Reconstruction of Queen & McCaul

The last of many track projects for the Queen route began on Monday, October 16, and has progressed at a blistering pace. By Wednesday, the old intersection had been removed and a new concrete foundation was poured. By Friday, assembly of the new intersection in the street was nearly complete.

Please see Reconstruction of The Queensway and Humber Loop for updates on that project.

Queen/Coxwell Reconstruction

Since the Labour Day weekend, the TTC has been rebuilding the special work at Queen and Coxwell.

This location is interesting because it also includes Coxwell-Queen Loop, with one of the tightest curves on the system, and an exit track that merges into the west-to-north curve.

TTC Service Changes Effective October 15, 2017

The service changes for the October-November period are relatively minor.

On the streetcar network, provisions for construction diversions on 505 Dundas and 506 Carlton end, but for 501 Queen and related routes a new project at McCaul plus the ongoing streetcar shortage leave service in that corridor with temporary schedules:

  • 501 Queen streetcars will operate from Neville to Roncesvalles, but they will divert via Church, King and Spadina for about three weeks during the reconstruction of the intersection at McCaul.
  • 501L Long Branch and 501M Marine Parade bus service continues as it was in September.
  • Bus trippers have been shifted from King to Queen where they will operate between Woodbine and Sunnyside.
  • Kingston Road services 502 and 503 continue to operate with buses.

The 511 Bathurst route continues to operate with buses although the introduction of Flexitys on 512 St. Clair is releasing CLRVs that could be redeployed elsewhere. How quickly streetcars will return to temporarily bused routes remains to be seen.

Although schedules for routes at the Renforth Station (formerly “Gateway”) were altered in September, this facility is not yet complete and routes continue to operate to their former termini.

2017.10.15_Service_Changes

Queensway / Lake Shore / Humber Update

Construction work on The Queensway, Lake Shore Boulevard and at Humber Loop ran into a number of problems and design changes that will affect the date when streetcar service will be restored west of Sunnyside Loop. These include:

  • An unexpectedly high water table south of Grenadier Pond
  • Difficulty in concrete removal for some of the track on Lake Shore
  • Design changes at Humber Loop to address various issues that were not picked up in the original project.

Richard Wong, the Head of Streetcar Maintenance and Infrastructure, advises:

There is a higher than expected water table along the stretch of the Queensway from Ellis Ave to Colborne Lodge Dr.  Construction started to the east of Colborne Lodge and should have progressed westerly towards Humber Loop.

Due to the water table issue, construction proceeded westerly to Colborne Lodge Dr. where it had to be suspended.  To allow engineers time to evaluate the situation and develop a solution, construction then resumed to the west of Ellis Ave and will move westerly to Humber Loop.  Construction between Colborne Lodge and Ellis will resume at the tail end of this project.  In total, there is approximately 2 months of slippage in the schedule for this part of the Queensway project.  This slippage may affect the Q2 2018 commitment of reinstating streetcar service from Roncesvalles to Humber Loop.  TTC staff is working with the contractor to investigate options to recover time.

With respect to the Lakeshore, construction was slow and was expected in the area that is currently being worked on.  This is due to the type of concrete.  Concrete in this area was originally poured in one batch (monolithic pour).  Monolithic concrete requires chipping to break it up.  This method of removing old concrete is time consuming and messy.  As construction continues to move east, TTC expects to move from monolithic concrete to layered concrete.  That is, during TTC’s last track replacement program, concrete was poured in layers and separated by bonding agent.  This allows the concrete to be cleanly milled down to an exact depth.  Milling work is faster and more accurate which will speed up construction time.  At the moment, TTC staff do not anticipate slippage in schedule for this project. [Email of August 30, 2017 via TTC’s Brad Ross, Executive Director – Corporate Communications]

The CEO’s Report in the September 5 Board agenda includes a project status page for surface track work including this project, and some of the remarks on it prompted me to delve further. [See p77 of the report which is p79 in the linked PDF.]

