chris says:

    transit should prioritize the needs of motorists

    Fine. Then motorists can pay for what they want. Meanwhile, the TTC should stick with improving service for their existing customers before considering anyone else.


  38. Moaz Yusuf Ahmad says:

    March 1, 2013 at 7:57 pm

    “I’ve also noticed that in the case of narrower roads in city centres (Brampton, Hamilton, Kitchener) Metrolinx is looking at splitting the LRT routes to run 1-way on different roads that they can maintain a minimum 4 lanes for cars.”

    The latest plans for downtown Brampton show the LRT running both ways up Main Street (Hurontario elsewhere). One option is to close Main to autos and make it a pedestrian/transit mall; this is my preferred option. Autos could go around by making Wellington, Chapel, Theatre Lane, Nelson and George a one way counter clockwise loop. All turns would be right hand only.

    The favoured plan for Hamilton converts King and Main back to 2 way streets with transit on only one of them. Running service on 2 different streets makes the coverage poorer as most people have to walk farther to get to one of the streets.

    To get through the Hurontario-Dundas intersection ban all turns and make a one way counter clockwise loop using King, Camilla, Kirwin and Confederation.


Comments are closed.