Tuesday, November 29, 2005

SOS Related Costs

In a report tabled to the Commission yesterday at its monthly meeting, TTC Staff have reported a budgetary update. It appears that the legal action and subsequent court injunction on work on the St Clair ROW have amounted to:
$2.7-million

An excerpt from the report:

Cost Implications of the Judicial Review

The most vocal opposition to the establishment of reserved streetcar lanes on St. Clair Avenue was a group called Save Our St. Clair (SOS). When the Minister of the Environment rejected SOS’s request for more work on the environmental assessment, SOS requested a judicial review of Council’s authority to undertake the project. This legal proceeding is proving to be unusually complex and time-consuming and, while this issue is before the courts, the project, whose construction was started in October 2005, has been stopped and is on hold.

As a result of this uncontrollable situation, the project is incurring additional costs which were never planned or budgeted for. These are:

· legal costs associated with the judicial review process;

· contract penalties which result from the court’s decision that the project should not proceed and the associated requirement to suspend the contract construction work which was already underway;

· the cost of replacing streetcars with buses for a longer-than-planned period of time because the streetcar tracks had begun to be dug up and rebuilt and, with construction suspended, the streetcar tracks are not usable;

· the cost of restoring the intersection of Yonge Street/St. Clair Avenue to a safe and operable condition pending resumption of the construction work which was halted; and,

· inflation of costs resulting from the fact that work scheduled for this year will now have to be done in 2006, and the work scheduled for 2006 will have to be shifted to 2007. Additionally, construction material and equipment which were ordered and on property for use in 2005 are currently sitting unused, and there is a cost associated with the TTC carrying these materials.

The cumulative financial effect of this externally-driven disruption and delay to the project is estimated at $2.7 million, the majority of which is attributable to delay-related cost inflation. These costs were not in the original budget and are over and above the originally-projected EFC for the project.

Read the full report

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Are You Poor?

According to one of our commentors, the vast majority of transit riders in Toronto are poor, as a result, would not be able to afford shopping on St Clair. So now I pose to all the transit riders out there, are you poor? Are you taking transit because you cannot afford a vehicle or because you choose to based on convenience?

The comment, and my subsequent response:
Anonymous said...

I wouldnt say 24 percent, but a large number of the 24 Percent take the TTC because they simply cannot afford a car. Why else would you wait in the cold to get on a bus crammed with people. I agree that not all TTC users ride the "Rocket" because they cannot afford a car, but many do and unfortunately these people cannot help an area flourish. The restaurants rely mainly on those who drive.
If there was another lane to play with adding two lanes with a dedicated right of way then it would be a great idea having an ROW put in, but its only a single lane, what will businesses do about deliveries. What if it was you that had everything you owned tied up in a business, would you take the risk?

2:13 PM

TTCtoken said...

So tell me, how do streets such as King Street, Queen Street handle deliveries? During non-rush hours, there are four lanes: two for parking and two for both streetcars and general traffic. Does this mean that they never have goods stocked in their shelves?

Furthermore, your transit = poor comment is appalling. I see plenty of businesspeople in suits on transit every day. Are they too poor to eat out? I don't think so. Yorkville, the most high-class shopping district in the city is hell to drive to. People still drive there, but a good number of patrons there take transit, as it is served by three subway stations.

I take transit. I'm not poor. I lead quite the extravagant lifestyle. It is BECAUSE I take transit that I have an additional $8000 a year because I don't have to spend money on car payments, insurance, or gas. Suffice to say, none of that extra $8000 in disposable income I will spend on St Clair. I'll spend it at the boutiques for the poor on Queen Street West or Bloor Street Yorkville.

5:52 PM

Monday, October 24, 2005

While We Are Waiting...

We're now waiting for the outcome of the city's motion regarding the validity of the court's decision on October 11th. As news reports have previously indicated, a ruling on the motion should be coming this week.

While we're waiting, as stated before, there's a significant increase in the number of comments posted in opposition, largely anonymous. I'm mulling implementing a requirement to be registered with Blogger.com to post comments to eliminate anonymous posts; however, that could stifle debate.