From the project status page:

Anticipated completion for the Humber Loop project has been moved to Q2 2018 due to the following unmitigated risks:

  • condition of Metrolinx bridge struts is unknown
  • unknown condition and location of some utilities
  • several third party approvals are required in order work to proceed

Management Action Plan:

  • alternate track structure design in progress to mitigate deteriorated struts
  • leveraged Executive support to expedite third party approvals
  • work has been phased to allow return of the Queen St portion of the 501 route to Humber Loop by Q1 of 2018

The TTC replied:

There were a number of challenges that resulted in more time needed for the completion of Humber Loop, as it is is directly adjacent to the following infrastructure:

  • CN/GO rail lines
  • Gardiner Expressway
  • Hydro Towers and Vaults
  • Condominium Development

It is also constructed on re-claimed land.  As a result, numerous 3rd party design reviews and approvals were required.  These included:

  • Hydro One
  • Metrolinx
  • City of Toronto (Forestry, Transportation, Water)
  • Toronto & Region Conservation Authority
  • Ministry of Environment

During these reviews and approvals, stakeholders (including internal TTC stakeholders) identified opportunities to combine initiatives during this construction, including:

  • Investigation of the Gardiner Expressway underpass struts (& potential remediation)
  • Reconfiguration of the underpass walkway
  • Inclusion of additional spur tracks to accommodate the new LFLRV lengths
  • Improved landscaping of the loop

Due to the above challenges and opportunities, additional time was added to the construction schedule to ensure we capture all of the requirements. [Email of August 31, 2017 from Brad Ross]

The current status of construction on The Queensway as of August 31 is:

  • Parkside to Colborne Lodge: Track installation completed. Overhead poles in place.
  • Colborne Lodge to Ellis Avenue: Minimal work completed due to water table problems.
  • Ellis Avenue to South Kingsway: Right-of-way grading and pole base installation in progress. Track formerly stored between Windermere and South Kingsway has been moved to the streetcar lanes in front of St. Joseph’s Hospital.
  • Humber River Bridge: The centre span used by streetcars has been rebuilt, but is temporarily hosting all road traffic while the north (westbound) and south (eastbound) spans and approach ramps are under construction. This work has progressed to the point that some concrete placement has been done.
  • Humber Bridge to Humber Loop. Pole base installation in progress.

On Lake Shore, demolition of the track from Dwight Ave eastward has crossed Symons Road which was expected to be the point where there is a transition from monolithic concrete to discrete layers. New track is in place from Dwight to approximately Lake Crescent.

For updated construction photos, please see my article with galleries tracking this work.

The long-suffering riders of the 501 bus service west of Sunnyside will have to deal with this arrangement for several more months and will not see streetcar service until mid-2018. This will all get nicely settled until 2019 when the project to rebuild King/Queen/Roncesvalles will be launched together with construction of a streetcar right-of-way from Parkside Drive to Roncesvalles.

 

510 Spadina Platform Delays

From time to time, readers mention in comments the common delays at Spadina Station caused by the manner in which streetcars unload and load at the platform.

Before the introduction of the new Flexitys, cars would enter the station, unload at the east end of the platform, then pull ahead to load at the west end. There was even enough room that three cars could be on the platform at once with one ready to move forward into the loading zone as soon as room was available.

However, with the longer Flexitys, two cars will not quite fit on the platform, and although there are still separate unloading and loading stops, in practice only one car can be on the platform at a time. When this is compounded with delays for crew changes and with the siestas some cars take while loading, delays to passengers waiting to get off of arriving cars are chronic and lengthy.

I asked the TTC’s Brad Ross why cars did not make better use of the space.

An option that comes up is for the loading car to pull slightly beyond the platform and not open its front-most door. This would allow the following car to come fully onto the platform and unload. The front of the loading car would not be in the tunnel itself, but adjacent to an unused area of the platform at the west end.

The reply from the TTC is:

  1. It is not possible to isolate the front doors of the LFLRV.  If the streetcar were to go past the glass barrier to allow a second streetcar to access the platform, we would not be able to open the remaining 3 doors, while keeping the first door closed.  All doors would closed but enabled, and would require our customers to push the door button to gain access to the streetcar.  In addition, we would not be able to prevent anyone from opening the first set of doors from the inside of the streetcar (or even from outside, should a customer go around the glass wall and push the button).  This is a huge safety issue, as the front doors are not flush with the platform at that position, and customers would have to step down to the rail bed.
  2. One obvious solution would be to extend the platform so that it does sit flush with the front doors, but that is not an option at this point.  The issue actually lies with the structural pillars that support the station; they are too close to the streetcar to allow proper egress.  This is where I am seeking clarification from the Construction group.  I am unsure of which pillar is in the way and what the actual requirement is, but have heard that it would cost millions to relocate the pillar to allow us to extend the platform.  That is why that section of the platform is not being used and the glass partition is in place.

