Waterfront East Update: February 2013 (Updated)

The Waterfront Toronto Board met on February 6, 2013, and received a presentation on the transit options under consideration for Queens Quay east from Bay to Parliament.

Updated February 7, 2013 at 1:20 pm:  The presentation materials from the February 6, 2013 Board Meeting are now available online.


When a transit line to the eastern waterfront was first proposed, the cost estimate was considerably lower than today.  Waterfront Toronto has only $90-million left in the account for this project because some of the originally intended funds have been redirected to the Queens Quay West project now underway.

Coming into 2012, the project estimate had grown to $335m broken down as:

  • $112m for changes to the Union Station loop
  • $156 for the tunnel on Queens Quay from Bay east to Freeland
  • $66m for the surface portion from Freeland to Parliament

This number is now felt to be low because, somehow, the TTC has acquired a new “mandate” to relocate all utilities under its rights-of-way and this will push up the cost of the surface segment.  (As an aside, I cannot help wondering how much of this is gold-bricking by utilities who seek to renew/replace their existing plant at the transit project’s expense.)

Because Waterfront Toronto does not have full funding available for this project, they are looking for an interim solution that would improve transit in the area for the next 5-15 years.  The criteria fall into four groups:

  • quality and capacity,
  • ability to be implemnted,
  • costs and benefits, and
  • operations and neighbourhood impacts including traffic.

The options under study are not screened out just because they exceed $90m as it could be worth finding additional funds for a better solution.  Broadly speaking, the options fall in three groups: under $90m, about $150m and about $250m.

“Operational” evaluation will include consideration for effects on both the Ferry Docks and on the proposed new bus terminal (tentatively planned by Metrolinx as part of a development northeast of Bay & Lake Shore).

Alternative Options for Serving Queens Quay East

During the process of considering “solutions”, Waterfront Toronto has boiled down many possible routes over just about every street in the vicinity into a few that are worth looking at, and has grouped the technology options into four categories.  The TTC’s view of the situation is that whatever is done should be better than the existing 6 Bay bus to justify the investment and effects of any road changes.

Category 1: Replace the streetcar tunnel with a walkway or people mover

During various discussions, some people have advocated simply running an east-west streetcar/LRT along Queens Quay and repurposing the Bay Street tunnel between Union and Queens Quay stations.  This would involve a pedestrian pathway, a moving walkway or some sort of people-mover technology.  These variants have all been rejected for a number of reasons including:

  • A walkway or moving sidewalk (necessary for accessibility reasons if nothing else) would be 500m long.  This would be a significant downgrade for current users of the 509/510 streetcar services who would be forced to transfer at Bay & Queens Quay in addition to new users of an eastern waterfront service.
  • Reliability of a moving walkway would be dubious given the TTC’s experience with the much shorter (200m) installation at Spadina Station, and the fact that this installation would be in a harsher climate.
  • This would not present an appetizing gateway to the renewed waterfront.
  • The range of costs is $165-195m and construction could take 2-3 years.

Category 2:  Streetcar services

Two options were studied:

  1. A surface loop from Queens Quay via north on Yonge, west on Wellington and south on Bay.
  2. From the existing Bay Street tunnel via west on Queens Quay (the existing track), north on York, east on Harbour, south on Yonge.

The range of costs is estimated at $150-250m, and these options are thought to have no benefit over buses running in reserved lanes.

A surface streetcar option presents issues with pedestrian volumes especially at the major transfer point, Union Station.

Category 3: Bus options

  1. Using HOV lanes, buses would loop in the same manner as the first streetcar proposal via north on Yonge, west on Wellington and south on Bay.
  2. Using HOV lanes, buses would loop north on Bay, east on Front, north on Yonge, west on Wellington and south on Bay.

Both of these require only the investment needed to stripe the roadways and erect signage, but they are strongly dependent on enforcement which is unlikely in Toronto.  Moreover, the probability of getting HOV lanes both ways on Bay is remote given competing demands for road capacity.  The TTC prefers dedicated lanes if anything is going to be done to ensure predictability in service.

Although these options have short implementation times, they would provide little benefit in travel times over the existing bus service.

Category 4:  Bus Rapid Transit

All of these schemes involve partial or complete dedication of lanes over the entire route including on Queens Quay from Bay to Parliament.

  1. North via Yonge and south via Bay as in schemes described above.
  2. Both ways on Bay using curb lanes as exclusive transit lanes.
  3. Use the two west lanes of Bay as a bus right-of-way and shift all other traffic to the east side of Bay.  Buses would loop via west on Richmond, south on Sheppard, east on Adelaide.

The cost of these options ranges from $27-36m, but an Environmental Assessment may be required to review the effects of a major change in road space allocation.  It was reported that City of Toronto staff think that this could be on a par with a “decent” streetcar system, but it depends on the traffic working in the new configuration.  Although Bay Street has been restricted to one lane each way by construction at Front, this is not necessarily a long-term option, and certainly not a low-impact one.

For the projected population who could be dependent on transit in the East Bayfront (12k initially ramping up to 20-30k over a longer period), a simple surface operation is not considered viable for the long term.

A preliminary review of these options has the simplest one — dedicated lanes on Bay Street for the existing bus service — come out on top.  There is little cost to implement it, but it is subject to an evaluation of traffic effects.  Travel time to the East Bayfront would not improve substantially over the current arrangement once the effects of construction at Front & Bay are removed.  Without a faster trip from East Bayfront into the core, the contribution of this scheme to better mobility for future residents is low.

