The Last Night of the Mt. Pleasant Car

Streetcar service on Mt. Pleasant Road ended at dawn on Sunday, July 25, 1976. To mark the occasion, a group of transit enthusiasts (or railfans if you prefer) chartered Peter Witt 2766 for an overnight tour around the city. We stopped at many places for photos, something that is only possible in the middle of the night, and then finished up with two round trips on the Mt. Pleasant line before calling it a night.

Here is a gallery of photos from that journey. I have published some of these before, but here is the full set.

Some of what we photographed remains, other views have disappeared or changed substantially.

There are more buildings in the way of the CN Tower than in 1976 and getting a clean shot top-to-bottom is much harder now than it was when the tower was new.

The buildings on Spadina have not changed too much, but it would take almost two decades from the photo here before we would see streetcar service return in 1997.

Bay Street is utterly transformed, now a condo canyon, including the stripped and repurposed Sutton Place Hotel.

The tail track at Bingham Loop that allowed a brief excursion into Scarborough was removed years ago as were spurs and tail tracks almost everywhere else.

The variety store beside Coxwell-Queen Loop disappeared under a condo in the past few years.

Now it was time to venture up to St. Clair for the last runs on Mt. Pleasant. Our first pass took us along St.Clair past the subway station over track used only by the night cars. Up at Eglinton, it was still quite dark although the deep blue of the dawn sky had begun to show. We returned south and west to St. Clair Station and then looped back east to Moore Park Loop where we met the first bus on the new Mt. Pleasant route. Another trip through St. Clair Station brought a meet with the last night car, and then we headed off for the final trip with the line all to ourselves.

As we were posing in front of the coal silos at Merton, a TTC Supervisor came by to chase us off of the line as they wanted to cut off the power. Our operator, Charlie Price, a veteran of many charters, was not too worried about getting back to the carhouse on time.

At Eglinton and Mt. Pleasant, nothing that was on the four corners remains today. A bus loop, currently unused, sits inside a seniors’ building on the northeast corner that once held a gas station and the streetcar loop. The bank on the northwest will return some day as the shell of the main entrance to Mt. Pleasant Station on Line 5 Crosstown. Eglinton Public School on the southwest was replaced with an ugly building whose architects assure me was the product of cost cutting by the Board of Education. The south east corner, formerly a typical 1920s-era row of stores with apartments above, now has a midrise commercial building that, like other developments along Eglinton, added nothing to the local character. It is sad to think that the bank, when it returns, will probably be the most distinguished building there.

At St. Clair and Yonge, even the “modern” towers don’t last forever. Updates and replacements are already in the pipeline.

The subway station had the distinction of being the first to have a restaurant inside of the paid area, a counter-example to the “though shalt not eat in the subway” bylaw that was never implemented. It eventually became a McDonalds.

Moore Park Loop is now a local parkette little changed except for the removal of the streetcar tracks.

Dominion Coal is long gone, and the area between Mt. Pleasant and Yonge along Merton is almost all condos in what was once an industrial area.

The cemetery, founded in 1873 when it was out in the countryside among farms, goes on, an oasis with the city’s best collection of trees.

Updated July 27, 2020: Service east of St. Clair Station to Moore Park Loop continued until October 2, 1976 but only for the St. Clair night car (and occasional daytime cars killing time because they were off schedule). Thanks to Philip Webb for sending me a copy of an article by Mike Roschlau in Rail+Transit, January 1977, with this info.

TTC Service Changes Effective Sunday, June 21, 2020

There are comparatively few changes for the June-July schedules in 2020 because service is already operating at a reduced level due to the Covid-19 emergency.

Production of a table comparing old and new service levels with this change is tricky because the “before” situation included a lot of ad hoc operations by the TTC. I will try to pull something together and will update this article at that time.

During the May schedules, quick adjustments were made on many routes by removing previously scheduled crews rather than completely rewriting the schedules. This produced scheduled gaps which show up in the published timetables and in the data feed used by various trip planning applications. Many, but not necessarily all of these will be fixed for the June schedules.

Extra Service

On the bus network, there will be scheduled trippers overlaying the regular service on routes where there have been crowding problems. The table below is taken from the TTC’s memo detailing the new service arrangements. There are 90 AM and 87 PM trippers.

In addition to these trippers, a large number of crews will be provided for additional service as needed and to cover subway shuttle operations. There will be 180 weekday, 208 Saturday and 148 Sunday crews. Note that a crew is not the same thing as an additional bus because more than one crew is required to operate one vehicle if it is in service for more than 8 hours.

On the streetcar network, the current four crews for extra service will be expanded to eight. Half of these cover the morning and early afternoon period, while the other half cover the afternoon and evening

Bathurst Station Construction

The streetcar loop at Bathurst Station will be rebuilt, and all bus operations will shift to the surface loop at Spadina Station. This arrangement is planned to be in effect until the schedule change on Labour Day weekend, but if work completes sooner, service will revert to Bathurst Station earlier.

