There’s A New Subway On The Way

With all the hoopla about yet another new transit plan for Toronto, it’s time to remember that the 50th birthday of the Bloor-Danforth subway is coming up in a week’s time. Depending on which event you consider the “real” birthday, it will either be Thursday, February 25 (the anniversary of the ceremonial opening) or Friday, February 26 (the first day of revenue service).

Over the next week I will post some ephemera from that era when Toronto launched on a major subway building project.

The handout below was a publicity piece for the Bloor-Danforth-University subway project. Among items of interest are:

  • The expected construction time was 9 years broken down as the University Line (3.5), Greenwood to University including Greenwood Yard (4), and the remaining pieces east from Greenwood to Woodbine, and West from St. George to Keele (2.5). Almost all of the line was built cut-and-cover , and the city expropriated a swath of houses along most of the route to the north of Bloor Street and Danforth Avenue. This strip is now home to parking lots, a few parks, subway entrances, and the occasional new building sitting right on top of the subway.
  • The original completion date to the terminals at Woodbine and Keele was planned to be 1969, but work was accelerated thanks to additional funding from the Metropolitan Toronto government and Queen’s Park.
  • The paintings showing what the new stations would look like date from 1956 and 1957, before the project had been approved by Metro Council.
  • The map of the route includes the original names for most of the stations including Vincent, Walmer and Yorkville. By the time this was printed, “Willowvale” Station had already changed to “Christie”, but the park to the west retained its original name.

The station illustrations are by Sigmund Serafin whose work also shows up in samples of the original Yonge line station designs. Of the four stations shown here, none was built exactly as shown. You can see the full set on Transit Toronto. The eight water colours were rescued from a housecleaning binge at the TTC in the late 1960s when much material went into various private collections lest it simply disappear. These paintings are now back with the TTC who plan to issue them as posters later this year, and the originals will go to the City Archives.

Here is Bloor-Yonge Station in all its mid-50s glory, with Gloucester trains, no Hudson’s Bay building and a lot of Bloor-Yonge streetscape that has vanished over the years.


For a detailed history of the Bloor subway, visit Transit Toronto.

Reviewing the New Schedules on 501 Queen for January 2016 (Part I)

Effective January 3, 2016, the TTC introduced a major revision in service on the 501 Queen route. The changes included:

  • Substantially more running time was allocated for almost all periods so that cars would not fall late thanks to congestion and heavy demand, and most of the service could reach the terminals.
  • The route was split at Humber Loop (see note below) so that the Humber-Neville service operated independently of the Humber-Long Branch service, the arrangement that had been in place until March 1995. This is supposed to be “temporary” pending the availability of enough cars to operate the full line with the longer ALRVs or new Flexitys. Service to Long Branch operates with CLRVs (the shorter streetcars) except for some runs that are through-routed from the main part of the route.
  • The section of the route west of Humber Loop was added to the “10 minute network” so that it is guaranteed frequent service at all hours (except overnight).

(Note: Due to the condition of the “Long Branch” side of Humber Loop, the service captive to the west end of the line was discontinued for the last week of January, and “Long Branch” cars ran through to Roncesvalles Carhouse as their eastern terminus.)

The “before” and “after” service designs are summarized in the following table.


In this article, I will review the operation of the 501 Queen route in December 2015 and January 2016 with a focus on headways (the time between cars), reliability (variation in the headways) and the quality of service on outer ends of the line (the compound effect of reliability and short turns). In the second part of this article I will turn to the effect of additional running time in the schedules.

General Observations

Service in January 2016 is much more reliable, especially on the outer ends of the route as the need to short turn cars simply to stay on schedule is much reduced. On the west end of the line, service on Lake Shore is considerably improved both because this is now part of the “10 minute network” and because cars are now dedicated to serving the segment west of Humber.

Short turns still do occur, although for the most part this is now due more to local incidents such as collisions than congestion. In other words, short turns occasionally spike at a specific time and day rather than being chronic throughout all days and hours of service.

Weekend service was particularly bad in December partly because there is less (or no) unscheduled extra service to fill gaps, and partly because line management seems to apply to weekends with the focus being on “on time” performance rather than actual service levels. This problem is reduced but not eliminated in January.

Wide gaps in service and the complementary effect, bunching, were much more prevalent in December than in January, but unreliable headways are still a problem, albeit at a lower level. Combined with the higher likelihood that cars will run through to their advertised destinations, the length of time a rider must await a through car, and the anguish about whether one will ever appear, is improved.

Cars depart inbound from terminals more reliably, generally within the TTC’s goal of a six minute “on time” window. However, this goal still allows for uneven spacing relative to a six minute scheduled headway, and by the time cars reach Yonge Street, the unevenness of terminal departures is magnified. On Lake Shore, headways are uneven at times even with the dedicated local service simply because cars do not leave terminals on a regular spacing. A six minute “on time” window allows most of these to hit the target, but they still contribute to uneven service

The added running time allows more service to reach its scheduled destination, but during some periods it also contributes to noticeably slower operation. If the schedules are padded, then it should be possible to space service midway along the route. From a traffic viewpoint, the question then becomes whether it is better to have streetcars sit killing time at key locations rather than dawdling along the route to burn up excess time in the schedule.

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