Queens Quay Reopening for Streetcars Delayed Again (Update June 24, 2014)

Updated June 24, 2014 at 11:35 pm with additional info from the TTC. Please scroll down to the end of the article.

Updated June 19, 2014 at 11:15 am: Waterfront Toronto has replied to my query about the status of the Queens Quay project. This has been added to the end of the article.

In what is becoming a distressingly common TTC tactic, the first sign of delays to the Harbourfront streetcar’s return has again appeared buried deep in the monthly CEO’s Report in the TTC Board’s meeting agenda.

The report now shows two separate dates for resumption of service to Queens Quay:

Queens Quay Union Stn to Yo Yo Ma Lane
Jul 29/12 – Oct 11/14
Waterfront Toronto
Queens Quay Reconstruction

Spadina Ave. and Queens Quay including Loop
May 13/13 – Aug 30/14
Platform Upgrades & Track Replacement

[See table on page 21]

I wrote to the TTC’s Brad Ross about this slippage, and also asked whether another factor was the planned opening date for the second platform at Union Station (which provides access to the Union Station Loop). He replied:

QQ may well be ready, but then again it may not. As you can appreciate, we had to schedule service as bus in case it wasn’t ready.

Union second platform is to open this summer. I don’t have a specific date to share yet.

What astounds me here is that the trackwork on Queens Quay is nearly complete, except for the section west of Spadina which is not required for restoration of streetcar service to Union Station.

When I pressed Ross further on the issue of opening east from Spadina, he replied:

Our track and overhead staff do not have a high level of confidence of readiness. We have made clear to WT in the strongest terms possible, our desire to have QQ back.

I will pursue this issue with Waterfront Toronto to get their side of the story.

Updated June 19, 2014:

Waterfront Toronto replies:

We are working collaboratively with TTC to substantially complete the construction of both the Spadina Loop and the streetcar corridor on Queens Quay by the end of June to give TTC crews the time they need to commission the line. To date, we have completed over 90% of the construction and have begun installing TTC poles along the corridor. Unfortunately, due to a collapsed telecommunications duct bank in the roadway west of Spadina (which is now repaired), reconstruction of the streetcar corridor in that block has been delayed by approximately two weeks. While we are working diligently to provide TTC crews the time they need to commission the line in that area, we fully respect their Service Planning process and the decision to have buses available to serve customers on the 509 Harbourfront line through September. We are pleased that the TTC will resume the 510 Spadina streetcar service to the newly rebuilt Spadina Loop as of August 31 and that we are on schedule to deliver the fully revitalized Queens Quay next June.

Updated June 24, 2014 at 11:35 pm:

Today I spoke with TTC CEO Andy Byford who advises that a major problem for the TTC is not the completion of the track, but the availability of poles on which to string the overhead. This is a particular problem at Queens Quay and Spadina where even getting the loop open for August 31 may be a challenge.

From various Waterfront Toronto construction reports, I know that work west of this intersection has been delayed first by the unexpected collapse of a Bell duct, and also while work was put on hold so the area could be used for staging of new track panels. That said, it is difficult to believe that WT cannot get the new poles installed promptly now that the intersection construction is largely complete. I will follow this up with WT for further info.

28 thoughts on “Queens Quay Reopening for Streetcars Delayed Again (Update June 24, 2014)

  1. Strange timing… Monday I was walking through Union when I noticed Brad and Chris along with a myriad of other TTC staff. When I told him to “have fun at the media event” he said it was a staff tour of the second platform.

    That plus this new delay leads me to believe it has something to do with the second platform and not the street itself. Last time I was in Union they were putting in the finishes but the second platform area is still bare bones with bags of concrete strewn about.. hell even the access points and street still need major work done.

    In short Steve given the timing of everything its safe to say that are in the midst of a screw up at Union itself.


  2. I notice the CEO’s report says that the service disruption for Spadina Ave. and Queens Quay including Loop started in May 2013.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I can’t recall there being regular streetcar service on Spadina south of King at any point since June or July of 2012.

    Steve: You are correct. The work began in July 2012. I have noticed that info in that section of the CEO’s report (the one dealing with major construction projects) is often inaccurate, and wonder just where the author gets their info. It’s details like this that undermine the credibility of other material.


  3. I’ve been following the weekly WT construction notices, and I’m pretty sure the hold-up isn’t on their end. AFAICT, the only pole foundations left to put in are west of Spadina (where the deep work dragged on long after it was finished elsewhere), and they’re already putting up poles starting from the east end. There are only a few short stretches where they don’t have the concrete beds for plants and the new granite pavers poured, and I’m sure they could have those done by next month to install the poles. (Heck, half of the new road will be in by then!)

    Unless it’s something to do with the new RBC office tower, and they can’t put up the overhead because they still need to be dropping off/picking up construction supplies and bins.


