TIFF 2019 To Demolish Downtown Transit Service, Again

Updated Aug. 22, 2019 at 8:05 pm: The TTC has advised that temporary stops for the diversions are still to be finalized. Also, there will be Paid Duty Officers to manage traffic at Spadina, York and Church Streets. Thanks to Stuart Green for the update.

The City of Toronto and TTC have announced various road closures and service diversions associated with the 2019 edition of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF).

As in past years, King Street will be completely closed to traffic including transit operations from University Avenue to Spadina Avenue. This will begin at 5 am on Thursday, September 5 and continue through to 5 am on Monday, September 9.

Additional ad hoc diversions might occur on both Monday and Tuesday, September 9-10, for “red carpet events” from 3:30 pm onward.

Service arrangements this year are somewhat different from 2018 because there is now the split 504A/504B King service and the soon-to-be-restored 508 Lake Shore.

The primary diversion for almost all services will be:

  • From King to Queen on Spadina, both ways
  • From King to Queen on York, northbound/westbound
  • From Queen to King on Church, southbound/eastbound

Riders wishing to transfer from the subway to an eastbound King car to Broadview Station or to the Distillery should do so at Queen, not at King, or they will have to walk from Yonge to Church from King Station. There will be no eastbound King cars at Osgoode Station. It is not yet confirmed whether the TTC will establish a stop at Queen and York for a walking transfer.

Riders wishing to transfer from the subway to a westbound King car must do so at King or Osgoode Stations. There will be no streetcar service at St. Andrew Station, although there will be plenty of King cars nearby at York Street. Whether a temporary stop will be created at King and York is still to be confirmed.

This service design will see ALL of the King Street services, both ways, operating northbound on York Street giving an extremely frequent service, not to mention the potential for a total bottleneck making the turns east and west at Queen Street.

504A Dundas West to Distillery Service

This service will be broken into two segments:

  • From the west, 504A cars to/from Dundas West will operate downtown via Spadina and Queen east to Church, then loop via Church, King and York.
  • From the east, 504A cars to/from the Distillery will loop downtown via King, York, Queen and Church.

504B Broadview Station Service

The Broadview Station service will use the same loop downtown as the 504A Distillery cars:

  • Westbound on King to York, then north to Queen, east to Church and south to King.

There will be no replacement bus service parallel to King as has been attempted in some past years. Anyone destined for the area between University and Spadina on King will have to walk in from the bounds of the closed area or south from Queen Street. This is of particular concern for anyone going to screenings at TIFF Bell Lightbox which will have no transit service during the diversions.

508 Lake Shore Service

The new 508 Lake Shore trippers will loop downtown via:

  • Eastbound via Spadina, Queen and Church
  • Returning westbound via Richmond and Victoria to Queen, then west to Spadina

304 Night Service

The 304 night cars will divert via Spadina, Queen, Church/York both ways.

A shuttle night bus will operate between Wolseley Loop and Parliament/King bypassing the TIFF district via Adelaide and Richmond Streets.

503 Kingston Road Bus

Not mentioned in the TTC’s announcement is the 503 bus service which consolidates the 502/503 Kingston Road services in September. These buses are supposed to loop via York, Richmond, and University to King including a layover point on York north of King. That area will be thick with streetcar service. It is ironic that the only service that will stop eastbound at St. Andrew Station will be the 503 bus on what is sure to be a “now and then” schedule.

I am a TIFF supporter as a member and donor, and have attended the festival for over three decades. That said, I am disgusted by the gorilla-like behaviour of TIFF in elbowing aside vital transit services on weekdays in Toronto.

These diversions produce severe effects on service not just downtown, but on parts of the King and Queen routes far from the TIFF district. Riders across the city suffer so that TIFF can have its street fair.

Every year we hear that “next year will be different”, but nothing happens.

From the TTC’s diversion announcement:

We encourage you to plan your trip in advance. We thank you for your patience during this important event benefitting Toronto’s economy and international reputation as a world-class city.

A “world class city” would figure out how to integrate its transit service into a major cultural festival.

19 thoughts on “TIFF 2019 To Demolish Downtown Transit Service, Again

  1. This really shows how much John Tory considers transit to be important. TIFF is certainly a great festival BUT ……

    If we ever see Adelaide re-streetcar-ed I suppose we might see westbound service moved there but I am not holding my breath nor would it really work very well.

