Communications gaffes confused many commuters

This Sunday, route 512 streetcars are returning to St. Clair Avenue between Yonge and Bathurst Streets — in new traffic-free lanes. With luck, motorists will stay clear of the heavy TTC vehicles, in contrast to the mix-ups that followed the opening of similar lanes on Spadina Avenue in 1997. At the time an alarming number of autos found their way in front of streetcars — resulting in frequent collisions.


The right-of-way on St. Clair is designed differently, so the upcoming transition from temporary buses to streetcars may go more smoothly, at last bringing reliable service to this prime travel corridor. But be warned — construction along the 512 line will continue over several years, so expect buses to replace trams for limited periods.


This means the TTC has to expend more effort informing customers of planned changes. Although the agency did not report many complaints during the most recent bus/streetcar switchover in early January, my visits to St. Clair showed what I thought were easily avoidable communication gaffes. Crucial direction-giving signs were missing or out of date along the 512 route. Even though extra transit personnel were on hand inside busy St. Clair West station, I saw more than a few confused faces both underground and up on street level.


After reading a complaint from a Metro reader, TTC vice-chair Joe Mihevc asked that transit staff review the signage issue. On February 1, he joined me for a visit to St. Clair West station, where many more signs had been put up in the bus and streetcar loading area.


Afterwards, I travelled to St. Clair station at Yonge and saw much the same thing — plenty of signs pointing riders toward temporary bus bays. Alas, some posters explaining the detours with maps and text were out of date. One was marked July 2005.

For this weekend’s service switch, the TTC’s Jim Teeple tells In Transit there will be a greater effort to advise customers in advance and during the transition. He says riders on board affected vehicles are getting information handouts, and operators are also to announce the changes. He says more supervisors will be in stations and all old signs are to be removed.

The lessons learned from St. Clair will be tested soon — later this month Bloor-Danforth subway trains will start diverting around Bay station during several weekends to permit tunnel repairs. Complicated detours like this are going to require that various TTC departments communicate more effectively among themselves — and with riders.

Updates should be available at soon. Just in case, be ready for the unexpected.