The Travails of Cherry Street

A recent meeting of the Corktown Residents’ and Business Association included a discussion of problems with the new 514 Cherry service. As reported by

… a resident of the King/Sumach area … commented that the screech of the streetcars turning at King and Sumach was so loud as to prevent sleep. Apparently the issue has been ongoing since the inauguration of the 514 (Distillery Loop–Dufferin) line on June 19.

The issue—which took the meeting somewhat by surprise—was amplified by other attendees, who also noted that there were substantial problems with streetlight timings at the Cherry/Front and Cherry/Eastern intersections, as well as with poorly-delineated turning lane stripes which have led to vehicles accidentally getting onto the streetcar right-of-way and then being unable to get off. (There have been earlier, similar incidents with the slightly older right-of-way at Queen’s Quay.)

Deputy Mayor and area councillor Pam McConnell’s office was aware of the issues and noted that streetcar service was now suspended (replaced with shuttle buses) between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. A public meeting was subsequently scheduled with the councillor’s office and the TTC.

Problems at King & Sumach have continued since the 514 opened for service including:

  • dewirements causing overhead to be pulled down
  • derailments
  • traffic signals that do more to delay transit service than “prioritize” it (this is also a problem further south on Cherry)

When the TTC began rerouting the 514 service late in the evening, the alleged purpose was “railgrinding” and this is still reflected in the URL for the service notice which is called “514_railgrinding.jsp”. The activities underway at the intersection were clearly aimed at the derailment problems by altering the rail profile on the curves.

There is a long-standing slow order for east-west operation on King that has nothing to do with this, but is no doubt related to a few cases of overhead failure.

Meanwhile, the traffic signals here and at other locations on Cherry appear to be on a fixed cycle that has no relationship to whether transit vehicles are present. So much for “transit priority”.

On the subject of wheel squeal, the TTC’s official line is that the new streetcars are supposed to be self-lubricating, and that this would be triggered by GPS information. That’s a good line, but it does not fit with actual conditions.

  • There is a wheel greaser on the southbound approach to Distillery Loop.
  • The GPS-based automatic greasing has not yet been turned on for the new cars. (Anyone with contrary information is welcome to correct me in the comments.)
  • Most of the service on 514 Cherry is provided by CLRVs that do not have automatic greasers.

I have outstanding requests for further information on these issues to both the TTC and to City Transportation, and will update this post as and when they reply.

21 thoughts on “The Travails of Cherry Street

  1. Were wheel greasers order for all of the new fleet? I certainly recall from a TTC Board meeting document several years ago that they had only ordered greasers on half the new fleet with the idea that there would be a residual effect on the rails, I don’t recall hearing if they later ordered it for the rest of the cars.

    Steve: Don’t know. Will have to follow up on this.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. They have found in Australia and some places in the US that if you paint the roadway of the LRT right of way a different colour, say RED, that fewer cars will drive onto it.


  3. Correct me if I am wrong but is this not the reason the PCC’s were pulled from the 604 Harbourfront in the mid 90s? It is ironic because at the time the PCCs were pulled in favor of the CLRVs due to complaints about squealing wheels turning into Queens Quay loop.

    Honestly, you cannot have your cake and eat it too. If you want decent transit access you need to suffer a little. If the locals do not want streetcars due to noise the locals will end up with buses. If the locals get buses, the locals will complain about the exhaust and air quality issues. When they complain about the buses, the locals will then have the service pulled and complain that they now have to walk to King to catch a streetcar when they did not have to before.

    It is a no win situation Steve and honestly I think they should either suck it up or have the service yanked until it can be run exclusively with Flexities.

    Steve: That’s a very short-sighted view considering that the TTC has been able to deal with wheel squeal at many other locations for years. Tell them to “suck it up” and they will ask for a subway. Oh, wait a moment, they are going to get one because the route of the DRL runs right under that intersection on its return north from East Harbour Station to Queen Street.

