Flexities Debut on Spadina (Update 2)

Updated September 5, 2014 at 3:00 pm:The Nextbus site now displays wheelchair symbols on route tags for the Flexities running on the 510 Spadina line.

Updated September 2, 2014 at 12:45 pm: Thanks to Darwin O’Connor for the URL that takes us to a page on his website showing where the new cars are located in real time.

Original article from August 31, 2014:

August 31, 2014 marked the reopening of the 511 (oops!) 510 Spadina streetcar between Bloor and Queens Quay, and the introduction of the first two of Toronto’s new fleet of Bombardier Flexity streetcars.

Regular service had been operating since 5:00 am, but the official ceremony took place at Spadina Station at 10:00 with the usual speechifying by sundry officials and politicians. Particularly gratifying were remarks by TTC CEO Andy Byford praising the people who had designed and built the new cars. Politicians show up for the ribbon cutting, but it’s the folks who have spent years to bring us these new cars who did the real work.

The countdown begins: After the last regular service car (for a while anyhow) ran through the loop, workers mounted a banner showing a PCC southbound on Broadview at Riverdale Park.


With suitably dramatic music, car 4403 breaks through the banner and enters Spadina Station.


I rode the first round trip to Queens Quay and back, a rather leisurely affair complete with “media opportunities” (a.k.a. “photo stops”). When we returned, the platform was awash with folks watching the new cars, lining up to have a ride in one, and, amazingly enough, a bunch of passengers who just wanted to go somewhere on Spadina.

This is a busy route on Sunday morning with a 2’00” headway (at least on paper).

Below, car 4400 (the first of three prototypes, but now retrofitted with “production” updates) unloads at the platform.


Car 4403 northbound at Nassau followed by PCC 4549 that was out on a charter timed to greet the new cars.


For the purists, car 4549 by itself. The destination “Lansdowne Harbord” is valid for the car and location. It’s good to see the PCC with proper roll signs again after years with a fixed destination for 509 Harbourfront.


Northbound at Nassau Street showing the warning light strips on doors for motorists.


Car 4400 northbound at St. Andrew Street which, just to confuse those familiar with subway stations on University, is north of Dundas Street, not King.


Car 4403 southbound at Richmond Street.


Car 4403 southbound at King. The new cars tended to run in fairly large gaps because so many riders would wait for one to show up, and they would spend an inordinate amount of time at each stop.


Car 4400 south of King. The overhead wiring partly visible here is compatible with pantograph and trolley pole. Two of Toronto’s three grand unions have been refitted with this type of overhead (the other is at Spadina & Queen). Much work remains to make the rest of the system pantograph compliant (notably at Roncesvalles Carhouse and its complex nearby intersection), and the new cars will operate with poles until the territory they will normally use has been completely converted.


Car 4400 northbound from the Bremner Boulevard stop. Although not visible in this photo, the traffic at this time was chaotic thanks to a baseball game at the nearby stadium, and the complete absence of any traffic cops to ensure motorists did not block busy intersections. Spadina streetcars spent an inordinate amount of time at the south end of the line thanks to traffic delays across their supposed “right-of-way”.


Car 4400 northbound from Front Street.


The Spadina route now uses Proof of Payment fare collection. Ticket machines are provided onboard for users of tokens, cash and tickets. To pay by token or cash, a rider buys a fare from the vending machine on the right. To use a ticket (seniors, students, children), they use the ticket canceller on the left. Either way, the rider gets a fare receipt.

Fare machines are also installed on platforms at major stops so that riders can conduct the transaction while awaiting a car.

An interesting side-effect of the move to POP is that riders transferring from the subway who previously simply stepped onto a waiting streetcar must now be sure to have a fare receipt (typically a transfer) in case they are inspected enroute on Spadina.

The provincial Presto system will be added to the mix in November, although the proposed method is rather cumbersome with first a Presto validation against a standard Presto reader, following by a tap onto a TTC fare machine to get a fare receipt that can be used as a transfer to non-Presto routes.


