Transit Toronto is sponsored by TransSee.ca bus tracker and next vehicle arrivals. TransSee features include vehicle tracking by route or fleet number, schedule adherence, off route vehicles and more advanced features. Works on all mobile devices and on any browser.
Supports Toronto area agencies TTC, GO trains, MiWay, YRT, HSR and GRT, as well as NY MTA, LA metro, SF MUNI, Boston MBTA, and (new) Barrie.

Route 508 - The Lake Shore Streetcar

508

LAKE SHORE

TO PARLIAMENT VIA KING

Five morning rush hour trips

508

LAKE SHORE

TO LONG BRANCH

Five afternoon rush hour trips

508

LAKE SHORE

TO CHURCH VIA KING

Occasional short turns

508

LAKE SHORE

TO RONCESVALLES

Carhouse return trips

Text by James Bow.

See Also

The Route (see also 507 Long Branch)

The 508 LAKE SHORE streetcar is a limited-run rush hour service that serves Lake Shore Boulevard, the Queensway and King Street through downtown Toronto. Effective September 3, 2019, on weekday mornings, between 6:30 a.m. and 8:30 a.m., five streetcars depart from Long Branch Loop and end their runs at Parliament. The cars then return to Roncesvalles carhouse via Parliament, Carlton, College, Dundas, Howard Park and Roncesvalles, supplementing service on the 506 CARLTON streetcar. During the afternoon rush hours, five streetcars depart from Roncesvalles carhouse, travel east on King, east on Queen, north on Broadview, west on Dundas and south on Parliament, before returning west on King, west on the Queensway and west on Lakeshore Boulevard to Long Branch Loop.

The 508 LAKE SHORE streetcar launched in on Monday, January 6, 1992 with a base of riders who took advantage of the direct connection offered between the financial district and southern Etobicoke. Service was suspended on June 21, 2015 due to a shortage of available streetcars, but was restored on Tuesday, September 3, 2019.

A History of the 508 Lake Shore Streetcar

The 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. Service gradually increased, with morning trips added. The TTC too advantage of these trippers to augment service as they left and returned to Roncesvalles carhouse, with morning 508 runs returning via Parliament, Carlton, College, Dundas, Howard Park and Roncesvalles to supplement 506 CARLTON service, and eastbound afternoon runs heading through the downtown on King Street through the afternoon rush hour.

West-end Downtowners

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.

It is worth noting that southern Etobicoke did eventually receive an express service connecting it to downtown Toronto, in the form of the 145 HUMBER BAY DOWNTOWN EXPRESS, albeit serving stops on Richmond and Adelaide Streets rather than King. This service started on October 19, 2009, and the two routes co-existed for the next five years. In terms of demand, there seems to have been room for both.

Temporary Suspension

It’s ironic that, as service on King Street underwent changes that increased transit use, 508 LAKE SHORE service ended up missing out. In 2015, Bombardier’s delays in delivering the new generation of Flexity streetcars, combined with the difficulties of keeping the aging CLRV and ALRV fleet in service produced a severe shortage of streetcars. The TTC was hard-pressed to schedule enough vehicles to maintain current levels of service, much less increase frequencies to reduce crowding. The TTC decided that sacrifices had to be made. Construction and streetcar shortages forced the TTC to install buses on various 504 KING “tripper” cars, and often resulted in the complete bustitution of the 502 DOWNTOWNER and 503 KINGSTON ROAD TRIPPER routes, but at least these routes remained largely intact, unlike 508 LAKE SHORE.

In January 2015, all afternoon rush hour service on the 508 LAKE SHORE route was temporarily suspended so that the cars could be placed in service elsewhere in the system. In May 2015, the TTC announced that, effective June 21, 2015, all morning service on the 508 would stop as well. Although the TTC stressed that this change was temporary, the streetcar shortages continued into 2017 and 2018 without any end in sight.

While the service was suspended, the TTC and the City of Toronto embarked on a pilot project to make streetcar service faster and more reliable on the busiest part of King Street. The street was revised to prevent cars from driving through intersections between Bathurst and Jarvis Streets. The test was inaugurated on Sunday, November 12, and was deemed a success within a year, decreasing travel time, and increasing service on the 504 KING streetcar from 65,000 passengers per weekday to nearly 84,000.

While popular with its riders, the 508 LAKE SHORE route had difficulty maintaining its schedule as it faced rush hour traffic through downtown Toronto. It’s ironic that the King Street Transitway project launched while the 508 route was suspended, and unable to take advantage of the improvement.

The TTC was also dealing with scheduling issues along the rest of the 508 LAKE SHORE route. To improve the reliability of service on teh Long Branch to Humber portion of the route, and to maintain frequencies of ten minutes or better, which was only possible using CLRVs rather than the ALRVs demanded on the rest of the route, on Sunday, January 1, 2016, the TTC effectively re-launched the 507 LONG BRANCH route between Long Branch and Humber by splitting the 501 QUEEN route here. Residents in southern Etobicoke appreciated the reduction of long delays along the route, even if they did lose their direct downtown connection. Some rush hour tripper cars continued to operate from Long Branch past Humber towards the downtown on Queen, however, producing an echo of the 508 LAKE SHORE service.

Restoration

In 2019, Bombarider picked up its pace of streetcar deliveries, easing the streetcar shortage enough for the TTC to consider converting all 501 QUEEN service to Flexity operation. In July 2019, the commission announced that 501 QUEEN would become fully accessible, from Long Branch to Neville Park, on Tuesday, September 3, 2019. As part of this improvement, service on the 508 LAKE SHORE route would be restored, also using Flexity LRVs. Cars would depart Long Branch loop in the morning at 6:40, 7:10, 7:30, 7:50 and 8:30 a.m (five streetcars, instead of the previously scheduled three). In the afternoon, cars would be scheduled to depart westbound from King and Church at 4:20, 4:40, 5:00, 5:20, and 5:40 p.m.

While the 508 LAKE SHORE service was suspended, Distillery Loop opened on Cherry Street, for use by the short-lived 514 CHERRY service, and later by a branch of the 504 KING route. Some thought had been given to making Distillery Loop the eastern terminuts of the 508 LAKE SHORE route (and, before that, a plan to restore streetcar service to Parliament Loop south of King Street), but the TTC decided instead to return morning cars to Roncesvalles carhouse via Parliament Street, Carlton, College, Howard Park and Roncesvalles, and to loop afternoon cars into service via King, Queen, Broadview, Dundas and Parliament, likely because Distillery Loop just had too much service, and afternoon cars could be staged on Parliament Street to give them a better chance of reaching their scheduled departures at Church Street on time.

The restoration of the 508 LAKE SHORE streetcar in September 2019 was a pleasant surprise to railfans, many of whom believed that the service was gone for good. While service remains modest, its restoration means that the TTC believes in the usefulness of direct trips between southern Etobicoke and downtown Toronto, and more may materialize if the restored service proves popular.

In the future, however, may depend on the status of the WATERFRONT WEST LRT. This proposed route between Union Station and Long Branch might start with a plan to link Exhibition East loop and Dufferin loop with 800 metres of new double track on private right-of-way, allowing cars to continue north on Dufferin and west on King to the Queensway. Should such a service happen, it may be as a rerouted, full time operation of the 508 LAKE SHORE streetcar, taking southern Etobicoke residents downtown in style.


508 Lake Shore Image Archive


References

  • 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.