Stakeholder Advisory Committee Option

At the recent Stakeholder meeting (as reported by Waterfront Toronto), the reaction to the proposals was not supportive.

  • Category 1 options were rejected by people living to the west of Bay who now depend on the direct connection of their transit service to Union Station.  The debate on this option was described as “acrimonious”.
  • Category 2 options were seen as having a high “throwaway cost” for streetcar infrastructure for an “interim” solution.
  • Bus options might be a short-term approach, but would the effort of getting the required transit lanes be worth the benefits in better service.

A new option arising from the meeting received general support:  build the Queens Quay east streetscape, including streetcar tracks for future use, and run the Bay bus over the new right-of-way until demand and funding make conversion to an LRT into the Bay Street tunnel possible.  This would continue the redesign of Queens Quay into the East Bayfront and would build permanent, not temporary infrastructure in that neighbourhood.

The estimated cost of this option is $100m including road improvements, although Waterfront Toronto hopes to reduce this through a value engineering review.  This option will be added to the mix in the study.

Support for this option was strong among Waterfront Toronto Board members.  Comments included:

  • Disruption of “corporate Canada” by taking road space on Bay in the heart of the financial district is probably a non-starter.
  • This would be a first step in advance of extension of transit into the Port Lands.
  • The difference between LRT and BRT is shrinking, and whether streetcar tracks should be included at all needs discussion.
  • Consultation should include people from a wider range of neighbourhoods out to the western waterfront (e.g. Palace Pier).

The comment about BRT vs LRT shows that some members of the Board are unaware of the basic constraint already faced in this study that buses cannot run through the Bay Street tunnel and there is no surplus road capacity for a surface connection.  The general idea of starting with a lower order of transit (buses with some lane reservation) and working up to higher orders as demand requires was well-received.

The comment about Palace Pier begs the question of the Waterfront West LRT line (originally part of Transit City) and the related Bremner route between the CNE and Bay Street.  There was no mention of the effect any potential new uses of the lands at Ontario Place or Exhibition Place might have on the transit and road network.

It was clear that some of the Board members are unfamiliar with existing and proposed transit services for the waterfront in general, and the discussion reflected this (including one member who did not know there was a tunnel under Bay Street that has been in operation since 1990).  A refresher for the Board is definitely in order.

Next Steps

The “stakeholder” option will be added to the study.  Waterfront Toronto will develop a preferred option from those available, and will take this to the public for comment.

My sense of the meeting is that there is strong support for the “stakeholder” option using the available money on Queens Quay East to match the west section now under construction.  This will integrate the two parts of the waterfront and show how new developments and a transformed public realm can work together.

The debate about a future LRT line will depend both on the desire to make funding available and on the speed with which new developments are planned east of Parliament and into the Port Lands.

Disclosure:  I am a member of a Stakeholder Advisory Committee for this project, and participated in a discussion of various options a few weeks ago along with about 30 other representatives of neighbourhood groups, businesses and other activists on central waterfront projects.  Now that the options under study, including the results of that meeting, are now public, I can report on them here.

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35 Responses to Waterfront East Update: February 2013 (Updated)

  1. David O'Rourke says:

    I don’t understand the comment about the differences between BRT and LRT diminishing. The streetcars would still carry more passengers per vehicle and provide a more comfortable ride. Low floor streetcars with platforms would be superior in terms of ease of loading and loading times than buses.

    Steve: The speaker was talking in the context of larger artic buses whose capacity can overlap the low end of LRT. The issue of what to do with all the passengers once you reach Bay Street remains.

  2. Can’t streetcars simply head south through the tunnel under Bay, and then turn east onto Queens Quay? Or did I miss something?

    The intersection could effectively turn into a ‘T’ just like with St. Clair W. station – streetcars can either continue east (or west) along Queens Quay or turn onto Bay and into Union Station. This would allow for two services options: 509/510 cars would continue operating west on Queens Quay W. while a new streetcar could turn east onto Queens Quay E. However, in the future it would allow the option of a streetcar run operating right along Queen’s Quay (perhaps starting with summer operations.)

    However, I do like the “short term” option with the streetscape and bus service.

    Steve: Yes, the tunnel at Queens Quay and Bay is designed to allow for streetcars turning east, a “Y” junction, but there are problems with putting in a full “T” junction that would allow cars to run through east-west.

    The origin of this proposal is a group who want to get rid of the tunnel portal completely, and this leads to schemes for some sort of shuttle service within the north-south tunnel or a pedestrian connection. That this would do tremendous disadvantage to people accessing the waterfront in general doesn’t seem to bother them.

  3. L. Wall says:

    $156 million seems like an awfully huge amount for such a short (presumably cut and cover) tunnel with no stations. I assume this is due to the special needs of getting under the things buried at Yonge. Please tell me it is.

    Steve: Yes, that number bothered me too. There are two problems. First, construction is just about as close to the lake as possible without actually being in it. Second, the tunnel must first go down before it comes back up to clear a sewer that runs south from Yonge Street and is just about impossible to move. The distance is roughly 300m.

  4. Steve wrote:

    “The origin of this proposal is a group who want to get rid of the tunnel portal completely, and this leads to schemes for some sort of shuttle service within the north-south tunnel or a pedestrian connection. That this would do tremendous disadvantage to people accessing the waterfront in general doesn’t seem to bother them.”