  • 7 Bathurst will divert both ways via Dupont and Spadina to Spadina Station.
  • 511 Bathurst (which is already operating with buses due to construction at Front Street) will divert via Harbord and Spadina to Spadina Station.
  • 307 Bathurst Night will divert both ways via Dupont, Spadina and Harbord. The route will also be changed to operate via Fort York Boulevard at the south end of the route so that the night bus route matches the one used by the 511 buses during daytime service.
  • 512 St. Clair will operate from Hillcrest as a temporary yard because the line will be physically isolated from the rest of the streetcar system while track work on Bathurst Street is underway.

Bathurst will remain as a bus operation until the end of 2020 while various construction projects along the line are completed.

Conversion of 506 Carlton to Bus Operation

Several projects will take place affecting 506 Carlton over the summer and early fall. These include:

  • Track replacement and paving at High Park Loop and on Howard Park Avenue west of Roncesvalles.
  • Replacement of the special work at Howard Park and Dundas.
  • Replacement of the special work at Dundas and College. Work at this location includes addition of traffic signals and reconfiguration for pedestrian and cycling crossings. There is a diagram of the new arrangement in an article I published earlier this year.
  • City of Toronto work on the Sterling Road bridge.
  • Modification of all overhead from High Park Loop to Bay Street for pantograph operation where this has not already been done.
  • Construction at Main Station.

506 Carlton buses will operate to Dundas West Station instead of to High Park Loop. The 306 Carlton Night route will also operate with buses on its usual route to Dundas West.

Through-routed 501 Queen Service to Long Branch

When the May scheduled were implemented, an inadvertent error did not provide enough running time for streetcars to make the full Neville-Long Branch trip as planned. Buses were substituted on the west end of the route. Effective June 21, through streetcar service will be provided all day long, rather than only at late evenings and overnight.

All Queen service will operate from Russell Carhouse.

Streetcar Service on 503 Kingston Road

With the removal of streetcars from 506 Carlton, the 503 Kingston Road line will return on Monday June 22 operating to Charlotte Loop at Spadina & King. The TTC plans to switch this back to bus operation in the fall when streetcars return to 506 Carlton. The 22 Coxwell bus will revert to its usual arrangement running only to Queen Street during weekday daytime periods.

Seasonal Services

  • 92 Woodbine South will receive additional service in anticipation of higher riding to Woodbine Beach.
  • 121 Fort York-Esplanade will be extended as usual to Ontario Place and Cherry Beach.
  • 175 Bluffers Park will operate during the daytime weekends and holidays on the same schedule as in March 2019.
  • 86 Scarborough will operate an early evening shuttle between Meadowvale Loop and the Zoo.
  • Planned service increases on 510 Spadina and 509 Harbourfront will not be implemented, but the routes will be monitored for crowding and extra service will operate if necessary.

Pantograph Operation on 505 Dundas Streetcars

With the conversion of all overhead on the 505 Dundas route to pantograph-friendly suspension, the full route will operate with pans. Previously, a switch to/from poles was required at Parliament Street, the eastern end of pantograph territory on this route.

506 Carlton will be the next route to convert to pantograph operation. 504 King and 501 Queen cannot convert until after the reconstruction of the King-Queen-Roncesvalles intersection planned for 2021.

Streetcar Service During the CLRV Era

With the retirement of the CLRV fleet on December 29, 2019, this is a good time to look back at how service on the streetcar network has evolved during the lifetime of those cars.

When they first entered service on the Long Branch route in September 1979, the new cars marked a real sign that Toronto was keeping its streetcar system.

Although Toronto decided to keep streetcars in late 1972, there was no guarantee that without renewal of the fleet and infrastructure the system could last very long. The last-built cars in the PCC fleet (the 4500s) dated to 1951 and, despite their simplicity compared to what we now call “modern” cars, they would not last forever. Second hand cars from other cities were older than the most recent “Toronto” cars. They were retired over the years even while the TTC undertook major overhauls on its own, younger fleet.

In 1980, the streetcar service was still dominated by PCCs as much of the CLRV order was still to come, and the ALRVs would not arrive until the late 1980s.

Yes, I know. What are all of those acronyms? Not every reader is a die-hard railfan with all of this information at their fingertips.

PCC: The President’s Conference Car was the product of work by a consortium of street railways to update streetcar design in competition with the rise of the private automobile. This was a large research project, especially for its time in the 1930s, and it produced a totally re-thought vehicle. The TTC was working with Hawker Siddeley on an updated PCC design in the mid-1960s, but nothing came of this thanks to a provincial fascination with new, high-tech transit. A license agreement for updated PCC patents held, in the 1960s, by the Czech manufacturer Tatra was never signed, and work on a new PCC for suburban routes stopped.

PCCs on King Street at Atlantic Avenue

CLRV: The Canadian Light Rail Vehicle. This car was designed partly by the TTC and partly by a provincial agency, the Ontario Transportation Development Corporation (later renamed as “Urban” to remove the explicit local reference). The design, from the Swiss Industrial Group (SIG), was very different from the car the TTC had worked on, but the UTDC needed a viable product after their magnetic-levitation project ran aground with technical difficulties. As a city streetcar, it was overbuilt in anticipation of high-speed suburban operation, notably in Scarborough. That scheme was supplanted by what we now know as the “RT”.

