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No streetcar service on Queen Street this summer: TTC

CityNews | posted Wednesday, Mar 1st, 2017

TTC riders who take the 501 Queen streetcar have had their fair share of disruptions on the route, and now, they will face yet another challenge this summer.

For the first time in TTC history, there will be no streetcar service on Queen Street from May to September, TTC spokesman Stuart Green said. Instead, 65 buses will be in use.

The massive changes to the 501 route are due to TTC and road construction in the area.

About 43,000 people use the line every day.

“There are a number of projects this summer between the Neville Loop in the east and the Long Branch loop in the west. It made more sense to just replace the streetcars with buses, as opposed to having people get on and off different modes of transit,” Green said.

“It’s not a long-term solution. A streetcar holds [the same amount of passengers] as one-and-a-half worth buses. The longer articulated streetcars, it’s two buses. The newer Bombardier cars, it’s about three buses.”

Some of the projects include track and sidewalk work west of Queen, replacing the bridge over Queen that connects the Eaton Centre to Hudson’s Bay, and various track work in the east.

“In the days gone by … we would have had three different partial closures of the Queen streetcar, which I think would have caused more disruption in total,” Mayor John Tory said at a news conference on Wednesday.

Tory acknowledged the temporary change will be disruptive but by doing it this way, all of the work will be done at one time.

While buses may be viewed as a test project – to see if they move people faster and improve traffic – Tory said the plan is still to have streetcars on the line. Buses cost more money to run and are not environment-friendly. He said officials will monitor how it works, but there are no plans to change streetcars to buses.

Tory echoed Green, saying streetcars carry more people than buses, and at least two buses would be needed to carry the same number of riders as one of the new streetcars, which have yet to be delivered by Bombardier.

 https://twitter.com/tonyfera1/status/837042104710885383

This service change is one in a series that have affected riders since last spring.

Starting Jan. 8 and for the rest of 2017, streetcars have been turning back at Roncesvalles Avenue, so that track and bridge work can be done on The Queensway, Lake Shore Boulevard and at Humber Loop. Streetcars are bypassing Humber Loop as well.

Last year, from May until early December, streetcars were diverted on Queen Street West between Bathurst Street and Spadina Avenue due to watermain work on Queen.

However, passengers have praised the buses that are currently in use along part of the 501 route. Their ability to weave in and out of traffic made for a faster commuter, some riders said.

The sheer volume of people that can fit on a streetcar is a huge advantage, Green said at the time, especially from an environmental perspective. Fewer vehicles also reduces gridlock.

In January, Green said that streetcars last a lot longer than buses do, which means the TTC replaces vehicles less frequently. As well, fewer vehicles are required, which means cheaper operating costs.

What you need to know if you take the 501

Although Green said Wednesday that travel times will be about the same on buses versus streetcars, he admits the schedule will change when the bus service kicks in on the entire line in May. He said riders, especially those who travel during off-peak hours and overnight, should check their schedule beforehand. The updated schedule is expected to be posted online in April.

The existing stops will remain in place and will only be relocated if there is TTC construction or road work.

One of the concerns for TTC riders is whether buses will be pulled from other bus routes to service the Queen line. Green said buses will be pulled off of existing streetcar routes where buses are being used. Below are the details:

  • 511 Bathurst will resume operation with streetcars for the summer
  • 503 Kingston Rd will also be operated with streetcars for the first half of the summer
  • 504 King supplemental buses will be replaced by streetcars

 

“This frees up a significant number of buses to be used on Queen,” Green said in an email. “In addition, TTC adjusts services on many routes during the summer and this frees up available buses for construction projects such as these.”

Another concern is whether there will be enough shuttle buses available in case of a subway shutdown. Green said the buses are generally pulled from less busy routes, but that buses may be pulled from 501 if needed.

“It is possible 501 buses might be used in that situation, but generally the buses are pulled from less busy routes.”

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