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Time on side of streetcar right-of-way foes

Sep. 2, 2005

A local group opposed to the St. Clair Avenue streetcar right-of-way has bought some time to present their arguments in hopes of derailing plans to build exclusive streetcar lanes.

Members of Save Our St. Clair (SOS) and their lawyer Eric Gillespie met with city and TTC officials in court earlier this week. All parties agreed to adjourn the matter to Oct. 3 giving both sides the chance to examine one another’s material.

“We’re actually pleased about this outcome at this time,” said Margaret Smith, a resident representing SOS. “We believe our case has been validated to some extent.”

The group plans to argue several points but their main argument revolves around the use of the city’s official plan.

Gillespie said the city seemed to be proceeding under the new official plan adopted by council in 2002, which designates St. Clair as an avenue for surface transit priority.

That designation would allow the TTC to go ahead with building a rapid transit system. But, he added, the new plan isn’t in effect because of the yet unresolved appeals to the Ontario Municipal Board.

“At minimum, that would put the project on hold for a year or two,” before all the appeals are heard, said Gillespie.

Until then, the current official plan must be used, which doesn’t label St. Clair as a transit priority, he argued.

Their second argument is that city planners failed to adequately study the impact of businesses in its environmental assessment (EA) of the streetcar right-of-way lanes along the major east-west roadway.

SOS conducted its own study over two blocks near Dufferin Street along St. Clair and found 43 of the 46 businesses depend on front door deliveries.

With the right-of-way occupying two lanes and another two lanes for customer parking, Gillespie pointed out that would leave one lane on either side opened for moving vehicles.

A stopped delivery truck would therefore block all traffic.

“People in Toronto tend to go into road rage if they’re held up for 30 seconds,” said Gillespie, noting it can take up to half an hour to drop off deliveries. “Nobody seemed to have thought about that.”

City and TTC officials didn’t respond before The Moment’s deadline.

But Rod McPhail, director of transportation planning for the city, previously told The Moment the EA process was “over-the-top thorough” with $100,000 spent on computer modeling to simulate all traffic scenarios.

In the case that all lanes are blocked for whatever reason, vehicles can climb the six-inch high concrete mountable curb and use the streetcar lanes. The city is expected to respond to the SOS case in court in early October.

Meanwhile, all parties agreed to start roadway construction on Sept. 12 to repair the current tracks, but no pouring of concrete or elevation for the right-of-way would take place before Oct. 3.