    As for the derailment issues is this a CLRV or Flexity issue mainly? I am curious if there is a tendency to have issues with one type of vehicle more than the other south of King.

    Steve: Don’t know. Waiting for more info on the general situation here.


  4. Steve said: That’s a very short-sighted view considering that the TTC has been able to deal with wheel squeal at many other locations for years. Tell them to “suck it up” and they will ask for a subway. Oh, wait a moment, they are going to get one because the route of the DRL runs right under that intersection on its return north from East Harbour Station to Queen Street.

    I am well aware but again, there is no way to make people happy in this situation. I used to work at Spadina and Bremner. You could hear the streetcars turning but the situation was manageable in the sense that people saw the streetcars, understood why they made that noise and were somewhat ok with it. Personally I think that they are overreacting. Metal on metal will always make noise because of the friction, you cannot fully eliminate the sound unless you you lube the tracks and have the streetcars glide down the track like skaters on an ice rink.

    Steve: The houses at King & Sumach are much closer to the curves than condos on Spadina, and the ambient noise level is much lower. I have heard the squeal at both locations and they don’t compare. The TTC has the technology to deal with this and should use it.

    As for the potential subway construction: if they think streetcars turning make a lot of noise think again. When I worked on Queens Quay they were doing the construction and boy was that loud. A jackhammer ripping up the road is multiple times louder than a streetcar.

    Steve: You may remember that the TTC had to jackhammer the road at King & Sumach to install the new track. The subway will bore under it. Whether there will be a station is not yet decided.


  5. Robert Wightman said: “They have found in Australia and some places in the US that if you paint the roadway of the LRT right of way a different colour, say RED, that fewer cars will drive onto it.”

    I don’t think that would help here, especially in the dark. The drivers entering the ROW are primarily turning left to go northbound on Cherry off Eastern, Front, and Mill. What they see is a boulevard dividing a part of the roadway from another, see pedestrians waiting on the far side of the boulevard, and assume that means the northbound side of the road is beyond that boulevard so that’s where they turn. Pain on the ROW through the intersection isn’t likely to help this as if they are unfamiliar such that they turn into the ROW they will also probably be unfamiliar with what the paint even means.


  6. Did they ever determine exactly what caused the derailment of Flexity car that took 8 and one half HOURS to rerail? Furthermore, have they learned how to re-rail a Flexity a lot faster?

    A second car derailment took “only” 4 hours to re-rail.

    Steve: The derailment at Queens Quay Loop was caused by running an open switch and colliding with a car travelling in the opposite direction. The one at Bathurst and King was supposed to be the combined effect of the extra load of a Flexity pushing a dead CLRV around a curve plus debris in the curve itself. The combined effect of lifting the wheels and the extra load pushing back on the car through the drawbar derailed the car. For what it’s worth, the TTC did a lot of testing of this sort of emergency operation (pushing/towing) during the prototype stage.

    It was claimed at the time that Bombardier needs to provide the TTC with additional equipment for rerailing of this type of vehicle. Why this was not included in the contract, or if it is equipment still to come, was never made clear.


  7. Why, 100 years ago, was the TRC able to operate streetcars, that were almost as long as the CLRVs, and often pulled double axle trailers, without frequent derailments, dewirements and complaints re noise. Or were they?


  8. Pushing streetcars are a lot more susceptible to derailing then pulling streetcars.

    I expect dewirements have always been common.

    People may not have liked the noise back then either, but the TRC probably didn’t care about such petty complaints.


  9. Robert Wightman wrote:

    They have found in Australia and some places in the US that if you paint the roadway of the LRT right of way a different colour, say RED, that fewer cars will drive onto it.

    That does help, but I’m worried that some form of “gotta do it differently in Ontario” will mess it up. Look no further than to York Region to see how it is possible: The VIVA rapidways are paved with a reddish-coloured pavement to distinguish them from the other lanes.

