501 Queen Construction Projects for 2017

The TTC has announced the timing of various projects affecting the 501 Queen route through the 2017 construction season.

Previously announced work includes:

  • Reconstruction of The Queensway from Parkside to Humber Loop including the bridge deck at the Humber River
  • Reconstruction of Humber Loop and installation of a new substation to improve power on Lake Shore west of the loop
  • Reconstruction of track on Lake Shore to Symons Road (surface layer only) to replace rail prematurely corroded by electrolysis
  • Reconstruction of track on Lake Shore from Symons to Dwight (full reconstruction)
  • Toronto Water construction from Spadina to Bathurst
  • Replacement of the pedestrian bridge west of Yonge over Queen

Starting on Sunday, May 7, route 501 will be operated by buses with a structure similar to the streetcar service before it was split at Humber Loop. The turnback point for half of the service will be Park Lawn. This arrangement will be in place until Sunday, September 3 when streetcars will return to the central portion of the route.

Streetcars displaced from 501 Queen will be used on 511 Bathurst, 504 King (trippers) and 503 Kingston Road Tripper. 502 Downtowner will remain a bus operation.

Additional work is planned through the year that cannot be scheduled concurrently with City activities over the summer, and this will trigger other diversions and bus shuttles later in the year.

Toronto Water work on Coxwell will affect the intersection at Queen, and the 503 Kingston Road Tripper will revert to bus operation in August.

Track replacement at Coxwell will occur in September. Although streetcars will return to 501 Queen, they will only operate between Connaught Avenue (Russell Carhouse) and Roncesvalles. Shuttle buses will operate from Neville to Carlaw, and from Roncesvalles to Long Branch. It is unclear whether this actually means a return to shuttles as far east as Dufferin, or if the TTC plans some other scheme for the eastern terminal of the “501L” service. This arrangement will remain in place until October 14. Streetcar service to Neville will resume on October 15.

Track replacement at McCaul will occur in October/November, and this will require the familiar Church, King, Spadina diversion of all 501 cars around the site. Shuttle buses will operate between the Church and Spadina via Queen. This schedule will be in place until November 25, although if past history is repeated, the streetcars may come back to Queen once the work at McCaul is completed and the concrete has time to cure.

Streetcar service beyond Roncesvalles will not resume until the end of 2017.


Reconstruction of The Queensway and Humber Loop

Through the spring and summer of 2017, the TTC will be rebuilding all of the track and overhead on The Queensway from the beginning of the right-of-way east of Parkside Drive to Humber Loop, and the loop itself.

This project also includes the reconstruction of the bridge over the Humber River which will be done in three stages:

  1. March to June: Work will take place in the middle of the bridge; TTC tracks and deck will be removed.Bearings on the bridge will also be replaced. A new bridgedeck will be constructed including waterproofing and paving.
  2. June to September: Work will take place on both the north and south sides of the bridge, with traffic moving to the centre of the bridge. New sidewalks, parapet walls, light poles and metal railings will be constructed. A new bridge deck will be constructed including waterproofing and paving.
  3. September to December: Work will consist of installing replacement TTC streetcar tracks. TTC will reinstate overhead electrical wiring to support service when it resumes. The top layer of asphalt will be installed along with permanent road lane markings.  [From City of Toronto Construction Notice, March 3, 2017.]

This post will be a repository for photographs of the construction work as it progresses.

Reconstruction west from Humber Loop on Lake Shore Boulevard to Dwight Ave (the point where Lake Shore straightens out for its run west to Brown’s Line) will follow later in the year.

The segment east of Parkside to Roncesvalles is planned to be rebuilt and reconfigured as reserved transit lanes during a project in 2019 that will also include replacement of all special work at Queen/King/Roncesvalles including the carhouse entrances.

April 18, 2017

Following up on comments regarding both the track construction planned for Lake Shore Boulevard, and the trees on The Queensway, I asked the TTC’s Brad Ross for further information.

The Lake Shore track is comparatively recent and would not be due for replacement for a decade at least, and that under heavier service wear than service west of Humber Loop will ever see. It turns out that there is problem with electrolysis of the rails.

