King-Queen-Queensway-Roncesvalles Update: November 26, 2022

The KQQR project is heading into the home stretch with work now underway on the North Gate to Roncesvalles Carhouse, and roadway construction and paving on The Queensway west to Parkside Drive. Alas, there is no announced completion date.

At the North Gate, recently completed utility work allows the area to be excavated in preparation for the new special work. This track has not yet been rebuilt to current standards (a program that will take years to complete as the cycle time is 20-30 years) with a concrete foundation, pre-welded track mounted on panels, and a top layer of concrete that can be removed for repairs without disturbing the two layers below.

The new track panels are sitting on trailers on King Street east of Roncesvalles awaiting installation.

Meanwhile there is some preliminary work on new overhead leading north into this area, but the main installation cannot occur until the new track is in place and overhead trucks can drive under the new wire.

On The Queensway itself, overhead has begun to take shape at Sunnyside Loop, but it is still not operational. This leaves the 501 Queen service turning back at Dufferin Street.

On King Street east from The Queensway, conversion of overhead suspension to pantograph compliance has finally started. This area and Kingston Road are the last two major areas to be converted.

Along the south side of The Queensway, much of the new curb is now in place and concrete for the new curb lane will likely appear soon, weather permitting. At Glendale eastbound (St. Joseph’s Hospital) the bus stop is even more rudimentary than on previous visits. Passengers wait in the temporary crossing area (which is now at least concrete rather than a wooden bridge), and then move across the traffic lane to board a bus when it arrives.

Between Claude and Parkside (the easternmost part of the existing streetcar right-of-way) excavation is in progress to remove old track and wooden ties in anticipation of completing the new trackwork between Glendale and Parkside.

TTC Service Changes Effective November 20, 2022 (Updated)

Updated November 20, 2022: Information regarding diversions for 504 King and 503 Kingston Road has been updated with current details.

The TTC is making a few service changes for the November board period affecting mainly streetcars and the Yonge subway (Line 1).

1 Yonge-University-Spadina

With the complete implementation of Automatic Train Control on Line 1, the full route will switch to one person train operation (aka “OPTO”). Service will be improved during peak periods as well as some off-peak. Some running times will be reduced.

The peak service improvement is achieved through a combination of running time reduction and the conversion of two of the “gap” trains in each peak to regular service trains.

501 Queen

The originally announced service for 501 Queen in October would have seen the route extended to Roncesvalles from Dufferin. This proved impractical, and the route continued as it had been in September. The official schedule now reverts to September’s version for both the streetcar and bus services. There is almost no change to scheduled headways.

503 Kingston Road

The 503 Kingston Road car will be converted to bus operation until March 2023 to allow overhead conversion on Kingston Road. The buses will operate to the “standard” downtown route 503 destination at King & York via Wellington.

Update: The downtown loop of the 503 buses will be via King to York Street, north to Richmond, west to University, south to King and returning east.

504 King

The intersection of King & Shaw is expected to reopen in early December for streetcars and buses. In anticipation, the November schedules are based on the service plan after the reopening.

Update: The TTC has posted a service change notice dated December 1, 2022 stating that the reopening will occur in “early December”. December 1st is a Thursday, and so it is not clear exactly when this change will take place. There is no comparable notice for 63 Ossington which is also diverting around King & Shaw.

Before reopening:

  • All 504 King cars will operate to Exhibition Loop, but they will not serve stops on Bathurst or Fleet Streets.

In practice, much of the 504 King service has not reached Exhibition Loop in recent weeks short turning either at Fleet Loop or at Charlotte Loop (King/Spadina).

After reopening:

  • 504A Distillery cars will operate to Dufferin Loop.
  • 504B Broadview Station cars will operate to Wolseley Loop (at Queen & Bathurst).

This arrangement reduces the number of transit vehicles attempting to use Dufferin Loop while this is still the western terminus for 501 Queen streetcars.

