TTC to Scrap Queen Streetcar Split
After a month-long experiment last fall, TTC staff have revealed what many riders already knew: splitting the Queen streetcar route led to even more delays.
The pilot project on the often-criticized 24 km route involved westbound streetcars turning back at Shaw and those heading eastbound looping back around Parliament. With an overlapping section between these two intersections running a total of 4 km across the majority of the downtown core, the hope was that bunching on the route would be reduced.
As it turned out, splitting the route actually led to a 90 per cent increase in the overall number of short turns, and a whopping 223 per cent swell during rush hour.
Because such short turns require passengers to get off one streetcar and board another, they're particularly disruptive to commute times.
Instead of a split route, the TTC plans to stick with a system known as Step Forward, which has already been implemented along the 501. The primary feature of the Step Forward program is that supervisors are able to replace operators (rather than the streetcar that they're driving) at the conclusion of their shift. Although difficult to believe, operators used to be tied to their vehicle, which necessitated that it be taken out of service when their shift was finished, regardless of its location along the route.
Unsurprisingly, adopting this change resulted in the reduction of short turns. But it's not really new. When implemented in 2007, Step Forward cut afternoon short turns to 9.7 per cent, down from 32.5 per cent, while those in the morning were reduced to 4.1 per cent, down from 13.9 per cent.
Despite the fact that 501 split worsened travel times, some were encouraged by the TTC's willingness to experiment. As one of the most crucial arteries in the city, improvement of the Queen St. route should remain a top priority.
Thus far, Step Forward has been the most successful strategy for reducing gaps along the 501. But it would be a shame if the failure of the latest experiment was cause to throw in the towel. Surely, there must be more aggressive measures than Step Forward that can be explored?
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