Fix the 501 Queen Streetcar Forum

The Queen’s crown is slipping. She’s becoming tardy and unreliable. Her subjects have lost faith and are leaving.

The Queen streetcar used to carry 70,000 passengers a day. Now it’s down to 40,000, and there are large gaps in service. It’s time for …

Fix the 501 Queen Streetcar Forum
Tuesday December 4th, 6:30 – 9:00 pm
Metro Hall, Room 310
55 John Street

The Fix the 501 forum will examine rider concerns and seek solutions for the troubled Queen line, ­ the backbone of transit service in the south end of the City.

Confirmed Speakers:
o Steve Munro, transit advocate
o James Bow, Transit Toronto webmaster

Invited Speakers:
o TTC Chair, Councillor Adam Giambrone
o City Councillors along the 501 Route
o TTC Officials

Presented by Rocket Riders Transit Users Group and the Sierra Club of Canada­ Ontario Chapter

photo by Michael Seixeiro 


  1. If anybody wants documentation of the fact that up to 1/3 of streetcars have no heat, I’ve got it. (Of course, according to commenters on another blog, I might just be lying.)

  2. The control point for downtown access is just west of Queen St. in Parkdale, at the base of High Park. So we know we’ve got traffic/transit problems through this corridor, and we should be thinking of what options we have beyond the Metro era FSE and WWLRT which are at least $800M. That money might come close to building the old Queen St. subway, or can we tweak the CLRVs and ALRVs, or can we build a streetcar tunnel under half of Parkdale and then onto the north side of the Weston railtracks just past Dufferin, and then near-express to the core via Front St.? Or advantaging one way on King and another way on Queen, with the curb lanes for two-way bike lanes? Sure, this may all seem too much, in comparison with a few more streetcars etc., but the odds are good we can do better.

  3. Could somebody explain to me why there are no talks over the possibility of maybe thinking about considering studying a subway for the King/Queen corridor downtown? I know there is no money, and that subways into sprawl have more political clout, etc, etc… But isn’t there a real need for some sort of rapid transit in the area? At least they could build a tunnel underneath King and Queen for light transit (the same what is planned in Transit City around Central Eglinton).

  4. Carlos, it’s because there is no money lol. I’ve heard other people say a subway underneath Queen would kill all the businesses, but I don’t know if that would be true.

  5. “I’ve heard other people say a subway underneath Queen would kill all the businesses,”

    Oh, right, like how the Bloor subway killed all the businesses on that street, especially in the Annex.

  6. I say keep Queen the same width, eliminate parking in many places and make the streetcar tracks transit-only diamond lanes from 7a-7p, enforced by police officers. Then we could even put in a bike lane, fancy that.

  7. We really need a corridor study, with resource, with lots of imagination free from officialdumb, and I know where there’s money. What is happening with the interest on the $50,000,000 that is set aside for the Front St. Extension folly? That should be c.$2.5M each year and I think it’s been set aside for a couple of years.
    Some Queen St. subway history is within the site and also transit toronto thanks.
    As for other subway ideas, there was the Moving towards 2011 B/D relief line that had a subway on Front St.
    THe group Environmentalists Plan Toronto drew up a big picture South Toronto subway proposal a few years ago that urged a big subway building through the lower core to Etobicoke. I’m not sure if it’s online or not, but a lot of work went into it, and yet the reception was abysmal from officialdumb. We like to build subways to sprawl and beggar the system.
    And I see all of this within the context of possibly wasting up to $950M with the FSE+WWLRT+Union Station entry adjustments – almost the price of a subway.
    Nice picture by the way.

  8. I live dead center between Queen and King (on Dufferin)… The Queen service is a blessing compared to King service. You can wait over 40 minutes for a street car on King St. during “Frequent Service”. Something should be done about King, long before Queen.

    To give another example… during the rush on the weekend (Sunday) from multiple sporting events and the Santa Claus Parade… Queen St. streetcars were diverted to King for part of their route. Now the streetcars were full, meaning waiting for another streetcar to come… In that time I counted 15 Spadina streetcars (looping around.. this didn’t include cars that continued to Union), 5 Queen streetcars and 2 King streetcars. That’s just not acceptable.

  9. There’s no money to build a subway, let alone one with as many stops as the Bloor line through the Annex.

  10. Wrenkin, there is money. What there isn’t is money that is ours staying in our city and communities. It goes to pay for the Feds’ billion dollar surpluses. We have more wealth and a stronger economy nowadays than they did back in the old days when they built our pathetic looking subway, the problem is that the GTA is being milked to the bone and we, Torontonians as pathetic pushovers, accept this sad state of affairs… (my damn rhetoric!)

  11. I thought I’d mention the TTC is planning some major changes to the western part of 501 Queen in the Waterfront West Streetcars Project.