This begs the rather obvious question of why it is not possible for an operator to selectively open doors on a car. It is not unknown for vehicles to be in locations where a physical barrier would prevent use of all doors. In the specific case of loading at Spadina Station, the loss of the comparatively narrow first door would be a good tradeoff for simply getting a car far enough into the loading area that its follower could unload behind it.

I await further feedback on the matter of the cost and practicality of modifying the station, but in the meantime, it is useful to look at this problem in the manner we normally see for evaluations of expensive rapid transit projects: the value of riders’ time. Billions in spending on rapid transit has been justified by the premise that people will move more quickly and thereby save time, time that has a value against which the capital investment can be offset.

(This is a dubious proposition because the public investment is “balanced” against a private saving in “money” that can never be recaptured, but stay with me for the purpose of the exercise.)

  • There are 15 cars per hour attempting to serve Spadina Station. If we assume that each car is delayed by an average of 2 minutes, and that it has an average of 50 passengers, this translates to 1,500 minutes of passenger delay per hour.
  • If this condition persists on average for 8 hours per day, that means there are 12,000 passenger minutes of delay, or 200 passenger hours.
  • The value of riders’ time is often quoted at about $30/hour, and this means a value of lost time of $6,000 per day. Scaling up to a year with a 300:1 factor (counting weekends as one day) gives us an annual lost time value of $1,800,000.

It is self evident that any of the variables used here can be tweaked up or down, but this gives the general idea of how the calculation would come out. Of course the City cannot “spend” that $1.8 million to offset reconstruction at the station because it is not real money, as I’m sure we would be told by the financial boffins.

In addition to any notional saving that riders might obtain, there is the real cost of, probably, one extra car on the Spadina route thanks to the extra running time needed to serve Spadina Station Loop.

There is a real need for the TTC to sort out operations at Spadina Station to minimize delays. This should include both figuring out how to use the loading area with a car projecting slightly beyond the platform and ensuring that crew changes happen as briskly as possible.

I will update this article when/if more information becomes available.

Updated Aug. 14, 2017 at 4:05 pm

Based on Twitter feedback, a few comments are in order.

In this article, I did not refer to explicit methods of crewing, but used the term “drop back” on Twitter. Some took umbrage saying that the term is “step back”. In fact both terms have been used over the years. It is the mechanism that counts, not the name. The idea is that operators get a break without the car having to sit there while they take it. To do this, there are more operators than cars, and an operator from car “n” “steps back” to car “n+2” (or whatever) so that they get a break of, in theory, two headways (the number can vary depending on how long a break is desired). This works fine as long as the operator who is supposed to take over an incoming car is actually available when it shows up.

At a location like Spadina Station, there is no stacking space to accommodate late crew changes whether they are part of a step back system or a regular shift change, and the problem can be compounded when the home division for the line is a long way away, and operators have to travel to pick up their cars in service.

Delays of cars getting on to the platform because of the loading techniques just make this worse by holding cars in the tunnel.

My aim in writing this article was twofold:

  • Everyone involved – TTC management, planners, line supervisors and operators – need to work together to find a way to improve operations at this busy station which have deteriorated noticeably since the new cars were introduced.
  • The principle of “value of riders’ time” is often used to justify big ticket capital projects, but it does not have the same clout in day to day operations.

 

TTC Service Changes Effective September 3, 2017

The September 2017 schedule changes primarily involve the reversal of summer service cuts to many routes with only minimal service improvements. This continues the TTC’s policy for 2017 of constraining service growth in the face of lower than budgeted ridership, as well as the shortage of vehicles.

Construction projects continue to affect route 501 Queen and will do so for many months to come:

  • Streetcar service is restored between Russell Carhouse (at Connaught) and Sunnyside Loop.
    • This will be affected in October when the intersection of McCaul and Queen is rebuilt requiring a diversion.
  • A bus shuttle will operate from River to Neville Park due to the reconstruction of the intersection at Coxwell and Queen.
    • This will also require the continued operation of buses on the 502/503 services on Kingston Road.
    • Through streetcar service to Neville Park will resume with the October schedules.
  • A bus shuttle to Long Branch will operate from Dufferin Loop, and Marine Parade will be served by its own local shuttle to Windermere.
    • Construction on The Queensway will prevent streetcars from operating to Humber Loop until the end of the year.
    • Streetcars will not operate west of Humber Loop to Long Branch until mid-2018.