    The problems are actually worse on the days when service “may be impacted” as these ad-hoc changes seem to totally confuse TTC staff (and customers). I sat on a streetcar last year for a long while while they tried to decide how to go eastbound. (In fact I gave up and walked.)

    Steve: If Adelaide were restored to operation, it would be the eastbound diversion, not westbound.


  2. Honestly – I would be fine with shutting down or detouring a major surface route for a major festival – if every intersection along the detour route had transit priority signalling, whether automatic or manual in form of an officer directing traffic.

    TTC and Joe Cressy promise “Toronto Police will be positioned at key intersections to assist with traffic flow and TTC ambassadors will be available to help customers”. I will not be holding my breath for this.

    For that matter, shutting down Queen Street to private automobiles during this detour would help a lot to get the increased transit service through. I will not be holding my breath for this within the next decade…

    Regarding no transit service to the theatre venues, again this would be alright – if Toronto sidewalks and crosswalks weren’t so treacherous. Because we have millions for fancy buildings, and no money for a decent pavement out front.


  3. Wait…what? This can’t be real. That’s *actually* how they’re going to run the diversion?!

    Let me explain my incredulity – They *could* run through service on the 504A/504B, serving all stops, with only westbound service (on both lines) using York St. They’re clearly aware of this possibility because they’ve done just that with the 304.

    But instead, they’ve decided to chop the western part of the 504B – a frustration for anyone living east of the DVP and working west of University – while making the traffic *worse* on both York and Church by 50%!

    I can’t wait to hear how riders taking the 504A east (or west!) will feel when they enter what I’ll coin the ‘circle of hell’ (Queen-Church-King-York), only to be told they’ll need to transfer to another car which happens to be just in front of them, crawling along at an equally slow snail’s pace. They could likely walk and catch said car, except that knowing the TTC there won’t be any good transfer points to make the switch. Ludicrous.

    I don’t understand why TIFF needs to block the streetcars at all. The transit pilot should be good enough – it’s already an incredibly friendly area for pedestrians, and the “80:20” rule should apply here where getting 80 percent of the benefit for 20 percent of the downside is the right call. Instead not only do they decide that, no, they need to shut off *the single busiest surface route on this continent*, they decide that they’ll do it in the most ridiculous, least efficient way possible?

    They might as well just run the west half of the 504B, and 508, around the same circle (Queen-Church-King-York) as the existing 3 services, because even with the addition of those two services it couldn’t possibly be worse than the existing plan. Or they could pull their head out of their ass and let the King cars through on weekdays, and run a more sensible detour on weekends if it’s really that critically important.


  4. I actually thought there would be no road closures this year since they typically announce it about a month before…. and here it comes again…

    I thought the TIFF officials and the city would find their way to utilize King Street with streetcars after launching a pilot project.. and do you know what exactly is a problem between the TIFF and the city of Toronto?

    Steve: The big problem is the “TIFF Street” that takes over King not just at the theatre at John, but for several blocks full of vendor booths. TIFF makes money, they claim, on this, but to make it viable it has to exist for several days.


  5. Is anybody interested in organizing a protest? If pickets show up on the red carpet, that might get things to change pretty quick.

    Steve: I wouldn’t count on it.


  6. The TTC should have fought for tracks on Adelaide and Richmond between at least Spadina and Church for detours around events on Queen or King. They also should have York 2 way between King and Queen with all the necessary switches but it is too late to do that for this round of construction.

    Steve: There was talk of reactivating Adelaide eastbound from Spadina, but that was before all of the funding cuts.


  7. Time to boycott TIFF and contact their sponsors and guest to ask them to stay out of Toronto.

    Steve: More to the point, get the City and TIFF to go back to letting streetcars through the festival district with the possible exception of Thursday and Friday evenings and the opening weekend. And I emphasize the word “possible” there. Screwing up the rush hour on four days is simply intolerable.


  8. Regarding Adelaide, it’s also already been nicely repaved with tracks ripped out from Simcoe to past York. York has also been rebuilt in the one-way layout and is nice and smooth for a change, ripping it up within the next 5-10 years would be a joke. And the track on rest of Adelaide save for the one active bit from Victoria would need a complete rebuild anyway, including the overhead.

