TTC Service Changes January 3, 2021 Part I: Streetcars (Updated)

Updated January 7, 2021: Maps showing the revised operation of 501/301 Queen, 504/304 King and 506/306 Carlton have been added from the TTC’s Route Diversion pages.

Updated December 23, 2020: The operating schedules (in GTFS format used by various trip planning apps) for the January-February period have now been issued on the City of Toronto’s Open Data Portal. These confirm two outstanding issues with the service as it was described in the change memo:

  • The 304C King West night shuttle will operate on a 20′ headway, while the main part of the 304 King streetcar route between Dufferin and Broadview Station will operate on a 30′ headway. This means that timed connections between the two services will not be reliably possible for each trip.
  • The 310 Spadina night service appears to have escaped the cutback from a 15′ to a 30′ headway. The January schedules show service every 15′.

The TTC memo detailing service changes for January is a long one, and in the interest of breaking this up into more digestible chunks, I will deal with the streetcar and bus networks separately.

The usual summary of schedule changes (for the streetcars only) is linked here:

Some routes will see major changes beginning in January and continuing, with modifications as the year goes on.

In addition to various construction projects, the TTC plans to accelerate the retrofit of its Flexity fleet with various fixes and the major repairs to the early cars with frame integrity problems. The intent is to substantially complete this work by September 2021 by which time ridership recovery in the territory served by streetcars will be recovering from the pandemic ‘s effects.

The total scheduled cars in peak periods will be 145 out of a total fleet of 204. As I reported in a recent article about the 2021 Service Plan, the TTC aims to field 168 cars in peak once they have the fleet back at a normal 20 per cent maintenance ratio.

Queen Street will take the brunt of construction work for the early part of 2021 with a shutdown of streetcar service west of McCaul Loop. This will allow conversion of the overhead system for pantograph operation and, when construction weather allows, the complete replacement of the King-Queen-Queensway-Roncesvalles intersection. See:

That project will also affect the King service west of Dufferin Street.

Streetcars will return to Bathurst and to part of the Carlton route.

Blue Night Service (Updated)

The overnight service on four routes (501 Queen, 504 King, 506 Carlton and 510 Spadina) was increased due to congestion at the carhouses when most of the fleet, including many still-active CLRVs, was “in for the night”. Service on all but Carlton operated every 15 minutes, while Carlton ran every 20, even when it was a bus operation.

The night service reverts to half-hourly headways in January, except for 310 Spadina which remains at quarter-hourly. Also, the 304C King bus between Dundas West and Shaw will operate every 20′ while the main 304 streetcar route will operate half-hourly.

501 Queen

The 501 Queen route will be split with streetcars running between Neville Loop and McCaul Loop, and buses between Long Branch Loop and Jarvis Street. The 301 Blue Night service will also be split, but the streetcar portion will loop via Church, Richmond and York to avoid causing noise from wheel squeal at McCaul Loop.

The western portion of the route will include a short turn with half of the buses terminating at Park Lawn during most periods of service. Buses will loop downtown via Jarvis, Richmond and Church Streets. The buses will be supplied by Mount Dennis and Birchmount garages.

Routings in the area of Humber Loop will vary depending on the branch:

  • Westbound 501L and 301L: From the Queensway, south on Windermere Avenue, west on Lake Shore Boulevard West to Long Branch Loop.
  • Eastbound 501L and 301L: East on Lake Shore Boulevard west, north on Windermere Avenue, east on the Queensway.
  • Westbound 501P: From the Queensway, south on Park Lawn Road, south on Marine Parade Drive to Park Lawn Loop.
  • Eastbound 501P: From Park Lawn Loop via north on Marine Parade Drive, north on Park Lawn Road, east on the Queensway.

501 Queen will operate from Russell Carhouse and will continue to use trolley poles as the east end of the route has not yet been converted for pantographs (that project is planned for fall 2021).

502 Downtowner

This route is still suspended and all streetcar service on Kingston Road is provided by route 503.

503 Kingston Road

The 503 Kingston Road streetcar will continue to operate to Charlotte Loop at Spadina. The City has just awarded the contract for reconstruction of Wellington and Church Streets from Yonge to King, and that will occur in the spring. This will complete the Wellington Street project which has been delayed by other utility projects in the same area.

