St. Clair Lives!

Honestly, I didn’t think they would get it done in time given the weather, but today saw the first cars (4171 and 4176) make test trips on the St. Clair line to Yonge Street.

Many thanks to Harold R. McMann for the photos.

EB at Deer Park

Looking E from Deer Park on 4171

St. Clair Station Loop

WB W of Avenue Road

10 thoughts on “St. Clair Lives!

  1. In the second picture it looks like there’s a truck driving in the ROW in front of the car. Is it not a private ROW the entire way from Yonge to Vaughan? I don’t get out there too often, so I’m not sure where along St Clair that is.

    Steve:  The car from which the photo is taken was the first one over the line.  A truck preceded it with a crew to remove obstacles.


  2. Steve – I am puzzled by your comment that the TTC in the 60’s and 70’s considered an expanded LRT network. I understand that Broadview and Dundas West stations had only one track serving 2 streetcar lines because the TTC planned to phase out streetcars by the early 80’s.

    Steve:  Oddly, at the same time that the TTC had a plan to phase out streetcars by 1980 (with the opening of the Queen subway), they were also working with Hawker-Siddeley (then owner of the CanCar plant in Thunder Bay) on an updated PCC streetcar design.  The TTC’s rapid transit plan published in 1966 shows suburban “high speed streetcar” lines notably in Scarborough, across the Finch corridor, down through northern Etobicoke and into the west end of the Bloor subway with, yes, a spur to the airport.

    Work on that car design was scrapped when the Ontario government decided that high-tech was the way to go and got embroiled with Krauss-Maffei and magnetic levitation.  All we got for this was the Scarborough RT at a cost over double the planned cost of the LRT line, and without the extension to Malvern.  By such political stupidity are opportunities wasted, but it wouldn’t be the last time. 

    The huge irony in this is that the same government which was ultimately responsible for us not building a suburban network before the suburbs actually existed was the same government that killed the Spadina expressway and decided to set us on a pro-transit course.  Alas, just building with a technology we already had wasn’t sexy enough.  We could have had an LRT network 30 years ago.


  3. I rode the St. Clair streetcar from Yonge station today. I didn’t have anywhere to go, just wanted to get a feel for the new and improved. A couple thoughts:

    What’s the status of signal priority on St. Clair? The first green light we caught, I am not kidding, was at Vaughan Rd. Along the way, we waited at red lights, and then waited again at the stop just beyond the light while passengers got on/off. Without the signal priority, placing the stop beyond the light doubles the length of time spent at each stop.

    Steve: My understanding is that they are not all working, yet. Start your clocks, folks, to see if we get real signal priority in St. Clair in less than the near-decade we have waited on Spadina.

    The other Kafka moment was waiting at the traffic light at Avenue Rd. (I think), waiting, waiting, for cars to turn left ahead of a packed streetcar…..but there were no cars turning. Still, the streetcar waited. Then the light changed, THEN passengers were allowed to get on/off.

    This worries me huge for two reasons. One, we’re spending a lot of money and not getting better service. And two, perhaps more significant, St. Clair is going to be the model for the suburbs. The best way to sell Scarborough city councillors on the merits of true LRT is to have a model to show them. We don’t have it. We don’t have it on Spadina. We don’t have it on the Harbourfront. And it looks like we’re not getting it on St. Clair. In addition to waiting longer still for better service, we may also be putting the nail in the coffin for a broader LRT network.

    Also, Steve, do you know why the tracks aren’t ROW east of Yonge? Again, crawl out of subway station, wait at traffic light at Yonge St., then passengers board beyond traffic light.

    Steve: I think it’s a question of there being no space for a road widening without which, as we all know, transit lanes are impossible.

    On the positive side, the ride was smooooooth and quiet. Well, until St. Clair West Station. Pardon the crankiness of my tone, but remember, I took the streetcar today just for the hell of it.


  4. With regards to John’s post, I’ve heard that Kipling Station was set up to accommodate LRT, with a ghostly track bed visible on the south side of the bus terminal, and that such a line would go north through Etobicoke through the Hydro ROW. It seemed so likely that I thought it was true.

    My second point goes to my less than satisfactory ride on St. Clair today. I rode from St. Clair Station as far as Winona, and wanted to try out the ROW in peak service.

    The Yonge to Vaughan section is nice – very smooth running, the streetcar never felt like it stayed at signals for long, and no delays from cars turning left in front.

