Once again, the Toronto International Film Festival (aka TIFF) will take over King Street between University Avenue and Peter Street for its opening weekend from Thursday, September 8 to Sunday, September 11. Transit riders rank second to this Toronto event, one which is well-connected at City Hall and can elbow aside other users of the street to suit its purpose. Imagine King Kong descending from the CN Tower for his annual visit.
An attempted compromise that would have kept streetcars running on King during the weekday daytimes fell in place of the benefits of the festival. That’s the official story, anyhow.
Several routes will be disrupted by this arrangement:
- 504 King will be split into two routes with the eastern segment operating to the Church, Wellington, York loop normally the home of 503 Kingston Road Tripper cars. The western segment will use the 510 Spadina route’s short turn loop via Spadina, Adelaide and Charlotte to King. This is a change from 2015 when the western branch of the route turned north on Bathurst Street.
- 514 Cherry cars will operate as one route bypassing TIFF via Queen between Church and Spadina. This route already has problems staying on schedule, and the diversion will make things even worse at both ends of the line.
- 504 buses will bypass TIFF via Richmond and Adelaide (WB and EB) between University and Spadina.
- 304 King night car will be supplemented by a bus shuttle running from Parliament to Spadina.
The full details are on the TTC’s website.
This arrangement is further complicated by the continuing diversion of 501 Queen service between Spadina and Shaw via King for watermain construction on Queen Street.
The TTC notice says that:
Toronto Police will be positioned at key intersections to assist with traffic flow.
I hope so. The complete lack of transit priority signals to assist in diversionary routings is a long-standing problem for the TTC and produces no end of delays at intersections where turns across traffic must happen. This has shown up already in 2016 as queues of Queen cars eastbound at Spadina (to which the King cars will be added).
There are priority signals for turns off of Spadina to east-west streets, but not for turns onto Spadina. The situation is made worse by the number of electric switches that are out of service because it is the switch controllers that tell the signals when an extra phase for turning streetcars is required.
Diversions like this downtown are commonplace. Both the TTC and City of Toronto should do more to provide transit priority assistance for these as part of the standard installation at all major intersections where streetcars have to make turns during these events.
According to the TTC’s Brad Ross, TIFF is paying for most of this arrangement, although the TTC Ambassadors (extra staff to direct riders to the relocated services) will be covered by the TTC. It is unclear how much of the extra service the TTC will operate (and that’s assuming they do actually provide some) will come out of the TTC budget. This sort of thing is an ongoing issue for the TTC which is expected to arrange alternate services as a community benefit, but usually does not receive compensation for doing so. It is one of those hidden costs of doing business for the transit system.
Full disclosure: I am a regular attendee and donor at TIFF, but I do not agree with the degree to which they disrupt transit service on a major downtown route during workday hours.