TTC Announces Streetcar Diversions and Bus Replacements (Updated)

The TTC has posted several notices on its website detailing recent and planned service changes on several streetcar routes.

Updated November 21, 2021: Modified to pick up new and replacement pages on the TTC’s website.

King-Queen-Queensway-Roncesvalles Project

The TTC’s KQQR page has been updated to reflect the new routings implemented over the November 13-14 weekend.

With the south leg of the intersection now closed and Queen Street open for east-west traffic, the 501/301 Queen bus service now operates straight along Queen Street.

The 504/304 King bus service diverts westbound via Dufferin and Queen as it has done for many months, but now runs through to Dundas West Station. The eastbound service from Dundas West heads east on Queen to Triller and south to King.

This map does not show the diversion implemented for the track work at Queen and Shaw Streets that requires the 501/301 services to divert both ways via Strachan, King and Dufferin. That project also requires a diversion of 63 Ossington via Queen, Dufferin and King.

There is also a TTC page under their Construction Notices (as opposed to Service Advisories) for the KQQR project. This page is extremely out of date.

Queen East Overhead Conversion for Pantographs

The 501 Queen Streetcar currently operates as far east as Russell Carhouse (east of Greenwood) during overhead upgrades on the east end of the route. The 503 Kingston Road car continues to operate over its full route to Bingham Loop. A 501N shuttle provides service between Leslie Street and Neville Loop.

On November 21, this arrangement will change, and the 501 Queen cars will be extended to Woodbine Loop at Kingston Road. The 501N shuttle bus will loop via Eastern and Coxwell Avenues. The 503 service will remain as is.

This change will remain until January 2, 2022 when streetcar service to Neville Loop should be restored.

Other 501 Queen Diversions

Two diversions are in progress for the ongoing track replacement project on the central part of the Queen route:

  • 501 buses divert between Bathurst and Spadina via the Richmond/Adelaide pair.
  • 501 buses divert between Dufferin and Strachan via King during track replacement at Shaw & Queen.

501 streetcar service will be restored to Queen Street between Neville Loop and Wolseley Loop (at Bathurst) on January 2, 2022.

The map for the diversions is in this notice. That page is now partly out of date due to the extension of the 501 streetcars to Woodbine Loop on November 21, 2021.

Photo by Raymond Lee

506/306 Carlton / 505 Dundas Changes for Sewer Work on Coxwell Avenue

From November 21 until mid-February 2022, the Carlton streetcars will turn back at Broadview via Broadview, Dundas and Parliament. This loop is currently used by the 505 Dundas car due to water main work on Broadview north of Gerrard.

The 505 Dundas service will be diverted and extended to Woodbine Loop via Broadview and Queen Street while the Carlton car is looping at Broadview.

Queen/Shaw Intersection Replacement Begins (Update 2)

Work began on November 15, 2021 on the replacement of special work at the intersection of Queen and Shaw. Based on past experience with similar projects, this should last about three weeks.

Updated November 19, 2021 at 2:45 pm: Track replacement has begun with the eastern leg of the intersection, and foundation work is in progress for the other two legs.

Updated November 21, 2021 at 1:40 pm: Links to TTC diversion notices added.

The service diversion now embraces changes for multiple works along Queen Street West:

501 Queen Bus: Initially, the diversion was via Dufferin, King and Strachan both ways. However, extension of the tangent track replacement west of Bathurst now requires buses to divert both ways via Dufferin, King, Bathurst, Richmond/Adelaide, and Spadina. (Updated November 19)

63 Ossington Bus: Diverts both ways via Queen, Dufferin and King. The buses loop through Liberty Village on their normal route via Strachan southbound and Atlantic northbound, but then turn west onto King for the northbound diversion.

Elsewhere on Queen, there are diversions and bus replacements. (Updated November 19)

  • Streetcar service runs between Russell Carhouse (east of Greenwood) and King & Spadina (via Parliament) due to track and overhead work on the central section of Queen, and overhead work in The Beach. It will be extended east to Woodbine Loop on November 21.
  • A bus shuttle runs between Neville Loop and Leslie/Commissioners. This will change on November 21 to operate between Neville Loop and Coxwell.

The 503 Kingston Road car continues to operate between King & Spadina and Bingham Loop at Victoria Park.

