East Waterfront Update

Last night, I dropped by the first Public Forum for the EA now in progress for the Eastern Waterfront transit proposals.  There are three study areas:  East Bayfront covers the area roughly to Parliament Street, West Donlands looks at the slice from Parliament to the River up to King, and the Port Lands covers everything east of the river.  Although there will be separate studies, the work is co-ordinated, and some of the public participation is consolidated to avoid duplication of effort.

At this point, the EA is only at the Terms of Reference stage.  This part can be immensely frustrating because nobody actually designs anything, they only talk about what the ground rules will be when they actually start to work.  If you get these wrong, you may find yourself with a subway where you expected a pleasant streetcar ride, or an expressway where you expected a civilized pedestrian oasis.

Of course, in practice some preliminary work has already been done to see what is feasible and what sorts of options should be offered up for discussion.

I had to leave the meeting after the presentations but before folks got down to definining the terms, and have a few observations on what I saw and heard.

  • The transit capacity analysis includes reference to expanding Union Station.  The platform expansion project (now in detailed design) was listed on the presentation slide and handout, but the TTC’s Bill Dawson also mentioned the need to expand the streetcar loop at Union.  A design for this exists, and it is critical to handling any increase in demand at that location.  (This is a topic for a separate post.)
  • On the subject of bus versus LRT, Bill Dawson noted that a streetcar (I believe he was using a CLRV as an example) has 1.5 times the capacity of a bus, and providing a good connection with adequate capacity at Union would be very difficult with buses.
  • On the subject of street design, the study is directed to review the question of smaller transit rights-of-way.  This may be one of those gotchas of badly formed amendments:  the issue is not just the transit right-of-way, but the entire road design and the grand boulevard that is planned for Queen’s Quay.  Our friends the road engineers in the Works Department are at it again foisting their suburban standards on downtown streets.
  • Dennis Callan, ex-TTC and now a consultant with McCormick Rankin, made an interesting comment about new streetcars/LRVs that the routes would not need loops if the cars were double-ended (like the cars in Calgary and Edmonton, for example).  Hmmm.  Maybe the TTC has finally discovered that there’s operational and construction flexibility with this approach.  One big issue we often get into is the minimum curve radius a car can handle.  The easiest way to deal with this problem is to use crossovers, not loops, but that’s a discussion for another day.
  • Finally, the design goal for any new service is that people should be no more than a five-minute walk from transit.

That five-minute goal is laudable, but it only gets you to a stop with no guarantee you will actually get service.  I left the workshop at St. Lawrence Hall at 7:40 planning to hop the King car over from Jarvis and King to Roy Thomson Hall at Simcoe Street for a concert at 8:00.  No King car in sight.  Either way.  After a 10-minute wait, I took a cab and just caught the 5-minute call at RTH.

There are days when being a transit advocate, right in the heart of the city, can be trying.  My good works for transit cost me $6 including tip.

2 thoughts on “East Waterfront Update

  1. I attended the meeting also and I was able to stay later, but not quite to the end.

    The direction to reduce the width of the ROW, I believe, come from city council.  At a meeting a couple years ago, the neighborhood design consultants they brought in where concerned that having a ROW would make the street too wide for pedestrians and would cut the neighborhood in half, but then they weren’t transit experts.

    On the other hand, I saw a design for Queen Quay East that had the Redpath spur in between the two streetcar tracks, which would make the ROW far wider then necessary.  I believe the Redpath spur can overlap the streetcar ROW as the spur could be limited to use at night.

    Steve replies:  I agree with these comments.  The sugar spur should either be included within the two lanes of the streetcar right-of-way for off hours use, or it should be in the roadway.  It should not create an additional lane’s width in the right-of-way.  Eventually, the Redpath land will be too valuable for this use to stay on the waterfront, and the last thing we need to do is build in road width for a usage that will eventually disappear.

    Any streetcar Toronto buys should be compatible with the existing system, which means it will have to handle tight curves.  Having double-ended streetcar brings in extra costs like having doors and both sides and extra controls.  You just wrote a post on the operational inflexibility of crossovers in the subway.  I don’t think we want to bring those problems to the streetcar system.

    To clarify my position:  The point in the subway is that the way TTC has designed crossovers, it is impossible to operate a close (less than 120 seconds) headway at a terminal.  I am not implying that crossovers are inflexible, and indeed feel exactly the opposite.  Yes, you need extra doors and controls on cars (just like a subway train), but gain the ability to install a turnback point with minimal requirement for extra space.  This will be important on any new suburban LRT lines just as it is on the subway. 

