Queen 501 streetcar: the longest, wildest ride
The 501 Queen car courses from the Long Branch Loop in the west to the Neville Park Loop in the east — and back again — 24 hours a day, picking up and dropping off the city's lifeblood.
People shuttling from hundred-year-old homes to downtown jobs in gleaming towers. From homeless shelters to soup kitchens. From art studios and galleries and clubs to cafés and bistros and late-night poutine. From a detox centre to a fresh start.
On the Toronto Transit Commission's 501 Queen route, life can begin and end.
One can enter this world at St. Michael's Hospital or St. Joseph's Health Centre, or die at either facility and be mourned at one of a number of funeral homes along the line — or in a seedy bar where the beer comes cold, served in pitchers, before noon..
Life, like the streetcar, comes and goes. And it carries on.
The Queen route, which extends from just short of the eastern border of Mississauga to near the western extremity of Scarborough, can be infuriating. The press of too many passengers. The short turns. Unmannerly cellphone users. Occasional driver-rider spats.
The car, on a bitterly cold or rainy day, that seems to never come.
But with its 501 Queen streetcar project, the Star celebrates the 25-kilometre line — not just one of the longest streetcar routes in North America, but arguably the coolest public-transit ride on the continent.
The series is not so much about the ride as the areas it serves. The people who live and work along it. The history. The issues.
The route, though it ducks south where Queen ends in the west and hugs the Queensway and Lake Shore Blvd., is known by many simply as the Queen car. By some, the ultimate Red Rocket route. By others, the Vomit Comet.
However it's perceived, the 501 Queen streetcar showcases an amazingly varied urban landscape. Hop aboard.
The 501 Queen car courses from the Long Branch Loop in the west to the Neville Park Loop in the east — and back again — 24 hours a day
ANDREW FRANCIS WALLACE/TORONTO STAR
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