Updated June 20 at 2:45 pm: The York Quay Neighbourhood Association issued a press release detailing a meeting between many interested parties and a representative of Mayor Ford’s office. There is very strong support among residents and businesses on Queen’s Quay to get this project underway without it being entangled in political or bureaucratic bungling.
Updated June 10 at 11:15 am: Christopher Hume weighs in on the subject in the Star.
Updated June 8 at 11:30 pm: At today’s Commission meeting, Vice Chair Peter Milczyn moved that this issue be deferred to the July meeting, and suggested that this delay could go longer (the next meeting will be in September). This will allow Waterfront Toronto and Council to formally make the necessary budget adjustments to ensure that the Queen’s Quay work can begin in the fall.
Earlier in the day, at a meeting of Waterfront Toronto’s Design Review Committee, there was a discussion of the political situation as well as the progress of design work. Waterfront Toronto had originally hoped to launch a partial project with funds in the budget as it stood, but finally came to realize that this was not practical. Two options for partial completion were equally unpalatable:
- rebuilding 800 metres of the 1,500 in the entire scheme would leave a difficult transition between the “old” and “new” parts of the street, and would not address the TTC’s need to rebuild all of its track
- rebuilding only the north side of the street and leaving the park, pedestrian and cycling improvements for the future would negate much of the design benefit of the new landscape, and could leave Queen’s Quay permanently half-finished
There are at least four projects whose funding could be reallocated in the short term:
- the regional sports centre
- the Fort York bridge
- the East Bayfront LRT
- the East Bayfront storm water treatment system
With the Ford brothers in power, no LRT will be built in Toronto, and at best we will see a busway in the East Bayfront as a “temporary” measure. How the buses would navigate through extremely congested traffic to reach Union Station is a trick nobody has yet explained. This project has gone from an initial estimate of $150m to $300m, and the delay in reconstruction of Union Station Loop has probably taken us past the point where it could be co-ordinated with other projects in the area.
The storm water treatment system is not planned for construction for 5-7 years, and some of its budget could be “borrowed” to complete the Queen’s Quay west project.
If this is all sorted out, some utility relocation work will be done in fall 2011, and reconstruction of Queen’s Quay from west of Spadina to Bay will begin in March 2012. The work would be completed in one construction season.
Waterfront Toronto will hold a Community Update Meeting on Thursday, June 9 at the Lakeside Terrace from 6 to 8pm.
The design work is now at the 90% level with detailed engineering at 60%. The next round will take this to the point of issuing tender documents. Over the past six months, detailed block-by-block work has been done to resolve many issues along Queen’s Quay, and all parties are now in agreement with the plan. An important change is that the north side of the street has been revised so that the sidewalk space isn’t an afterthought. On the streetcar right-of-way itself, the hoped-for grass median has been replaced by paving because neither the TTC nor the Fire Department were happy with the problems of driving on and maintaining sod. The main illustration on the Central Waterfront page has been updated to reflect the new design, although you can still find grassed version elsewhere.
At the TTC meeting, Councillor Milczyn spoke warmly of the importance of the Queen’s Quay project describing it as “absolutely critical”. This suggests that Mayor Ford and his circle will not oppose the project. Waterfront Toronto has strong support from developers whose East Bayfront projects are not viable without good transit service, and from the Federal government.
Updated June 4 at 3:20 pm: I am prepared to accept that the “June 8″ deadline is a typo given that the phrase “end of June” appears later in the report. However, the report also states that work on the technical documents must begin in “June 2011″ to hit a March 2012 construction start date. At the very least, this is a case a bad editing and lack of attention to detail by the seven people who signed off on the report between May 26 and June 1 as it made its way to the agenda (this info is available only on the hard copy, not online).
Updated June 4 at 1:30 pm: According to TTC spokesperson Brad Ross, there is an error in the report. The request for confirmation of full funding “by the end of June 8″ should read “by the end of June”. A typo, they say.