I had long suspected that some of these anonymous posts may be made by the same person. If one checks the comments under the "Pro-ROW" poster post below, there were three separate comments made at 9:19, 9:22, and 9:24pm on the same day, all anonymous. According to the site's statistics counter, only one unique visitor was recorded on the website during that 15 minute period. Despite trying to be three different people, the posts all seem to share similar grammatical style. I'll let the readers make their own judgement.

Debate is between more than one party. One person pretending to be three is not debate, it's spam.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

More About Ted Matlow...

We've done some research (ie, Google) on Justice Ted Matlow, who is the judge named by the city as being the one holding bias. It appears that he had led a multi-year fight against the City and the Ontario Municipal Board against a 14-unit mixed-use development at St Clair Avenue and Spadina Road. I can kind of see a bit of a possible bias that can result from this. Mr. Matlow took the case against the city in a relatively similar situation (albeit on a much smaller scale) and secondly, there could be conflict of interest, as the judge lives in the vicinity of St Clair Avenue. I don't know all my law very well, but this does indeed raise some eyebrows and I think the city has some merit in taking this approach.

From the Town Crier Online:

Residents quit 4-year fight
(Posted Date: Tuesday, July 20, 2004)

By Kris Scheuer


Residents are giving up their four-year battle against a new condo development in the heart of Forest Hill Village.

The application for 453 Spadina Rd. appears on the verge of being approved by the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB).

A residents group formed to fight the proposal says it is withdrawing its opposition as a lost cause.

“I could no longer recommend to our members that they continue to incur costs,” says the group co-head, Ted Matlow, a judge who lives down the street from the proposal.

His group had been fighting the proposal on two fronts: they challenged the validity of the original sale of the land by the city to the developer and the appropriateness of the development for the community.

The developer First Spadina Place has applied for a mixed-use, 14-unit condominium. The site on Spadina Rd. north of St. Clair Ave. West and is currently a parking lot.

City council retroactively approved terms of the land sale agreed to by city staff different from what council had originally recommended in 2000.

The residents group was okay with the original development when it called for 10 town homes.
When residents discovered the contract signed 18 months differed from what council had endorsed, they asked that it be declared invalid.

After several years of legal haggling, city council decided not to question the discrepancies, and approved staff actions.

The developer by-passed city council approval and appealed directly to the OMB. And residents decided they were done fighting.

“We’re not happy with the outcome, but sometimes you have to except the inevitable and I’m glad we did it. It was an awful thing they tried to do and succeeded in doing, but it is better to stand up and make your point and get knocked down trying,” says Matlow.

The city endorsed the developer’s plan at the July 5 hearing.

UPDATE: City Files Motion

City files motion on St. Clair Avenue West Transit Improvement Project

TORONTO, Oct. 19 /CNW/ - Mayor David Miller announced today that the City of Toronto and the Toronto Transit Commission filed a motion requesting that the panel of judges who heard an application concerning the St. Clair Avenue West Transit Improvement project recuse themselves due to a reasonable appearance of bias on the part of one of the Justices.
On October 11, 2005, the Divisional Court of Ontario directed the City and the TTC to discontinue St. Clair Avenue West transit improvement activities. No reasons were issued by the Court at the time the application was granted. The Court stated that the reasons would follow.
The motion filed today states that one Justice on the panel hearing the application previously participated in an action against the City concerning a local land use planning activity. In the opinion of the City and the TTC, the extensive involvement and activities of that Justice could result in a reasonable appearance of bias in the St. Clair matter.
"The decision to file this motion was not made lightly. The City and TTC decided to proceed on the basis of doing what is in the best interests of the public," said Mayor Miller. "We have a responsibility to ensure there is no appearance of bias."
The motion requests that the application be re-heard by another panel of Justices.
The motion, filed in the Divisional Court of Ontario this afternoon, requests that the Court hear this matter next week.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

BStC in Dose - Friday Oct 14


from Page 3 - October 14, 2005

Goldhawk Live: A Quick Review

That was as unproductive of a show as it could get. Constant bickering and even personal attacks created a very hostile debate.

Councillor Mihevc was the sole Pro-ROWer on the show, against Margaret Smith (SOS) and Councillor Walker. There were some outrageous facts and misuse of figures by the Anti-ROW side, pretty much the same ones they've used throughout their campaign - ie, travel time savings, emergency vehicle access, etc. etc.