The 504C King shuttle bus was originally scheduled to operate to Exhibition via Strachan, but instead it will run east to Bathurst and King looping via Bathurst, Adelaide and Portland. Additional service will be provided if necessary from the run-as-directed pool.

929 Dufferin Express

All trips will terminate at Dufferin Loop.

Seasonal Changes

  • 86 Scarborough service on Saturdays to the Zoo for Terra Lumina will now end at 9:20 pm to match the planned earlier closing time.
  • 172 Cherry Beach weekday service will be discontinued for the winter (typically until May).

The changes are summarized in the spreadsheet linked below.

Continue reading

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 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.

Continue reading

TTC Service Changes Effective September 4, 2022

Updated:

  • The spreadsheet detailing all of the changes has been added at the end of this post.
  • The number of the Mimico GO shuttle has been corrected to 176.
  • Transfer arrangements at Queen & Dufferin for the 501 bus and streetcar services have been clarified.
  • Transfer arrangements at Queen & Roncesvalles for the 501 and 504 bus services have been added.

Updated September 5, 2022:

  • The spreadsheet listing all of the changes has been corrected for route 504 King. The original version included a description of the route carried over from the August version. This has been changed to reflect the September arrangements.

The TTC will make many changes to its scheduled service on September 4, 2022 with restorations of previous service levels on many routes. This will not get the system back to 100% of pre-pandemic levels.

An important distinction is between three values:

  • The amount of service scheduled before Spring 2020
  • The amount of service budgeted for 2022
  • The amount of service scheduled for 2022

The TTC plans to be back to 97% of budgeted service for bus, 84% for streetcar and 92% for subway. The overall numbers are compared below.

Hours/WeekRegularConstructionTotal
January 2020 Scheduled185,8257,068192,893
September 2022 Budgeted186,3796,398192,777
September 2022 Scheduled177,9304,965182,895

In the original 2022 service budget, the TTC planned to be back to roughly the same level of service as in January 2020 by September 2022. However, slower ridership recovery coupled with staffing constraints produced a lower scheduled service expressed as hours/week.

There are further caveats:

  • The distribution of hours by time of day might not be the same in 2022 as in 2020 because of changing demand patterns.
  • Changes in running times to deal with congestion or service reliability can mean that the same service hours are stretched over wider headways. Not all vehicle hours are created equal.

All that said, there are many changes in service levels, and with the bus network being back to 97%, the schedules for September 2022 are often based on old versions before service cuts were implemented. Another change for this month is the reintroduction of school trips on many routes.

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Queen West Construction Update: August 14, 2022

Various projects on the west end of the 501 Queen route continue, some faster than others, with one real surprise.

King-Queen-Queensway-Roncesvalles

Little has changed here since my last visit except that the new contact wire is now attached to span wires in places, and some of the frogs (crossing pieces) have been installed.

The new contact wire still ends just east of Sunnyside Loop. Until reconstruction of the south side of The Queensway including bases for new overhead poles has completed, the loop’s overhead suspension system cannot be installed.

Further west at Glendale (St. Joseph’s Hospital), the concrete work now extends to the west side of the intersection, and the beginnings of a new eastbound stop stop are evident.

Lake Shore & Kipling

The TTC is rebuilding both the intersection at Kipling as well as Kipling Loop. To my amazement, they have not only replaced the rarely used east-to-north curve, but have added a new south-to-west. It will now be possible to short turn a Queen car eastbound at Kipling!

This is the same organization that forgets to add much-needed curves during other reconstruction projects or leaves them out on the basis that the budget won’t handle the expense. There is probably a special award for this sort of thing.

In a classic right hand, left hand, situation, note that the new pantograph compliant overhead includes the east-to-north curve, but does not include the south-to-west.

Just east of the intersection, rails have been removed on the approach for replacement. This is a particularly clear example of how the “new” method of track construction adopted in the 1990s pays off with the need to only strip the top layer of concrete and expose existing attachment points to existing ties.