In 2002 TTC rehabilitated the entire track structure on Lake Shore Blvd West between Humber Loop and Symons Street due to state of good repair – end of life cycle of the rail and concrete.

Due to accelerated galvanic corrosion to the base of the rail we are now undertaking a rail replacement only project between Humber Loop and Symons Street. The top 150 mm of concrete will be removed to expose the existing rail and fasteners for replacement, and new top concrete will be placed. The occurrence of premature corrosion of the rail will be addressed with the construction of a new sub-station inside the Humber Loop this year.

In addition, we will be undertaking state of good repair – end of life cycle track replacement from Symons Street to Royal York Road, and from Royal York Rd to the west side of Dwight Avenue, which were last rehabilitated in 1998 and 1996, respectively. [Email from Brad Ross, April 18, 2017]

With respect to the trees, the project description on the TTC’s site states:

Tree line along streetcar r-o-w on The Queensway

269 deciduous trees on the narrow turf boulevard along the north and south side of the streetcar r-o-w will be removed. While the majority of the trees are in good condition, they are in the path of construction and will be affected by construction work/activities. All 269 trees will be replaced in the same general areas where they were removed with similar trees – a variety of native species having a tolerance to road conditions. Another 28 existing trees will be protected during construction.

Brad Ross adds:

We worked closely with City Forestry to ensure the right species were planted.

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Buses Vs Streetcars on 501 Lake Shore Service

The year 2017 brought a long-term shutdown of the 501 Queen street service west of Sunnyside Loop to permit various construction projects on The Queensway, at Humber Loop and on Lake Shore Boulevard. Although work will not be seriously underway until the weather improves, the year-long shutdown also gives the TTC some breathing room in its ongoing problem of streetcar fleet availability as it awaits the long-overdue Bombardier Flexity order.

City TV recently reported that riders on Lake Shore are very pleased with the replacement bus service. That’s little surprise considering how much more frequent the buses arrive compared to the streetcars. A well-known aspect of service evaluation is that riders are much more sensitive to waiting time, especially in bad weather, than to in-vehicle travel time, especially if riding conditions are moderately comfortable.

There is also the question of comparative travel speeds with bus operations versus streetcars. Do the buses make better time than streetcars and, if so, when, where and why?

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TTC Service Changes Effective March 26, 2017 (Updated)

Updated March 27, 2017 at 7:50 am: The City of Toronto has deferred the work on Queen that would have required diversion of the 501 streetcar service between Spadina and Shaw to later in the year when the route will be operating with buses.

The TTC plans for service changes in March 2017 are not extensive. They are detailed in the spreadsheet linked below. I have modified the format of this to include not just headways but also running times (including layovers). This was done to clarify situations where adjustments are made to deal with traffic conditions on routes and to show the amount of time added for diversions.


Construction Projects

Although diversions and bus replacements are inevitable for track construction projects, the degree to which the TTC and city are content to remove streetcars for construction outside of the streetcar lanes says little for the “transit first” language we often hear. There also appears to be little incentive to complete such projects as quickly as possible.

501 Queen

Construction projects affect sections of the Queen route for all of 2017:

  • Reconstruction of The Queensway right-of-way, the Humber bridge, Humber Loop and track on Lake Shore
  • Sidewalk reconstruction on Queen between Spadina and Bathurst (late March to late summer) (summer)
  • Reconstruction of the intersection of Coxwell and Queen (August)
  • Replacement of the overhead walkway west of Queen and Yonge linking the Eaton Centre to the Simpson’s building (now HBC/Saks)

For the period from March 26 to May 6, Queen cars will divert both ways via Spadina, King and Shaw. Replacement bus service will operate from University to Dufferin (terminating at Dufferin Loop south of King). Night service will operate from Yonge to Dufferin looping in the east via Church, Richmond and Victoria. (Deferred)

During the Queen diversion, running time will be added on 510 Spadina to allow for streetcar congestion and delays making turns at Queen and King. One cannot help wondering where “transit priority” fits in this situation considering that problems with this diversion were quite evident during 2016.