    However, some brilliant bulb thought it would be a great idea at intersections to pave the ENTIRE intersection with the same type of pavement, and not just the path through the intersection that the buses take. The most important place where car drivers might (and I have seen do) turn into the wrong lane and instead of paving it in a way that emphasises where to drive or not, and they throw away the distinction.

    Oh, in case anyone is thinking of pointing out how there is a visible distinction between the lanes when seen in the overhead link above, take a look at how it appears from traffic.


  10. Where has TTC successfully dealt with wheel squeal on the streetcar system?

    I live at least 500m from Long Branch loop. There are many buildings (some multi-storey) and trees between me and it. Nevertheless, even with the windows closed, I can hear the cars going around the loop at 3 or 4 AM. I wonder that residents a lot closer haven’t complained. (And there are a lot of residents closer to the loop than I am.)

    Once the cars leave the loop, I hear track noise from scalloping, especially as they pass the gaps made by side streets, until they are well on their way to the east.

    I remember a big deal, years ago, about taming squeal on the subway system. I guess it may be better now, but it surely isn’t noise-free.


  11. Somewhere in this area, perhaps here, there’s just The WORST bit of bike lane/streetcar ‘design’ on the northbound travel lane up to an east-west stoplight. Bike wheels can be caught in streetcar tracks and can throw the rider; the City and the TTC like to deny there’s a problem or look the other way for the liability reasons, and there’s coaching to take the tracks at as close to a right angle as possible. However, at the particular location that I’m thinking of, (soo behind etc.), there’s a bike lane that’s been put over/atop of a set of gradually turning tracks and it totally is a way to break a neck, but it was approved/installed.

    It’s quite appalling: the TTC would NEVER EVER consider doing anything as endangering to any of their paying customers, and someone at the City should be fired, perhaps including the Councillor, and there is real malingering liability, far more than the general responsibility that the City has managed to often avoid for less safe biking. And yes, at times the cyclists are not the gifts to humanity that the bike is, and can endanger others, so it’s hard to argue for us.


  12. I’m sort of skeptical about the accuracy of GPS wheel greasers. I feel like a transponder-based system built into tight curves would have been much better. Do we know anything about the testing of the GPS wheel greasers?

    Also, was that intersection built by the TTC? I thought I heard that the tracks on Sumach/Cherry were built by a contractor (like those on Leslie) but I don’t know about the intersection.

    Steve: As far as I know, it was TTC crews on that intersection which was a separate project from the Cherry Street reconstruction.

    BTW there is a wheel greaser in the roadway at the entrance to Broadview Station Loop, and we get comparatively little squeal here. An obvious question is whether there is a concern about greasing a tight curve where derailments have happened, but obviously a greaser was not built into the plans originally for King/Sumach, although there is one at Distillery Loop.


  13. As someone from Etobicoke, I don’t want to be the one meddling in what should or should not be done in Downtown affairs and I support whatever decision the area residents make.

    It appears, however, that the area residents want to shut down the streetcar line. A local referendum may be appropriate to settle the matter once and for all (not citywide but Corktown residents only).

    Steve: There are other ways of dealing with the wheel noise that the TTC has, for some reason, not implemented at this location.


  14. Can’t speak for Toronto, but streetcar derailments were very frequent in Hamilton. But the streetcars were much lighter back then, (wooden bodies) and so rerailing a car was easier.

    Steve: That’s hardly applicable here today. Derailments in Toronto are rare.


  15. Steve, I wish you had been at the meeting last night, it was a so dammed frustrating listening to all the antistreetcar crap, one person even mention that there’s a recording studio in a basement on King, near sumach, that is having problems, also that there’s undeveloped rails, where the cars wheels apparently go BANG, when going from one rail to the next (where’s the rubber gaskets, where’s the joint weld) was my thought on that.

    Barely any of the greater community was informed of the meeting, also the horrendous noise from the loop was even mentioned.

    It was very Nimby filled.

