Cherry Street Day One

The first day of revenue service was beautiful and warm, ideal for tourists and photographers, although service on the 514 Cherry was quite spotty at times with cars running bunched and off schedule.

For anyone trying to find a 514, there was the added challenge that the TTC export to NextBus has not been set up correctly, and the “main” route appears to be from Queen and Broadview to Dufferin Loop with a spur down Cherry Street. This fouls up predictions for stops on the “spur”, and the clever rider must know enough to look nearby on King to see when a car might show up. Then there is the small matter of the claim that the car goes to “Cherry Beach” which I mentioned in yesterday’s post.

An additional issue was the absence of a low floor car among the five scheduled vehicles, although 4421 was running as an extra all day. The problem appears to be that the TTC neglected to flag crews for this route as requiring Flexity training, and so the operators generally can only drive the older high-floor cars. With 4421 running as an extra, it does not appear on NextBus and anyone needing an accesible vehicle faces an indeterminate, long wait while the car makes its 80 minute round trip. This extra will also be crewed with operators on overtime, rather than as a piece of work integrated into the normal schedule.

Yes, we all know there are not yet enough Flexitys to flesh out all of the service, but like 509 Harbourfront, the 514 could be operated with a few cars sprinkled in (well spaced, please) between the CLRVs as a first step. The TTC made a big point of flagging this as a new accessible service, but have been back peddling saying “when we get more new cars”. That’s not what Chair Josh Colle said in the press release two days ago:

“The 514 Cherry Streetcar will reduce congestion and provide more frequent service along the central section of TTC’s busiest surface route, the 504 King. The new route will be served by the low-floor streetcars, which will provide a more comfortable experience for our customers, and add a new east-west accessible route.” – TTC Chair Josh Colle

4421 was the first car out of Dufferin Loop providing an early trip at about 7:30 am, while 4044 was the first car from Distillery Loop at 7:45.

Another aspect of the route that is not working is the “transit priority” part of the signal system. Yes, there are transit signals, but they cycle through whether a streetcar is anywhere in sight or not. This is particularly annoying at King & Sumach which is a multi-phase signal that now includes eastbound and northbound “white bar” call ons for streetcars. These operate whether they are needed or not, and steal green time that could be used for King Street itself where the 504 cars spend considerable time awaiting their signals.

Although the TTC took several stops served by the 514 (and 504) out of service on June 19, they did little to flag this situation at the stops. Old pole cards, some falling off or visible only from one direction of approach, were all that told people the stops were not in service. The usual TTC signs for out of service stops, so commonly seen for construction projects and diversions, were nowhere to be found, and many riders were waiting at the stops (which were served by considerate operators). Some of the streetcars continue to announce these stops, and they remain in the stop list on NextBus and on the TTC’s schedule pages.

Finally, the shelters installed on Cherry Street are of a smaller type that was supposed to have been discontinued as they provide no “shelter” at all. An example is in the photo at Front Street below beside the former Canary Restaurant.

A lot of this may seem like small change, but collectively there is a lack of attention to detail especially on a new route’s launch where current, accurate info should be the easiest to provide. These are the details that annoy riders because the system and its “customer service” cannot be relied on.

The line is quite photogenic, and the real shame is that there is so little of it. When or if the planned Waterfront East streetcar and the link of Cherry under the rail corridor and into the Port Lands will happen is anyone’s guess.

Finally, there has been some discussion on Twitter about the absence of a stop northbound on Sumach at King. The reason for this is evident when one looks at a Flexity sitting where the stop should be: the sidewalk lip is some distance from the car and does not provide the sort of platform one would expect. This creates a safety hazard were this used as a stop, and probably interferes with operation of the wheelchair ramp. In the absence of a stop (and without a sympathetic operator), north to eastbound transfers (514 to 504) must be made at the next stop west on King at Sackville. This is not the most intuitive arrangement for riders, and the configuration of the sidewalk at Sumach should be corrected as soon as possible.

12 thoughts on “Cherry Street Day One

  1. Thank you for reporting on that, Steve! It’s really disappointing. I especially like the gaps in the railing visible SB approaching Front St. The lack of signal priority is the most frustrating, given how essential it is to speed and reliability. Do you think these just growing pains that will soon be rectified, or a permanent fixture?

