TTC Track Construction Update November 3, 2022

Various track construction projects continue into November, but there are signs of progress at some locations.

Updated November 6, 2022 at Noon: Photos of the current state of the King-Queen-Queensway-Roncesvalles project added.

College/Carlton Reconstruction and Diversion

Effective November 2, the intersection of Carlton and Church reopened for streetcars after a long delaty. This had been caused by an unexpected hydro vault under the intersection that conflicted with the new, deeper foundation that is placed under streetcar track.

The 506 Carlton service now operates on the originally planned Dundas Street diversion from Bay to Ossington while College Street is under construction. Here is the updated diversion map from the TTC’s Service Advisory.

The replacement 506C bus continues to operate via Harbord and Hoskin from University to Ossington, and via Gerrard from University to Parliament.

This configuration is expected to last to the end of 2022.

Track reconstruction has shifted east into its second phase between St. George and Bay Streets. Here is a view west on College from University showing the track structure with the old rails removed. The steel ties and attachment points for Pandrol clips are ready to receive new rails.

The City of Toronto’s project webpage contains more information about this status and details of the planned road reconfiguration.

King & Shaw

Construction continues at King and Shaw, but should be finished in time for service restoration on 504 King and 63 Ossington for the next schedule period on November 22. This has not yet been confirmed.

The service alert on the TTC’s website shows the correct routing for 504 services in the west end, but still includes the Queen/Parliament diversion to the east which ended a few weeks ago.

Queen & Carroll

Stop rail replacement on Queen east of the Don Bridge will occur over the weekend of November 4-7. 501 Queen and 504B King/Broadview Station services will divert via Parliament, Dundas and Broadview as shown below.

Although the map does not show this, the 504A King/Distillery service will continue to run on its normal route.

Wellington Street

Installation of new overhead is underway on Wellington, and the 503 Kingston Road car is supposed to resume its loop via Church, Wellington and York with the November 22 schedule changes. This has not yet been confirmed.

Adelaide Street

Track construction has begun on Adelaide Street to restore the link between Spadina and Victoria that has been inactive and unusable for decades. This will provide the eastbound diversion from York to Church for 501 Queen service during Ontario Line construction at Queen & Yonge. The track west to Spadina was included in the project as it will be useful for other diversions including the 504 King car during the film festival which typically closes King Street from Simcoe to west of John.

The construction work will occur in phases as described in the City of Toronto’s project page.

Phase 1A runs east from York to Victoria. This involves the replacement of an old watermain, work that is necessary before the tracks can be rebuilt. This is now in progress.

Phase 1B runs west from York to Simcoe. This is the first phase of track replacement. Initially only the eastbound track area will be excavated. The westbound track will be removed later.

Phase 2 will begin after phase 1B completes. It runs west from Simcoe to Widmer, and is expected to begin on November 7 subject to completion of work further east.

Phase 3 will begin after phase 2 completes. It runs west from Widmer to Charlotte where it will connect with existing track.

Once all of this work is finished, phase 4 will see the pavement marked for a revised configuration with the bicycle track relocated to the north curb lane from Bathurst to Parliament.

In 2023, a separate project will see new southbound track installed on York between Queen and Adelaide, and installation of new track from York to Victoria. The date for this work has not yet been announced.

In the map below, a shared lane is shown on the south side of Adelaide through the construction zone. The lane is actually on the north side of the street, at least as of November 2.

Adelaide Street looking east (on the left) and west (on the right) at University.

Here is a view looking west on Adelaide on July 1, 1967, west of Simcoe. The neighbourhood has changed quite a bit in 55 years.

King/Queen/Queensway/Roncesvalles

Due to persistent fog, I have not visited KQQR but plan to do so soon. I will update this article with the current status and photos in the next few days.

Updated November 6, 2022 at Noon

Here is a gallery showing the current state of the KQQR project.

The watermain reconstruction on Roncesvalles north of Queen completed recently. Concrete around the old track at the north gate has been broken up in preparation for removal of the special work.

