Wednesday, January 31, 2007

St. Clair streetcar's on track to carry transit users Feb. 18 - Toronto Star

St. Clair streetcar's on track to carry transit users Feb. 18
New section from Yonge to Bathurst has right-of-way
Jan 31, 2007 04:30 AM
Paul Moloney
city hall bureau


The first section of the controversial St. Clair streetcar line is expected to open Feb. 18.

On that date, streetcars will start running on the newly installed, slightly raised median, which prevents cars from blocking the line and allows the TTC to maintain reliable service.

It's a template for how transit could be built in Toronto. The city's official plan calls for more streetcar rights-of-way on major arterial roads.

Crews are currently installing the overhead wires for the streetcars, which will operate from Yonge St. to the St. Clair West station, just east of Bathurst.

"I think it looks pretty nice," said city transportation planner Rod McPhail. "Not only will it improve transit, the street looks better too."

Work is to begin later this year on completing the section from St. Clair West station to Gunns Rd., just west of Keele St.

When it's finished, the new streetcar service will run for 6.7 kilometres from Yonge to Gunns and become the third line with its own right-of-way. The others are on Spadina and Queen's Quay.

Cars and trucks will only be able to turn left, or make a U-turn, at intersections with signals.

In last fall's election, Mayor David Miller campaigned on providing more such streetcar lines separated from motorists.

Other routes where Miller wants to install exclusive rights-of-way for streetcars or buses: Yonge from Finch Ave. to Steeles Ave.; Kingston Rd. from Victoria Park Ave. to Eglinton Ave.; and Don Mills Rd. south from Steeles.

The St. Clair project has been a political headache for Councillor Joe Mihevc, vice-chair of the Toronto Transit Commission, especially during last fall's election campaign, when construction was in full swing. But Mihevc won re-election handily.

"My fears didn't come to be," Mihevc (Ward 21, St. Paul's), said yesterday. "And since Christmastime, I've hardly heard any complaints."

Mihevc hasn't been talking to Neil Kim, who runs a Sketchley dry cleaners on St. Clair just west of Yonge, who says, "I lost lots of customers."

Kim said customers used to pick up cleaning at his south-side shop, then U-turn north to Oriole Rd. The raised median makes that turn impossible.

But time for complaining is over, he said. "It's a done deal. We cannot change it. But I think they should be building subways."

I'm certain that most passengers will quickly fall in love with the new streetcar right-of-way, and I wouldn't be surprised if the project changes from "controversial" to "celebrated." As for car drivers, they probably won't be satisfied until every road in the city is 18 lanes.

As for building subways, even though I consider myself a light rail convert, we can still build subways. However, we must keep in mind that "subways" may not look like the subways we have today. Vancouver's Skytrain uses Scarborough RT technology, but most would agree that the underground sections are subways.

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