501 Queen Service Design Effective January 3, 2016

The TTC has now split the 501 Queen route at Humber Loop on a temporary basis to allow concentration of the larger “ALRV” streetcars (the two-section articulated cars) on the main part of the route east of Humber, while “CLRV”s (the standard one-section cars) provide service from Humber to Long Branch on a more frequent service than before.

The “507 Long Branch” route is back in everything but name except for late evenings when some cars from Neville run through to Long Branch.

Service between Humber and Long Branch Loops is provided by a dedicated fleet of five or six cars operating at a 10 minute headway until mid-evening every day. Early evening service is provided by five cars on all days.

Starting at about 10:00 pm, some of the service west of Humber is provided by through trips originating at Neville Loop. Three cars remain on a Long Branch to Humber service with generous recovery times to make the integrated 9 minute headway work properly. It will be interesting to see how well managed these cars are (or not) and whether they actually split the gap between cars to and from Neville, or run close behind them. If the latter, then the advertised “ten minute headway” on Lakeshore will fall apart late in the evening.

Eastbound from Humber, there will be a mix of cars from Long Branch as well as Queen service scheduled to turn back at Humber. This is, in effect, the current schedule with every other inbound car originating from the two terminals. Again, an essential part of service reliability will be that these cars leave on the scheduled 9 minute spacing, not with a pair every 18 minutes.

The service transitions occur at different times depending on the location and direction of travel:

  • First car from Neville destined for Long Branch: About 9:00 pm
  • First car from Yonge destined for Long Branch: About 9:30 pm
  • First car from Long Branch destined for Neville: About 10:40 pm

During the late evening, service at Humber will be provided on two separate platforms for each direction:

  • From roughly 11 pm and 1 am, eastbound service from Humber Loop will be provided by a mix of cars originating from Long Branch, and cars from Neville terminating at Humber. These use different platforms because of the track layout. It is not yet clear whether the cars from Neville will load on the outbound track (as they did 20 years ago) or on the poorly paved area beside the inbound track.
  • From roughly 10 pm to 2:40 am, westbound service from Humber Loop will be provided with some service on the “Long Branch” side of the loop and some on the “Humber” side outbound. For some reason, the TTC has scheduled the last outbound car, weekdays, on the Long Branch side at exactly the same time as a car on the Humber side, so that there is a scheduled pair of cars westbound to Long Branch. The weekend schedules work better.

Some of the information on the published schedules for the new service is wrong in that some running-in trips to carhouses are mis-identified, and Long Branch trips do not appear on westbound timetables for the east end of the line implying considerably worse service than is actually scheduled. The complete schedules are accurately available in the TTC’s Open Data feed, but making sense of this requires some scripting to assemble the raw information into a comprehensible format.

Concurrently with these changes, running time increases are provided over much of the route to improve schedule performance. The table below shows a few of the changes as examples.

Neville to Humber Round Trip    Travel   Recovery   Total
                                 Time      Time
Weekday Midday
December 2015                    136'       12'      148'
January 2016                     158'        7'      165'

Saturday Afternoon
December 2015                    136'       14'      150'
January 2016                     172'       10'      182'

Sunday Afternoon
December 2015                    126'        6'      132'
January 2016                     164'        7'      171'

How well the service will operate under the new schedules will depend a great deal on line management. It is one thing to stay “on time” and quite another to maintain spacing, especially where services merge as at Humber Loop. In theory, being “on time” should ensure this, but the TTC’s interpretation of that phrase has enough leeway to accept very erratic service as “on time”.

Meanwhile, thanks to a technical foul-up with the schedule feed to NextBus (which might be either at the TTC or NextBus end), vehicle position displays and arrival time projections on this route are totally unreliable as of the launch date, January 3. None of the service west of Humber, and much of the service east of there is missing. This makes tracking of line performance by observers, let alone use of NextBus by riders, impossible. (Displays for other routes with new schedules, notably 510 Spadina, are also affected.)

18 thoughts on “501 Queen Service Design Effective January 3, 2016

  1. I wonder if the curtailing of the split after 10 PM is because of previous issues at Humber Loop with some rather sketchy characters hanging around the loop. I get the feeling the 10 PM cutoff may have been done in the interest of public safety.

