September 2021 will see expansion of TTC service in anticipation of returning demand including in-person learning at schools and universities. Many express bus routes will be improved or enhanced.
In a reversal of past practice, schedule adjustments for “on time performance” will actually reduce rather than add to travel times in recognition that buses do not need so long to get from “A” to “B”, and that they can provide better service running more often on their routes than sitting at terminals.
Full details of the schedule changes are in the spreadsheet linked below.
Several construction projects are underway by both the TTC and various utilities in locations that affect streetcar service in Toronto. This article is a compendium update.
Wellington and Church Streets from Yonge to King
One might have the sense that Wellington Street has been under construction almost forever. The 503 Kingston Road streetcar which normally would loop via Church, Wellington and York to King has running west to Spadina and turning back through Charlotte Loop.
The section of Wellington from Yonge to Church was supposed to be rebuilt this spring, but work suddenly halted a few weeks ago. The reason for this varies depending on the source, but basically there are conflicts between utilities underground and proposed reconstruction plans. Considering the number of agencies involved in this project, and the amount of planning/co-ordination that is supposed to have happened, the situation is a testimonial to appalling project management.
The City’s press release puts it this way:
In March, the City and TTC began construction to renew aging streetcar infrastructure on Wellington Street East (between Yonge and Church Streets) and on Church Street (from south of King Street East to Front Street East). The City encountered a number of complex infrastructure challenges that impacted construction including conflicts with underground utilities infrastructure, alignments that have not been properly cleared and scope changes.
City of Toronto, June 18, 2021
The track has been replaced from west of Yonge (the point where a previous reconstruction left off) to just west of Church.
According to the City, this project is “paused” for, among other things, giving merchants access to the sidewalk under the CafeTO program. However, construction will not resume until 2022 giving merchants and condo residents yet another year’s disruption when they had hoped the street would be restored. My correspondent in this area advises that the BIA is much displeased and wants the construction finished in fall 2021.
Broadview Avenue from Gerrard Street to Danforth Avenue
Streetcar service has been suspended on Broadview for a watermain replacement project that was due to get underway in May. A recent Construction Update (which is not yet online as I write this) advises that:
Unfortunately, due to an ongoing industry wide watermain pipe shortage, construction on the Broadview watermain project will be delayed until such time as the material is available which is anticipated to arrive at the end of July. This material delay will impact the project completion date, which is now estimated to be completed in spring 2022.
Broadview Watermain work may not commence until approximately late July or early August 2021. Once all pipes and materials can be secured by our contractor a revised project schedule and a Construction Update will be issued.
City of Toronto, Construction Update #1, June 14, 2021
What is not clear yet is whether this work will be broken into two segments allowing streetcars to return for some period over the fall and winter. Moreover, the TTC had plans to rebuild track in the same section of Broadview in 2022, and this work will have to be co-ordinated with whatever plans the City will have to complete its watermain construction.
The mammoth project to reconfigure and rebuild the KQQR intersection and the 501 Queen trackage west to Parkside Drive continues.
There are photos of the ongoing work in various locations:
I visited the site on June 20, and here are a few shots of the current status.
The excavation ends just east of Sunnyside Loop which will be rebuilt in this project. The intersection at Sunnyside will gain a traffic signal to assist streetcars in leaving the loop and turning east onto their new right-of-way.
There is no sign yet of whatever barriers will be added to separate road traffic from the streetcar lanes.
Thanks to the pandemic lockdown, I have not been out and about to photograph construction projects in my usual style. For readers who do not normally browse the Urban Toronto site, there are two threads with photo coverage of the work at King-Queen-Queensway-Roncesvalles.
Some of the early works are illustrated in this post started by “Drum118”. Visible in some shots here is the fact that on the approaches to the intersection, the TTC only had to remove the top (of three) layers in the trackbed to expose the existing steel ties and the attachment points for Pandrol clips to hold the new rails. This is the benefit of a previous round of construction to new standards. At the intersection, they went deeper.
A fine collection of photos of the intersection itself was posted by “Kotsy” showing the progression as the new intersection took shape. This includes the realignment of the curves in the southwest quadrant that will permit a new intersection geometry eliminating the slip lane for eastbound traffic from The Queensway to King that is dangerous to pedestrians. Yet to come is the new farside eastbound loading zone as a Roncesvalles-style bump out sidewalk, and the revised southbound sidewalk configuration.
