|The St. Clair LRT Proposal|
Yesterday on the Transit Toronto site, I read a piece by James Bow discussing the TTC's new proposal to upgrade the St. Clair streetcar line to a reserved-right-of-way LRT, like Spadina.
I was naturally interested in this proposal, but was blown away by a few facts. First, I was surprised by how cheap the proposal is, and secondly, I was amazed to read that across the length of St. Clair between 45-57% of people travelling are on streetcars.
In terms of dollars, the upgrade is estimated to cost $7M. However, it would immediately recognize a savings of $600,000 per year. Furthermore, ridership would increase. A 5% increase in ridership would provide a new $1M in revenue. So, it wouldn't be long before it was profitable.
I really am in favour of this plan because I think it would be a good step towards reducing car dependence in the midtown region of Toronto. In the long term, this could only lead to a healthier city. Furthermore, it is an issue of fairness for the majority of travellers on the avenue.
One thing I noticed about the report was that it seemed to mention the support of 3 of the 4 councillors along the line, with the exception being my own. So, I wrote to him and one of his assistants provided me with a reply, which included these main points:
At this point, the Works Committee and TTC have approved moving forward on an Environmental Assessment to determine feasibility, impacts and support.
The councillor has serious concerns about the proposal. Just to let you know we did float this idea out to our most recent meeting of presidents of residents' associations. They also expressed great concern about the proposal.
The study will look at the Streetcar line from Yonge to its end at Runnymede. St. Clair Avenue West is a very diverse street with a range of built forms, sidewalk and road widths and use. Some sections operate better than others and some Councillors and their constituents may support the proposal for whatever reason - as may our constituents.
Of course underlying the entire exercise is the budgetary shortfall problems that the TTC is continually facing. This project is estimated at the outset to cost 20 million dollars. Certainly public transit is a worthwhile investment, however there are still areas of this City that are under-serviced by buses.
St. Clair is unique and different from both Spadina Avenue and from Queen's Quay. The most obvious of course is that St. Clair is uptown, not downtown where Public Transit must be given the highest priority. St. Clair Avenue West carries 30,000 vehicles a day. The Streetcar line carries 30,000 passengers. City policy remains a 'balanced approach' that encourages transit use but that recognizes the reality of car ownership, geography and climate in North America. If the proposal poses any threat of significant increases in cut-through traffic into the most stable neighbourhoods of the City, then I do not believe the majority of residents of this ward would support it.
In my response, I did correct some of the misconceptions he has made (e.g., regarding the cost), but it is clear that his support is not immediately forthcoming. You can write to your councillor here.