Text by James Bow.
In the middle of March, 1999, a short section of track opened for service. Running along Charlotte Avenue for one block from Adelaide to King, it did not represent a significant increase to the streetcar network, or the birth of a new streetcar line. However, following so closely on the heels of the streetcars' return to Spadina Avenue, this construction caught many railfans by surprise, and so more than the usual attention was paid to this short construction.
From the beginning, it was always planned to have the Spadina streetcar operate more than one overlapping branch. Patronage along Queens Quay was expected to be less than patronage along the rest of Spadina, and alternate cars were expected to turn back at the loop at the corner of Queens Quay and Spadina.
The TTC changed those plans in the mid 1990s, when it was discovered that, in order to make the short turn loop at Queens Quay operationally efficient, a second, clockwise loop would have to be built within the current counter-clockwise one. Add to this the fact that ridership along Spadina dropped off considerably south of King Street, and the TTC started looking for another place to loop their supplemental cars.
Besides Charlotte Loop, the TTC also considered a loop using Adelaide, King and Peter Streets, and a loop using Clarence Square. Clarence Square had been advanced as the southern terminus of the Spadina Streetcar when it was originally proposed in 1973. The negative reaction from the residents of Clarence Square back then made the TTC think twice about proposing that loop again. Charlotte Loop was found to be significantly cheaper than a proposed Peter Street loop (coming in at a cost of $200,000). The operational savings expected from the more efficient allocation of cars to the Spadina line is in the range of $300,000 per year.
The fact that the TTC could realize savings from this construction within a year prompted the TTC to move fast. The TTC approved the loop in 1997, before the Spadina Streetcar line opened. After carrying it through Toronto City Council and negotiating with local property owners, construction began in the fall of 1998. The loop starts at the corner of Adelaide and Spadina, where the Spadina Streetcar uses south-to-east switches to turn left onto Adelaide. A east-to-south switch takes the cars onto Charlotte Street. At the foot of Charlotte Street, a switch takes cars either east or west. It is possible for eastbound and westbound King cars to change directions using this loop, adding to the loop's usefulness. Northbound Spadina cars from Union Station can even turn here and head back south, although it is unknown how many such cars make use of this feature.
The opening of Charlotte Loop did not mean the reactivation of all eastbound track on Adelaide Street, unfortunately. This track is active for a couple of car lengths east of Charlotte Street, after which point a sign hung across the overhead wire tells all that there are no streetcars allowed past that point. Perhaps this sign will come down once track work is finished on Adelaide, but it looks like we won't be seeing streetcars along this street for some time to come. As for the westbound tracks along Adelaide, these have been useless for over 30 years, when Adelaide was made a one-way street eastbound. The wrong-way tracks are being removed, piece by piece, and the Charlotte construction allowed another few feet to be taken away.