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St. Clair streetcars sail

In the early hours of Feb. 18, the 512 streetcar rolled back into full service along the strip of St. Clair between St. Clair station and Vaughan Road. For 19 long months, buses had ferried people to and fro while the TTC tried and ultimately succeeded in building the first phase of the planned 6.7-kilometre streetcar right-of-way. On its first day back in business, the 11 a.m. streetcar took just 15 minutes to travel the length of the new section.

Transit riders hadn’t been able to take a streetcar on St. Clair Avenue between Yonge Street and Vaughan Road since July, 2005. Controversial from the start, the $65-million right-of-way will eventually continue its way west, just past Keele. Work on phase two, the route between Vaughan Road and Keele Street, is set to start in the early summer. Similar to the Spadina streetcar line, the St. Clair right-of-way is intended to decrease travel times for both TTC riders and motorists by keeping the two separated — Toronto’s trolleys work best when they’re not playing in traffic.

“Good luck to the people on the other side [of Vaughan],” says Mehmet Bari, owner of Bari Delicatessen, a small shop at 524 St. Clair Ave. W., just east of Vaughan Road at the end of the newly completed stretch of track. “Now it’s their problem. We suffered one year. I don’t think we could handle another.”

Bari, who suffered a drop in business during construction of the first phase, is happy that the nuisance is moving west, albeit only by a few steps. Yet he says the project is “very good for the future. But they should have done it in a very short time. Instead of six, seven months, they should have done it in two.”

He adds that the city ought to do something to help the small businesses he says were negatively affected by the construction. “They have to do something,” he insists. “The city can give long-term, small-interest loans or reduce property taxes — something.”

One concession being given to businesses and riders is a time-based transfer being tested on the 512 route. It gives streetcar passengers two hours to jump on and off as many times as they like.

National Post
Saturday, February 24, 2007
Page: TO3
Section: Toronto: The City
Byline: Philip Alves
Column: Neighbourhoods: Hillcrest