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Queen 501 streetcar could be split in two

(Posted Date: Tuesday, June 17, 2008)

REAL SHORT TURN: If the 501 route splits it could mean transfers for riders. By Claudia Cautillo

It may take much less time to travel the length of the 501 Queen streetcar if a TTC study recommends splitting it in two.

At 24 kilometres long, the route is the longest, running all the way from Mississauga to the Scarborough border.

The length means problems in the west often trickle into the east and vice versa. The issues can cause delays and disturbances for riders usually in the form of short turning and vehicle bunching.

“We know we can’t rush into this, it’s a very tricky business,” said TTC service planning manager Mitch Stambler. “We’ve got to look at the effect on customers.

“There are a lot of people who would lose their through-service if we split the route in two, it would affect the frequency of service and we have to know where we can turn east and west service around in a central area.”

One of the options is operating one route from Neville Park to the Humber loop, and another from the Longbranch loop to Humber.

Another alternative is having a route go from Longbranch to Church St., then overlapping a course from the Humber loop to Neville Park.

Stambler said the TTC would be looking at how the options will affect service, passengers, funding, vehicles and staff.

“I can’t say for sure here and now that it is a good thing,” he said about splitting the line. “That’s why we’re doing a study, but we’re definitely open-minded about it.”

The transit organization is also planning on doing rider surveys later this month to assess what commuters think of service on the line, which carries close to 50,000 people a day.

Beaches-East York councillor Sandra Bussin said she thinks the line is too long and likes the idea of a split at McCaul St., she said.

However, monitoring of the line is needed to find the most efficient ways to transport passengers, she added.

The TTC has taken steps in that direction, Stambler said, by adding six new supervisors in April.

That came at a cost of about $250,000 and Stambler said the cost of splitting the route could be “quite significant,” although he added it’s too soon to estimate the price tag.

A new GPS system will also be in use for more accurate vehicle tracking, and the TTC will also be looking at the possibility of making changes to traffic and parking regulations along the street, including turn restrictions.

Bussin says that’s something that might not go over well with everyone.

“That may be very controversial,” she said. “Certain residents may not like the fact that they can’t turn a certain way during rush hour, so I don’t know if that will fly or not.”

No decisions about a route break will be made until the fall, Stambler said, and the earliest work would start later this year or in early 2009.

Bussin will be hosting a public meeting, along with TTC officials and the transit advocacy group Rocket Riders, to discuss the streetcar line on June 16 in City Hall’s Committee Room 2.