    Sort of reminds me of all those people who didn’t want the PCCs operating along Queen’s Quay because they “made noise.”

    The ‘T’ intersection has one operational advantage: no connection between Queen’s Quay E. and another line for streetcars heading to or from a barn as streetcars could simply use Spadina and then head straight for Parliament without looping, out of service, through Union.

  5. Moaz Yusuf Ahmad says:


    I’m not sure how Palace Pier fits in as an example of a neighbourhood that should be included in the consultation. There are enough neighbourhoods in the inner waterfront & harbourfront to include in the consultation.

    I would certainly like to see the East Waterfront with the same amenities and landscaping (and transit service) as the Harbourfront area west of Bay St. The idea of building the ROW infrastructure now and running bus service until the Streetcar “LRT” starts operating is a wonderful one.

    I can only hope that the design of the right-of-way will not have the same problems as St. Clair … especially with the selection of centre poles and the issue of the ROW needing to be extra wide to accommodate emergency services (namely fire trucks).

    Steve: If you have seen any of the designs for Queens Quay West or East, there are no centre poles.

    On that note, you said:

    As an aside, I cannot help wondering how much of this is gold-bricking by utilities who seek to renew/replace their existing plant at the transit project’s expense.

    This, to me, sounds like a problem already, especially considering how the St. Clair project was slowed down because of the relocation of utilities. At least there aren’t many residents (for the moment) who would protest against the ROW so the possibility of a court action to delay the ROW would be less likely.

    Steve: Indeed, the developers of new buildings on Queens Quay were promised an LRT as part of the inducement to build there and make their new condos more attractive to buyers.

    The idea of shifting lanes on Bay and Yonge and creating a one-way road with a 2-lane ROW is quite interesting. Denzil Minnan-Wong talked last year about making Yonge & Bay into one-way streets (with 3 traffic lanes and expanded sidewalks), but his proposal was not well-received, as this article by Adam Giambrone suggests.

    On the other hand, Jarrett Walker’s Human Transit had a post in 2009 about Minneapolis doing this, and he comments that doubling the number of lanes triples the capacity of the 1-way ROW. The image shows that buses would run one way and cars the other … which, I suppose, allows the re-use of existing infrastructure (streetlights, lane markings, curbs, etc.).

    Perhaps this is worth looking at in light of the plans for Bay St? According to The Star, the last time 1-way streets were looked at was in 1982, and the proposal was rejected because the TTC needed to run 2-way service wherever possible. Does the TTC still have this objection?

    Steve: The much stronger objection is that one-way streets encourage faster traffic, exactly the opposite of what is wanted downtown. Another important issue everyone ignores in this is parking and loading requirements which tend to reduce the available roadspace even when so-called peak period restrictions are in effect. TTC’s objections would apply mainly to streetcar routes, but the more general issue here is that the opposite directions of even bus routes would not necessarily be close to each other depending on which section of downtown we’re talking about.

    The problem downtown is that there is very limited road space and we make almost no effort to enforce even the “official” designations for its use. This is a “cultural” problem with Toronto generally — we are happy to troll through districts in the evening ticketing parked cars that overstay their welcome, but scofflaws on main streets during the day get away with anything. Also, bluntly, if we are looking for more road space, transit should get whatever we do manage to liberate on major streets.

    Which reminds me, there was a proposal recently to make Queen and King one way in opposite directions, which also include a relocation of the streetcar lanes to the curb. Personally, I would prefer 2-way bike lanes and 2-way transit service on one-way streets. I think that this would help avoid the ‘commercial death’ that one-way streets apparently bring.

    Steve: As in my discussion above, this ignores the effect of eliminating the “curb” lane on one side of each street. Given that loading and standing, at a minimum, would still occur, the supposed benefit of the one-way traffic operation would not be as great as some think. Merchants who would lose parking on “their” side of the street (because the curb lane is now a streetcar lane) would lynch you.

    Cheers, Moaz

  6. Gabe Lerman says:

    - $112m for changes to the Union Station loop

    Gee, if only there was some kind of massive construction going on at Union Station that those kinds of changes could be lumped into, especially if that kind of massive construction prevented streetcars from using the loop and thus minimized the future impact to riders…

    A bloke can dream, can’t he?

    Steve: Yes, you can dream, but this is a superb example of how an important project falls off the radar because the waterfront is a “local” project and everything at Union is “regional”.

    Having said that, the length of shutdown for this construction could be longer than what we have faced with the work on Queen’s Quay. It would have been nice to get at least some of the work out of the way up front, but there was never any money for it. Also, Waterfront Toronto, who were expected to fund it, objected to the ongoing escalation in TTC cost estimates.

  7. nfitz says:

    No surplus road capacity? With the East and West teamways on Bay providing a much nicer pedestrian experience than the underused sidewalk – isn’t the sidewalk itself surplus road capacity? If you narrow the existing lanes a bit, is it possible to shoehorn in a 3rd lane, or a track, and simply have all the pedestrians use the teamway?

    Similar on York I’d think …

    I wonder if there’s options to move the Waterfront west service to surface (or what about a loop at Bremner in front of Union Station), and use the existing Bay Street tunnel for the eastern service ….