  4. Forgive my ignorance, but is there no way the TTC can adapt to operate in a more flexible schedule than 6 week blocks? With 2 weeks notice, one would think they could assemble the necessary schedules to make a service adjustment. I would think that returning to streetcar operation on Queens Quay would cost substantially less to operate than the current bus arrangement. Would this not cover the cost of being slightly more flexible with schedules for the transition period?

    Steve: Actually, the six-week periods the TTC uses are unusually short by industry standards. If this were simply a case of changing the route of buses, then it would be done whenever roads opened (just as the Cherry bus will resume its normal route this weekend). However, for a bus to streetcar conversion, it’s different because these vehicles come from different divisions and different pools of operators.

    All that said, I wish there were a greater sense of urgency, but neither the TTC nor Waterfront Toronto seems willing to go down that route. I am not impressed.


  5. Might this have something to do with the delivery of the new streetcars? The TTC has consistently stated that they will enter service on Aug. 31.

    Is the TTC presently taking delivery of the new cars and if so how many are now on the property?

    Steve: They will enter service on August 31, but there will still be a mix of new and old cars running on Spadina, initially to Queens Quay. At present, only 4403 of the production run is on the property with 4404 expected later in June. Deliveries are supposed to ramp up to 3/month, but I will believe that when I see it. 4400-4402, the prototypes, are also on the property and will likely be used for initial service. Eventually, however, their 2nd section, the one with the accessibility ramp, will go back to Thunder Bay for alteration to match the production car design.


  6. Steve:

    Eventually, however, their 2nd section, the one with the accessibility ramp, will go back to Thunder Bay for alteration to match the production car design.

    Does this mean that the cars will be split so that only the relevant section will be sent? First sensible thing done in years.

    Steve: Yes, only the car section that needs modification will go back to Thunder Bay.


  7. Walking along QQ is an anguished experience, with little visible activity and no apparent sense of urgency given the incessant delays. People who live there must to the man be sick of the never ending mess and wish it never started. New holes are being dug every day and in one place the track installed four weeks ago is dug up. Given the evident pace Aug 31 is wishful thinking; instead a date ending with ‘2015’ seems more appropriate.

    This two plus years of outage offered a golden opportunity to install the underground intersection at Bay and QQ in readiness for QQ East, now an opportunity lost, which will ensure a long service disruption sometime in the future.

    Steve: The Bay/QQ junction has been the topic of much debate, albeit little recently, because of the constant escalation of the cost estimate for this chunk of the line and the expanded loop at Union (another piece of work that should have but was not co-ordinated with concurrent activities nearby. I remember sitting in meetings four years ago where reps from the TTC did not even know about the scope and details of what the City was about to undertake at Union Station, such was the siloed nature of the two organizations.

    The Queens Quay project itself has run into major problems thanks substantially to Hydro who started about six months late due to their wrangles with the Ontario Energy Board over the capital program. Everyone else has had to work around this, plus the usual unexpected problems when one digs close to the lake and in an area with many old utilities. Some of the scheduling has required that the transit right-of-way be used in places as a crossover for autos from the north to the south pavement, and I suspect more of this is still to come.


  8. 4400 is on property? I thought it had been shipped back to Thunder Bay from Ottawa. I thought only 4400, 4401, and 4402 were on property.

    Steve: Er, I think you mean 4401-03. Not sure where 4400 is at the moment.


  9. David Youngs said:

    Does this mean that the cars will be split so that only the relevant section will be sent? First sensible thing done in years.

    Steve: Yes, only the car section that needs modification will go back to Thunder Bay.

    Moaz: No chance of “sewing” the 4 sections of the streetcars back together so they can be in service while the modifications take place.

    How much duct tape (and spit and baling wire) would such a job require?

    Cheers, Moaz


  10. Steve, didn’t you learn anything? Be conservative. For example, if the second platform for Union station subway is set to open during summer, assume the last day of summer right before fall. You must allow for contingencies and unexpected events.

    Steve: We have already burned through several contingencies.


  11. Predictably, the re-opening of the QQ streetcar line is still given as August 31 on the “Construction” page of the TTC website:

    “The return of streetcars on the Queens Quay West is scheduled for August 31, 2014.”

    I guess if you give a variety of dates the likelihood of one being right increases — though I would place my money on the latest.

    Steve: The inability of an organization which claims to be so focused on “Customer Service” to maintain consistent information is mind-boggling at times, but shows the classic effect of silos.


  12. @DavidC: What we needed was for this modification of Union Station (subway) to never happen in the first place. All of this happened because somebody though that it would be cool to have a train platform like the kind the have in the New York subway-for what? Beyond better taxes for transit funding, what do we have to emulate in NYC that’s so cool?

    Steve: Actually, the work at Union is underway because the existing platform is too small for the demands placed on it today, let alone what will be required when the TTC starts operating service with 25% more capacity. This has nothing to do with emulating anything.