Drawings of the planned new layouts for this area are in my April 2020 article. Here is the one for the intersection itself. The “as built” version, based on Kotsy’s photos, appears to be slightly different from this drawing probably due to fine tuning in the design since this 2019 version.
This is only the first stage of a complex project that will extend west through the leads to Roncesvalles carhouse, Sunnyside Loop and The Queensway west to the existing right-of-way at Parkside Drive.
The April 2020 article also includes photos from the last reconstruction in 2000.
Harold McMann sent me a set of photos taken at various times during the intersection’s reconstruction. Here is a selection of these. Items of note:
In the first view west on Queen, note the exposed mounts for Pandrol clips. This is the top of middle layer of the track structure, and the mounts are part of the steel ties embedded in the concrete.
For the central part of the intersection, the excavation is deeper for the installation of a new foundation slab. The “new” style of track construction began sooner on tangent track such a that east of the intersection than for intersections. The old intersection dates to 2000.
The May 19 view looking SW across the intersection shows a pre-assembled panel of track sitting on a trailer waiting to be lifted into position.
The May 23 view looking S on Roncesvalles shows how the southbound track has been realigned further west as part of the lane and stop reconfiguration. The new intersection at the north gate of Roncesvalles Carhouse will align with this.
In the views looking east to Queen and King, the island that forms the existing slip lane (currently used by traffic between King Street and The Queensway) will be removed in a future phase and the sidewalk will be extended to normalize the geometry of the intersection for pedestrians as shown in the drawing above.
This article should be read in conjunction with Headway Quality Management: A Proposal for which this is a response to some questions and suggestions in the comments, and adjustments of my own in the interim. Specific routes discussed here are:
52 and 952 Lawrence West local and express services
504 King streetcar service (December 2020 before the diversions now in place for construction work)
Changes in format include:
Better spacing of the columns in the headway distribution charts for clarity,
Separation of the AM and PM peak periods for an express service that only operates for a few hours of each period, and
Changes in the layout and colour scheme of the headway distribution charts to emphasize the portion of service that lies within the target band of headways.
Both routes reviewed here show the problems of branching services and wide differences in scheduled service. A service may look “good” where all of it branches overlap, but be much less reliable on the unique segments. Vehicles may or may not be “on time”, but service riders experience does not accord with the TTC’s claims of high reliability. Indeed, there are cases where schedules contain built-in gaps that exist as part of blending services and managing transitions between service periods. They “work” for the schedule, but not for the rider.
One can argue that my proposed methodology should be adjusted with narrower or wider target bands. That’s easy to do, but the important issue here is to measure service as riders actually experience it, looking at various points on routes and all times of the day. The TTC’s scheme of looking only at terminals and averaging results over all time periods buries variations in service quality that riders know all too well.
Major construction at Toronto’s most complex streetcar junction will get underway on March 31, 2021. The City of Toronto issued a construction update notice on March 12 including the map below showing the configuration of traffic from March 31 to July 21.
During this phase of construction, there will be no through traffic on Queen Street west of Triller Avenue nor on Roncesvalles at Queen. The north gate of the carhouse will remain as a service access for streetcars and for a revised 504 King shuttle bus.
The King Shuttle will be broken into two segments:
504G Dundas West Station to Roncesvalles Carhouse
504Q Triller Avenue to Strachan Avenue
For service designs, please see my article on pending schedule changes effective March 28, 2021.
A single lane will be maintained in each direction for traffic between King Street and The Queensway. 501 Queen buses will divert via Dufferin and King Streets to use this link. Traffic on The Queensway will use the central lanes while construction in the curb lanes is underway
Westbound service on Queen from Dufferin to Triller will be provided by the 504Q shuttle looping via Dufferin, Queen, Triller and King. There will not be any eastbound service, and riders will have to go around the loop to travel eastward.
Pedestrian crossings will be shifted away from the intersection outside of the work zone, and there will be no crossing on the west side.
In the second phase of this project between July 22 and November 23, the connection to King Street will be closed off for construction and Queen/Queensway will reopen for through traffic. Details will follow in a later update.
March 28, 2021, will see revenue service begin from the TTC’s new McNicoll Garage. This will entail the reassignment of many routes between all garages as the TTC rebalances it fleet and service to relieve crowding and minimize dead-head times.
