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TTC plans 'hop on, hop off' transfer

St. Clair streetcar pilot project would allow time-limited on-off privileges


Tuesday, March 29, 2005 Page A17

The Toronto Transit Commission is drafting plans to test a “hop on, hop off” time-limited transfer on the St. Clair streetcar line, TTC vice-chairman Joe Mihevc says, with an eye to one day expanding it across the system.

TTC staff are still working out the details, but if approved, the plan would see riders on the 6.4-kilometre St. Clair streetcar line get specially marked transfers granting them on-and-off privileges for two hours.

And if it doesn’t do too much damage to the transit agency’s bottom line, Mr. Mihevc said, picking up a carton of milk on the way home from work without paying another fare could one day be the norm right across the TTC.

“Down the road you could see this kind of thing being present in the system as a whole,” Mr. Mihevc said, adding that the coming switch to “smart-card” technology, expected within five years, will begin to make paper transfers obsolete anyway.

Mr. Mihevc, whose ward straddles St. Clair, said he hopes the transfer test can be in place by August, when construction on the street’s controversial dedicated streetcar lanes is set to begin.

The transfer plan is a carrot that Mr. Mihevc promised to businesses along St. Clair that vigorously opposed the dedicated streetcar lanes, in order to help them cope with the disruption of the construction period.

“I said, ‘Well okay, this is one of things that I think I could get through the [commission] and council,’ ” Mr. Mihevc said. “… I think we were listening to people.”

But opponents of the dedicated lanes, who have vowed to take their opposition to court if their current appeal before the provincial Environment Ministry fails, say a new transfer system on St. Clair would do nothing to address their concerns.

Jeff Gillan of Carmen’s Designs for Children, a children’s formalwear store on St. Clair, welcomed the transfer proposal as a boon to TTC riders. But he said it wouldn’t temper his opposition to the dedicated streetcar lanes.

“I think the TTC should have done this a long time ago for all of the city, not just St. Clair,” Mr. Gillan, head of the Corso Italia Business Improvement Association, said yesterday. ” … But it has no impact on the issue that we are concerned about on St. Clair: traffic congestion.”

Margaret Smith of Save Our St. Clair, a citizens group fighting the streetcar lanes, also said she liked the timed-transfer idea. But she said it does nothing to address her group’s concerns: “It’s too little, too late.”

Many St. Clair businesses depend on customers who drive in from outside the city, she said, so offering two-hour transfers to TTC riders won’t help them, she argued.

The St. Clair transfer plan, which is still in the drafting stage, has to be approved by the nine-member Toronto Transit Commission, made up of eight city councillors and Mayor David Miller.

Mr. Mihevc said St. Clair’s special transfers might be tested alongside another pilot project of a “proof-of-payment” system, which allows passengers with transfers or Metropasses to board vehicles at the rear doors on an honour system.

The so-called POP system has been in place on the Queen Street streetcar line for about 15 years. TTC brass tried to kill off the Queen line’s proof-of-payment system in 2000, because of concerns too many riders were sneaking on without paying, costing the system hundreds of thousands of dollars. But Mr. Mihevc said the system’s benefits, in convenience for customers, outweigh its downside.