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Behold the St. Clair Disaster

A wasteland full of danger, in which all residents are doomed.

Rob Ford is a man of few words, repeated ardently and often—a sloganeer, if you will. Among his favourites of late is the “St. Clair Disaster”: his claim that the streetcar right of way installed there has laid waste that part of the city. Traffic is at a standstill, no business can survive, residents have had their community torn up.

Data collected by the City tells a rather different story. As discovered by John Lorinc writing for the Globe and Mail, St. Clair is doing just fine, thank you very much. This infographic based on City stats reveals a dramatically different picture than the one Ford paints: traffic congestion and collision rates are down, while traffic speed and ridership are up. Another nugget Lorinc dug up: for the period from 2006 to 2011, the total value of all building permits issued by the City on St. Clair from Yonge to Keele was $162.5 million. And as he pointed out to us, the peak was in 2008—right in the midst of construction on the street. This is an area people are quite literally buying into.

Was there turmoil along the way? Undoubtedly. Could the project have been better managed? To be sure. But the construction period is over and however messy it may have been, the result is a street that is working well—better than it did before—and a community with improved prospects for the coming decades.

The sloganeering, nevertheless, wages on. Enter Joe Drew, who shot the above timelapse video during the Tuesday morning rush hour this week, for CodeRedTO. (CodeRedTO is a newly formed group that is fighting for evidence-based transit planning in Toronto.) “I wanted people to stop using rhetoric on both sides, and instead see what it’s actually like,” Drew told us. And you can: just click play and behold the disaster, on St. Clair just east of Spadina, in action.


  • Joe Drew

    I’ve been told that, further west on St. Clair, traffic can get worse—in particular, there’s a rail bridge that narrows the street near Weston. If I do another time lapse (I was using borrowed kit to create this one), I’ll be sure to try to cover that area.

    • Miroslav Glavic

      St. Clair/Keele/Old Weston Road

      St. Clair/Bathurst

      ALL roads/streets/avenues/etc…. have their quiet area and bust areas. it’s like comparing the Gardenier east of DVP (that tiny few metres befor it ends) and compare it to Yonge/Gardenier.

    • Dave W

      That section is actually the worst on weekends. During rush hour traffic moves well.

    • Guest

      We knew from the beginning that the railroad bridge at Weston was going to be a trouble spot. Hell, it was the slowest stretch BEFORE the right of way went in. At least now the streetcars get through smoothly.

      I lived through the construction and honestly, for businesses who actually want to do business with the people who live in the area? It’s been awesome. For those who wanted to continue to have their customers double park on the street? Not so great.

    • canuck1975

      My recommendation is to do a time lapse facing eastward from Vaughan toward Bathurst. That’s one of the worst spots especially when cars are parked but, even at that time, it’s not as bad as it used to be.

      Also agree with Keele/Old Weston because the street drops from three lanes (including the ROW) to two (with the ROW).

    • Anonymous

      To be frank, I think you picked one of the least representative sites possible for this movie. The rest of St Clair is nothing like this corner in terms of streetscape, urban environment, or traffic.

  • Sharkey

    Picked the wrong spot to do the video…that’s a real residential part of St. Clair. You should do one of St. Clair west of Bathurst or in Little Italy, then you’ll really see how the businesses are “affected”

  • Guest

    quel desastre

  • Jamie Wilson

    This is just as bad as the bike lanes on Jarvis St.

    • Barrythehorrible

      No its worse

  • Yorkparker

    I lived at Bathurst and St. Clair 5 years ago and a lot of the construction decimated businesses and traffic west of Bathurst.

    There were dozens of empty businesses and traffic was a nightmare, only getting worse the more west you went. There were portions of the road where you couldn’t even get by on the sidewalk because it had been ripped apart for improvements but left in a half-finished state for months.

    My barber would tell me stories every month of people who worked in the same strip of commercial units as him in the area having to leave and close their stores because the streetcar right-of-way took so long.

    Yes, it’s probably better now (I had to move out of the neighborhood it got so inconvenient) but for the people who lived there it was a solid couple of years that were just miserable.

    And yes Joe, that rail bridge/intersection is horrid but from what I remember there hadn’t been much improvement there (yet).

    • Anonymous

      But, that kind of construction happens with every infrastructure project. It doesn’t matter what kind of transit is going in. The road work part is always going to be a mess.