  13. Ummm… does WT say it will take another entire year for the original 510 union station to Spadina route to open? Because construction signs at Union station said the streetcar bay will be re-opening August 31st. <_<

    Steve: I cannot help feeling that the TTC is dragging their feet on this, but they have been bitten in the past by non-delivery from WT. The real test will be to see how much is ready and when.


  14. So I was walking through Union Station earlier and I noticed the second platform is coming along however judging by the looks of things.. it will be a photo finish for August 30th. The staircase going to the second platform is in place but judging by the look the road surface plus the moat.. even the interior of the second platform area its going to be a bit before the works are complete.

    Its going to be a photo finish to get all the work done and cleaned up .. makes sense the TTC would want to hedge their bets.

    Also the York Concourse entrance from the Great Hall is a little behind. I was peeking in where the Harveys was but it is nowhere near done.

    Steve: And the question here is whether the TTC is late on the 2nd platform and hence unable to open the streetcar loop, but has WT as a convenient scapegoat. We will see when/if the 2nd platform opens in July or August.


  15. It looks like “509 Harbourfront” route will continue to be served by shuttle buses until at least September. There’s two reasons for this: a recent collapse of a Bell telecommunications duct bank is holding back construction of new streetcar tracks west of Spadina Avenue; the wait for another shipment of poles for overhead wires. When this stretch of track is finally completed, equipped with poles, and rewired, then streetcars shall make their long-awaited return to the “509 Harbourfront” route, and they’ll most likely be CLRVs.


  16. So where are the poles coming from that it takes that long to order and receive?

    Is there only one place that makes TTC poles?

    Steve: The poles are here, but the bases for the poles must be built. They are fairly substantial because of soil conditions — landfill very close to the lake.


  17. Steve: The poles are here, but the bases for the poles must be built. They are fairly substantial because of soil conditions — landfill very close to the lake.

    I thought they were mostly done, so I did a bit of digging. It seems I can only go back less than a year, but it appears that Bay to Rees is basically done (there was a recent note about a poured footing for a traffic light on the NW corner of QQ/York, but TTC is supposed to be complete), as is the northside from Rees to the Peter St. Slip. (I don’t know about the south side, but they are putting the pavers down, so probably that too.) The remainder appears to be from the Peter St. Slip to Spadina, where there is apparently still work northside from Shoppers Drug Mart east, and probably the work southside still to be done. (Traffic was routed by in the south lane there for a long time, so they probably hadn’t started on those footings at all.)

    IOW, unless there’s a problem with the new footings, I can’t see there’s enough work left for that to be a serious hold-up. If nothing else, the TTC should be working westward from the portal, where the poles have been up for a couple of weeks. (WT announced a couple of weeks ago that they were starting to erect the poles westward from York, but I’m usually too busy watching traffic, pedestrians and the pavement to have paid attention.)

    Steve: Yes, the issue about the poles only applies to the intersection at Spadina and Queens Quay as the structures for street lighting and overhead support have been gradually taking shape further east. I have tended to leave this sort of stuff out of my progress reports because the major work was the track and the poles followed along on an ad hoc basis. My gut feeling is that the TTC does not trust WT to actually have the poles installed and the immediate vicinity of the intersection in fit condition to string the intersection in time for service. Watching the rate of construction on QQ I find that hard to believe. My sense is that the preference is to find an excuse not to try for a September startup all the way to Union.

    Of course, if it is the intersection that is the holdup, they won’t start even to Queens Quay unless they build temporary overhead just to operate the loop.


  18. Steve, as you probably know, WT issues a weekly update on QQ. This week they say:

    TTC Track Installation Continues
    Crews will continue final track work east of Lower Spadina in the following areas:

    85 Harbour Street to the Bay Street Portal: TTC crews will set the rails to grade and alignment before they are set in concrete.
    Shoppers Drug Mart to Peter Slip Bridge: Crews will place the remaining straight pieces of rail overnight on June 30 and will set the rails to grade and alignment before they are set in concrete this week.
    Peter Slip Bridge: Work continues as expansion joints are grouted and waterproofed.
    Rees Parkette/Lower Spadina: Track drain installation
    Spadina Loop Reconstruction: Last week, crews completed the pour of concrete across the 390 Queens Quay entrance/exit lane. The majority of the pole foundations and poles for TTC overhead wiring are now complete. Crews will finish the remaining poles (located in the Spadina/Queens Quay intersection) next week and during the week of July 7.

    This seems to say that the pole situation is well in hand and it’s only early July. Hard to believe that the track & poles can’t be done in time for an August 31 opening.


  19. Let’s hope this is one of those “underpromise and overperform” situations. Lowered expectations and all.

    Even if Waterfront Toronto does manage to move ahead and everything is ready for an August 31st restart, someone in council with a burr somewhere sensitive will find a way to find fault (and just in time for a self-promoting photo-op too).

