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TRANSIT: Queen streetcar measures are coming down the tracks

By DAVID NICKLE
February 19, 2009 2:21 PM

Reliability on the notoriously unreliable 501 Queen streetcar is getting better as the Toronto Transit Commission puts in place measures to improve it. But how much better is a question that will have to wait for warmer times.

The streetcar, which carries passengers between the western edge of south Etobiocke to the Beach community in the east end, has for the past four months been undergoing a systematic fine-tuning by TTC staff, to deal with short-turns, delays and other problems.

And according to Rick Cornacchia, the TTC’s general manager of operations, those measures have had an effect.

“There were significant reductions,” in short turns, Cornacchia told Wednesday’s meeting of the TTC.

Cornacchia said the improvements came largely from the implementation of the TTC’s “Step Forward” strategy - which allows drivers to be relieved at the end of their shifts regardless of where they are on the route. In the past, streetcars would have to short turn to get a driver back in time to finish his or her shift.

Now, said Cornacchia, short turns only happen to fill gaps in service if there’s a delay on the line.

The improvements have been quantifiable. Midday operating gaps have improved by 39 per cent and 35 per cent eastbound and westbound, and by 26 per cent and 27 per cent eastbound and westbound in the afternoon peak.

Cornacchia said he wants to perform another study in good weather, however.

“We believe those numbers were severely affected by the winter operations,” he said. “We recommend to continue studying this in the spring.”

For now, the TTC is holding off on other more dramatic plans to split the route in two. And talks are ongoing with transportation officials at the city to see if it would be possible to restrict turns and parking along Queen Street during rush hour.

Commissioners were uneasy about that option, however. Sandra Bussin, who represents Ward 32 (Beaches-East York) on Toronto Council, said parking restrictions on Queen Street East in her ward would have a significant push back from local business.

“It may be in parts of the downtown it won’t present an issue, but it will be an issue in certain small pockets,” she said. “I don’t want this to get caught in a fight between businesses and riders. I met with our Business Improvement Area and their idea was why don’t you let more cars park during rush hour. The perception was that all the people going through the area weren’t local people.”

Commissioner Ron Moeser admitted he is sometimes one of those drivers, who commutes between City Hall and his Ward 44 (Scarborough East) constituency at the east end of the city.

“On certain routes we’re going to have to make some tough choices about how to keep this city moving regardless of our transit initiatives,” he said.




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