503 Kingston Road will operate from Leslie Barns and, like 501 Queen, will continue to use trolley poles.

504 King

The 504 King route will be split with streetcars running east of Dufferin Street and a bus service operating from Shaw to Dundas West Station. Both the 504A Distillery and 504B Broadview Station services will terminate at Dufferin Loop.

To reduce congestion at Dufferin Loop, all service on 29/929 Dufferin will be extended to the Princes’ Gate Loop.

The 504A Distillery service will operate from Russell Carhouse, and the 504B Broadview Station service will operate from Leslie Barns. The route will continue to operate with trolley poles.

The west end bus service 504C and 304C Blue Night will loop via south and east on Douro Street, north on Shaw Street to King Street West. Buses will be provided by Mount Dennis Garage. Because service on the 304 streetcar and the 304C bus will operate at different headways, regular connections between them will not be possible.

The operator relief point for the 504B service will be shifted from Queen & Broadview to Broadview Station to avoid service delays on other routes caused by late arrivals of operators for shift changes.

505 Dundas

The cutback of 505 Dundas service to Lansdowne has already ended (on Dec 9) and all cars now run through to Dundas West Station. This change becomes part of the scheduled service in January. Headways will be widened slightly during most periods to operate the same number of cars over a longer journey.

Operation of this route will be split between Leslie Barns and Roncesvalles Carhouse, and that will continue until spring 2022. Cars running to and from Roncesvalles will operate with trolley poles and will change to pantographs at Dundas West Station. Cars from Leslie already run on pantograph on their dead head trips.

The eight AM peak bus trippers will be interlined with buses from other routes. In the west, four trips will originate at Lansdowne from trippers on the 47 Lansdowne route. In the east, four trips will originate at Broadview Station from trippers on the 100 Flemingdon Park route.

506 Carlton

The 506 Carlton route will be split with streetcars returning between Broadview and High Park Loop, and buses operating between Parliament and Main Station. Overhead conversion for pantographs is not completed yet on the east end of the route, and reconstruction of the bus roadway at Main Station is planned to start in March.

506 streetcars will loop in the east via Broadview, Dundas and Parliament. 506C Buses will loop via River, Dundas and Sherbourne Streets.

For the overnight service, the 306 streetcars will run to Broadview Station and will use the bay normally occupied by 505 Dundas which has no overnight service.

The looping shown for the 506B/306B buses is different from the version show in the service change memo. The TTC has confirmed that the map is the correct version.

All 506 Carlton cars will operate from Roncesvalles Carhouse. They will enter and leave service using trolley poles, but once on Howard Park Avenue will switch to pantographs as the west and central portions of the route have been converted. The 506 buses will operate from Eglinton and Malvern garages.

508 Lake Shore

This route remains suspended pending recovery of demand to the business district downtown.

509 Harbourfront

This route reverts to the February 2020 schedules. Extra service that was added to compensate for the absence of 511 Bathurst cars will be removed.

510 Spadina

This route reverts to the February 2020 schedules with minor changes in service levels.

511 Bathurst

Streetcars return to 511 Bathurst using the February 2020 schedules. If construction work on the Bathurst Street Bridge is not completed by January 3, streetcars will divert via King, Spadina and Queens Quay until the bridge reopens.

512 St. Clair

The 512 St. Clair route continues with the November 2020 schedules and a covid-era reduction in service.

Routes 509 through 512 will all operate from Leslie Barns and will enter service using pantographs from the barns to route via Queen and King Streets.

The allocation of streetcars to carhouses by route is shown in the table below.

18 thoughts on “TTC Service Changes January 3, 2021 Part I: Streetcars (Updated)

  1. Hi Steve,

    It’s interesting to see that Mount Dennis and Birchmount garages will be operating the bus substitutions when Queensway would seem to be much closer, especially with the 501 shuttle buses terminating at Parklawn. Is there any rhyme or reason to this?

    Also, I thought the 508 was permanently canned long ago due to the time it took a 508 streetcar to pass through the long lineup of 501 streetcars terminating at Humber Loop, no?