Starting on May 7, the route will be converted to bus operation end-to-end. This will have two branches similar to the streetcar service before 2015. One branch will operate from Neville to Long Branch, while the other will run from Neville to Park Lawn. Buses will run through the construction area from Spadina to Bathurst.

Because so many buses will be required and streetcars now on Queen will be released, streetcars will return to 511 Bathurst, 503 Kingston Road Tripper and the 504 King trippers.

Streetcar service on Queen between Neville and Sunnyside will resume in September, and over the full route to Long Branch in January 2018.

See also Ben Spurr’s article in the Star.

505 Dundas

Three projects affect the Dundas service during 2017:

  • Reconstruction of the intersection at Victoria and Dundas Square (beginning late March)
  • Reconstruction of the intersection at Dundas and Parliament (May-June)
  • Watermain construction between Yonge and Church (late March to October)

Effective with the March schedules, 505 Dundas cars will divert both ways via Bay, College, Carlton and Church.

During the May-June period when streetcars will not be able to operate through the Parliament intersection, a different arrangement will be required, but the details have not been announced.

504 King

Starting with the March 26 schedules, the King bus trippers will be extended north to Dundas West Station to avoid congestion at Sunnyside Loop.

With the May schedules, the Queen turnback at Sunnyside will end, and the bus trippers will be replaced by streetcars.

503 Kingston Road Tripper

With the May schedules, this peak period route will return to streetcar operation, but it will loop downtown at Charlotte Loop (Spadina, Adelaide, Charlotte) because Wellington Street will be under construction.

For the July schedules (mostly in August), the intersection at Queen and Coxwell will be under construction, and so bus operation will return to the 503.

The 502 Downtowner service will remain a bus operation throughout.

506 Carlton

When the March schedules were planned, a diversion was to be implemented between Broadview and Coxwell to allow reconstruction of the overhead over that section of the route. This diversion has been deferred due to the shortage of buses, but the new temporary schedules were already in place for March-April. This will leave 506 Carlton service on its regular route, but with added running time and wider headways. The standard schedule will come back into operation in May.

Continuation of last year’s sidewalk construction and streetscape improvements is likely, but yet to be confirmed, beginning in June between Bathurst and Lansdowne. Service adjustments are yet to be announced.

Route Changes

73 Royal York

The peak period 73A service that now terminates at Dixon Road will be extended north following the same route as the 73C Albion Road service to loop via Knob Hill Drive and Oak Street in Weston. This branch will be renamed as 73D.

121 Fort York – Esplanade

The route will be extended west into Exhibition Place so that operators on the route have access to a washroom (in Exhibition Loop). Running times during certain periods will be adjusted to match conditions on the route.

131 Nugget Express

Two branches of this service operate to supplement the SRT while the fleet undergoes major repairs to extend its lifespan. The 131E runs from Kennedy Station to Old Finch, but the 131F runs only from Kennedy to STC. Due to low ridership the 131F service will be removed. Service on the 131E is unchanged.

TTC Service Changes Effective Sunday, January 8, 2017 (Updated)

Updated December 12, 2016 at 3:00 pm and at 4:25 pm: Details of the works planned for the west end of the Queen line during 2017 have been added to this article.

The planned service changes for January 2017 bring major restructuring of two routes, and a troubling indicator about the general availability of vehicles for TTC service.

Bus Availability

Several routes will have AM peak service cuts because there are not enough buses to operate the service. None of these will push the service over the loading standards, and these could be thought of of “trimming” excessive service. However, the explicit reason given is the lack of buses.

This is partly due to the slow delivery of new streetcars and to the operation of buses on many streetcar routes either to make up for missing fleet, or to cover for construction projects, but also because of additional demands for spare buses for maintenance.

Streetcar Availability

At the time of writing this article, car 4429 is about to leave Thunder Bay. This leaves Bombardier on track if they push out one more car to hit their much-revised delivery target for 2016. However, the rate of deliveries is not expected to speed up until the second quarter of 2017 and so it will be some time before we see streetcars return across the system.The shortage is partly due to late deliveries and partly to the increased need for cars in maintenance for rehabilitation pending receipt of more Flexitys.