There are few service changes associated with this grand shuffle. The primary effect is that garage trips at the end of peak periods will change to reflect the shift of some routes to a new home in northern Scarborough.
For example, north-south routes that formerly had transitional peak-to-evening service southbound will go to evening service levels sooner because buses will dead head to McNicoll rather than making a southbound trip before running back to Eglinton or Birchmount Garage.
129 McCowan North
The short-turn point for 39 Finch East and 53 Steeles East off-peak garage trips will change so that buses do not double back on themselves. These trips will be shortened to end at Kennedy rather than at Markham Road. Trips on 39C to Victoria Park will end at McNicoll & Victoria Park rather than at 480 Gordon Baker Road.
The 45 Kipling and 945 Kipling Express move from Queensway to Arrow. Trips to the garage after the AM and PM peak will no longer make southbound trips. Trips at the beginning of the PM peak will no longer travel north from Queensway.
The old and new garage assignments are at the end of this article for those who are interested.
Fleet utilization continues to be well below system capacity. In January 2020, the total AM peak buses in service was 1,625. In March 2021, it will be 1,527. This does not include buses used in Run As Directed (RAD) service. Although the TTC now has an additional bus garage, its capacity is not included in the table below.
For comparison, here is the January 2020 (pre-pandemic) table.
The number of buses used on streetcar routes continues to be high. These vehicles are included in the counts above, and represent additional capacity available for bus routes when the construction projects now underway finish. 506 Carlton will return to all-streetcar operation in May, but other routes will be affected by construction for much of 2021 notably at KQQR and on Broadview north of Gerrard (starting in May).
Here is the streetcar peak service table. Note that there is an error in the afternoon peak “base going into Mar 2021” column where the streetcar total should read 127, not 142.
During the construction of McNicoll Garage, all trips on 42 Cummer were operated as 42A to Middlefield. This will continue, and the 42B and 42C services will remain suspended. An eight month long water main project on Cummer will require that westbound service divert via Leslie, Finch and Bayview. New farside stops will be added southbound on Leslie at Cummer, and westbound on Cummer at Bayview to serve the diversion.
At the King, Queen, Queensway, Roncesvalles intersection (KQQR) construction work will block transit service beginning on March 31. This will affect all services that pass through this busy location.
501 Queen buses (501L Long Branch and 501P Park Lawn) will operate via King and Dufferin Streets to route. The official east end of the route will remain at Jarvis Street. In current operations, many runs have been extended as far east as River because the schedule is very generous in anticipation of construction traffic delays that have not yet materialized. Buses are also taking extended layovers at Long Branch Loop because they arrive early.
The 504 King west end shuttle will be broken into two parts.
A 504G King shuttle will operate between Dundas West Station and Roncesvalles Carhouse (entering and leaving via the North Gate).
A 504Q King shuttle will operate between Triller and Strachan. The west end loop will be via Dufferin, Queen and Triller. The east end loop will be via Duoro and Strachan. This is a change from the current shuttle terminus at Shaw.
Operation of the 506 Carlton bus shuttle will be officially changed to use the loop that was informally implemented almost immediately after this service began in January. All buses will loop via Gerrard, Sherbourne and Parliament. Full streetcar service will resume on 506 Carlton with the May 9, 2021 schedules.
Miscellaneous Route Changes
Weekday scheduled round-trip travel time on 1 Yonge-University-Spadina will be shortened from 161 to 154 minutes in recognition of time savings with Automatic Train Control. This will address some of the train queuing problems at terminals. Headways will also be widened slightly to reflect lower demand.
43C Kennedy service to Village Green Square will be modified so that all trips begin and end there. Half hourly service will be provided northbound from Kennedy Station from 6:30 to 8:30 am, and from 4:00 to 7:00 pm. Southbound service will leave Village Green from 5:58 to 8:28 am, and from 3:30 to 6:30 pm.
The Amazon Fulfillment Centre at Morningside & Steeles will be served by two routes:
53B Steeles service to Markham Road will be extended via Passmore to the cul-de-sac at the site. This operation is already in place.
102 Markham Road service will be routed north on Markham Road, east on Select Avenue, south on Tapscott Road, east on Passmore Avenue to cul-de-sac, west on Passmore Avenue, north on Tapscott Road, west on Steeles Avenue, to south on Markham Road. This route will be changed when the the intersection of Steeles & Morningside fully opens later in 2021.
