I've written previously about the advantages afforded by a large, integrated transit network - the more connections there are, the more opportunities there are to deliver better service without needing to invest in infrastructure. The Toronto streetcar system can deliver those kind of opportunities. Even though it's not as expansive as it was sixty years ago, the connections in the network are such that we don't necessarily have to limit ourselves to the eleven routes that are currently run.
Many people may not be aware of the 507 Long Branch streetcar route. It was in fact the last streetcar route to be abandoned by the TTC, making its last run in 1995. At that time it was the only remaining route that operated outside the old city of Toronto, and ran from Humber Loop just off the Queensway to Long Branch Loop a few minutes' walk from the Mississauga border. In 1995, it was folded into the 501 Queen route, and for the last fifteen years Queen streetcars have rolled from Neville Park to Long Branch, except when they're short turned, and that's hardly an uncommon situation.
I used to rely on the 501 Queen streetcar to take me downtown, but now I exclusively use the 504 King, even though it's a bit further of a walk to the stop. Why? Because the Queen streetcar is, sad but true, erratic and unreliable. There would be times where I would arrive at the stop and have to wait thirty seconds for the streetcar, and there would be times where I would arrive and wait twenty-five minutes. The Queen streetcar's utility as a crosstown route is severely compromised by a schedule I found that I just couldn't rely on. Last year's test splitting of the route into two didn't seem to have found the sort of results the TTC was looking for.
There's another way. Re-establishing 507 Long Branch service would, I think, improve the frequency and reliability of service along the entire line. Sure, the Queen line may be one of the longest in the world, but this is a transit service, not a competition. The line's biggest problem is that, since it operates almost exclusively in mixed traffic, minor delays echo down the line. The more kilometers the streetcars have to deal with, the more opportunity they have to get delayed or bunched by traffic or people stubbornly alighting at the front doors when they could use the back doors perfectly well.
Last July, while the logistics of the Queen split was still in the works at the TTC, Steve Munro suggested the re-establishment of 507 Long Branch service, but not along its historical route. Whereas the original 507 ran between Long Branch Loop and Humber Loop, Munro's proposed 507 would instead continue beyond Humber Loop, travelling north along Roncesvalles to Dundas West subway station. It's subsequently been mentioned by Spacing, considerably more recently, though I can't seem to find the link.
I agree with this idea. Short-haul riders - people travelling not particularly far - are important to the health of the system, and the 501 Queen route as it currently stands is not particularly welcoming to them. Decoupling the Queen streetcar from the trackage in Mimico, New Toronto, and Long Branch would improve frequency there as well as the remainder of the shortened Queen route. It would likewise provide another connection between southern Etobicoke and the subway system.
Building a strong transit network doesn't necessarily mean we just have to lay new rails. We also have to take advantage of the ones we already have.
POSTSCRIPT: The Spacing link has been added. Props to Jordan Teichmann in the comments.