    Steve: It’s all very well to take away the sidewalks, but when you get to Front Street northbound, the traffic all has to be shoehorned into the available space. North of Front, Bay is only four lanes wide, and the sidewalk space is needed for the heavy pedestrian traffic in peak periods. This would be especially messy if the proposed loop via Richmond and Adelaide were used because Bay would be reduced to one lane each way from Front to at least Adelaide.

  8. Moaz Yusuf Ahmad wrote,

    Personally, I would prefer 2-way bike lanes and 2-way transit service on one-way streets. I think that this would help avoid the ‘commercial death’ that one-way streets apparently bring.

    I have seen this in Minneapolis, and it works well. The one-way traffic flow uses two or three lanes on one side of the road, and the opposite-way bus lane uses the curb lane on the other side of the street. A traffic-width two-way bike lane separates the two.

    Steve: Note that what you describe has very little or no room left over for parking and loading especially on a street that is only four lanes wide to begin with.

  9. ADifferentMichaelS says:

    I definitely like the idea of putting in streetcar tracks now in anticipation of future LRT service – seems like Bloor Viaduct-level planning to me.

    As for bus service, here’s a proposal: TTC buses use the Union GO bus bays. South on Yonge, east on QQ (in the ROW) to serve Corus Quay and East Bayfront. Loop through EB using Bonnycastle and Small, head back west on the QQ ROW, and head north on Bay back to the GO bays.

    Simple and short. You could probably have just one bus on the route and have a reliable 15-minute headway all day – throw on a second bus for peak periods. Is this feasible?

    Steve: A 15-minute service is very, very much below what is needed for this area. Service during the PM peak is 18 buses/hour, and more during the AM. That’s mainly to serve the George Brown campus, never mind future residents.

    One proposal did involve a loop via north on Bay, through the GO platforms and south on Yonge. However, this presents a rather long walking transfer between the bus and the subway, and imposes a substantial additional pedestrian load on the intersection unless people took the roundabout route through the paid GO area and track 1 of Union Station. The transfer point for a southbound through Bay 6 bus would be different (and more convenient) compared to a 6C shuttle to the eastern waterfront using the GO loop.

    There is also a possible issue with bus congestion in the GO terminal. This could be sorted out once the new GO terminal opens down at Lake Shore, but that is several years away.

  10. W. K. Lis says:

    How much of the Waterfront East project is actually track and right-of-way? Is landscaping (trees, benches, shelters, sidewalks, etc.) included in that cost? Now, I understand, that hydro and other utilities want or need to be done at the same time. Shades of St. Clair West and all those add-ons. I, for one, would prefer to see a price listing just for the right-of-way, another price for the landscaping, another for the utilities, and another for the rest (including lawyer fees).

    Steve: The price includes everything, but there is no breakdown. In many cases, it is not easy to produce because it is a consolidated reconstruction of the street and individual components depend on other work being done at the same time.

  11. nfitz says:

    Steve wrote

    “North of Front, Bay is only four lanes wide, and the sidewalk space is needed for the heavy pedestrian traffic in peak periods.”

    Agreed … I always thought it would make more sense to go down Front instead. North on Bay, south on Yonge, and east on Front would make a nice loop ….

    There’s plenty of space on Front … Yonge would probably be the problem if you could shoe-horn in something into Bay without losing a lane.

    Steve: I presume what you mean is to loop via north on Bay, east on Front, south on Yonge. This would put all of the transfer traffic to/from the subway on the southeast corner of Front and Bay which has no room for the pedestrians there today, let alone as a major transfer point.

  12. nfitz says:

    Steve wrote:

    “This would put all of the transfer traffic to/from the subway on the southeast corner of Front and Bay which has no room for the pedestrians there today, let alone as a major transfer point.”

    Good point … though most of the options seem to put a lot of people at that intersection. Unless the buses go up Yonge to at least Melinda …

    Steve: Melinda is a tiny street that runs only west to Jordan, and that goes up to King (it’s the east side of the old Bank of Commerce tower).

    Bay Bus Option 2 shows everything heading north of Wellington and then looping on … ??? Do you know what they are thinking?

    Steve: This option loops via west on Richmond, south on Sheppard, east on Adelaide. Yes, there is a Sheppard St. in the middle of downtown.

    I wonder if just running everything on Yonge and looping Melinda/Jordan/King/Yonge would make sense … and get people away from Union.

    Steve: Melinda and Jordan are too tight to use as a bus loop, and they frequently are loading zones for nearby buildings. I cannot imagine a frequent bus service trying to share space with the King car eastbound at Yonge, let alone making the turns.

    Normally these things are pre-ordained (despite their claims otherwise). What do you feel is their preference?

    Steve: They seem to have finally realized that none of their schemes work, and they say that of their own list, simply leaving the Bay bus as is with some type of lane reservation on Bay Street is the best of a bad lot. The proposal made by the Stakeholder committee has been very well received because it refocuses efforts onto Queens Quay which is Waterfront Toronto’s primary territory and leaves funding of the big part of the transit project for a future debate when new revenues to pay for it might be available.

    Now that the process is public, I can say that I was not impressed at all with their consultant on this process who seemed to have a very poor understanding of how the streets in the area worked and that many of his schemes were unworkable. Fortunately, Waterfront Toronto was not too wedded to his work.

  13. Robert Lubinski says:

    Steve: I presume what you mean is to loop via north on Bay, east on Front, south on Yonge. This would put all of the transfer traffic to/from the subway on the southeast corner of Front and Bay which has no room for the pedestrians there today, let alone as a major transfer point.

