TABIA Vice President, Lionel Miskin’s response to Recent Article in Globe & Mail Re: St. Clair Transitway
The Toronto St. Clair transitway is no ‘disaster’ zone: it teems with life – The Globe & Mail
Written by: Marcus Gee
Published: April 26, 2019
Re: St. Clair is no ‘disaster’ zone: It teems with life
Whether something is a disaster depends on who you are. For us here in Toronto the current flooding in Ottawa and Quebec is not a disaster; but it sure is for those who are losing their homes. The construction on St. Clair is not a disaster for the current businesses, but it certainly was for those businesses who failed during the construction.
As Vice-president of TABIA I heard constantly the sad stories of those businesses, most of them small, often family-run, businesses which had been built by those families and for whom the income was vital to pay their mortgages, food bills and tuition for their children. These were stories of anxiety and fear as these businesses sank into loss positions. And it is not merely the business owners and their families. They had employees with families, all sadly affected.
Notwithstanding, throughout it all, I never heard a single suggestion that this, and other transit projects, should not be done. The request was simply to do it in a way that doesn’t destroy us.
There are many things which could have been done which would have ameliorated the damage, such as: arranging to accommodate better parking for business customers; providing free customer parking on side streets and conveniently located parking lots; when barriers are necessary for safety, use ones which can more easily be removed when work in that location is not in progress and re-installed when work resumes (barrier removal in evening hours when so much shopping occurs, and on weekends etc.); find nearby areas where equipment and vehicles can be stashed when not being used (parks or vacant lots for example) rather than blocking visibility and access to store fronts; use vacant buildings (of which there were sufficient), for on-site construction offices, rather than huge trailers blocking traffic, pedestrians and visibility; provide large easy-to-see appropriate signage for each business. With a bit of ingenuity, I am sure that any number of other things could have been done to minimize the damage.
None of this is rocket science. It’s just common sense. Yes! It would have added a little expense to the construction budget, but that extra expense would have been miniscule both in comparison to the entire budget and to the loss to the businesses.
The fact is that no one cared. There was absolutely no respect, empathy, courtesy, or regard. Whatever aid was offered was so token as to be laughable. The business people were treated as so much collateral damage. And of course no compensation was offered for business losses. Such cost should be built into the construction estimates when the project is in the planning stage along with logistics to minimize the collateral damage. Some cities are trying to deal with that, Los Angeles and Montreal for example. Toronto incessantly pays lip service to supporting small business, but that’s all it is, lip service. After the St. Clair disaster was complete, we heard a lot of: “We’ve learned from that and it won’t happen again”; but look at Eglinton now. It is totally shameful and a blot on the City to build a transit system on the backs of families who are trying to make a living in a very difficult environment.