January 5, 1999

Parked cars create traffic nightmares
By Jim Rankin
Toronto Star Staff Reporter
The first day of business after the storm proved to be a headache for transit users, thanks to motorists who left vehicles blocking downtown streetcar routes.

Police and tow trucks were kept busy throughout the day yesterday, with call after call for vehicles parked on, or too close to, TTC tracks.

With each call, hundreds of TTC passengers and motorists were left sitting in traffic gridlock. Some walked around the blockages, while motorists were forced to take detours on snow-laden side streets.

Mayor Mel Lastman's snow emergency, which he declared Sunday, obviously wasn't so urgent to those who caused the problems.

``It's gotten ridiculous,'' Toronto police Constable Paul Krawczyk said, after ordering a van towed from Carlton St. just west of Parliament St.

``Everybody is parking on the tracks.''

That single van - left parked too close to streetcar tracks - caused a backup of about a dozen streetcars and meant a delay of close to an hour for some passengers.

``I don't even know how many times this has happened today,'' said one frustrated TTC driver caught in that jam.

``It makes you wonder what they're thinking. It really, really makes you wonder,'' the driver said, shaking his head.
For all the frayed nerves and frustrated passengers, the fine for blocking a track is only $20, if paid on time, Krawczyk said.

It was a scene played out throughout downtown. For the most part, the people who parked the vehicles would show up before the tow trucks, which were in high demand yesterday for traffic accidents.

Five downtown streetcar routes had ``major problems'' with blocked tracks, TTC spokesperson Marilyn Bolton said.

``It was terrible, it really was,'' Bolton said.

On Sunday, the main problem was abandoned cars. Most of those had been cleared up by yesterday, only to be replaced by other vehicles, many of them delivery trucks.

There were also delays underground. Several subway trains, disabled by the cold temperatures and snow in the morning, caused platforms to fill with passengers, Bolton said.

``We're doing the best we can, and sometimes, quite frankly, it isn't enough. We don't usually get this much snow all at once,'' Bolton said.

As far as parking goes, if your car, truck or van was sitting on a marked snow route last night, you may have to visit a towing compound this morning to get it back.

As of 8 p.m. last night, vehicles left on snow routes were subject to towing.

``This is when we go into effect with the emergency snow measures. If they are parked on a street that is signed as a snow route, they will be tagged and towed at their expense,'' said Staff Sergeant Bob Skinner of east Toronto's parking enforcement unit. The unit began tagging and towing cars left on major thoroughfares Sunday night. For the most part, there weren't too many vehicles to remove.
``They are being looked after like it was normal circumstances - Jarvis St., Yonge St., Avenue Rd., all those sort of rush hour routes,'' Skinner said.

It could be days before police will be able to say just how many vehicles had to be towed under the snow emergency edict, Skinner said.

The emergency imposed by Lastman - the first in 16 years - went into effect Sunday night and lasts until 11:59 p.m. tomorrow. It bans parking on major thoroughfares, including Yonge and Bloor Sts., University Ave. and Jarvis St.

A drive through the city was all one needed to get an idea of how many streets have yet to see a snowplow.

Little Italy's narrow roads were lined with buried vehicles. In the odd spot where someone had managed to dig out their car, recycling boxes and garbage cans were left on the street to mark the spot and ensure all the hard work they did clearing it wouldn't become someone else's find.