A report on the TTC agenda for June 8, 2011 proposes that the TTC proceed with design and construction of the tracks on Queen’s Quay “as is” rather than in a modified layout to suit the proposed revisions to Queen’s Quay West.
Although the new Queen’s Quay layout was the product of years of consultation and detailed design, Waterfront Toronto has been slow to get their ducks in a row on financing. Partly this arises from the slower than expected redevelopment of waterfront properties, a revenue stream that the agency counted on to fund some of its projects. To compensate, Waterfront Toronto has proposed to shuffle funding among some of its project envelopes, but has not actually gotten around to formally asking permission to do this. This leaves the whole scheme vulnerable to claims it is unfunded, and to the potential for outright cancellation in the now-frosty political climate at City Hall.
Anyone who has ridden on Queen’s Quay east of Spadina will know that this track is in bad shape. It was built before the “new” standard with a robust base and resilient track mounts to limit vibrations. Some parts of the route have always given problem with the roadbed settling, and now the track is completely worn out. (The original Harbourfront line opened in 1990.) The TTC has reached the point where reconstruction, originally planned for 2009, cannot be deferred, and it is now scheduled for spring 2012.
The report recommends that if Waterfront Toronto cannot get its funding in order for the full Queen’s Quay project by June 8 (the date of the meeting), that the Commission authorize staff to proceed with design on the current alignment.
Updated: This date has now been changed to “the end of June”.
There is more going on here than meets the eye. Although the TTC has set up an ultimatum, the first Waterfront Toronto heard about it was when they were contacted by The Torontoist for comment.
The TTC report claims that if the tracks are rebuilt in their current location, the Queen’s Quay design can still be implemented, but that there wouldn’t be room for a two-way street (three lanes wide) north of the tracks. That may sound like a minor change, but it’s enough to get the war-on-the-car crowd fired up and the whole scheme killed. Given the way the TTC has reacted to overall plans for Queen’s Quay West and East, I can’t help thinking that there is a hidden agenda at work.
Between the TTC and the City’s Technical Services group (the folks who actually do detailed road designs and handle tendering for construction), delays on streetcar construction projects for the past years are legendary. Everyone knows about the problems on St. Clair, and the Roncesvalles job had a late start in 2010 because the City was too busy doing design work for a myriad of “economic stimulus” projects.
Elsewhere in waterfront planning, the TTC’s scheme for expanding Union Station Loop has run aground on escalating cost estimates, potential conflicts with the expansion projects in the railway station, and construction timing problems in the entire Union Station precinct. Getting this work done does not seem to be a high priority for the TTC or for the city, and throws the entire issue of transit to the developing waterfront into question.
If someone at the TTC actually reads this and actually wants to do something constructive (rather than using the situation as yet another chance to bash Waterfront Toronto and complain about project costs), they would extend the deadline for funding confirmation to September. It is very hard to believe that it would be impossible to complete the design work and tender documents for a late March 2012 construction start date if a firm decision were held off, especially when the TTC gave Waterfront Toronto no indication that the situation was so critical.
For its part, Waterfront Toronto really does need to get all its friends (including the new-found Minister of Finance in Ottawa) behind its Queen’s Quay project so that this can get underway. Waterfront Toronto runs a lot of feel-good public participation (one is coming up on June 9), but what’s needed here is some old-fashioned barn-burning politics. Tell people how endangered the waterfront plans are, and make sure the folks at City Hall understand this isn’t just an issue for a few pinko downtown activists, but an essential part of the economic development of the lakefront.
If the real agenda is to shelve the Queen’s Quay project, if the TTC is being used by the Mayor to create a fake issue, a way to sabotage yet another “Miller legacy”, this would be quite disgraceful. The waterfront has always been viewed as an area where transit should be the first and best way of getting around. Indeed, the density of development planned there could not be handled if the modal split for transit and autos were at the typical level for new suburbs even though by delay we almost guarantee that’s how people will be forced to travel.
The TTC, and by this I mean the Commissioners, must start acting as if they really believe in transit, not just in counting the pencils, cutting service, and watching while Toronto loses its way, again, on becoming truly a “transit city”.