The new route 514 Cherry began operation on Sunday, June 19, 2016. The route is effectively a scheduled short-turn of 504 King operating between Distillery Loop (Cherry & Mill Streets) in the east and Dufferin Loop (Exhibition West Entrance) in the west.
Service on 504 King itself has been reduced to provide the resources (operator hours) for the new route. During peak periods, this effectively converts some of the 504 bus trippers back to streetcars running over more-or-less the same territory. Outside of the peak, the 514 Cherry runs are created by widening headways on the full 504 King route and overlaying the 514 service.
The 514 Cherry cars run over a notorious section of King Street where running times can vary immensely (see charts in my recent article about stop removals), and this variation is an all-day problem with many seasonal and event-specific triggers.
This article reviews the new route’s operation for its first 12 days. I will update this review when additional data are available as the year progresses. A related issue will be the degree to which, if at all, the 514 cars blend with the 504 King service and the actual combined level of service between Dufferin and Sumach compared to the pre-514 Cherry era.
Only two small parts of the route are separate from King Street itself:
- Sumach and Cherry Street south from King to Distillery Loop
- Dufferin south from King to Dufferin Loop
The Cherry branch is intended to serve the developing eastern part of the Distillery District which is just becoming occupied after its use as the Athletes’ Village for the Pan Am Games. Substantial additional development is planned here over the coming years, and eventually the route could be extended south to link with a reconfigured Queens Quay East and the Port Lands redevelopment.
The scheduled service is every 8-9 minutes peak, every 12 minutes Saturday afternoons, and every 14-15 minutes at all other times. Any irregularity in headways can lead to long waits defeating the attractiveness of this service.
Service at Mill Street northbound (just leaving Distillery Loop) shows a wide variation in headways, and the standard deviation of the headways for weekday service is regularly at or above 6 minutes. This means that a substantial share of the headways lie in a range at least 12 minutes wide. This is vastly beyond the TTC’s goal for service reliability at terminals. The situation on Saturday is slightly better with SDs in the 2-6 minute range, but the Sunday stats are the worst of all. Note that these numbers include only one Saturday and two Sundays with an infrequent service. Therefore the number of observations per hour is small.
At Dufferin Loop (measured at Springhurst, the street immediately north of the loop), the situation is slightly better, but not by much.
Quite evident in the charts is that cars running on very close headways, under five minutes, are not uncommon. For a route with a wider scheduled headway, this means that would-be riders will often see two 514 cars followed by a long gap. If they are simply travelling along the central part of King, this does not matter, but if they actually want to use the stops on Cherry or Dufferin because they live or work nearby, they face an uncertain fate.
A single typical day’s operation shows what these headways look like leaving Distillery Loop.
An urban streetcar line operating at a scheduled headway over 10 minutes is a stretch at the best of time, but when gaps of 20 minutes and more and pairs of cars a few minutes apart are common, this is not an advertisement for TTC service. It’s the sort of thing one uses if it’s there, but otherwise walk. This is also an indictment of whatever might pass for service regulation by the TTC.
The service over the entire route is charted here:
Notable events through the day:
- A bunch of cars travels west from Sumach & King between 6:00 and 6:30 am on headways much closer than scheduled. This is almost certainly due to cars leaving Russell Carhouse late.
- A delay eastbound at Spadina just after 7 am catches this bunch on its return from Dufferin Loop.
- At about 7:35, another westbound car that has just entered service short turns at Spadina and heads east. This appears to be yet another run that entered service late.
- Just after 8:00, a second westbound car short turns at Spadina. After a layover on Charlotte Street, it heads east right behind another 514 car coming from Dufferin.
- Service through the morning and early afternoon continues to be erratic, and four cars short turn at Spadina westbound at various times.
- By the PM peak, some cars are running in pairs that persist over an entire trip.
- Service does not settle down until after 9:00 pm, and even then the spacing is not reliable.
- Throughout the day, most trips manage to take a layover at one or both ends of the route.
- Also throughout the day, locations and time of congestion at intersections (eastbound at Bathurst and at Spadina, westbound at University) are obvious. These are of course problem locations for 504 King cars as well.
An obvious question is whether the cars have enough time in their schedule to make their scheduled trips. The following charts show the running times between Cherry at Mill and Dufferin at Springhurst.
The scheduled round trip times (minutes) for 514 Cherry are:
Period Weekdays Saturdays Sundays AM Peak / Early AM 80 70 70 Midday / Late AM 75 75 75 PM Peak / Afternoon 81 84 75 Early Evening 75 75 60 Late Evening 60 75 60
Allowing for time at the terminals, the actual trip times shown in the charts are generally higher than the schedule provisions. This puts cars off schedule routinely leading both to short turns and to headways dependent on whatever operators choose to achieve, including terminal breaks. Layovers at Dufferin Loop have the advantage of a loo, something that is not available at Distillery Loop.