501 Queen Diversions and Shuttles for the Ontario Line

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.

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.

16 thoughts on “501 Queen Diversions and Shuttles for the Ontario Line

  1. A question: why not run diverted streetcars west as planned (Church, Richmond, York) and eastbound down Spadina to King and along to Church, or use Dundas from Spadina to Church or Victoria and south to Queen?

    Steve: I am as baffled as you about this. It would make sense to keep as much of the route as possible running rather than what seems to be the current TTC attitude of replacing streetcars with buses whenever possible. I didn’t go into alternate routes as there are many possibilities and I didn’t want to get into the problem of competing fantasy maps.

    Neither Dundas and Spadina nor Queen and Church have the curves your proposal requires, and Victoria Street is impassible.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Steve, do you know the owner of the unexpected underground plant they discovered?

    Steve: No. I also suspect that the TTC report lays more blame on this than the delay that would have been avoided with a consolidated contract.

    Update: There are nine underground chambers owned by Toronto Hydro and Bell according to the City’s report.

    Adelaide Street works scope:

    • Relocation of underground Toronto Hydro and Bell Canada utility infrastructure on Adelaide Street, between York Street and Victoria Street;
    • Installation of TTC streetcar tracks and civil works on Adelaide Street, between York Street and Victoria Street;
    • Installation of TTC streetcar tracks and civil works at the intersection of Adelaide Street West and York Street; and
    • Road resurfacing on Adelaide Street, between York Street and Church Street.

    The above-listed project scope will include approximately 570 metres of streetcar track, reconstruction of nine underground utility chambers and approximately 500 metres of utility ducts with electrical related works.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This blog takes almost every word (minus the expletives) out of my take on the situation with the King/Queen/Roncesvalles &^%$*)! situation.

    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.

    How bad has this gotten? There is *no stop* at St Joseph’s Hospital on the eastbound diversion of the 504 shuttle along the Queensway. As if the total lack of directions and notices at stops along the way isn’t enough, disabled patients are forced to walk back from the stop on King St, across haphazard pedestrian detours a fair distance (for them, a long distance) to get to St Joe’s.

    This isn’t just temporary for a few days, this is ongoing. The whole situation is a clusterfug. Roncesvalles itself is left with no service what-so-ever south of Howard Park. The TTC and City are getting very adept at kicking communities in the teeth, and then blame them for asking questions. At one time there was a ‘504 shuttle’ from Dundas West Station down to the Sunnyside Yard. It could still be done down to Harvard, albeit with a shorter bus to ease the tight turns, but alas, that would be too considerate.

    Best I stop typing, I feel a rant erupting…

    Liked by 2 people

  4. The lack of clarity on what the TTC is planning for the diversion is frustrating but not surprising. What is going to happen to people in Humber Bay Shores which has been dealing with shuttle buses almost consistently for pretty much the last decade? The same questions can be asked with those living in The Beach. Are people at those extremities going to be dealing with shuttle buses as well? Or can streetcars run partially on those ends once KQQR is complete like on the western end from Long Branch/Humber-McCaul/Spadina and on the eastern end from Neville Park to Distillery/Parliament?

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Oh so now we’re going to install new track inside of 10 months? They haven’t even installed the new overhead for the 503 even though it’s been shuttered since last November with zero explanation to why they need 6 months to do the work. By the time that’s over, Queen east is going to shutdown for Metrolinx’s folly.

    Steve: Actually, I checked Kingston Road last week and the new overhead is in from Main to Victoria Park. Even so this is taking far too long.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. It is really not surprising that when you have BOTH the TTC and Metrolinx involved in the same (or intertwined) projects you will not get the best results. Both organizations have given us lots of evidence that their planning leaves much to be desired and neither have shown much ability (or desire) to consult.

    Though I understand why other TTC trackwork projects on King and Queen may (or must) be delayed, I find it interesting that it is safe to do so. The TTC presumably schedules track replacement projects when track is ‘wearing out’ so how can so much track have suddenly gained an extra year (or years) of life? Are we really going to continue to have streetcars stopping at King & Church so that the operators can get out and adjust the ‘points’ manually?

    I wonder if it might still be possible to complete the trackwork on Victoria from Dundas to Queen and, as suggested above, use Dundas as a temporary 501 detour until Adelaide can be finished. (And do the work on Adelaide 24/7 so the delays to using it are as short as possible.)

    Steve: The TTC’s schedule is often driven by the timing of other works such as utility repairs, mainly Toronto Water. As for manual switching, try westbound on Queen at the Don Bridge.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I am as baffled as you about this. It would make sense to keep as much of the route as possible running rather than what seems to be the current TTC attitude of replacing streetcars with buses whenever possible.

    Could it be a not so subtle attempt to again undermine streetcars and permanently replace them with buses? It feels that way for a few decades, maybe even since you “saved” streetcars in the early 70s. Corporate grudges can last a long time.

    Steve: I received an update today on the planned diversion for streetcars, but await info on the bus shuttle. Queen cars will operate via Dundas between Broadview and McCaul with a bus shuttle on Queen. It’s an odd diversion when the usual Church/King/Spadina is available, and I have to chase the reason behind this.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. If Metrolinx were to replace the track on York and Adelaide, could we guarantee that they would use TTC gauge and not standard gauge?

    Steve: Let’s boldly assume they can read specs.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Looking at Google Streetview, there is an east-to-south curve at Dundas & Parliament and a south-to-east curve at Parliament & Queen. It seems that using these two curves would shorten the diversion compared to using Broadview Avenue.

    It would be nicer if Metrolinx could avoid obstructing the south-to-east curve at Queen & Victoria for 10 months.

