Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The missing link

Just like a chain, a transit network is only as strong as its weakest link. That weak link was exposed this morning.

An early morning accident on Bathurst had the street closed between College and Ulster, causing Bathurst streetcars to divert along College and up Spadina to the subway. The problem is that the only way to get to St. Clair is up Bathurst, so this accident has prevented St. Clair cars from coming into service.

If St. Clair Avenue is supposed to be a major transit corridor, then we have to find another way to get streetcars into service in case the only route is blocked. In 1997, the TTC considered a plan, but dropped it due to low ridership. However, they suggested it may be feasible in the future if certain conditions were met. I quote from the 1997 report "Opportunities For New Streetcar Routes":

As part of the analysis of conversion of existing bus routes to streetcar routes, consideration was given to extension of the 512 ST CLAIR streetcar route west from its present terminus at Gunn's Loop to Runnymede Road, replacing the current 71 RUNNYMEDE bus over this section. This conversion did not rank highly, largely because of the existing low ridership levels on the bus route. This area is subject to considerable potential development, however, and a re-evaluation of an extension of the 512 ST CLAIR streetcar to Runnymede Road will be made once significant development in the neighborhood is committed, and when possible ridership increase information is available from the example of the 510 SPADINA bus-to-streetcar conversion. As development in the area continues, TTC staff will continue to protect property for this possible extension.

Also considered in this analysis was the conversion of the 40 JUNCTION bus route to streetcar operation. This conversion did not rank highly in most measures, except in the number of customer-trips per peak vehicle, where the route ranked fourth. As a result of the relatively low ranking, no further action should be taken. If the 512 ST CLAIR route were to be extended to Runnymede Loop, then the conversion of the 40 JUNCTION route to streetcar (or, reconversion, as this part of Dundas Street was served by streetcars until the opening of the Bloor Subway in 1966) should be re-examined, as there is potential for operating cost savings on the 512 ST CLAIR streetcar route, if cars can enter service on St. Clair from Roncesvalles carhouse using the shorter route that would be possible on Roncesvalles, Dundas, and Runnymede. For this reason, TTC staff will advocate protecting for the possible future conversion of 40 JUNCTION to streetcar operation in any development plans in th Junction.
In my opinion, the conditions which prevented these plans from being enacted have now been met. The Junction has seen significant development along Dundas approaching Runnymede and even Scarlett Road, and there is a large property on St. Clair between Runnymede and Jane that is prime for redevelopment. Most would agree that the Spadina Streetcar has been a success, and that today has shown that efficiency can be gained from having a back road onto St. Clair. The time is right for this proposal, as it can bring real transit service to an under-serviced area.

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