Why Do The 506 Carlton Cars Short Turn At Broadview?

Among various problems that became evident with the many route changes on May 7 was the deep mismatch between advertised and delivered service.

Both the 501 to Neville and the 505 to Bingham Loop were often missing in action short turning usually at Woodbine Loop (Kingston Road & Queen, named after the former racetrack).

Aside from the scenic tour the 501 Queen car takes via McCaul, Dundas and Broadview, plus the usual congestion on Dundas Street, another congested location was Broadview northbound between Queen and Dundas.

In that segment, three services, 501 Queen, 505 Dundas and 506 Carlton, were all queuing for the left turn at Dundas, compounded by 504/505 buses attempting to serve the northbound stop while blocking both lanes of traffic.

Under these conditions, it was impossible for any of these services to stay on time. The situation has been partly remedied by using traffic wardens to manage the intersection, but even that depends on ensuring that streetcars get priority all of the time despite the signal setup there.

As the week of May 7 wore on, I noticed that a lot of 506 Carlton cars were not getting east of Broadview. Riders complained about cars going out of service, and I received a tip from a reader about scheduled travel time changes.

This sent me into the electronic versions of TTC schedules which are published for use by trip planning apps and which also are the source for info on their own website. These files give a stop-by-stop schedule for each vehicle on a route and allow very fine-grained examination of the schedule design. What I found was quite surprising.

Over the portion of 506 Carlton common to the March 2023 schedules when all streetcars ran through to Main Station and the May 2023 versions with service diverting to Queen Street East, the running times were substantially shorter in May than in March. The schedule as designed could not be operated, and it has become common practice to turn most of the service back westward from Broadview. Here are charts comparing the scheduled travel times.

The eastbound comparison on the left covers the route from High Park to Broadview where streetcars turn off of their usual route. The westbound comparison covers the route from Parliament, where cars rejoin the route, to High Park. Each dot is one scheduled trip plotted with the departure time on the X-axis (horizontal) and the trip length on the Y-axis (vertical). Values move up and down over the day based on expected conditions on the route.

In almost every case the March travel time is longer than the May time. It is no surprise that streetcars have to be short-turned when the schedules work against them. How the schedules came to be designed this way is a mystery, but it creates big problems for riders.

This sort of thing cannot be corrected overnight, but in the meantime the TTC should formalize the route change and post notices everywhere so that riders know how the route will actually operate. New schedules will come in late July when Metrolinx closes Queen at Degrassi for preparatory work for GO corridor expansion and the Ontario Line, and all of the streetcar routes will shift north to Gerrard. With luck, they will reflect actual travel time requirements.

Shifting the westbound Carlton cars off of Broadview at Dundas reduces the number of turns that the intersection must handle per hour. A related issue will be the degree to which traffic wardens intervene to move transit vehicles through this choke point in the network. Both of these changes improve travel times for 501 Queen and 505 Dundas cars and could contribute to more reliable service east of Queen and Kingston Road to the two terminals. I will be monitoring this over coming weeks.


For the benefit of readers who don’t know the whole context, the 506 Carlton car normally operates to Main Station via Gerrard. During construction at Coxwell, it has been diverted via Broadview and Queen eastbound to Woodbine Loop. The westbound diversion runs via Queen, Broadview, Dundas and Parliament including a north-to-west left turn at Dundas because there is no track for a left turn northbound at Gerrard. (The TTC was planning to add one, but the message was lost somewhere in planning when the intersection was rebuilt.)

This is part of a larger set of diversions for construction projects that will evolve over coming months.

A Travel Time Comparison From TransSee

Darwin O’Connor has left a comment noting that you can get comparisons of scheduled and actual running times from his site TransSee.ca. Here is a chart comparing the situation for eastbound travel from High Park to Broadview in March (green) and May 2023 (red). The dots show actual travel times while the lines show the scheduled values.

Note that the green dots (March) are almost all below the green line, while the red dots (May) are almost all above the red line showing that with the new schedule cars would always be late, sometimes by a wide margin.

O’Connor notes that this type of analysis chart is available on his site free for the Toronto streetcar routes.