Trip times on 167 Pharmacy North will be standardized so that the weekday and Saturday schedules are the same. The first trips will run northbound from Don Mills Station and southbound from Pharmacy Loop at 5:30 am. Service at all times will be on the half-hour (:00 and :30).
Articulated and regular buses will shuffle between routes:
Three artics now used on 60 Steeles West will be changed to standard buses. The artics will return in late May.
Most runs on 89 Weston will switch from artics to standard buses. In late May, all 89 Weston local buses will be standard-sized, but the 989 Weston Express service will resume.
Six standard buses now used on 929 Dufferin Express will be changed to artics.
310 Spadina night service will be cut to half hourly. This route was missed in January when other night services reverted to a 30 minute service (previously every 15 or 20 minutes).
Updated January 7, 2021: Maps showing the revised operation of 501/301 Queen, 504/304 King and 506/306 Carlton have been added from the TTC’s Route Diversion pages.
Updated December 23, 2020: The operating schedules (in GTFS format used by various trip planning apps) for the January-February period have now been issued on the City of Toronto’s Open Data Portal. These confirm two outstanding issues with the service as it was described in the change memo:
The 304C King West night shuttle will operate on a 20′ headway, while the main part of the 304 King streetcar route between Dufferin and Broadview Station will operate on a 30′ headway. This means that timed connections between the two services will not be reliably possible for each trip.
The 310 Spadina night service appears to have escaped the cutback from a 15′ to a 30′ headway. The January schedules show service every 15′.
The TTC memo detailing service changes for January is a long one, and in the interest of breaking this up into more digestible chunks, I will deal with the streetcar and bus networks separately.
The usual summary of schedule changes (for the streetcars only) is linked here:
Some routes will see major changes beginning in January and continuing, with modifications as the year goes on.
In addition to various construction projects, the TTC plans to accelerate the retrofit of its Flexity fleet with various fixes and the major repairs to the early cars with frame integrity problems. The intent is to substantially complete this work by September 2021 by which time ridership recovery in the territory served by streetcars will be recovering from the pandemic ‘s effects.
The total scheduled cars in peak periods will be 145 out of a total fleet of 204. As I reported in a recent article about the 2021 Service Plan, the TTC aims to field 168 cars in peak once they have the fleet back at a normal 20 per cent maintenance ratio.
Queen Street will take the brunt of construction work for the early part of 2021 with a shutdown of streetcar service west of McCaul Loop. This will allow conversion of the overhead system for pantograph operation and, when construction weather allows, the complete replacement of the King-Queen-Queensway-Roncesvalles intersection. See:
That project will also affect the King service west of Dufferin Street.
Streetcars will return to Bathurst and to part of the Carlton route.
Blue Night Service (Updated)
The overnight service on four routes (501 Queen, 504 King, 506 Carlton and 510 Spadina) was increased due to congestion at the carhouses when most of the fleet, including many still-active CLRVs, was “in for the night”. Service on all but Carlton operated every 15 minutes, while Carlton ran every 20, even when it was a bus operation.
The night service reverts to half-hourly headways in January, except for 310 Spadina which remains at quarter-hourly. Also, the 304C King bus between Dundas West and Shaw will operate every 20′ while the main 304 streetcar route will operate half-hourly.
The 501 Queen route will be split with streetcars running between Neville Loop and McCaul Loop, and buses between Long Branch Loop and Jarvis Street. The 301 Blue Night service will also be split, but the streetcar portion will loop via Church, Richmond and York to avoid causing noise from wheel squeal at McCaul Loop.
The western portion of the route will include a short turn with half of the buses terminating at Park Lawn during most periods of service. Buses will loop downtown via Jarvis, Richmond and Church Streets. The buses will be supplied by Mount Dennis and Birchmount garages.
Routings in the area of Humber Loop will vary depending on the branch:
Westbound 501L and 301L: From the Queensway, south on Windermere Avenue, west on Lake Shore Boulevard West to Long Branch Loop.
Eastbound 501L and 301L: East on Lake Shore Boulevard west, north on Windermere Avenue, east on the Queensway.
Westbound 501P: From the Queensway, south on Park Lawn Road, south on Marine Parade Drive to Park Lawn Loop.
