501 Queen Construction Projects for 2017

The TTC has announced the timing of various projects affecting the 501 Queen route through the 2017 construction season.

Previously announced work includes:

  • Reconstruction of The Queensway from Parkside to Humber Loop including the bridge deck at the Humber River
  • Reconstruction of Humber Loop and installation of a new substation to improve power on Lake Shore west of the loop
  • Reconstruction of track on Lake Shore to Symons Road (surface layer only) to replace rail prematurely corroded by electrolysis
  • Reconstruction of track on Lake Shore from Symons to Dwight (full reconstruction)
  • Toronto Water construction from Spadina to Bathurst
  • Replacement of the pedestrian bridge west of Yonge over Queen

Starting on Sunday, May 7, route 501 will be operated by buses with a structure similar to the streetcar service before it was split at Humber Loop. The turnback point for half of the service will be Park Lawn. This arrangement will be in place until Sunday, September 3 when streetcars will return to the central portion of the route.

Streetcars displaced from 501 Queen will be used on 511 Bathurst, 504 King (trippers) and 503 Kingston Road Tripper. 502 Downtowner will remain a bus operation.

Additional work is planned through the year that cannot be scheduled concurrently with City activities over the summer, and this will trigger other diversions and bus shuttles later in the year.

Toronto Water work on Coxwell will affect the intersection at Queen, and the 503 Kingston Road Tripper will revert to bus operation in August.

Track replacement at Coxwell will occur in September. Although streetcars will return to 501 Queen, they will only operate between Connaught Avenue (Russell Carhouse) and Roncesvalles. Shuttle buses will operate from Neville to Carlaw, and from Roncesvalles to Long Branch. It is unclear whether this actually means a return to shuttles as far east as Dufferin, or if the TTC plans some other scheme for the eastern terminal of the “501L” service. This arrangement will remain in place until October 14. Streetcar service to Neville will resume on October 15.

Track replacement at McCaul will occur in October/November, and this will require the familiar Church, King, Spadina diversion of all 501 cars around the site. Shuttle buses will operate between the Church and Spadina via Queen. This schedule will be in place until November 25, although if past history is repeated, the streetcars may come back to Queen once the work at McCaul is completed and the concrete has time to cure.

Streetcar service beyond Roncesvalles will not resume until the end of 2017.


21 thoughts on “501 Queen Construction Projects for 2017

  1. I just logged a complaint with the TTC. Standing in the rain, watching four 501L buses lay over. They’re supposed to come every 5-6 minutes. Instead, 10+ minutes, and the first one finally moves, shortly followed by the second one. The went into the loop together, and came out together. I suppose the 15 minutes layover that each bus gets from joining the back of the queue to the front of the queue of laying-over buses isn’t enough.

    And no one is supervising them…..after all, it’s the height of the PM peak!

    There’s also a new sign promising lane closures on Lake Shore from Brown’s Line to Royal York. More TTC trackwork? We will see. (I have to verify that there’s no watermain work.)

    Steve: Due to a delay in getting vehicle tracking data from the TTC, I was not getting regular updates of new data; however, the logjam broke a few weeks ago. I am planning to look not just at the 501 operations (including the pending full conversion to bus), but several bus routes in Scarborough and other parts of the city. What I can say as a preliminary observation from the data I have crunched so far is that any claim of headway reliability from the TTC is complete fiction, and that there appears to be little effort to maintain headway reliability on any route I have looked at.

    This is a serious problem because the TTC has only minimal public reports on service quality, and the metrics they use do not really reflect the problem because of what they measure, and what they consider to be acceptable performance.


  2. I presume no additional service will be operated on King and Dundas during this time to offset the loss of the 501 Streetcar.

    Steve: The service plans for May were published by me some time ago, and the detailed Scheduled Service Summary is up on the TTC’s website. There is no added service on either route.

    The planned bus service on Queen is every 2’50” (170 seconds) or 21.2 buses/hour. At the TTC’s loading standards of 51/bus, that translates to a design capacity of 1,081/hour.

    The streetcar service today is scheduled as an ALRV every 5’20” (320 seconds) or 11.3 cars/hour. If they actually all were operated with ALRVs at a design capacity of 108, that would be 1,220/hour. However, it is common for a considerable number of runs to operate with CLRVs and so the actual streetcar capacity is reduced from the scheduled level, not that the TTC makes any allowance for this.

    If the proportion of CLRVs is one third, then the average capacity of a Queen car goes down to 97, and the hourly line capacity (on paper) to 1,096m, roughly the level of the planned bus service.

    All of this assumes that service actually operates to scheduled headways which, on Queen, is unheard of.


  3. Sounds like they could have kept streetcar service from Neville to McCaul or Church during Eaton Centre bridge construction, but I guess it’s Queen’s turn to deal with the streetcar shortage.

    Why don’t you collect your own tracking data from NextBus? There is open source code around to get you started.

    Steve: The data I get from the TTC has not been helpfully digested by NextBus. What I am getting is the raw feed from all vehicles on the routes I select. There is no public interface for this data.


