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St. Clair streetcar snowed in


December 4, 2007

Snow shovellers used to shaking their fists as plows leave a mountainous windrow at the bottom of their driveways may now sympathize with the TTC, which saw St. Clair streetcar service paralyzed on Sunday because of piles of snow left by city plows.

Snow removal machines clearing Avenue Road left a hefty barrier of snow across the new and controversial dedicated streetcar lanes on St. Clair Avenue West, blocking service for at least two hours and forcing at least six streetcars to sit idle. A similar problem caused delays to streetcars on Queens Quay.

TTC officials said a simple miscommunication was to blame.

“I don’t want to be negative on the city. … There were a couple of problems [Sunday] where our streetcars got stuck behind big piles of snow,” TTC chief general manager Gary Webster said. “We’ve talked to the city and everything is sorted out.”

Spadina streetcars, which also run in their own right of way, did not experience problems. The TTC controls the plowing of those lanes, Mr. Webster said.

Peter Noehammer, the city’s director of transportation, said the problem would not be repeated.

“What it told us was that in the future … we need to do a little bit of a better job about getting out there and clearing [streetcar routes] up a little bit more quickly than we did in this particular storm,” Mr. Noehammer said.

Opponents of the St. Clair project seized on the bizarre miscue, saying they had previously raised concerns about potential snowplow problems.

Margaret Smith is with Save Our St. Clair, a group opposed to the right of way for streetcars that unsuccessfully took the project to court. She said yesterday that in addition to blocking streetcars, she was concerned about plows pushing snow off the tracks and into St. Clair’s narrowed traffic lanes.

“We just shake our heads,” Ms. Smith said.