CLRV at High Park Loop

ALRV: The two section “Articulated” version of the CLRV was designed to run on heavy routes, notably the Queen car. These vehicles were never as reliable as the original CLRVs, and they were the first to be retired. At various times over the years, they ran on Queen, Bathurst and King.

An ALRV at “Old” Exhibition Loop

Flexity: This is the generic product name for Bombardier’s low-floor streetcars. It exists in many formats with Toronto’s version being designed to handle tight curves and steep grades. Delivery of the 204-car fleet was almost complete at the end of 2019.

Flexity on King Street at University Avenue

When the TTC decided to keep streetcars in 1972, they were still enjoying a long period of post-war ridership growth with constant expansion into the suburbs of bus and subway lines. Getting new riders was a simple task – just run more service. The downtown streetcar system was still bulging with riders thanks to a stable population and a robust industrial sector.

By 1980, however, the TTC hit something its management had not seen before, a downturn in ridership, thanks to the economic effect of the first Middle Eastern oil war and its effect on energy prices. Although the TTC continued to grow through the 1980s, a mindset of running just enough service to meet demand took over. This would be particularly unfortunate when the ALRVs entered service, and the new schedules merely replaced the capacity of former CLRV/PCC service on wider headways. With cars 50% bigger, the scheduled gap (headway) between cars increased proportionately. This combined with the TTC’s notoriously uneven service to drive away ridership, and the Queen car lost about a third of its demand.

The real blow came in the early 1990s with an extended recession that saw the TTC system lose 20% of its ridership falling from about 450 million to 360 million annual rides over five years. The effect was compounded when Ontario walked away from transit subsidies when the Mike Harris conservatives replaced the Bob Rae NDP at Queen’s Park.

The TTC planned to rebuild and keep a small PCC fleet to supplement the LRVs in anticipation of vehicle needs on the Spadina/Harbourfront line. However, when it opened in 1997 service cuts had reduced peak fleet requirements to the point that the PCCs were not required and the network, including 510 Spadina, operated entirely with CLRVs and ALRVs. This locked the TTC into a fleet with no capacity for growth, a situation that persisted for over two decades and which the new Flexity fleet has not completely relieved.

The combination of rising demand, in turn driven by the unforeseen growth of residential density in the “old” City of Toronto, and of commercial density in and near the core, leaves Toronto with unmet transit needs, latent and growing possibilities for transit to make inroads in the travel market, and a customer attitude that “TTC” means “Take The Car” if possible.

The problem with service inadequacy and unreliability extends well beyond the old city into the suburban bus network, but this article’s focus is the streetcar lines. I have not forgotten those who live and travel in what we used to call “Zone 2”, but the evolution of service on the streetcar system is a tale of what happens when part of the transit network does not get the resources it should to handle demand.

The evolution of service and capacity levels shown here brings us to the standard chicken-and-egg transit question about ridership and service. Without question there have been economic and demographic changes in Toronto over the years including the average population per household in the old city, the conversion of industrial lands (and their jobs) to residential, the shift of some commuting to focus outward rather than on the core, and the shift in preferred travel mode.

Where service has been cut, ridership fell, and it is a hard slog to regain that demand without external forces such as the population growth in the King Street corridor. The lower demand becomes the supposed justification for lower service and what might have been “temporary” becomes an integral part of the system. However, the level of service on any route should not be assumed to be “adequate for demand” because that demand so strongly depends on the amount of service actually provided.

This is a challenge for the TTC and the City of Toronto in coming decades – moving away from just enough service and subsidy to get by to actively improving surface route capacity and service quality.

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TTC Service Changes Effective September 3, 2017

The September 2017 schedule changes primarily involve the reversal of summer service cuts to many routes with only minimal service improvements. This continues the TTC’s policy for 2017 of constraining service growth in the face of lower than budgeted ridership, as well as the shortage of vehicles.

Construction projects continue to affect route 501 Queen and will do so for many months to come:

  • Streetcar service is restored between Russell Carhouse (at Connaught) and Sunnyside Loop.
    • This will be affected in October when the intersection of McCaul and Queen is rebuilt requiring a diversion.
  • A bus shuttle will operate from River to Neville Park due to the reconstruction of the intersection at Coxwell and Queen.
    • This will also require the continued operation of buses on the 502/503 services on Kingston Road.
    • Through streetcar service to Neville Park will resume with the October schedules.
  • A bus shuttle to Long Branch will operate from Dufferin Loop, and Marine Parade will be served by its own local shuttle to Windermere.
    • Construction on The Queensway will prevent streetcars from operating to Humber Loop until the end of the year.
    • Streetcars will not operate west of Humber Loop to Long Branch until mid-2018.

With the return of ALRVs to the Queen route, 504 King will operate primarily with CLRVs, and the peak period trippers will mainly be buses, not streetcars. The effective capacity of the route will fall because of the lower capacity of CLRVs and buses versus the streetcars that have been used over the summer of 2017. This will be minimally offset by a small reduction in headways during all operating periods thanks to trimming of the running time. King cars now enjoy extended layovers leading to queues of vehicles at terminals thanks to an overly-generous schedule. The number of streetcars in service remains the same, but on slightly shorter headways.