    Previous 509 shuttles used this corner, and it’s way too tight as a transfer point as well as being a difficult turn for buses due to the physical layout of that quadrant of the intersection and the heavy pedestrian traffic. Using Adelaide as the 509 buses do now seems to work much better despite the extra distance.

  14. Moaz Yusuf Ahmad says:

    How far ahead are the plans for the new bus station on Lakeshore? I recall a wish to integrate GO and intercity buses in one place. Is that the working plan for this proposed station?

    What then would happen to the existing GO bus station? Will it be retained for transport related uses (like a staging area for TTC or other buses)?

    Cheers, Moaz

    Steve: This is all quite preliminary right now. The new station would be built into the ground floor of a new condo tower. This is a location where “street level retail” does not make any sense. I don’t know what will happen to the terminal north of the rail corridor, and I don’t think GO does either. Too early to say.

  15. Ed says:

    Doing anything fancy to the lanes in the Bay rail underpass means dealing with structural supports. I don’t see that there’s room for another lane even if you remove the sidewalk, as there are pillars constraining the width. Maybe a very narrow-gauge streetcar could squeeze in there; that’s about it.

    Yonge southbound can be backed up completely, from Lake Shore westbound right up to Front or back as far as Wellington or King, in the evening rush hour. You’re not going to get any kind of reliable quick service along there.

  16. A Different Michael S says:

    What about a loop going up York and stopping directly in front of Union? Take some room away from the cabbies for a bus stop.

    Steve: Front Street is to be narrowed to two through lanes once the construction is finished between York and Bay. All of the details are on the project’s web page on the City’s site.

  17. Matt L. says:

    Speaking of a GO Bus terminal on Lakeshore, that might add an unforeseen benefit to the otherwise-crazy moving walkway idea. The transfer between GO buses and Union subway station (which seems like a common combination) is going to get quite a bit longer, and the PATH connection through the ACC isn’t the best.

    Building out Queens Quay East to the ROW standard developed with great effort for Queens Quay West seems so obviously the right thing to do it’s a bit scary it took a “stakeholder” group to point it out.

  18. Michael S says:

    I’m surprised that no consideration was made to constructing a loop just east of the Bay/York/University interchange on the north side of Queens Quay. Could double track the loop and turn cars back east to and from the east into the portal at Bay. I suspect it would be a nominal increase in cost over some of the other streetcar alternatives, and would provide (relatively) expedient access to the Union station loop.

    Steve: This land (now occupied by the York Street off ramp) is slated to become a park. A difficulty this site would have as a terminal for cars from the east is that they would have to run in the curb lanes to get around the tunnel portal. This would make the intersection at York particularly complex, and would foul up access to buildings on Queens Quay.

    The basic point here is that people (including commenters in this thread) are expending a vast amount of effort to avoid spending the money to make the underground connection to Union from Queens Quay east which is essential for the future volume of traffic this line must carry. Anything which forces people bound for the East Bayfront and Port Lands to transfer will add a substantial load on pedestrian space and on the capacity of streetcars coming from the west.

  19. Michael S says:

    Steve said,

    “The basic point here is that people (including commenters in this thread) are expending a vast amount of effort to avoid spending the money to make the underground connection to Union from Queens Quay east which is essential for the future volume of traffic this line must carry. Anything which forces people bound for the East Bayfront and Port Lands to transfer will add a substantial load on pedestrian space and on the capacity of streetcars coming from the west.”

    Point taken, but as with many infrastructure projects if you don’t take advantage of the financial and planning inertia to get ‘something’ in place, then (in this case for example) we may end up with nothing more than bus lanes for the next 20 years or so before someone else takes on the challenge of establishing the LRT which by all rights should be done now. I think it is implicitly obvious that the best thing is to construct the proper underground junction, but if the funding isn’t there to accomplish that, then there stands a far better chance down the line of constructing it if the rest of the line is in operation and demonstrates the need on its own. I would think the idea of having constructed but not utilized tracks east of Bay street (in anticipation of a future connection) would present bad optics in the present political climate, in spite of the rational merit of the idea.

    Steve: Toronto Council has already identified the East Bayfront service as a priority for new funding. This entire discussion will be moot if new revenue tools generated the funds needed to build the underground connection. Concentrating on the Queens Quay east reconfiguration will get the common part of any scheme built sooner rather than later. The marginal cost of putting streetcar tracks in the road when it is completely rebuilt is small.

  20. Mikey says:

    Did Streetcars for Toronto consider the impact that Ferry passengers crossing the tracks would have on streetcar service, when SfT first proposed a surface-streetcar up Bay Street?

    Steve: It was a consideration, but this is something that could have been handled with peak (ferry) period traffic management and generously sized loading islands. An the SFTC proposal was for reserved lanes all the way. As to concerns about capacity in the underpass, we proposed shifting the pedestrians into the teamways to free up the sidewalk space for a road lane. We were was told that this was “impossible”. Just remember this the next time you walk through them.

  21. Moaz Yusuf Ahmad says:

    Steve said:

    The marginal cost of putting streetcar tracks in the road when it is completely rebuilt is small.

    That is a good way to find savings. The big cost (either way) is going to be the tunnel portal and the switch work at Queen’s Quay and Bay so that streetcars can travel south-to-east and west-to-north.