This was another night where I feel outrageousness had to fight outrageousness. No offence to Councillor Mihevc, but he was way too tame. Either that, or Ms. Smith was just plain rude. The number of times she was asked to stop interrupting either the callers or Mihevc was appalling. I'm sure if anyone else watched last night, one could probably reach the same conclusion.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Media Alert

Here are some things that are coming up that might interest you. Thanks to Sara W. for bringing it to our attention.

GOLDHAWK LIVE - Monday, October 17 - Rogers Television 9:00pm
Should the St. Clair Streetcar have its own dedicated lane?
Guests: Toronto City Councillors Joe Mihevc, Michael Walker and Olivia Chow, Margaret Smith - Save our St Clair

THE MAYOR - Tuesday, October 18 - CP24 8:00pm
Mayor David Miller is on his monthly call-in show. Call and express your support for the ROW.

----

On another note, there have been a number of media requests that we have not been able to attend to because of work and other engagements. If there is anyone who can act as a media person, that would be greatly appreciated. Email us if you're interested.

I was Curious for a Moment..

...why there was a sudden spike in comments being left by Anti-ROW people. We've now caught the attention of SOS...

"3. Support the Shops and Restaurants of St.Clair

I was called today by Dose magazine to comment on the Boycott St.Clair Avenue web site, with the slogan, "because a street against the city does not deserve the city". The site can be found at:


The site asks people to sign a petition ..."


"The site calls the businesses who oppose the ROW "silly". Since when is it silly to care about your livelihood and your community?


It is obvious that the sponsors of this site, (unnamed) do not speak for the "majority" along St.Clair.


We know from our campaign that the majority view along St.Clair opposes exclusive transit lanes. And, specifically, no one who cares about this community would advocate a boycott against the business people of St.Clair. The retail strip forms the backbone of this community. These businesses are already struggling; retail across Toronto has been in a slump since SARS and, in addition, the smaller family-owned businesses on St.Clair are competing against the big box stores and plazas just down the road. The newer start-up businesses are especially fragile. No responsible person who cares about our neighbourhood, on either side of the ROW issue, would jeopardize our common future by calling for a boycott. Fortunately for us, such an action will go no where, and is not to be feared. But I want people to realize that we have stirred up a bit of anger, and that threats and accusations, (such as money from outside Toronto won in court) will be made, but that our cause and the principles that we fight for won't change. Angry people sometimes do silly things, but we will not be stopped."


-Margaret Smith, SOS organizer


Feel free to comment.

In Response to a Comment....

So far, I've noticed that there has been a lot of intelligent debate on most of the posts. This is one posted today I feel I should respond directly to... by the way... it'd be much appreciated that if you leave a comment, your keyboard isn't on caps lock.
John said...

HASNT ANYONE SEEN SPADINA LATELY, THE STREETS A MESS. ADDING A DEDICATED RIGHT OF WAY WILL CREATE MASSIVE TRAFFIC JAMS.

Yes, I have seen Spadina Avenue. I was just there the other day. And the other day. And the other day. I think I've been to Spadina a dozen or so times in the past month. How many times have I been to St Clair (boycott-era excluded)? None. Well... once. But that's Yonge and St Clair. By the way, here's a photo of Spadina. It looks like a mess alright.

CHASING CARS OUT OF THE AREA WILL RUIN BUSINESS. WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME ANYONE DID MAJOR SHOPPING AND THEN CARRIED ALL THERE GOODS ONTO A STREETCAR?

Every single time I shop. I, along with an increasing number of Torontonians either don't own a car or choose not to use it on the regular basis, and that includes when we do major shopping. Why haven't I ever shopped on St Clair? I find it too difficult to get to.

ITS SIMPLY NOT PRACTICAL AND WILL CAUSE BUSINESSES TO CLOSE TURNING THE AREA INTO A STREET FILLED WITH CASH ADVANCES AND CONVIENENT STORES. ASIDE FROM THIS HOW WILL STORES ACCEPT DELIVERIES WITH ONLY A SINGLE LANE. IN MANY CASES LOADING ZONES ARE OCCUPIED BY ILLEGAL PARKERS OR HANDICAP MARKED CARS. IMAGINE A DELIVERY TRUCK BLOCKING TRAFFIC FOR UP TO 10 MINUTES AT A TIME, THIS WOULD SIMPLY CAUSE CHAOS.