    I would also think the answer should be less to lay track everywhere possible but rather to use the track we have more wisely. Adelaide and Richmond are the car and bike streets – fine – but then King and Queen for transit, and consequently so.


  9. I will agree with you on the point that this diversion for TIFF is a disgrace. Under the ever so capable leadership of Ford the Buffoon #1, the TTC was made an essential service. I agree with that decision as I do feel that the TTC is a very “essential service” for the well being of this City but I do believe that Ford’s interest was for a totally different reason. With that said, it is very clear what council and the TTC think is “essential” to the city.

    The diversion of the King streetcar causes a great inconvenience for those traveling on the King line. With the diversion routing we also have the “inconvenience” of longer trips, more delays and simply no consideration for the passengers on the Queen and Spadina lines What should interest the people that run TIFF, but obviously they don’t give a damn, is that people riding the transit system have a destination in mind, whether is to get home from a day at work, to pick up their children, getting to appointments, etc, etc. TIFF is only concerned with itself and how it looks to the world!

    I believe any streetcar line, whether it be on College, Gerrard, St. Clair or wherever should not be removed unless it is for a short time such as a race or parade that is along the route. Take St Clair for instance, millions were spend on upgrading the line to ROW. The service is excellent, the passengers like it, it’s good for St Clair. Why are streetcars removed for a commercial event?

    Here’s a solution. Seeing many of these diversions are caused by commercial ventures how about getting the BIA’s, private donors, TIFF, or even the City to pay for barricades to be erected along the streetcar tracks, with openings every 300′ and paid duty police or similar qualified people stationed there to allow people to cross the car tracks at will, BUT when a streetcar approaches it is allowed to pass with no delays. Through an area like this, the streetcars would be operated at “slow order”. This way, the citizens and visitors to Toronto are not inconvenienced by something that many of them have no interest in or connection with. This would also be of great value for movement of emergency vehicles.

    It’s about time that City council started thinking a lot more seriously about the transit network in this city, instead of what’s running or what they think should be running in their ward. Most of them don’t give a damn what’s outside their little kingdom. Watching the absolute stupidity of council, each and every time we have a new election, trying to play “transit design expert” as they vie for the precious transit dollars and how they can best serve themselves and look good. In the transit industry there are precise guidelines to follow for the use of buses, streetcars/LRV’s and subways, but since some of these councillors learned to spell s-u-b-w-a-y they don’t really care about the “Big Picture” of what our transit system is supposed to be doing.

    Here’s another example of “we don’t really care about the people that ride the TTC”. The recent Raptors Parade was late in starting and then a very, very slow procession through the streets. The fans that lined the parade route loved it. The Spadina and the Harbourfront lines were cut short to accommodate. From well before the start of the parade both lines were stopped from crossing the Lakeshore at Bathurst and at Spadina. Who is it that makes these fantastic decisions, the TTC, the Police, Council? There was absolutely no reason that regular routing could not have been maintained until the parade reached those intersections and certainly no reason that service could not have been maintained through the parade. What would a streetcar take to go through the intersection? MAYBE 5 seconds? So again, the attitude from those in charge was we don’t care about the transit rider or where they are going! Yep, tomorrow is another day, we can start anew!


  10. Steve: There was talk of reactivating Adelaide eastbound from Spadina, but that was before all of the funding cuts.

    This is like groundhog day because it comes up for discussion every year. NEW diversion track on York, Richmond, or Adelaide for the 501/504 or in the east end along Carlaw or Jones for the 501/506 would be very useful and customer friendly but it is always a non-starter with the TTC because they claim they can’t be wasting money on non-essentials.

    It’s always we’re too poor but how much money did they waste on the ALRV body paint program? I think it was $30 million? That’s easily enough to buy 2 way track on York, new track from Adelaide from York to Victoria, and 750m of new north-south diversion track in the east end but management is completely blind! When was the last time Rick O’Leary seen dead or alive by anybody?


  11. I think what they need to do is send TIFF a bill for rebuilding tracks on Adelaide and Richmond so they can divert around King for their precious little street festival every year and if they refuse to pay for it tell them that they don’t get to close the street. The TTC needs to be able to stand up for this and should have a voice in the room when TIFF presents this every year to the city planning department.