    Phase 1 will connect Dufferin loop with Exhibition Loop.

    Phase 2 will build a streetcar ROW along the railway/Lake Shore area from Dufferin loop to King/Queen/Roncesvalles.

    This should create an speedy alternative route for people from South Etobicoke, South Swansea and Parkdale, taking the pressure off King and Queen.

  12. Hmmm

    I often thought the poor service on the King and Queen lines was part of the city’s cycling promotion effort.

    I used to religiously take the King streetcar from Broadview and Queen until I realized that I could use the half hour I would normally spend waiting, to cycle to work instead. The best part – all the streetcars I pass. (And the $5+ I save every day and spend on sushi instead.)

    If you’re taking the Queen or King cars you’ve got a flat bike route and a less than half hour trip unless you’re going all the way from Parkdale to the Beaches. I’ll admit today was a little tough with the freezing rain but 80% of the time it’s fine.

    Wait for a nice day in the spring and try it. You won’t go back. I haven’t.

  13. When the beaurocrats say $50 mm is “set aside” it sure doesn’t mean that it’s sitting in a bank account somewhere collecting interest in a separate account. It just means that they’re keeping that spending available and that they have not switched it to something else. Think of the years that the snow removal budget wasn’t used up … the funds didn’t get banked for next year – they just got absorbed elsewhere.

  14. I’d venture to say businesses would improve. I’d certainly get out a LOT more if the Queen line was reliable and I knew I could count on a car being there when I really needed it.

  15. In the Beach(es), we are frustrated by the TTC’s too-frequent habit of short-turning the 501 cars at Kingston Road. It happens all the time. When I worked days, I often had to walk home from and/or hike to Kingston Road as part of my regular commute. It’s like the transit controllers think the city ends at the friggin’ off-track betting station.

  16. Rob L. actually the way money is ferried around city hall would make any accountant wince in horror.This council just finished four years of draining reserve funds that were there.The front street extension money is there, however to get those details you will have to speak to Joe Pantalone.However you will get the standard “for staff eyes only” response.So if you can find where the money has been transfered please tell us.We the public would love to know.
    But save your breath trying to “fix” the queen street line,its not in Adam G’s future.But I’m sure he will appease the supporters of the council by promising a plan that is just past the date of the next election.

  17. The big drop in ridership comes from the combination of two factors:

    1. The change from 50-foot CLRVs to 75-foot ALRVs and the widening of headways by 50%.

    2. The service cuts of the mid 1990s which widened the headways even further.

    Many fewer cars mean that even the scheduled gaps are wider, and there is no slack in the line when anything goes wrong. Customers are very sensitive to service quality. Quality goes down, so does ridership.

    With respect to the subway’s effect on Bloor-Danforth: people look at these streets today, but forget that through the late 60s and 70s, the removal of streetcars had a big effect on many parts of this commercial street. The Annex is blessed with a large, built-in market of students whose trade didn’t depend on them walking to and from carstops.

    The Danforth, except right in the heart of the Greek district west of Pape, suffered quite a decline and took a long time to build back up. Even now, you can see that the most prosperous spots are those around subway stations and there is some drop-off in between. This is a function of traffic patterns.

    No line on Queen would be built with the closely spaced stations we have on Bloor. This would have two effects: Riders living between stops would have a long way to go, or would have to wait for a surface bus that would run now and then (see Yonge north and Sheppard east for examples of how the TTC treats “in between” customers). Districts between stations would see a change in their traffic patterns that would harm businesses dependent on those customers.


  18. Very pleased that this is happening. As you know, in June I wrote a petition about how bad the streetcar serves the beach asking for an improvement in the service delivery to the Beach, where 50% or more of the scheduled 501 Streetcars never make it to the Beach.

    The petition is on, and can also be found on my facebook. See Renee Knight, group: Neville Park 501 Service Improvement Petition.

    I regret that I cannot attend the forum, as I teach Yoga, Belly Dance and Personal Train people according to the needs of their lifestyle. I am booked evenings for months in advance, and cannot just drop a class or client even for a very important issue. I have full confidence in the speakers who will be there, some of whom I have been in communication with.

    If you are interested in the press on the petition, there is some in the Toronto Star, in the Beach Metro News, and in The Town Crier. Details listed in the facebook group.

    Namaste, and many blessings,
    Renee (Yoga Rani)
    Petitioner, Neville Park 501

  19. Queen Subway,

    If there were a subway along Queen Street today, the southern end of the downtown core would simply not have the traffic chaos that it does.

    There was a Queen Subway planned, and even commenced, but the idea was shelved. Reality is the TTC can get money to build things, the problem is operating them.

    The other thing is they will only do what they are forced to do by the public. And those along the 501 route have been laid back for too long. I hope this forum, combined with my petition changes that!

