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Route 514 - The Cherry Streetcar

514

C H E R R Y

TO DUFFERIN GATE
VIA KING

514

C H E R R Y

TO DISTILLERY VIA KING

7 days a week, 18 hours a day

By James Bow

The Route

Starting on its launch day of June 19, 2016, streetcars on 514 CHERRY begin operation at Dufferin Loop near the Dufferin Gates entrance to the Canadian National Exhibition and operate via north on Dufferin and east on King, serving the redeveloped Liberty Village neighbourhoods and the condominiums, stores, theatres restaurants of King Street's Entertainment District before heading into Toronto's Financial District. Crossing Yonge Street, the route continues through Corktown, passing Parliament and approaching Queen before turning right onto Sumach Street. Travelling along private right-of-way along the east side of the street, CHERRY streetcars cross Eastern Avenue onto their namesake street and continue along private right-of-way past a stop at Front to the newly-built Distillery Loop just north of the Cherry Street underpass beneath the Union Station rail corridor.

The 514 CHERRY streetcar serves a number of newly established residential neighbourhoods emerging from formerly industrial districts, including Liberty Village, the St. Lawrence neighbourhood and the redeveloping West Don Lands. The route also augments service on the busiest part of the 504 KING streetcar line. Service operates 7 days a week at intervals of 15 minutes or better, whenever the subway is open.

Toronto Develops...

The 514 CHERRY streetcar may be the newest streetcar line in Toronto, but it operates through some of the oldest neighbourhoods in the city. When the Old Town of York was established in 1793, it grew up around ten city blocks located east of what is now the King/Jarvis intersection. Toronto's first City Hall was located in the second level of today's old St. Lawrence Market. As the town grew, development was cut off by swampy lands and the Don River to the east, forcing new businesses to set up to the west, as well as north on Yonge Street.

The first public transit route to operate in Toronto was a stagecoach line operating from St. Lawrence Hall at the corner of King and Jarvis via King and Yonge to Yorkville. The first cars of the Toronto Street Railway followed a similar route. As commercial, industrial and residential development pushed west along Lake Ontario and King Street, the first KING streetcar came into being in 1874.

While some residential development occurred south of King Street, the presence of Toronto Harbour and, increasingly, Toronto's railways, transformed the areas southeast of King and Yonge and southwest of King and Strachan into industrial centres. While these industrial areas were important sources of employment for city residents, they could be a challenge for transit agencies to serve. Unlike commercial and residential streets, which offered a mix of travel choices, industrial areas were often low density, offering fewer riders per mile, with ridership structured more around shift times. The bulk of transit service to these areas remained on King Street, where a mix of residential and commercial traffic kept ridership up at most times of the day. Services that served the industrial areas themselves remained lower-ridership and often rush hour only.

Industrial Extremities

Tracks were laid down on Dufferin Street from Queen to the Exhibition grounds after 1891. Streetcar services on Dufferin were limited, especially as residential demand pulled KING cars further west towards Roncesvalles. The DUFFERIN streetcar operated only intermittently, and usually around Exhibition events. Meanwhile, southeast of the Dufferin/King intersection, warehouses and factories built up around the Canadian National tracks and a local access road called Liberty Street. Through the Second World War and into the 1950s, this area employed thousands of workers making everything from munitions to buttons and auto parts.

At the east end, southeast of the King/Parliament intersection, the area that once included Toronto's first schoolhouse was given over to industries served by Toronto's harbour and railway tracks leading to Ottawa and Montreal. In particular, Gooderham and Worts Limited, the largest distiller of alcoholic drinks in Canada, established a manufacturing and warehousing complex that occupied several city blocks, also employing thousands. This and other industries led the Toronto Railway Company to lay tracks down the East Don Roadway in 1917, allowing ASHBRIDGE streetcars to connect King Street to the Keating Channel.

However, the ASHBRIDGE streetcar line barely lasted seven years before it was replaced with buses. Services through eastern part of Toronto's Harbour were limited, however, with the ASHBRIDGE and CARLAW bus lines providing almost all of the service through the area. Some services, like 75 SHERBOURNE extended portions of their routes into the area, while carrying the bulk of their ridership elsewhere. The 42 HARBOUR route, from Jarvis and Queen's Quay to Cherry Beach barely lasted a season in 1967 before it was cut due to lack of ridership. The density of these industrial areas simply wasn't enough to support intensive public transit.

Toronto Redevelops...