New low-floor Flexity streetcars will be deployed on 512 St. Clair starting in September, subject to availability. The schedule will be based on CLRVs until new car deliveries reach the point where the line can be scheduled as a Flexity route.

The TTC plans to begin using Flexitys on 504 King late in 2017 subject to availability.

Between them, the King and St. Clair routes require about 60 CLRVs at peak. Allowing for some capacity growth with Flexitys, this translates to about 45 of the new cars, plus spares. It will be some time before both routes are converted, assuming Bombardier achieves their ramped up delivery rate in fall 2017. They are already slightly behind schedule with only two of three planned cars for July 2017 out the door in Thunder Bay, and they have not yet implemented the additional shifts/workforce to produce cars at a higher rate effective October 2017.

The northbound stop at Broadview & Danforth will be removed allegedly in the aid of transit priority signalling. In fact, this is a location where the substantial green time afforded to east-west traffic on Danforth makes the idea of “priority” for transit movements difficult to swallow. There is already an advanced green northbound for left turning motor traffic. Given the layovers now enjoyed by streetcars at Broadview Station, it is not clear just what this priority will achieve, but removing the stop will annoy the many riders who now use it. The southbound stop remains in service.

Other construction projects include:

  • 54 Lawrence East: Water main construction west of Victoria Park has completed.
  • Renforth Station opens: 32 Eglinton West and 112 West Mall are rerouted into the new regional terminal.
  • Kennedy Station: The schedule change to accommodate Crosstown construction is implemented for weekend service on 86 Scarborough.
  • Long Branch Loop: All buses will loop via the streetcar loop during reconstruction of the bus roadway.
  • 123 Shorncliffe: Additional running time to accommodate a City paving project.
  • 506 Carlton: The only remaining construction area/diversion is on College between Bathurst and Lansdowne. This will end in October.
  • 505 Dundas: The diversion between Bay and Church will end in late September or early October depending on progress of the road works east of Yonge.

The 400 Lawrence Manor and 404 East York Community Bus services will be extended. For details, see the TTC’s July 2017 update on these services.

2017.09.03_Service_Changes

The Evolution of Streetcar Service from 1980 to 2016

Transit service on many of Toronto’s streetcar lines has declined over past decades and, with it, riders’ faith in and love for this mode. Unreliable, crowded service is considered the norm for streetcar routes, and this leads to calls to “improve” service with buses.

The historical context for this decline is worth repeating in the context of current debates over how Toronto should provide transit service to the growing population in its dense “old” city where most of the streetcar lines run.

When the TTC decided in late 1972, at the urging of City Council, to reverse its long-standing plans to eliminate streetcars by 1980 (when the Queen Subway would take over as the trunk route through the core), the level of service on streetcar lines was substantially better than it is on most routes today. Any comparison of streetcars versus buses faced the prospect of a very large fleet of buses on very frequent headways roaring back and forth on all major streets.

Service in 1980 (when the system was originally planned for conversion) was substantially the same as in 1972, and for the purpose of this article, that date is our starting point.

Ten years later, in 1990, little had changed, but the City’s transit demand was about to fall off a cliff thanks to a recession. During this period, TTC lost much riding on its network including the subway with annual travel dropping by 20% overall. It would take a decade to climb back from that, but various factors permanently “reset” the quality of service on streetcar routes:

  • During the recession, service was cut across the board, and this led to a reduction in the size of fleet required to serve the network.
  • In anticipation of the 510 Spadina line opening, the TTC had rebuilt a group of PCC streetcars, but these were not actually needed for the 509/510 Harbourfront/Spadina services by the time Spadina opened. “Surplus” cars thanks to the recession-era service cuts were available to operate the new routes.
  • Since 1996, any service changes have been  made within the available fleet, a situation compounded by declining reliability of the old cars and the anticipation of a new fleet “soon”.
  • By 2016, the fleet was not large enough to serve all routes, and bus substitutions became common.

Some of the decline in demand on streetcar routes came from changing demographics and shifting job locations. Old industrial areas transformed into residential clusters, and the traffic formerly attracted to them by jobs disappeared. Meanwhile, the city’s population density fell in areas where gentrification brought smaller families to the houses.

The city’s population is now growing again, although the rate is not equal for all areas. Liberty Village and the St. Lawrence neighbourhood are well known, visible growth areas, but growth is now spreading out from both the King Street corridor and moving further away from the subway lines. This creates pressure on the surface routes in what the City’s Planners call the “shoulders” of downtown.

As the population and transit demand have rebounded, the TTC has not kept pace.

The changes in service levels are summarized in the following spreadsheet:

Streetcar_Services_1980_To_2016 [pdf]

510 Bathurst: In 1980, this route had 24 cars/hour during the AM peak period, but by 2006 this had dropped by 50% to 12. In November 2016, with buses on the route, there were 20 vehicles per hour, and with the recent reintroduction of streetcars, the peak service was 10.6 ALRVs/hour, equivalent to about 16 CLRVs. Current service is about 1/3 less than it was in 1980.