    Cheers, Moaz


  20. So the 509 streetcar will be closed for the 2nd CNE in a row? GO really ought to run a GO train shuttle service between Union and Exhibition, basically increasing the frequency to 15 minutes. Even when the streetcars are running normally, they are always outrageously overcrowded during the CNE.


  21. Actually the 509 will be closed for the 3rd CNE in a row! Closed at the very end of July 2012, and CNE running during August until the start of September makes that 2012+2013+2014 now.

    I live along the Fleet segment of the 509/511, and I’m not looking forward to a third straight year of the 511 southbound being jam packed out of the station and waiting for 3 unboardable streetcars to pass anywhere I’m waiting (College, Queen, King) before barely making it onto one.


  22. I just walked along QQ and the TTC guys were busily stringing overhead all around the junction of Lower Spadina and QQ. There appeared to be all the poles they needed so that section will clearly be ready for opening by the end of August. There were also lots of poles up elsewhere along QQ from Bay to Lower Spadina and only a couple of very short track sections that appeared to have rails but no concrete yet – including the bridge. It really seems hard to believe that the whole line from Bay to Spadina cannot be open for August 31 – though I realise that even a couple of poles missing would make this impossible. The section west of Lower Spadina to Yo Yo Ma Lane still has a ways to go and THAT segment seems unlikely to make an August 31 date.

    Steve: The TTC has been complaining that they cannot count on Waterfront Toronto’s promised completion dates, although that had more truth back when (a) Hydro was botching up everyone else’s plans, and (b) a much worse winter than expected arrived. Whether the TTC will rethink their “no QQ service until October” stance given work now underway, I don’t know.


  23. The TTC needs to buy 200 more buses.

    Steve: You are not telling us anything we don’t already know. Of course, the have painted themselves into a corner with regard to garage space, and are now claiming that expansion is impossible until 2019. This is an outrageous position for the TTC to take, and shows just how serious they are about really advocating for service improvements.


  24. I took a walk along QQ this Friday afternoon, and it looked as if pole installation was well underway along many stretches. I have no idea how long it takes to do a single pole or wire them, however.

    As to an earlier comment regarding poles on one or both sides of the tracks, I only saw evidence of a two-sided approach in a few spots, and it seemed as if the poles will be staggered – not directly opposite one another, but several meters apart.

    As for the Spadina intersection, wow, I had no idea it would require so many individual poles. There must have been at least 5 or 6 on the south side of the intersection alone, spaced only a few meters apart. Even when the redesign is complete next summer, that is going to be one ugly bit of street. Is it really necessary to have so many? It’s going to be a rat’s nest as is.

    Steve: I really don’t understand why there are so many poles either, although the idea may be to have a larger number of smaller poles as compared to what is done at full intersections. Yes, I agree, it appears to be overkill especially in the context of a redesigned QQ.


  25. Steve I think I know why things are being delayed.

    I was out along Queens Quay yesterday and honestly.. the roadwork around York Street while started is far from done. Vehicles in the area are using the ROW to go down Queens Quay. Until the work is done (and by all accounts it looks like that will be past August 30th) it makes no sense to reopen the street to streetcars.

    Steve: Yes, the new road is only about to be paved on the north side from York west to Rees.


  26. The TTC will continue to run shuttle buses on its “509 Harbourfront” streetcar route until Thanksgiving weekend. This is when the track work west of Lower Spadina will be complete with poles fitted with overhead electrical wires. Streetcars are expected to return to the “509 Harbourfront” route – on Sunday, October 12th – and they’ll be CLRVs.

    The esthetic work continues. The remaining stretches of old concrete sidewalks are being broken up with machinery. They’re replaced with little red granite blocks, those one the south side of Queens Quay West with a maple leaf pattern.

    Steve: This is not news. The Thanksgiving changeover has been known for a few months.


  27. I was just down on Queens Quay and walked the stretch from Bay to Spadina. As reported earlier, the track is all done but several of the stops are still under construction and the track is being used for westbound traffic while the road north of the tracks (primarily Simcoe to Spadina) is being finished. The poles are all (?) in and they have started to install the overhead supports from Simcoe to York. No wire up yet east of the loop.

    Because the track is being used for cars I am starting to wonder whether service will actually start on 11 October and the TTC will certainly be hard-pressed to get all their overhead up in time because they presumably need to work FROM the track lane so can’t do much until cars etc get shifted to the new road. I guess we will know more in 2+ weeks but if I were a betting man I would now bet on a November start.

    Steve: It is scheduled for Thanksgiving weekend. Even if they miss that date, the service can be cut over at Union as soon as the track and overhead are ready. Waterfront Toronto has a lot of explaining to do if they miss this date.


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