The Evolution of Service on Queens Quay

The new, improved transit right-of-way on Queens Quay has been in operation for a few months, and it has had its share, and then some, of problems. These included confused motorists, pedestrians and cyclists who could not figure out the new lane arrangement and signals, more than a few autos stuck in the tunnel entrance at Bay Street, and a streetcar collision thanks to an open switch at the Spadina/Queens Quay Loop.

When the design for the new road was still on the drawing boards, a red flag went up for transit watchers with the number of traffic signals, some fairly closely spaced. The “old” Queens Quay’s signals had their problems, and just to get a semblance of “priority” the detectors for approaching streetcars were moved further and further away from the signals in the hope that they would be able to cycle to a transit green before the streetcar actually arrived.

The streetcars returned, but the signals were, at first, on a standard program with no provision for detecting transit vehicles, although this changed in mid-June with the installation of the new, permanent traffic controllers.

Has there been an improvement? This article reviews current and past operations of the 509 Harbourfront and 510 Spadina cars running on Queens Quay.

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TTC Service Changes Effective September 6, 2015

September 2015 brings a long list of service changes that will begin the restoration and expansion of TTC service promised earlier this year. A few changes were slipped through in earlier schedules, but the bulk of the changes will come now. These include:

  • The “Ten Minute Network”: Scheduling a network of major routes so that they will always operate at least every 10 minutes (except for overnight service). For most affected routes, this only means adding a bit of service around the edges (notably weekend evenings), but for a few, this is a major change.
  • The “All Day Every Day” services: In the early Ford/Stintz days, service was hacked away on routes with less ridership, although the actual dollar savings were small. Much of what was cut has now been restored.
  • Reduced off-peak crowding: Off peak crowding standards on routes with frequent service have been restored to Ridership Growth Strategy (a David Miller era initiative) levels triggering service improvements on many routes.
  • Expanded and restructured Blue Night network: Some new routes, and the restructuring of others, will take place over the September and October schedule changes (see my previous article for details).

Concurrently, the basic service levels move back from “summer” to “winter” levels, and all of the remaining temporary changes for the Pan Am Games end.

Seasonal services also end including:

  • Weekday service on 101 Downsview Park
  • Weekend service into High Park by 30 Lambton
  • Weekday evening service to Cherry Beach by 172 Cherry
  • Extended hours to the Zoo on 86 Scarborough and 85 Sheppard East

The “temporary” extra service and running time added to 510 Spadina and 509 Harbourfront for the reconstruction of Queens Quay has been left in place.

Although the Front Street reconstruction has finished, the TTC has not yet decided whether or how to recombine 72 Pape with 172 Cherry.

Some routes, notably 506 Carlton and 505 Dundas, are getting new schedules with extra running time to match actual conditions on the route in the hope that this will reduce short turns and improve reliability.

The new crowding standards for off-peak surface routes are based on a seated load regardless of the scheduled headway. Previously, routes operating every 10 minutes or better used the seated load plus 25% as the standard. This made the busiest routes operate with near-peak period standards most of the time.

Note that these standards are based on the average load over the peak hour at the peak point. Individual vehicles will vary with more or fewer riders, but the intent is to design service at this level.


The table linked below details the changes for September. It does not include the list of summer service cuts that are to be reversed (see June 2015 changes for the list).

Updated August 11, 2015 at 11:30 am: A service cut on 75 Sherbourne that was part of the June changes was inadvertently carried over into the original version of this table. It has been deleted.

Updated August 23, 2015 at 9:30 pm: The number of vehicles for the 315 Evans night bus has been corrected from 1 to 2.


Blue Night Service Expansion: Fall 2015

The overnight “Blue Night” network will see many changes and additions this fall. These will be rolled out in two waves: first with the September/October schedules on Labour Day weekend, and the remainder with the October/November schedules at Thanksgiving.

This is part of a more extensive expansion of service beginning in September that relates to the Ten Minute Network, All Day Every Day service, and improved crowding standards on routes with frequent service. Those and other changes will be described in a separate article.

