Tuesday, February 20, 2007

All clear on St. Clair - Toronto Star

All clear on St. Clair
Supporters cheer first completed leg of streetcar line
February 19, 2007
Debra Black
Staff Reporter

A band of hearty souls with balloons, signs and noisemakers celebrated the opening of the first stretch of dedicated streetcar line on St. Clair Ave. W. yesterday, cheering at each stop.

The dedicated track, which now runs from the St. Clair subway stop at Yonge St. west to Vaughan Rd., is only partially finished.

Ultimately, plans call for the $65 million dedicated line to run 6.7 kilometres across St. Clair to Gunns Rd., just west of Weston Rd. and Keele St. in the city's west end.

TTC officials say it will take at least another two construction seasons before the entire line is built, complete with streetscaping, sidewalk improvements, pedestrian crossings and new light standards.

But some supporters of the new line didn't want to wait to mark its birth.

"It's a great day to see this in place," said Tony Turrittin, a spokesperson for the St. Clair Initiative for Public Transit.

"With the right-of-way you get reliable service all the time and the traffic is flowing well. We're thrilled. The ride is smooth, safe, fast and comfortable."

Turrittin was joined by about 20 other SCRIPT supporters and Councillor Joe Mihevc yesterday for the commemorative ride.

"It was wonderful," added Elizabeth Cinello, also a SCRIPT member.

"I was standing in the middle of the streetcar and you look out the window and it's clear – just tracks in front of you – no cars. We really wanted to mark this day because it was the first day the streetcar rode the right-of-way. For us it was like a birthday."

This is the city's second dedicated streetcar line.

The first, which runs on Spadina Ave. and along Queens Quay, has been a hit with residents and business.

Initially many in the Spadina-Queens Quay area opposed the plan, worrying about the construction's impact on business and the neighbourhood.

But once the line was up and running, much of the criticism melted away.

Similarly, the St. Clair line has not been without controversy.

It became the centre of a battle that divided the community

It also became an issue during last year's municipal election, pitting candidate and onetime mayor John Sewell, who was opposed to the dedicated line, against Mihevc, the incumbent, who was in favour of it.

Opponents of the line – a group called Save Our St. Clair – said the dedicated track would disrupt local traffic patterns and hurt area business.
I rode the 512 along the ROW earlier this evening. It took ten minutes to travel between St. Clair and St. Clair West stations, and with the ROW in place, that time will be consistent at all times of the day. This means that the rush hour running time for that stretch is almost cut in half (from my personal experiences). In addition to all that, aside form stops to let passengers out, we only stopped at a single traffic light.

Isn't efficiency a wonderful thing?

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