    Steve: Which garages get which shuttles depends on where there are spare buses. Mount Dennis has been doing a lot of these lately and so with Carlton and Bathurst going back to streetcars, that’s where the vehicles are.

    No, the 508 is not permanently cancelled, although I am not holding my breath for its return.


  2. Very detailed changes about the streetcar services. Interesting to see those streetcar changes. Also what the bus service change is going to look like? Maybe restoring some express bus routes like Finch or Don Mills?

    Steve: I said there would be a part II. Wait. I am not going to put it all in a comment reply. The following is a quote from the service memo just to keep you happy for a while.

    Most express service will be restored, with the exception of 903 Kennedy-Scarborough Centre Express, 924 Victoria Park Express, 944 Kipling South Express, and 989 Weston Express. Weekend service on 925 Don Mills Express, 939 Finch Express, and 985 Sheppard East Express will also be restored at a later date.


  3. Of this related note, the changes the TTC made to 501 Queen is very similar to what they did back in 2017 due to the Queensway and Humber Loop track work.


  4. The conversion of the overhead system is taking a ridiculously long time. Wasn’t supposed to be done well before the last new streetcar arrived even before the Bombardier delays?

    Steve: Yes. Whether it was bad planning, or simply a decision not to spend the money on the conversion all at once, I don’t know.


  5. I think the title is mistaken. The next service change is expected to be on January 3rd, not January 1st.

    Steve: Fixed. Thanks.


  6. With the concrete-ization of The Queensway, Humber Loop, and the underpass to Lake Shore, would the 501 buses run on the streetcar ROW, or will they continue to use The Queensway and Park Lawn to get to Lake Shore?

    Steve: Various routes depending on the branch. I will update the main article with details.


  7. Something I’ve been curious about — why are they converting to pantograph in the first place? What’s wrong with the trolley poles? I’m assuming there’s a good reason — didn’t they have to get the new streetcars specially outfitted with trolley poles at additional expense?

    Also, amazing work on this blog. I’ve just discovered it, and as someone who is constantly curious about transit it will be so much fun to read. I often listen to the TTC control and always wanted to learn more about the structure of the TTC.


    Steve: The new cars came with trolley poles because a planned conversion to pantographs years ago was cut from the budget.

    Pantographs have the advantage that they do not dewire, but in terms of the new cars the more important factor is that with a larger contact area, they can draw more power. When I read about delays for “operational problems”, it’s easy at times to figure out that the overhead is down somewhere, and these locations are commonly now in the portions of the network where poles are still in use, although not exclusively.

    There is a second stage to the changeover that has only been implemented on parts of the system: a move to self-tensioning overhead. This is made possible by breaks in the contact wire where two sections overlap (no problem for pans, impossible for poles), and it automatically corrects for changes in wire tension with the temperature.

    A third stage that is some years off will involve removal of the special work at intersections (the frogs where wires join and divide). Again, this is a simple arrangement for pans that can slide from one wire to another while poles need a continuous contact. There are many locations on the system where intersections are in a transitional state supporting both poles and pans. Yet another pan-only change will be to slew the contact wire right to left along the direction of travel so that wear on the carbons on the pantographs is evened out rather than forming a groove.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Didn’t they just close Main Street Station for work back in 2018? Why wouldn’t they resurface the roadway at the same time to avoid multiple closures. Will this result in buses having to move out of the terminal again to board either on street or at neighboring stations?

    Steve: Yes, they did. I will inquire about why this is being done again.


  9. Hey again, in reply to your reply:

    I thought that those tensioners were already in place where two sections of the grid connect? For example, I used to live near Roncesvalles, and right outside the entrance to the yard on Roncesvalles there is a section that the streetcars are supposed to glide under with power disconnected (though, in my experience, few drivers actually did this — or at least it didn’t seem like they shut power off). Are these self-tensioners different from those?