    • Michael Kolberg

      Nobody is arguing that the construction isn’t painful (I lived and worked on Roncesvalles through three years of dust and noise). The argument is that ultimately it was worth it. Rob Ford uses St. Clair as a reason not to build things. If he was truly upset about what happened on St. Clair, he would be directing his efforts to change the way City Hall does business with construction companies.

      • Anonymous

        Does vigourously jumping in developers’ pockets count as changing the way they do business?

    • jennifer

      I lived through the construction as well, and while inconvenient at times it was hardly a disaster. I didn’t let it get to me…I continued to travel on St. Clair and shop at my usual places. I quite simply got on with things. Construction happens all over the city and you just have to suck it up sometimes. I’m currently living through the water main construction on Avenue. You know what I’m doing? I’m getting on with things.

      St. Clair is an amazing street from end to end and it would be lovely if the Ford twins could lay off of it.

      Oh, and the rail bridge underpass traffic at Weston was bad before the right of way went in (I used to live at that end 11 years ago), so you can’t blame traffic on the streetcar.

  • Miroslav Glavic

    by the time Spadina gets to St. Clair…it is a tiny road.

    Try St. Clair/Bathurst or St. Clair/Keele/Old Weston Road

    The video is deceiving as it is shot in a quiet part of St. Clair. Go to a busier area like one of the ones I mentioned above.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for this article. I’m so tired of commentators picking on my neighbourhood and calling it some kind of “disaster zone”. After living on the west end of St. Clair for years, the right of way made transit so much faster. Haters gonna hate, I guess.

  • Mark Dowling

    To be fair, it would be interesting to see a similar timelapse at the rail overpass. That is the real troublespot in the area where traffic is only one lane per direction now and I think there is a case to remove the right of way for that block and allow shared traffic. Of course, expansion of the overpass should have been part of the West Toronto Junction works…

    EDIT: posted before I saw Joe Drew’s comment

    • Scott d

      I use that stretch all the time and even in the worst times it only adds a minute or two. I live in a city and accept congestion. By the way, it was even more congested before the ROW at that bridge because the other side on St. Clair was narrower, had no stop lights or turn lanes. I would add it actually may be faster now.

    • Anonymous

      I totally disagree that there’s a case to remove the right-of-way for the Keele-Old-Weston block. During rush hours, streetcars carry way more people than single-occupant cars, and run frequently – 2m 45s apart. Clogging the streetcar right-of-way with single-occupant cars would bunch streetcars and ruin TTC service for the entire length of St. Clair.

      Widening the bridge would be lovely, but expensive. Until then, the bridge acts as a flow valve – once you get under the bridge, the road opens up and driving is easier on all “downstream” intersections.

  • Jacob Louy

    Collision rates may be down, safety and transit efficiency and productivity may be up, but those traffic numbers in the G&M article are absolutely meaningless.

    It’s not enough to only look at car volumes when a reduction in car capacity occurred. A message to all LRT advocates: Please stop citing the traffic numbers on St Clair, because no conclusion on traffic congestion can be drawn.

  • The Nexus

    I drove along St Clair during the construction – a number of times – ya.. it was pretty bad.. but I didn’t have to live there. I’m sure the businesses and the residents had it craptacular – just like the Roncessvales area did (people seem not to mention it because, well, I guess they’ve forgotten about it?). That said, I also travelled along Sheppard during the building of the Sheppard Subway. Good old Mel Lastman, giving the loving people of North York a means to get from one shopping mall to another… Sheppard was torn up as well, and traffic was equally horrendous. The difference? Sheppard is “wider” and, obviously, in the “suburbs” versus St. Clair which, even WITHOUT the ROW was crowded and not exactly the easiest street to get across when you’re looking West of Bathurst.

    Taking all of this into account, you have to realize a few things. 1) Those that want subways seem to forget that the surface routes WILL BE IMPACTED during the build. 2) Those that want subways want to draw attention to the problems with St. Clair yet forget that the “above ground” portion of the LRT would be on a wider stretch of road akin to Sheppard Avenue. Even as you near Kennedy Rd in Scarborough the road is 3 lanes east, 3 lanes west AND a centre lane for left turns. 3) Those that want LRT should admit that some businesses will be impacted DEPENDING on where they are on the build route. Celestica is unlikely to get nailed by the build but, say, the Mercedez Benz dealership at Laird or, the Pier 1 or the apartments along Eglinton just east of Laird will definitely be impacted by above ground (and, heck, below ground) work.

    It’s not an “easy” decision but SOMETHING has to be done and done soon as, for a city this size, the transit debacles have created a whole that’s going to be hard to dig out of if left any longer.