At the Glendale stop (St. Joseph’s Hospital) formwork is in place for the new eastbound platform, but buses are still stopping beside an unmaintained dirt area on the south side of the street.

The walkway across the tracks to the eastbound stop has been repaired since my visit a few weeks ago and the handrail is now in place on the full length of both sides.

The new curb along the south side of The Queensway is progressing slowly.

Work at Sunnyside Loop was delayed for construction of a Bell Canada manhole on the south side of The Queensway, but poles required to string the new loop overhead are not yet installed.

According to the most recent construction update from the City, the TTC is considering changing the route of the 504C replacement bus to provide some service on Roncesvalles south of Howard Park, but nothing has been decided yet.

TTC 2023 Annual Service Plan, Round 2

The TTC recently launched public consultation for its 2023 Annual Service Plan (ASP).

This is the second round following preliminary sessions in June-July. The planners reviewed overall goals in light of changing demand patterns and system-wide rerouting associated with the closing of Line 3 SRT and opening of Line 6 Finch West. (The network changes for Line 5 Eglinton Crosstown were dealt with in the 2022 ASP, although there has been slight tweaking.)

Some of the 2022 Plan’s proposals have not yet been implemented, although they remain on the books as “approved”:

  • 8 Broadview: Extension south from O’Connor to Coxwell Station
  • 118 Thistle Down: Extension northwest to Claireport Crescent
  • 150 Eastern: A new route from downtown to Woodbine Loop (on hold due to potential construction disruptions)

See also:

In 2023, there are considerably more proposed changes than in 2022, and for the purpose of consultation the TTC broke the system into segments. Each of these is detailed later in this article.

Consultation is now underway with the following planned schedule:

  • October-November: Public consultation. (See schedule above.)
  • Late 2022/Early 2023: Councillor briefings
  • February 2023: Final report to the TTC Board
  • Spring 2023: Implementation begins
  • Through 2023: Five Year Service Plan “reset” continues

The 2023 Annual Service Plan web page includes a deck of panels that will be used for the consultations. In this article, some maps are taken from that deck, and some from presentations to community groups.

An online consultation is available from October 25 to November 6.

One key point we will not know until late 2022 or even early 2023 will be the TTC’s budget target. How will this shape service changes, be they additions, re-allocations or cuts? Mayor Tory talks about supporting transit, but we will see just what this means when he tables the City’s 2023 budget.

Note: I have not included all of the information posted by the TTC here, and I urge readers to review the presentation panels and any other information the TTC publishes as this process goes on.

Although this article is open for comment, is you have specific concerns and wish to participate in the consultation process, be sure to complete the TTC’s survey or otherwise communicate your feelings to the TTC. I am not the TTC Planning Department, and grousing to me, or proposing your own maps here will not feed into the process.

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Fifty Years of Transit Advocacy

Over five decades, I’ve had a hand in many of the issues described here, but I didn’t want this piece to give the impression of a one-man band. Many people contributed along the way including other activists, media, politicians, and professional staff within various agencies and consultants. My thanks to them all for being part of this journey.

Updated October 17 at 12:25 pm: Corrected opening date of Spadina streetcar (oops!)

When I was very young, I liked streetcars. A lot. Trains were OK, but streetcars were the genuine article. My Dad and I would go for rides around Toronto on most weekends exploring where all the lines went. Through him I got to know the world beyond Mount Pleasant and Eglinton and the loop where my local streetcar line ended.

I’m willing to bet that a lot of “transit advocates” and their equivalents in subways, buses and the mainline railways got their start that way. As such, I’m proud to be called a “railfan”, but not the pejorative term “trolley jolley” concocted by the anti-streetcar elements of the transit industry.

Roll forward to 1971. Toronto was a hotbed of citizen activism with the big focus of the Spadina Expressway, a road that would tear through downtown and provide the justification for even more destruction including the Crosstown, Scarborough and 400 South Expressways, not to mention conversion of local streets like Dundas and Front to serve as arterials through the core. This was an era when fighting City Hall was very much part of the body politic, and this was the context for my entry into transit activism.