    Steve: I think what you refer to are section insulators, breaks between power feed sections. Originally they were simply short insulating pieces, but with the advent of streetcars with regenerative braking, the design was changed to use pairs of insulators. Power is fed to the middle section from the overhead beyond the double insulator but through a one-way diode so that if a car is in regen mode when it hits this section, it will encounter a non-receptive circuit and switch off before attempting to feed power into a dead or possibly grounded section beyond the insulator. These installations are now appearing around intersections to allow selective isolation in case a power cut only really needs to affect one direction of travel.

    When you say the overhead is down somewhere, do you mean the overhead wires are physically broken/disconnected somehow? I spent some time in Vancouver, and the electric buses there use trolley poles. The drivers are able to exit the vehicle, and switch the poles from one circuit to another if necessary. I believe they can even drive a short distance disconnected if needed.

    Steve: Yes, physically broken, often the result of trolley pole dewirement. Trolley buses normally switch between wires automatically, but if the switch fails, the drivers can simply move the poles over to the other line. Vancouver has many locations where the switch is located well ahead of the intersection for left turns so that if the poles go the “wrong” way, the driver can switch them before making the turn. Also, of course this allows through traffic to bypass a bus waiting to turn. The buses in Vancouver have batteries for off-wire operation, and have been able to do this for a long time, even when Toronto persisted in claiming the lack of off-wire operations as a shortcoming of TBs.

    And the frogs — will sort of miss those, in weird way. I love seeing the sparks as the streetcars go through intersections. It’s a very Toronto thing to me. I already miss the old streetcars, the ride height was much higher and I always loved sitting in the back watching Toronto scroll by. I do agree that the new streetcars are very smooth and comfortable, not to mention the fact that they can hold so many people.

    Again, thanks for the excellent blog and all the info! I have so many questions, I will have to go through your archive and see if I can find some answers.

    Steve: You’re welcome!


  10. Steve, streetcars will be making their return to the “511 Bathurst” route in January of 2021. I’m looking forward to taking them to visit places of interest served by this route, most notably Exhibition Place, Liberty Village (a former industrial parks which has become a shopping district), Bentway Park (under the highest stretch of the Gardiner Expressway), and Ontario Place (a public & amusement park).

    This route has been operating with buses since Monday, April 20, 2020, in order to facilitate TTC track construction projects and the Bathurst Street Bridge.


  11. > With the concrete-ization of The Queensway, Humber Loop, and the underpass to Lake Shore, would the 501 buses run on the streetcar ROW, or will they continue to use The Queensway and Park Lawn to get to Lake Shore?

    > Steve: Various routes depending on the branch. I will update the main article with details.

    > (article):
    > Westbound 501L and 301L: From the Queensway, south on Windermere Avenue, west on Lake Shore Boulevard West to Long Branch Loop.
    > Eastbound 501L and 301L: East on Lake Shore Boulevard west, north on Windermere Avenue, east on the Queensway.
    > Westbound 501P: From the Queensway, south on Park Lawn Road, south on Marine Parade Drive to Park Lawn Loop.
    > Eastbound 501P: From Park Lawn Loop via north on Marine Parade Drive, north on Park Lawn Road, east on the Queensway.

    Any word on whether the buses on Queensway will use the ROW from Windermere to Roncesvalles/Glendale/Colborne Lodge (as construction allows), or will it stand empty as people board at temporary curbside stops for a year?

    Steve: The route I quoted is from the service change memo. There is no reference to buses operating on the right of way. They would have to do so west of Colborne Lodge only because the track will be rebuilt and the right-of-way extended east from Parkside (Claude) to Roncesvalles. Also, the 501P service would have to dodge on/off of the right-of-way at Windermere. Without special signalling, I doubt this would be a simple move in traffic. I suspect you are looking at curbside loading until service is restored possibly in fall 2021 when bus replacements shift to the east end for overhead work.


  12. Is the 503 Kingston Road extension to the Charlotte Loop permanent or temporary? That is, once the “Wellington Street project” is complete, would the 503 route be cut back to York Street?

    Steve: In theory, yes. However, there are rumours that the TTC will use Wellington Street as a staging area for accessibility work at King Station. We must wait to see what will actually happen. This whole Wellington Street saga has been a sad tale of one project after another coming in and the street never been actually “finished”.