    I am aware it is not a total split after 10 PM but none-the-less it is a mix.

    It will be interesting to see how this all plays out in terms of a return of the 507. One can only hope this does not turn out like the previous experiment wherein the diverted via Parliament in the east and Shaw in the west. If this does help service it may end up being a rallying cry for a return of the 507/501 split.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Turning at Humber is a questionable choice. A better choice would be Sunnyside/Roncy. In any event unless there is adequate supervision on the street this will fail.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. This from a longer piece about the changes in the online Toronto Star tonight:


    1. At 24.8 kilometres long, the 501 is the longest streetcar route in North America.

    2. It’s one of the busiest routes in the city, after the King and Spadina streetcars. Its ridership is estimated at 43,500 people a day.

    3. In the 1990s, the TTC amalgamated two routes that resemble the changes made Sunday. The 501 used to run from Neville Park to Humber Loop, while a route called 507 Long Branch completed the trip.

    4. Operates in mixed traffic. Though many Toronto streetcars do, it is one of last systems in the world to do so, according to Ross.

    5. In 2009, a TTC trial split the route from Neville Park to Shaw St. and from Long Branch and Humber to Parliament St., with overlapping trips. But a report ultimately determined the experiment only made service worse – something Ross said is not the case with the new changes.

    Re #4. I have been to many cities where streetcars operate in mixed traffic – I think that Brad Ross is either wrong or mis-quoted.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Today, there were a number of 510s that short turned at King while none of them are schedule to do so on weekends. It’s also noticeable that one car was missing as there were only 12 LFLRVs and one ALRV on the line today (a rare sighting). 4407 was down on Harbourfront as seen on NextBus. If they do keep one car on the 509, there should be a couple of ALRVs on the 510 for this week. This would be quiet problematic for January as the ALRVs are restricted to Spadina Avenue only and couldn’t be used to fill in a gap to Union Station.

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  5. At the moment, in-service streetcars using the Roncesvalles Barn’s tracks as a “loop” means competition with the out-of-service streetcars. As the Leslie Barns get more and more of the Outlooks, it would assume much more of the shuffling of the streetcars in general. With less out-of-service streetcars, the Roncesvalles Barn’s tracks could handle 507 Long Branch as the eastern terminal on a more normal basis.

    Who knows. Maybe a 503 Kingston Road may return to its Roncesvalles Barn loop as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I was at Humber for an hour in order to document (mainly photograph) the first day of service. Instead of six CLRVs, the TTC was using six ALRVs – specifically #4202, #4207, #4220, #4238, #4246, and #4247 while I was there.

    The ‘507 streetcars’ would arrive at their platform and wait several minutes before departing. (My apologies, but to keep things simply I will call anything west of Humber a ‘507’ car while the split occurs so it’s easier to describe.)

    The 501 cars would pile up at their platform – up to three cars – before the first one would be allowed to depart. This will likely change due to meet with actual use, and as the short turns start affecting the route.

    There was a Supervisor with a clipboard keeping track of both routes. One of the 507 cars departed ‘early’ just as a 501 pulled in, upsetting one of the five passengers who wanted to transfer. The Supervisor even mentioned that the car departed slightly early. However, I did notice other drivers would turn their 507 car around the loop and then wait for the thumbs up from the supervisor to depart Humber.

    Overall, and yes this was the first day AND a Sunday, but everything I noticed seemed to indicate that the system was working well. Also, as an employee mentioned, the TTC has apparently done some planning before doing this – management did not simply wake up one morning and decide this was a good idea.

    I was talking to a couple of passengers. One stated that it seemed like a good idea to do, as there at least options for 507 passengers – the 66 Prince Edward bus at Humber (and the occasional Queensway bus – and if there is a problem with the 501, Queensway buses could accept transfers, at least temporarily), and passengers could always take the 507 to connect with the Royal York, Islington, Kipling, and Shorncliffe buses in order to get to the subway.)

    Another passenger remembered the convenience store at Humber – which could probably be re-opened if necessary, as the window and door is still in the shelter. The passenger said that if the split works out, there may be a bit of business of the convenience store, especially if there was a delay.

