TTC pitches 514 Cherry route to ease crowding on King streetcars

The TTC says its new 514 Cherry streetcar route, which will run along King Street from Cherry Street in the east to Dufferin Street in the west, will alleviate crowding on the city's busiest surface transit line.

New route to run between Distillery District and Liberty Village

If approved by the TTC board, the new 514 Cherry route would operate using the new streetcars in an effort to provide some relief on the central portion of the crowded 504 King line (David Donnelly/CBC)

The TTC says its new 514 Cherry streetcar route, which will run along King Street from Cherry Street in the east to Dufferin Street in the west, will alleviate crowding on the city's busiest surface transit line.

King Street is currently served by the 504 streetcar, which moves some 65,000 passengers each weekday and is often packed full of commuters.

The new Cherry route, which would begin operating on June 19 if the transit agency's board approves it at a meeting next week, will operate in addition to the 504 and there won't be any reduction in service on the long-standing line, said TTC spokesman Brad Ross.

The difference is that the 514 "would essentially service the core," Ross told CBC Radio's Here and Now

Some 60,000 people ride the King streetcar every day, the TTC says. (John Rieti/CBC)
"The other benefit, of course, is that it will operate with the brand-new streetcar," Ross said, noting this will create the only accessible east-west surface transit line between Wellesley and Queen's Quay.

The new line will also provide relief to those who live in the Distillery District area, which will soon grow as residents move into the former Pan Am Games athletes' village, and the Liberty Village neighbourhood, where residents have been so fed up with King Street transit that they've considered a private bus line as well as a specialized Uber service.

"That's amazing," said Agnes Fekete when she heard about the new service.

Fekete said she routinely takes the streetcar from Regent Park to Liberty Village to visit her sister, so the route will serve her needs. She said plenty more will use the route as revitalization continues in the east end.

"A lot's happening in the area ... a lot more people are going to be around to use it," she said.

Transit advocate Steve Munro said he's been waiting for the 514 Cherry since the tracks were built some two years ago.

"At last, finally, Cherry Street is getting its service," he said, adding this is the first of several promised transit projects for the east end.

Munro, however, said King Street's biggest problem isn't streetcars, but drivers who park at key times during the day and a transit signal system that doesn't give streetcars priorities. He said he also thinks the new route, while an improvement, won't be enough to meet the demand for transit on King. 

Streetcar service along King is "at capacity" and customers are often unable to board the streetcars, the report continues.

In recent months, buses have been running along King in addition to the streetcars.

New route to operate 'all day, every day'

Considering the TTC's move to boost service on its busiest routes, including the 504, at the end of last year — a move backed by $95 million approved by council — it appears likely the board will approve the new plan. 

"I can't speak for the board, of course," Ross said.

However, he said most of the infrastructure is already in place for the new line. 

"The track on Cherry Street was built specifically to service the Distillery District with streetcars."

The city is expected to take further steps to improve King Street for pedestrians and transit users this year, some of which are laid out in its King Street Visioning Study. The study calls for more pedestrian space, as well as more room for cyclists on King — ideas embraced by one east-end streetcar rider.

"I'm all for keeping pedestrians moving," said Mimi Beck, who works in the Distillery District. 

"Let's keep the war on the car alive," she said, laughing.

The new 514 route is set to operate "all day, every day," according to the report, with a peak-period frequency of every eight to nine minutes.

Ross also said the city is set to receive four new streetcars per month beginning in April, and those streetcars will be put into service on the new Cherry route, as well as the Spadina, Harbourfront and Bathurst lines.

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