    With low-floor cars, the problem of extra stepwells for the offside doors is eliminated and this space is available for standees (again, just like a subway train).  If you look at some of the design details on Calgary’s system, you will see that they make use of both sets of doors so that they can have both side and centre platform stations as it suits the location.

    The major recommendation of the people who where at the meeting was that they should consider the big picture more and see how the transit expansion could support not only the people moving into the new waterfront developments, but also other areas, like The Beach(es), Regent Park and a Downtown Relief Line.  Another suggestion was they consider building both local streetcars on Queen Quay and express streetcars on Lakeshore or the rail line.

    I agree that there may be a need for two separate corridors — one for local service and one for semi-express service.  This ties in with routes such as a Kingston Road / Beach LRT, a Don Mills / Downtown Relief LRT and also a Weston / Airport LRT.  None of theseshould be routed over the Queen’s Quay trackage, and they need their own separate right-of-way and connection at Union.


  2. I was also at the meeting and stayed until the end.  There will be others with far better recall but it seemed to me that the major common themes were:

    1. That streetcars were the way to go – particularly new ones that will be more user friendly.  As the Port Lands development is far in the future its EA will not occur for several years (unless Expo happens) and MAYBE until that area is developed it could be adequately served by buses – if linked into the network properly.

    Steve: I concur that we need to get transit into the Port Lands even if it is with buses as a first step to establish a transit presence in the early years of the area.  I will leave my comments on Expo (by which I am unimpressed) for another time as and when there is something concrete to write about.  See also comments below about Broadview.

    2. That the EA must look at the possible GO station at Cherry/Lakeshore to ensure there is a proper interchange there.

    Steve:  I am not completely convinced of the need for this station, but could be persuaded otherwise.  The question I have is what demand would it serve, and how accessible would it really be for the neighbourhood.  This is part of a much larger question of capacity and design of GO and Via services overall at Union Station.

    3. That, in addition to the network within the three precincts, the EA must look at North – South connections and connections to the rest of the network going East and West.  In particular there was very strong support for linking the Queen’s Quay line to Parliament (possibly eventually extending this line to Castle Frank) as well as a new connection up Cherry to King and, when the Port Lands is developed, that another connection be made up Broadview to link to the Broadview station. 

    In short, passengers should be able to get easily to BOTH the N/S and the E/W subway lines.  If there were lines on both Parliament and Cherry there appeared to be less need for the short “proposed’ section of track – on the maps they distributed – going along Front Street from Parliament to Cherry.

    Steve:  I concur about the need for north-south links and find the proposed little dipsy-doddle of the King car via Parliament, Front and Cherry to be a bit of a joke.  It seems to be a way to bring the King car a block closer to some developments without really addressing the need for good service to the entire neighbourhood. 

    An important early step is to get service across the Don River to the foot of Broadview sooner rather than later so that there can be direct service from Broadview Station to the eastern waterfront.  In the current plans, a Broadview connection veers east before linking to an east-west line on Commissioners.  Talk about going out of the way!

    The design for the area east of Cherry gets in the way of continuing a Front Street service further east.  Making a connection straight east to Broadview could be challenging, but we need to look at the options and plan for it happening without waiting for the rest of a Port Lands network.

    As for Parliament to Castle Frank, this has come up a few times, and one big issue is the physical structure at Castle Frank Station.  I may be prejudiced (living at Broadview and Danforth), but I think a Broadview service would be superior because it would provide a better connection to the shopping districts at Queen (emerging), Gerrard and Danforth.  That said, much better bus service on Parliament is a must.

    4. That people travelling along Queen’s Quay will probably not all want to go to/from Union Station so provision will need to be made for through cars from Bathurst to Cherry.  Bill Dawson of TTC told our group this was certainly something to be looked at but raised major engineering challenges at the Bay Street tunnel.

    Steve:  Yes, there is a problem in the design of the tunnel at Bay and Queen’s Quay because a through east-west track is blocked by support columns holding up the intersection

    This reminds me of one other ingredient:  Intersection design and placement.  The existing layout west of Bay is a mess in that there are (a) too many traffic lights and road crossings and (b) “priority” signalling that should work a lot better than it does.  This should not be repeated in the eastern waterfront especially if we are going to handle the demands projected in the EA materials. 


Comments are closed.