A Post Mortem for St. Clair’s Construction

The January TTC agenda includes a report about the lessons learned from the St. Clair construction project and their implications for work on Transit City.

While it is refreshing to see anything the TTC does held up to the cold light of review, I can’t help feeling that the tone avoids the question of why this project ran out of control for so long.  The covering report states:

TTC considers the St. Clair Streetcar experience as an important stepping stone in the evolution of LRT in Toronto which began with the Spadina LRT, then Harbourfront LRT to the St. Clair project. This invaluable experience is an important guide in the delivery of the Transit City program.

That’s not saying much.  Toronto has now built three pseudo-LRT lines over two decades.  The first, Harbourfront, is due for a major redesign with the reconstruction of Queen’s Quay.  That line also features a connection at Union that was woefully inadequate for the demands placed on it, despite claims to the contrary by TTC engineers.

The Spadina LRT, a scheme that took 25 years from proposal to implementation, was a bit better, but like Harbourfront, still suffered from traffic signal timings that favoured road over transit operations.  This has still not been fully addressed even though the line opened in 1997.

Much was expected for St. Clair, a chance to “get it right”, but this project was plagued by:

  • conflicting and changing demands for the use of road space
  • a design process that produced detailed plans too late for proper public review (they appeared while the work was already out to tender), and that inevitably led to construction periods spanning winter months
  • a construction process involving multiple agencies and contractors with nobody in overall control

St. Clair did not “get it right”.  Now that the line is open to Lansdowne, we can see just how appallingly the TTC manages service on a route where there is no excuse for chronic bunching, wide gaps and short turns.  This comes just as the TTC attempts to gain credibility for Transit City as an improvement in suburban transit services.  St. Clair is not a shining example. Continue reading