    • canuck1975

      I grew up at Sheppard & Leslie and was there during the subway construction and feel like I’m the only one who remembers how awful it was. One Sunday I was on my way to work and, seeing as there was no 51 on the weekend, had no choice but to take the Sheppard across. About ten 85E busses went by and I waited for one to come for an hour. I finally had to call my parents and get them to drive me to work. That was the worst scenario from the subway construction but it really was a disaster too.

    • Anonymous

      Something I’ve never seen mentioned by the pro-subway camp is that subway stations are almost always hubs for other forms of transit – namely buses. Build a subway line and you add hundreds of buses stopping and turning and “causing” congestion in the area. All the things they hate about surface transit.

  • Anonymous

    To the people saying it’s much busier farther west – how are the businesses in that area doing?

  • Scott d

    The worst offender is Cesar Palacio who during the Transit City debate showed a video that supposedly showed that St. Clair was a waste land. The camera is set on the one corner at Keele and ST. Clair that is not yet redeveloped (but that is actually underway) but never shows the other 3 corners because that would show millions and millions of dollars of commercial and residential development stretching as far as the eye can see. He also did not show Weston Road and St. Clair where all the land that has been dormant for 25 years is about to be developed nor did he show any of the many new stores and pubs that have opened say near St. Clair and Arlington Avenue. Go look at these areas for yourself and decide. I avoided driving on St. Clair for years as it was a confusing mess and now I use it to head to the box stores or crosstown heading east. I use St. Clair as a TTCer and a driver and I live near it and Cesar Palacio has shown how low he can sink in terms of deliberately misleading the public. A disgrace.

    • Mark Dowling

      So happy that guy is not on the TTC any more. Talk about a broken record.

  • Anonymous

    I live at Lansdowne and St CLair.
    Yes buisnesses have closed. These buisnesses would have bee gone anyways. Times have changed and so has the demographic. It was old barber shops etc that closed. Now you have a trendy part of town. The traffic is light years better then it was before. I will accept that at Weston and Stclair it is a problem where the lanes are reduced to 1 on each side. That is the only issue on the entire route. Anytime things are rebuilt there are growing pains. St Clair is past that now and is alive and well. COme check it out for yourself and stop listening to the drivel of the day from this administration.

  • Alex

    The stretch at Keele was just as much of a bottleneck before the construction…there were two lanes yes–but there wasn’t a dedicated left turn lane for either direction east/west after the bridge…therefore the right lane would always bottleneck as the only lane for passage…you’d be lucky if two cars could make a left off St. Clair per light change.

    Ford, both of them, need to stop painting a false visual of how it evolved and what it would be like moving forward…the new proposed LRT’s are not Streetcars, quite different actually and will be going on newer roads than St.Clair was with ample space for redevelopment for the majority of the construction. Car lovers will still get their lanes…bikers will even get new lanes–something I haven’t seen brought up is that with subways–no accommodation for bikes will be in place.

    If the LRT breaks down–when they issue shuttle buses to substitute as they did with the subway closure this past weekend–they’ll be used on the now TTC dedicated throughway–not as we experienced this last weekend that 30 buses clogged regular lanes.

    • D Lorac

      LRT’s may work fine for the “Downtown” (Old Parts of the City) but they are WRONG for the Suburbs! Even Express buses are a better solution at a cheaper price than are LRT’s.

      • Anonymous

        Please get some education about LRT’s from here ( before you open your mouth again.

  • jess

    This video is a tad misleading. The traffic issues are west on st.clair.

  • Anonymous

    Where’s the time-lapse movie that shows the 100% cost overrun, poor project management, and broken promises re: signal priority?

    • Testu

      It’s right above the one that explains what that has to do with current Traffic congestion and general livability on St. Clair.

      The project was a mess, no doubt. That has nothing to do with how well it works now that the construction has been completed.

      • Anonymous

        I agree. I’ve always been baffled by the “St Clair Disaster” rhetoric. Construction pain is temporary and the ROW is definitely an improvement.

        The more important and longer-lasting issue is the city’s mismanagement of the project, which has major implications for Transit City. I’m not convinced that lessons have been learned.

    • Paul

      There was not 100% cost overrun. The project was budgeted at $65M and completed for $106M. The overage was driven at least in part by NIMBY delaying tactics that stalled completion for more than a year. Additional scope (burying wires, street furniture, replacing lead pipes) was added to the project after it was budgeted.

