Queen East replacement bus: tips from a daily commuter

This summer the City of Toronto is rebuilding Queen Street between Coxwell and Connaught Avenues, doing badly-needed reconstruction of the road, sidewalks and streetcar tracks. Since streetcars won’t be able to get through with the tracks torn up, the iconic streetcars will be absent from Queen and Kingston roads this summer, East of Leslie Street. Replacement  shuttle buses take over the route east of Broadview, diverting to Eastern Avenue between Coxwell and Leslie. Notices explaining the detour were up at least a week in advance but have been taken down for some reason, leading to lots of confusion and anger from riders, although the TTC is so far handling this major disruption fairly well.

As a twice-daily commuter along this route, I have some tips to share on making your commute along this route a little more comfortable.

Westbound from the Beaches

The best tip I can share is to simply take a different route. Take one of the many buses north to the Bloor-Danforth subway and ride downtown underground. Avoid Queen entirely.

If you must use Queen, know where to transfer. Streetcars are starting their westbound trips at Russell yard and meeting shuttles at Queen and Leslie. However, the shuttles run as far west as Broadview. If you stay on the shuttle until then, you’ll be waiting for the streetcar with a busload of other passengers. Plan to exit the shuttle bus at Jones Avenue, then you can wait for an almost empty streetcar instead.

If you’re exiting the shuttle before Broadview, plan ahead. Start moving towards the door at least a stop in advance, if you’re able.

The shuttles technically run even further west to Parliament Street, but it seems to be up to the driver whether to carry passengers west of Broadview. Don’t count on it.

Eastbound from downtown

Commuting from downtown, you must board the 501 streetcar on Queen Street. Ignore the destination signs, drivers have apparently been instructed not to change them. Even though they say “NEVILLE PARK”, all streetcars are going out of service at Leslie, and turning at Russell yard.

The 502 and 503 streetcars will not be operating at all, but you could board a 504 streetcar on King Street and exit at Broadview.

If you’re travelling beyond Leslie, plan to exit the streetcar at Broadview. If you’re on a packed car, you’ll have to plan ahead to be sure you can get to the doors, although vehicles are often held up at the busy Broadview stop anyway. Wait for the shuttle here and avoid the huge crowd that forms when full streetcars unload at Leslie. Take the 501 bus to destinations on Queen Street, or the 502 or 503 bus to Kingston Road.

It’s going to take longer than normal to travel eastbound, so plan ahead & leave extra time.

506 Carlton streetcars

A quick note on this route: the diversion on Queen doesn’t directly affect this route, but it means streetcars can’t travel directly from the usual turn point at Coxwell to the Russell yard. Therefore, 506 streetcars that would usually go out of service at Gerrard & Coxwell are going out of service at Gerrard & Broadview instead.

Above all, be patient. The drivers and the TTC are really doing the best they can with a bad situation. Getting angry & complaining aloud to the driver and other passengers won’t make anything better for anyone, so just don’t do it. This bit of inconvenience doesn’t give you license to mouth off and act like an asshole.

For more reading, please see Transit Toronto’s
excellent summary of the diversion and affected routes.

About Greg Burrell

Greg is an accountant, cyclist and political observer living in Toronto, Canada with too many cats.
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  • This is a frustrating mess the TTC has made, poor, poor planning!  They have taken away one entire route (503) that services the daily work commuter living near Kingston Rd. and short-turned the 502 service so it doesn’t go all the way to the business/financial district.  Why not spread out the impact instead of punishing one group of people?  We in the East end of the Beach already spend way too long commuting when you consider my colleague can get to Oakville in the amount of time I can get home at 9km…doesn’t make sense!  Furthermore there has been very poor communication from the TTC and at least a couple of times a week there are big muck ups in the service ie; buses drove by about 35 of us waiting to connect at Carroll Street last week….apparantly those drivers thought the first pick-up was at Broadview.  Every night is a different adventure!!!!  Please sign our petition and try to pressure the TTC into extending the bus route.

    • I agree that the TTC has made a complete mess of the diversion. They were doing alright initially, but over the last month it’s gone from inconvenient to annoying to chaos. Getting on a westbound bus is like a short turn lottery that nobody ever wins.

      However, I’ve seen your petition and I don’t support it. Short turns aside, the 501/502 shuttles run at least to Broadview, where someone heading to the Financial District can easily transfer to the 504 streetcar and head right down King Street. The transfer might add some extra time to the trip, but so does transferring from the 501 bus. Not running the buses all the way downtown keeps them out of the heaviest traffic and increases the service frequency in the east where the streetcars can’t get to.