    I feel that it’s a red herring, this whole King/Sumach nonsense, they bought condos & houses, well aware that the 504 runs there, yet they didn’t have to, they should have done their research before buying property. I live between the loop & Sumach/King, 1 block east of cherry St, I can very easily hear both.

    TTC has to put their foot down, stop catering to these whiners & stop wasting money trying to placate them. It’s ridiculous, that 15ppl (that’s the amount on the original petition) can cause the severe service reductions that they have forced TTC to do.

    btw, Steve, for shuttles, TTC’s using WT buses (that have zero signage) after 10pm, also they have a supervisor at King/Sumach after 10pm, (though he is covering 3 lines normally, including 514 (I have spoken with him, numerous times).

    Also on the Flexity front, Rick, was saying (as did Stephen Lam) that the entire 514 will be Flexity by Q2 2017. (I’ll believe that when I’m able to get on whenever I need to, not only every 90 mins at best, as it is currently)
    There are also service cuts to 121 service as of Sunday.

    I am wanting to work with service planning & route design on that route also.




  16. Steve,

    I have to echo Ed’s and buschic’s comments regarding the whinging that seems to be resulting from the whining and squealing of the streetcars moving along the tracks, going about their business in the Distillery District. Get over it!

    When I first moved to the city in 1997, I lived a bit west of Roncesvalles Avenue, near St. Joseph’s Health Centre, just north of the Roncesvalles streetcar barns. All day and into the night and throughout the night, one could hear the streetcars moving into, out of and around the yard squealing and screeching along the rails as the 24-hour Queen St. streetcar trundled its way east and west along the rails. I felt bad for the homeowners along Sunnyside Ave. across from the hospital parking garage, as they were directly *next* to the yard itself – and next to the streetcar loop on the corner – but I don’t ever remember those houses being up for sale year after year because residents couldn’t put up with the noise.

    Even prior to that, when I stayed overnight with friends living just north of the Queen St. East/Coxwell Ave. intersection, I found the noise from the turning streetcars at that loop a bit disconcerting but was told by my friends when I brought it up, wondering how they could deal with it: “After a while, you just don’t hear it.”

    I’m sure that there are things the TTC can do to mitigate the noise to some extent, but – as buschic said – seriously, didn’t you do any research about the neighbourhood you were moving into? Maybe you should drop in to the office of the realtor who sold you your place…. And if, as has been suggested, there are going to be Flexity cars used along King into that neighbourhood at some point in the future (implying less noise, I guess?) perhaps the constituents should be yelling at their Councillors to get those cars in use faster once they arrive. That’s at least a more positive use of all that anger in an attempt to make more noise than those annoying streetcars.

    Steve: To be fair to people at King and Sumach, this is a brand new streetcar intersection that was installed in the spring of 2014 and entered service (for the south leg and the curves) in June 2016. People who have lived here from before that period have good reason to complain about the change in noise level as only those who were following the machinations of the Canary District / Waterfront development process (which reaches back into the previous decade) would even have known about the future streetcar service.

    As for whinging, I live beside the DVP (albeit roughly 150ft/30m above it) just north of Danforth Avenue. The road predates my building (1965) and obviously my tenure. I knew that the road was there when I moved in, and am perfectly used to it. On those rare days when there is no traffic (maintenance windows, cycling rallies) it is blissfully quiet. (The best has been after a storm that flooded the valley, and the only noise one could hear was birdsong.) Probably the noisiest annoyance are the hotrodders who race up and down the parkway in the wee hours of the morning (one wonders where TPS might be, but that’s another story), not to mention the occasionally noisy TTC crew repairing something on the viaduct. We get lots of fire trucks and ambulances from the station over at Sherbourne. Yes, I know what it’s like to live someplace other than a quiet sidestreet with no traffic.

    It will be interesting to see what the TTC does to improve the situation. The news reports gave the impression that the public meeting left a lot to be desired on specifics. There are really two issues: the squeal from the curves, and rumble from the special work. The latter problem should have been an issue for the past two years, but it appears that the squeal is what really has triggered the current level of complaints. For construction photos of the intersection, see my article.


