Streetcars Return to Queens Quay

After a two-year absence, streetcar service returned to Queens Quay today with the 510 Spadina and 509 Harbourfront routes resuming their normal operation.

Construction has not yet finished — there are sidewalks still to be finished, a bit of roadwork, the construction of the new bikeway and pedestrian area on the south side, and finally the trees — but that will all be finished for spring 2015.

For those who could not make it down to the waterfront on a fine Sunday morning, and for my out of town readers, here is a sample of views along the line.

Eastbound on Queens Quay approaching Yo-Yo Ma Lane. This is the west end of the current reconstruction project and will eventually be the point where eastbound road traffic swings across the streetcar right-of-way to the new, bi-directional north side of the street. The south roadway will be converted to an expanded pedestrian area and the Martin Goodman bike trail.

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Westbound cresting the Peter Slip bridge. This was the first piece of the “new” Queens Quay to receive track, but it has sat unused awaiting the return of streetcar service.

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The streetcar below is sitting westbound at Robertson Crescent East, the exit from the loop road around the Radisson Hotel. This is one of many new traffic signal locations on the route, and the absence of “transit priority” is keenly felt along Queens Quay. This is supposed to be a temporary situation with the signals running on a fixed program, but that program includes far too few green cycles for the streetcars, and it holds them at transit reds even when a through-only auto green could co-exist with through streetcar traffic.

It will be interesting to see whether this situation continues, or if the TTC and City Transportation come to a better arrangement. As things stand, this is a glacially slow trip, and the winter’s ice has not even started to blow in off of Lake Ontario.

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Looking west at Rees/Robertson.

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Looking northeast from the Simcoe Wavedeck.  Harbourfront Centre is behind the trees on the right.

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Looking west on Queens Quay from Lower Simcoe.

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Looking west at the new eastbound Lower Simcoe stop.

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Looking east across York Street.

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The mass of condos on Queens Quay has become almost oppressive, but with luck the rows of trees to be added in 2015 will soften many of these views.

35 thoughts on “Streetcars Return to Queens Quay

  1. Steve,

    I saw your tweet earlier about S/B Spadina cars to Union and I thought I would add that I saw more 510 Spadina cars on Queens Quay than I did 509 Harbourfront cars.

    I just took a glance at Nextbus and there is roughly nine 510 Spadina Streetcars heading south to Union and only five on the 509 Harbourfront currently.

    There is also one on the live map showing a car at Roncy and at King and Strachan. Good to know there is more cars on the way. I did not think they would show if they were off route.. hell at first I thought the 509 was on one hell of a diversion😛

    Steve: The situation has been quite fluid. The Spadina service got screwed up early today with the result that all of the Union runs were in a pack, and this bunch echoed back and forth on the line. Also, of course, with the slow pace along Queens Quay, the 510s spend a great deal of their time on that stretch.

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  2. The signal at the slip should be activated by emergency services or until a vehicle is present and remain green through Queens Quay. It is possible if they place sensors in the right spots.

    I can see why they would want a signal there though.. with EMS and Fire being where they are it would assist with things.

    That being said.. I too noticed a bunch of screw ups related to signals on Queens Quay earlier included one operator asking the route supervisor if he could make the right on to Spadina on the automobile green because the signal was taking forever. He was told to do it as long as it is safe to do so.

    The benefit to using Queens Quay was the limited stops and signals. Stopping at every street is going to make travel along the harbourfront a pain in the ass.

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  3. According to the TTC’s schedule page for the routes along Queens Quay the consolidated stop that was formerly York St. and Lower Simcoe St. is now identified as Harbourfront Centre. A few issues with that:

    1) The building known as the “Harbourfront Centre” is over at Lower Simcoe
    2) It’s slowly being rebranded as the Bill Boyle Artport. Harbourfront Centre refers to the complex of buildings, facilities and public space between the Queens Quay Terminal and the Radisson Hotel. Then there’s the earlier name for the building – York Quay Centre which still circulates amongst some tourist guides.
    3) The stop is situated at the driveway to the Queens Quay Terminal. Would it not be more appropriate to have the stop go by that name? It’s a little more prominent and fixed compared to something whose naming rights can change for the right price.
    4) I had hoped that the platforms would be of the St. Clair variety rather than Spadina. At the very least, especially with the slight change in stop locations, they be identified which doesn’t appear to be the case, at least for now.

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  4. Do you know if the Union Station cross-platform interchange between eastbound subway trains and Union loop streetcars is the only instance ever in history that a subway train and a streetcar can be spotted simultaneously?