Like you said, occupied by illegal parkers. This has nothing to do with the Right-of-Way. Rather, it is an issue that should be brought up with police to patrol and enforce the rules of the road.


IF THE MAKERS OF THIS WEBSITE ARE SO ADIMENT ON IMPROVING PUBLIC TRANSIT PUT THE TIME TO BETTER USE AND CREAT A PRO SUBWAY WEB SITE TO HAVE A SUBWAY PUT UNDER THE GREAT AND PROSPEROUS STREET OF ST CLAIR.

We'd all love to have subways criss-crossing the City of Toronto. But where are we going to find the billions of dollars to build them? The Spadina subway extension to York U/Steeles is still awaiting funding. The Sheppard Subway is half finished with no money in sight. The ROW is a practical, affordable, logical, and proven form of public transit that moves the most people efficiently.

If you feel that a streetcar line is disruptive, what about a subway line? Think of the 7+ years of construction (the time it took to build Sheppard) that will disrupt business. Think of the intense development pressures that will result in 30-storey towers being built in your backyard. Subways spur development, and subways require a certain level of development (ie, towers). A streetcar line provides transit benefits, AND, at the same time, provides a natural barrier to the types of development that will occur, usually limiting to moderate levels of intensification.

LASTLY I WOULD LIKE TO INFORM ALL RESIDENTS OF ST CLAIR THAT BOYCOTTING THE STREET OF ST CLAIR WILL SIMPLY REDUCE HOUSING VALUES, IF BUSINESSES CLOSE SHORTLY AFTER SO WILL VALUES OF HOMES. THE MAKERS OF THIS SITE SHOULD BE ASHAMED AND IF THERE IS ANYTHING TO BE BOYCOTTED IT SHOULD BE THIS SITE.

Scare tactics?

5:05 PM

Thursday, October 13, 2005

More Support...

BStC is continuing to grow in popularity in the blogosphere. DOSE, the daily free newspaper, has contacted us for comment, expect to read something in there soon.

Joining the list of blogs that are supporting us is
UrbanGTA
http://www.urbangta.com/blog/2005/10/boycott-stclair.html

BStC is also being mentioned in numerous personal blogs. Appreciate the support!

From the Toronto Star Today

A letter for, and a letter against...

AGAINST
Plan rammed down street
In the long run, this is about building the infrastructure to allow multicar transit trains

Oct. 12.

