Recently, BlogTO posted an article on how Roncesvalles businesses are struggling during the reconstruction, a reminder of the importance of supporting local businesses during the holiday season. The BIA urges all Roncesvalles residents, please, to brave the occasional dust blast (and chilly breeze), and drop by your local shops, services and restaurants. We need you now more than ever!
The article mentions several business closures, although it is not clear that all these closures were due to the reconstruction. What is certain, however, is that business is down, and the 30 percent drop that Len McAuley from Pollocks reported sounds typical for the street. Is there way of mitigating the disruption during the second phase of construction (to begin in the spring with the streetcar track and sidewalk repairs)?
In addition to urging continued local support for Roncesvalles businesses, the BIA would like to ask community members for their observations of how this first phase of construction has been managed. What can be done better to ensure that the second phase proceeds as smoothly as possible? Good suggestions should be incorporated into the tender document, which the City and TTC will send out shortly.
Here are some sample observations, and a few suggestions:
1) Do more to ensure pedestrian movement: Quite often during the first phase, pedestrians were required to walk a block or more out of their way just to cross the street. This effectively cut off businesses from half their customers. The new contract should state that pedestrian crossings shall be maintained at each block except when this is absolutely impossible. Each hour that a pedestrian crossing was closed made a difference to businesses across the street.
2) Manage the dust: Perhaps even more than parking and car access, dust and noise were main factors keeping customers off the street. The jackhammers only lasted a week or so out front of a business, but the dust remained far longer. This meant that whenever a bus drove by, a huge cloud of dust was stirred up and thrown into people’s faces. Even after the first blast, micro particles would linger in the air, making the street unpleasant for everyone and intolerable for those with allergies.
3) Contain the mess: Right now, there are several blocks along the street that are finished but still closed off due to staging materials. Wherever possible, the City should insist that staging materials be kept on the same block where work is occurring or just one block adjacent. Whenever a block can be opened up, however partially, it should be.
4) Preserve bike parking: whenever bike posts must be removed in order to reconstruct the sidewalk, temporary bike parking should be provided nearby. Car parking may need to be restricted along Roncesvalles, but there is no reason bike parking should be.
5) Accept time-based transfers at all Roncesvalles stops, allowing TTC riders forced to switch vehicles at Queen/King/Roncesvalles to shop a bit before resuming travel without requiring use only at designated transfer locations. A similar program has been in place on St. Clair.
6) Bonuses for speedy completion of work should be included in the construction contract
The community has always understood that the reconstruction work is long overdue and is absolutely necessary to avoid having streetcars run off their rails. And disruption is inevitable with any reconstruction. But there is always room for improvement in how such things are managed. Let’s make sure the lessons learned during this first phase are incorporated into the second!