    Steve: It was possible a century ago in Boston, and the Market Street subway in Philadelphia has both streetcars and subway trains in the same four-track tunnel. These are not the only two, but they come quickly to mind because in both instances they are (a) old and (b) still operating.

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  5. Mikey says:
    October 13, 2014 at 1:18 am

    “Do you know if the Union Station cross-platform interchange between eastbound subway trains and Union loop streetcars is the only instance ever in history that a subway train and a streetcar can be spotted simultaneously?”

    While not quite the same thing, in Cleveland the Shaker Heights LRT and the heavy (?) rapid transit line share the same track and three stations — 55th street, East 34th Campus station and Tower Square (the old railway station) — but they don’t quite use the same platforms. The three common stations have both high and low platforms one after the other. This is probably one reason the the heavy rapid line uses pan and overhead rather than third rail.

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  6. @Robert and Steve,

    Thanks for the examples. I would have thought that cross-platform interchanges between modes was something only foreign world-class cities do and Toronto could only dream of doing. I was thinking that yesterday was a historic moment for the TTC in Toronto in this context.

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  7. Rode the 509 and the Queen’s Quay stretch of the 510 a few times today – glad to have it back! I have to concur that the transit signals in their current configuration have a profoundly negative effect on the usefulness of the service. It was really irritating to have to stop at every single minor street for, often, around a minute. Another issue is that I passed through Spadina and Queen’s Quay in either direction on a 509 car 3 times – all 3 times the operator left the vehicle to switch out with the one coming from the other direction, adding about 3-4 minutes between waiting for the incoming vehicle, the actual switch, and the multiple extra signal phases. It is sad to see that the bus, even running on Lakeshore eastbound and in heavy construction westbound, was so vastly faster in most cases.

    I think I see, though, what the city’s reasoning is for not allowing streetcars to proceed forward on a traffic green – observations that westbound traffic does not interfere due to the presence of left turn signals are valid, however, once eastbound traffic is in place those eastbound cars would presumably make their right turns on the same green as straight-through traffic, meaning that collisions between east-to-south-turning traffic and east-west-straight streetcars would be not only possible but likely.

    In my humble opinion, a much wiser solution would be to add a right turn signal for east-to-south-turning traffic and not allow them to turn right on straight greens, because streetcars carry so many more people, but that would be another atrocity in the war on the car and we simply can’t have that…

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  8. In addition to the traffic lights, the electronics are not yet functional W/B at Spadina and Queens Quay. There is a point man manually operating the switch.

    Prior to construction, I could make it from Union to Spadina/Queens Quay in less than 10 minutes. Now it takes me almost 15 to go the same distance.

    Steve: It is astounding that QQ/Spadina has been operating for over a month, but the TTC has simply not gotten around to activating the electric switch. And, of course, it is the switch electronics that tell the signals that a car needs to make a turn. Far too many things slipped through the cracks on this startup.

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  9. Well like I said Steve,

    Operators were asking the Route Supervisors that are stationed at Queens Quay and Spadina if they are able to turn on the automobile green since the transit signal is not working.

    I am sure it will get resolved soon enough. This feels like one of those situations wherein someone gets fired or reassigned due to a screw-up. Once people start complaining.. it will get fixed.

    It may just be one of those situational things that did not arise until service resumed. The timing of the signals never really is an issue until you have a number of streetcars getting backed up. Once the line starts getting a tad screwy next week, no doubt things will get fixed.

    With only 1 car doing test runs on the line you do not feel the effects of poorly timed signals. They opened the line on a weekend so there is no way to fix things just yet.

    Steve: The problem I have is that this should have been foreseen in place of what seems to be a standard, inappropriate program that has been implemented on most of the signals. Westbound left turn (if appropriate), long westbound green, north-south green (again longer than is generally needed), and finally a short transit green. There are now almost twice as many signals between the portal at Bay and Spadina, and the cumulative effect is ridiculous.

    If someone did this, say, to the traffic on University Avenue, all hell would break loose.

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  10. Oh and I just ran into a gentleman at my work as he was using our washroom wearing a TTC Uniform. Apparently he is an emergency responder for the TTC. His job currently is to stay put at Spadina and Queens Quay in case a streetcar derails. From what I was told there is a currently a meaningful risk of derailment in and around the loop.

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  11. Steve, what are your credentials? Why should anyone waste their reading what you have to say when (1) you are biased, (2) you have zero credibility, and (3) you have no credentials. You seem to know the answer to everything, then why are you not God?

    Steve: If I were God, there would be some serious smiting going on when comments like this appear, but instead I just delete most of them. You I will leave to contemplate the meaning of Thanksgiving and tolerance. However, if you discover a plague of frogs outside of your door tomorrow morning, you will know that I have invoked a Higher Authority.

