March 17, 2014 7:05 pm

New streetcars to hit Spadina in August but riders remain worried about wait times

Watch the video above: New TTC streetcars will roll out in August. Mark McAllister reports. 

TORONTO – Cutting curbs, replacing overhead wire and changing the height of streetcar islands are among the changes needed to get the city ready for new, longer streetcars. But TTC spokesperson Brad Ross said Monday that it’s all going smoothly and on budget.

Despite those assurances, some riders still worry that the new streetcars will mean less frequent service.

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TTC passengers will get their first chance to ride the new streetcars on August 31, when six of them will be deployed along the Spadina Avenue route. That number will increase to “12 or 13” in October, Ross said.

“Over the next five to six years, [the streetcars] will roll out across the network,” he said.

The new Bombardier-built streetcars will be wheelchair accessible, have room for 251 passengers, have air conditioning and bike racks. They will also accept Presto cards.

But the $2 billion project has not been without problems, including along St. Clair Avenue where some of the islands are not the right height.

“There’s a portion of the platforms on St. Clair, not all of them, some of them… that will need to be either lowered slightly or raised. So there will be some adjustments on some of the platforms, in terms of the height,” Ross said in an interview Monday. “Nothing that will cause massive disruption on St. Clair.”

The effort involved in getting the streetcars rolled out is huge. The $2 billion cost is largely made up of the streetcars themselves ($1.2 billion), while the other $800 million funds the infrastructure needed to operate the streetcars, including the new “very modern” facility of Leslie Barns, near Leslie Street and Lakeshore Boulevard, new overhead wiring throughout the city, the curb adjustments at hundreds of intersections, streetcar island adjustments,  token vending machines that will be placed along some routes and training for employees.

In Photos: The new, longer TTC streetcar

And in five or six years, when all the streetcars are supposed to be deployed, that will mean fewer streetcars on the road, which some riders think will hamper service quality.

“Wait times on some of the lines downtown could increase because these streetcars are bigger so they are going to run them less frequently,” Jessica Bell, co-chair of TTC Riders said. “We think that is a big problem because we’re already waiting a really long time for our streetcar to arrive and ridership is at record levels.”

Ross is adamant however that the new streetcars, while there will be less of them, will be more reliable and result in better service.

“You’re going to seem much greater reliability,” he said. “You’re going to see far fewer instances of bunching and far fewer instances of large gaps.”

However, a TTC report released in June suggested wait times are likely to increase between 30 and 90 seconds depending on the route.

- With files from Mark McAllister

© Shaw Media, 2014

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