Waterfront West and the Front Street Extension

The Environmental Assessment for the western extension of the waterfront line will get underway soon with the usual preparatory phase of creating the Terms of Reference.  This brings to mind a note I received a while ago from Hamish Wilson, long time opponent of the Front Street Extension, and begs the question of whether the transit EA can be used to revisit options for the corridor as a whole much as the EA now in progress for the Airport Link has widened out to a general review of the northwest corridor. 

Here is Hamish’s note:

I appreciate the clear call for moving away from the folly of the car-based Front St. Extension, but I think we should ask instead for its conversion to a transit-only project, for a variety of reasons, including some related to other topics, like the Gardiner and the be-vs.-through conflicts.

Regrettably we have not studied ANY transit options to the quarter-billion gift to 905 cars nor had much thought given to the harms to transit from letting the Gardiner cars get off at Bathurst nor the moving of the railtracks that the GO trains run on (for $50 million or more).

While basic engineering economics would make even one more GO train seem a logical solution to the congestion, we’re not seeing any real leadership from most Councillors to a thorough exploration of the transit options in a corridor study.

There is a gem of a transit route in a transit-only Front St. project that could well go in a rough route of the road project to link to the Ex and then beyond to Etobicoke. Such a thing would be costly, but there’s a clear travel demand, a pressing need for leadership in transit, energy, atmospheric environment and public health policy issues that a FST would give, and a large area of high travel demand (Front St.) that doesn’t have good east-west transit service, though it once did.

A thorough corridor study of transit options, including GO trains, may well conclude that an FST is also effective, likely ahead of the West Waterfront Extension often pointed to as a “Yes, we are doing transit” fix, though it’s a milk run that will never provide the quicker service to the core via Front St. that could entice people off the Gardiner.

We also need some back-up of some description for the GO trains through this corridor, but that would require longer-term planning and caring.

But there’s a quarter-billion bucks of road folly ripe for conversion to transit uses that should be hard for most politicians to resist, though Mr. Miller and most “progressives” seem content to keep supporting the Pantalone Parkway.


It’s now over three years ago that some of us asked the provincial environment minister for an Individual EA of this project rather than the Class EA, and the issue of options to the Gardiner have also disappeared it seems.  We’re not seeing much positive thoughtful leadership on a fundamental issue of our Waterfront and cars vs. transit.  Blowing such a great transit opportunity is making us climate cariminals, and we’re well down that road already.

To this I would add that there is a separate study of an alignment between the CNE and Union Station that would go via Fort York / Bremner Boulevard and would slip through the basement of the Air Canada Centre into the existing Bay Street tunnel.  There are intriguing options here, and it will be important to make sure that the EA looks at the broad picture

One thought on “Waterfront West and the Front Street Extension

  1. Thanks Steve, and there is an absolute need for the conversion of the FSE to an FST, or some transit-only project with a core goal of offering an option for SOV car-based travel in this obvious high-demand transport corridor.

    There are maybe 6 transit options:

    an extra GO train or three;
    the Queen St. subway concept from five decades ago (the age of the FSE idea has been cited to enhance its appeal so let’s find some transitoptions);
    a King St. ROW;
    a Queen St. ROW;
    a Front St. Extension transitway only that mimics much of the route of the road with stops near the Liberty Village and Ex area and links to Etobicoke somehow;
    a hybrid of the King St. ROW (or Queen) linking to the Front St. area via the railtracks going to the NW (weston/Blue22 line) and the West Waterfront LRT and other options that can include a Bremner route.

    And I’m sure there are more options including what the Westoncommunitycoalition is thinking of for the railtracks (a subway, but public transit on the surface is better in my view) that the FSE would impede.

    There’s also a lot of work that John Stillich and John Banka did with the EPT group to urge a big subway plan/revamp of the Gardiner/Lakeshore to bring effective major TTC transit to this east-west commuter transport route.

    It’s such a shame that most progressive politicians have been so focussed on giving the near $300-million to car-based fixes to congestion and were somehow able to need to spend $13-million on FSE land but haven’t been able to [… Hamish’s text is incomplete at this point]

    You’ve said that the WWRT won’t do for getting people out of their cars and off the Gardiner because it’s too much of a “milk route”, and it’s a valid criticism.  We need quick direct transport for an effective option to the Gardiner to truly make transit more attractive.

    There could be more, but thanks for this.



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