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Toronto - January 2010

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Toronto — St. Clair Streetcar Upgrade Criticized

Rail Transit Online, January 2010

The project to move 4.2 mi. (6.8 km) of streetcar track along St. Clair Avenue from traffic lanes into a reserved median was estimated to cost C$48 million in 2004, when the city council approved the scheme. By the time the final work is completed in June, the price tag will have ballooned to C$106 million.

The reason, according to an independent report handed to the TTC board on Jan. 20, was the lack of a single person being in charge and no clear chain of command. "Various elements of the project were neither centralized nor controlled by any single entity," according to the report.

The authors, including the former Chairman of the University of Toronto's Department of Civil Engineering Richard Soberman, said because there was insufficient co-ordination between the city and the TTC, the project's scope expanded, public consultations went on endlessly and some 20 small contractors working in a restricted area simultaneously were getting in each other's way. Meanwhile, many small businesses along St. Clair still haven't recovered from construction disruption even though most of the work is finished.

The TTC said it will apply the lessons learned on St. Clair to the Transit City light rail expansion program, much of which will be built in street medians, and will utilize larger contractors with experience in managing complex projects.

501 Split Fails

An effort to reduce delays and improve reliability on the 501 Queen streetcar line by splitting it in half has failed to achieve its goals. The 501, the longest TTC surface rail route at 14.9 mi. (24 km), has average weekday ridership exceeding 43,500. Many runs have to be short-turned because traffic snarls —primarily left turns by motorists — cause them to fall far behind schedule.

The split, mirroring the operational practice prior to 1995, was in effect between Oct. 18 and Nov. 21 of last year. Westbound Queen cars ran from Neville Park to Shaw Street while eastbound cars from Long Branch reversed at Parliament Street; the overlap allowed cars from both outer terminals to serve the downtown core.

Following the experiment, through-running was reinstated pending a report to the TTC which was issued on Jan. 20. "Unfortunately, downtown turns and overlap created its own congestion and delays," stated the report. "This congestion and the time it takes for streetcars to complete turns on Queen, King and Dundas (streets) affects service on all three routes, ultimately resulting in slower trips, gaps, bunching and higher levels of short turns to avoid run and operator connectivity issues." In addition, the dual routes were unpopular with riders and led to an overall 90-percent increase in turnbacks.


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