    Yes, I am biased in favour of good transit and city planning, not pandering and simplistic bombast. My credibility is measured by the number of visitors here every day, and the frequency with which my materials are cited favourably by others. No, I don’t have a piece of paper on the wall (I suspect you don’t either, or you would have mentioned it), but I have over 40 years of active work learning about and trying to improve transit in Toronto. People get honourary degrees for that sort of thing, although what I have (and in many ways more valuable) is the Jane Jacobs Prize, awarded when Jane was still alive and active in selection of winners.

    It’s called street cred. I have it. You don’t.

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  12. Oh, whatta relief it is! Streetcars make their return to Queens Quay West. Yesterday, I rode the “510 Spadina” streetcar to Union Station to get to Harbourfront Centre, stepping off at Lower Simcoe Street. This means, making fewer transfers en route, getting to my destination quicker. I’d be making more trips to Harbourfront Centre throughout the year – and, during the summer, months more trips to Centre Island. There’s a good chance I’ll be riding on on of the new LFLRV streetcars on this route.

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  13. Mikey says:
    October 13, 2014 at 9:15 pm

    “Steve, what are your credentials? Why should anyone waste their reading what you have to say when (1) you are biased, (2) you have zero credibility, and (3) you have no credentials. You seem to know the answer to everything, then why are you not God?”

    Well since you are criticizing Steve you must have read at least some of his blog so does this bring into question your credibility?

    (1) “… you are biased.” As I have said before everyone has a personal bias; what are yours? what would you build?

    (2) “… you have zero credibility, …” Well a number of people seek out Steve’s opinions and ideas, even professionals in the transit industry. Do any seek out your opinion? For the record they don’t seek out mine either.

    (3) “… you have no credentials.” A lot of transit and urban planning is the use of common sense (which may not be so common) and an ability to visualize, especially in 3 dimensions. Many years ago I was visiting friends in Calgary before the LRT line was built or the route was finalized. My friend’s sister who was a phys ed teacher told what she thought the route would be and why. She was 100% correct.

    Jarrett Walker has degrees in English and Theatre Arts yet he is a very successful transit planner. What are his credentials?

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  14. “It’s called street cred. I have it. You don’t.”

    I can picture Steve dropping the mic and walking away leaving Mikey slack-jawed and the crowd going mental.

    But yeah, I don’t respond much on Steve’s Blog, but I read and listen to Steve because he knows his stuff, and isn’t above being wrong sometimes.

    Keep up the good work!

    I rode 4403 on the first day and I noticed the wheel squeal traversing the Union Loop was intolerably loud. Will the TTC address the squeal?

    Steve: I’m wondering whether the wheel greaser, like so much else on this line, is one of those things that was not ready for opening day.

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  15. I too have noticed that the traffic signals seem very poorly set for the streetcars. Any suggestions on who to contact a Transportation Services to get this improved? During the EA or design stage, we were told that there would be transponder activation for the streetcars, and also detector activation for vehicles at Roberston east leg and at the EMS station driveway, where the default would always be green for streetcars. Beer Store customers do not need a signal for in-right, out-right operation.

    Steve: According to Brad Ross at the TTC, they had given Waterfront Toronto and its contractors the specs for the signals, but that is not what was implemented. Changes are in progress. It will be interesting to see how much has changed by, say, the end of the week.

    There is also an article about this on Waterfront Toronto’s site.

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  16. His job currently is to stay put at Spadina and Queens Quay in case a streetcar derails. From what I was told there is a currently a meaningful risk of derailment in and around the loop.

    Derailment issues?! They just rebuilt the loop!

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  17. I am starting to wonder if the line was hastily put into service because of the closure on Bathurst and the need for a good news story with the line.

    If they had delayed it even longer due to minor things such as traffic signals and wheel greasers people would have been up in arms over it.

    Sometimes patience is a virtue and this happens to be one of those times. Just because you can open something, does not mean you necessarily should.

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  18. I know I shouldn’t feed trolls like Mikey, but I will point out that I’m credentialed. Urban planning is my field of training, and why I can put a Bachelor of Environmental Science after my name. I also have seventeen years of confirmed public transit geekery by acting as the editor to the Transit Toronto website. I’ve watched Steve Munro address the issue of public transit in the GTA all this time, and I know him by reputation, from his work (with a number of other dedicated transit activists) to save Toronto from its boneheaded streetcar abandonment policy back in the early 1970s.

