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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The photo below shows the south side of Roncesvalles Yard including the forest of poles holding up the overhead.
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.
Queen/Kingston Road Overhead Replacement July 26 to August 5
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).