The 501 Queen is an east-west streetcar route in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, operated by the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC). At 24.8 kilometres (15.4 mi), it is one of the longest surface routes operated by the TTC, the longest streetcar route operating in Canada and one of the longest streetcar routes operating in the world. It stretches from Long Branch Loop (just west of Browns Line, adjacent to Long Branch GO Station) in the west to Neville Park Loop (just west of Victoria Park Avenue) in the east, running on Lake Shore Boulevard, in a reserved right-of-way at the median of The Queensway, and on Queen Street.
The route was instituted in the mid-to-late-19th century by private operators as a horse-drawn line, was later electrified, and was assumed by the TTC upon its creation in 1921. Service is provided 24 hours a day, though overnight service between 1 am and 5 am is operated as one of three streetcar routes on the TTC's Blue Night Network under the route number 301 Queen.
Route 501 used to run only as far west as Humber Loop, which until 1973 was a fare zone boundary point. Another route, 507 Long Branch, ran from Humber to Long Branch. The TTC decided in 1995 to amalgamate the two routes into one continuous route. However a similar arrangement was reinstated in January 2016 when the route was temporarily split in two stages with the 501 Queen streetcar between Neville Park - Humber Loop and Humber Loop - Long Branch (see below).
The TTC's subway plans in the 1940s and 1950s called for the north-south rapid transit line built under Yonge Street (the first section of today's Yonge-University line) to be complemented by an east-west streetcar subway under Queen Street, allowing streetcars to avoid city-centre traffic, but come above ground and run on city streets in outlying areas. When the Government of Canada refused to help fund the project, the Queen line was dropped to save money, but a set of streetcar platforms were built under Queen station to allow for further expansion. By the time the TTC returned to the idea of an east-west line, however, traffic had moved north to Bloor Street, and the Bloor-Danforth line was built there as a dedicated rapid-transit line like that under Yonge.
On April 2, 2007, the TTC proposed that the 501 Queen streetcar route operate in a transit-only right-of-way similar to the proposal for the 504 King streetcar route announced on March 22, 2007. These plans have been all but shelved; the TTC is now focusing on King street for a transit mall because of objections from merchants on Queen St. who claim their businesses are more car-based than that of King.
The TTC conducted an experiment of splitting the 501 streetcar route into two overlapping segments, as recommended by the critics to alleviate bunching, gaps and short turns when delays occurred.
During the experiment streetcars from the Neville Park Loop ran west on Queen as far as Shaw Street, and from Long Branch Loop or Humber Loop east as far as Parliament Street.
In January 2010 the commission received a report analyzing several of the experiments done in 2009 to increase service reliability. It was determined that splitting the route increased short turns, required more streetcars and resulted in poorer service.
As of January 8, 2017:501 Neville Park: Eastbound on Queen Street from Roncesvalles Avenue to Neville Park Loop.
501 Roncesvalles: (Also signed by streetcar drivers on the vehicle's overhead rollsigns as "501 Humber" or "501 Long Branch") Westbound on Queen Street from Neville Park Loop to Queen and Roncesvalles Avenue (Sunnyside Loop).
501L Long Branch: Northbound from the Dufferin-Exhibition Gates on Dufferin Street west along Queen Street, The Queensway, South on Windermere Road west on Lake Shore Boulevard to the Long Branch Loop.
501L Dufferin: Eastbound from Long Branch Loop on Lake Shore Boulevard north on Windermere Road, east on The Queensway, Queen Street, and south on Dufferin Street, west on Springhurst Avenue, south on Fort Rouille Street to the Dufferin-Exhibition Gates.
501M Windermere/Marine Parade: operates a clockwise circular route via east The Queensway, south on Windermere Road, west, south, and east on Lake Shore Boulevard West, south, west, and north on Marine Parade Drive, north on Park Lawn Road, and east on The Queensway.
501 Greenwood/Connaught: Eastbound from Roncesvalles Avenue or westbound from Neville Park loop on Queen Street to the Russell Carhouse.
501 Kingston Road and Queen: Eastbound from Roncesvalles Avenue on Queen Street to Kingston Road (Woodbine Loop).
Neville Park Loop
Moss Park Armoury
Yonge Street (Queen subway station)
Old City Hall courts
Toronto City Hall, Nathan Phillips Square
University Avenue (Osgoode subway station)
Four Seasons Centre
299 Queen Street West (Home to MuchMusic, CP24, Bell Media)
Trinity Bellwoods Park
Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
Long Branch Loop
The 501 Queen is the only TTC streetcar route that provides all-day service mainly using double-length Articulated Light Rail Vehicles (ALRVs), supplemented when necessary with some single-length Canadian Light Rail Vehicles (CLRVs). (The ALRVs are used on other routes only during periods of high patronage, such as during rush hours or special event services.)
Until December 2015, most ALRVs operated continuously on the entire length of the route from Neville Park Loop and Long Branch Loop, with occasional vehicles short turning at Humber Loop. On January 3, 2016, the route was split into two sections at Humber Loop, with the section west towards Long Branch Loop operated with CLRVs and the section east to Neville Park Loop continuing to use ALRVs. As a result, service over the entire route operates at intervals of ten minutes or better all day, every day. This change was intended to be temporary to concentrate the larger ALRVs on the main part of the route east of Humber, providing more frequent service than before on both segments combined.
Due to right-of-way reconstruction along a section of The Queensway, intended to prepare the line for the new Flexity Outlook vehicles, 501 Queen service was further reorganized. Effective January 8, 2017, all streetcars on 501 Queen (even though westbound 501 streetcar drivers sign the cars on the overhead rollsigns as "501 Roncesvalles", "501 Humber" or "501 Long Branch") operate between Sunnyside Loop and Neville Park Loop only with service west of Roncesvalles Avenue being replaced by buses plying on two routes:the 501L, which operates from Long Branch Loop to the Dufferin-Exhibition Gate Loop via The Queensway and Lake Shore Boulevard West (directly replacing streetcar service along the original route except for near the Humber Loop)
the 501M, a circular shuttle service between Park Lawn Road and Windermere Avenue via Marine Parade (serving the immediate vicinity of the Humber Loop, which cannot be served by streetcars during the reconstruction).
Simultaneously, service on the 80A Queensway regular bus route was restored along the Queensway to provide connections, operating between Sherway Gardens and Keele Station 7 days a week, 18 hours a day.
The 66A Prince Edward buses will continue to serve Humber Loop as the only route to service that area.
From May 7 to September 3, 2017, all streetcar service over the entire 501 Queen route will be replaced by buses to permit multiple construction projects along Queen Street, including the replacement of an overhead pedestrian walkway at the Eaton Centre, which will require overhead wires to be removed. It will be the first time ever in TTC history that all service on this route will be replaced by buses.
Critics of the TTC's management of this line argue that small delays at one end ripple into 30-40 minute waits at the other. Like route 504, there is much demand at either end of the route, and along the downtown middle stretch. Transit proponents such as Steve Munro have long claimed that Route 501 would be better off if it were split into two or three overlapping segments.