  4. Scheduled capacity doesn’t take into account how leaky the old streetcar fleets are, though more so the ALRV’s in my experience. During rainy weather like we’ve been having, it’s common to see one side of the passenger cabin completely empty because water is pouring down from the fluorescent light housings. I would guess up to 5% of the scheduled capacity could be lost there.


  5. “Sounds like they could have kept streetcar service from Neville to McCaul or Church during Eaton Centre bridge construction, but I guess it’s Queen’s turn to deal with the streetcar shortage.”

    You could get a streetcar from Neville to McCaul via a Victoria, Richmond, York, detour, but it is unclear to me a convenient route to get back to Queen. The shortest route return route would be along Dundas to Victoria, but that puts you through Yonge/Dundas square which is often a traffic nightmare.

    Steve: And Yonge/Dundas is closed all summer for watermain and track work.


  6. Jonathan said: “You could get a streetcar from Neville to McCaul via a Victoria, Richmond, York, detour,”

    A further snag with this idea would be that the TTC have not yet bothered to put back any overhead on Richmond between York and Victoria. Rather makes one wonder why they bothered to go to the expense of replacing the track last summer! (And let’s not start wondering when or if the Adelaide track west of Victoria will be done … Most of Adelaide is set for resurfacing in 2019 so we will, presumably find out then.)


  7. The day that the Queen streetcar is replaced with shuttle buses for the entire summer just happens to be the same day that Toronto Marathon disrupts dozens of bus and streetcar routes, while the Scarborough RT and Barrie GO line are closed and the day after Allen Road is closed.


  8. They are also replacing the concrete in trouble areas in between Dwight and Long Branch Loop starting Wednesday.

    Steve: Makes sense to do the minor repairs while the line is shut down. Thanks for the update.


  9. Sunday was the first day of full bustitution and I was stuck waiting 15 minutes for a downtown-bound bus during the morning while I watched 4 buses going in the other direction within about 2 minutes.

    I walked the route on the return to watch operations and I was shocked (not!) to catch 4 westbound buses within a span of about 4 minutes. Over the next 5 minutes there were 5 eastbound buses and 10 minutes after that 4 westbound buses about 250m from front to back of convoy. It’s a free for all out there.

    Steve: I am not a bit surprised. TTC will use all sorts of excuses including the marathon to explain this, but I fully expect the bus service to be chaotic and irregular. When the May tracking data are available, I will review this line’s operation as a bus route.


  10. I would assume when streetcars are returning to Queen from Roncesvalles to Connaught should revert to March 2017 schedules.

    Steve: Until we see the schedule design for fall 2017, I would not assume anything.


  11. Steve: I am not a bit surprised. TTC will use all sorts of excuses including the marathon to explain this, but I fully expect the bus service to be chaotic and irregular.

    It was mid-afternoon at the time with most of the streets re-opened so any residual effects from the marathon should have been smoothed over by proper line management.


  12. Is 501 Queen the line most disrupted by construction in the past ~2 years? In a rather stop-and-go fashion as well – just as you think things are back to normal, some new disruption starts again.


  13. I waited 17 minutes for a streetcar on Bathurst this morning. When the buses were running this route, the wait was typically around 2 minutes and the buses were much faster too. Can we please have buses back on the 511 or at least a mixture of buses and streetcars? I hope that you will reconsider your decision to revert back to streetcars for this particular route.

    Steve: It is not “my” decision, although if the state of the Queen route today is anything to go by, buses are no guarantee of reliable service.


  14. @DavidC: Richmond Street between Victoria and York has problems with the new overhead poles being wider and heavier in order to sustain the new heavier trolley wire and heavier span wire. The problem is that they have to go much deeper for stability and the poles can’t because of the underground PATH network. The TTC is trying to negotiate with the buildings in the area in order to suspend the overhead network but so far the building owners are not supporting the idea. Sorry Steve, I know that this isn’t in line with your article but wanted to shed some info for your readers.

    Steve: Thanks for the update. This is a rather odd situation considering that Richmond is one-way, and I have a hard time believing that single direction overhead weighs substantially more than the dual-direction lines it replaced.


  15. The sudden influx of ALRVs on King, combined with what I guess is an end of the majority of school traffic to and from George Brown, made King East almost comically over serviced yesterday. Going home last night at 5:00PM I missed by moments a nearly empty ALRV at King and University heading east, only to turn and see a flexity and two more ALRVs queued up right behind it, and another ALRV approaching from Spadina. It looked like the same for westbound passengers.

    Previously these would be 1 flexity, 2 CLRVs, and a bus.

    Perhaps this is a case of line management not yet knowing what to do with the surplus cars (though I doubt they know what to do in any scenario).

    My main point is, I warn the TTC that King Street riders are going to get used to suddenly having a 30% capacity increase, and when it’s suddenly yanked away in the fall, at the same time school is back in session, there will be a lot of angry riders.


  16. Although certainly not TTC standards, one answer to the support strand tension on the poles (and thus the requirement for heavier poles), is to have a rod in compression above the support strand, coupling the 2 poles on opposite sides of the street. This would form a bridge across the road to support the trolley wires.


