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Better west-end streetcar service eyed

Proposal would restore Long Branch route to ease delays

By Paul Moloney
Urban Affairs Bureau

The wheels are turning to provide south Etobicoke residents with improved streetcar service.

Toronto Transit Commission chief general manager Gary Webster was directed to report next month on restoring a separate 507 Long Branch route to run from the west up Roncesvalles Ave. to Dundas West subway station.

If city councillors on the commission approve a pilot project, it would begin in September. The westbound 501Queen streetcar would stop at the Humber loop, where riders would pick up the 507 to Long Branch.

After more than a year of tinkering with the iconic Queen streetcar line, the TTC is still stranding west-end riders up to 45 minutes even during rush hour, say residents along The Queensway and Lake Shore Blvd. W.

They want the TTC to restore the 507 Long Branch route, cut in 1995 because of lower employment and ridership in the area. That stretch has since experienced a residential revival.

South Etobicoke resident Anthony Humphreys said he tells people to avoid the streetcar and try the Royal York Rd. bus instead.

“There have been several times where I’ve had to wait for an hour or more,” Humphreys said. “People just don’t trust it anymore. It’s going to take years to recover the trust of the community.”

Still, TTC staff recommend against splitting the Queen line at Humber, 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. As well, of the 2,500 riders daily who would have to make an extra transfer at the Humber Loop, an estimated 300 would decide to stop taking the streetcar.

The wait to go west is normally five or 10 minutes, says rider Mike Olivier. But it takes up to 45 minutes to get home from the Humber Loop, because only about half of the Queen cars continue on, and one in five of those are later short-turned.

Councillor Peter Milczyn (Ward 5, Etobicoke-Lakeshore) said the Queen route is too long and he supports a separate Long Branch service for residents of Lake Shore Blvd. W. and The Queensway.

“The idea of having a 507 streetcar running up to Dundas West station, I’m quite happy to see it looked at, quite happy to see a pilot of that,” Milczyn said. “It can’t be any worse and it might be better.”

The staff report opposing a separate Long Branch route is an example of why the TTC has such a poor customer service reputation, said transit blogger Steve Munro.

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

A fall experiment to split the line at Shaw was deemed a failure. But most riders and experts agree that delays and bunching tend to be worst at the far ends of long routes.