    Steve: There is no matching north-to-west curve at Dundas/Parliament. The TTC prefers that diversions be the same in both directions if possible. In this case, this would mean that both east and westbound service would operate between Broadview and Parliament. As for Victoria Street, the track is currently impassible due to various construction projects, although this would be comparatively easy to repair.


  10. With the new construction in what was Regent Park, and the bike lanes, Dundas has several road traffic bottlenecks between Parliament and River that can really hold up all traffic, including streetcars. This won’t be a quick diversion.

    On the other hand, some good railfan viewing at Dundas and McCaul. North to east is a very tight turn. It was fun watching ALRVs go around the corner in Remembrance Day diversions. Also, for your photography needs, the CN tower is visible pretty much straight down McCaul.

    Steve: Even more so, the Dundas/Yonge area is a bottleneck that must be allowed for in the new schedules. 506 Carlton diversions in 2022 had no extra running time, and service on the line was a mess.


  11. Metrojinx needs to be told they cannot do any work that interferes with Queen Car service until AFTER those diverson tracks are in service.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. The dark cynic in me suggests that this all may be on the deliberate side to get the Toronto core and its transit thoroughly, utterly ‘Forded’ up, though to be a bit fair, the messes and Fails totally predate him, even by decades ie. a fail to have a Front St. transitway instead of a road project as per 1985 plan.

    Wouldn’t it be more sane to stop all of the Ontario Line, and have a reset and review of the plans, after Metrolinx is pried out from only reporting to Cabinet?

    If we did a straight line under King, or Adelaide, or Richmond, or Queen, could we be far closer to the surface and out of bedrock, and thus have it all happen faster and cheaper? Is the reason for the deep tunnel from the zig and zags, and how much costlier is that in both dollars and years? And yes, do NOT go to the mouth of the Don, nor over to the Ex, but instead over to Parkdale and a bit past even, as per 1957 plan.

    And could the Gardiner technically support a subway?

    Heck, even an EL may be worth exploring.

    See: CBC Report


  13. Metrolinx opted not to do this work, but the City has taken over

    How does one opt out of this if it is a part of the project and it is placed on their plate? Metrolinx strikes again…

    Regarding the diversion, Dundas is probably less useful for Queen traffic than King but maybe they don’t want the bottlenecks arising from the inadequate far-side stops on King.

    I suppose this means all carhouse trips on routes such as the 510 and 512 will go back to using King now?

    Steve: The number of carhouse trips via King is a big issue for people living at King and Parliament due to noisy track and frequent service early morning and late at night.


  14. I’m confused on how there are vaults in the way, when there are (were) already streetcar tracks there – and some plans for years to restore them.

    I wonder if they’d have been better off, instead of rebuilding all this Adelaide track, if they’d have just added the missing curves at Church/Queen and Church/Dundas, and run a multi-year Queen detour Church/Dundas/McCaul, with a reserved streetcar lane on Dundas, and no parking.

    Or better yet, simply used Victoria, restoring it to service – though perhaps that fouls the Ontario subway construction.

    Steve: I suspect a few things. First, it’s been a long time since any streetcars ran on Adelaide, and new structures might have appeared. Second, the old track probably does not have a concrete foundation and there would be a situation similar to Carlton/Church where there wasn’t enough headroom.

    As for alternatives, yes, $39 million is a lot to pay to shift some vaults, and a simpler solution would have been to install southbound track on York to King. The big issue obviously is why it took until the last minute (and a delay) to find that Adelaide, as planned, wouldn’t work.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Steve comments,

    “The big issue obviously is why it took until the last minute (and a delay) to find that Adelaide, as planned, wouldn’t work.”

    Might I hazard a guess that, as you, Steve, have pointed out too many times on this blog, the reality of the relationships between the Mayor and City Council, the TTC Board and the TTC itself (management + the CEO) seems to be one of constant imbalance: an imbalance of power, an imbalance of shared direction and an imbalance of coordination.

    The “interests” of TTC management are not always in agreement with the views and pet projects of the Mayor and individual councillors (the forced firing departure of CEO Gary Webster under transit-hating mayor Rob “Subways, Subways, Subways!” Ford) and the wearing down of replacement CEO Andy Byford as examples.

    The TTC Board, in the past, included yes-men who kowtowed to the Mayor – Transit Users Be Damned! Despite new Board faces who actually *use* transit, I am supposing – as per Steve’s regular comments – that a lot of Board rubber-stamping takes place due to either members not understanding issues or not being allowed to understand (by Management design?)

    Having worked as an Office Administrator for an engineering firm managing the early stages of the TTC’s Finch West subway station project, it was obvious the designers of that station didn’t have a clue what they were doing, because of the number and cost of Change Orders to modify so many aspects of the project (geological and geographical anomalies, material availability and installation, sub-contractor scheduling conflicts, electrical/water/sewer utility snafus). The result of a rush to “get the legacy project started” so someone could puff out his chest and say, “Look what *I* did!”

    Municipal politicians – once they get money – from *other* levels of government are all “Crow, crow, crow!” about the fantastic scribbles-on-a-napkin latest new plan and “Go, Go, Go!!!!” and build it – even if “it” is in the wrong direction with building transit projects. Transit management is all “Whoa, Whoa, Whoa!!!” to maintain the status quo-quo-quo. TTC Board members are all “Toe, toe, toe the Party Line” even though ignorance, indifference and inaction abound as a result. And transit users are all “No, No, No!!! It’s so Slow, Slow, Slow!!!” waiting for Godot, Godot, Godot….

    Transit “planning” [sic] has been such a cock-up for so long in this city, all because all the horses always seem to be pulling in different directions and it’s the passengers who end up being drawn and quartered (even while having to pay a dime more for the “privilege”….)

    Liked by 1 person

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