  13. Steve, when is the construction on the Bathurst Street Bridge expected to be complete and the bridge to reopen? Streetcars will return to the “511 Bathurst” route on Sunday, January 3rd, 2021. If the bridge isn’t reopened by the date mentioned above, then the streetcars will detour via King Street, Spadina Avenue, and then Queens Quay West between Lower Spadina Avenue and the Bathurst-Lakeshore-Fleet intersection.

    Steve: It is supposed to be January 1, although the TTC is making provision for a continued diversion if needed. There has been no announcement about an alternate opening date yet.


  14. The work on the Bathurst Street Bridge has been completed and the bridge reopen to vehicular traffic slightly ahead of schedule. Motor vehicles including “511 Bathurst” replacement buses are travelling through the recently reopened bridge. The buses on the route are no longer detouring via Front Street West, Spadina Avenue, and Fort York Boulevard. This reopening comes just in time for the return of streetcars to the “511 Bathurst” route on Sunday, January 3, 2021.

    This route has been operating with buses since Monday, April 20, to accommodate the rehabilitation of the Bathurst Street Bridge (which includes replacing both the tracks and the pavement surrounding them), and also replacement of sewage pipes near Bathurst and Queen, and track replacement on Bathurst between Queen and Dundas requiring a detour via Dundas, Spadina and Queen), and track replacement in and around Bathurst subway station (requiring a detour via Harbord.Street and Spadina Avenue to Spadina subway station’s bus bays from June 21 to Sepember 5).

    Steve: Thanks for the update!


  15. Steve, it’s now official. The long-awaited King-Queen-Roncesvalles TTC track replacement construction project is now underway. To facilitate this work, streetcars will soon be taken off substantial stretches of the “504 King” route (Dufferin Gate loop to Dundas West subway station) and “501 Queen” (between McCaul Street and the Long Branch loop at Lakeshore Boulevard and Brown’s Line) and replaced with buses.

    This project (King-Queen-Roncesvalles) will free up streetcars for routes which have been operating with buses, most notably “511 Bathurst”. Now that the Bathurst Street Bridge is open to vehicular traffic, it’s ready for the return of streetcars on the “511 Bathurst” route on Sunday, January 3, 2021. The buses which operated on this route will be redeployed to the “504 King” and “501 Queen” routes.

    Steve: Yes, I know all this and have already reported it.


  16. Today, streetcars returned to the “511 Bathurst” route, which has been operating with buses from Monday, April 20, 2020 to Saturday, January 2, 2021 (yesterday); and back to its regular routing from Bathurst subway station, down Bathurst Street, then westward on Fleet Street, to the Exhibition loop – and vice versa.

    Also, I rode the “511 Bathurst” streetcasr to find out for myself – to get to and from Liberty Village, a shopping district north of the railway tracks – the first trip on this route (on its regular routing) since Sunday, April 19, 2020, the day before the route’s switch to buses.

    Not only the return of streetcars to the route but also to regular routing brought a sigh of relief to both riders of the “511 Bathurst” route and the business along that route. The recently opened Loblaws, Shoppers Drug Mart, and LCBO stores near the foot of Bathurst Street (the LCBO is located under the Gardiner Expressway) – and other businesses in the area (including Subway Sandwiches and Starbucks Coffee) – were feeling a little bit ‘cut off’ when the buses were detouring via Front Street West, Spadina Avenue, and Fort York Boulevard. Now that the streetcars are passing through the Bathurst- Lakeshore intersection, an increase in visitors to these busineses would be expected. Not only were the businesses along the regular routing of “511 bathurst” taking a hit from the pandemic, but also from the detours of the buses in order to facilitate TTC track construction projects, (most notably the Bathurst Street Bridge which was closed for several months).


  17. Do you know the tentative timeline when the eastern portion of the 501 Queen route would be replaced by shuttle buses for construction?

    Steve: According to the TTC’s notice, this will be in the fall. See the map at the bottom of this page.


  18. From my window I see 506 replacement buses looping via Jarvis, rather than Sherbourne, taking a layover on Carlton alongside Allan Gardens.

    Steve: The TTC tends to adjust replacement services to suit traffic patterns. Thanks for the update.


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