      I don’t think anyone would argue that the process was well-managed. However, the results are very positive and it is a shame that Palacio chooses to trash talk his own community to win the favour of the bros. Ford.

  • Paul Kishimoto

    To complain that this video is deceptive and ask for timelapses from other locations is facepalm-inducing. It sets up a useless proxy argument about which sites are most representative of the condition of the street as a whole. One’s idea of representative depends on one’s preconception of the overall condition. It’s completely circular.

    That points to the value in data/information like that in the linked G&M graphic. There is some degree of construction in this information, but average overall figures are not open to quibbles about representativeness.

    They’re also falsifiable; if anyone wanted to convince us that the area is a disaster, has been decimated, etc. they could produce credible, alternate data to support that conclusion. But I predict those, like the large numbers of unreported crimes the federal Conservatives used to support bill C-10, will not be substantiated.

    • Anonymous

      Seriously? Come on. St Clair is an entirely low-rise, retail-storefront street except for a relatively short stretch from Bathurst to Avenue; yet it is in this stretch that the video is taken. So, two things. First, you seem to be saying that viewers have no right to question the motivations behind material presented to them. Second, I wouldn’t say the video is deceptive, as I don’t subscribe to the “St. Clair Disaster” rhetoric — rather, I would say it weakens its own argument. There are better places where one could make the case for the neighborhood — let’s say a place where cars, streetcars, and pedestrians coexist with vibrant storefronts, like most of St Clair; so in fact the video does a poor job of illustrating the line.

      • Paul Kishimoto

        The motivations aren’t behind the material, they are very much front (at least as presented here). It’s entirely appropriate to discuss them.

        I’m only saying that there is no single location to make a video that would satisfy everyone. Arguing about what that location should be, then, is pointless, and also secondary to the core issue of whether the ROW has improved the street.

        • Anonymous

          I’m not clear on how this is a secondary issue, since the video was presented above the fold as the lead evidence for the ROW. Moreover, I can argue that the location was not representative, without agreeing that there exists a perfect location.

          • Anonymous

            Evidence and observation aren’t the same. The video falls into the latter category.

      • Anonymous

        I agree, I used to live at St Clair and Bathurst before the ROW, my old apartment, which was awesome even if all the floors slanted in different directions, above a green grocer has now been torn down for a condo, and I fully support the St Clair ROW and wish it had existed when I lived in that area. I agree it will make it a much better street. However the St Clair shown in this video clip represents maybe 5% of what St Clair is like, the other 95% (all numbers guessed) being retail on both sides with residential above, busy sidewalks and, well back when I lived there though I see the car speeds have increased, but back then the cars moved so slow it was the easiest street to cross from one side to the other but traffic always flowed very well in the stretch shown in this video. The St Clair in this video has a major park/water supply to the one side you can’t quite see and residential only on the north side with no retail.

        To me this does weaken the effectiveness of this video since it misses the sort of street that 95% of St Clair is, and I’m a big supporter of the St Clair ROW, because of it I’m considering moving back into the area though farther west from Bathurst where it gets a little cheaper since I would now have reliable transit to the subway.

    • Anonymous

      Well said

  • chrisoftoronto

    I think you could argue that the real downfall of St Clair during the construction was not the poor vehiclular access, but the replacement buses which were truly unpleasant. As in most central neighbourhoods, the majority of traffic arrives on transit and the slow, congested, irregular, usually overcrowded buses (and almost always the old unairconditioned GM buses in summer – the streetcars at least get a breeze when they’re moving) did a number on transit access too.

  • Anonymous

    St. Clair is like a complete, gut home renovation.

    My partner and I, complained about our old house and how it never worked for our needs. Especially with the arrival of our first child. So we decided to renovate. We had saved about 30% of what our contractor quoted. We borrowed the rest. It was supposed to take 4 months to complete. It took nearly a year. A year and a half if you count all the little things, like finishing the trim etc. Thanks to unforeseen structural, electrical and plumbing surprises, it was nearly 40% over budget. We decided to live in the house during construction. It was as close to hell as one could get. In the end, we ended up having a beautiful, functional home, that was more than worth the hellish experience of its construction. When we sold, there were multiply bids, got well over asking and well over what other homes in the neighbourhood were selling for. Everyone I know, who has been through this experience, have similar stories. Because in the long run, improvements always are worth it.

    St. Clair is a big improvement and was well worth the expense and wait. Just give it time.