  17. @ Gordon Keith;

    Or you could hang a weight on the pole opposite the overhead to counter balance the load. It would seem that they would only need one wire and since it is for emergency track on a one way street. You would think they could use smaller wire and put in more feeders. It isn’t like this is brand new problem that hasn’t been experienced somewhere in the world before. Oh wait a minute this is Toronto in Ontario. Everything must be invented here.


  18. It looks like the pavement/asphalt next to the tracks is being dug up at the west end of Lake Shore, between 37th and 39th. While the concrete “lip” on the outside of the trackbed was getting fractured and broken in many places, the pavement that abuts the concrete tracks was coming out in chunks. I presume this fix-up will happen at multiple points on Lake Shore. I don’t know if this is a problem on other parts of the streetcar network. Lake Shore gets lots of heavy truck traffic which would shorten the life of the roadway.

    Steve: Yes, there are locations where the pavement beside the tracks doesn’t last long, typically where there is a poor “mate” between these strips and the adjacent road lanes.

    Also, there are buses being dispatched from Long Branch that run only to Park Lawn. Perhaps the rationale is to have some local buses to alleviate gapping from the crosstown buses.

    Steve: This should show up on the May tracking data when I get it, and it will be interesting to see if it settles into a regular pattern. Thanks for the heads up.


  19. To add, after I put in my complaint about buses leaving Long Branch in pairs after a long layover, I’ve seen inspectors actually standing at the curb and dispatching buses. Perhaps the tracking data will show some periods of well-behaved departure times from Long Branch in the week of 8-12 May….if so, that’s the work of the on-the-scene inspectors.

    Steve: There was a period when St. Clair had an inspector at Keele dispatching cars. One could tell from the tracking data when he went home because the headways went all to crap.


  20. Steve replies to Ed: “There was a period when St. Clair had an inspector at Keele dispatching cars. One could tell from the tracking data when he went home because the headways went all to crap.”

    Seriously?!?! [False amazement, BTW]. If the cat’s away, the mice will play, eh? I haven’t ridden the buses or streetcars frequently enough as of late to be able to say with conviction that many/most/some/few/none of the drivers are good at maintaining headways on their own. In my own little corner of the world, however, with bus stops outside my residence, it’s “entertaining” to watch 2 or 3 buses from 2-1/2 different routes (2 trunk routes and a “B” route) show up at the same time and then see no other buses come by at all for 20 minutes in off-peak periods. Somehow the caravan always seems to appear – like clockwork – almost as if the drivers of one of the routes slow down on purpose to end up behind the other route’s buses…. And yes, the first bus is generally jammed to the rafters while in the second bus you could hold a salsa dance class for 20 people. Yes, I realize that’s anecdotal “evidence” but I imagine, Steve, you (as above) can tell many more stories.

    So my (rhetorical?) questions are: Is TTC Transit Central that unaware of all this crazy bunching, despite having all this lovely tracking equipment? Or are they blissfully (willfully?) ignorant because, *until* someone like Ed phones to complain, well, there must not be any problems with vehicle flow? (You know, the standard, “It must be traffic!” response that Steve always calls out). And *must* TTC resort to on-street supervisors to motivate the drivers to stay “on schedule” because, well, that’s the *only* way to do it?

    I’m not so stupid not to realize that stuff happens to interfere with bus traffic at street level – from construction to heavy traffic volumes to accidents to bus/vehicle breakdowns to bad weather. BUT as Ed has indicated and you, Steve, have shown in your various previous reports along with analysis, that it seems much more likely to be a problem of design than of accident. If that is the case, then there are simple, logical and measurable methods to alleviate the causes and that can likely be put in place at little to no extra cost.

    And the first one is better management from the top down.

    Steve: It is clear to me that there is little will to address the problem of service reliability. The TTC constructs “standards” which effectively endorse what they are already doing, and then say “we only have to hit these 60% of the time” and on an all day average for good measure. This is an appalling way to “manage” anything. It’s like saying that the speed limit is 100 km/h, but you can be off 50% either way, and even beyond that 40% of the time.

    When the new “VISION” vehicle/service management system starts coming online later this year, the challenges will be (a) does anyone even want to enforce better line discipline, and (b) will the TTC actually exploit the software’s capabilities in real time, and for retrospective review.


  21. I have seen in several operations in Europe loops with dispatching lights. Vehicles could not leave before the light changed. One spot on a rail line had a switch that needed to be aligned before you could leave.

    The subway has dispatch lights, why can’t the surface vehicles?

    Steve: Nothing prevents this beyond the will to implement it. The question, then, is whether to dispatch on schedule, or on headway, and what sort of overrides are possible for unusual conditions. It is important that if there is a standard to be adhered to, that it is not ignored because most of the time it is meaningless. There will always be exceptions, and the TTC is masterful at creating conflicting rules such as “use your own initiative” that are valid except when they want something else to happen. Not a recipe for employee morale.


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