Photos on November 19, 2021

King-Queen-Queensway-Roncesvalles Moves to Phase 2

After a long delay thanks to construction issues and utilities that were not located where they were expected to be, the King-Queen-Queensway-Roncesvalles project has moved into its second phase over three months later than planned.

This affects routes 501 Queen and 504 King.

The 501 Queen bus service was formerly diverted via Dufferin and King to Roncesvalles. It now operates both ways via Queen Street following the normal streetcar route in the west end. Separate diversions remain in place elsewhere on the route for track work east of Bathurst, and for overhead work in the east end.

The 504 King shuttle bus had been operating in two sections. One ran on Roncesvalles Avenue between Dundas West Station and Roncesvalles Carhouse. The other ran from the eastern entrance of the Exhibition via Strachan to King, and then over a large counterclockwise loop formed by Dufferin, Queen, Triller and King.

The 504 bus now operates between Dundas West Station and the Exhibition as one route with the two former segments now connected at Queen and Roncesvalles. Westbound buses continue to operate via Dufferin and Queen, while eastbound buses run via Queen, Triller and King as shown below.

Note that this arrangement means that there are no westbound buses on King west of Dufferin, just as there have been no eastbound buses on Queen since this project began. Queen Street now has two-way service.

At the time I write this (7:00 pm, November 14), the TTC has not updated its website to reflect the new routings.

Metrolinx Announces Construction Plans for Queen Station

Construction of a new lower level station at Queen and Yonge will close roads in the area for an extended period according to a new blog article from Metrolinx. Between early 2023 for about four and a half years, Queen street will be completely closed from Victoria to James Street.

Source: Metrolinx

James Street will also be closed as well as a portion of the west side of Victoria Street.

Streetcars will divert both ways around the construction site via Church, the Richmond/Adelaide pair, and York. This will require York to become two-way at least south to Adelaide Street (it is two-way only from Queen to Richmond), and new track will have to be installed. Although the map above shows partial occupancy of Victoria Street, it is not clear whether the tracks, long out of use thanks to construction at St. Michael’s Hospital and at Massey Hall, will finally be reactivated.

Source: Metrolinx

Reconstruction of Adelaide Street is already in the City’s plans for 2022. Originally, when I asked about the scope of work, the feedback I received from the TTC was that this would only involve track removal from Charlotte Street (east of Spadina) to Victoria. However, with these diversion plans it is clear that new track will be required at least to York Street.

An obvious question here is what plans Metrolinx has for Osgoode Station, and whether a Queen diversion west of York will be required. It is conceivable that the Adelaide trackage may yet live again further west. There will also be construction effects at Queen/Spadina and King/Bathurst. I have written to Metrolinx asking when details of these projects will be available so that the entire plan for downtown construction will be clear.

Source: City of Toronto, TOInview

A further issue is that there is a major reconstruction of King Street planned in 2023. This would have to be well out of the way before Queen Street could be closed. If there will be track on Adelaide to which a connection could be provided at York, a new east-to-north curve would be an obvious addition at King.

More generally, there should be a plan for the future use of downtown streetcar track to support the various diversions needed for construction and to restore some of the flexibility in streetcar operations that has been lost over the years as less-used bits of track fall victim to various construction projects. A list of potential locations includes:

  • Adelaide Street from Charlotte eastward, not just from York, including connecting curves at York.
  • An east-to-north curve at King and York.
  • Reactivation of track on Victoria between Queen and Dundas.
  • Addition of curves in the SE quadrant at Church and Carlton (reconstruction is planned there in 2022).

I have written to the TTC asking what their plans are.

Too often, chances to improve the network have been missed when track is rebuilt “as is”. This is an excellent chance to rectify past oversights.

A further issue in all of this will be the effect of redirected streetcar (and other) traffic on the cycling network downtown. I will seek info about this from the City of Toronto.

I will update this article when I receive additional information from Metrolinx and the TTC.

TTC Service Changes: September 5, 2021

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.

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Queen Street Construction Update: Aug. 6/21

Construction is moving slowly on various parts of the Queen route which will continue to operate with a mix of buses and streetcars until late in 2021.

King-Queen-Queensway-Roncesvalles

The planned move to “phase 2” on July 22 with through operation east-west on Queen Street has still not happened, and there is no announced date for this.

Here is a view of The Queensway looking east toward Roncesvalles taken on August 4.