As of January, the following routes or portions of routes are operating with buses:

  • 502 Downtowner and 503 Kingston Road
  • 501 Queen (bus operation west of Sunnyside Loop to Long Branch)
  • 504 King (bus trippers)
  • 511 Bathurst

Effective January 8, 2017, the 501 Queen service will operate with streetcars only between Sunnyside Loop and Neville Loop. A bus service will run from Long Branch Loop via Lake Shore, Windermere, The Queensway, Queen and Dufferin to Dufferin Loop. The same arrangement will be in place for night service, and so riders bound west of Roncesvalles will have to transfer to the night bus.

Beginning in the spring, The Queensway right-of-way will be rebuilt over its entire length including the bridge at the Humber River, the “Long Branch” side of Humber Loop will be rebuilt, as will the track from Humber Loop west to Dwight and Lake Shore (just at the point where Lake Shore straightens out). Streetcar service is not expected to resume until late in 2017 January 2018.

Update: The timing for various components of this project, tentatively, is:

  • Queensway track from Claude to Humber Loop will be rebuilt in concrete rather than with open ballast as at present. This work will occur over much of the construction season.
  • City work on the Humber River bridge will also run through the construction season.
  • Track on Lake Shore from Humber Loop to Dwight will be replaced in the spring.
  • A new substation will be installed at Humber Loop in the summer.
  • Track at Humber Loop and through the tunnel to Lake Shore will be replaced in the late summer and fall.
  • There are no plans at this point to change the stop at Parkside Drive which is not accessible.

Further to the above, the TTC advises that “most of the track work west of Humber Loop is the replacement of the rail and top layer of concrete only, and so the alignment does not change.”

[Thanks to Scott Haskill at the TTC for these details.]

A separate project to rebuild and reconfigure The Queensway east of Parkside to Roncesvalles, including replacement of the intersection and the junctions with the carhouse, is planned for 2019.

Concurrent with this change, some of the bus trippers on 504 King will revert to streetcar operation. Also, the 80A Queensway service to Keele Station will operate at all hours rather than cutting back to Humber Loop to preserve a connection with the 501 Queen bus service.

Metrolinx Construction on the Eglinton LRT

This project continues to affect more routes whose schedules have been adjusted mainly by giving more running time and stretching headways.

The major change in this regard is that the 25 Don Mills route will be split on weekdays at Don Mills Station into two separate routes so that construction delays on the south end of the line do not affect service north of Sheppard. The service levels on the 25 Don Mills local buses and 185 Don Mills Rockets have been slightly adjusted to reflect greater demand on the locals.


501 Queen: Construction Effects on Service (Updated)

Since May 8, 2016 and continuing until Thanksgiving weekend, route 501 Queen is diverting around water main construction on Queen west of Spadina. The westbound diversion takes streetcars south to King at Spadina, west to Shaw and back north to Queen, and eastbound service follows the same route in reverse.

This article compares the line’s operation before and after the diversion took effect.

Updated July 26, 2016 at 4:00 pm: A chart has been added shown the delaying effect on King Street service eastbound at Spadina caused by queues for left turning eastbound Queen cars.

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Reviewing the New Schedules on 501 Queen for January 2016 (Part II)

In January 2016, the TTC implemented new schedules on route 501 Queen making the following changes:

  • The route was split into two sections with an independent Humber to Long Branch service (in effect, a return of the long absent 507 Long Branch route), and
  • Running times were increased so that scheduled and real-world travel times were better matched and short turns could be reduced.

The first article on this subject reviewed headway behaviour (the space between cars) with the new schedules. This article turns to running times (the time required to get from A to B) and service behaviour at terminals.

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Reviewing the New Schedules on 501 Queen for January 2016 (Part I)

Effective January 3, 2016, the TTC introduced a major revision in service on the 501 Queen route. The changes included:

  • Substantially more running time was allocated for almost all periods so that cars would not fall late thanks to congestion and heavy demand, and most of the service could reach the terminals.
  • The route was split at Humber Loop (see note below) so that the Humber-Neville service operated independently of the Humber-Long Branch service, the arrangement that had been in place until March 1995. This is supposed to be “temporary” pending the availability of enough cars to operate the full line with the longer ALRVs or new Flexitys. Service to Long Branch operates with CLRVs (the shorter streetcars) except for some runs that are through-routed from the main part of the route.
  • The section of the route west of Humber Loop was added to the “10 minute network” so that it is guaranteed frequent service at all hours (except overnight).