The TTC planned to dismantle the streetcar system line-by-line up to 1980 when, yes, the Queen Subway would take over the heavy lifting of getting people into the business district and the streetcars would disappear.

TTC held on to its streetcars longer than most cities by buying up used vehicles as others disposed of them, often under the influence of a cabal of bus-gasoline-tire companies more than happy to finance the conversion. Streetcars came to Toronto from Cincinnati, Cleveland, Louisville (almost brand new, those), Birmingham and Kansas City. But the policy of streetcar abandonment had been in place for years, and the early 70s were to see the first lines go – St. Clair, Earlscourt and Rogers Road.

What would replace them? Trolleybuses. With the opening of the Yonge Subway north to York Mills Station, the TTC no longer needed a very frequent trolleybus service between Glen Echo Loop and Eglinton Station, itself a remnant of the Yonge streetcars that disappeared with the original subway in 1954.

Although this might have been the beginning of the end, the TTC made a crucial mistake: the level of service they planned for St. Clair was sized to the available trolleybus fleet, not to the existing capacity of the streetcar lines. In that era the peak service between Yonge and Oakwood ran every 60 seconds, and this was not a trivial route for service cuts.

The summer of 1972 saw the birth of the Streetcars for Toronto Committee under the leadership of Professor Andy Biemiller with political support from Aldermen (as they were then called) Paul Pickett and William Kilbourn. Later, Mayor David Crombie’s office lent support.

By October, the Committee was issuing press releases, making deputations and gaining political support from City Council. On November 7, 1972, the TTC board voted to reverse management’s position and to retain most of the streetcar system. The only exception would be the Rogers Road car that operated outside of the old City in York (a remnant of York Township Railways), and later the service on Mount Pleasant (a victim of bridge reconstruction at the Belt Line Railway).

This was not just a fight to save one car line, but for streetcars as the backbone of the old City of Toronto’s transit network, and as a basis for expansion into the suburbs, something the TTC had planned in the late 1960s.

Ex Kansas City PCC 4779, the last in the fleet, eastbound on St. Clair at Mt. Pleasant. July 21, 1968 (Steve Munro photo)

Here are some of the Streetcars for Toronto Committee members at the TTC Board meeting.

From the left along the wall: the late Mike Filey and John Bromley, Chris Prentice, Steve Munro, Professor Andrew Biemiller and Alderman William Kilbourn. In the foreground at the table are Commissioner Gordon Hurlburt and Pat Paterson, General Manager of Engineering.

Not shown: Howard Levine, Robert Wightman, Ros Bobak.

Photo by Ros Bobak

In those days, the estimated cost of a new streetcar was quite low, and the TTC had already been working with Hawker-Siddeley (then proprietors of the Thunder Bay plant now owned by Alstom) on a design for an updated streetcar. These would be used both on exiting streetcar routes, pending the Queen subway, and on suburban lines to what is now Scarborough Town Centre, across the Finch hydro corridor, southwest through Etobicoke and even with a branch to the airport.

Photo: Hawker-Siddeley/TTC

But Queen’s Park had other ideas, and in the same month, November 1972, Premier Bill Davis announced his scheme for a network of maglev trains that would criss-cross the city and make subways obsolete. The premise was that subways were too expensive, and buses were limited in speed and capacity. The “missing link” would be “GO Urban”.

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Will Line 2 Renewal Ever Happen?

Those of us who can remember back to days before the pandemic, when Andy Byford was the TTC’s CEO, will know that there were frequent questions at the TTC Board about upgrades to the Bloor-Danforth subway, Line 2. All of the focus seemed to be on the Yonge-University-Spadina Line 1 with new signalling, trains and the Vaughan extension.

Byford confirmed that work on a Line 2 plan was underway, but never presented one in public. However, it does not take a lot to work out what might have been in this plan.