This is the vestibule at the third set of doors to the area intended for cyclists. Each vestibule includes blue-coloured seats indicating preferred access for those with mobility problems.


The wheelchair ramp in its fully-extended position as it would be used to load from the roadway rather than at a platform.


A wheelchair user boards 4400 at Spadina Station using the ramp which is extended in its platform height position, the mode that will be used at all stops on 510 Spadina.


123 thoughts on “Flexities Debut on Spadina (Update 2)

  1. It’s been a couple months since the debut, and TTC/Bombardier has said they’re going to put out a new vehicle every three weeks… it’s almost halfway through November. Are they waiting to do a batch conversion of old to new streetcars or is there something actually holding up the process?

    Steve: I don’t know, but now that 4404 has arrived, it’s time to shake the tree for an update. One vehicle every three weeks is considerably fewer than the originally contracted rate of 3/month.


  2. Sorry for the constant 510 posts here, seems like the best thread…

    Anyway, it took almost three months, but it looks like the TTC is finally enforcing the proof of payment system on, at least, the Flexities as I’ve seen two or three Transit Officers now asking and checking for metropasses, transfers and payment slips.

    Funnily enough, when I showed my transfer from Davisville station the officer was amazed, apparently, that I’ve traveled “so far.”

    Steve: I have seen Transit Officers in the early days of Spadina’s operation, but not so much recently.


  3. Steve said:

    “I have seen Transit Officers in the early days of Spadina’s operation, but not so much recently”

    I have been on the Spadina car approximately 30 times since it switched to POP in September, and the first time I encountered a fare inspector was yesterday.

    Its amazing how disorganized and confusing something as simple as fare inspection is on the TTC. There were four inspectors at Spadina Station, essentially they formed 2 lines, one by each door, blocking riders from entering the subway area until they produced POP. However, there was no coordination between the 2 groups. I got off the rear doors, showed my POP, yet got asked again by the inspectors at the front door for my POP. Luckily I still had my transfer out, but is there no better way to enforce POP than to ask twice?!?

    What was amazing to see is that of the 20 or so passengers that got off the car, 4 people did not have POP and were questioned by Transit Enforcement. Thats a very high percentage considering that there are customer service reps on most platforms with fare vending machines (and on the new cars) and that the 510 operators now automatically give transfers when paying with cash or tokens.

    Steve, do you have any thoughts about this? I think POP has been well communicated on the Spadina Line (announcements on cars to have fare receipts ready for inspection, posters (albeit small) on platforms announcing POP, customer reps, common sense to take a transfer, etc.), so why would it be that 20% of passengers are questioned by Transit Enforcement? Is it that people aren’t paying fares because they think they can cheat the system, or is fare evasion more prevalent than the TTC suspects?

    Either way, I’m glad to see them enforcing POP on the Spadina Line. Even if it’s 3 months until I see them again, it’s important that enforcement is visible. It only takes once to remind customers that they are checking, and that it’s not worth the fine. But I do hope to see enforcement more frequently, it’s definitely something the TTC needs to do as they expand operation of the Flexities over the streetcar fleet.

    Steve: One thing that is quite clear is that fare inspection on a packed car is impossible, and that condition is not unusual on Spadina. A related problem for passengers is that on packed cars they cannot access the fare machines and it’s not even possible/practical for the temporary onboard “conductors” to encourage them in that direction. I think that the biggest problem is the hybrid arrangement where only a small part of the system is PoP and so it’s not possible to have fare inspectors wandering everywhere. People know that if they can make it to the “conventional” part of the system unchallenged, they are ok.

    Operations at Spadina Station are particularly disorganized because the terrazzo work that was supposed to be finished by now won’t be until almost year-end. It’s an easy place to catch all riders, but at the cost of even greater platform congestion. There is a “catch 22” in that the most likely times people will try to beat the system are the times it is packed full, the worst time for crowding and unloading delays at the loop.


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