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TTC plans Baldwin barrier

GAY ABBATE

Thursday, June 21, 2001

Hoping to cut down on the number of fender benders with streetcars, the TTC plans to stop motorists northbound on Spadina Avenue from making left turns into Kensington Market.

Yesterday, the Toronto Transit Commission approved the immediate installation of a permanent barrier paralleling the streetcar tracks on Spadina Avenue at Baldwin Street.

The intersection, the only crossing of the Spadina Avenue streetcar right-of-way without a signal, has had 30 automobile-streetcar collisions in the past two years. In each accident, the motorist, not the streetcar driver, was at fault, says a TTC staff report put before the commission yesterday.

TTC chairman Brian Ashton said he sympathizes with the concerns of the merchants and councillor Olivia Chow, an outspoken opponent of a barrier at the location, but “our concern is stopping accidents.”

Since Toronto Council has the final say, Ms. Chow said she will take her fight there.

Concrete curbs were installed last year on each side of the tracks on Spadina at intersections without signals to cut down the high number of fender-benders with the red rockets. The curbs are too tall for a car to get over, but low enough for pedestrians to cross.

Baldwin was exempted because Kensington Market merchants protested that a barrier would cost them business.

None of the merchants showed up for yesterday’s commission meeting. Ms. Chow said they are very upset but saw little use in repeating the arguments they have made many times over the years.

Commissioner Joe Mihevc said the barriers, which will cost $50,000, will not pose a hardship because northbound motorists can make a U-turn a block north on Spadina and then continue south to Baldwin. “There are no alternatives,” he said.

The impact of the barriers on car movement and on local businesses will be evaluated in six months’ time.

The TTC also gave its staff the go-ahead yesterday to explore options for freeing up rush-hour gridlock on city streets.

Steps under consideration include hefty fines for drivers who make left turns and hold up traffic and streetcars, and the physical separation of buses and streetcars from vehicular traffic on major streets.

Mr. Ashton said that with no provincial funding forthcoming, the TTC has to make its system run better and faster with the money it has.

Some of the proposed changes can be implemented at little cost and if they don’t work, the TTC will try something else, he said.

The commission also backed a scheme the Ontario New Democratic Party plans to introduce this fall in the form of a bill.

It calls for two cents from the tax the province reaps on each litre of gasoline to be spent on public transit and roads.

The TTC has been lobbying the province for such a plan for several years without success.

MPP Marilyn Churley, the NDP member for Toronto-Danforth, told the commission yesterday that her plan is to establish a transportation trust fund to oversee the allocation of the money.

Funding for public transit would be dependent on ridership and for roads according to population, she said.

If the bill were to pass, the TTC would receive $113-million annually, enough to help it with needed repairs and new equipment.




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