Two important steps were taken at this week’s TTC meeting regarding Environmental Assessments for the various waterfront transit schemes.
The contract for consulting services on the Waterfront West EA amendment was awarded to Lea Associates. This project involves looking at various chunks of the proposed LRT to eastern Etobicoke. Here is a very brief overview of the scope, and what’s not in the initial contract as presented by the TTC.
- First, it is important to know that there is already an approved EA in place for this line that is almost a decade old. The alignment has been changed over the years so that instead of running south of Lake Shore Blvd. west of Bathurst, the line will run along Fleet Street (which is to be partly converted to a transit right-of-way this fall).
- The next section of the line is from the existing Exhibition Loop (under the Gardiner, behind the Horse Palace) to Dufferin Street.
- Various alternative alignments are proposed to get from Dufferin to Roncesvalles. I will add drawings to this post at a later date so that people can see what is involved.
- No work is planned on The Queensway which is already a private right-of-way from Parkside Drive to Humber Loop.
- A new loop (probably replacing Humber) is planned at Park Lawn and Lake Shore.
- The EA contains nothing about any examination of the line west of Park Lawn to Brown’s Line (Highway 27).
The Draft Terms of Reference were approved for submission to the Ministry of the Environment. The ToR has been worked on by various public community meetings and it was substantially improved in many ways, notably the recognition that Union Station is not the only route to the waterfront, and a connection north to the Bloor-Danforth subway should also be studied.
This has been an excellent example of how public participation can add to an EA process, and I hope that we don’t see the hopes of many dashed by the heavy-handed, paternalistic analysis that has infected other projects, notably St. Clair. One vital difference here is that, unlike St. Clair, we don’t appear to have a situation where major design decisions were taken before the EA even started, and the EA should not be an exercise in getting the public to agree to something that’s already a done deal.
On the negative side, the Ministry of the Environment, after asking for one consolidated EA for the three planning districts — East Bayfront, West Donlands, and Portlands — now wants three separate studies. It’s so nice to know that Queen’s Park doesn’t understand the idea of integrated planning. This will result in separate study groups and Community Consultation processes, although I expect to see all of the usual suspects at both sets of meetings.
Also planned are technical briefings on the methodology behind many aspects of planning and design. These will be useful both in the immediate scope of the Waterfront studies, and in the longer term as canned presentations for community groups. This works both ways: interested members of the public will be exposed to some of the technical machinations, and the planners/engineers will be subject to scrutiny for their assumptions. This has the potential for significant benefits to both groups.