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Sunday, October 24, 2010

Fisking Ward 21 Councillor Joe Mihevc: "The St. Clair Streetcar fiasco wasn't my fault" (or words to that effect)

Joe Mihevc issued an 11th hour press release before tomorrow's election. Now for the Fisking of Joe:
Also, it is important to remind everyone about St. Clair’s cost and construction timeframe because misinformation is being spread about this too. The streetcar line’s original budget ($64 million) [ The Toronto Sun reported, " In 2004, the 6.8 km of dedicated streetcar track, between Yonge St. and the Gunn’s loop, was to cost $48 million and take three years.] did not substantially increase; the fact is that the scope of the project increased. [The Toronto Star: The report, which will be presented to the TTC on Wednesday, notes it was never clear whether the transit company or the city was in charge of the project, with both making design changes almost as "an afterthought" after the work had started, escalating both the cost and period of time the street was in upheaval.]  Two major additions to the scope were burying the Hydro lines (because the businesses asked for it [The cited Sun article reports, " the city decided to put hydro wires underground along St. Clair"]  and the lines were due to be replaced in five years anyway) and replacing the water pipes (because of the higher standards demanded by the Walkerton water report). This cost about $40 million and increased the timeframe of construction. Further, the start of construction was delayed 18 months because of a failed lawsuit against the city and the city allowed Enbridge to take the opportunity to replace its cast iron pipes with PVC. The construction of the streetcar line and the new streets and sidewalks in Ward 21 only took about 8 months! 
[Toronto Sun: "The St. Clair streetcar right-of-way was a disaster because of changes to the plan, a lack of leadership, too many small-time contractors, a lengthy legal battle, and an overly sympathetic province, according to a report by transportation experts Len Kelman and Richard Soberman."]

Anyone who has been to St. Clair knows the street is more vibrant than it has ever been, with many of our old favourite shops and restaurants and many new businesses and patios. Both Business Improvement Associations (BIAs) in Ward 21 are supportive of the streetcar, and have worked closely with me on many shop local initiatives over the years.  ["We told them all that – there was no clear manager; it was like renovating a house without a general contractor," said Connie Lamanna, owner of the Ontario Fashion shop on St. Clair W. and chair of the Corso Italia Business Improvement Area, which opposed the project.]

TTC statistics show that peak time ridership on the 512 St. Clair streetcar route today is up about 50 per cent from 2009 before the new line opened (it is up 25 per cent from 2005 pre-construction). Further, during peak periods, travel time has been reduce by 14 per cent and during off-peak times the service is up to 25 per cent faster. The route is providing much-improved service and people are responding positively by using the route more often.
[The Toronto Star: "With no clear boss, constantly changing plans and too many small contractors crowding the job site, Toronto's controversial St. Clair streetcar line cost more time, money and local anguish than necessary, says an independent review requested by the TTC."]

This is from the TTC Commissioned Report:

“Getting it Right”

Lessons from the St. Clair Streetcar for the Implementation of Transit City

Les Kelman and Richard M. Soberman

7 January 2010
Reconstruction of the St. Clair streetcar route is intended to improve service reliability and enhance urban design features of the local streetscape. In September 2004, City Council approved a capital investment of about $48 million to proceed with the project, subsequently amended to $65 million as a result of a more through analysis of estimated completion costs.

According to the 2010-2014 TTC and City budgets, the estimated total expenditure for St. Clair is now $106 million. The most recent estimate of project completion (June 2010) results in a total implementation period of more than five years, considerably longer than anticipated.

These additional costs and delays have raised concerns about the ability of the City and the TTC to deliver projects, on budget, in a timely manner. Delay in project completion is also one of the reasons why this project has generated a general perception that unnecessary hardships were created for residents and businesses.

More from Joe here 
What was that about misinformation???

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