    Steve: It took ages to fix Queens Quay West, but I hope that things will move more quickly on Cherry. Another missing piece is a westbound white bar at King & Dufferin, but I understand this is in the works.


  2. The 514 will the first test of the Flexity in mixed traffic. How long will it be for a Flexity to be stopped on King with the wheelchair ramp extended and a car racing by on the inside crashes on to it?

    Steve: Considering that the operator is supposed to be outside of the car operating the ramp, it’s not as if the ramp will just poke out into traffic. It will be a mess when it happens, though, and exterior cameras recording drive-by offenses of all sorts would allow the idiot to be billed for the substantial cost of repairs.


  3. What got me at the Distillery Loop was the total absence of seating. A huge paved expanse with no shade or seating. I had a long wait so just had a seat across the road. The lack of signal priority made it easy to saunter over when a car did show up.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I planned to ride the 514 today. The schedule at the shelter at Sherbourne and King said 504, 2 and 24 minutes. I saw CLRVs, with 504 roll-signs, that listed their destination as Dufferin.

    The 504 service was erratic. I had to wait a long time for an eastbound vehicle, only to have the driver announce, when he got to Broadview, that he would be short-turning at Dundas. He recommended waiting. But I walked to Gerrard, to catch a 506 — another route that was disrupted.

    I didn’t have to wait too long for my first westbound 504. But when I got off at Queen as part of my effort to take before pictures at the sites that are candidates for DRL station, I had to wait a really long time for a second 504. Half a dozen 501’s passed.

    Steve mentioned that there was only a small no-shelter shelter at the Distillery loop. I’ll add there were zero benches. One would think that the end of the line would be one of the most important places to provide riders with a schedule.

    I read, a few years ago, that one of the heritage train stations might be transplanted to the site of the Distillery Loop. That seems unlikely now. There certainly isn’t room now.

    Another thing from 4421’s ceremonial trip on the 18th… I was standing near an elderly couple, who couldn’t get the handicapped ramp to deploy. At first people kept telling them to “Press the button! Press the button!”

    Brad Ross spoke to the couple, and then spoke to a subordinate, and someone went outside, with a key, and opened a panel. A few seconds later the ramp did deploy, in two stages, just like Steve said in a comment in another thread. I noticed it was quite a bit steeper than ramps to buildings.

    I wondered what would happen if a car drove over one, and how frequently the TTC anticipated that happening. Andy Byford was standing beside me, so I asked him the first question. He said, “why then we would take the vehicle out of service and the driver’s insurance company would pay for the repairs”.

    I guess he is a bit of a joker.

    Steve: I think the only way this can reasonably work in mixed traffic is for the operator to assist as he did on the trial run. I was sitting right across from the door when this happened.

    As for service on other lines, welcome to the world of downtown transit on weekends.

    Heritage train station? It’s already there. The Cherry Street signal tower which is right where it always was.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. ” ……… 514 Cherry was quite spotty at times with cars running bunched and off schedule.”

    SNAFU = Situation Normal All F***ed Up!


  6. The TTC really does make it hard for people (like me) who instinctively like public transit to support them – if they can’t get a 600 yard spur line working properly after MONTHS (if not years) of time to prepare I fear for the future of public transit in Toronto. No benches, few schedules, few accessible streetcars, no signal priority, poor shelters, the usual poor route management etc etc..

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Has Andy Byford forgotten about his mandate for bringing the TTC in the 21st century, and running it like a first rate transit system? It seems to me that he has lost his drive to do so.

    A prime example is the 514. Another being (as my friend pointed out while riding the 512) “Who are those TTC guys with ties and clipboards what are they doing?” I had to explain to him that those were supervisors … keeping track of the vehicles, using static pre-printed schedules the same way they have been doing for the past 100 years. And that’s the thing … where wasting good money to employee supervisors who are using data that is obsolete. Members of the public have a better idea of where vehicles are on their damn smartphones!

