Text by James Bow, photos by Rob Hutch.
The Route (see also 507 Long Branch)
Between 7 and 8 a.m., Monday to Friday, three streetcars depart from Long Branch loop. They travel along Lakeshore Boulevard, the Queensway and King Street before they end their runs at Parliament. Sometimes they return to Roncesvalles Carhouse via Parliament, Queen, Church and King, but other times they supplement service on the 506 Carlton route by returning to Roncesvalles Carhouse via Parliament, Carlton, College, Dundas, Howard Park and Roncesvalles. In the afternoon rush-hour, five streetcars loop via Richmond, Victoria and Queen Streets, and enter service via Church to run along King, the Queensway and Lakeshore Boulevard to Long Branch Loop.
A History of the 508 Lake Shore Streetcar
The current 508 Lake Shore operations date back to the TTC’s 1992 Service Plan. After successfully testing direct downtown, limited run express buses, the TTC considered a similar operation using streetcars to link southern Etobicoke to downtown Toronto. For obvious reasons, the new streetcar operation could not be considered an express route, but the TTC still felt that the benefits of direct, transfer-free service to downtown Toronto would generate enough riders to justify three additional streetcars.
On Monday, January 6, 1992, three streetcars signed “504 Parliament” left Long Branch loop at 7:25, 7:34 and 7:43 a.m., scheduled to arrive at Yonge and King at 8:26, 8:35 and 8:44 a.m. respectively before continuing east on King to Parliament. The service did not have its own route number, and though it was signed as a branch of the 504 King streetcar, was considered a branch of 507 Long Branch.
The venture paid off. According to the service’s review in the TTC’s 1995 Service Plan, the three streetcars were originally projected to carry 90 customers a day. By February 13, 1994, this number had grown to 200 customer trips per day and a per-boarding profit of $0.30 a passenger, according to the accounting statistics of the day. Additional trips were added in the afternoon rush-hour.
On Sunday, March 26, 1995, the 507 Long Branch streetcar was merged into the 501 Queen route, but the direct downtown service remained, and was renumbered into 508 Lake Shore. At first, 508 streetcars operated displaying ‘507 Long Branch’ as well as ‘504 Parliament’ on their rollsigns, but by 1999 new rollsigns were added, and the 508 number was finally shown to TTC Patrons.
Despite how recently the 508 Lake Shore Streetcar came into being, it’s far from being the first streetcar service between Long Branch and downtown Toronto. The 507 Long Branch streetcar operated additional service east of Humber Loop to Queen and Church (looping via Church, Richmond and Victoria) as recently as 1967.
Before that, from 1928 until 1937, Queen Street’s streetcar service was split at the downtown by routes coming in from the east and the west, among these being Lake Shore. This history is covered in greater detail in the 507 Long Branch page. Thus, the modest 508 streetcar carries with it a long legacy of direct streetcar service between southern Etobicoke and downtown Toronto.
The TTC remains committed to operating the 508 streetcar at present levels, as seen by the installation of 508 rollsign panels. Service appears to generate enough passenger traffic to justify it for the short term.
In the longer term, the route may receive more service, and perhaps be rerouted to Union Station, perhaps after being combined with the 509 Harbourfront Streetcar. Proposals have been made to link Exhibition East loop and Dufferin Loop with 700 metres of new double track along private right-of-way between the north edge of the CNE and the railway tracks, and possibly beyond that to connect to the Queensway private-right-of-way near the Queen/Roncesvalles intersection. This way, a streetcar running from Long Branch could reach Union Station using the private right-of-way tracks along the Queensway and through Harbourfront.
Until then, 508 Lakeshore streetcars will continue to link southern Etobicoke residents with the downtown as effectively as it can via King Street.
508 Lake Shore Image Archive
- Bromley, John F., TTC ‘28, The Upper Canada Railway Society, Toronto (Ontario), 1979.
- Bromley, John F., and Jack May Fifty Years of Progressive Transit, Electric Railroaders’ Association, New York (New York), 1978.