I spoke to Vice-Chair Joe Mihevc at the TTC meeting on Wednesday about the situation at St. Clair West and on the portion of the line east to Yonge. Here is the current status.
The problem with rebuilding the track is that there is one section on the east side of the loop where there are electrical cables buried in the concrete. Breaking up the concrete so that these can be moved is a delicate business and won’t be done for a few months. Meanwhile, the rest of the loop is being installed.
In about two weeks, this will allow pavement restoration in most of the loop. At that point, the buses that enter from the west will be able to loop down the ramp and around the west and north sides of the platform. They will all exit via the ramp that comes out in the Loblaw’s building on the north side of the street.
Meanwhile, Mihevc is getting a complete runaround from staff on the installation of new shelters. It’s always something that will happen in a week or two, and has been like this since the summer. He is getting very frustrated because he takes the blame every time he parrots information to his constituents.
TTC staff should carefully consider what they are doing. Mihevc has defended staff positions on the St. Clair right-of-way against all criticisms and burned up some of his credibility, with me among others, in the process. The last thing the staff needs is to lose that champion in the Vice-Chair’s office. If he stops believing what he is told, they are in big trouble.
Of course, many of us stopped believing what staff said about St. Clair a long time ago. Vice-Chair Mihevc has some catching up to do.
Thanks for getting such a complete update. It is much appreciated.
It’s a shame that we have to hear about this from you and not the TTC directly. I think perhaps people would more readily accept delays and service changes if the reasons were clear, like the problem with the buried electrical cables.
It’ll be interesting to see how they operate the interlined Christie/Forest Hill buses. I’m looking forward to a new duct tape sign explaining this one.
The buried electrical cables being a problem is due to the lack of competency of the contractor. The contractor is not as experienced as the ones that usually do work for the TTC since funds are too tight to be picky with contractors apparently. The electrical cables in question should be contained in the As-Built Drawings from when the station was originally constructed 30 years ago, and this information should be in the possession of the contractor (can’t do the work properly/smoothly without them). If the contractor didn’t notice these, it is entirely the contractor’s fault, as the information was handed to the contractor prior to commencement of the work. This contractor is guaranteed to never work for the TTC again.
Steve: I have been advised that the cables were not on the As-Builts.
As for our dear Vice-Chair, I would strongly advise he start asking for signed written statements to protect his credibility, even if handwritten on the spot.
Steve, do you have any idea if the tracks and concrete on the ramps themselves will be rebuilt? Or is that the last piece of the puzzle for St. Clair West?
I got to say I was quite shocked to see some form of incomplete shelters at Avenue and 1 at Deer Park. Hopefully the ball gets rolling sooner than later rather than 1 or 2 shelter installation a month.
Steve: My understanding is that the ramps will be done next year while the line is bus-operated (again) during the track reconstruction on Bathurst Street.
Further to Annika’s comments: It would be helpful if the TTC, when it posted new information, took down the old. It would also be helpful if the TTC posted new information somewhere prominent, instead of somewhere out of the way. And they might put some decent information out on the sidewalk at St. Clair West station. Or have a couple of controllers out there, one for each side of the street.
Now that I’ve vented, I’ll just observe that so far I think these aspects of the project could have been handled better by a high school class doing a project — seriously. They would have worked out the best way to communicate improtant information. I guess nobody gets Fs at the TTC.
I, for one, am looking forward to St. Clair West Station becoming operational again. The riders of the 90 Vaughan Rd bus have started to look like they’re going to riot. Constantly changing schedules, stops, routes and the inconsistencies in service–it’s all pushing them to the brink.
Hopefully the return of SCW will alleviate these woes a bit.
Steve, thanks for the update on St. Clair West Station and for asking about the shelters. If the Vice-Chair can’t get answers on the shelters than we really are in trouble. I believe the contractor spent about one day installing the beginnings of shelters at Deer Park and Avenue Road. My fear is that some sort of technical problem was encountered and work had to be stopped.
Do you think a prototype shelter was constructed? If it was, it should have been installed at one of the stops to make sure it could be actually installed and was functional in the real world. There are a lot of stops on St. Clair. A good shelter design that can be efficiently installed is essential to the overall project.
The project website was updated yesterday. Unfortunately the only change I could see is to do with parking in the St. Clair and Dufferin area. The site still links to this flyer suggesting that the shelters would be installed in October and this flyer indicating St. Clair West Station loop would be re-open September 1st.
The project website should be kept up to date and accurate.
I blame both the TTC and the contractor for this issue at St. Clair West station. You would think the TTC would provide the blueprints of everything in that station, so we would not have this problem. Then you got the contractors, who in turn does not save money for the TTC and it would of been cheaper to hire TTC staff and do the job themselves. But why would you run electric wires in the floor? Yet another bondoogle for the transit rider to deal with, and yet another reason to drive where you need to go, in the mind of the rich commuter.
Steve: As mentioned in my reply to a previous comment, it turns out that the wires in question were not on the “as built” drawings of the station. This caught everyone by surprise. Obviously a dumb design (or a quick workaround) by the contractor who built the place 30 years ago, but that’s a moot point now.
Every time I go to use transit on St. Clair (at least twice daily) I remind myself that it will all be worth it when construction is completed. But there times when I’ve wondered if the TTC is just trying to make our lives a little extra miserable so when everything is done and running as expected, it feels like relative bliss.
@Annika: Although Steve’s update had a little more depth, Mihevc advised his constituents through his newsletter of the wire-related delay weeks ago. So while I’m sure there’s always room for improvement in the communication department, as a constituent, I have the impression that Mihevc is doing his level best to keep folks in the loop and get TTC moving as quickly as possible.