    I wish there was a way to build that switch now while the 509 service is in shuttle mode … along with the inside part of the portal … then do the excavation for the ramp in the future when the streetcar is ready.

    Steve: The lead time for special work orders is about a year, and service will return to Queens Quay this summer. Also, this would put new switches and frogs in place that would be subject to wear from the 509/510 services for years before they are actually needed. The upheaval for creating the eastern tunnel and changes at Union Station Loop will be much more extensive. From another point of view, installing new special work where the track is open rather than set in concrete takes much less time than a street intersection, and this would not require a lengthy shutdown.

    Actually, if they were to build the switch and part of the tunnel portal and the ROW … why not just put in the streetcar in ROW now? This is one example of “if you build it they will come” where it would actually work well, unlike the Sheppard line or the Spadina line extension beyond Steeles. Who knows, maybe the developers would want to pony up for the landscaping or something now, to support the project.

    After all, a streetcar in a separate ROW will bring an immediate increase to their property values and improve the appeal of the eastern waterfront/harbourfront … that a bus or partial row just could not do.

    Steve: The junction and portal are the most expensive part of the project, followed closely by the expansion of capacity at Union Loop which cannot handle the demands of existing 509/510 services. I agree that this should be done “now” in line with the alleged “transit first” plan the city talked about so bravely years ago. However, when it comes to spending money before they absolutely have to, the city and TTC get cold feet.

    Cheers, Moaz

  22. DavidC says:

    It certainly makes sense to put in the QQE streetcar tracks when QQE is rebuilt (as Steve says “The marginal cost of putting streetcar tracks in the road when it is completely rebuilt is small.”) As they will, unfortunately, be unused for a while (or ages?) it may not make sense to install the planned loop at Parliament. In fact, it’s a pity that they are going to install the loop on Cherry Street (after the Pan-Am Games) but I realise that bringing the tracks through the rail berm will be expensive – ideally the Cherry line AND the QQE line would loop at Parliament. (And eventually the line would go further into the Portlands.)

    Steve: With some luck, if we build the QQE part now, by the time the games are over, we will be in a more pro-transit political environment and will also regard connections into the Port Lands as something for the near future, not something decades away. The loop at Parliament is a throwaway in that context.

  23. ОТИОЯОТ says:

    Some fascinating stuff you’ve mentioned in the replies, here.

    So, apparently, the tunnel under Bay was designed with a future eastbound service in mind – but no through service along Queens Quay? Also, this future eastbound service would have to sink even further down to get by a sewer under Yonge, adding $156 million to the price tag? I presume that issue was brought up in the 80s too – how much cheaper would it have been back then?

    Steve: The problem with the sewer at Yonge only showed up when they got into more detailed design of a potential eastern tunnel. The length of the tunnel is dictated more by the position of buildings on Queen’s Quay and the desire to push the portal over to Freeland Street (between the Star building and the LCBO). It is not practical to surface between Bay and Yonge, and so this pushes it out to the block east of Yonge.

    This seems to me like the kind of thing that could’ve been avoided had they just built the whole thing at grade. Yes, I understand that they had to build the loop underground to connect to Union Station, and it probably wasn’t possible for the TTC to have their own right-of-way along Bay had the tracks been laid at street level – but is having a right-of-way along a short little section of Bay (including a single stop, no less) really that imperative? I’m sure I’m missing something here.

    Steve: As I said in a previous reply, SFTC proposed shifting the pedestrian traffic in the underpass to the teamways to free up space for shifting the road lanes. We were told that this was impossible, although thousands of people who walk through these teamways (something GO Transit describes in glowing terms) might beg to differ. The larger problem would actually have been at the intersection of Bay and Front.

  24. ОТИОЯОТ says:

    Steve: As I said in a previous reply, SFTC proposed shifting the pedestrian traffic in the underpass to the teamways to free up space for shifting the road lanes. We were told that this was impossible, although thousands of people who walk through these teamways (something GO Transit describes in glowing terms) might beg to differ.

    I had forgotten that, when the Harbourfront streetcar started service underneath Bay, trolley buses were still operating on the surface – presumably it was too troublesome to lay down the tracks on the same lanes as the wires, which resulted in the problem you just mentioned. My bad.

  25. Sharon Yetman says:

    Almost 1 year ago, I sent an “unsolicited proposal” that TTC ignored. Their dealing with “non-regulars” is very poor. However, at the time I introduced something I call “Smart BRT”, and by the sounds of it it turns out being option #151. It so happens I emailed another “unsolicited proposal” 20 minutes prior to Steve posting this blog. In essence the Bay 6 route runs as per normal. You have a “shuttle like service” likely 2 stops around Dockside and then delivery takes you directly north on Bay, right on King with 2 stops along King (2 on purpose) in cases bunching happens, than south on Yonge back to Queen’s Quay.

    Several key factors on this.

    1. 2 right turns are better than 2 left turns.
    2. People are commuted more likely “walking distance” to the destiny point.
    3. The ultimate fastest commute is available for the residents.
    4. Literally, the buses and operation, could be owned by the condo development itself and turn a profit.
    5. Basically you fill your bus literally between, likely the 2 stops, and express direct them to their likely final destination.
    6. One has available to them both convenient every stop service and the beauty of “shuttle/express” service.
    7. What’s highly different is how the bus flows with traffic, at likely 45 km/hr. is the part that is highly as effective as a full exclusive ROW, while still integrated with cars (2+, goods movement, or just cars). The flow pattern itself is one of the reasons I call it “Smart BRT”. This flow pattern is new to the Transit World as described by Mr. Byford from my meeting with him 1 year ago. At that point, I concentrated on a flow pattern integrating “Smart LRT” between the Finch and Sheppard route. We all know how political that became.
    8. I am confident a delivery time from the Docklands to King Financial District by “Smart BRT” would be under 3 minutes.