506 Carlton: In 1980, this route  had 20 streetcars/hour at peak, but by 2016 this was down to 13.8.

505 Dundas: In 1980, service on this route had two branches, one of which terminated at Church after City Hall Loop was replaced by the Eaton Centre. On the western portion of the route, there were 27 cars per hour, while to the east there were 15 (services on the two branches were not at the same level). By 2016, this was down to 10.3. [Corrected]

504 King: This route, thanks to the developments along its length, has managed to retain its service over the years at the expense of other routes. In 1980, there were 25.2 cars per hour over the full route between Broadview and Dundas West Stations with a few trippers that came east only to Church Street. Despite budget cuts in 1996 that reduced service to 16.4 cars/hour at peak, the route came back to 30 cars/hour by 2006. Service is now provided by a mixture of King cars on the full route (15/hour), 514 Cherry cars between Sumach and Dufferin (7.5/hour), and some trippers between Roncesvalles and Broadview. Some 504 King runs operate with ALRVs and most 514 Cherry cars are Flexitys.

501 Queen/507 Long Branch: In 1980, the Queen and Long Branch services operated separately with 24.5 cars/hour on Queen and 8.9 cars/hour on Long Branch at peak. By 1990, the Queen service had been converted to operate with ALRVs and a peak service of 16.1 cars/hour, roughly an equivalent scheduled capacity to the CLRV service in 1980. By 1996, Queen service was down to 12 ALRVs/hour of which 6/hour ran through to Long Branch. Headways have stayed roughly at that level ever since. The Long Branch route was split off from Queen to save on ALRVs, and as of November 2016 6.3 CLRVs/hour ran on this part of the route. Bus replacement services are operating in 2017 due to many construction projects conflicting with streetcar operation.

502 Downtowner/503 Kingston Road Tripper: In 1980, these routes provided 15.6 cars/hour, but by 2016 this had declined to 10/hour.

512 St. Clair: In 1980, the St. Clair car operated with a scheduled short turn at Earlscourt Loop. East of Lansdowne, there were 33.3 cars/hour on St. Clair. By 1996 this was down to 20.6 cars/hour. The next decade saw an extended period of reconstruction for the streetcar right-of-way, and service during this period was irregular, to be generous. By 2016, the service has improved to 21.2 cars/hour, but this is still well below the level of 1980.

What is quite clear here is that the budget and service cuts of the early 1990s substantially reduced the level of service on streetcar routes, and even as the city recovered, the TTC was slow to restore service, if at all. The unknown question with current service levels is the degree to which demand was lost to demographic changes and to what extent the poor service fundamentally weakened the attractiveness of transit on these routes. The TTC has stated that some routes today are operating over capacity, but even those numbers are limited by the difference between crowding standards (which dictate design capacity) and the actual number of riders who can fit on the available service. It is much harder to count those who never board.

In a fiscal environment where any service improvement is viewed negatively because it will increase operating costs, the challenge is to turn around Council’s attitude to transit service. This is an issue across the city and many suburban bus routes suffer from capacity challenge and vehicle shortages just like the streetcar routes downtown.

The bus fleet remains constrained by actions of Mayor Ford in delaying construction of the McNicoll Garage with the result that that the TTC has no place to store and maintain a larger fleet even if they were given the money to buy and operate it. Years of making do with what we have and concentrating expansion funding on a few rapid transit projects has boxed in the TTC throughout its network.

Transit will not be “the better way” again until there are substantial investments in surface fleets and much-improved service.

TTC Updates Flexity Roll Out Plan (Updated)

The TTC has issued an updated plan for implementation of the new Flexity streetcars.

This is taken from a Briefing Note that details recent revisions to the plan plus details of the service to be operated on 512 St. Clair once it is fully converted to the new cars.

As of mid-2016, plans were somewhat different for the conversion of routes to the new cars:

  • By the end of 2016: 510 Spadina, 509 Harbourfront, 514 Cherry, 511 Bathurst, 505 Dundas and 501 Queen (part)
  • By the end of 2017: 501 Queen (complete) and 504 King
  • By the end of 2018: 512 St. Clair and 502 Downtowner (part)
  • During 2019: 502 Downtowner (complete), 503 Kingston Road and 506 Carlton

The 512 St. Clair line has moved up in the sequence with conversion beginning in September 2017 and finishing (assuming Bombardier’s deliveries stay on schedule) in February 2018. This route is now overcrowded and needs more capacity. The only way this can be provided is with more and/or larger cars.

The planned service level will use fewer cars, although they will be much larger than those now in service on St. Clair, with the result that greater capacity will operate on the route. The scheduled capacities shown below are based on 74 passengers/car on the existing CLRVs and 130/car on the new Flexitys.

It is worth asking here how many other TTC routes are in this condition, and why a report detailing the degree of the shortfall was not an essential  part of the budget when Toronto was told that the TTC’s planned service was adequate to meet demand.

What does exist in the Capital Budget (albeit in the detailed “Blue Books” which are issued after the budget is finalized) is the fleet plan. Although the timing of route conversions has changed, what remains constant is the planned peak vehicle requirement for each route.

In the table below, the CLRV and ALRV figures are the PM Peak scheduled service for various dates when these routes were operating entirely with streetcars and with no diversions.