(Note: Due to the condition of the “Long Branch” side of Humber Loop, the service captive to the west end of the line was discontinued for the last week of January, and “Long Branch” cars ran through to Roncesvalles Carhouse as their eastern terminus.)

The “before” and “after” service designs are summarized in the following table.


In this article, I will review the operation of the 501 Queen route in December 2015 and January 2016 with a focus on headways (the time between cars), reliability (variation in the headways) and the quality of service on outer ends of the line (the compound effect of reliability and short turns). In the second part of this article I will turn to the effect of additional running time in the schedules.

General Observations

Service in January 2016 is much more reliable, especially on the outer ends of the route as the need to short turn cars simply to stay on schedule is much reduced. On the west end of the line, service on Lake Shore is considerably improved both because this is now part of the “10 minute network” and because cars are now dedicated to serving the segment west of Humber.

Short turns still do occur, although for the most part this is now due more to local incidents such as collisions than congestion. In other words, short turns occasionally spike at a specific time and day rather than being chronic throughout all days and hours of service.

Weekend service was particularly bad in December partly because there is less (or no) unscheduled extra service to fill gaps, and partly because line management seems to apply to weekends with the focus being on “on time” performance rather than actual service levels. This problem is reduced but not eliminated in January.

Wide gaps in service and the complementary effect, bunching, were much more prevalent in December than in January, but unreliable headways are still a problem, albeit at a lower level. Combined with the higher likelihood that cars will run through to their advertised destinations, the length of time a rider must await a through car, and the anguish about whether one will ever appear, is improved.

Cars depart inbound from terminals more reliably, generally within the TTC’s goal of a six minute “on time” window. However, this goal still allows for uneven spacing relative to a six minute scheduled headway, and by the time cars reach Yonge Street, the unevenness of terminal departures is magnified. On Lake Shore, headways are uneven at times even with the dedicated local service simply because cars do not leave terminals on a regular spacing. A six minute “on time” window allows most of these to hit the target, but they still contribute to uneven service

The added running time allows more service to reach its scheduled destination, but during some periods it also contributes to noticeably slower operation. If the schedules are padded, then it should be possible to space service midway along the route. From a traffic viewpoint, the question then becomes whether it is better to have streetcars sit killing time at key locations rather than dawdling along the route to burn up excess time in the schedule.

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Does More Running Time Improve Service?

[This is a long article, and I won’t hold it against anyone for failing to read all the way to the end, or not looking at every page of every chart. The issue here is a system-wide one of how service is scheduled and managed using routes where the TTC is attempting to improve operations as a reference.]

At the TTC Board Meeting of December 2015, Chief Service Officer Richard Leary gave a presentation “Performance Based Service” outlining the work done to date to improve the reliability of surface routes. [A YouTube video of the presentation is also available.]

The focus of changes made to several schedules has been that end-to-end running times should reflect actual on-street conditions rather than presenting drivers with an unattainable goal that cannot be met during typical conditions, let alone anything unusual such as poor weather or unusually bad traffic congestion.

The changes to date are summarized in the table below.


In some cases, the extra running time is provided simply by widening the headway. For example, if a route takes one hour, and it has a bus every 10 minutes, that’s six buses. Extending the headway to 11 minutes would change the round trip to 66 minutes with no added cost. In theory, if this allows vehicles to stay on time, better service might actually be provided because all buses would show up as planned. That, however, depends on them being properly spaced so that their capacity is evenly used.

In other cases, where the problem is not just scheduled time but also capacity, more vehicles can be added. In the example above, a seventh bus would allow the headway to stay at 10 minutes while the trip time went up to 70. With the long-standing problems of a constrained fleet, this is only possible in off-peak periods, or by raiding other routes for vehicles.

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