This streetcar stop outside Holy Eucharist Ukrainian Catholic Church on Broadview Avenue, along with 41 others, is to be discontinued by the TTC as of June 7. Photo by Evan Boudreau

TTC ends Sunday streetcar stops outside of churches for ‘safety’

By 
  • May 13, 2015

TORONTO - For almost 100 years in Toronto, thousands of Sunday worshippers have relied on Sunday only streetcar stops to help get them to church on time.

But citing safety issues and the changing face of the city, transit authorities will discontinue that special service on June 7, leaving many seniors, the handicapped and families with children to fend for themselves.

“If it was such a safety issue why did it take so many years to deal with it?” asked Fr. Michael Busch, rector at St. Michael’s Cathedral.

“Has anyone been complaining all these years? It is a difficult thing for them to do, and I understand that, but at the same time the elderly, those who cannot afford cars, they are going to be greatly affected by it.”

The cathedral is not directly on a streetcar line — it is a short walk from the Dundas and Queen Street lines — so the impact there is less than on many other churches. But Busch feels for other downtown parishes.

Among Catholic parishes affected are St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Church, St. Helen’s, St. Paul’s Basilica, St. Stanislaus Kostka, Holy Eucharist Ukrainian Catholic Church, Holy Family, St. Mary’s Ukrainian Catholic Church and St. Mary’s Dormition Ukrainian Catholic Church.

“For us personally it is not a great impact because the streetcar line is on the other side of the cathedral,” said Busch. “Most of our people come through the subway so it is not a huge deal for us.

“But I know for many of the other parishes in the inner city it is quite a big deal. Many people cannot afford to have cars these days and to remove that stop puts a little bit more stress on them getting to church.”

The loss of the Sunday-only stops outside of churches is part of a larger Toronto Transit Commission strategy to cut 800 streetcar stops in its system.

The decision to discontinue Sunday church stops was initially reported as a matter of fairness because these were outside Christian churches and a similar service was not offered for mosques or temples, said a TTC spokesman. He suggested the change was part of the reality of Toronto becoming a secular society. “It’s just about ensuring there is some equity ... we don’t have similar stops for temples or mosques or other places of worship,” Brad Ross told media.

However, Danny Nicholson, a spokesperson for the TTC, subsequently said the move was primarily motivated by safety concerns.

“That (equity) was taken into some consideration, but the main reason is the safety issue and the improvement to the service,” he said, adding that the extra stops cause additional congestion to already busy inner-city streets.

“We would rather have our streetcar stops located where there are traffic lights or crosswalks. (And) where these Sunday stops are located the regular stop is only about 100 metres away so it will actually speed up our service.”

Neil MacCarthy, a spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Toronto, said he understands the need to improve the transit system, but penalizing paying customers seems unfair.

“We recognize the need for the TTC to streamline service and stops to maximize efficiency,” he said. “It is important to recognize, however, that thousands of Torontonians rely on public transit to attend regular worship. They provide valuable revenue to the TTC and we would hope that they would be sensitive to the needs of these riders, especially those who are elderly or have mobility issues.”

The TTC does offer door-to-door Wheel-Trans service for disabled passengers, but the limited service requires users to go through an application process.

Churches only learned about the decision in recent weeks. Nicholson said parishes should have received notification letters within a month of the decision, which was approved by the TTC last May. Affected stops will have an advisory posted at them.

“I don’t know why it wasn’t done earlier, but we have a (notification) plan.”

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