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TTC shunts streetcar plan

`Hostile’ reaction prompts change to original proposal for King St., but few pleased with new plan

May 02, 2007 04:30 AM
Paul Moloney
city hall bureau

Bowing to opposition, the Toronto Transit Commission has moved its proposed King St. streetcar experiment slightly east to the stretch of King between Yonge and University.

But the new section – where streetcars would run in a reserved right of way for two months next summer – isn’t proving to be any more popular with King St. businesses.

“What do they accomplish by that? Nothing,” said restaurateur Al Carbone, owner of the Kit Kat.

Carbone said he remains concerned that forcing cars off the streetcar tracks, reducing the flow of traffic, will make it more difficult for patrons to reach his restaurant, located on King St. just west of John.

“It just messes up traffic, period,” Carbone said yesterday. “People won’t know which way to go or where to go. They’ll think the whole thing’s closed.”

The original plan, unveiled in March, was to reserve a four- to five-block stretch of King where temporary posts would keep cars off the streetcar tracks, making transit service more reliable. Exactly where wasn’t spelled out, but it was expected to be somewhere between Bay St. and Spadina Ave.

“The goal is to give streetcars better access,” said Councillor Adam Giambrone, TTC chair. He said that currently, whenever he takes the King streetcar, it just “creeps along.”

But the proposal ran into stiff opposition from businesses west of University, forcing the TTC to look to the east, said Giambrone (Ward 18, Davenport). “The businesses did raise a lot of concerns and were extremely hostile to this proposal. We need to step back.”

But the proposed new location has taxi operators raising some concerns of their own.

Jim Bell, manager of Diamond Taxi, says it will be bad for taxi service because it could take away cab-stand space around King and Bay, where cabs can park and wait for fares.

“There are hundreds of taxicabs that are dropping off and picking up people in the financial core on King St.,” Bell said. “First Canadian Place has thousands of people who work in there. There’s the stock exchange, the Royal Trust Tower – it’s going to have a dramatic impact.”

Bell predicted that cabbies will end up circling the block, contributing to traffic congestion and pollution.

“The drivers are still going to be working the downtown core because that’s where the people are,” he said.

“If they can’t stop at a cab stand where people can walk to them, they’re going to be doing continual right-hand turns – down Yonge, along King, up York and around the block.”

The proposal was presented yesterday to councillors on the Toronto and East York community council, who put it off until their next meeting May 29, in order to invite local property owners and citizens to come forward with their views.

The area already has a parking crunch, said Councillor Adam Vaughan (Ward 20, Trinity-Spadina), who has been urging the TTC to consult the public.

Vaughan was critical of the way the TTC has handled the proposal.

“This was plopped onto the floor of the TTC with no advance notice,” he said. “It was going to go who knows where; it could have gone straight to city council and been voted on there, without one single public deputation.”

Vaughan said it’s unclear at this stage whether the revised location will be any more palatable.

“The reality is it still has an impact on the ward,” he said. “We need to understand what that impact is before signing off and saying, `Go do it,’ because restaurants could go bankrupt.”