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.