Toronto Councillor Joe Mihevc wants to put an end to talk of the “St. Clair disaster” by hiring consultants to prove the streetcar critics wrong.
Mr. Mihevc, who lives a few steps from St. Clair and its streetcar right-of-way, is a passionate defender of light rail and was a key figure in the recent revival of the Transit City plan. He argues all the trash talk about his neighbourhood’s main drag is hurting its reputation.
On Friday, the city councillor pleaded his case to the TTC commission, asking them to hire independent consultants to study the impact of the right-of-way and set the record straight.
“Often when the political spinning starts, the first casualty is the truth,” Mr. Mihevc told TTC commissioners. “We need to find a way to get beyond the anecdotes.”
The TTC commission asked staff to study the idea and report back in May. It was the commission’s first full-length meeting since council replaced the mayor’s allies with light-rail supporters.
Hearing about Mr. Mihevc’s request, Mayor Rob Ford dismissed the idea out of hand.
“You don’t have to have a study for St. Clair. You look at it, it’s a complete disaster,” the mayor said. “It went over budget. You don’t need a study for that. Go out there and drive. People know, it’s a nightmare.”
Mr. Ford and his brother have been vocal in their criticism of the St. Clair right-of-way, using it frequently as an example of why the city needs subways rather than light rail.
During the recent subway debate both Ford brothers said they did not want to “St Clair-ize” other streets in the city. “People hate the St. Clair. They hate these streetcars,” Mayor Ford told council.
Mr. Mihevc says a study could look at ridership along the line as well as operating costs, accident rates, storefront rentals, patio licences and parking. The lessons learned from the research could be applied to future projects, such as the planned light-rail lines on Eglinton, Sheppard and Finch.
But some councillors said they would like to close the book on the St. Clair debate. “What we have to do is move on,” said Councillor Josh Colle, a new commissioner.
Others such as Councillor Peter Milczyn argued the TTC and city have all the information they need to judge the success of the right-of-way.
Statistics from the city’s planning department show that developers have continued to invest on the stretch between Yonge and Keele Streets.
Numbers compiled for The Globe and Mail show there are currently 1,126 condo units in the development pipeline, as well as a 64-unit rental building. Between 2000 and 2011, the total value of all building permits issued on that corridor was $453-million. The value of construction activity also has risen during and since construction, with an average annual total of $41.4-million between 2006 and 2011, compared with $34-million from 2000 to 2005.
With a report from John Lorinc