The catcalls and bizarre remarks were bad enough, but Caron Court was stunned when a worker on the TTC's Leslie Barns project shot her an aggressively lewd comment even as her camera was rolling.
The young mother had become known to workers on the project as the woman who took pictures. It was one way of documenting problems with the repeatedly delayed new streetcar facility – much of the work happening on her doorstep – and getting the Toronto Transit Commission to act on them.
The grand Leslie Barns carhouse is being custom-built for maintaining a new fleet. And the grounds – reached by new tracks from Queen Street down Leslie Street to Lake Shore Boulevard – will eventually house about half of the new streetcars during their overnight downtime.
The huge building – 26,000 square metres, with a sweeping roof reminiscent of Pearson airport's Terminal 1 – will be an impressive addition to the east end. Parts of it will be visible from outside the wall and the project is expected to include substantial improvements to the streetscape. But the public is still waiting. Once due to open last year, the facility won't be in use for months.
Ms. Court has kept watch as the project inched along for years, its overall cost climbing as work got added and its completion date sliding into the future. Her scrutiny of the project and her activism did not endear her to some of the workers, she acknowledged this week. But she never expected the altercation that broke out one day last summer.
She was on her own property, trying to photograph a cracked sidewalk, when a worker became upset. The two began arguing, while another worker made meagre efforts to calm the man. It soon got ugly.
"You have nothing else to do with your own life?" the video shows the man taunting at one point. As he went to leave he added a final salvo: "Yeah, go ahead, you want me to take my pants down too?"
To Ms. Court, this was a step so far over the line that she contacted both the police and the TTC. The transit agency sent a letter of apology about four months later signed by CEO Andy Byford, saying that the worker was a subcontractor who had been disciplined. He apologized as well for a worker interjecting with loud profanity as her tenant's young son talked to his nanny about one day becoming a construction worker.
Although upset with how long it took the transit executives to handle her situation, Ms. Court praised the quick and supportive reaction of the TTC employee tasked with overseeing local relations.
Her split reaction reflects the complicated relationship some locals have with the project.
Many are upset with the pace of work and aggravated that a contractor's mistake means Leslie won't be open fully for about an extra month. But they see progress in the professionalism of the construction staff. And they praise the work of the TTC's liaison office, which has sought to address the concerns of residents and businesses.
"We recognize that the project is very disruptive to our neighbours," said David Nagler, TTC manager of community relations. "Our job's really to advocate on behalf of the local residents. It's not to go to them and say, 'This is the job, live with it.'"
Above all, locals do not want their frustrations to have been in vain.
"I hope with time the TTC learns, so people don't have to go through this again and again," Ms. Court said.
The TTC says that progress has been hampered by weather, the shortage of labour and by an expanding body of work.
One issue, explained senior project manager Akram Yoannis, was that city rules put a five-year moratorium on reopening the new pavement. As a result, extensive but unrelated utilities work was bundled in as part of the project.
"We're basically making the street new, underground and above-ground," he said. "No matter how much investigation you do, you open up the street and you'll be surprised."
A delay of a different sort was revealed this week, with the embarrassing news that the contractor had laid a stretch of streetcar tracks nearly nine centimetres too high, forcing that work to be done again.
On Thursday, Mayor John Tory slammed both the contractor and the TTC.
"Was nobody checking to see if it was three inches too high or three inches too low during the whole time it was being done?" he asked. "You can't blame it entirely on the contractor, even if it's mostly their fault. It's the responsibility of the customer, the client to be checking the work."
The TTC insists it could not be standing over the contractor ensuring it was doing the work properly. And the TTC notes that it did catch the error, and that the contractor will pay to fix it.
With a report from Ann Hui.