I read last week in the Toronto Star that City Councillor Michael Walker is currently opposed to the St. Clair LRT Proposal because meetings were held in his neighbourhood and concerns were raised about car traffic build-up and increases in drivers cutting through the neighbourhood.
There are two reasons that this may be dismissed.
The first reason is based on the circumstances of Councillor Walker's ward. He covers the area of St. Clair between Spadina and Yonge. From my experience (I haven't checked the numbers) this feels like the least busy part of the street. It is therefore the place least likely to be affected by cut-through traffic. Furthermore, if you examine the map, cutting through seems unlikely since there are not any alternative routes for drivers having trouble on St. Clair. If anything, a median streetcar right-of-way would block drivers turning to take a shortcut up Forest Hill Road. And finally, since there are so few businesses along this strech of St. Clair, there is the least need for parking. Without a parking lane there, the traffic flow on this part of St. Clair should not be greatly affected.
The second reason -- which I feel is more important and also applies to the entire length of St. Clair -- is that in the long run, not upgrading the St. Clair streetcar will make the automobile traffic situation worse.
We are in a growth era here in Toronto. Car traffic will continue to grow along St. Clair. If we don't protect the streetcar's right-of-way -- in other words, if we don't implement a transit strategy -- we are going to find that as the car traffic grows, the streetcars will also become less effective. As that happens, they will attract fewer riders and we will find even more cars on the street. It is a self-reinforcing problem.
Toronto is growing, and there is nothing we can do about that. We can either plan to avoid gridlock, or we better expect it.