This article is a follow-up to my earlier piece about the TTC’s Rapid Transit Expansion report including the effect of Ontario Line construction on the 501 Queen service.
Updated March 1, 2023:
- The reason that track installation on Adelaide, which by itself is relatively straightforward, cannot proceed immediately is that nine Toronto Hydro and Bell vaults must be relocated. Metrolinx opted not to do this work, but the City has taken over.
- Streetcars will remain on 501 Queen but will divert both ways via Broadview, Dundas and McCaul from May 2023 to March 2024. A bus shuttle will operate over the central portion of the route.
- The list of track construction projects for 2023-24 has been clarified.
Back in December 2021, the City approved a report with a very long list of proposed road closures for Ontario Line construction.
- Ontario Line Downtown Stations – Temporary Road Closures and Community Impacts
- Appendix A: Ontario Line Early Works Construction – Road and Lane Closures for Six Downtown
I wrote about this report beginning with this article:
The construction at Queen Station will entail a multi-year diversion of 501 Queen service, and the plan was for streetcars to operate:
- Eastbound via York, Adelaide and Church
- Westbound via Church, Richmond and York
Track already exists for the westbound route, but new track is required on York and on Adelaide for the eastbound diversion.
Much of this work was supposed to have been completed in 2022, with the intent that the diversion would be available in May 2023. Various factors combined to foul up this schedule.
- The contract to install new track on York and on Adelaide east to Victoria was, for some reason, to be a Metrolinx responsibility separate from City work on utility upgrades and relocation. This lengthened the potential timespan with two separate procurements, and inevitable delays as one contractor waited for the the other to finish.
- Metrolinx was supposed to build the new track on York Street in 2022. This did not happen. According to a recent City report (about which more below), Metrolinx has been preoccupied with the Ontario Line.
- Construction on Adelaide west from York to Spadina was done by the City to restore track inactive for many decades and to provide more flexibility for downtown diversions. This went quickly through the fall, and was performed by Midome Construction who were also working on utilities east of York.
- For various reasons, notably discovery of unexpected underground Toronto Hydro and Bell plant, the work east on Adelaide from York did not complete in 2022, although it was substantially finished from York to Bay. Some water main connections were incomplete with pipes blocking the curb lanes, and this complicated traffic and transit diversions around a major sinkhole at King and University.
- The City proposes to expand the Midome contract to include track replacement from York to Victoria. Work on this can begin immediately where utility construction no longer occupies the eastbound track lane (second counting from the south side). See: Non-competitive Contract with Midome Construction Services Limited for the New Streetcar Tracks on Adelaide Street
Queen Streetcars or Shuttle Buses
Until quite recently, if one ignored the incomplete work on the diversion trackage, it was possible to think that the streetcars would simply divert as planned beginning in May. This is obviously not going to happen, and it must have been clear to the TTC for months that the 501 Queen service would have to be modified.
The first hint of this was buried in the report under discussion at today’s (February 28, 2023) TTC Board Meeting.
Metrolinx has identified that the potential delay to complete the streetcar detour work will result in approximately 20 months of shuttle bus service commencing in early May 2023. The TTC is still working closely with Metrolinx and the City on exploring options to optimize the construction schedule of the Adelaide civil and streetcar track construction work to reduce the duration of shuttle bus service.TTC Transit Network Expansion Update at p. 14
The words “shuttle bus” will send hapless TTC riders screaming from the room. There is a long history, particularly in recent years, of the TTC’s incompetence in operating construction shuttles including changing routes with little or no notice, conflicting information online and at stops, and erratic service with shuttles running in packs and taking long layovers at terminals. This was compounded by the number of planned and unplanned construction projects and the overlapped periods of construction on what should have been distinct route and road closures.
The grand daddy of them all is the King-Queen-Queensway-Roncesvalles project where all manner of delays including pandemic effects on work, unexpected utility relocations, slow work by affected companies such as Toronto Hydro, Bell and others, pushed the completion date out to, with luck, July 2023.
The idea that Queen would see 20 months of shuttle buses before the streetcar diversion would be ready is a testament to fouled up planning. The work should never have been divided between Metrolinx and the City but consolidated as a single contract with a goal of completion as fast as possible.
We now know, courtesy of the Star’s reporting that the delay will be only ten months instead of twenty thanks to the City’s contract consolidation. That’s an improvement, but it should never have been necessary.
For the TTC’s part, this continues a sad tale of communications and consultation foul-ups. The need for shuttles would clearly have been known months ago. How exactly they will operate is totally unknown because the TTC has issued no guidance on this. Will there be shuttles downtown? Over the entire route? Will the route be split to make it more manageable and give different routing options for eastern and western legs?
This should have been a public discussion months ago even if some details were still to be nailed down rather than a surprise landing on already-suffering riders who have dealt with many disruptions on Queen and other routes.
There are several planned track and road construction projects on Queen and King Street in coming years, and I learned recently that several of these have been deferred to reduce overlaps and conflicts. The revised schedule has not been published, and yet this will be essential to any discussion of transit service through the Ontario Line’s construction period. These include:
- Scheduled for 2023, but deferred:
- King West from Close to Strachan.
- Queen East from Parliament to River.
- Queen East from Carlaw to Greenwood.
- Queen at Degrassi. Revision to streetcar power distribution for Ontario Line. 2023, date TBA.
- Scheduled for 2024:
- Queen West from O’Hara to Triller. 2024.
- Queen East from Davies to Carlaw. 2024 (likely during Metrolinx work at Degrassi underpass).
- King West from Strachan to Spadina. 2024.
- Bathurst Street from Queen to Front
- Scheduled for 2024, but deferred:
- King East at Church (intersection).
The City, TTC and Metrolinx owe everyone an apology for this cock-up, and a commitment to resolve conflicting schedules and publish credible plans as soon as possible.
I will add to this article as the story develops.