    The one upset passengers just griped a bit and then seemed to calm down as soon as the next 507 car came in – the Supervisor even checked and told the passengers that the next 507 would arrive in about a minute, and that’s about how long it took for the car to arrive.

    Sorry for the long comment, Steve. However, I thought you would be interested in my observations.

    Steve: Thanks very much for this. With the foul-up in the changeover of the NextBus schedule info, I was unable to check in on the routes’ behaviour remotely.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. At about 5:00 pm today (Mon. Jan. 4) I saw an ALRV eastbound at Kipling signed “501 Humber”. This means that this car should be turning around at Humber Loop and returning to Long Branch. isn’t the purpose of the split at Humber Loop to allow the higher capacity ALRV’s to operate downtown while the lower capacity CLRV’s operate in Etobicoke?

    Steve: I have often observed that the TTC’s ability to match vehicle type with schedule plans leaves a lot to be desired. This might have been a change-off, but the real issue is how many CLRVs were running on the main part of Queen which is supposed to be all-ALRV. With the NextBus mess, I was not able to check all of the vehicle assignments remotely, and have been busy with a long article that just went up about service management and scheduling.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. So the 501 split, combined with the “winterization” maintenance and the removal of ALRV’s from King was to ostensibly provide the trunk 501 service with all ALRV’s.

    Well today was the first really cold day of the season and I observed more CLRV’s than ALRV’s on Queen. At least one third of the cars on the 501 were CLRV’s during midday as far as I could count with my own eyes out on the street.

    There have already been CLRV’s on the 510 trying to carry Flexity headways.

    Glancing at the data feed right now at 8pm, 11 of the 16 streetcars that are actually showing up on the 501 at the moment are CLRV’s. Same old sad story.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Steve,

    What did you mean by the “Long Branch” side and the “Humber” side of the loop? I’m vaguely familiar with the location.


    Steve: There are two loops at Humber. One allows cars arriving westbound to turn back eastbound. This is what I call the “Humber” side. The other is for cars arriving eastbound from Lake Shore Boulevard, and it allows them to turn back westbound. This is the loop formerly used by the Long Branch car when it was a separate route (507).

    In this Google Maps view, the “Humber” loop is on the right and the “Long Branch” loop is on the left. The small green-roofed building houses the waiting shelter and former snack stand, as well as the operators’ washrooms.


  10. Steve, has the TTC given any indication of how long the “temporary” split of the 501 will remain? Are they waiting for sufficient cars to come available through Flexity arrivals and ALRV rebuilds?

    Steve: Not in so many words. It’s important to remember that Queen was not supposed to get new cars right away and is in line behind Harbourfront, Bathurst and Dundas. Then there’s the question of improved capacity on both King and Queen. I am waiting to see if there will be a revised fleet plan in the 2016 Capital Budget.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Continuing on yesterday’s observations. At 10am Tuesday there seem to be 4 ALRV’s out on the 510 and 16 on the 501.

    During the afternoon rush there seem to be 5 ALRV’s out on 510 and 17 on 501 runs (16 CLRV’s) and 2 of the 6 on the 507 are ALRV’s.

    That means roughly half of the ALRV fleet is out of commission and unavailable for service. The fleet is in bad shape.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. @James Bow,

    The “temporary” split will probably be at least until November. There are plans for track rehab (total rebuild) between Humber Loop and Sunnyside Loop. Whether the project is still on schedule for tender is another question.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Assuming NextBus/Transee is to be trusted, service on Lake Shore is as horrible as one might expect. As I write this midday Monday, all five cars on the route are either westbound or hanging out at Long Branch loop. Someone waiting for an eastbound car in Mimico is in for a long, long wait. In general, it doesn’t look like there is proper spacing of streetcars, at least any time I have checked.

    I did get a couple of rides in one evening last week, and the cars were running “hell bent for election”, in a phrase I might have read in a Larry Partridge book. Sadly even the fast operation is not consistent.

    Steve: Yes, I have noticed when looking at NextBus that the “507” cars are up to the usual tricks of running fast and early and taking long layovers. So much for “customer service”!

