Why is the subway closed this weekend?

Toronto, start your grumbling.

Yes, it’s true that the part of the TTC’s subway system is closed this weekend, but don’t take it personally. It’s not evidence of some sinister TTC plot against you — nor is it proof, as some of our Twitter followers insist, that the TTC is totally incompetent or “the worse transit system in the world”.

Maintaining the subway in a state of good repair is a full-time activity and TTC crews have just three hours every night — from about 2 until 5 a.m. — to complete all tasks in maintaining or repairing 68.3 kilometres (42.4 miles) of service track, not to mention 678 subway cars, 28 Scarborough rapid transit cars, 69 stations, 291 escalators and 87 elevators. Sometimes, it just makes sense to shut down the subway for a longer period of time to work on a special project

The TTC says, “Maintaining subway infrastructure in a state-of-good-repair is critical to ensuring a safe, reliable transit system. While the TTC does much of its maintenance work on the subway at the conclusion of service each night, it will continue to require weekend closures to complete improvements to infrastructure and signals. One weekend of work during a subway closure equals about five weeks of nightly work.”

Shutting parts of the subway down weekends just makes sense, since ridership is typically lower than Mondays to Fridays. Earlier this month, for example, we learned how the city quickly turns into chaos when an emergency shut down a major part of the subway system before and during the morning rush hour.

(And this week, Washington closed down its entire subway system for 29 hours from Tuesday evening until Thursday morning, resulting in traffic chaos and major employers urging staff to stay at home.)

One major project that will require multiple weekend closures of the 1 Yonge - University line is installing an automatic train control (or ATC) system.This requires the TTC to resignal the line to improve its reliability and capacity.

The TTC says that some of the benefits that these upgrades bring to the system and all TTC subway riders include:

  • More safety:
  • Train speed and separation between trains will now be controlled automatically rather than by TTC staff.
  • ATC makes “real-time” central train control with precise train location data possible.
  • Better travel time:
  • Automatically driven trains reduce travel time, because trains always travel as close to the speed limit as possible.
  • Consistent travel times for every run;
  • Lower operating costs:
  • Trains use electricity more efficiently.

During subway closures, crews typically install new cables, track-side signalling equipment or special track work in the tunnels.

The TTC expects to replace the entire signal system replacement on Line 1, including the extension to York University and the Vaughan Metropolitan Centre, by 2020.

So, that means, if you’re riding the University branch of line 1 this weekend, you can hopefully tolerate the idea that, although you have to suffer some short-term pain, the long-term gain is worth it. Or, maybe you prefer just to grumble.

Line 1 Yonge - University trains operate only between Downsview and Lawrence West and between Finch and St George this weekend Saturday, March 19 and Sunday, March 20. Shuttle buses link Lawrence West and St George.

The TTC’s chief executive officer, Andy Byford and executive director of corporate communications and media relations, Brad Ross have developed a new ‘explainer video explaining why they’re closing the subway this weekend.

One way that you can reduce the impact of the closure is by planning ahead, leaving earlier than usually and giving yourself more time to get to where you’re going..

Also, expect the shuttle buses to be crowded. Instead, consider boarding, or remaining aboard, eastbound buses and street cars to connect with the Yonge branch of the subway line. This applies not just to the closed section of the subway, but to stations north and south of the closure, so you can avoid the University branch entirely.

North of the closed section of the subway:

  • ride buses operating along the 84 Sheppard West or 196 York University rocket routes to Sheppard - Yonge, instead of Downsview Station; or
  • ride buses operating along the 96 Wilson or 165 Weston Rd North routes to York Mills Station, instead of Wilson Station.

At the closed section of the subway:

  • ride buses operating along the 52 Lawrence West route to Lawrence, instead of Lawrence West Station;
  • ride buses operating along the 14 Glencairn route to Davisville, instead of Glencairn Station;
  • ride buses operating along the 32 Eglinton West route to Eglinton Station; or
  • ride streetcars operating along the 512 St Clair route to St Clair, instead of St Clair West Station.
  • ride buses operating along the 26 Dupont route to St George, instead of Dupont Station.
  • ride buses operating along the 127 Davenport route to Spadina, instead of Dupont Station.

South of the closed section of the subway

  • ride streetcars operating along the 506 Carlton route to College, instead of Queen’s Park Station;
  • ride streetcars operating along the 505 Dundas route to Dundas, instead of St Patrick Station;
  • ride streetcars operating along the 501 Queen route to Queen, instead of Osgoode Station; or
  • ride streetcars operating along the 504 King route to King, instead of St Andrew Station.

You can also ride the 2 Bloor - Danforth subway line from Spadina or St George Stations to connect with the Yonge branch at Bloor - Yonge Station.