Councillor Joe Mihevc is tired of people defaming the St. Clair streetcar, and he's not going to take it any more.
For months, as the heated transit debate dragged on at City Hall, opponents of the light rail plan that council eventually approved repeatedly flung mud at the St. Clair streetcar right-of-way. The mayor and his pro-subway allies dubbed it "the St. Clair disaster," and the "St. Clair nightmare," holding it up as an example of how "trolleys running down the middle of our streets" throw traffic into chaos and ruin neighbourhoods.
It was all to much for Mihevc. On Friday the local councillor and long-time champion of the St. Clair project convinced the TTC board to ask staff to look into writing a report on the impact the streetcar line has had on the neighbourhood post-construction. Commission staff will report back in May on the feasibility of conducting the review.
"When the political spinning starts, one of the first casualties is the truth," Mihevc told the TTC board meeting Friday. "I live four doors from St. Clair, and I have a very different experience of St. Clair than has been reported in the newspapers and the media in the last little while, and as pushed by some of our colleagues."
Mihevc hopes a third party review will vindicate the project that put a dedicated streetcar right-of-way down the centre of St. Clair Ave. in 2010, and finally bring some closure on the controversial issue.
"I want a study that will help us move on," he said.
Some commissioners on the board remained unconvinced however, including those who agree that the project has brought development to the area.
Councillor Josh Colle, attending his first board meeting since being appointed commissioner earlier this month, said that the right-of-way has raised property values on the street but that those who oppose the project aren't likely to be convinced by Mihevc's report.
"For those who want to believe there's been some sinister plot and [the street has] been destroyed, they're going to believe that regardless of whether we have a report," Colle said. "In my mind, better than any report that will eventually land on the shelf and gather some dust is visiting St. Clair [yourself]."
Commissioners Maria Augimeri and Peter Milczyn also expressed doubts that the report was necessary, but when it came time to vote those who objected to the review abstained and allowed the motion to pass. The potential cost of the review is not yet known.
TTC chair Karen Stintz backs Mihevc's proposal and said the commission needs to look into a review because Rob Ford's comments about the neighbourhood have damaged its reputation. She's concerned because a local business improvement association has found it necessary to hire a marketing consultant to combat the mayor's "disaster" rhetoric.
"We're asking private businesses to spend their own money to counter some of the comments being made by the mayor, so I think it's important we support that initiative" by looking into a St. Clair study, she said.
Perhaps predictably, the mayor dismissed the proposed review Friday afternoon.
"You don't have to have a study of St. Clair. You look at it, it's a complete disaster. It went over budget," he said. "Go down there and drive. It's a nightmare."
The mayor and others have criticized the project for its repeated construction delays and cost overruns. Mihevc maintains that many of the problems the rail line experienced were "scope creep" caused by other councillors who pushed to conduct infrastructure work like burying hydro lines at the same time the track was laid down.