  • Automatic Train Control (ATC) signalling to replace the 1960s-era technology still in use.
  • New trains to replace the existing fleet of T-1 trains that would reach their design life of 30 years in the late-2020s.
  • Additional trains for service increases possible with ATC as well as for the Scarborough extension.
  • Additional/new maintenance facilities for a larger Line 2 fleet, plus provision for the then-planned stabling of Relief Line trains at Greenwood Yard.
  • Storage and maintenance facilities for the growing fleet of subway work cars.
  • Potential integration of a western yard project with an extension of Line 2 beyond Kipling Station.

This plan requires a lot of funding that the TTC still does not have, action to launch procurement of long lead time rolling stock and infrastructure, and a level of project co-ordination for which the TTC is not particularly noted.

That co-ordination issue arises in part from the funding challenge, and the tendency politically to ask for only what is strictly needed for “today’s” work hoping that Santa Claus will arrive in time to fund the rest. This was a direct cause of technical problems with the Line 1 ATC project that was cobbled together over time. It started with a superficially simple desire to replace the then-existing 1950s signals on the original line from Eglinton to Union. The feeling was quite clear: the TTC Board and Council would never commit to a full ATC conversion project because it would be too expensive.

Unfortunately what resulted was a mixed bag of signalling technologies that were incompatible with each other. To rescue the project, Byford recommended ripping out some already-installed equipment so that the line could be standardized. A related decision was that the Vaughan extension would open with ATC in place rather than, as originally planned, a traditional block signal system that would have to be replaced as a separate project.

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TTC Track Construction Update October 9, 2022

A Word About Diversion Notices

I have often written here and on Twitter about the proliferation of service change cards and posters as the constant changes in streetcar routes occur. Combined with conflicting and out-of-date online information, it is common to find at least two different versions of notices at the same stop, not to mention “stop not in service” notices in locations where streetcars are actually running.

Without question, the constant shifts in the operating plan are challenging to keep up with, but the lack of attention to removal of out of date information, particularly when new notices go up at the same location, does not serve riders well at all. Operating staff, in good faith, give out incorrect info leading passengers astray, and I have rescued a few lost travellers over past weeks.

This is a very serious issue given the amount of construction that will affect TTC routes (and not just the streetcar network) in coming years. Riders have enough challenges with service quality without having to divine whatever route their service might be taking today. There is a clear fragmentation of responsibility for keeping route information up-to-date and consistent within the TTC. Even in a recently announced reorganization, the responsibility for “closures and diversions” is in a separate branch (Operations and Infrastructure) of the TTC from “service delivery” (Transportation and Vehicles).

The phrase “Beware of the leopard”, for those who know the reference, seems particularly apt for some TTC “communications”.

The TTC needs to figure out how communications about service plans and changes can be centrally accessed and administered so that all notices speak with the same voice and contain current, accurate information.

Updated October 9, 2022 at 11:40pm: It turns out that there are four pages within the TTC website where service information might be found. At last count, the list includes:

There is the parent Service Advisories which links three of the four above. Some but not all of the items in the Updates page are also displayed on the main page under “Latest News”.

Although the same topic might be found through different pages, the text is not always the same indicating that multiple versions of the information have been posted. In this situation it is easy for their content to drift thanks to selective updating.

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A Walk On New Cherry Street

Out of sight of most in Toronto, the mouth of the Don River has been transformed by Waterfront Toronto with earth moving and landscaping on a scale rarely seen in these parts. The work will shift the Don River’s course and provide floodproofing for a large area to be developed under the name “Villiers Island” after a street in the northern edge of the district.

Cherry Street will shift to the west the equivalent of a short city block, and the New Cherry will eventually have a branch of the Waterfront East streetcar service if the City ever gets around to financing and building it.

Three new bridges were built in Nova Scotia by Cherubini Metal Works. Waterfront Toronto has an article about the design process and, of course, many articles and photos of the overall project. The map below shows the positioning of the three bridges.

The bridges share a common design, but each is unique in its own way.