    I’m one of the first to defend the TTC but in all honesty the stupidity of it all is beginning to anger even me. Out of all the people the TTC employees to monitor vehicles, and the very fact that they know the exact position of each streetcar, subway and bus at all times how can they justify bunching and poor on-time performance. With the exception of traffic of course. It does not take a rocket scientist to see two streetcars running to close and to call one and order it to hold back. Heck it should not happen to begin with. What the hell is wrong with these people, they are being VERY well paid and doing a crap job.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I notice that there have never been more than 15 Flexities (and usually fewer) on the Spadina harbourfront routes despite 21 having been delivered. Allowing for 4401 being a test vehicle and one held for training where are all the others?

    Steve: There are 22 vehicles in all, 4400-4421, of which two are the prototypes. One of these is in Thunder Bay being upgraded to “production” quality, and the other remains in Toronto as a test car (it will go to Thunder Bay for a retrofity too). This leaves 20 in total of which 3 or 4 would usually be “spares”. As I write this, there are 16 cars out on the road of which 14 are on Spadina, one on Harbourfront and one on Cherry.

    You can easily see where they are with this link:

    Adjust the range of vehicles as needed to include all that have been delivered.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Josh Colle’s statement demonstrates how pathetic this new streetcar situation is. I honestly believe The Crosstown will be completed before we receive all of the new streetcars.

    The 514 route may have a lot of benefits once the West Don Lands condos and development is finished and sold to citizens. However, Uber Hopp will always be a challenge since they have a direct pick up place right by the Cherry Street loop area.

    Furthermore, unless additional services such as restaurants or retail spurs up in that area, the ridership basically is a one stop route (the district). They need to expand this line to union station by 2020 and there is intense condo construction happening right now, west of Queens Quay and Parliament and once again the city fails to work with private sector to coordinate the development process unless there is a political purpose (Pan Am Games).

    Steve: The QQ East line should have been nearly finished if not open by now to serve those condos, and you can thank Rob Ford for screwing up the project. Tory talks a good line about supporting development, but his money is all tied up in the Gardiner and the SSE.

    I know funding is an issue, but when there is an announcement to expand go train to Bowmanville with no cost listed just shows that the government mindset is to win seats and not achievable results for effective infrastructure and transit building.

    514 route will have the same feeling like 502/503. An underutilized route that is only there to say they have service for a select few ppl.


  10. Are the CLRVs on this route going to receive 514 roll-signs? On June 21st I only saw CLRVs operating on the 514 with either 504 Dufferin or 504 Parliament roll-signs depending on the direction of travel. In this age of electronic destination signs, maybe the preparation of new roll-signs is a lost art. The small flip signs at the right front of the CLRVs that identify the car is on route 514 are unreadable at a distance.

    Steve: Unlikely. And they don’t need to be read at a distance. A Dufferin car is going to one place regardless of route number. A “Parliament” car might be a “Cherry” car but you’ll know by the time it gets closer. They might put signs in the ALRVs because they will be around longer, but nothing definite yet.


  11. First day of the 514: EPIC FAIL!! Haven’t seen a Flexity streetcar on King St yet, maybe it’s just an urban legend. I fear that 514 is really just a PR whitewash from the TTC, that what’s really happening is to short-turn 504 streetcars, pretend the short-turned streetcars are a new route, and then not serve the extreme east and west ends of the 504 line as much. Since 514 started, neither service nor crowding have improved on 504 yet.

    Steve: There is only one Flexity on the 514, and at the moment I write this, it is northbound on Cherry Street. Given that a round trip is about 80 minutes, I am not surprised that you don’t see it, although I have spotted it a few times in my travels more by luck than design.

    As for service on the 504, I think that the TTC has badly oversold this. I plan to write about it, but all of the transit reports are taking my attention right now. Also come July I will have actual operational data to contrast the level of service provided before and after the change.

    To find the Flexity use Nextbus.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I’m looking at the real time map right now (Sunday 26 June 9:35pm) and all 5 assigned cars are west of Simcoe. There’s a large gap between cars eastbound John and at westbound Simcoe. I hope no one is waiting for a car on Sumach or Cherry.

    Steve: As of 10:40 pm, three cars are westbound west of Sumach, and so the parade is still intact. There are no recent service alerts explaining this situation, but also it is common for such things to be missed on weekends. I will be getting the CIS data for this route in July, and it will be possible to see how these situations developed and what, if anything, was done to reorder service. For the record, earlier today the cars were properly spaced.


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