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Gap in waterfront streetcar line closed

With 850 metres of new track, commuters can reach Exhibition Place from Union Station

Toronto Bureau Chief
Saturday, July 22, 2000

Marilyn Roy was among those who whistled and cheered yesterday as Toronto transit officials opened the missing link in the waterfront streetcar line.

The new section is a mere 850 metres of track along Queen’s Quay between Spadina Avenue and Bathurst Street, but it was enough for everyone to make a big deal of a transit leg that now links Union Station and Exhibition Place.

“I’m very excited,” said Ms. Roy, a resident of the Queen’s Quay neighbourhood for the past 15 years. “We’ve been very isolated and cut off … from the city.”

She and other members of the Bathurst Queen’s Quay Neighbourhood Association said they have fought for the past 10 years to keep the number 121 bus in service for their district. That bus will be phased out tomorrow with the arrival of the 509 streetcar.

The four-kilometre service will give commuters a direct link from Union Station to the Canadian National Exhibition, the National Trade Centre and Ontario Place. But it also provides new transfer points at Bathurst, Strachan Avenue and the Exhibition Loop, including connections to GO Transit.

“I call it the missing link, but don’t underestimate the importance of it,” Rick Ducharme, chief general manager of the Toronto Transit Commission, told the audience. “It’s amazing what a few metres of tracks can do for you.”

Subway riders will now be able to connect at Union Station to get to Exhibition Place instead of relying on buses for special events, he said.

Mr. Ducharme noted that two-thirds of TTC ridership is on surface routes like the Queen’s Quay line. “We are going to keep building on that, so this is one piece of it.”

The Queen’s Quay line figures prominently in proposals to revitalize the city’s waterfront. A task force report on the redevelopment, endorsed this week by a city council committee, recommends further extensions of the line eastward to serve future residential development in the port lands.

TTC chairman Howard Moscoe noted that the missing link was built at a cost of $13.2-million dollars, without help from either the province or Ottawa.

“These 850 metres go a long, long way and say a lot about the TTC,” Mr. Moscoe said, predicting that the new, continuous line will carry 6.6 million people a year by 2010.

“Quietly and incrementally, we have been building up streetcar service in Toronto since we opened the Harbourfront line in 1990 and the Spadina line in 1997,” he said.