John FitzGerald’s comment is accurate, and points, again!!, to the poor job the TTC does communicating anything. I went through St. Clair West the other day, for the first time in months. The sign at concourse level, advising people to proceed through the walkway to street level on the south side of St. Clair, is truly a work of art, composed of novel material, but hardly impressive as a professional means of communication. And once up to the street on the south side of St. Clair, it is less than obvious that one has to walk west to get to a streetcar island, especially for those who might be in the neighbourhood for the first time and possibly a bit disoriented. They just don’t seem to get how to communicate concisely and effectively.
Walt: Are you referring to the duct tape wayfinding signs?
I thought they looked horrible, but I’m now wondering if it really should be treated as a piece of modern art, symbolic of all that is wrong at St. Clair West.
Sean: I found that duct tape on the wall rather amusing and pathetic at the same time. lol
The TTC has to be one of the most unprofessional communicators for an organization (public and private) that I’ve ever seen.
Not sure where to put this question….
Is any consideration being given to the impact of snow in planning for the Transit City ROWs? St. Clair has had problems this past week and the SRT has shown it doesn’t navigate the white stuff very well.
Steve: The biggest problem, according to a story in the Globe, was that the City’s plough crews didn’t know they were supposed to not block the streetcar track with huge snowdrifts. This is to be fixed for the next storm. We shall see. As for the SRT it suffers from two problems: ice buildup on the power rails and ice buildup on the linear induction motor which has very tight clearance to the track structure.
TTC also made a huge blunder with the right-of-way design by the combination of a narrow ROW and centre poles. These make it difficult, if not dangerous, for bus operations. A chorus of “we told you so” comes in here.
Do you know if other cold cities with LRT have any tricks to help with the snow?
Steve: Streetcar and LRT cities have dealt with snow forever. The “trick” is to (a) not plough snow from the roadway onto the streetcar tracks, and (b) get rid of whatever does build up there. Lines with open track (like a railway) have the advantage that several inches of snow can accumulate between the rails. However, this type of construction is not suitable for shared use with buses. See comments about buses and centre poles above.
When I think back to That Big Storm when His Worship Mel called in the army, one of the most frustrating things for this non-car owner was all the cars that were parked on streetcar routes even when there was no curbside lane because of the snow drifts — I recall one trip on the Dundas car from Dufferin to University that took over an hour because every few blocks some of the passengers would have to get out and move cars off the tracks to let the streetcars pass. On the one hand, the ROW provides a physical barrier to keep the cars off the tracks, but on the other hand, it seems to also be a good place for snow to accumulate. Is this something we should be concerned about?
I’m fascinated by the incompetence of TTC staff. However, I would have thought the Vice-Chair of TTC, Joe Mihevc who’s also one of Toronto’s Councillors whose boundary takes in the 512 route from Yonge to Vaughan and beyond, would have the power to take action on behalf of his constituents. Obviously Joe is more intent in supporting the TTC than his residents.
I’ve been following the saga of 512 street car shelters for most of this year, and it’s obvious there’s very little control at the TTC from the top down in terms of honesty toward its passengers.
As an example, here’s a sample of my questions to Joe’s office as well as his staff’s reply to me.
From the Public Consultation Unit, City of Toronto:
From Joe’s office to me:
From me to Joe’s office:
From me to Joe’s office:
From Joe’s office to me:
From me to Joe’s office:
From Joe’s office to me:
From Alan Simons (me), to Joe’s office:
Pathetic, isn’t it. Total misinformation and incompetence!
Steve: I have rearranged this note to put the items in chronological order starting at the top for easy reading.
The St. Clair project website was updated today. I could not see any changes on the main page but, buried in the site, I did find a link to this notice regarding a public meeting on December 12th. The meeting will include a construction update and discussion of the portion of phase 3 from Vaughan to Westmount.
I’ve noticed some small progress with the new shelter installation. Now both the east and westbound stops at Dear Park and Avenue Rd. have the skeletons of shelters in place. I noticed work happening on a Sunday afternoon. A weekend hobby project it seems. By my count, only 13 more frames to erect and then roof and wall panels would be nice.
Maybe an explanation about the shelters will be provided at next week’s meeting.
Just a follow up to my comment above.
At 9:40pm last night, a crew was working on the shelter at the eastbound Avenue Rd. stop. I noticed roof panels and railing in place. It would appear that an effort is being made.
Regarding the Community Design Consultation Group meeting next week. I enquired as to whether this is a public meeting and was told the public can come and observe and it may be possible to ask questions of city staff.
I haven’t seen much publicity regarding this meeting so for those eager for information on the project, here are the details:
Community Design Consultation Group meeting
December 12, 2007, 7:00 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.
Piccinini Community Centre (Nursery Room lower level)
1369 St. Clair Avenue West.
Just a quick update, they were finishing up the shelter on the westbound stop at Avenue Road last night at 8:30 pm. I had seen them earlier at 5:30pm working on the eastbound shelter. That’s a on a Sunday night.
This evening I attended the St. Clair CDGC meeting for the stretch from Vaughan to Westmount (Dufferin). An update on current construction was also included.
The technical issues with the new shelters have been resolved and the rest of them should be up within weeks (do you believe it?). Vaughan and Bathurst will be next – this week (do you believe it?). I think most of us will have to see it to believe it.
Apparently the stops at Northcliffe and Lauder were to have been eliminated but are back on due to local lobbying. The stop at Wychwood is to be eliminated. Not much argument about this one at the meeting but I’m sure there will be a fight to preserve it.
Lot’s of other stuff, but I’m too tired right now. Meeting minutes and the design presentation should be posted here, but I’m not sure when.
I wonder if any stops, in the end, will disappear…
My recent column on St. Clair is now up, here: