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Trolley parking plan hits pothole

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The TTC is seeking a nine-hectare site for a storage and maintenance complex, seen here in an artist’s conception, to accommodate its new fleet of streetcars. There are few such sites in the city, and east-end residents have expressed concern about the six area sites being considered.

Film workers, residents unhappy with locations studied for streetcar complex near lakefront

Jul 07, 2009 11:01 AM

Tess Kalinowski
transportation reporter

A TTC plan to build a 9-hectare streetcar complex on the eastern lakefront is making waves among residents and film industry workers concerned about the impact on their neighbourhood and their jobs.

Transit officials say they need the streetcar garage and holding track, expected to cost about $350 million, to accommodate the city’s new fleet of 204 light rail vehicles. The new models, on order from Bombardier, are about twice as long as the current models that travel on the 11 existing streetcar routes.

The TTC has named six potential sites for the new complex. But its first choice is just north of the Ashbridge’s Bay sewage treatment plant. The second is on Eastern Ave., where a big-box retail development was nixed by the Ontario Municipal Board earlier this year.

The sites are among the few available in the city large enough to accommodate the TTC’s needs, including storing about 100 cars at a time. Those two locations also would require the least deadheading - time spent shuttling cars to and from their service routes - according to TTC project manager Sameh Ghaly.

The Ashbridge’s Bay site has the advantage of being mainly city owned. A portion belongs to the Toronto Port Authority, with the potential for a 99-year lease.

The TTC’s old carhouses on Queen St. and Roncesvalles Ave. would still provide light maintenance, mostly cleaning, said Ghaly.

The alternative, 629 Eastern Ave., is a mothballed film studio now owned by Smart!Centres and Rose Corp. Some film workers want it reopened for small and mid-sized productions. It is the last one in the city suitable for TV and smaller feature productions, according to set decorator Cal Loucks.

She’s worried that putting a streetcar garage there - with attendant construction, noise and vibration - could also drive other studios out of the area.

Loucks, who has worked on features such as The Incredible Hulk, normally makes about $200,000 annually. She has earned about $40,000 in the past 12 months amid a slump in the industry.

“I don’t have any problems with the TTC’s need to expand, but this property needs to be properly situated,” she said.

“It’s such a slap in the face. They keep saying, `big-box store or TTC yard,’ and we had so many other plans, including maintaining that space as a studio,” she said.

Resident Kelly Carmichael, who helped defeat the proposal that would probably have put a Wal-Mart on the site, fears a TTC carhouse could have the same effect, effectively cutting residents off from the waterfront.

“All the other communities around us see some waterfront revitalization. People in south Riverdale can’t even get to the waterfront,” she said.

But Councillor Paula Fletcher (Toronto-Danforth) says the TTC facility would be good for the area.

“I’m very excited about 500 jobs coming into the neighbourhood. That’s going to be great, and they’re very well-paying jobs,” she said.

It’s a matter of being pragmatic, said Councillor Sandra Bussin (Beaches-East York), who is also a TTC commissioner.

“There needs to be a location to warehouse and service the streetcars. The negative of it is there’s a great deal of green space and there is a landscape plan that has been approved by council,” she said.

If that green space - potential plans for which included a butterfly garden - is lost, the community should get something in return, Bussin said.

The TTC has tried to be sensitive to the community’s desire for green space, according to Ghaly.

“We tried to incorporate some of that community landscape expectation into the design. We have a linear park and a parkette,” he said.

“All these concerns are very legitimate,” said TTC chairman Adam Giambrone.

As well, the TTC expects to eventually build four more facilities to accommodate the new Transit City LRT lines in Scarborough, North York and Etobicoke.

“LRT is becoming a mode of choice. We are going to be moving upwards of 250 million (people), compared to about 50 million today. This requires a very large LRT fleet,” Giambrone said.




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