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TTC ticks off some Marlies fans

Harbourfront streetcar leaves many waiting after opener

Improved communication with Exhibition Place urged


Officials are checking why there was no Harbourfront streetcar service to take hockey fans home from the nearly sold-out Toronto Marlies inaugural home opener at Ricoh Coliseum.

“The TTC is committed to getting more riders and that’s not the way to do it,” said Councillor Joe Pantalone, chair of Exhibition Place, where the coliseum is located. The Toronto Maple Leafs farm team drew 8,056 fans to Wednesday’s 5-2 victory over the Syracuse Crunch. The game ended at 10:22 p.m., while the transit schedule shows the last Harbourfront car leaving at 10:25 p.m. for Union Station.

Fan Matthew O’Rourke said he and many others waited in vain for a streetcar. He gave up after 20 minutes and squeezed onto a Bathurst streetcar.

“Something like the Marlies game is exactly the kind of event that the TTC should want people to use its service to get to,” O’Rourke said in an email. “Exactly how does the TTC expect to increase ridership if it does not even allocate adequate service to a hockey game that thousands of people attended?”

Councillor Joe Mihevc, who sits on the Toronto Transit Commission, said there needs to be clear communication between Exhibition Place and the transit system.

“If this is something that slipped between the cracks, then we can fix it and we intend to fix it,” Mihevc said. “We want people to enjoy Toronto via the TTC and, of course, if that means adjusting schedules we’re committed to doing that.”

The TTC’s normal practice is to provide extra service to handle such events as hockey games, said Gary Webster, general manager of operations. He said he would check with his operators to determine exactly what happened.

The city had chipped in $9 million cash and $20 million in loan guarantees to renovate the arena for use by the AHL’s Roadrunners during the 2003-04 season, but the Edmonton farm team averaged only about 2,000 fans a game.

Attendance is expected to be in the 6,000 range for the Marlies, who transferred from St. John’s, Nfld.

“When the Toronto Roadrunners were there last year, they didn’t have sellouts, but these Marlies are going to be a winner,” Pantalone said. “It means more attendance and the TTC has got to take that into account.”

The Marlies’ next home game is tonight against the Cleveland Barons. Webster said supervisors will be on hand and service will be increased as needed.