  • The Cherry Street North bridges, one for road traffic and one for transit, will connect the New Cherry Street across the Keating Channel to a reconfigured Cherry and Queens Quay intersection. Eventually, there will be streetcars on a realigned Queens Quay East as well as south from Distillery Loop connecting to New Cherry. These bridges are red.
  • The Cherry Street South Bridge is a road bridge over the future river connecting New Cherry to the existing road at Polson Street. This bridge is yellow. Depending on the route taken by the new streetcar service, there could be a loop somewhere north of the Ship Channel. If so, the Cherry South bridge will gain a transit twin like the north bridge.
  • The Commissioners Street bridge carries Commissioners Street over the future path of the river. Because of its length, it is a double span. This bridge is orange. Like the Cherry South bridge, it could gain a twin set of spans for transit if trackage is ever extended east from New Cherry either to an extended Broadview Avenue or further east to Leslie Barns at Commissioners & Leslie.

The new river is not yet flooded and so there is water in the old Polson Slip west of the Cherry South Bridge, but the riverbed east and north of there is completely dry as work to prepare it continues.

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TTC Service Changes Effective Sunday, October 9, 2022

There are few service changes in the October schedules taking effect on Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend.

Route 501 Queen streetcar service will be extended nominally to Sunnyside Loop, although pending completion of overhead in the loop, cars will circle Roncesvalles Carhouse instead. The last westbound and first eastbound stops will be on the east side of Roncesvalles at Queen. 501L bus service will continue to operate from Dufferin to Long Branch with a small reduction of service in some periods.

Some routes have added trips to serve school trips and other time-of-day specific demands (details in the linked spreadsheet):

  • 9 Bellamy
  • 25 Don Mills
  • 37 Islington
  • 42 Cummer
  • 84 Sheppard West
  • 96 Wilson

New express stops are added on:

  • 905 Eglinton East Express
  • 985 Sheppard East Express

Seasonal changes:

  • 86 Scarborough Saturday late evening service adjusted for earlier Terra Lumina closing time.
  • 172 Cherry Beach weekend service suspended (weekday service will operate until November 18).
  • 175 Bluffer’s Park service suspended.

Miscellaneous:

  • 31B Greenwood to Eastern Ave service end-of-line location shifted west from Minto to Knox and Eastern.
  • 55 Warren Park adjusted to consistently leave Jane Station on the :15 and :45 after the hour.
  • 506 Carlton shifted from Roncesvalles Carhouse to Leslie Barns.
  • 600 Run As Directed crews reduced.

2022.10.09_Service_Changes

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Service Standards, Metrics and the CEO’s Report (II)

This article continues a review of what the TTC aims for, at least on paper, in service quality, and how their success (or lack of it) in providing good service is reported for public and political consumption. The framework for this commentary is the CEO’s Report, using the August 2022 version as a reference point.

I deliberately broke this discussion into two parts. The first looked at the various figures related to system performance are presented and how they reveal or hide critical information.

See: Service Standards, Metrics and the CEO’s Report (I)

The TTC Board is notoriously unwilling to get into the weeds on system statistics, operations and finances. Superficial analyses in the CEO report give them nice pictures and charts to look at, but that is not the same as a discussion of key issues and future risk. This is vital in any planning for recovery from a pandemic that will continue to affect the TTC in 2023 and beyond. There is a separate detailed quarterly report that reviews finances and the state of major capital projects, but it does not address many issues notably the cost and capability for growth as ridership returns to the system.

While it may suit those who run the TTC and the City to keep this discussion under wraps, that cannot be done for long as the 2023 budgets will be upon us immediately after the coming municipal election. There is a lot of great talk about the importance of transit, but this does not translate into real understanding and support beyond a few very large construction projects. (That statement applies equally to Metrolinx and GO, but my focus here is on the TTC.)