    • Anonymous

      Agreed. As the Globe and Mail stated: “Since the June, 2010, completion of the right-of-way from Yonge Street to Gunns Loop, overall traffic and peak-period volumes have fallen sharply; transit ridership has jumped 13 per cent, while service frequency has improved; and collisions and personal injuries have plummeted by a third, according to city and TTC data compiled by The Globe and Mail. The St. Clair line now ranks eighth for productivity (boardings per hour) among the TTC’s 150 surface routes (the top spot belongs to the Spadina LRT), according to Mitch Stambler, the TTC’s manager of service planning.”

  • JRD Skinner

    Will no one think of the children!?

  • Anonymous

    Even if you go west of Spadina, it’s not the disaster it’s made out to be:

    I seem to recall hearing that St Clair would be widened under the tracks at Keele. There is also a lot of traffic joining St Clair from Old Weston because the part south of Davenport to Keele is closed due to GO track work.

  • kikko

    Of course adding a major infrastructure project in an already established congested area is going to cause problems! However, now, the streetcar runs quickly and efficiently, and that’s what matters. The problem here, as is everywhere in Toronto: too many cars, and too many people traveling too far of a distance. As we add more infrastructure in the future, there will be more headaches, hopefully engineers and construction companies have learned from the mistakes of St. Clair and other LRT projects will function better and have less of an impact.

  • Dvallx

    This St. Clair corridor has many great features especially walkability, the neighbourhoods and the vibrant street life. We have completely missed the real traffic problem with the St. Clair corridor – North/South arteries are jammed because of the mistimed multi-way signals favouring the East-West Flow. The real congestion is on Yonge/Avenue/Bathurst/Dufferin/Weston roads etc. and this factor contributes significantly to the overall disaster of commuting time in this City (whether private vehicle or transit).

  • Nick

    The City probably cheaped out on the underpass near Weston road. They should have widened it while they were doing the construction. I have it on good authority that there is space to do this on the south side of the bridge. So the problem is not the RoW per se, but the fact that the project did not address this issue. Otherwise, the data on pedestrian injuries and ridership look fantastic! Bring on the Sheppard East LRT!

    • Anonymous

      I agree that the bridge would have been good to widen, but it is a pretty big bridge – four train tracks! Also, there’s not a lot of land on the northwest side…

      • Nick

        Maybe Dear Leader Ford with his mad arm-twisting skillz could get Metrolinx to pay for the widening as part of the Airport Rail Line project ;-) They are doing this elsewhere along this rail corridor (at Strachan, for instance…it’s quite a massive project, actually).

  • Glenmagder1

    Every source that I could find notes ridership of greater than 31,000. The EA for the LRT reports more than 32,000. Ridership between 1982 and 1984 was north of 40,000. So the line had little to no ridership growth while the rest of the system had more than a 16% increase.

    A little fact checking would nice.

  • Suri from Weston

    There are no such things as a ‘free ride’ in a City as busy as Toronto. Yes, the construction was messy, took too long and was inconvenient at times but the result is great. So great that when all the old retailers tucked tail and left claiming they couldn’t do business because of no parking, it left a lot of great spaces open and waiting to be filled. And filled they are! All the St. Clair naysayers should shake their heads, count their blessings and realize that when you have great above ground transit, the world can come to your door. Subways force people underground and LRTs and trolleys bring eyes to the street. What part of that is annoying for main street retailers? And some streets weren’t created with width because back in the day, most people walked or took transit or their horse and buggy instead of a car. It’s not like you can make streets like St. Clair wider!
    I only wish my area in Weston (where the 140 diesel trains will run daily) had gotten this kind of ‘horrible transit’. Instead, we get stuck with trains we won’t be able to afford to ride, they won’t stop along the route except in 2 locations and we get to breathe noxious and dangerous diesel fumes daily for many years to come. Where is the Mayor on this portfolio? NOWHERE! And he is perfectly aware of it.

    • Anonymous

      What you needed where you are, Suri, was (and is) light rail instead, or a subway train. Instead, you got more crappy diesel trains that suck shit and then some. I grieve with you on this.

  • Mark Dowling

    The thing about St Clair is it happened a few years too early. Ideally it would have had the new streetcars on opening day and those long cars – all 90 feet – would have told people “there is more capacity on the line now”. Unfortunately the rail was clapped out and in need of replacement. While a lot of attention is paid to the budget cost, even rebuilding the line identically to the existing would have cost a lot (I think about 30million?) because of the higher standards of sound insulation etc. the new tracks are built to even outside Rights Of Way.

