TTC troubles during construction

Taking the TTC downtown to work from the Beach is challenging at the best of times (remember the short-turn controversies that peaked a couple years back?), but lately the closure of the streetcar lines past the construction east of Greenwood Avenue – and the replacement bus service – has many regular commuters feeling confused, ignored, and as you might imagine, hopping mad.

Pamela Trudel started a petition and presented it to TTC Chair Andy Byford with almost 100 signatures.

To view or sign her online petition, go to

She and her fellow commuters use the 503 rush-hour streetcar service from Kingston Road and Victoria Park to the King and Bay financial district. The TTC has in effect cancelled that service altogether. Sure, there is a 503 bus from the eastern end of the route, but it drops riders off along the Queen route past the construction and doesn’t continue along the old 503 streetcar route. Riders are forced to squeeze onto already over-crowded streetcars and, if they want to get into the financial district, transfer onto another overcrowded King streetcar at Broadview. Getting home in the evening is even more difficult as streetcars are already overcrowded by the time they arrive at Yonge and King, and then are susceptible to short turns at Parliament and transfers at Broadview.

“I leave work at 5 p.m.,” Trudel said, “and get home well after 6.”

Byford’s response in an email to Trudel was that because of the large number of TTC construction projects around the city over the summer, “it would be irresponsible for us to increase bus service only to find that it could not be sustained.”

“Why then do they plan so many projects if they can’t manage them properly for the riders?” Trudel asks.

Byford said in a CBC interview that the TTC is working on tracks for the new streetcars that will be arriving soon. He indicated that he was responding to every email he received, and had sent out more flyers letting customers know about the service changes.

Stephen Sweeting usually takes the Queen 501 streetcar into work each day, and now takes the corresponding bus. He said the bus turns north when it gets to Parliament, and if he wants to continue westbound into the city, Sweeting has to transfer back onto the streetcar which – by the time it has arrived at Parliament from the Russell Yard near Greenwood – is horribly crowded. Coming home in the evening Stephen said that if he wants a seat on the Queen  streetcar he has to walk to Bay because by the time it gets to Yonge it is packed.

“I usually take the subway north from Queen to the Bloor/Danforth line, then get off at Main and take the 64 bus south into the Beach,” Sweeting says. “I have never been happy with the late afternoon/evening streetcar service along Queen Street East heading eastbound.”

He suggested that the replacement buses go westward all the way to the Queen subway station so that riders can have a direct trip in in the morning, instead of having to make the transfer. “Standing in the rain twice this morning was not fun. Clearly the replacement TTC service is not serving the Beach community adequately.”

Mitch Stambler, Manager of the Service Planning Department at the TTC, responded via email addressing these concerns.

“We are facing a more challenging constraint in operating funding, and a shortage of bus operators and buses,” Stambler said. “If we were to extend the existing 501/502/503 replacement bus service all the way downtown, with the finite number of buses and operators at our disposal, the result would be longer waits for all the these services.”

As far as the number of construction projects underway at the same time, Stambler said that delaying the maintenance of “safety-critical equipment” is an extremely unwise approach, as railway companies throughout North America have learned the hard way.

“Additionally, the changes we’re making to tracks and overhead wiring will help us prepare for the introduction of the new low-floor, high-capacity streetcars which will be coming to Toronto starting over the next few years,” he said. “Under these unavoidable pressures and requirements, we all have to bend a bit, give up some of the convenience we’re used to, and make accommodations, in the interest of greater things to come.”

Echoing Byford’s comments, Stambler said that as of May 17, the TTC had increased the level of supervision overseeing the operation, “including placing supervisors at both the Bingham and Neville Park loops to ensure that the buses depart promptly.” Changes to traffic management will allow the streetcars to turn around more quickly through the Russell yard, and usual decreased volume through the summer should mean less congestion.

“As the project continues, there will be various changes necessary to the streetcar services,” Stambler said. “And we will stay focused on effective and reliable operations throughout.”

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The TTC answer of facing “constraint in operating funding ” is laughable. Which came first the chicken or the egg. If you do not give people the service they need then they will not take the TTC which would lead to further constraints in their budget with lower revenues .The province, Ottawa, the TTC and the City of Toronto all claim that Toronto is a world class city but which world are they talking about . I see ground TTC workers pushing people on vehicles and then telling the driver that it is OK to go, is that what the future holds.

Stambler says they have placed supervisors at both Bingham and Neville Park loops??? I get on at Bingham every morning and get off there every night…I have yet to see a supervisor except for one day the second week of this nightmare when one was handing out pamphlets advising of the rerouting & scheduling!!! I’ve watched as two buses come at once and sit, engines off as the two drivers sit in one and chat! Then leave the loop together and don’t even bother to wait if a Scarborough route bus is coming around the corner with transferring commuters!!! The double-up is constant and if you miss them, you inevitably have half hour waits in between. Transferring in the morning at Broadview for the King car is horrendous! Most 504 drivers refuse to open the back doors and make you cram in the front. If you take the chance and wait for another car, you can watch one go by packed at the front and, if it’s a double, the second car practically empty. I get a lift to Coxwell and Queen from downtown most evenings and arrive there by 5:15 it is not uncommon for me to wait 30 minutes for a 502 and watch multiple 501’s go by. My commute home now is on average 1 1/2 hours!!! I might as well live in Barrie! Those making these scheduling and routing decisions should be made to travel these routes for at least a week to experience the hell of it. And Stambler? Don’t pull that bull about us all having to “bend” a bit…we on the KR line have been “bending” for decades and are sick and tired of taking it up the waazoo!

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