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February 9, 2015 – Residents and TTC staff argue over potential impact of McNicoll bus garage

Local seniors cite number of concerns over proposed project in north Scarborough

Scarborough-Mirror By Rahul Gupta
A representative from a north-Scarborough church is accusing the TTC of disregarding future traffic volumes in its haste to build the McNicoll bus garage.

Vincent Ching is opposed to the bus facility planned for industrial land owned by the city at the intersection of McNicoll Avenue and an expanded Redlea Avenue, south of the Scarborough Baptist Church located at 3223 Kennedy Rd.

According to Ching, chair of the church’s board of directors, the TTC is ignoring findings from a traffic study commissioned by another McNicoll neighbour, the Mon Sheong Foundation Long Term Care Facilities, which forecasts increased congestion levels arising from future condo construction proposed as part of Pacific Mall redevelopment plans.

“They say Redlea will be the saving grace for traffic, but they only accounted for the buses,” Ching said following a public consultation organized by the TTC for the McNicoll bus garage which was held Thursday, Feb. 5, at Mary Ward Catholic Secondary School.

Ching said he’s worried traffic from TTC buses entering and leaving the facility via Redlea will add to already-congested conditions.

“When it was planned 20 years ago, Redlea Avenue wasn’t intended to accommodate a bus garage,” he said.

TTC spokesperson David Nagler said the majority of buses serving the garage will run along Redlea outside of rush hour periods.

He said traffic counts of existing volumes, which were presented at Thursday’s meeting updating work on a project study for the garage, show TTC buses have a minimal effect on existing conditions at Kennedy and McNicoll.

Nagler also pointed out having better public transit service in the area could convince people to forgo driving and take the TTC instead.

“Any future condo development at Steeles – or otherwise – makes a stronger case for the need to improve transit and the construction of the McNicoll Bus Garage,” said Nagler via email Monday, Feb. 9.

Nagler disagreed with Ching’s opinion there hasn’t been enough consultation for the McNicoll plan, saying the TTC has provided enough opportunity for public feedback on the study which it must complete to satisfy provincial requirements.

He said the TTC had also communicated prior to last Thursday’s meeting its willingness to hold further discussions with opponents of the project.

“Quite the opposite of how it has been presented, TTC is more than willing to meet and discuss Mon Sheong’s traffic report or any other interests they have,” he said.

Despite the opposition, which also includes Scarborough-Agincourt Councillor Jim Karygiannis, TTC staff have continued to advocate building the bus garage to address an acute lack of bus storage space in the east end.

One of its many benefits for local transit users, according to a presentation made at Thursday’s meeting, is the reduction of “dead heading” – the time a bus spends out-of-service – which will improve bus service in Scarborough overall.

The TTC has also already agreed to amend the site design by moving the garage’s vehicle entrance north from the busy Kennedy/McNicoll intersection. The city also plans to expand Redlea by 2016 to ease traffic levels.

Toronto City Council, which endorsed the McNicoll project study last year before the municipal election, has not yet indicated how it will come up with the $101 million still required to fully fund the project. The TTC has proposed beginning construction on the garage by 2016 and opening it in 2019.

Thursday’s meeting was the third of three official consultations required for the TTC’s report to the province of the facility’s impact, part of a provincial environmental assessment for transit projects which need to be reviewed and approved before construction can begin.

Dozens of seniors from Mon Sheong as well as Bamburgh Manor and the Villa Elegance Seniors Residence were at the meeting with anti-bus garage signs; and breaking into chants throughout. Several members made speeches accusing the TTC of disregarding concerns related to emission levels, noise, traffic and storage of combustible fuel tanks at the garage. During a staff presentation on the project, the TTC countered all of those claims.

Karygiannis found himself playing the role of peacemaker after some participants refused to leave at the conclusion of the meeting, complaining they hadn’t had enough time to voice their concerns during the question-answer period which took up approximately half of the more than two-hour meeting.

Karygiannis promised to help organize another public meeting with the TTC in the near future.

The TTC’s project report on the McNicoll bus garage is scheduled for completion in May with a 30-day public review period after that.