    We will see just how pervasive this is when I get the January CIS data for Queen.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. If (when) the TTC rebuilds the Queensway and Sunnyside loop as Mapleson says All the service beyond Roncesvalles would have to be bus unless the TTC leaves a fleet of captive cars out their during construction which is highly doubtful. It will be interesting to see the Queen service loop through the car barns but they would have plenty of layover space.

    Steve: It appears that the project will happen in 2017 as part of an overall rebuild of King-Queen-Ronces, Queensway and Lake Shore. However, there is conflicting info in the TTC track plan and a City project description of work in the same area which I have to sort out before publishing the detailed infrastructure plans for 2016-20. However, yes, the 501 would have lots of layover space looping in the carhouse.


  15. The “Queensway Track Rehabilitation” project would only affect the tracks 100m beyond Glendale Ave. Service would be maintained through the Sunnyside Loop. Likewise, at the west-end, the works wouldn’t go beyond The Queensway eastbound underpass, so the Humber Loop would also be unaffected.

    I know the project was seriously behind schedule, so I wouldn’t be surprised if it were pushed to the next construction season. One of the fundamental issues was that the TTC wanted a specific rigid track structure, but then argued that there wasn’t sufficient justification given in the decision to use it.

    Steve: This and related projects east of the right-of-way are the subject of conflicting plans both in the TTC’s budget and in the City’s plans for road construction in 2017. I am trying to get this sorted out before publishing an updated infrastructure plan for the streetcar network.


  16. When the 507 existed permanently, would there be lost of queuing at the entrance to the 501 loop? I’ve noticed that for almost all incoming 501 streetcars, the transferring passengers are always alighting from the third (i.e. the last) ALRV in the queue, which makes for always a long walk for those bound for Long Branch. Eastbound transferring passengers always get a short walk.

    Steve: The new schedules have a lot of padding in them and this causes the queueing at Humber. I don’t know why so much time was added to the schedules because this was not justified by actual conditions on the line. Yes, there used to be a problem with many cars short turning at Sunnyside leading to long gaps at Humber for inbound service, but a three-car queue (I have seen more) is ridiculous. Similarly, the “507” cars have more time than they need, and two cars at a terminal on a ten minute headway is not unusual.


  17. I didn’t see this coming at all: the “Long Branch” loop at Humber is all torn up for track replacement.

    It’s hard to tell what to make of this. Possibly the idea was to use the existing loop, but it couldn’t hold up to the traffic. Alternately, track replacement was always on the books, but for some reason it wasn’t performed before the split. That loop saw minimal if any usage ever since the 508 was discontinued, and I think only a small fraction of evening 508s that were supposed to use the loop for an additional trip to Long Branch actually did so.

    Steve, what’s the lead time for loop tracks? I don’t think the switches are being replaced, but obviously the loop is one big curve and needs the correct track. I find it hard to believe that the track could have been ordered, produced, and delivered in the few weeks since the loop started regular use.

    Steve: It turns out that the track at the carstop was very badly corroded and should have been replaced long ago. I checked on this with Brad Ross yesterday (Jan 28), and he reports that the rest of the loop is thought to be ok for operation with a slow order until its scheduled replacement next year. My gut feeling is that this is a very optimistic outlook.

    In the meantime, Lake Shore 501 cars loop by making some kind of trip through Roncesvalles yard. My guess (not knowing the full details) would be left on Roncesvalles, left into the yard, around the north side of the yard, south across the ladder track, north by the west end, out to Roncesvalles, south to The Queensway, turn left. I did see 4000 last night sitting in the ladder track area facing east, signed 501 LONG BRANCH. It rescued us at Colborne Lodge when the Humber-bound car I was on dropped an underbody component on The Queensway (which was ziptied back on to let it run back to the barns).

    Steve: There is a big loop around Roncesvalles yard which is regularly used for short turns and for internal circulation in the yard. The loop track splits off from the ladder tracks on the north side of the yard, and rejoins them at the south exit onto Queensway eastbound.

    There is a big track project planned that would shut down streetcar service west of Ronces from April to November next year, but the timing of projects in TTC and City plans don’t match. I am trying to get a straight answer from the TTC on this, but so far, silence.


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