Eastbound 501P: From Park Lawn Loop via north on Marine Parade Drive, north on Park Lawn Road, east on the Queensway.
501 Queen will operate from Russell Carhouse and will continue to use trolley poles as the east end of the route has not yet been converted for pantographs (that project is planned for fall 2021).
This route is still suspended and all streetcar service on Kingston Road is provided by route 503.
503 Kingston Road
The 503 Kingston Road streetcar will continue to operate to Charlotte Loop at Spadina. The City has just awarded the contract for reconstruction of Wellington and Church Streets from Yonge to King, and that will occur in the spring. This will complete the Wellington Street project which has been delayed by other utility projects in the same area.
503 Kingston Road will operate from Leslie Barns and, like 501 Queen, will continue to use trolley poles.
The 504 King route will be split with streetcars running east of Dufferin Street and a bus service operating from Shaw to Dundas West Station. Both the 504A Distillery and 504B Broadview Station services will terminate at Dufferin Loop.
To reduce congestion at Dufferin Loop, all service on 29/929 Dufferin will be extended to the Princes’ Gate Loop.
The 504A Distillery service will operate from Russell Carhouse, and the 504B Broadview Station service will operate from Leslie Barns. The route will continue to operate with trolley poles.
The west end bus service 504C and 304C Blue Night will loop via south and east on Douro Street, north on Shaw Street to King Street West. Buses will be provided by Mount Dennis Garage. Because service on the 304 streetcar and the 304C bus will operate at different headways, regular connections between them will not be possible.
The operator relief point for the 504B service will be shifted from Queen & Broadview to Broadview Station to avoid service delays on other routes caused by late arrivals of operators for shift changes.
The cutback of 505 Dundas service to Lansdowne has already ended (on Dec 9) and all cars now run through to Dundas West Station. This change becomes part of the scheduled service in January. Headways will be widened slightly during most periods to operate the same number of cars over a longer journey.
Operation of this route will be split between Leslie Barns and Roncesvalles Carhouse, and that will continue until spring 2022. Cars running to and from Roncesvalles will operate with trolley poles and will change to pantographs at Dundas West Station. Cars from Leslie already run on pantograph on their dead head trips.
The eight AM peak bus trippers will be interlined with buses from other routes. In the west, four trips will originate at Lansdowne from trippers on the 47 Lansdowne route. In the east, four trips will originate at Broadview Station from trippers on the 100 Flemingdon Park route.
The 506 Carlton route will be split with streetcars returning between Broadview and High Park Loop, and buses operating between Parliament and Main Station. Overhead conversion for pantographs is not completed yet on the east end of the route, and reconstruction of the bus roadway at Main Station is planned to start in March.
506 streetcars will loop in the east via Broadview, Dundas and Parliament. 506C Buses will loop via River, Dundas and Sherbourne Streets.
For the overnight service, the 306 streetcars will run to Broadview Station and will use the bay normally occupied by 505 Dundas which has no overnight service.
The looping shown for the 506B/306B buses is different from the version show in the service change memo. The TTC has confirmed that the map is the correct version.
All 506 Carlton cars will operate from Roncesvalles Carhouse. They will enter and leave service using trolley poles, but once on Howard Park Avenue will switch to pantographs as the west and central portions of the route have been converted. The 506 buses will operate from Eglinton and Malvern garages.
508 Lake Shore
This route remains suspended pending recovery of demand to the business district downtown.
This route reverts to the February 2020 schedules. Extra service that was added to compensate for the absence of 511 Bathurst cars will be removed.
This route reverts to the February 2020 schedules with minor changes in service levels.
Streetcars return to 511 Bathurst using the February 2020 schedules. If construction work on the Bathurst Street Bridge is not completed by January 3, streetcars will divert via King, Spadina and Queens Quay until the bridge reopens.
512 St. Clair
The 512 St. Clair route continues with the November 2020 schedules and a covid-era reduction in service.
Routes 509 through 512 will all operate from Leslie Barns and will enter service using pantographs from the barns to route via Queen and King Streets.
The allocation of streetcars to carhouses by route is shown in the table below.