    We deserve better service! And we will have to fight for it. The suffering has gotten worse and worse over the last five years, and nothing has been done about it despite going through normal channels, following due process. People are fed up at being igonored by the TTC and by the local councillor, who has only now called for a report after the petition began to gather media attention.

    Clearly, someone is benefiting from the service being sub-par on this route. That needs to change!

    Renee Knight(Yoga Rani)

  20. The improvements to the waterfront transit with the WWLRT won’t really be that effective, given that the WWLRT is now being ballparked at $540M, and it’s also Metro-era planning. It assumes the Front St. Extension is in place and won’t think of using Front St. for a transit line, because piecemeal planning and EAs allow for some politicians to get pet projects through even if they might add up to $800 or $950M – which is nearly a subway.
    We likely can’t or shouldn’t do a subway given all the demands on the wider system unless the feds kick in big – but exploring how to expedite surface transit on Queen, King, the railtracks (especially the north side) and Front St. itself (it’s wider than King or Queen) is well worth doing, but the NDP/TTC are determined NOT to look at this in a logical way, preferring to keep the FSE, which will actually harm King/Queen transit by letting the cars get up into the City at Bathurst.

  21. as a Beach 501 rider, I can’t express my disgust at being deadheaded (sometimes *multiple* deadheadings!) in all manner of weather.

    The trip extends *longer & longer*… the drivers get more & more rude…

    & then then dump you at an exposed, splashy mid-intersection stop…



    I’ve said before & will say again, that a union member can’t figure out that *acting like an asshole* with the paying public… doesn’t do their UNION or WORKING CONDITIONS any good.

    Honestly, its a PUBLIC service & they act as if they’re granting us the *honour* of riding our own transit. “you don’t pay my salary” was the snotty comment I got one day recently.

    Oh really? hiring dumber & dumber, apparently.

    There are some great drivers & some complete assholes. I once boarded the 501 @ 6:45AM in a **snowstorm**, going 2 blocks EAST to circle the Neville Turnaround to go WEST. It was horribly cold & miserable. I had a driver *shriek* at me that I needed to pay TWICE because it was a **turnaround** & I had to **get out into the storm & WAIT** for her to go to the bathroom or something.

    **in a snowstorm** I kid you not.

    Then she proceeded to tell **everybody** getting on the streetcar -all the way to Yonge- that I was a LAZY WOMAN for not just waiting on the westbound side of the street in the storm. It was a freaking *snowstorm* & she was already stopped at a light, directly next to the stop.

    apparently, that’s cheating… you know, paying & seeking shelter inside a drafty streetcar @

  22. “But isn’t there a real need for some sort of rapid transit in the area?”

    A most emphatic YES. Cities put subways where there are dense populations to move around, and the Queen Street corridor certainly qualifies as one of those. We should embrace the Transit City plan for the less-dense suburban areas and at the same time look above and beyond it to places where a subway would improve things for commuters. The time for the Queen subway is now.

    Yes, as Steve Munro has explained so well, line management on 501 Queen is abysmal, with operators taking astonishing liberties with their departure times from terminals. Adding more streetcars, or switching to CLRVs, or just managing the service better will improve things, but only so much. We have to face up to the reality that transit service in this area will never be speedy and never be totally reliable with streetcars running in mixed traffic. And a transit-only Queen Street is not the answer either.

    “through the late 60s and 70s, the removal of streetcars had a big effect on many parts of this commercial street (Bloor/Danforth).”

    This is an outdated viewpoint and reeks of defeatism. During that period, there was huge growth in the suburbs with many people willing to turn their backs on the gritty city. Now, the pull is in the opposite direction, with a lot of people looking to give up the lawn and 2-car garage in the suburbs to come back to the vibrant and interesting city. Queen East and West draw people from all over the city, and will draw more if people can get there more quickly and conveniently.

    There is no money for this. But there was no money for Transit City either just a few months ago. Now it has commitments for 2/3s of its capital cost.

    Along with demanding better streetcar service on Queen in the short-term, which I totally support, we really need to start looking at some real solutions for the longer term. The Queen subway is it.

  23. I’m happy there’s talk about problems with the streetcars, but I think it should be opened up a lot wider. As Tyler pointed out, problems on the 504 are just as bad.

    Good job on spearheading this, but the discussion needs to be opened up much wider. I hope the TTC and patrons won’t settle for just making adjustments to the Queen line. I, for one, am tired of the service on the streetcars and would happily see busses on the line if the TTC won’t committ to making streetcars work.

    For streetcars to work in the city they need to put in transit-only lanes throughout parts of the line and abolish street parking in those areas. The car drivers in the area will complain, but perhaps it’s time to think of improving transit and ignoring the car owners who are driving in from the suburbs.