  • Ron Lucente

    St. Clair is the perfect example of what you don’t want to have happen on eglinton. That’s why in these congested areas you need to move transit underground. Transit should not share the road with cars it doesn’t work. A perfect example of how it should be done cost effectively is what Mississauga is doing by building dedicated bus lanes along eastgate parkway from eglinton to square one

    • TorontoDan

      why should a car carrying one person have priority to a streetcar or LRT carrying dozens of people?

    • Anonymous

      St Clair’s problem before was never congestion but random U-turns and cars switching lanes around the streetcar islands. And on-street parking, which still reduces traffic flow now.

      Eglinton was always going have an underground section in congested areas (i.e., the core) and would not take away lanes on the sections at grade. Instead, the number of lanes would be retained through expropriation and road widening.

    • Anonymous

      Why is one type of vehicle more important than another? Put aside for the moment that one carries maybe two people and the other carries fifty or more, why are roads “for cars” only? What is the difference between having to stop for a bus or street car, and having to stop for another car?

  • Maria Radford

    I live 4 houses from St. Clair W and have been in my home since before the construction. I never shopped on St. Clair W of Bathurst. The traffic was scary – people did U turns, double parked and went so fast that once was lucky to escape without dents. Further, there was no where interesting to shop or eat. That has all changed now. It was awful during the construction which was delayed partly be short-sighted protests from vested interests. People who aren’t familiar with the new St Clair W should try it! Take the relatively fast streetcar all the way to Home Depot or Walmart if you can find a seat- now that the Fords have decimated the TTC there are fewer cars and it seems, more riders

  • Patrick

    I don’t think this area is representative of St. Clair as a whole. What this area does seem to better represent is the areas of Eglington that the mayor wants to spend an extra 2 billion burying the LRT. It also seems representative of Shephard East. The areas that are similar to a “typical stretch” of St Clair will be buried under the Stintz plan.

    But as to those “typical stretches” I shop on them much more now than before the construction. It is now extremely easy for a pedestrian to navigate. Crossing the street is a breeze when you only need to cross halfway at a time, and the streetcar trek from St Clair West subway to the restaurants and back is fast and convenient. Sure I’m not going to buy furniture on St Clair but if you’re looking for some one to blame for that you should look at those big box stores at the end of the ROW.

    • Perfecto

      Unfortunately no one area can represent St. Clair as a whole.

      And even more unfortunately, no one area of St. Clair can represent Eglinton East or Sheppart East (or parts of it) either.

      The routes and their neighbourhoods are very different, in my opinion.

  • Anonymous

    St. Clair Avenue West after the ROW project is a much more attractive street that can move people faster and more reliably in streetcars. Transit was prioritized because it can absorb growth in demand without failing in the way a roadway does when the majority chooses to drive. If we want to avoid being stuck in gridlock, then we have to prioritize transit not just by building a subway line under one street, but creating better transit on multiple streets at a time. Streetcars in right-of-ways and modern LRT is an excellent way of achieving this goal.

    I travel along St. Clair regularly, and there seems to be less traffic than ever, with more people only travelling shorter distances along the street. At limited times there is heavy car traffic further west, but it hardly seems worse than before. While the project did go over budget, the improvements achieved for the neighbourhoods along St. Clair like a vastly upgraded public realm were worth every penny. It was a solid investment in maintaining their vitality and the profile of this part of the city.

    If there was one failure to the project, it’s the fact that the inadequate and crumbling railway underpass between Old Weston Road and Keele Street towards the western terminus of the line at Gunns Loop wasn’t upgraded, creating a bottleneck of one private vehicle lane in each direction. The situation is compounded by the fact that an alternate route for cars and bikes–using Old Weston Road, Junction Road, and Keele Street–is closed at the railway corridor for indefinite construction of GO Transit infrastructure upgrades at West Toronto Diamond. A wider underpass will be necessary in the immediate future.

    Also, the street has become less accommodating of cyclists, with lanes that are uncomfortably narrow requiring cyclists to ride slower. Drivers tend to also slow down around cyclists from my experience, which is responsible, but also indicative of compromise in functionality. On wider suburban arterials, however, space shouldn’t be a problem. Hopefully, bike lanes or on-street cycle tracks spanning the city will be a part of Transit City.

    On balance, St. Clair is so much better today that it ever was, with faster and more reliable transit geared to moving people efficiently well into the future, an overhauled public realm with good urban design that achieves a better sense of place, and interesting public art. It’s a place that seems more attractive to live in and spend time in visiting the businesses along the way. It’s a success with the underpass described above as a qualification, but something that can still be addressed.

