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Rocket Riders, Sierra Club Consider Ways to Fix the 501 Queen Car

Over on the Transit Toronto mailing list, a lot of discussion is taking place about the problems of unreliable service on the lengthy 501 Queen streetcar and what can be done to fix them, especially for the residents in the Beaches neighbourhood and through southern Etobicoke. Suggestions include restoring service on the defunct [507 Long Branch]/streetcar/4111.shtml) route, or breaking up the lengthy 501 Queen line into several shorter services overlapping across the downtown core.

Rocket Rider members are participating in these discussions and are hoping to take these ideas public and send them to the TTC where they hope they will be acted upon. They are organizing a forum to discuss the problems associated with operations on the 501 Queen streetcar and are inviting the public as well as TTC commissioners and staff members to attend. The forum will take place on Tuesday, December 4 at Metro Hall at 6:30 p.m.

The Sierra Club is also taking an interest in this issue, as I was contacted by Mike Oliver, the Sierra Club’s Ontario Chapter Transit Campaigner and himself a member of the Rocket Riders, who is working to coordinate efforts from various groups to present the TTC some strong ideas backed by a united front. In his words:

“Streetcar routes were largely ignored in the recent Ridership Growth Strategy. Streetcars are the backbone of the surface system and are the busiest surface lines, but are often overcrowded, bypassing waiting passengers, and suffer from unreliable service…

“…There needs to be a vision for the streetcar routes downtown, as they are currently over capacity at many hours, and greatly restricted by the volume of mixed traffic. It is obvious that this situation will only get worse.

“Queen Street and Lakeshore Boulevard are ‘Avenues’ in the city’s Official Plan and we need to encourage transit use along it with frequent and reliable service. Toronto is planning for 1 million additional residents coming to the City by 2020. This will increase transit, and car use, dramatically, especially in the older parts of the city.

City densification is predicated on efficient movement of people. Densification along Queen Street and Lakeshore Blvd will not happen with the current 501 service. A significant improvement is necessary on the 501 route is necessary.

This issue bears watching. The Queen streetcar is still one of the heaviest routes in the system, carrying over 40,000 passengers each day, but it used to carry many more passengers — up to 70,000 passengers per day. A decrease in the levels of service, and an increase in the unreliability of the service has sent 30,000 passengers looking for alternatives each day, and that’s unacceptable. The Queen streetcar is a backbone of transit service through the southern portion of the City of Toronto, but it can do so much better, and the city can only benefit if that happens. Riders are encouraged to offer their ideas, and the TTC is encouraged to act upon the best ones.