With the return of ALRVs to the Queen route, 504 King will operate primarily with CLRVs, and the peak period trippers will mainly be buses, not streetcars. The effective capacity of the route will fall because of the lower capacity of CLRVs and buses versus the streetcars that have been used over the summer of 2017. This will be minimally offset by a small reduction in headways during all operating periods thanks to trimming of the running time. King cars now enjoy extended layovers leading to queues of vehicles at terminals thanks to an overly-generous schedule. The number of streetcars in service remains the same, but on slightly shorter headways.

New low-floor Flexity streetcars will be deployed on 512 St. Clair starting in September, subject to availability. The schedule will be based on CLRVs until new car deliveries reach the point where the line can be scheduled as a Flexity route.

The TTC plans to begin using Flexitys on 504 King late in 2017 subject to availability.

Between them, the King and St. Clair routes require about 60 CLRVs at peak. Allowing for some capacity growth with Flexitys, this translates to about 45 of the new cars, plus spares. It will be some time before both routes are converted, assuming Bombardier achieves their ramped up delivery rate in fall 2017. They are already slightly behind schedule with only two of three planned cars for July 2017 out the door in Thunder Bay, and they have not yet implemented the additional shifts/workforce to produce cars at a higher rate effective October 2017.

The northbound stop at Broadview & Danforth will be removed allegedly in the aid of transit priority signalling. In fact, this is a location where the substantial green time afforded to east-west traffic on Danforth makes the idea of “priority” for transit movements difficult to swallow. There is already an advanced green northbound for left turning motor traffic. Given the layovers now enjoyed by streetcars at Broadview Station, it is not clear just what this priority will achieve, but removing the stop will annoy the many riders who now use it. The southbound stop remains in service.

Other construction projects include:

  • 54 Lawrence East: Water main construction west of Victoria Park has completed.
  • Renforth Station opens: 32 Eglinton West and 112 West Mall are rerouted into the new regional terminal.
  • Kennedy Station: The schedule change to accommodate Crosstown construction is implemented for weekend service on 86 Scarborough.
  • Long Branch Loop: All buses will loop via the streetcar loop during reconstruction of the bus roadway.
  • 123 Shorncliffe: Additional running time to accommodate a City paving project.
  • 506 Carlton: The only remaining construction area/diversion is on College between Bathurst and Lansdowne. This will end in October.
  • 505 Dundas: The diversion between Bay and Church will end in late September or early October depending on progress of the road works east of Yonge.

The 400 Lawrence Manor and 404 East York Community Bus services will be extended. For details, see the TTC’s July 2017 update on these services.

2017.09.03_Service_Changes

The Spadina Streetcar Turns 20 (Part II)

Part I of this article presented some of the background and construction photos of the Spadina streetcar line which celebrates its 20th birthday on July 27, 2017. In Part II, a look at Spadina in the early months of operation.

Much of the northern part of the street has not changed very much over the years, but the south end with its booming condo district is very different and changing still.

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The Spadina Streetcar Turns 20 (Part I)

On Sunday, July 27, 1997, the new 510 Spadina streetcar route replaced the venerable 77 Spadina bus. This conversion was over two decades in the making.

Back in 1973, fresh from the political victory of saving the streetcar system from its planned retirement in 1980 [when the Queen subway would open (!)], the Streetcars for Toronto Committee (SFTC) proposed that the Spadina route be converted back to streetcar operation.

The Spadina streetcar was abandoned in 1948 with the retirement of the small fleet of double-ended cars serving it (there were no loops, only crossovers at Bloor and south of King), although track between Harbord and Dundas remained in use until 1966 by the Harbord car.

It is intriguing to look back at the rationale we of the SFTC had for this conversion at the time:

  1. Provide the basis for future rapid transit needs between Metro Centre and the Bloor and Spadina subways.
  2. Provide more comfortable transit service now with increased interior vehicle space, elimination of lane changing, and reduction of vibration, noise and air pollution within vehicles.
  3. Provide a basis for comparing the light rapid transit mode of intermediate capacity rapid transit with a test “guideway” mode being constructed at the Canadian National Exhibition.
  4. Release needed buses for suburban service by replacing them with currently surplus streetcars.