    So, as a credentialed individual, I can say that Steve knows his stuff. He backs up his assertions with data, salient observations and sound arguments, and he’s been doing it for decades. Yes, he has opinions that may disagree with yours, but public transit is political, and political debate is nothing but opinion. Those opinions that are backed by the best data, experience and arguments wins the debate. Steve has that. Trolls like Mikey don’t. Mikey has done nothing but spit from the sidelines, offering no constructive criticism, and nothing approaching a reasoned argument.

    I know who I trust.

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  19. I went through there both ways tonight after work, thinking that it could not be as bad as people were saying. But it turns out I was wrong. It took 10 minutes each way to travel between Bay and Spadina, a distance of about 1.25 km, for a dizzying speed of 7.5 km/h.

    As Steve noted in his response to Richard White, the signals generally have been set up to operate as follows:
    1) Westbound left turn
    2) Westbound green
    3) North-south green
    4) Short transit green (8 seconds)

    There was one eastbound stop where we were stuck for two cycles (the stop is a near-side one, and we happened to be boarding a couple of passengers and missed the short transit signal). I timed the red signal at around 82 seconds.

    This is a case of the signals really being “transit exclusivity” signals, not “transit priority” signals — like at the exit from Don Mills station. They’re set up to manage conflicts between different streams of traffic, not to provide any measure of transit benefit.

    Ultimately the plan is supposed to be for transit to operate during the east/west green, and for eastbound right turns and westbound left turns to either be prohibited, or to operate on a separate phase. But this is not happening yet, maybe because there are no left turn lanes to store traffic waiting to make the left turn. However, there should be no reason to provide both the “blink and you miss it” transit phase /and/ the left turn phase. Either provide one or the other. Ideally they leave the short left turn phases — the traffic using them seemed to be minimal — and let streetcars run during the east-west green. Alternately, if streetcars temporarily have to use a separate transit phase, then disable the left turn phases (unnecessary), insert additional transit phases (transit; east-west; transit; north-south), and decrease the length of time for the east-west and north-south phases. They won’t be perfect but they should be pretty straightforward “fixes” that are quick to implement and would do the trick if, as WT claims, the configurations are temporary.

    Some observations when comparing the service summary against the actual service on the street. The service summary says there’s supposed to be 9 CLRVs in the evening rush hour, operating with a 34-minute round trip time (plus layover at the CNE). My trip took 22 minutes westbound and 25 minutes eastbound, not including layovers, and when I got to the CNE, 6 CLRVs were lined up at Exhibition Loop waiting to be released. Presumably this means only one-third of the scheduled cars were actually out on the street. I am wondering (charitably) if that was intentional — that the TTC realizes that Queens Quay can’t handle 24 streetcars an hour with the way the signals are “working” (or not) at present, and so supervisors are holding them at the CNE so as to avoid overloading the signals.

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  20. I saw something today that I’ve never seen before – a streetcar going north on Bathurst through Lakeshore/Fleet, not turning west onto Fleet! It was a 510 that was diverting that way – it headed north on Bathurst, presumably to return east on King and continue north on Spadina (TTC alerts listed the 510 as holding northbound on Spadina at Lakeshore due to a stalled streetcar, this was maybe a little before 6 PM). I’d never seen that little piece of track used pre-construction, funny that it should be needed for detouring on only the 3rd day of service on Queen’s Quay.

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  21. The new streetcars on the 510 are announcing the correct stops along Queens Quay (eg. Harbourfront Centre) while the CLRVs still have the “old” system. Personally, I think the TTC should turn off the stop announcements on the CLRVs along Queens Quay and have operators announce the correct stops (eg. Harbourfront Centre instead of York Street).

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  22. Rode from Spadina station to Union yesterday, a couple of observations:

    – Had to wait for 6 streetcars to come thru Spadina station before I was able to board one destined for Union – 5 straight were short turning at King.

    – Ridiculously short transit green signals made the Queen’s Quay leg take much longer than traffic warranted.

    – Passed one LFLRV, which was marked for 509 service – not 510.

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  23. It’s funny how people will question anything if they don’t like what a person is saying, rather than discuss their arguments and present alternatives.

    I’m so tired because this is the tone that all forms of political debate and civic discussion seem to be taking … expressing frustration & anger with people instead of trying to sit down and work together through the process in order to improve things.

    I guess that isn’t as satisfying as yelling, insulting, or calling someone’s credibility into question instead of refuting their comments & arguments.

    There are a lot of “transit people” whose credibility I would equally question. We could start with the TTC and Metrolinx boards, as well as the great DDS. Chong, not to mention the people shilling for SmartTrack over the past few weeks.