  17. Here is a list of really noisy stuff in this area.

    In no particular order :

    1. Dvp
    2. Metrolinx train marshalling yard
    3. Lakeshore ave/Eastern/Gardiner
    4. Distillery District
    5. Christmas market (at DD)
    6. Construction of new condos (26 buildings in various stages over the next 5yrs)
    7. George Brown student residence (I live 40ft from the front door) and the fights, street racing, drunks & pot heads.
    8. Hot rodders (motorcycles especially) on Eastern Ave, Dvp, Gardiner (I’m in middle of all 3)
    9. Frequent sirens
    10. Cherry streetcar loop
    11. Wheeltrans buses/AT vehicles, with their backing up beeps, ramp beeps (they are here constantly, as a lot (over 40) ppl in my building are WT users.
    12. Radio calls from car dealerships, as there are 4 of them & their car storage yards within 2 blocks, as well as the big rigs delivering the new cars/trucks.

    The King streetcars have been there for well over 40yrs, most of the buildings in that area, condos especially, are less than 30yrs old.

    If these people want someone to blame, they need to go after their developers, builders & brokers, not lay blame on TTC constantly.

    It was even mentioned by a few of them that TTC should cover the cost of soundproofing & vibration proofing their houses/condos.

    Another thought, was that why in the heck did anyone put a recording studio in the basement of a building that is 15ft from the rails!

    Idiotic at best.

    Then they tried to play the US vs, you game, in regards to accessibility concerns, trying to make it a petty issue in comparison to the noise issue. That was shot down by a few people, including myself.

    They CHOSE TO LIVE THERE, people with disabilities do NOT choose to be in wheelchairs or disabled.

    I ripped people for taking their ability to just get on any streetcar for granted & for assuming that Wheeltrans is the answer for people with disabilities until the line is completely Flexity.

    The original guy that started this mess was also there, making accusations & twisting Andy’s [Byford] words to him in an email. Rick [Leary] took no time to call him out.

    It was really getting nasty at one point too.

    I could tell Rick was getting frustrated too, as was Stephen Lam.

    There were some very insightful & interesting comments, but also some extremely angry ones.

    I live at the front of our building, it’s incredibly noisy. But I CHOSE to battle to get in here, it’s a CHOICE that I’m very happy with.

    I have noise canceling headphones for a reason.

    Maybe some of these people need to invest in some.


  18. Press reports seem to imply that those complaining about noise from the new line are the (new) residents of the new Canary District. But, when complainants are named, I think they have all been people who live near Sumach and King — in other words people who aren’t being served by the new line.

    People living in the old housing stock at Sumach and King, are already served by a 504 stop, and the 514 doesn’t improve their connection, at all.

    NIMBY strikes again.


  19. Not sure how long the TTC presentation at the neighbourhood meeting has been posted but it’s up now.

    Steve: I am intrigued by the commitment to have all low-floor cars on this route by mid-2017. It should be possible, but the TTC sometimes screws up when it comes to allocating cars where they are supposed to be.

    It’s a shame they did not present noise readings specifically for Flexity cars to show the difference today and what, if anything, the locals can expect. An important distinction when comparing this location to others such as Queen & Broadview is that King & Sumach is (was) a quiet residential corner until the special work was installed and streetcars began operating. The point missing from the measurements is the ambient noise level and the delta above it produced by the streetcars.


  20. I think from the onset this part of the line was a bad design, too late changing it now. It should have ran along Eastern/Front to Church, then used Wellington or King from there. The tracks on Sumach would only be used for north-to-east and west-to-south curves. On return from Dufferin loop it should use Adelaide from Bathurst to Church and south back to Front St. It would have served St Lawrence market, Esplanade community, financial district too. Too bad Adelaide is trackless, Wellington is shot, and you would need three times more streetcars for this back of a napkin design I just presented, lol.


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