Queen/King Streetcar Issues

A major benefit to the Downtown Relief Line is not just its ability to relieve congestion off the Yonge subway, but also to provide a faster, more reliable service through the southern part of Toronto’s downtown where currently the Queen and King streetcars serve the role.

A Queen Streetcar Stuck In Traffic

Ridership on the King and Queen streetcars are among the highest in the system, with the combined ridership of both routes and the 508 Lake Shore streetcar at 96,600 riders per day132. The King and Queen streetcars are the 1st and 5th most used surface routes in the system respectively. Ridership potential is even greater, with these routes and their derivatives carrying over 130,000 passengers per day in the 1980’s111. Though ridership has recovered to 1980’s levels in the TTC as a whole, ridership on the Queen streetcar in particular never recovered. Depending on traffic levels, the average speed of the King streetcar varies between 11.3 km/h to 15.9 km/h. The Queen streetcar is slightly faster, ranging between 13.5 km/h to 18.3 km/h , though these speeds are likely increased due to the right-of-way along The Queensway160.  Subway speeds, for reference, are between 29.8 and 33.4 km/h.

The speeds of the vehicles themselves are not the only problem, however. In late 2007, the Rocket Riders held a community meeting, attended by members of the TTC including Adam Giambrone, as well as the public to discuss the problems of the Queen streetcar line. Both James Bow and Steve Munro gave presentations outlining major problems with the route, with the public making several complaints about gaps in service. Over the next two years the TTC took steps to correct the problem. To their credit, they managed to reduce large gaps in service midday by 35-40%2. Still, to this day there remain large problems in service that the TTC is scrambling to find ways to correct. Recently, the Queen route was split into two as a trial to see if it would help minimize service gaps. The TTC concluded that it was not effective in its goal1. In their study on the issues with the Queen route, the TTC noted the following

No one should underestimate the difficulties in trying to operate a regular, reliable service on fixed rail in mixed traffic.

This is a legitimate point that limits the extent at which the TTC can improve service on the Queen Streetcar as long as automobile traffic continues to grow in Toronto. With such high ridership on these routes, it is obvious that an east-west subway through Toronto’s downtown could be supported and provide significantly faster, more reliable service than both the Queen and King streetcars. Though these routes would need to stay in place to provide local service, those who go a longer distance on the routes would be able to cut their travel time approximately in half.  The idea of a subway along Queen is not new, and has been discussed for a century now. These proposals show that the area around Queen and King has been ready for a subway for decades, and the Downtown Relief Line can be that southerly subway, as well as providing the other benefits outlined on this site.

Image Sources

From top to bottom:

  • Alderson, Josh. Queen Streetcar. Photograph. 2010. Toronto.

Continue to Transit City

© 2010 Phil Orr & Andrew Perry