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The importance of streetcars to Toronto transit

Transit Toronto readers know — and the Toronto Transit Commissioners know, too — that streetcars play a major role in the services that the TTC provides.

Nevertheless, TTC staff updated the commissioners about the importance of the cars in Toronto’s transit system during the Toronto Transit Commission meeting of Monday, July 11.

TTC staff presented in collaboration with City of Toronto planners who, in turn, made a presentation on the King Street Visioning Study. They introduced the study to the commissioners and the public during the meeting. The study will examine ways to improve service along King Street West — possibly leading to making parts of the street exclusively for transit vehicles.

Both presentations resulted from staff working on “TOCore”, the City’s planning review of Downtown Toronto.

While the information in the streetcar presentation is not new, it does provide valuable material to refer to whenever the topic of why we use streetcars, instead of buses, in central Toronto appears in the media, as often occurs.

The TTC delivers street-level transit in downtown Toronto, almost exclusively, by streetcar. The cars operate along many of the same streets they served 100 years ago. Streetcars can efficiently move large numbers of passengers safely and quickly.

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Bus manufacturers slightly reduced the passenger capacity of buses, when they introduced ramps and low-floor features to make them accessible.

Articulated buses carry fewer passengers than articulated streetcars.

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Over the year-long period ending July 2015, the TTC says, it had increased the reliability of streetcar service on King Street West.

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Over the same period, the TTC says it decreased the number of unplanned short-turns on streetcar routes.

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The TTC learned valuable lessons from its projects to build separated streetcar corridors at Harbourfront and on Spadina Avenue. It applied these lessons to the project on St. Clair Avenue West.

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Unfortunately, the project to renew the streetcar corridor on Queens Quay West was less successful from the TTC’s point of view.

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You can view the entire presentation here. (.pdf)