Date CLRV ALRV Flexity Capacity Ratio
501 Queen / 508 Lake Shore Mar 2016 6 33 34 1.1 (*)
502 Downtowner Sept 2015 7 8 2.0
503 Kingston Road Sept 2015 6 6 1.8
504 King May 2017 33 7 24 + ALRVs (*)
505 Dundas Jan 2017 19 19 1.8
506 Carlton Jan 2017 29 24 1.5
509 Harbourfront May 2017 8 N/C
510 Spadina May 2017 16 N/C
511 Bathurst Sept 2016 11 11 1.8
512 St. Clair May 2017 22 18 1.4
514 Cherry May 2017 9 N/C

Notes:

  • The actual capacity change on Queen will be greater than 1.1 because many of the “ALRV” runs are now operated with the smaller CLRVs although there has been no adjustment in the schedule to reflect the reduced capacity of the route.
  • The capacity change for King will depend on how many of the 30 ALRVs that will be overhauled for service until 2024 are assigned to this route. The fleet plan indicates that these ALRVs will have to be replaced in a future order. If the TTC were to operate 24 Flexitys plus 20 ALRVs, this would add approximately 65% to the route’s capacity. Other gains might be obtained through transit priority measures now under study, but the actual quantity remains to be seen.

The total of Flexitys in the table above is 177 vehicles which, allowing for 15% spares (a relatively low level for the TTC which uses a higher number for its bus fleet) brings the total to the 204 vehicle fleet now on order. A five percent increase in the spare factor is equivalent to 10 more cars.

Additional cars will be needed to handle ridership growth, replacement of the ALRV fleet, and new routes in the Waterfront. The Fleet Plan provides for 15 Waterfront vehicles, but this number was based on a smaller version of the LRT network than may eventually be built considering the Unilever site development and plans for the Western Waterfront line.

The Fleet Plan notes that the 264-car combined capacity of Leslie, Russell and Roncesvalles will be exhausted by 2027 when a new carhouse will be required. This would not likely be a large facility and could be more of a satellite storage yard. The TTC will have to begin thinking about its need for more streetcars and storage within this decade.

512 St. Clair: Construction Effects on Travel Time

Through the summer, the 512 St. Clair route will be under construction for various projects:

  • Modification of loading islands,
  • Reconstruction of the portal ramps and track at St. Clair West Station,
  • Reconstruction of overhead wiring at St. Clair West Station,
  • Reconstruction of the roofs at St. Clair Station streetcar and bus levels.

Buses are now operating over the entire route and this will continue until the Labour Day weekend when streetcars will return from St. Clair West Station to Keele. The work at St. Clair Station will not complete until late fall 2016, and buses will remain on the eastern section of the route.

The buses share the road lanes with auto traffic and generally do not make the trip as quickly as the streetcars. This article shows comparative data from early June 2016 when streetcars were still operating and late June after the buses took over.

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Kvetching About 512 St. Clair

The opponents of the 512 St. Clair streetcar right-of-way don’t miss any opportunity to slag the line. The TTC doesn’t help when it does not fully explain what is going on with this summer’s construction projects, and paints the work primarily as “accessibility” and “new streetcar” related.

A common complaint in Toronto is that nobody co-ordinates construction projects. Well, for those who bother to pay attention to the announcements of such things, co-ordination on a large scale is happening, and St. Clair is part of it. Many projects fit together like a jigsaw puzzle this summer.

  • St. Clair Station bus and streetcar loops require structural repairs that will take from now until late in the year. This has nothing to do with accessibility (the station already is accessible), nor with overhead changes for new streetcars (new pantograph-friendly overhead has been in place since 2011).
  • The ramps leading into St. Clair West Station Loop were not rebuilt during the line’s shutdown a few years ago (this is the only part that was, for some reason, omitted). They are the original installation from the Spadina subway opening and require reconstruction.
  • St. Clair West Station is not accessible, and work on this will begin this summer. However, that has nothing to do with the shutdown for all bus and streetcar routes serving the loop.
  • The overhead within St. Clair West Station must be converted for pantograph operation, but this is work that would typically be done overnight, or at most over a weekend.
  • Presto conversion of St. Clair West Station can be conveniently done while the station is closed, but did not strictly require it.
  • Reconstruction of small sections of the islands on St. Clair is required for proper operation of the low floor cars’ boarding ramps, but these island also require electrical fit-outs for Presto. This work is similar to that was done on Spadina.
  • Track construction at College & Bathurst prevents streetcar operation including access to St. Clair (although if this were the only issue, it would be handled by storing cars at Hillcrest or on the line as has been done in the past). The controlling factor is the ramp construction at St. Clair West. The Bathurst trackage will re-open in mid-July.
  • Work on College Street West by Toronto Water and as part of local street improvements for the BIA requires partial street closures. This has been co-ordinated with TTC trackwork at Bathurst and at Lansdowne.

In all of this, if one wants to knock the TTC, one might ask “why were the islands not done sooner” and “why were the ramps at St. Clair West left so long”. As for the islands, that’s partly a head-scratcher for accessibility, but Presto is a net new requirement. I suspect that the work could be done in under two months, but co-ordination with the other projects makes for one shutdown, not two. The ramps are another matter, and I have never heard an explanation of why this work was not done during the previous shutdown.

