Pilot project aims to cut number of short-turns on city’s longest streetcar route
By Kris Scheuer
(Originally written Aug. 15 for Town Crier)
The 501 Queen streetcar route will be split for a trial period from Oct. 19 to Nov. 20 in an attempt to reduce the number of short-turns that have been plaguing the line.
The TTC wants to see if their experiment improves the line’s current service.
Streetcars originating at Neville Park going west will end the route at Shaw St. Meanwhile, streetcars coming from Humber or Long Branch heading east will wrap up at Parliament St.
Rocket riders who want to continue their journey along Queen will need a transfer to another streetcar travelling in their desired direction.
Beaches-East York councillor Sandra Bussin said she is very pleased the TTC has agreed to the solution. “I’m convinced this is probably the only option that will work,” she said. “It’s the longest streetcar route in Toronto.”Currently the 501 runs from the Long Branch loop in Mississauga to the Neville Park loop at Victoria Park Ave. It takes about 90 minutes for a streetcar driver to complete the journey one way and three hours roundtrip.
But everything including fires, parades, protests and traffic accidents, events at City TV’s CHUM building all cause delays that back up streetcars along the route.
“The major problem with Queen is there are so many different disruptions that occur. Some are minor but have an accumulative affect,” says John Chamberlain, superintendent for the 501 Queen Route Project.
And on a long route, disruptions can back up streetcars in a conga line.
In the past, supervisors would opt to short turn streetcars in order to get them back on schedule, said Bussin, a TTC commissioner.
Some Beach residents have been complaining for years about waiting 20–40 minutes for a streetcar as far as Neville Park, rather than the scheduled six minutes.
Extra supervisors were placed on the route earlier this year, bringing the total to five, and monitored problems via central computers. They will remain to allow for more flexibility on when to short turn transit.
“Now, it’s supposed to be customer driven so if a streetcar is full of customers, then drivers will be told to continue on through,” Bussin said. “(That’s) reduced short turns significantly.”
However not everyone is on the same bus.
Beach resident Renee Knight has been petitioning and requesting 501 route service improvements for five years. She is lukewarm about the route split.
“I think it’s a good decision but I don’t think it will do what they think it will,” she said. “It’s a Band-Aid solution.”
She added double-parked vehicles are another problem.
The TTC is aware of the issue.
“We typically have to wait for a doubly parked or poorly parked vehicle (to move),” said Chamberlain. “We are working with the police and they will fast-track someone from Toronto Police Services to tow away the vehicle.”
But that depends on officer availability.
Knight said it has taken too long for the TTC and the city to respond to complaints about the 501 Queen route.
“They move like molasses in January,” said Knight. “It was the press involvement and the petition that initiated change.”
To read the full report of the July 9 vote that led to the decision click here.