I am a resident of the neighbourhood near St. Clair Ave. and Bathurst St. that would have been devastated by the TTC's plans to build a streetcar right-of-way through our community and I am thrilled by the recent court decision to compel the city and the TTC to listen to our concerns. Royson James and Mayor David Miller would like to paint this as a victory for a small group in our community, mostly composed of businessmen on the Corsa Italia, who have managed to block a progressive transit initiative. The opposition to this project is widespread in the area and includes the many citizens who would be adversely affected by it.
ACTUALLY... During the course of public consultation, 75% of residents in the area polled were in support of building the streetcar right-of-way. Furthermore, I'm sure it is safe to assume that the vast majority of the 40,000 riders per day on the St Clair streetcar route would prefer an improved service.
This is a vibrant part of the city with churches, schools, restaurants and bars pouring music onto the street, green grocers, and many small businesses that have begun to build a people-friendly street that will be effectively destroyed by this right-of-way.Miller and our less than helpful councillor Joe Mihevc have suggested we won this case on some technicalities and that they will appeal the decision.
Indeed, the case was won on technicalities, not on the merit of the project. The opposition argued that the city failed to amend its official plan and the argument itself was hugely based on the definition of what rapid transit entails.
They had better look at the decision closely.We won this case because it was clear to the court that the city, the mayor, our councillor and the TTC all refused to consult with our community before ramming this so-called progressive transit plan down our street.
ACTUALLY... the St Clair EA process was exhaustively consulted with the community with dozens of public meetings and continuous input from community members.
I asked on several occasions, as did our ratepayers' association to meet with Mihevc and the TTC. We were offered, instead, the chance to attend information sessions where we were pointedly told there would be no discussion of the plan other than to tell us how good it would be for us. We were not to question the wisdom of the plan, seek a proper environmental review or any alterations to elements of the plan that would damage our community. After months of hammering at them, they finally admitted we had some justified issues but all that was offered were some very minor modifications that totally failed to address the legitimate and acknowledged concerns of the community. It is time your journalists and columnists started asking the city some tough questions and took a close look at the plan. This is not about streetcars. In the long run, it is about building the infrastructure to allow multicar transit trains to move along our streets. The platforms being planned are twice to three times as wide as those that currently exist and significantly longer. This is being planned for other neighbourhoods too, and is not being discussed openly with the communities that will be affected.
In both the TTC's Ridership Growth Strategy and "Building a Transit City", streets such as St Clair have been designated for surface transit improvements. Multi-car transit trains are not mentioned. Wider platforms are for safety purposes and to facilitate the efficient boarding and alighting of passengers. Today's platforms on St Clair are dangerously narrow, causing significant congestion and poses a safety hazard. Longer platforms can allow more than one streetcar to board/alight at once (again, efficiency), and allows the use of articulated (bendy) streetcars that have more capacity. "Trains" of more than one streetcar have been researched by the TTC in the past, this is called multiple-unit operation, where two streetcars are coupled together. This would be no different than an articulated streetcar, and further to this point, there are no streetcars in the fleet right now with this ability.
There are other streets that have been designated for surface transit improvements. It is not a secret, as one can easily find this information in both TTC reports online and in the City's Official Plan. Like St Clair, all these will be subject to Environmental Assessments and community consultation.
In its wisdom, city council opted to build a subway along Sheppard Ave. some years ago and close down the much-needed plans to build a subway along Eglinton Ave. As a result of this terrible, politically motivated decision, we have a transit crisis on our hands. The response of the TTC is a half-baked plan to drive surface trains through our neighbourhoods.
ACTUALLY.... the Eglinton West Subway was not cancelled by the city. The plug was pulled by the provincial Conservative government under Mike Harris in 1995, shortly after construction began. It was this government that ceased to fund any further subway extensions. Subways cost billions of dollars and require land of higher density to support it. It is logical for the city to explore more affordable options, such as this, to improve public transit. This is not a half-baked plan, rather, it is taking existing corridors of high transit ridership and improving them to attract more riders. Toronto is not alone, either, in pursuing surface level transit improvements. You don't even have to look far. York Region recently launched a bus-based rapid transit system, Viva. It, too, will soon have exclusive lanes on their streets for transit to provide reliable, efficient service. Portland, Oregon, has an extensive network of streetcar-based transit running through its urban core. And of course, a large number of European cities have streetcars running in their own right-of-way.
This is not a wise or well-considered response and it is not being discussed openly with the citizens who will be affected. Thank goodness the court has demanded sober second thought. The citizens of St. Clair West do not oppose transit; we do oppose the failure of our elected representatives and our city planners to listen to the community and work with us to plan a solution.
Paul Rainsberry, Toronto

FOR

Living in the past

Oct. 12.

I am absolutely livid at the decision by a provincial court to delay and possibly cancel the TTC's plans for a dedicated streetcar right-of-way on St. Clair Ave. To deny our city's growing need for real investment in public transit is to be living in the past; to actually think that an improved transit line and a beautified streetscape will destroy local business, as opponents of the plan have done, is sheer stupidity. There are a lot of people, myself included, who choose to go elsewhere than St. Clair, not because of the quality of the establishments but because of the ease of getting there. Case in point: Spadina Ave. To be able to catch a streetcar within a minute and make a fast trip from Bloor to, say, Dundas, is something that makes the area accessible for a lot of people, especially tourists and young people. And as gas prices rise and smog continues to choke Toronto, those areas that have fast, convenient transit will ultimately be the ones to prosper. The fact is that a streetcar on a right-of-way can carry far more people than a car, and when it's done right (i.e. with intersection priority and practically placed stops), it can also get you there in far less time. And though there may be better solutions than the TTC's current plan, none of them should involve sacrificing first-class public transit for the convenience of automobiles. Instead of trying to fight for a short-term goal, as these groups have done, perhaps they should focus on ironing out the wrinkles in the plan that is, after all, the better way.
David Fisher, Toronto