As for the replacement bus service running in mixed traffic, yes, that is going to be annoying. TTC does not want to use the streetcar right-of-way understandably because of narrow clearances with the overhead poles and the meandering path the lanes take. Those poles (notably absent on Spadina) were put in despite many questions to the TTC (including from emergency services) about the need for this design. What was really happening was that there was a boffin in the consulting firm working on the new streetscape who wanted the street lighting poles (which traditionally held up the TTC’s overhead) to be spaced further apart than TTC requirements. In the fullness of time, this wasn’t how the street was built (because the illumination level would not have been adequate), but meanwhile the TTC insisted on its own centre median poles except where buses share the right-of-way west of Bathurst.

It wasn’t a technical requirement, it was the combined stupidity of the street designer and the TTC’s sticking with a design that they no longer required. The result we have is a streetcar right-of-way that cannot host temporary bus service.

There is a lot to complain about with the TTC, and I am often criticized for writing more about the negatives than the positives. However, this is a case where a great deal of work has been collected into one set of shutdowns, and that is precisely the sort of thing the TTC and City should be doing.

TTC Service Changes Effective June 19, 2016

Many changes will affect TTC operations with the onset of summer schedules for 2016. These include both the usual seasonal changes to service levels, several construction projects affecting routes, and the restructuring of routes serving the waterfront.

Updated May 24, 2016 at 7:30 pm: Preliminary information on construction diversions at Broadview Station has been added to this article.

2016.06.19 Service Changes

The information in the spreadsheet linked here is organized into three sections:

  • Routine, mainly seasonal, changes
  • Groups of changes related to specific projects and route reorganization
  • Construction project calendar

20160619Map514Changes

The 514 Cherry streetcar route begins operation running via a short spur south from King to Distillery Loop. Initially this will run with a mix of Flexities and CLRVs pending an increase in the fleet of new cars. Eventually track on Cherry will extend under the rail corridor and south into the Port Lands, but that is a project still years away and subject to the usual wrangling at Council about capital spending priorities.

In the 2016 Budget, the TTC Board and Council chose not to fund the new service with additional money, and so this operation will be implemented by cutting service on the outer ends of the 504 King route. Peak service will operate every 8-9 minutes, and off-peak periods, the line will operate on a 15 minute headway with five cars. A blended service on King is impractical given the large difference in frequencies between the 514 and 504 routes. Whether the Cherry cars actually pull out onto King into gaps and carry passengers, or merely slip in behind King cars and let them do the work remains to be seen.

The 172 Cherry Street bus has been replaced by an extended 72 Pape over a new route serving Queen Quay East, and by a new 121 Fort York – Esplanade bus that will operate on, at most, 15 minute headways, a considerable improvement over the former 172 Cherry.

Sunday Stops

The TTC continues its program to remove Sunday Stops from the system with removal of stops at the following locations.

20160619SundayStops

Streetcars Return due to Bus Shortage

With the onset of construction season, and despite the summer service cuts, several streetcar routes will be partly or completely replaced by buses: 512 St. Clair, 511 Bathurst, 506 Carlton. This will be offset by the return of streetcar service to the 502 Downtowner and 503 Kingston Road Tripper lines, as well as full streetcar service on 504 King with no bus trippers. Service will likely revert to combined streetcar/bus operation in September thanks to the late deliveries of new Flexity streetcars by Bombardier.

Construction Work on College Street

Several projects on College Street West have been timed to occur over the summer of 2016.

  • Special track work replacement at Bathurst and at Lansdowne
  • Removal of safety islands at Bathurst eastbound and at Bay Street both ways
  • Expansion of the safety island westbound at Bathurst
  • Water main upgrades on College and on Lansdowne
  • Streetscape improvements on College

The effects of these will be:

  • 506 Carlton will operate with buses in the west and streetcars in the east on weekdays, and with buses over the entire route on weekends. The weekday services will overlap between Church and Bay. This will continue throughout the summer.
  • 47 Lansdowne will divert around the construction area via Dufferin Street.
  • 511 Bathurst will be operated by buses until the next schedule change at the end of July diverting around construction via Spadina between Harbord and Dundas.
  • The 509/511 bus shuttle on Fleet Street will be replaced by the 511 bus service.

Details of the service diversions are in a separate article.

When streetcar service returns to Bathurst Street, the cars will operate into Exhibition Loop so that through service is provided until the Labour Day weekend. In September/October, service will be cut back again to Fleet Loop for a track replacement project in Exhibition Loop.

St. Clair Construction

Major construction work at St. Clair and St. Clair West Stations will require removal of streetcar service over the summer and early fall. The approach ramps at St. Clair West were not rebuilt during the line’s reconstruction, and the track must be replaced. The entire 512 route will be operated with buses through the summer, and streetcars will return from St. Clair West to Keele in September. Full streetcar service will resume on the Thanksgiving weekend in October.

