After nearly six months of being serviced exclusively by buses, streetcars are set to return to the Kingston Road TTC routes this June.
That’s three months later than the TTC anticipated when it made the call to remove the streetcars from those routes in January, a delay that can be attributed to Bombardier’s failure to deliver new streetcars on schedule.
“We have a schedule to deploy those new streetcars, and we still don’t have a full route with all new streetcars,” said TTC executive director of corporate communications Brad Ross. “The Spadina line should have all new cars by now, [but it doesn’t] and we still need to supplement with the older cars.”
Those older cars come from routes like the 502 and 503, which saw streetcar service replaced with buses over the winter so that streetcars from those routes could be used as maintenance replacement cars throughout the rest of the system.
“In January, we planned for 12 fewer streetcars on the network so that we would have spare streetcars to insert into service if any of the streetcars failed because of the cold weather,” he said. “We’ve done some winterization work to keep them going through the cold months, but they are really too unreliable to plan service around … So the reason we’re running buses [on some streetcar routes] is purely from a planning perspective, ensuring we do have vehicles that meet the service demands regardless of the mode.”
The 502 and 503 routes were chosen because they are “limited run” routes – streetcars are used during peak times and weekdays, with buses running the rest of the time.
“The plan was originally to only do it for the first three months of the year,” said Ross.
But that’s been pushed back because of the delay in the new streetcars and the continued unreliability of older vehicles in the fleet.
“We don’t have enough of the new streetcars, frankly, that’s the bottom line, from Bombardier. So until that starts to happen and we start to see more of those, we need to continue to do this,” he said.
The TTC recently announced plans to rebuild nearly 30 of the older vehicles by 2020, but until there are more cars in the system, buses will continue to be used on some streetcar routes, like the 502 and 503.
But East End residents will see streetcars return to the 502 and 503 at least for the summer months. That’s because the St. Clair route will be converted to buses from June until the end of the year – the buses currently being used on the 502 and 503 will go to St. Clair, and the streetcars from St. Clair will come here.
“It’s a big shuffle. It’s a domino effect up and down,” said Ross.