A SIX-MINUTE SOLUTION ON ST. CLAIR AVENUE
From Toronto Star - January 27, 2003
A prediction: next year, I will find it harder to replenish my supplies
of olive oil and amaretti. Not much of a prediction, really. Next
year, the city will replace the streetcar tracks along St. Clair
Which means I will most likely duck the construction hassle and
be driven to look elsewhere for my taralli, my mortadella and my
(ed: what, no bologna?) vI'll get by.
o will a lot of other people. But what is a minor inconvenience
of habit for me will be a major problem for the merchants along
the street. Rail replacement is a long, tiresome, noisy, costly,
dirty, disruptive job.
That's not the half of it.
Track replacement gives the TTC a chance to consider doing to St.
Clair what they did to Spadina: isolate the streetcar from automobile
traffic, perhaps by raising the track bed; install protective bollards;
put in special traffic lights; and restrict left turns. If this
means losing a lane of traffic, some street parking, and maybe even
a foot or two of sidewalk here or there, so be it. St. Clair is
The Italians, old and young, will still have room for the passaggiata.
The shops will survive. Rome was not built in a day. Life goes on.
And there are some very real benefits.
From September '01 to September '02, there were 35 accidents involving
streetcars along St. Clair, not counting accidents at traffic lights.
Isolate the rails, as was done on Spadina, and that figure will
drop to zero.
The TTC also estimates riders will save six minutes on a one-hour
round trip, and hey, who couldn't use an extra six minutes?
It might also be possible to extend the line west to Jane St. The
project could cost as little as $7 million or as much as $40 million.
It's a once-in-a-generation opportunity. But the TTC has a big job
ahead. And I don't mean construction.
I mean public relations.
I took a stroll the other day along St. Clair, from Christie to
Lansdowne. I stuck my nose in stores and shops at random.
Vince runs the Speedy Muffler shop at Pinewood Ave. He says he depends
on a certain amount of drive-by traffic. He was aware of the rail
replacement, but not of any other plans. He shook his head. "It's
going to be a problem, I think."
Jeff, who manages the nearby Video 99, said, "If people can't
make left turns, it's going to cut our business in half."
Cathy, who manages Eglinton Florist, agreed: "No left turns
would be a problem around here, especially with all the one way
"Oh, boy, trouble!" said Danny, of Danny's Vacuums.
There is a streetcar stop in front of the North American Fish Depot.
Enzo said, "The streetcar stops, cars have to stop behind it.
The people in the cars, they see my store. It's like advertising
for me. If they do that to the street, it's going to cost me. There's
already not enough parking."
Then there is my pal Sina, of Sina Flowers. She once rolled seven
sevens in a row at the craps table for Frank Sinatra in Las Vegas;
there is a picture of her and Frankie on the wall behind the counter;
it's cute the way she calls him Frankie. But that's another story.
She said, "For me, it's no difference. Here, it's all telephone,
send me the bill, I'll see you later." Sina delivers. But she
was the only person I talked to who was unconcerned.
At Centro Trattoria, Mauro had just polished off a plate of chicken,
potatoes and escarole. He runs a travel agency. My question soured
his digestion. "This is a crazy idea. St. Clair is like a provincial
highway. Traffic is already bad. Take away a lane ..."
He scowled and finished his espresso. "If they go ahead with
this, we're going to have a problem. My business comes 90 per cent
from outside the area. If people can't make left turns, it will
I ducked out of the trattoria and into a clothing store. The manager,
a darkly handsome man, sized me up in an instant. He knew I hadn't
come to buy clothes.
He didn't want to be quoted, but he gestured toward the street and
said, with an air of inevitability, "My friend, believe me
‹ St. Clair is already shot. Everybody moved up north. It's
all dollar stores now." But that, too, is another story.
The last and most pungent word goes to Toby, the butcher at Rui
Gomes Salsicharia: "It's going to screw up the whole of St.
Clair. I used to work at European Meats in Kensington Market. It
took two years to do Spadina. That store was crazy with business
before they started construction. And after they finished ..."
He lets it hang.
The TTC has a big job ahead.