No, this is not a commentary about immigration, but about the seemingly mundane issue of street lighting, hydro and TTC poles on St. Clair Avenue.
Regular readers here will know that I am not impressed by designs including centre poles because:
- they take up an extra metre of road space that could be used at the sidewalks,
- they interfere with emergency vehicles (or even TTC buses) using the streetcar right-of-way, and
- they are just not very attractive.
People involved with the project from both the City and the TTC have steadfastly maintained that these poles are essential to the project and that they were “selected” by public participation. This is complete nonsense on both counts.
The public was not given any alternative to this design, and indeed the “old” style using span wires across the street was deliberatly made to look bad by including photos with forests of hydro wiring. On most streets where there still is old “box construction” hydro as well as streetcar overhead, the visual offence, such as it is, of the streetcar overhead is trivial compared with hydro. With the undergrounding of hydro services, almost all of the visual clutter disappears.
The “essential” nature of the new poles, however, is the heart of the story. Part of the new design for St. Clair Avenue was a new light fixture replacing the traditional Toronto “acorn”. Moreover, the initial design had lighting poles further apart — fewer but more powerful street lights supplemented by pedestrian lighting.
The original design proposed high poles with street lighting at the top and pedestrian lighting at the half-way point. This design also presumed that a short pole would be sited between each tall pole and would hold only pedestrian lighting. The spacing of the lighting poles was different from that of the TTC poles in the middle of the street. Indeed, the designers hoped to save on sidewalk space by having fewer street lighting poles.
The design for this year’s work from Dufferin to Caledonia quite clearly shows that the lighting poles are on the same spacing as the TTC poles and could, therefore, be used to hold up the overhead with span wires as has been the case for decades. No sidewalk space is preserved. The pole spacing is such that separate pedestrian fixtures at the midpoint would be overkill both for lighting and for the number of poles this would introduce to the street.
At a recent Community Liaison Committee meeting, the City presented a new version of the luminaire. This will be used not only on all new construction this year, but will be retrofitted to the roughly 50% of the phase 1 work where it has already been installed. This change is for “technical reasons”.
Not long after the CLC meeting, I learned that the “technical” problem is that the lamps are burning out in the luminaires, likely due to overheating. Was this luninaire actually designed for these lamps? A related issue is the wattage of the lamps.
I understand that the new luminaires have 250W lamps in them, but the acorn fixtures they replaced only had 150W lamps. Since we are not decreasing the total number of fixtures, indeed we may have more if the pedestrian lighting is included, the actual wattage of lighting on St. Clair will go up substantially.
Street space is at a premium on St. Clair and this has been hotly debated in the community. All through this process, both the TTC and the City have remained firm in their commitment to centre poles for the overhead with separate lighting poles. The underpinning for this design decision is no longer valid, and we need a serious re-evaluation of alternatives.
The opportunity to do this for the 2007 construction has likely passed, and I can already hear the bleating from Urban Design that we need to maintain a consistent look to the whole project. Hogwash. The communities on St. Clair need to see what their street will look like with conventional sidewalk poles supporting both lighting and TTC overhead.
Giving people a real choice is what public participation is all about.