Looking east on Lake Shore east of Kipling

Louisa to Mimico

The track replacement and repaving of Lake Shore from Louisa to Mimico is complete, and only a few traffic cones prevent full use of the roadway.

The Myth of “No Short Turns” (July 2022)

This post includes short turn counts for the month of July on the major east-west streetcar routes downtown. See also:

Updated August 14, 2022: Charts of travel times on King between Strachan and Dufferin have been added to show that although there were congestion problems, they existed only on specific days due to special events, not pervasively through the month of July.

According to the TTC CEO’s Report, short turns (a situation where a vehicle does not reach its scheduled destination but instead turns back at an earlier point) were all but eliminated in May 2019.

This is not to say that short turns should not exist. They are an inevitable part of transit operations where delays can occur, and are essential to restoration of regular service. Back in 2019, the TTC’s problem was that they were used very frequently either as a lazy way to manage service or in response to unrealistic schedules. Now they occur but are not reported.

Meanwhile, other problems with service such as bunching, gaps and missing vehicles are not reported or tracked (at least publicly) at all.

There is no way to avoid saying this: the reported level of short turns is a total misrepresentation of what actually happens on the street as any regular rider knows. Management gets to claim they have eliminated a problem, but in fact it persists.

  1. Methodology
  2. 501 Queen Eastbound at Kingston Road
  3. 504 King Westbound at Spadina and at Bathurst
  4. 504 King Eastbound at Parliament
  5. 504 King Eastbound at Dundas/Broadview
  6. 505 Dundas Westbound at Lansdowne
  7. 505 Dundas Eastbound at Parliament
  8. 506 Carlton Westbound at Lansdowne
  9. 506 Carlton Eastbound at Coxwell

Methodology

From TTC vehicle tracking data, it is possible to count the number of streetcars passing any point on the line. In order to determine how many short turns occur at a specific location, counts on either side of a turnback will reveal the answer.

For example, if the screenlines for counts on Queen are defined as Coxwell Avenue and Woodbine Avenue, then the difference in counts shows how many cars short-turned at Woodbine Loop.

For these analyses, the counts are grouped by hour and by day through a month. Next, all weekdays, Saturdays and Sundays are consolidated to show the difference between types of day. The weekday counts are broken out by week to catch short-lived effects.

Friday, July 1, Canada Day, is counted as a Sunday. Note that this means that there are six “Sundays” and only five “Saturdays” included in the totals. That is the reason the count of trips within the month is higher for Sundays than for Saturdays.

An important distinction in any analysis is between overall averages and a detailed view of operations. TTC has a bad habit of reporting stats, when they do so at all, on a monthly average basis. This blends together periods when service is good with periods when it is very bad giving the impression that things are going fairly well. Riders, of course, encounter and are angered by the bad times which happen too often and fairly predictably.

The raw data are at a minute-by-minute, vehicle-by-vehicle level. In the charts here, I have tried to strike a balance between “information overload” with too much detail, and high level views that obscure what is happening on the street.

Continue reading

West End Streetcar Construction Update: July 31, 2022

Several projects are in various stages on the west side of Toronto’s streetcar system. Here is an omnibus update.

King-Queen-Queensway-Roncesvalles

The reconstruction of this junction has reached the point where all of the contact wire for the new intersection is in place, but it is not yet attached to the hangers on the spiderweb of span wires above the intersection. Contact wire extends west of Roncesvalles through the South Gate area, but ends just east of Sunnyside Loop.

Further west, the track is in place to Glendale Avenue (St. Joseph’s Hospital stop), but not fully concreted. One block remains to be installed from Glendale to the existing right-of-way.

According to the most recent City construction notice, service west of Bathurst Street will resume in two stages, and even then will not yet be through to Humber and Long Branch.