We were rather optimistic, and hoped that service could be operating by 1974. Of course this assumed that a lot of the existing infrastructure would be recycled, the loop at Bloor would be on the surface, not underground.

At the time, there was a proposal for a large commercial development on the Railway Lands known as “Metro Centre”, although it never came to be in the form originally planned. The area is now full of condos (and the Dome), but they came much later.

As for “intermediate capacity rapid transit”, the guideway under construction at the CNE grounds never amounted to more than a few foundations for support pillars and the loss of some trees. The development project for what would eventually become the Scarborough RT technology was killed off before the test track could be built. Meanwhile, Queen’s Park had mused about using their technology on streets like Spadina, but were careful to provide illustrations showing the guideway from a distance in front of open space, not the massive infrastructure that would be needed at stations for tracks, platforms and vertical access. There was another problem: the province’s recommended design would have stations no closer than about 1 km apart, a huge difference from the bus service with many local stops.

The idea received approval in principle, but quickly ran aground for various reasons including the unsuitability of Clarence Square for the south end loop (SFTC had proposed looping at Adelaide via Charlotte and King with buses continuing to serve the then-industrial port area). The TTC wanted the streetcars to match the existing bus route which looped around the square. At the north end, a surface loop was not practical because of land constraints.

A decade later, the scheme resurfaced as part of the Harbourfront redevelopment, although only the Queens Quay service was built initially opening in 1990. This created the track connection from King to Queens Quay as well as a loop at the foot of Spadina that the original western end of the Harbourfront line. (Track was added on Queens Quay from Spadina to Bathurst in 2000.)

Further north, some merchants objected to the road changes a streetcar would bring including the reduction of parking (changing from angle to parallel parking), and the barrier effect of a streetcar right-of-way that would, it was claimed, prevent garment racks from being moved across the street between businesses. (This was a fictional recreation of New York’s garment district as the City demonstrated by conducting a survey to count this “traffic”. There was none.)

Thanks to the TTC’s presentation of the streetcar as a rapid transit line to the pending development south of King, there were fewer stops on their proposed route than were eventually built. (For the record, the SFTC proposal included all of the stops that were in the final version.) Combined with a curbed right-of-way, this was seen as a move creating a “Berlin Wall” down the middle of the street. As a result the original design had no curbs in some locations leading to many collisions with errant motorists, and the curbs appeared as a retrofit. Today, ironically, the streetcar right-of-way acts as a refuge for jaywalking across Spadina, a dubious and dangerous practice before the streetcar’s return.

This article is a photo gallery of the line’s construction. In a second installment, I will present a gallery of the line in operation.

In these photos, what is so striking is how little many parts of Spadina have changed and the low-rise street character is much the same today as it was in the 1990s, although change is spreading north from the condo district at King.

For more on the history of streetcars on Spadina, see Transit Toronto.

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Dundas & Victoria Reconstruction (Updated July 25, 2017)

The TTC and the City of Toronto have a joint road and watermain reconstruction project underway on Dundas between Yonge and Church. For a few months, 505 Dundas cars have diverted around the workarea via Bay and College/Carlton, and they are currently returning south via Church. The service is so well established that it has streetcar stops on Church where there has not been regular transit service for decades.

Church and Gould looking S 2017.06.07

The intersection at Dundas, Dundas Square and Victoria is unusual in that it is triangular, the result of a jog elimination at Yonge Street in 1923.

This post documents the track reconstruction as it progresses.

Last updated July 25, 2017.

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TTC Service Changes Effective Sunday July 30, 2017

Almost all of the service changes at the end of July are connected with construction projects.

At Kennedy Station, construction of 5 Eglinton Crosstown will shift several routes into a temporary terminal in the main parking lot. Extra running time has been added to the schedules to compensate, and service levels on the affected routes will return to fall levels now rather than in September.

At Wilson Station, construction on the upper level of the bus terminal will cause a rearrangement of routes including the use of a temporary terminal in the parking lot. There are no changes in service levels or running time.

For both projects, the temporary terminals will be part of the paid area.

At Coxwell & Queen, water main construction will cause services on Coxwell and on Queen to divert around the intersection. Coxwell-Queen Loop remains operational and will be the eastern terminus for 506 Carlton during construction on the east end of this route.

The 503 Kingston Road Tripper changes back to bus operation, and it will use the standard downtown loop via Wellington and York Streets.

2017.07.30 Service Changes