Here are maps of the network as it exists now, and with the two stages of additions:




Several of the routes will be renumbered so that the night services match the daytime routes except for the using “300” series. In the case of the King and Spadina night services, they will run, at least initially, with the daytime route numbers because there are no roll signs for “304 King” or “317 Spadina” in the CLRV/ALRV fleet. This problem will vanish as the routes convert to Flexity cars with programmable signs.

All services will operate on 30 minute headways.

This implementation is a work-in-progress, and Service Planning does not expect to turn to the question of timing points until the routes are in place. This is a vital piece of work for a network with wide headways where TTC performance stats show that headway (and, by implication, schedule) adherence is very weak. Riders of these routes should be able to depend on vehicles appearing at expected times and connections to work in a predictable way. This is as important a part of the new service as simply putting the buses and streetcars on the road. If service is not predictable in the middle of the night, riders cannot be expected to use it especially for trips that are time-sensitive such as early morning work shifts.

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Service Analysis of 502/503 Downtowner/Kingston Road Tripper: 2013 to 2015

Recent articles on this site looked in great detail at the 501 Queen car and the problems with its service. Often, when people talk about Queen, they miss the streetcar routes that are, in effect, branch operations of the Queen line serving Kingston Road in The Beach:

  • 502 Downtowner (formerly Kingston Road) operates between Bingham Loop (at Victoria Park & Kingston Road) and McCaul Loop sharing trackage with 501 Queen west of Woodbine Loop (which is actually at Kingston Road, and is named for the old racetrack, which itself became “Greenwood” when “New Woodbine” opened in northern Etobicoke). This route operates weekdays until the end of the PM peak. Evening and weekend service is provided by the 22a Coxwell bus.
  • 503 Kingston Road Tripper operates rush hours only between Bingham Loop and York Street running into the core via King from the Don Bridge, and looping downtown via Church, Wellington and York.

This service design has been in place, with only a few changes, since 1948:

  • 1954: Streetcar service cut back from Birchmount Loop to Bingham Loop.
  • 1966: Coxwell bus replaced Coxwell streetcar and evening/weekend service on Kingston Rd./Coxwell (same as the 22A today).

The route name “Downtowner” arose from an ill-advised proposal to provide “relief” to the downtown subway by extending Kingston Road cars from McCaul Loop west and north to Bathurst Station in 1973. This didn’t last long. A year later the extended service became a peak-only operation, and that remained, on paper at least, until 1984. We have the name as a memento of that extension now 30-years in the past. The basic problem was that very little of the service actually reached Bathurst Station with many cars short turning either at Wolseley Loop (Queen & Bathurst) or at McCaul Loop.

The situation is not unlike what we see today because the 502 Downtowner schedule does not provide enough running time, and short turning is a chronic problem. This is particularly troubling because the short turns defeat the purpose of the route’s existence:

  • A short turn eastbound at Woodbine Loop removes service from the street which the route is intended to serve.
  • A short turn westbound at Church (looping via Richmond and Victoria) sends a car east without serving the major stops downtown from Yonge to University.
  • A short turn westbound at Parliament (looping via Dundas and Broadview) removes a car even more from downtown, and not even a clever rider walking a block east from Yonge (an “illegal” move with a regular transfer) can take advantage of the service.

This is compounded by extremely erratic headways that are far worse than I have seen on any other route I have analyzed. According to TTC route performance stats, the 502 is “on time” (that is to say, within ±3 minutes of the scheduled headway) 30% of the time. As we will see later, even that claim is a stretch.

As for the 503 Kingston Road Tripper, service on that route is supposed to be blended with the 502, and during AM peaks it can work out, sort of, there is a vaguely reliable headway of alternating 502/503 cars on Kingston Road. But it’s a hit-and-miss situation, and very large gaps in 503 service are quite common.

Anyone attempting to use transit on or to Kingston Road is well advised to get on the first thing that shows up and be prepared to transfer. This appalling situation is a mockery of what the TTC claims is its “customer service”.

Service on Kingston Road was substantially better in past decades, and it is no wonder that ridership and scheduled service levels have fallen given the unpredictable nature of these routes. Recently, there has been some improvement. In April 2013, off-peak headways of 502 Downtowner improved from 20 to 16 minutes, and in June 2015, from 16 to 10 minutes. However, the fundamental problem of headway reliability undoes much semblance of “improvement”.

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