This pattern remained in place throughout much of the 20th century. Change came gradually to the Port Lands, but it accelerated. Much of the land was built on fill moving the shoreline of Lake Ontario gradually south by more than a kilometer since the Town of York was founded in 1793. Gradually, the older industries became landlocked. Then, in the 1970s, changes in the world economy resulted in a number of the area's aging industries relocating to more modern and spacious locations in the suburbs. The Gooderham and Worts distillery complex operated until 1990 before it was closed down and operations moved elsewhere.

The industrial areas south of King Street east and west of Toronto's downtown core increasingly hollowed out, with buildings left abandoned or demolished. What transit ridership existed in these areas faded. Liberty Village was more than adequately served by 504 KING streetcars and 29 DUFFERIN buses that were carrying more passengers from elsewhere along their routes. The extension of the 72 PAPE bus along Commissioners Street and around the Gooderham and Worts Distillery carried what people needed to be carried through the Toronto Port Lands.

However, land left abandoned in growing cities does not stay abandoned for long. While numerous obstacles limited redevelopment of Toronto's industrial areas, including contaminated lands, decrepit infrastructure and, ironically, a lack of public transit, civic and business leaders could see the opportunities these lands represented.

The first neighbourhood to be redeveloped was the warehouse blocks around the St. Lawrence Market. By the 1960s, the area was full of empty sites and decrepit buildings. In the 1970s, Toronto City Council, led by mayor David Crombie, resolved to turn the area into a new residential neighbourhood. Deliberately eschewing the blockbusting techniques employed by the heavily criticized St. James Town and Regent Park developments, the new neighbourhood was to be integrated into the rest of the city. It would feature a mix of commercial and residential development, along with a balance of subsidized and market-priced housing. Planned by Alan Littlewood and Frank Lewinberg, and influenced by the urban design theories of Jane Jacobs, the St. Lawrence neighbourhood succeeded in becoming a vibrant, desireable community. By the 1980s, thousands of people were living in what had been derelict lands just two decades before.

Similar techniques were used to clean up and redevelop the emptying industrial lands around Liberty Avenue in the west end. There, the warehouses and factories themselves offered an architectural aesthetic that appealed to young urban professionals looking for housing in interesting neighbourhoods close to jobs downtown. The first residents moved into Liberty Village around the year 2000, and were quickly joined as more condominiums and office towers were built. Today, over 34,000 people now call the Liberty Village area home. There had hardly been any residents south of King, east of Dufferin and west of Strachan before 1995. The area which had been a destination of KING streetcar passengers heading to shift work became the place where many workers in Toronto's Financial District alighted.

The redevelopment of these industrial lands into rising commercial/residential neighbourhoods resulted in an increased demand for public transit. The 121 FRONT-ESPLANADE route launched service on the Esplanade through the St. Lawrence neighbourhood in 1991. The 63 OSSINGTON bus was extended south of King Street in 2002 and into Liberty Village itself in 2008. However the effects were arguably felt strongest on the KING streetcar. Ridership increased dramatically as new riders came on board from the St. Lawrence and Liberty Village areas, passing the levels the QUEEN streetcar had seen, and more redevelopment was on the way.

The Ataratiri Experiment

The area southeast of the King/Parliament intersection had a more difficult time redeveloping. In 1987, Toronto mayor Art Eggleton convinced the Ontario government to expropriate most of the land southeast of the King/Sumach intersection. The land was to be redeveloped into a community of 14,000 residents called Ataratiri (a Wyandot word for "supported by clay"), with a mix of subsidized and market-priced housing. The Ataratiri plan faltered when it was discovered that the soil was heavily polluted and would require expensive cleanup before any private developers could be enticed to join the project. The collapse of the real estate market in the early 1990s convinced the provincial government of Bob Rae to cancel Ataratiri altogether in 1992, leaving the land deserted.

Redevelopment began again slowly in the late 1990s as developers pushed forward on easier properties at the edge of Ataratiri, including the Gooderham and Worts district, which was eventually remodelled into what is today known as the Distillery District. Successive municipal and provincial governments looked at ways of redeveloping the rest of the land until 2001, when the federal, provincial and municipal governments agreed to set up the Waterfront Toronto agency.

Waterfront Toronto was given responsibility to take lands owned by the provincial government, the City of Toronto, and the federally-owned Toronto Harbour Commission and do what was necessary to make them suitable for development, including building such infrastructure as parks, roads and transit. Waterfront Toronto was given funding from all three levels of government to meet its mandate, which was to build nearly 6,000 new residential spaces (20% of them "affordable") integrated with Toronto's transit network and offering 23 acres of public greenspace. The redevelopment plans included flood protection from and naturalization of the Don River. The main thoroughfares through this redeveloping area included a realigned Queen's Quay East, Commissioners Street, and Cherry Street.