Replacement of old water main and sewer infrastructure
Replacement of TTC overhead (this will make the wiring in this area pantograph compliant)
Reconstruction of streetcar track
Reconfiguration of Roncesvalles Avenue from Queen to Harvard (just north of the North Gate to the carhouse) with cycling lanes and transit platforms matching the section done several years ago from Harvard to Dundas
Revision to the existing loading islands on Roncesvalles for compatibility with the boarding ramps on the news streetcars
The construction will begin on September 8, 2020 on the underside of the Parkside Drive bridge. This will only have a minor effect on transit service, and the only change to the 501 Queen service is that it will not stop at Parkside during September and October.
2021 will see the main construction work on Queen and The Queensway beginning in February and extending to into 2022 as shown in the staging map below.
Stage 1 from February to July 2021 will affect the curb lanes of The Queensway as well as water main, track and overhead work extending east to Triller Ave.
Stage 2 from July 2021 to April 2022 will affect the middle lanes of The Queensway and King Street south of the intersection.
Stage 3 from April to August 2022 will affect Roncesvalles Avenue.
See the construction notice linked above for details.
There is no word yet on the TTC’s arrangements for service or what the interim configurations of routes will look like. Continued access to Roncesvalles Carhouse via the North Gate will remain available until the planned work in 2022 at which point all access will have to shift to the south gate during construction between Queen and Harvard.
However, there will be periods where the KQQR intersection is impassible in both directions while it is reconfigured and rebuilt. This will require Queen and King services to turn back somewhere further east TBA with bus replacements.
It is not clear whether there will be a period in fall-winter 2021-22 when streetcar service can be restored west of the carhouse. I will pursue details of the project staging with the City and TTC.
The City plans to have a project website available, but it is not up as I write this article on the evening of September 4.
The King Street Transit Priority “Pilot” has been in place since fall 2017, and is now a permanent fixture. Long time readers will know that I have tracked the changes in travel times through the affected area between Bathurst and Jarvis Streets for many years.
For some time, there has been little “news” because conditions on King were stable and the travel times were not changing even as the number of scofflaws grew. Basically, the street did not reach the “tipping point” where there was enough traffic, whether it should be there or not, to push conditions “over the edge” into the pre-pilot congestion. One notable exception was the effect of major sports events and traffic jams that plugged (mainly) University Avenue causing north-south traffic to back through the intersection preventing east-west movement.
With the steep decline in traffic downtown through the combined effect of work-from-home and the shuttering of much of the Entertainment District, I took another look at King to see what was happening.
Note: For one week in April 2020, track repairs at Church Street prevented King cars from running through, and no data appear for those days in the charts.
The reduced transit riding and auto traffic in Toronto during past months provides an opportunity to compare travel times during what used to be “typical” conditions with the situation when there is no congestion and stop service times might be shorter.
This article examines the 504 King route from January to May 2020. I plan to publish data for other streetcar and bus routes, but I am awaiting the May data extract from the TTC’s new Vision system which tracks all buses and a substantial portion of the streetcar fleet. (In May, the King route operated substantially with cars using the old CIS system from which I have already received data, and so there are enough data from that route to represent its operation.)
504 King operates with two branches: 504A from Dundas West Station to Distillery Loop, and 504B from Broadview Station to Dufferin Loop. Only trips late at night after service to Distillery and Dufferin Loops ends make the full trip between Broadview and Dundas West Stations. For this analysis, I have split the route in half at Yonge Street to measure travel times to that midpoint from the outer ends of the lines.
The change in travel times is quite obvious looking at month-by-month averages. In the charts below, travel times are averaged for all weekdays in each month, grouped by hour of departure from Danforth and Broadview. (The screen lines at terminals are located far enough from the loops to avoid including queuing times to enter crowded loops in the measured travel times to and from Yonge.)
January and February (red and yellow) are the highest because they represent normal pre-covid conditions. During March (green), the amount of transit riding and traffic began to fall as offices closed and non-essential travel was reduced. The King car was particularly affected because it serves the business district. April and May (light and dark blue) represent a “new normal” for travel times.
Note that in these charts, the Y-axis does not begin at zero so that the spread in the data values is clearer.
(A full set of PDFs of these charts is at the end of the article.)
Although the monthly averages show a clear pattern, the weekly values change within the two broad bands of pre- and post-covid conditions. Note that for this chart there are no data for the week of April 20 because streetcar service on Broadview north of Gerrard was suspended for track repairs.