News / Toronto

Pity Toronto's poor, neglected streetcar riders

Just looking at the scheduled months of disruptions is exhausting.

A cyclist bikes through streetcar track construction at Queen east of Greenwood in May 2012.

File / Torstar News Service Order this photo

A cyclist bikes through streetcar track construction at Queen east of Greenwood in May 2012.

Pity the streetcar rider.

For much of 2017, their downtown transit trips will take on an element of mystery.

Will a streetcar or a bus show up at the curb? Telling you would ruin the surprise! What route will they take? The only thing certain is there will be twists and turns! Will riders even get to their destination? The future, my friends, is vast and unknowable!

Here’s what we do know. Starting at the end of March, streetcars on Queen Street will take a detour again around construction taking place between Spadina Avenue and Bathurst Street.

This is a rerun of a diversion from last year. According to numbers obtained by transit expert Steve Munro, the meandering trip added about 15 minutes to travel time at peak periods.

That route disruption will join another construction project that affects the west end of the Queen streetcar route. To accommodate track and bridge work, streetcars have been turning back at Roncesvalles Avenue since January – and will for the rest of the year.

With these projects and a rat’s nest of other pending construction needs along the route, starting in May the TTC will effectively throw in the towel and take all streetcars off of Queen. It’ll be buses for everyone.

If you’re hoping that the planned improvements to the King Street streetcar will offset some of this madness, think again – the pilot project isn’t set to start until the fall.

And to add a little bit of insult to injury, return of the Queen streetcar is set to coincide with the Toronto International Film Festival, an event that traditionally causes a streetcar detour on King Street to accommodate the fancy red carpets.

I’m exhausted just looking at this.

I understand that construction projects are a fact of life, and that it is impossible to do major work and accommodate events without some disruption. But if this is seriously the best the TTC and city hall can do, I’ll eat my Presto card.

Indeed, for an example of where the city has done a better job of minimizing construction impacts, you only need to look south to the Gardiner Expressway. There, Mayor John Tory has made a habit of announcing new money to speed up repair work and open up lanes ahead of schedule — announcing $2 million to finish things quicker in 2014 and another $3.4 million in 2015.

And that’s on top of the truckloads of money the city will spend rebuilding the Gardiner East.

Has the same consideration been given to transit routes? Do transit riders really matter as much as drivers? For about 250,000 daily streetcar riders, these are questions worth asking as we trundle through another year of diversions and delays.

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