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A streetcar route divided

The iconic 501 Queen streetcar route splits in two Monday, in a five-week experiment aimed at boosting customer service on the perennially troubled line.

Until Nov. 20, the 501 originating in the west end will run from the Long Branch and Humber loops to Parliament St. downtown. The east end cars will travel from Neville Park to Shaw St., overlapping through the downtown area.

The split is the last in a $2 million series of experiments the TTC has conducted over the past year to find the best way of reducing short-turns, bunching of cars and gaps in service on the line that National Geographic, in 2007, declared one of the world’s top 10 trolley routes.

The final fix - likely to include a combination of more supervisors, more cars and more operators - will be used as a blueprint for improving service on all 11 Toronto streetcar routes, said TTC chair Adam Giambrone.

It’s hoped that better reliability will compensate riders for waiting an extra two minutes on average between streetcars.

But the TTC anticipates some riders won’t like the split.

“A lot of people want to go the whole way. There’s a lot of work around minimizing transfers. People are willing to spend longer on the (car) to avoid transfers,” Giambrone said.

“Some people will benefit (from the split). Some people will be disadvantaged. The question is, what is the greater good?” he said.

One rider who loves the streetcar is nevertheless skeptical that splitting the route will help. “I don’t really think it’s going to address the problems we have on the outer edges of the line. It’s the length of the route and the amount of car traffic,” said Mike Olivier, a member of the Lakeshore Planning Council.

The council is recommending the TTC reinstate the 507 car that was eliminated in 1995 when it was merged into the Queen route.

“Instead of having (the 507) go just to Humber loop, we want to extend it to go along The Queensway to Roncesvalles, (north) to the Dundas West station, and that will connect to more routes. It’s better service for the people in the condos on The Queensway and Lake Shore,” he said.

Article by:

Tess Kalinowski Transportation Reporter for the Toronto Star.