In the foreground, the new leads to Sunnyside Loop are mostly completed within the streetcar lanes on The Queensway, but the majority of the new loop has not been installed. In the background, the leads to Roncesvalles Carhouse are now in place across the westbound road lanes and connected to trackage within the yard.

Aug 4/21. Photo by Steve Munro.

When the project moves to phase 2, work will shift to the King Street leg of the intersection. 501 Queen buses will revert to east-west operation via Queen rather than their present diversion via Dufferin and King. The two 504 shuttle buses will be linked via Queen although there will only be eastbound bus service on King Street east from Triller. Westbound service will operate via Dufferin and King as it does today.

This means that there will be no westbound service on King from Dufferin to The Queensway just as there is no eastbound service on Queen today in the phase 1 configuration.

The north leg of the intersection will be the last part of the reconstruction, and it will include the intersection at the north gate of the carhouse.

Queen From Bay to University

This first phase of a large-scale project to replace track from Bay to Fennings (west of Dovercourt) is not exactly speeding along. The trackbed has been partly excavated in preparation for rail replacement using the existing foundation and ties.

Looking east toward Bay Aug 5/21. Photo by Steve Munro.

Because this track was rebuilt two decades ago with a new foundation, concrete ties and Pandrol clips holding the track in place, the excavation only needs to remove the surface layer. The old track will be replaced and new rails clipped onto the existing base. Also visible below is the rubber sleeve for vibration isolation that was wrapped around the old track.

Aug 5/21. Photo by Steve Munro.

Pre-welded strings of track sit in the north curb lane (usually occupied by a fleet of fast food vendors and tour buses). A companion inventory sits in the north curb lane at Trinity-Bellwoods Park for the west end of the project.

Aug 5/21. Photo by Steve Munro.

East from University, the track excavation has not progressed to the same degree. A short section just west of York will be completely excavated to access utilities underneath. The special work at York will not be replaced as this intersection was rebuilt in 2013.

Work will continue westward from University to Spadina in stages, and then will jump to the west end of the project at Fennings and work eastward. There are no announced dates for future stages nor details of service arrangements for buses and streetcars.

Queen Street East from Leslie to Neville

Streetcars returned to the east end of 501 Queen and to the 503 Kingston Road route on August 5. During a shutdown that began on July 26, spot repairs were performed at various locations on the track, and work began on conversion of the overhead for pantograph operation.

Intersections at Coxwell, Connaught and both entrances to Russell Yard are in a transitional state with new and old overhead. The intersection at Kingston Road and Queen, including Woodbine Loop, was installed with pan-friendly overhead when the track and roadway were rebuilt here in 2019.

Two 503 Kingston Road cars sit in Woodbine Loop short-turned due to an overhead break near Bingham Loop. Aug 5/21. Photo by Steve Munro.

Street Construction Project Update: July 2021

Although this is high construction season, various projects are moving along more slowly than hoped.

Broadview from Gerrard to Danforth

Work on the watermains in this area was delayed by a shortage of pipe. This has now been solved, and work is in progress north from Hogarth/Montcrest to Danforth (as of July 22). When that is done, the southern section will follow.

Queen Street West from Bay to York Street

The work here includes both watermain and track renewal. As of July 22, saw cutting of the pavement was underway.

As previously reported, the track and watermain work on Queen will occur in stages west from Bay to Spadina, and then east from Fennings to Spadina. There is a supply of new track strings on the north side of Queen in front of City Hall and on the north side of Queen at Trinity-Bellwoods Park.

Queen Street West from University to Spadina

New support poles will be installed here in anticipation of conversion of the overhead for pantograph operation.

King-Queen-Queensway-Roncesvalles

As of July 4, the switches for the yard leads from The Queensway had been installed, but not the connecting tracks across the north sidewalk to the yard. Excavation and some foundation work for Sunnyside Loop was underway.

On the north side of The Queensway from Sunnyside west to Claude (the beginning of the streetcar right-of-way), the curb lane was excavated and a new north curb poured. The situation was identical on July 22.

Looking West on The Queensway at Sunnyside Loop Entrance July 4/21
Looking West on The Queensway from Sunnyside Avenue July 4/21
Looking West on The Queensway at Claude, July 4/21

The photo below shows the south side of Roncesvalles Yard including the forest of poles holding up the overhead.

