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The Queen's dead end


Those waiting to catch a streetcar in rush hour on Queen know well the hell of waiting 40 minutes in the cold.

About 90 riders showed up on Tuesday night, December 4, at Metro Hall to give TTC staff hell right back at a brainstorming session on how to improve service on the 501.

The worst-serviced route in the core? There’s no doubt about that in transit advocate Steve Munro’s mind. Just look at the numbers. Ridership has dropped almost 50 per cent on the route in the last 20 years, compared to less than 10 per cent on other lines across the system.

Queen cars used to carry 70,000 passengers per day. Unreliability - streetcars are anywhere between 15 to 40 minutes off schedule in rush hour - and a cutback to service have sent some 30,000 passengers looking for other transportation alternatives.

“How do you take a route and screw it up so bad?” asks Munro.

TTC service planning manager Mitch Stambler blames the city and the police.

He says the transportation department denied the commission signal priority at traffic lights and that it still allows cars to turn left, blocking streetcars in the lane. Meanwhile, police don’t enforce traffic laws.

But James Bow of Transit Toronto says the problems on Queen started when the TTC decided to start using articulated light rail vehicles (ALRVs), those extra-long streetcars, at nine-minute intervals, instead of regular cars every six minutes.

“As a result, we have crowded vehicles, we have large gaps in service and riders left stranded at stops.”

Munro suggests splitting the Queen route into two overlapping service routes to reduce wait times and bunching of streetcars.

Sierra Club of Ontario’s transit campaigner, Mike Oliver , wonders why streetcar routes were largely ignored in the TTC’s recent Ridership Growth Strategy.

“Toronto is planning for 1 million additional residents by 2020. Intensification along Queen will not happen with the current 501 service,” says Oliver.

TTC chair Adam Giambrone says the TTC’s not “ignoring” service in the core - even though “a lot of what’s being built under Transit City is out in the inner suburbs.”

But he says restricting parking and banning left-hand turns on Queen, both actions the city’s contemplating, should speed up service.

We can’t wait to see.