    Cheers, Moaz

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  24. Michael Torres said:

    The new streetcars on the 510 are announcing the correct stops along Queens Quay (eg. Harbourfront Centre) while the CLRVs still have the “old” system. Personally, I think the TTC should turn off the stop announcements on the CLRVs along Queens Quay and have operators announce the correct stops (eg. Harbourfront Centre instead of York Street).”

    This seems to be fixed, I was on a CLRV on QQ today and the stop names were correct.

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  25. @Pete and Thomas

    I think that was car 4401. I saw it too last night with a blank front rollsign, but a 509 rear rollsign. Probably testing, not in service.

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  26. Still much confusion about the Proof of Payment system on the Spadina streetcars. There’s nothing at all at Union to indicate that PoP is required on this route. I even asked one of the friendly guys in a streetcar T-shirt if I needed to have a transfer, and he assured me that I was fine without. What would happen were a fare inspector to board at QQ/Spadina and check the PoP (which I did not have)?

    My thoughts: there should be clear signage at the streetcar platforms at both Spadina and Union saying “Proof of Payment required on 510 Spadina streetcars.” There should also be a transfer printing machine at the streetcar platforms so that anyone without a PoP can obtain one without backtracking through the station.

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  27. I don’t get on here as often as I used to but I don’t know why anyone like Mikey even visits a webpage he so obviously has problems with. So, you’re biased, BIG DEAL! As human beings, none of us is immune to having biases. I can’t think of any better bias to have than being all for better transit. Enough said.

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  28. @DavidC

    I was on CLRV 4040 on the 510 this morning and it was announcing the old/incorrect stop at York St.

    On the bright side, it looks like the transit signal situation on Queens Quay has been fixed (or hope it has). The eastbound streetcar (4040) that I was on this morning (around 10 am) spent no longer than 15 seconds at each stop light, compared to a minute a couple of days ago.

    Steve: I suspect it will take a while for the software on all of the fleet to be updated with the new stop locations and names, and you will see/hear both variants for a while.

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  29. As promised by Waterfront Toronto, the signal sequence on Queens Quay was altered for Friday. When time comes for a green phase on Queens Quay, streetcars get a short green which turns to red before westbound auto traffic, including left-turns, gets its longer green. It seems that streetcars don’t get any more green time than before, but at least they go first before other westbound traffic. This seems to be better.

    I noticed at least 1 intersection had a left-turn phase prior to today, but it seems that phase was removed. Thus, streetcars are still not allowed to move concurrently with westbound traffic.

    Steve: I am going to survey the operation of the signals early next week.

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  30. James Bow wrote:

    “So, as a credentialed individual, I can say that Steve knows his stuff. He backs up his assertions with data, salient observations and sound arguments, and he’s been doing it for decades. Yes, he has opinions that may disagree with yours, but public transit is political, and political debate is nothing but opinion. Those opinions that are backed by the best data, experience and arguments wins the debate. Steve has that. Trolls like Mikey don’t. Mikey has done nothing but spit from the sidelines, offering no constructive criticism, and nothing approaching a reasoned argument.”

    I have to concur, James. While I may not always agree 100% with Steve, I know Steve has a lot more knowledge on transit. When we do disagree, I find it tends to be that my experiences are different than Steve’s (or Steve’s data, which is very detailed.) Does this mean that either one of us is ‘wrong’? No, it just means that we have two different views. But I do respect Steve and this blog is very informative.

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  31. Hey Steve,

    I feel I already know most of the answer, but with Spadina Station being closed for 3 weeks in August. I was shocked to see using it yesterday for the first time(a month and a half after reopening) that what seems like a simple ramp to accommodate the new Flexity is still under construction. What gives?

    If only a candidate for Mayor would offer to roll some heads on project mismanagement such as this.

    Steve: The terrazzo work at Spadina Station is supposed to be completed by late November. Why they didn’t at least substantially complete this while the station was closed, I do not know.

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  32. On Sunday, October 12, I took a trip down to Harbourfront Centre. That day, streetcars made a welcome return to Queens Quay West, and I rode the “510 Spadina” streetcar destined to Union Station via Queens Quay West, stepping off at Lower Simcoe Street. With this reinstated service – the main branch of the “510 Spadina” streetcar route to Union Station (that’s Union subway station), there’s no longer a need for people heading to Harbourfront Centre and/or Island Ferry Docks to make transfers from one streetcar to another.

    There’s more stops on Queens Quay than there originally was before old track demolition and new track construction, and they’re equipped with new transit shelters, including one near the Queens Quay Terminal. This is a multi-purpose building – restaurant, retail (which includes a Sobey’s supermarket), office, entertainment (Fleck Dance Theatre)- with condos on the top levels.

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