Key points:

  • Although fare revenue recovery is reported, this is not matched against cost growth. Fares have been frozen through the pandemic. Even at recovery to 100 percent of pre-pandemic ridership, the proportion of costs borne by fares will have fallen and the need for subsidy will be higher. “Full service” will cost more in 2023 than it did in 2020, even without the added cost of improving beyond historic levels.
  • Ridership recovery takes place at a different rate on different routes and modes, not to mention time-of-day.
  • Underutilized fleets provide a reserve for service improvements, provided there are drivers for the vehicles, up to the point where the need for spare buses and streetcars limits service growth. After that point, growth hits a knee in the cost curve as new capital assets must be acquired.
  • Asset reliability is reported as the proportion of scheduled service actually operated, but with no sense of how much reserve exists in the fleet.
  • Fleet reliability is reported in a way that prevents direct comparison between segments, notably various types of buses. Although there is a target for reliability, the degree to which this is exceeded (in effect the headroom for better utilization) is not reported.
  • Service reliability and quality are reported on broad averages across routes and days, with no indication of the variation across the system. Purported “on time” metrics do not reveal actual rider experience.
  • There is no report of:
    • the amount of scheduled service that does not operate because no driver is available;
    • the utilization and effectiveness of Run-As-Directed buses;
    • the amount of bunching and gaps as a proportion of service operated;
    • routes with demand, service levels, crowding and headway reliability issues.

This review does not look at the WheelTrans system and accessibility in general because it has a raft of issues of its own on matters such as adequacy of service, dispatching, the online booking interface, qualification for service and the TTC’s attempt to shift riders at least partly onto the “conventional” system through the “Family of Services” program. An important issue for WheelTrans overall is that it is entirely funded by the City of Toronto with no assistance from other governments. This makes it particularly vulnerable to penny-pinching efforts by those who guard our “precious tax dollars”.

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504A King Service Returns to Distillery Loop

Effective October 1, 2022, the 504A branch of the King car will return to Distillery Loop. The 504B branch will continue to operate to Broadview Station via Parliament and Queen as shown below.

Source: TTC Service Notice

This is a temporary arrangement pending completion of the re-electrification of switches at King and Sumach. Once that is completed, expected within a few days, the 504B will revert to the standard route via King between Parliament and the Don Bridge. If this situation lasts to Monday, October 3 or later, the 503 Kingston Road car will also continue to divert via Queen and Parliament.

This change will reduce streetcar congestion at Broadview Station because only half of the service will go that far east on the line. It will also eliminate some of the wheel squeal problems at King and Parliament, although not completely until the 504B service returns to its normal route.

Service will return to the Sumach and Cherry Streets that have been without reliable service since the beginning of August. The 504 shuttle bus was extremely erratic with very wide gaps in service, and it as cancelled completely on September 4 even though signs remained on transit shelters advertising its existence. The area is also served by the 121 Esplanade-River bus which has its own problems with reliability.

Updated October 1, 2022 at 7:10 am: The west end of the King car will divert to Wolseley Loop at Queen and Bathurst rather than operating to Exhibition Loop due to trackwork on Fleet Street. This also affects 511 Bathurst which diverts east to Charlotte Loop and 509 Harbourfront which short turns at Spadina and is replaced by a bus shuttle from the to the Exhibition. Normal service resumes on Monday, October 3.

An Update Re Subway Special Work

There was a conversation recently in comments on this blog about a perceived improvement in the noise (or lack of it) of subway trains on special work (switches and crossovers, also known as “frogs”) at Lawrence and Keele Stations. I postulated a few possible answers, but wrote to the TTC to ask what they had done.

Their response, from Stuart Green, Senior Communications Specialist, confirms what I had expected and provides additional details.

Lawrence Double Cross-Over

  • It is an improved design with different type of heel that eliminates the joint at the heel of the switch.
  • Two turnouts are now flange bearing lift frogs that means continuous rail at the crossing – no jumping over the toe of the frog.
  • Newer rails that have no end battering at the joints
  • New ballast that provides better load transfer and required stiffness/flexibility to track.

Keele Double Cross-Over

  • New double cross-over is of the same design with some improvement in the design to make it smoother. The main reasons for smoother ride are new rails and new frog that do not have any end battering or excessive wear.
  • New ballast that provides better load transfer and required stiffness/flexibility to track.