Buses will not be able to enter either station during this project. At St. Clair Station, all bus service will loop on street via Avoca, Pleasant Boulevard, Yonge and St. Clair with transfer connections at the Pleasant Boulevard entrance. At St. Clair West Station, the 90 Vaughan bus will be extended south to Bathurst Station, and routes 33 Forest Hill and 126 Christie will be interlined. All buses will make an on street transfer connection at St. Clair West.

Broadview Station Construction

The bus loop at Broadview Station will be rebuilt over the summer and all bus services will loop on street via Erindale, Ellerbeck, Danforth and Broadview using an on street transfer. Given the frequent congestion of streetcars on Broadview awaiting entry to the station, the bus service will add to the congestion at Danforth northbound. The arrangement of on street stops for the four bus routes affected here has not yet been announced. Running time has been added to allow for the around-the-block loop except in cases where there was already enough recovery time in the existing schedule.

Updated May 24, 2016: Brad Ross at the TTC has provided the preliminary construction notice for the service and street changes. In addition, the Brick Works shuttle bus which normally loads on Erindale outside of Broadview Station will be relocated to Chester Station.

Bayview Services Reorganized

Peak period frequent service on 11 Bayview now ends at Davisville & Bayview, but this will be extended to Sunnybrook Hospital with every second bus running through to Steeles.

The 28 Bayview South route serving the Brick Works now operates only on weekend daytime hours, but will provide service during all periods.

Victoria Park North

Service in York Region on Victoria Park will now be provided by York Region Transit. The 24D Victoria Park branch to Major Mackenzie will be dropped and all service will turn back at Steeles Avenue. The 224 Victoria Park North route will cease operation.

Richmond Street Construction

All Downtown Express services will divert westbound from Church to Peter while Richmond Street is rebuilt from Victoria to York. Whether there will be any provision to assist the left turns west-to-south at Peter that will block 501 Queen Service (itself forced to divert and turn south at Spadina for water main construction) remains to be seen.

Streetcar Track Construction Update: Spring 2016 (Update 2))

Several projects sprang up with the warm weather in Toronto, and more are to come.

Updated May 13, 2016: Details of diversions and replacement services for College Street projects have been added to the end of this article.

Updated May 13, 2016 at 3:00 pm: Details of diversions and replacements updated for 506 Carlton and 512 St. Clair.

First off was the replacement of special work on Charlotte Street at Adelaide and at King including removal of the never-used lead to Adelaide Street eastbound.

Next was the replacement of the southwest ladder track at Roncesvalles Carhouse. Because of the odd shape of the property, this carhouse has many interesting twists and turns in its layout.

A short section of Bay Street south from Elm has been in rough shape with a slow order for a few years. Now the track has been replaced.

Pending work for the construction season includes:

  • Richmond Street tangent track from east of Yonge to York. This is part of an overall reconstruction of the street previously begun by Toronto Water.
  • College at Bathurst (June 20 to July 22) and at Lansdowne (July 11 to 22). This is part of a set of projects affecting College Street described in detail on the City’s website. See below for details of service diversions and bus replacements.
  • A shutdown of 512 St. Clair will be required for the reconstruction at both St. Clair West and St. Clair Stations. This will begin concurrently with the reconstruction of Bathurst & College.

As of May 9, the 501 Queen service is diverting around Toronto Water construction via Spadina, King and Shaw. This will be in place until Thanksgiving weekend unless the work is finished early.

Diversions for College Street Projects (Added May 13, 2016)

Illustrations here are taken from display panels for a public meeting earlier this year.

Through the summer to the Labour Day weekend, the 506 Carlton route will operate with streetcars on the eastern portion of the route looping downtown via Bay, Dundas and McCaul. This route stays the same throughout the period because it is not affected by construction projects further west.

The western end of the route will operate with buses whose location will vary from phase-to-phase of the work. The service will loop east of Yonge Street via Jarvis, Maitland and Church. Note that the section between Dufferin and Lansdowne will be affected by construction work that will take place for some or all of the summer (see later maps below).

Updated May 13 at 3:00 pm: The split service shown below will operate on weekdays. On weekends, buses will provide service over the entire route diverting as necessary between Spadina and Lansdowne.

201606_506Diversion_1_CarltonSplit

While College and Bathurst is under construction, services will be modified as shown below.

The 506 west bus will divert via Spadina, Harbord and Ossington. The 511 Bathurst car will be replaced with buses diverting via Dundas, Spadina and Harbord.

201606_506Diversion_2_CollegeBathurst

During a considerable portion of the project, water main work between Dufferin and Lansdowne will require the 506 west bus to divert via Dufferin and Dundas.

201606_506Diversion_3_DufferinLansdowne

While the intersection of College and Lansdowne is under construction, the 47 Lansdowne bus will divert via Dufferin Street from Bloor to Queen southbound, and will operate northbound via Lansdowne only to Dundas Street, then via Dundas and Dufferin to Bloor.

201606_506Diversion_4_CollegeLansdowne

Updated May 13 at 3:00 pm: 512 St. Clair will be converted to bus operation during construction work at St. Clair West and St. Clair Stations throughout the summer. Buses will serve St. Clair West at on-street stops. During the September-October schedule period, construction work at St. Clair Station will require bus operation from St. Clair West Station to St. Clair Station.