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Split the Queen 501, argue west-enders

Poor service west of Humber Loop leaves some riders waiting 45 minutes even in rush hour

By Tess Kalinowski
Transportation Reporter

After more than a year of tinkering with the management of Toronto’s iconic Queen streetcar line, the TTC is still stranding some west-end riders up to three-quarters of an hour even during rush periods, according to residents along the Queensway and Lake Shore Blvd.

They want the TTC to restore a separate 507 Long Branch route that would run from the west, then up Roncesvalles to Dundas West.

That route was cut in 1995, when the reduction was justified by lower employment and ridership along the route. But that stretch has since experienced a residential revival.

Nevertheless, in a report going to the transit commissioners Thursday, TTC staff recommend against splitting the Queen line at Humber, in favour of leaving the 501 as North America’s longest route.

A Long Branch line would provide better service to about 8,000 riders daily, concedes the TTC report. But it would cost about $825,000 a year and possibly up to 300 riders daily from among the 2,500 who would have to make an extra transfer at the Humber Loop.

The wait to go west is normally about five or 10 minutes, says rider Mike Olivier, who plans to address Thursday’s TTC meeting. But it can take up to 45 minutes to get home from the Humber Loop, because only about half of the Queen cars continue on, and about one in five of those are short-turned before they reach the end.

“They’re saying it’s a good idea but we don’t meet the financial requirements for the service, which is silly because they didn’t take into account more reliable service, how many riders that would add, and that’s a big factor,” he said.

The report is an example of why the TTC has such a poor customer-service reputation, said transit blogger Steve Munro. Because the TTC could run standard cars on the new route rather than longer articulated ones, he says, it would free up equipment that could ease crowding on King. It would also enhance service on Roncesvalles when the streetcar returns there.

Munro says the TTC report fails to take into account that much of the ridership west of Humber is local, with people travelling shorter hops. Supervisors managing the route from Queen and Roncesvalles don’t see those riders and assume it’s okay to short-turn cars, he said.

“The TTC doesn’t want to admit that the unified (Queen) line was a disaster from the day they implemented it.”

An experiment last fall to split the Queen streetcar at Shaw was deemed a failure. But most riders and transit experts agree that long delays and bunching tend to be worst at the far ends of longer routes.