    Steve: This proposal has a number of problems. First off, the right turns are actually harder for buses to execute than lefts because of the intersection layouts (very tight corners). A pair of lefts from Yonge onto Wellington and then from Wellington onto Bay is easier. Also, King Street is already full of streetcar traffic and the pedestrians getting on/off at Yonge eastbound. This is not a good place to run your bus.

    Second, you have designed a point-to-point service which assumes that the demand lies between, say, King & Yonge and a specific location on Queens Quay. In fact, there will be multiple destinations on Queens Quay as it builds out, and many people going there originate all over the place. Indeed, a lot of traffic to/from George Brown is “transferring” off of GO at Union Station.

    From my point of view TTC is not to be trusted, so I will limit how much of the flow pattern solution I will share here. With 4 hours of rush hour, 200 per bus, $3.00 per fare, bus leaving every 3 minutes, that’s 12.48 Million Dollars Income Annually. Paying a driver $30.00 /hour, for a 4 hour day (split shift) Wage costs = $187,200 annually, plus gas costs, plus bus repair costs, insurance etc. This is one transit line, that turn a huge profit. Just requiring approval with Toronto’s Transportation Dept. to accept the “Smart BRT” flow technology approach.

    Steve: You are assuming a separate fare for the shuttle, and that’s not valid because of the high volume of transfer traffic off of the TTC and GO systems. Yes, the buses will flow with traffic (when they are not stopped to load and unload passengers), but that traffic is highly congested during the peak period. You didn’t say anything about a reserved lane. In any event, I would be amazed if you could achieve a round trip time below 15 minutes, and so that’s a fleet of five buses for a 3 minute headway. You claim a 3-minute trip which is not physically possible. The one-way distance is about 2 km, and you would have to run at an average speed of 40km/hr, faster than the traffic actually moves.

    That’s 5 drivers, at least 5 hours per day (allowing 15 minutes for garage trips each way, a value which is almost certainly too low), 250 days per year or about $187k which matches your figure. However, it makes no allowance for service during the off-peak, nor for maintenance and operations, nor for capital cost.

    You are planning to carry 200 passengers per bus per day, or 50 per bus hour which is actually rather low for a service that makes four trips per hour. Five buses give us 1000 passengers per day. At $3 for 250 days = $750k, NOT the $12.48m you have calculated. Even if we assume a higher load factor, the numbers don’t work. Working backwards, $12.48m per year gives $49,920 in revenue per day, or 16,640 passengers assuming they are each paying $3. That’s 832 passengers per bus hour, or 208 per one-way trip (assuming the demand for a point-to-point service is one-way) or at best 104 per trip (if there is equal demand each way).

    The whole model becomes even more tenuous as the area builds out and new areas of high demand emerge further east. The option of serving only one location won’t be viable, and the trip times will rise.

    Why deliver people, where they likely will use the subway for just one or two stops farther?

    Steve: If you are assuming that a feeder service like the subway is part of their trip, then you cannot count $3 as the full revenue for this route. Also, the average fare on the existing system is around $2 taking into account concession fares (including students who are a big chunk of your market).

    Why give up “every stop convenience”, when both serve a purpose, particularly if the volume warrants it?

    Steve: That’s a big problem with your proposal as it assumes point-to-point demand that will not match actual travel patterns as the eastern waterfront builds out.

    Why use LRT with lots of stops, when the every stop bus can deal with the smaller crowds, and “Smart BRT” or “Smart LRT” can deal with the masses? smart brt is all one needs.

    Steve: You will wind up with a lot of half-full buses and they need road space. This is a fundamental problem with all of the surface options — there is a limit on how much road space can be taken away from other traffic, and the space required to handle pedestrian volumes to/from the subway will be substantial.

    I hope Steve, one day soon, I can share in person this solution to your advisory committee.

    Steve: It’s not “my” committee. I am only one of about 30 members.

  26. Mikey says:

    I’m sorry, but I just find the whole situation that led to having to bury streetcars on Bay extremely regrettable.

  27. Neil says:

    Portal options were analyzed here. The reasons for screening out B2 don’t stand up to scrutiny. Harbour St sidewalk to QQ sidewalk is ~85m. This is greater than the current QQ portal length: ie. Beginning of slope to full covering with left turn lane on top. The argument for track geometry is also bogus. With street cars on the south side of QQ, the turn radius would be larger than the current turn. Putting the portal at B2 would drastically reduce cost and would allow for through routing on QQ.

    Steve: The streetcars are NOT moving to the south side of Queens Quay. This is a common misunderstanding even among many staff at the TTC and City of Toronto. The street will be divided into three sections: road space to the north, transit in the middle, pedestrians and cyclists to the south. The streetcars stay in roughly the same location as they are today.

  28. Frank Hood says:

    Why not just have the portal between Bay and Yonge? Going all the way to Freeland seem to be a way to kill the plan.

    Steve: There is not enough room between where the turn east out of Bay Street would end and the west side of Yonge Street for the vertical rise to have a gradient that streetcars could handle. Also, this would put the portal right in front of the hotel and screw up their entrance.