Cherry Construction

By 2000, the Distillery District had increased transit use enough that the 72 PAPE bus was realigned to offer two-way service on Mill Street between Parliament and Cherry. Service hours increased from there. However, to support development to the east of the Distillery District, more visible transit was needed. Planners at Waterfront Toronto argued that higher-order transportation such as streetcar lines had to be in place before developers could build dense residential and commercial developments that could entice visitors and new residents to the area. The streets around which such development turned, and which required higher-order transportation were a realigned Queen's Quay East, Commissioners Street, and Cherry Street.

In 2007, at the behest of Waterfront Toronto, TTC staff examined a number of proposals to extend streetcar service into the West Don Lands, south from King Street. Suggestions included extending streetcar tracks south of King via Parliament to the rail corridor, via Cherry to the rail corridor, or via Parliament, Front and Cherry to the rail corridor. Cherry was selected as the preferred corridor because it was closer to new development, and it avoided potential delays by having streetcars negotiating turns at Parliament and Front.

Community groups working with Waterfront Toronto examined different ways to run tracks down Cherry Street. Should the tracks operate in mixed traffic or in private right-of-way? Should they run in the middle of the street, down one side, or should the tracks occupy both curb lanes? While a dedicated transit lane in the centre median was the common form of private right-of-way for Toronto streetcars at the time, some in these groups suggested that tracks running down the east side of Cherry Street could "integrate public transit and (the) public realm". Integrating transit stops with the east side sidewalks would also allow for some on-street parking on the west side of Cherry. This plan also matched the proposed urban design of the south side of Queen's Quay, and would make it easier for tracks to use that side of the road and then swing north onto the east side of Cherry.

TTC commissioners approved the construction of streetcar tracks along Cherry Street ahead of the 2015 Pan-Am Games. The provincial government hoped the kick-start development in the West Don Lands by building an athletes' village in the area, turning over the buildings as residential housing after the games were over. With Cherry Street closed from King Street south to Lake Shore Boulevard, there was an opportunity to build the streetcar tracks without disrupting any pedestrian or automobile traffic.

Funds were made available from Waterfront Toronto for the construction and, starting early in 2013, the TTC started building new track on the east side of Cherry Street from Eastern Avenue south to the rail corridor, not including Distillery Loop. In April 2014, work resumed, with the tracks extended to the King/Sumach intersection and special-work installed (a full T-interchange). Work on Distillery loop was originally to be held off until after the Pan-Am Games in 2015, but was completed early, by September 20, 2014. Little work was done during 2015 while the Pan-Am Games took place, but early in 2016, crews began to install wires over the tracks, preparing them for service.

How to Service Cherry

While the TTC made a commitment to build the tracks on Cherry Street, there was some question about how to serve them. Sumach and Cherry street, between King and Mill, had not seen public transit service since the ASHBRIDGE bus had been rerouted to Parliament in 1945. When the TTC considered the option of extending streetcar tracks south from the King/Parliament intersection, some thought was given to re-establishing the PARLIAMENT streetcar, but the costs of extending the tracks from Carlton to Castle Frank station was not deemed to be justified by the ridership. The loop on Cherry Street could have served as an eastern terminus of the 508 LAKE SHORE, but the route's infrequent service would hardly prove useful for local residents, and the TTC commonly operated 508 cars via Parliament and back to Roncesvalles via Carlton and College.

With the TTC committed to an alignment along a few blocks of Cherry Street, the TTC considered operating service as a branch of the 504 KING streetcar, either with every few cars diverting from their regular route between Dundas West station and Broadview station, heading to Distillery Loop and returning to King to continue their journey, or as a selection of streetcars heading out from either Dundas West or Broadview stations, going to Distillery Loop and returning.

Operating the Cherry tracks as a service from Broadview was dismissed because the TTC and Waterfront Toronto planned to extend service to the Port Lands along new tracks laid down an extension of Broadview Avenue itself. Also, by 2015, it was clear that the 504 KING streetcar needed additional service elsewhere, and there were limited options for how to provide it.

In a report issued in March 2016, TTC planners stated that the 504 KING streetcar was carrying approximately 65,000 customers each weekday, an increase of nearly 10,000 riders from a decade before, making it the busiest surface transit route in Toronto. The line was so congested that residents of the neighbourhoods in the central portion of the route were often unable to board streetcars that were already full.