  • ILoveToronto

    I don’t buy into the scenario that St. Clair LRT was a disaster but I think that the video proves that we spent a lot of money to simply upgrade streetcars which were already there. The rational was that it would improve service and speed. If this picture is valid, and there aren’t traffic jams in rush-hour, the old non-dedicated streetcar system would have been just as fast.
    So my question is: Was it worth spending all that money on the Spadina LRT or could it have been much better spent elsewhere?

    • Skeezix

      The street and the streetcar tracks were overdue for replacement whether or not a dedicated ROW for the streetcar was installed or not. Much of the cost was being spent on St. Clair regardless. And the studies seem to indicate that both transit-riders and automobile drivers have both benefitted.

      • ILoveToronto

        What studies? Please be specific.

  • Paul

    I don’t know where that $48M number comes from, and would challenge you to find a source for it that defines exactly what it was supposed to include. It may have been the cost of simply doing the track replacement that was needed whether or not the ROW went in (the Star article says it was for ‘track improvements’. The ROW’s budget, approved in 2005, was $65M.

  • D Lorac

    The St. Clair LRT runs in the Old sections of the City and doesn’t go to Etobicoke, North York, or Scarborough. The TTC throwing money at this project which could have been used to expand the Subway system, only shown the “Downtown” centric tilt of council.

    • Anonymous

      It was either do something about the tracks anyway or let them get worse, so why not improve the situation by separating the streetcars from the rest of traffic as much as possible? Even with the added expense caused by local obstructionists delaying the project and poor utility/contractor coordination (i.e., not the TTC’s fault), the money would not have gone very far in expanding the subway system.

      And if there’s anywhere the subway system needs expanding, it’s downtown, to address capacity issues.

      • D Lorac

        You forgot to add “And let the Suburbs Eat Cake”.

        • Anonymous

          The suburbs have been persuaded that they can have cake on a bread budget. Someone else’s bread budget.

          • TD

            I suppose you think $8.4 billion the province planning to give to the city is only for the Downtown Core. It’s not Toronto’s money.

          • Anonymous

            No. My point is that if Toronto is to get $8.4 billion it should be spent on things that will benefit as much of the city as possible, not all in one area or one line. Since the DRL is apparently not the first priority, we should improve transit as much as possible surrounding the core (where, unless you are close to a subway line, surface transit is all there is and likely will be for a long time to come).

          • Anonymous

            @nevilleross: LRT works fine where there’s room for it. The Danforth is not a good place for LRT. The TTC system needs to address the capacity issues south of Bloor, where there is also not enough room for LRT. Subways it is.

          • Neville Ross

            If there was room for the streetcar on the Danforth ages past, then there’s room for the LRT on the Danforth now.

      • Anonymous

        We don’t need no new subway in downtown, what we need instead is another LRT line (maybe down the Danforth?) The subway has had it’s day in Toronto and elsewhere as a transit concept.

    • Anonymous

      St. Clair got an LRT too? When did this happen? Last I checked they only had streetcars.

      • DRC

        Didn’t anyone tell you! LRT is just another name for more expensive streetcars.

  • ttam

    I just started a facebook page for St. Clair West. This is a great area with lots to do and I hope you will come and visit. My main focus would be local events, but I will also include local businesses/restaurants. If you would like to find out more, please feel free to ‘like’ ‘St. Clair West Community’

  • ttam

    I just started a facebook page for St. Clair West. This is a great area with lots to do and I hope you will come and visit. My main focus would be local events, but I will also include local businesses/restaurants. If you would like to find out more, please feel free to ‘like’ ‘St. Clair West Community’

  • Andrew

    The St. Clair streetcar is extremely slow. It takes 30 minutes to go a distance of just over 6km from one block west of Keele to Yonge, tends to be crowded and stops at every minor side street. That’s a speed of 12km/h which is only marginally faster than walking. Given the plans I have seen for the Sheppard streetcar it would have stopped at every fencepost, would have been only slightly faster than the St. Clair streetcar and it would have the ridiculous transfer at Sheppard and Don Mills. Slowpoke low capacity streetcars are not the way to go on Sheppard because they are only slightly faster than the #85/190 buses and will not get people out of their cars on the 401 (which is extremely congested and very slow in rush hour as you might have noticed). If you actually want to provide a reasonably fast way to cross the north part of the city you need subways, and spending $1 billion on slowpoke streetcars is a waste of money.