  24. As someone who lives in Long Branch and used to live in Leslieville I have experience on both sides of the Queen route.
    When I lived in Leslieville I used to get off at Queen and Broadview and get on the King car. It was much faster. Now, I take the King car and transfer at Roncesvalles onto the 501, or if I am lucky take the 508 home. It is funny to see how many people are waiting on the corner to see which streetcar will come first.
    Going west is frustrating. My commute home is the worst. It can take between 45 minutes and 2 hours from King and Strachan. The other day, 3 streetcars went short turned at Roncesvalles.I took the next one to the Humber loop.The next car went to Kipling and was full. I walked from there.
    It is common to wait 40 minutes and then have 2 or 3 streetcars in a row going through New Toronto.
    A partial solution is to have more 508 streetcars going to Long Branch. It helps move commuters along King St. and provides a viable option for alot of people going to and from Long Branch. Many people take the streetcar from Long Branch to Mimico. In the AM the 508 fills up along King St. and stops many people from transferring onto the 504.
    Queen St. needs dedicated TTC lanes. This is crucial from the Beaches to Woodbine, Leslie to Broadview, and Bay through Parkdale. Those are the areas where it backs up. It would slow car traffic down but increase the TTC speed.
    A long term solution is one that has dedicated trains to the end of the line. If a train went from Union Station to the Long Branch GO station, people would take it, then get on the empty streetcars going the opposite of rush hour traffic. It would help get new riders because it could link up with Mississauga Transit already at the Long Branch Loop. If there was a large parking lot there, it could cut decrease congestion on the roads. It is a good spot because there is excellent links to the 427, the Lakeshore and the Gardiner Expressway. If there was a fee of $10 a day for TTC and parking, many people would take it rather than driving into the downtown core. The Province is talking of providing funding for increased transit use. This might be a project that could be done cooperatively.

  25. I have travelled extensively and have found no other public transit service WORSE than the TTC. Brazil fairs better. Paris is miles ahead. NYC makes the TTC look like the farce that it is. The TTC doesn’t need more money. It needs better management.

    As far as TTC Surface planner Mitch Rambler’s comment that “no other city on Earth attempts to run frequent streetcar service in mixed traffic”, lets look at Rotterdam, Berlin, Adelaide and San Diego. They have successful, useful service. Just what planet are TTC management living on?

  26. I really wanted to take the streetcar to work. I REALLY did. I live on the Queensway at Windermere, and am on the 501 line. However, after countless mornings and nights waiting for 30 minutes+ in the cold, I have officially given up. I am now driving to work. I really wish I didn’t have to add to the city’s congestion. I grew up taking the subway everywhere – I didn’t even own a car until 5 years ago. I had no idea how horrible TTC service was once you’re off the subway line. Something has to be done. I’ve spoken to many others in my condo, and heard the exact same story. Please improve the service so I can take transit again!

  27. Malgosia, I think I live in the same condo as you, and as such am experience the same internal quarrel about the TTC. I have never owned a car and only recently got my driver’s licence. I could rant about an hour on the unbelievable bad TTC service in general, but everyone else has done a great jobe here so far. I also REALLY REALLY want to take the TTC to work (which is at Front & Bay), and have tried several different options, all of which end up in me being late and annoyed at destination. I am now actually considering buying a car and braving the Gardiner, dowtown traffic and paying through the nose for parking.

    So here’s the thing: when paying $250 a month for parking, taking the Gardiner parking lot everyday, paying another $200/month for insurance plus gas plus maintenence plus plus plus…when THIS is an attractive option to taking public transit, THERE IS A PROBLEM. Why doesn’t anyone in government see this? If Toronto really wants to be a global city (or “world class”, as everyone likes to say), then we simply need better transit. Compare the TTC to any transit system in the world and you’ll quickly realize how archaic, obsolete, over-priced, innefficient it is. It’s embarrassing. Look at Paris, NYC, London, Chicago, Montreal, Lisbon, Moscow, Madrid….the list could go on and on…look at any of these cities, or any city in Europe for that matter, and compare our service to theirs. Officials may think that this is an unfair comparison, since these are Paris, NYC and London etc., but shouldn’t we strive for that rather than resign ourselves to some 1950’s backwater with shitty service? A city the size of Toronto should have more than 3 subway lines. It’s ridiculous. It’s been proven time and time again that it’s the only efficient way for millions of people to move around in a city. Why is this not even on the table? FIND THE MONEY, BUILD A SUBWAY.

    Any adjustment to the Queen car line would be a bandaid for a much larger problem. I’m, along with thousands of others I’m sure, tired of dealing with this and I don’t want to live in a city where it lakes me over an hour to get to work when I live and work in the core. 2 hours a day travel time. So I have 2 options: get a car or get out. I’m starting to lean toward getting out. Which based on the attitude of the TTC, is just fine by them.

    Maybe our tagline should be “Toronto. Take it or leave it.” Is this really the kind of place we want to live in?

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