    I was going to ride as far as Old Weston Road (this was today around 5:30), but a collision on the west part of the line had streetcars short-turning at Oakwood. It really annoyed me that the driver never announced this (after receiving instructions from a supervisor at the station to go to Oakwood, but display a Keele exposure) as a big crowd was boarding at St. Clair West, nor anywhere along the route until Winona, when the driver immediately picked up the PA, told everyone this was the last stop and to wait for shuttle buses to Keele. He then ran empty to Oakwood Loop.

    This angered me – some passengers may have decided to take alternate routes station. The worst part was kicking everyone out at Winona, when others (like me) could have transferred to the 63 or 161. As streetcar after streetcar dumped passengers at Winona (one later did run full to the loop), and no shuttle in sight, this turned out to be an indignity to the older passengers, or those with children especially. I walked over to Oakwood and grabbed a 161 Rogers bus, which for many, would have been a decent alternative.

    I hate to say this, but this shows that despite all of the nice handouts and attempts at passenger info, the TTC still operates its service with scant regard for the customers. There is no reason for kicking people off at Winona — they could have been dropped in Oakwood Loop and, as you say, transferred to other services.


  5. Steve: I am posting this comment just to show how surly a TTC employee, hiding behind a pseudonym, can be. What is really good to know from personal experience is that they are not all like this.

    Sean M:

    I would stop your whining. The problem with you people in Toronto is that you are all spoiled. The new streetcars have the driver completely sectioned off in the front in a cockpit type box similar to to the subway. You people will be lost if you are no longer able to ask us the dumb questions like “where do you go”? when all you have to do is look at the bloody sign on the front. I’m sure he had a good reason to let you off at Winona. Maybe he really had to go to the washroom. All I’m saying is get all the facts before you shoot your mouth off.

    Steve replies: Looking at the front of the car won’t tell people that it is being short turned. There is no operator’s loo in Oakwood Loop, and even if there were, that’s no excuse for not taking people in there for an easier connection with the Ossington bus. Finally, I won’t say anything about operators who screw around with the schedule, short turn themselves or run right behind their lead car or bus creating a huge gap in service. I suggest that you transfer to the subway where you won’t have to deal with customers.


  6. Steve,

    I am a bit offended by that attack, but I am glad you posted it and I do appreciate your direct reply. I am also glad that people from the TTC do read your blog and the comments, whether they are great examples of what customer service should be (and there are many), or like those who expressed his or her opinion above.

    Thank you!


  7. Well last night, I had to go to Bathurst and St Clair and decided to take the 512. So I made my way up to St Clair station and boarded a westbound streetcar at around 8:30pm.

    The ride is definately smooth and quiet. However, the streetcar, operating on its own right of way, was travelling nice and slooooow – I estimate that it barely reached 35km/h. Now, a few points: the streetcar was definately not ahead of schedule, because I waited over ten minutes at St Clair. Traffic on St Clair was light, and annoyingly, moving significantly faster than the streetcar. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating that streetcars (and buses for that matter) should travel at breakneck speeds down our city streets, but they should definately travel at the speed of traffic.

    As it stands now, the ROW on St Clair does very little to improve service. Streetcars are able to get through a few intersections with greater ease (Avenue, Spadina), but this benefit appears to be nullified by the sluggish pace of the streetcar. An older fellow who got off at west of Avenue even commented to the driver that he should ‘step on it’, which of course, he didn’t. Why can’t they drive them faster? As far as I know, the speed limit on St Clair is 50km/h, so there is no reason why the streetcar couldn’t operate at that speed, unless I’m missing something…

    I really do love streetcars. In fact, I often go out of my way to take them, even if there is a faster route via subway (like last night). My concern here is that you and a few others are advocating for an LRT network in Toronto, and you frequently say that it would not be built and operated like our current lines on Spadina and Harbourfront. However, the most recent line on St Clair was built and is operated exactly the same way as those two lines – no signal priority and sloooow moving vehicles. Frankly, I have strong doubts that the TTC would build a Don Mills line, a Scarborough line, or other lines any differently.


  8. Yeesh. This sounds so sad and pathetic.

    It seems obvious that the TTC should simply forget everything else, and focus all its energy on:

    real, working signal priority on Spadina, St. Clair, etc. Which clearly requires fighting with the city, a lot, so it’s going to take a lot of manpower.
    Once that’s done, institute an appropriate schedule and driving speed.

    Honestly. What was the old saying: “This is no way to run a railroad!”


  9. Took a ride today on the St-Clair line along the ROW. It was a pleasant trip. Hit all but 1 of the green lights between St-Clair and St-Clair West stations (where I got off).


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