    • Anonymous

      I take the subway from St. Clair to King and back daily. It’s 4.5 km and takes about 20 min during rush hour, unless there’s a delay, which I estimate occurs around 20 per cent of the time. In that case I’ve spent up to an hour on the subway with no option to get off and walk, or bus, or taxi.

      The St. Clair streetcar (which I also use frequently) looks pretty good by comparison.

    • Anonymous

      Once again for the hard of hearing and thinking: LRT is not streetcars, at all! Please don’t make me suggest reading this website to you again.

  • Lawlor

    This little video who didn’t really know the facts (like the ones in the accompanying article) but it is a useful piece. For those who think this is an non busy area of St. Claire, they should have tried to get through it before the right of way was constructed.

  • Sadgsdg

    What kind of bullshit transit propaganda is this? Of course St.Clair is fine – East of Bathurst, that is! where there is virtually zero retail.

    Try shooting that time lapse in Corso Italia, which was the area predominantly screwed up by streetcar right-of-way. See what you get there.

    • Anonymous

      You get a flashy new restaurant or shop opening every week, as far as I can tell. As someone else said, for residents and visitors by transit, it’s great. Not so good for drivers who want to park on the street, especially if they’re constitutionally averse to walking a block or two to get to their destination.

  • Roger_ramjet007

    It’s March break – did you do any research on traffic patterns at all?
    Show us next Tuesday’s video

    • Anonymous

      Um, check the date on the post. This was shot *last* Tuesday.

      • Roger_ramjet007


  • b.d.

    Everyone! St. Clair is such a disaster that the owners of The Rushton have opened a second restaurant (called Catch) on St. Clair (on the Northwest corner of St. Clair and Rushton).

    It’s such a disaster that the owners of Pizza e Pazzi have decided to open a second location on St. Clair. (the first one’s at St. Clair and Dufferin, the second at St. Clair and Christie)

    I know if I were a restaurant owner in a disaster area, that’s EXACTLY what I’d do!

  • Donald Howard

    I’m glad St. Clair locals are telling it like it is. I’ve lived in this area, west of Bathurst, since 1991 and I own a business in the area. I’ve walked, driven and bicycled the strip a lot and still do daily. Bad traffic jams are rare, beautiful unimpeded streetcar travel, regular streetcars – minimal bunching – plus the 2 hour transfer so people can do all their shopping and only pay one fare. It’s a big success.

    Prior to the ROW the TTC was often replacing short lengths of streetcar rails, a real traffic impediment. Major rail replacement was discussed, but the growing success of the fairly new Spadina-Chinatown ROW and with TTC published data that St. Clair west strip was the 2nd most street traveled route in the city after Spadina-Chinatown, the ROW was approved.

    Traffic on St. Clair was terrible prior to the ROW, so many left turner’s blocking traffic with no or short advance turn signals, those massively busy intersections at Christie, Dufferin, Old Weston and Keele with long lights, and just the street’s old history with almost contiguous street-level retail storefront urban design meaning lots of cars looking for parking….

    The construction wasn’t bad overall. Previous poster was absolutely correct in that older, tenuous businesses seemed to be the ones that closed up. Now there are very few vacant storefronts.

    So many frivolous injunctions that delayed construction including the police / fire access lie. That one was actually the last injunction – some fool claimed firetrucks couldn’t negotiate the raised curbs or make turns. Local fire chief testified the claim was false, he and other fire chiefs had been consulted and they had no issues with the St. Clair ROW.

    I thought that was the real only true disaster with the St. Clair west ROW: the extreme ease of frivolous injunctions being granted that delayed construction. I hope the TTC has learned from that.

  • guest

    I love that everyone’s been shoving down our throats that LRT is different from streetcar, yet we are using it here as our basis for scenario planning…

    • Anonymous

      Because it’s apparently the closest thing we have to LRT (mainly because of the ROW and the TTC’s habit of wishfully calling the Harbourfront, Spadina and St Clair lines LRT from time to time). If we really wanted to see what LRT would be like, a better (but still partial) comparison would be the line along the Queensway).

  • Sy_ken1

    If one uses statistics, then they should be meaningful in order to compare apples to apples. Did it ever occur to you that maybe congestion is down because drivers avoid using St. Clair like the plague? What is the average daily vehicle count today vs the same period before construction began. I’m positive that there will be a significant difference between the stats. Also, I have family with a business on St. Clair – their income is significantly lower. Please get your facts straight.