TTC studies indicated that the area of greatest use was between Dufferin Street in the west and Parliament Street in the east. Already, the TTC was operating supplemental service using 17 buses in the morning and 9 buses in the afternoon (due to a shortage of streetcars) between Roncesvalles and Broadview. As new streetcars came available, additional service between Dufferin and Cherry could provide additional passenger capacity where it was most needed, as well as providing new regular service to Cherry Street.

Adding Capacity Where It's Needed

The TTC calculated that by reallocating resources on the 504 KING line, streetcars could operate on a new route from Dufferin Loop to Distillery Loop, effective June 19, 2016. Service would operate seven days a week whenever the subway was open. Intervals would be every 15 minutes at most times, but would increase to every 8-to-9 minutes during peak hours. Service on the 504 KING route would remain every ten minutes or better whenever the subway was open, increasing to every 4-to-5 minutes during peak hours.

More importantly, new low-floor Flexity streetcars would be assigned to the 514 CHERRY route, providing the first accessible surface transit route south of Wellesley through Toronto's downtown core, providing connections with other accessible services including 29 DUFFERIN, 63 OSSINGTON, 510 SPADINA, the YONGE-UNIVERSITY subway at St. Andrew, 6 BAY, 97 YONGE, 75 SHERBOURNE and 65 PARLIAMENT. Along with the 514 CHERRY route, service through the St. Lawrence and Distillery neighbourhoods would be revised, with a new 121 FORT YORK-ESPLANADE route operating from Cherry Street via the Esplanade, Front and Fort York Boulevard to Strachan Avenue, and the 72 PAPE bus replacing the 172 CHERRY STREET bus, extending back to Union Station via Queen's Quay East and Bay Street.

To ensure sufficient accessible streetcars would be available for the 514 CHERRY route, the TTC revised its planned roll-out of Flexities elsewhere in the system, with 511 BATHURST receiving Flexities three months later than previously planned. The TTC expected that the 514 CHERRY line would be fully accessible, along with 510 SPADINA and 509 HARBOURFRONT, by the September 2016 board period.

TTC commissioners accepted these recommendations and formally approved the launch of the 514 CHERRY streetcar at their meeting on Wednesday, March 23, 2016. TTC workers put the finishing touches on the overhead and, on the morning of Wednesday, April 20, 2016, TTC Flexity test LRV #4401 ran the length of the tracks from King to the loop in a series of test runs, using first its trolley pole, and then its pantograph.

Launch and the Future

On the morning of Saturday, June 18, at 10 a.m. people gathered at Distillery Loop to see a convoy of streetcars (Peter Witt #2766, PCC #4500, CLRV #4140, ALRV #4225 and Flexity LRV #4421) to hear speeches from area councillors, members of provincial and federal parliaments and Toronto Mayor John Tory. Attendees then boarded TTC Flexity LRV #4421 for a free ride from Distillery Loop to Dufferin Gate loop and back. The first in-service cars departed both loops at 7:45 a.m. the following Sunday, June 19.

The 514 CHERRY streetcar is the first phase of a network of streetcars on private right-of-way through the redeveloping Toronto Port Lands. Plans call for streetcar tracks to be extended south from Distillery Loop to the Ship Channel, with other tracks operating along Queen's Quay East and Commissioners Street. These future extensions, however, require at least $300 million in capital funding that is tied up in the realignment of the Don River, and active development of the lands south of the Union Station rail corridor. The extension of tracks south from Distillery Loop will require a new underpass beneath the rail corridor, but capital funding has not yet been procured for that either. Until then, the 514 CHERRY service will be operating at only part of its potential.

Although most of the 514 CHERRY route operates in mixed traffic, with the exception of a short stretch of private right-of-way on the east side of Cherry, on-street priority may increase. In 2001, the TTC proposed that automobile traffic on much of King Street between Dufferin and Parliament be prohibited, to allow the streetcars (which were carrying twice the number of passengers as competing automobiles during rush hour) to operate unfettered. Although this proposal did not bear fruit in 2001, it was raised again by the Toronto Planning Department early in 2016. Streetcar priority between Dufferin and Parliament would make service on 514 CHERRY even more reliable, and with cars entering service at Dufferin and Cherry streets, residents in the Liberty Village and West Don Lands neighbourhoods might finally find seats when they get on board.

In its report to TTC commissioners in March 2016, TTC staff estimated that 514 CHERRY service would significantly improve public transit service for at least 40,000 passengers per weekday and attract as many as 51,000 new TTC customers each year. As new condominium developments add residents to the West Don Lands, Liberty Village and points in between demand for better service on King Street will only increase, making the 514 CHERRY route a vital component of Toronto's streetcar network.


514 Cherry Image Archive