  • Effective September 4th:
    • 501/301 Queen streetcar service will be extended west to Dufferin Street from Bathurst Street. 501L replacement buses will be shortened to operate from Long Branch Loop to Dufferin Street.
    • The 504/304 King streetcar will continue to be replaced by bus service west of Dufferin Street.
  • As of October 9th:
    • 501/301 Queen streetcar service will be extended as far west as the KQQR intersection. 501L Replacement buses will continue to operate between Long Branch Loop and Dufferin Street.
    • The 504/304 King streetcar will continue to be replaced by bus service during construction and will have no service on Roncesvalles Avenue south of Howard Park Avenue. Route adjustments are: Howard Park, Parkside, Lake Shore, Colborne Lodge, The Queensway (both directions).

Detailed service plans will likely be published by the TTC in mid-to-late August.

Lake Shore Boulevard West

The track between Louisa Street and Mimico Avenue was not replaced in the last round of TTC upgrades on this route. They are now completing this section. A few points to note in the photos below:

  • In the view looking west, work on overhead conversion to pantograph mode including staggering of the contact wire is in progress. Over the entire route from Humber to Long Branch the contact wire is not yet attached to many of the new hangers.
  • In the view looking east, note that the rail is not yet fastened down with Pandrol clips. The previous rebuild here is recent enough that the track foundation already has steel ties, and so the rebuild only requires removal of the top pavement layer. The new track is then attached to the existing foundation.

At Kipling and Lake Shore, construction has just begun on replacement of the intersection and Kipling Loop. From the pre-assembled track already sitting on trailers near the site, it appears that the east-to-north curve will be replaced rather than removed. This curve is only ever used by railfan charters, and yet it survives. Meanwhile, on another project at Church & Carlton where missing curves in the south-east quadrant would add to network flexibility, the TTC is rebuilding the track as is without them.

Dundas West Station

The new extended platform for 505 Dundas cars is now in place, although still missing guardrails, and the track replacement for the loop has been complete for a few weeks. The new platform will allow two 505 Dundas Flexitys to be in the station at once (this was already possible for 504 King cars) relieving a source of congestion on Dundas Street at the station entrance.

Currently announced plans are for buses to return to this loop in September, but 505 Dundas streetcars will continue diverting to High Park until early October pending completion of new overhead and the platform.

504 King streetcars will not return here until completion of the last phase of the KQQR project likely in late Fall 2022.

Adelaide Street Reconstruction Open House

The City of Toronto will hold an online open house for the Adelaide Street project on Thursday, July 21 from 6:30 to 8:00 pm.

A link to register for this session is on the project page.

Track on Adelaide has been inactive for many years thanks to various cuts for utility projects and the high level of building construction along the street. The TTC contemplated reactivating the track as a bypass for, among other things, the Tiff street fair, but the opportunity did not present itself until now.

The Ontario Line open cut construction at Queen Station will require diversion of streetcar service around Queen and Yonge for several years. Cars will operate westbound via existing track on Church, Richmond and York. Eastbound service will run via York, Adelaide and Church.

This requires reconstruction of the Adelaide Street trackage as well as installation of new tracks southbound on York from Queen to Adelaide. Although only the track east from York is required for the Ontario Line diversion, the TTC will restore the track between Spadina and York making provision for a longer diversion. York will become two-way from Queen to Adelaide.

It is not yet clear which special work will be added at intersections, notably Adelaide and York where a north-to-east curve would be useful, especially if the TTC adds an east-to-north at King and York when this is rebuilt in a pending King Street project. Unfortunately, with the lead time between planning and execution, the TTC has forgotten on occasion (or chosen for budgetary reasons) to include missing curves that would make their operations more flexible notably at Broadview and Gerrard and, this year at Church and Carlton. These opportunities only come along every 25-30 years.

The project also includes water main reconstruction from York to Church, and repaving. Parts of the street are in very bad condition after years of condo construction trucks pounding the pavement.

From Bathurst to Parliament, the bike lane will shift to the north side of the street where there will be less conflict with the streetcars and with vehicles stopped in the eastbound curb lane.

I will update this article with more info after the open house.