  12. The true colours of the Clowncil majority show up; selling out a large mass of people/transit to let an elite but very polluting festival perhaps sell more stuff. Funny how a few minutes of time matters for a road project, but hey, transit diversions? Part of being a world-last city.. So time for a class-action suit against the TTC/TIFF/City?? And too bad it’s not the Clowncillors who are OK with this that might be paying the defense bills and damages, but the taxpayers, and it’s high odds that it’s the suburban domination that is doing it to the core, again, as usual, tho the TTC Commission could have some principles too. No wonder the ice caps are well done and the methane pulse underway with our civic ‘leadership’. DesulTory, eh? Like safety.


  13. Today was a preview of the TIFF closures. Queen Street was an absolute mess. It was quite amazing to see 5-6 King cars squeeze in between the gaps on the 501.


  14. I’ll never understand why the street fair can’t be along John Street which better connects a lot of the city’s major cultural institutions anyway.

    Steve: On John north of King there is a condo facing onto John, and they don’t want their entrance blocked. The sidewalks are also narrower than on King and there’s less room to take over for a street fair. All that said, John is just beginning major reconstruction that will transform it over the next two years with wider sidewalks and only one road lane each way.

    King itself will change a great deal as the rows of restaurants are replaced by new condos. I am not sure that the street fair will survive the change in predominant land use.

    But it will be four years at least before we see how that evolves.


  15. When something as simple as a film festival or minor construction can “demolish Downtown transit service” (quoting Steve), then it is time to rethink whether or not we want to have streetcars in our city. A film festival cannot demolish subway service or bus service but something as simple as a broken down streetcar can demolish service on the entire line. It is time to rethink the future of the streetcar system.

    Steve: The issue is the takeover of the busiest transit street in the city on four working days: Thursday-Friday Sept 5-6 and Monday-Tuesday Sept 9-10 (afternoon/evening). It would not matter what vehicles were providing service – diverting them all to parallel streets has a severe effect on service reliability over the entire route and affects nearby streets and routes (e.g. Queen) because of all of the turns to/from the north-south diversions.

    Nice try on an anti-streetcar argument, but it won’t wash.


  16. Hi Steve,

    Am I correct in surmising from all of this that there will be no 504 service to Dufferin Gate loop all weekend?

    Steve: Yes. All of the King West service will go to Dundas West Station. The 504B service normally operating to Dufferin will turn back at York Street.


  17. On the first day I already saw 503 operators in mid-season form playing games by idling on the street at York and leaving the end point in a pack.

    Steve: York Street is the official terminal layover point, but leaving in a pack is not part of the schedule.


  18. Steve: are you aware that as of September 1, 2019 that the TTC has discontinued the 502 Downtowner bus?? Since I am in a power wheelchair I was a regular user of the Downtowner as I could negotiate the kneeling bus ramp from the sidewalk.

    Now the TTC says that I can enter & exit any of the new streetcars via a ramp at the 2nd door. I know that fantasy and have ueed it many times, but: the makers of the streetcar have designed the automatic ramp too high a pitch on some streets. Meaning that if the centre of the street lowers to the curb greatly than what the short ramp gives you, it will be pitched forward as my foot plate engages either the ramp or , which should not happen.

    Steve: The 502 and 503 routes have been amalgamated for the duration of the construction at Kingston Road, probably until mid-November. I assume that you are trying to board at a stop west of the Don Bridge where the 502 no longer runs.

    This raises an interesting general question about road design fitting with transit vehicles. There are cases where buses “temporarily” replacing streetcars stop at locations where there are curb cuts, ironically most commonly for accessibility at what is supposed to be a streetcar stop. It’s a long way down from the back door of a bus at these locations, and I don’t think the folks at TTC have figured out that bus stops should be moved to avoid this sort of thing. Where buses and streetcars run mixed together, stop placement gets even trickier.


  19. TIFF, which started as the ridiculously-named Festival of Festivals and which the late Clyde Gilmour always called The Festival of Festering Festivals?

    Like you, Steve, I’m a lifelong film buff and I even had the pleasure of working a big-budget bomb musical at M-G-M in Culver City back in the early 1980s. But nothing related to the film world should be allowed to push aside a vital transit service.

    TIFF has always left me unimpressed, which is why I stopped attending.


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