TTC Modification of St.Clair West Platforms will not be “St Clair disaster, part two”
Business owner Kym Klopp didn’t move her store on to St. Clair West until the 512 streetcar right-of-way construction was complete. Now, two years after being at her current location, her storefront may see another series of TTC platform construction, which she had previously avoided.
The new streetcars, designed by Bombardier, are scheduled for deployment on St. Clair West by mid-2017. The new vehicles are twice the length of the current ones, and can fit an additional 119 passengers and are accessible by people using mobility devices. If it sounds too good to be true, it’s because the community can’t seem to grow without overcoming a couple of hurdles.
When the right-of-way streetcar lane was completed in 2010, platform lengths were extended to accommodate the new vehicles. However, before the new streetcars can safely run, platform heights will need be adjusted on several stops.
“The new vehicles are accessible via a ramp deployed onto the platform or the road. The reason this happened is the ramp itself wasn’t finalized until last year” says TTC spokesperson Brad Ross. “We knew the length of the vehicles, the platforms are long enough. It’s a portion of the platforms we need to adjust whether it means raising or lowering.”
Ross says there are no exact dates planned out for the construction. “What we’re doing now is surveying all the platforms on St Clair west to determine which ones need adjustments for the ramp.” He adds that he can’t make an accurate prediction how long construction may take, but a ballpark estimation would be six to 10 weeks, depending on how many platforms need adjustment.
While Ecoexistence, Klopp’s eco-friendly retail store, has benefitted from its new location on St. Clair West, she was unaware that there would be more TTC-related construction in the area when she moved her business.
“St. Clair has been a better location for the business, I get more walk-by customers and more visibility” she says. “If the construction is significant, then I think the community will be affected. People are finally past the St. Clair right-of-way situation. This could get people cranky again, and not wanting to come and shop on St. Clair.”
Ward 21 City Councillor Joe Mihevc is reassuring that the construction will be minor. “It will in no way be anything other than a very, very simple construction” he says. “It will just be a couple days work in each location. It won’t affect the sidewalk, the road, won’t interrupt road traffic and pedestrians.”
Ross says it’s unclear now if during the time of the platform construction, the streetcar tracks or roads will be affected. He says only if necessary, frequent busses will run the 512 St. Clair West route where needed.
Liam Scott is a new resident of St. Clair West and takes the 512 streetcar nearly every day. He says that the upcoming platform construction has yet to be communicated to him. Though it’s unknown if busses will be required, Scott is already not looking forward to that option. “Shuttle buses are the worst, they usually take twice as long” he says. “If they could drive on the separate transit lane then it wouldn’t matter, but I’m assuming they’ll have to drive with traffic because of the construction. That is going to be an absolute nightmare.”
He adds that the impact of the new streetcars is likely to be positive, but not without some disturbance. “I am excited for the streetcars themselves, but the construction is going to be a disaster if buses have to drive in traffic, otherwise it should be okay” says Scott. “I’m sure in the long run, improving transit will bring more people to the area.”
The uncertainty around the length and nature of the construction hits close to home for a neighbourhood that has just recovered from the right-of-way construction that Rob Ford has referred to as the “St. Clair disaster.”
Construction that was supposed to take three years and cost around $48 million ended up taking closer to five years, costing a total of just over $100 million.
“It really ruined so many businesses on St. Clair. I wasn’t on St. Clair at the time of right-of-way, but I have a lot of friends with business on St. Clair and it was just a disaster” says Klopp.
Ross is reassuring that this won’t be the St Clair disaster, part two. “We’re cognizant to community impact. We’ll work hard to make sure people know what’s going on well in advance and to minimize any disruptions. We’re not going to be tearing up the street like when we put in the right-of-way.”
Although the right-of-way construction may have been messy at the time, Mihevc sees the benefits it has had on the community, and says the new streetcars will add to the effect. “It’ll be wonderful. People will experience it like a mini subway rather than the existing streetcar” he says.
“The streetcar project has already helped local businesses thrive. It really helped with mobility in the area, you see more and more people taking transit every day”
Also unique to the 512 St. Clair line is the “pilot project” for the proposed time-based transfers. Currently, time-based transfers allow TTC passengers to enjoy unlimited rides in any direction on the St. Clair line for two hours after the transfer was obtained. In 2015 a decision will be made whether or not to implement time-based transfers across the entire TTC system. If the proposal is denied, then the 512 St. Clair West will no longer issue the transfers.
“The time-based transfer system that we’re testing out on St. Clair has received a positive response” says Ross. “It comes down to it being a budgetary issue, obviously there’s revenue loss involved.” For now, the time-based transfer system will be in place on the 512 route at least until the end of this year.
The impressive features of the new fleet of vehicles bring some more optimism into the picture. The streetcars are not only air conditioned, but are equipped to withstand extreme weather, which was a major obstacle for the old streetcars just this past winter. They bring the promise of a smoother commute, with improved lighting. Equipped with more doors for entry and exit and presto-machines, stop-times will likely be minimized.
“I’m excited because they look nice, the vehicles can carry more people and hopefully it’s going to do what it was meant to do” says Klopp. “For sure it’ll be exciting, but at this point it’s not been communicated very well to anyone.”
The new fleet is scheduled to be fully deployed on all streetcar lines in Toronto by 2019. The current fleet has served the city for thirty years, with an average of 1.5 million km per vehicle.
By Emily Westover, Staff Writer