Chinatown store owners worry Spadina replacement bus bad for business

Store owners in Chinatown are worried that the Spadina replacement buses are bad for business. Dilshad Burman reports.

By Dilshad Burman

The replacement buses on Spadina Avenue have no doubt been inconvenient for drivers and transit users alike, with a marked increase in congestion and rush hour travel times.

The swap from streetcars to buses is also proving to be a headache for businesses in Chinatown, through which the 510 route runs.

Streetcars were replaced by buses on June 23 to accommodate a number of upgrades including critical track work, modernizing overhead powerlines and work to prep for a future platform extension at Spadina Station.

The work is expected to last until at least December.

The chair of the Chinatown BIA says he’s hearing a few repeated concerns from area businesses.

“I know that business owners are concerned about loading and unloading. They’re also concerned about the congestion. They say that traffic is three times as bad,” says Tony Louie, who also owns Grossman’s Tavern.

“People are coming into the area fighting for whatever that’s left of the two lanes. And if we have double parking that makes it even worse.”

The owner of Gwartzman’s Art Supplies says delivery drivers already have to double park outside her business due to a lack of parking spots, and the buses are making it worse.

“When we had the street cars, at least it was just regular traffic. Now we are competing with the buses as well as the regular traffic,” she says.

Tap Phong Trading Co. is having similar issues with deliveries.

“That is definitely a concern for us in terms of delivery and navigating, but I think it’s just one of those situations where obviously it’s beyond our control,” says Lily Tran, manager of the family business.

Those making deliveries are feeling the pain too.

“If you even try to leave here in rush hour, trying to even just get on the highway, it’s impossible,” says Cody who operates his own courier service.

“I’ve only done four deliveries today. I could do 20 in a day. If there’s no traffic, I could do 30.”

Gwartzman says she’s expressed her concerns at the Chinatown BIA’s meetings with the TTC, but the responses were less than encouraging.

“[I asked] how are you going to accommodate us when we want to receive our shipments? How are the trucks going to come down?” she says.

“I said, ‘what accommodation is there?’ And they had none. There was no thought to it. They hadn’t even realized it was going to be a problem.”

TTC spokesperson Stuart Green says the added buses are not the sole cause of traffic problems on Spadina.

“We appreciate the congestion is frustrating for everyone on Spadina – including us. However, at the busiest times we are adding only a couple dozen buses. The rest of those vehicles are not the TTC’s,” he says.

Business owners are also concerned about how switching to buses along the route is going to affect foot traffic in the area. As CityNews’ Spadina Sprint highlighted, transit users can be stuck on the Spadina bus for an hour or more and that could be a deterrent to traveling to the Chinatown area.

“With the buses and the amount of traffic, our concern is that people won’t want to come down to the area and visit the small businesses that are around here,” says Gwartzman.

“People do not show up if they cannot get to a place where they can shop. And for example, if they have to carry some heavy items, without a car, it’s just impossible to come into the area. It’s not easy to get around sometimes with the public transport system,” adds Louie.

Currently, the BIA is meeting with the TTC once a week to monitor the situation.

“[We are looking at] if things need to be improved, whether we need more loading zones, whether we need to increase the number of buses or rerouting. We are in ongoing meetings [with them],” says Louie.

Last week, the TTC announced that the 510 replacement bus service would be modified to alleviate afternoon gridlock and congestion on the south end of the route.

The buses no longer operate between Front Street West and Queen’s Quay West between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. on weekdays, skipping the stops at Spadina and Fort York Boulevard and Queen’s Quay.

There is also enhanced service on the 511 Bathurst route to divert customers away from the busy Spadina stretch.

“We continue to work with the city on other mitigation measures,” says Green.

Meanwhile, Tran says they’re trying to take it in stride.

“If you live in Toronto, you’re eventually going to come [up against] construction. So it’s an inevitability. Is it an inconvenience? I’m sure it is, but it’s just one of those ‘perks’ of living in a big city and the infrastructure changing,” she says.

“We will hear stories about it being a chore to get down here, but again, it’s just one of those headaches that a lot of Torontonians are used to and just find a way to navigate … we’re just trying to be a little bit more patient and if we do that, hopefully we’ll get through it quicker.”

Top Stories

Top Stories

Most Watched Today