TORONTO – Construction on the Gardiner Expressway has caused gridlock for commuters and is cutting into the bottom line of cab companies in Toronto.
“Construction is hurting cab drivers big time,” said Sajid Mughal, president of iTaxiworkers, a union for Toronto taxi drivers. “It’s almost faster to walk. People take the TTC, or walk, or bike. We used to be very busy during rush hour but now we’re just sitting there.”
Portions of the highway are closed for repairs over the next two years while crews do structural rehabilitation and replace a crumbling bridge deck. The construction work has led to lane closures causing massive traffic delays and leading to more expensive cab rides.
Mughal says a taxi ride from the downtown area to Pearson International Airport usually costs around $55, but now costs closer to $70. He also says travel times have been affected, as a ride which normally takes 30-35 minutes now takes closer to an hour.
The increasing costs and travel times means people are looking for alternate means of transportation when heading to the airport.
“They are using the TTC, flat rate limos, or even calling their friends for a ride,” said Mughal.
The construction on the Gardiner has also caused headaches for businesses along the roadway, as customers find it difficult to reach their location.
Katerina Saviolidis, a senior event co-ordinator at the Palaise Royale, a space located at the foot of Roncesvalles on the Lake Shore, says the traffic has been a “nuisance.”
“Construction is affecting the time of arrival, as guests aren’t expecting the delays. For large events it’s been more of a nuisance,” she said.
Saviolidis said while the construction hasn’t affected the company’s bookings so far it has clients wondering about the logistics of events.
“People will still book with us because of our location on the water, but I do have clients wondering if they will have access to things like our parking lot,” she said.
The traffic delays plaguing drivers aren’t expected to improve anytime soon as intermittent lane closures began along Lake Shore Boulevard last week, as crews begin resurfacing the road ahead of the 2015 Pan Am Games.
Mughal is blaming the city for a lack of planning between the construction projects.
“The city, the staff is not well co-ordinated. They will block three or four streets at the same time,” he said. “In New York there is a lot more traffic but it still runs. The construction work here is very poorly managed.”
Mughal isn’t the only one blaming city staff. Simultaneous construction along the two major Toronto roadways sparked a sharp response from mayoral candidate John Tory last week, who criticized the city for not consulting on the two projects.
“I’m told in this case, they didn’t. How else could we explain the fact that they end up doing the same thing at the same time?” Tory said. “It’s either grossly inconsiderate, or I’m right, which I know I am, that they didn’t talk to each other. Either one is unacceptable.”
Stephen Buckley, the city’s manager of transportation services, denied Tory’s assertions stating he was at the table for both discussions and both projects are absolutely necessary.
© Shaw Media, 2014