  29. Neil Ibey says:

    Steve: The streetcars are NOT moving to the south side of Queens Quay. This is a common misunderstanding even among many staff at the TTC and City of Toronto. The street will be divided into three sections: road space to the north, transit in the middle, pedestrians and cyclists to the south. The streetcars stay in roughly the same location as they are today.

    Yes, yes. However, with the western portal no longer on Queens Quay the streetcars CAN move 1 lane to the south for a more gradual curve into a Bay St. portal. Not the whole project, just the vicinity of the Bay St. intersection. Jeez, by questioning the current EA, you’d think I was blaspheming scripture.

    Steve: What are you talking about? The western portal is not moving anywhere. It is staying exactly in its current location in the middle of the Queens Quay road allowance.

    This isn’t scripture — it’s just the basics of how the project is designed.

  30. Neil says:

    Steve, please re-read my original post. I’m talking about moving the portal to Bay Street to be used by both Queens Quay east and west streetcar lines. This will cost much less than the current plan so we can be closer to running streetcars on Queens Quay east instead of buses.

    Steve: This was examined in great detail by the EA. The problem is that the blocks between Queens Quay and Lake Shore are all quite short, and there isn’t room to fit a portal in without shifting roads around. This would have been possible many years ago but with the development of various parcels for new buildings it is no longer an option.

    It’s not just a question of the portal itself, but of a “landing” so that cars can emerge from the portal and stop without blocking an intersection.

  31. Robert Wightman says:

    From reading the different comments it would seem that the only way to go is to build the tunnel east from the existing curve and come up at Q2 (between Yonge and Freeland.) The existing Union Station loop will be fun with 30 m long cars that take up the entire platform. It will be an incentive to get a new loop built though.

    I only hope that the TTC would consider using something other than single point switches in the tunnel. As it says in A TCRP report|:

    “Transit experience suggests that low-floor LRVs that incorporate independently rotating wheels (IRWs) do not have reliable steering through tongue and mate turnouts and that double tongue turnouts are preferred. The researchers have not been able to confirm that this is actually the case. Notably, the specifications for Toronto’s pending (as of 2010) purchase of new streetcars for their legacy system stipulate that they must work reliably with single tongue switches. How closely the manufacturer will meet that goal is unknown. Prudence suggests that any new LRT system that will be using LRVs with IRWs or might use such articulated car designs in the foreseeable future, should likely specify double tongue switches. However, that choice has significant capital, operations, and maintenance cost ramifications. The success or failure of the Toronto vehicle procurement is thus of great interest.” (TCRT rpt 155 6-36)

    There is also the problem street railway profile wheels will pick the points of a standard railway switch and derail:

    “Very nearly all new LRT systems use switch point details identical or similar to the AREMA undercut 5100 detail shown in Figure 6.5.8. These are often called “Samson” points because Samson was the trade name of a now defunct special trackwork manufacturer who first marketed the design. Careful attention must be given to the cross section of the switch point rail at the point of the switch, particularly if the wheel contour is not a standard railroad design. If the transit system includes a street railway wheel profile with a narrow or short wheel flange—generally less than 1 inch [25 mm] in either dimension—there is a real danger that the wheel will either “pick” or ride up on the switch point. This is a particular problem in facing point diverging movements.” (TCRT rpt 155 6-43)

  32. Transity Cyclist says:

    @Robert Wightman

    I’ve heard that the Leslie Barns are being built with double-point switches. So I assume that goes for any new extension to the legacy system.

  33. Kevin says:

    When the Portlands LRT was part of Transit City was it meant to be a new streetcar line using the same vehicles used throughout downtown with similar spacing for stops or an LRT line like the rest of Transit City with similar distance between stops/stations? Was there ever a plan for it to use the same vehicles as the rest of Transit City?

    I ask because it could have created an interesting wrinkle in the “what is a streetcar vs. what is an LRV?” war of last year.

  34. Gordon says:

    The discussions concerning use of the GO station as a loop had the negative point of increasing the pedestrian traffic across Bay.

    Going up to the train level then coming down 1 or 2 levels to transfer to the subway, I agree is a non-starter.

    What about a route from the GO station to the east end of the underground streetcar platform, under Bay on the existing platform, with the other end connected to PATH. This would provide a convenient transfer path under Bay for both TTC and GO.

    This would not work with the current fare structure, but with the new streetcars using POP it raises the possibility of these areas being made more public. As I see it, it provides an underground pathway under Bay St on nearly the same level as Union station and the new subway platform. The major disadvantage it the width of the platform.

    Steve: The pinch point is in the northeast corner of the loop where the foundations of the Dominion Public Building’s southwest corner are right beside the station structure. Whether it would be feasible to break through the basement of this building to widen the passage, I don’t know. By the way, the streetcar loop is two levels below the street, and so this will make a fair drop from the existing bus loop that will require escalators and an elevator.

    (The Union Station moat is slightly below the level of the street at this point, and you have to go down both the half-flight of stairs into the subway station, and then another flight to get down to the streetcar loop.)

  35. Elizabeth says:

    When streetcar track construction finally begins, will “509 Harbourfront” – the TTC’s shortest streetcar route – be extended east of the Bay subway station through East Bayfront to the West Don Lands?

    Steve: No. That is a separate, as yet not approved nor funded project.

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