The loopy plan for a dedicated streetcar lane on St. Clair West has a $32-million price tag and aims to save us - wait for it - a whopping two minutes a ride. Transit users waiting wearily at stops all over the city want to know: why not just put a few more cars on the friggin' line?
What the plan calls for A streetcar right-of-way on the St. Clair West 512 line from Yonge to Gunns Road (west of Keele)
The cost : $32 million, $20 million of which is money already set aside for track repairs.
Money for nothing?
Currently, the St. Clair West car carries about 32,000 passengers a day. That ranks second only to the Spadina line in passengers per kilometre, and fourth in passengers per vehicle hour.
During the busiest travel times, the 512 car carries 57 per cent of all people travelling on St. Clair.
What proponents say
A right-of-way would mean more reliable service and end the frequent short-turns (an average of 22 a day in 2002) that strand folks, forcing them to board another car.
Why this thinking is off-track
The total number of hours the streetcar was delayed for all reasons in 2002 - by collisions, construction and maintenance, breakdowns and emergency vehicles blocking the tracks - was 338. That's less than 1 per cent of the total hours of operation.
The other argument for the plan
A dedicated lane will provide opportunities for street beautification and design features that will increase property values.
Why this thinking is off-track
Unlike Spadina's, the St. Clair right-of-way will not be wide enough to incorporate public art or other design features.
The narrowing of sidewalks by 1.5 metres to make room for parking will actually require the removal of trees.
The plan will discourage customers, many of whom come to shop from outside the area and rely on street parking.
The logic of proponents
Supporters admit a right-of-way will increase traffic congestion - but that, they say, is what would eventually convince car drivers to switch to public transit and create a more vibrant commercial strip.
Why the plan is nuts
It will only save riders an average one to two minutes per trip. Whoopie.
The plan actually calls for two fewer streetcars at peak hours and one fewer during regular operations.
The burning question
The 12 million bucks could go to other projects - and considering all the new vehicles we need on so many routes, does this not seem like a lot of bread for a two-minute gain?
The better way
Give streetcar drivers control of signal lights, create high-occupancy vehicle lanes, install special transit signals, implement left- and right-turn restrictions at problem intersections, and replace current streetcars with higher-capacity articulated streetcars.
Rants on the right-of-way
"the only way to move people"
"Not doing anything is not an option. St. Clair is designated as an area for intensification in the Official Plan. The only way to move more people on the road is having more of them on transit. What drives people to transit is reliability. What's holding back reliability is cars breaking down in front of streetcars, and streetcars short-turning. The only way to stop that is separating streetcars from automobiles. It sounds almost mystical, but what they've found in cities where they've tried this is that you get people making different choices and the traffic just kind of disappears. There's overwhelming support in the community."
Rebecca Smollett, community outreach coordinator, St. Clair Right-of-Way Initiative for Public Transit.
"we need to talk alternatives"
"We've sort of been talking around this issue. We have to come forward with alternatives. They talk about us having dozens of fewer buses and fewer streetcars than we did five and 10 years ago, and here we are talking about (a dedicated streetcar lane). This is a fragile business community. It doesn't have enough parking as it is. The road cannot just be turned over to transit. It can't be transit and everything else be damned."
Area Councillor, Michael Walker
"THEY'RE DESTROYING THE STREET"
"We think there are things that can be done that are more specific and targeted to where there are problems. What the city needs to do is put more streetcars on the street. You can't get people to take the TTC by destroying the street. The TTC can't see that if they improve service they would get more people on the streetcar in a way that would not devastate the neighbourhood. Business owners have been told it's a done deal. I think it's not a small accident that Ward 17 has a higher percentage of newer immigrants than any ward in the city. I don't think they'd do this in north Toronto."
Margaret Smith, spokesperson, Save Our St. Clair
"There's no done deal"
"If they don't take away pedestrian sidewalks, if they more or less preserve on-street parking, then I'd be supportive. For the most part, I don't think there will be overflow in residential areas. It's not a done deal - that's what I've been telling people who've been accusing everybody under the sun of hiding information and not consulting people. Some opponents have been trying to poison everything and everybody around this rather than keeping an open mind. There's a tremendous possible payoff."
Area Councillor Joe Mihevc
"lengthy delays and congestion"
"A streetcar right-of-way on St. Clair will result in significant reduction in capacity, greatly reduced routing flexibility and accessibility, lengthy delays, congestion in all directions at intersections, right-turning vehicles blocking the single available lane, neighbourhood infiltration and adverse impacts on goods movements and deliveries in business areas."
2002 works department report