Looking East on The Queensway toward Roncesvalles July 22/21

On July 22, the connecting switches to a realigned Sunnyside Loop were in place. In the photos above and below note that the existing loop tracks do not align with the new switches. This intersection will be revised with signals for autos and streetcars with, in theory at least, priority for streetcars leaving the loop.

Looking East across Sunnyside Loop July 22/21

Queen/Kingston Road Overhead Replacement July 26 to August 5

Streetcar service on Queen east of Leslie Street will be suspended from July 26 for overhead upgrades and track repairs on Queen from east of Leslie to Woodbine.

501 bus service that now ends at Broadview will be extended east to Neville Loop.

A 503 bus shuttle will operate on Kingston Road between Bingham and Woodbine Loops.

Brown’s Line & Lakeshore Queue Jump Lane

The project to create a queue jump lane on the approach to Long Branch Loop is on hold. I await feedback from the TTC on the status of this project.

Photo credit: All photos are by me.

Street Construction Project Update: June 2021

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.

King-Queen-Queensway-Roncesvalles

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.

King-Queen-Queensway-Roncesvalles Update May 2021

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.

Many thanks to Harold for providing these!

Headway Quality Measurement: A Proposal

For regular readers of this site, it will be no surprise that my opinion of the TTC’s reporting on service quality is that it is deeply flawed and bears little relationship to rider experiences. It is impossible to measure service quality, let alone to track management’s delivery of good service, with only rudimentary metrics.

Specifically:

  • The TTC reports “on time performance” measured only at terminals. This is calculated as departing no more than one minute early and up to five minutes late.
  • Data are averaged on an all-day, all-month basis by mode. We know, for example, that in February 2020, about 85 per cent of all bus trips left their terminals within that six minute target. That is all trips on all routes at all times of the day.
  • No information is published on mid-route points where most riders actually board the service.

Management’s attitude is that if service is on time at terminals, the rest of the line will look after itself. This is utter nonsense, but it provides a simplistic metric that is easy to understand, if meaningless.

Source: March 2021 CEO’s Report

There are basic problems with this approach including:

  • The six minute window is wide enough that all vehicles on many routes can run as pairs with wide gaps and still be “on time” because the allowed variation is comparable to or greater than the scheduled frequency.
  • Vehicles operate at different speeds due to operator skill, moment-to-moment demand and traffic conditions. Inevitably, some vehicles which drop behind or pull ahead making stats based on terminal departures meaningless.
  • Some drivers wish to reach the end of their trips early to ensure a long break, and will drive as fast as possible to achieve this.
  • Over recent years, schedules have been padded with extra time to ensure that short turns are rarely required. This creates a problem that if a vehicle were to stay strictly on its scheduled time it would have to dawdle along a route to burn up the excess. Alternately, vehicles accumulate at terminals because they arrive early.

Management might “look good” because the service is performing to “standard” overall, but the statistics mask wide variations in service quality. It is little wonder that rider complaints to not align with management claims.

In the pandemic era, concerns about crowding compound the long-standing issue of having service arrive reliably rather than in packs separated by wide gaps. The TTC rather arrogantly suggests that riders just wait for the next bus, a tactic that will make their wait even longer, rather than addressing problems with uneven service.

What alternative might be used to measure service quality? Tactics on other transit systems vary, and it is not unusual to find “on time performance” including an accepted deviation elsewhere. However, this is accompanied by a sense that “on time” matters at more than the terminal, and that data should be split up to reveal effects by route, by location and time of day.

Some systems, particularly those with frequent service, recognize that riders do not care about the timetable. After all, “frequent service” should mean that the timetable does not matter, only that the next bus or streetcar will be reliably along in a few minutes.

Given that much of the TTC system, certainly its major routes, operate as “frequent service” and most are part of the “10 minute network”, the scheme proposed here is based on headways (the intervals between vehicles), not on scheduled times.

In this article, I propose a scheme for reporting on headway reliability, and try it out on the 29 Dufferin, 35 Jane and 501 Queen routes to see how the results behave. The two bus routes use data from March 2021, while the Queen car uses data from December 2020 before the upheaval of the construction at King-Queen-Roncesvalles began.

This is presented as a “first cut” for comment by interested readers, and is open to suggestions for improvement. As time goes on, it would be useful for the TTC itself to adopt a more fine-grained method of reporting, but even without that, I hope to create a framework for consistent reporting on service quality in my analyses that is meaningful to riders.

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