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TTC to add streetcar route to congested King Street

Commuters board an eastbound King St. streetcar at Yonge St. on Dec 8 2014.

Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

Relief is coming for riders of the overcrowded King Street transit line, with the roll-out of Toronto's first new streetcar route in two decades.

The board of the Toronto Transit Commission voted Wednesday to start the new 514 Cherry streetcar in June.

It's one of the biggest improvements to downtown transit service in years – with a projected 15-per-cent boost along the busiest TTC surface route in the city – and comes as the board also approved a new bus route into the core.

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"Essentially what we're doing is we're addressing a real pressure point in the system," Etobicoke councillor John Campbell said, who sits on the TTC board.

The new streetcar will, in spite of its name, operate very little on Cherry Street. Instead it will run across the downtown on King Street, between the Distillery District and Dufferin Street.

Serving this portion of King will add capacity on the most heavily used part of the street, a route where the current streetcar, which carries more passengers than any other Toronto streetcar or bus, is plagued by overcrowding.

"We've identified a way of increasing capacity on the busiest section of the 504 King streetcar," TTC chief executive Andy Byford said.

"I think it's a really imaginative solution. It's something that we can do pretty much straight away."

The new route is expected to operate initially with a mixed fleet of old streetcars and new ones from Bombardier, which has repeatedly fallen behind on deliveries of new vehicles for Toronto.

Also Wednesday, the TTC board voted separately to spend about $34-million to keep the current fleet of streetcars in good condition while waiting for replacements.

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The agency will attempt to recoup these costs from Bombardier under a liquidated damages process.

Bombardier's latest pledge is to start delivering four streetcars a month to Toronto, beginning in April.

The 514 Cherry streetcar would operate every eight or nine minutes during the peak period. Its route coincides with that of 504 King, which operates every four or five minutes at the busiest time.

Together, riders along this stretch can expect a streetcar roughly every three minutes, though some of the current capacity will be lost with the disappearance of supplemental buses.

Streetcars will begin rolling on the Cherry route once enough vehicles have arrived to serve the 510 Spadina and 509 Harbourfront routes.

Deploying new vehicles to Cherry will delay their use on Bathurst Street by about three months, according to the TTC.

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Also Wednesday, the board approved improvements to bus service into the core.

The 72 Pape would restore bus service from that station on the Bloor-Danforth subway line to the downtown, connecting to Union Station.

And the 121 Fort York-Esplanade bus would run across the lower city, between Queens Quay and King Street.

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About the Author

Oliver Moore joined the Globe and Mail's web newsroom in 2000 as an editor and then moved into reporting. A native Torontonian, he served four years as Atlantic Bureau Chief and has worked also in Afghanistan, Grenada, France, Spain and the United States. More

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