Western Waterfront and Park Lawn Loop

This post is extremely long and most of it will be in the “more” section.  I received a copy of a letter addressed to Mike Olivier from David Nagler, the public consultation co-ordinator for the Western Waterfront LRT project.  The discussion is all about “why Park Lawn and not somewhere else” with a few other bits thrown in for spice.  My own comments are sprinkled through the post.

I have edited this slightly to eliminate duplicate information.

From an email from the City/TTC of their responses to public comments, not yet (if ever) on their website:

On behalf of TTC, please review the attached responses to questions provided during and after the Park Lawn Road streetcar loop open house.

Please note that funding for the design and construction of the Park Lawn loop expansion is recommended for inclusion in the proposed 2007-2011 TTC budget.  If you are not satisfied with the attached responses, you may provide additional comment on this project and/or other TTC issues to the Commission.

[Instructions on appearing at the TTC meetings have been removed here.]

David Nagler
Public Consultation Coordinator
Public Consultation Unit
Policy, Planning, Finance, & Administration
City of Toronto

1. Why extend streetcar service from Humber Loop to Park Lawn?

An environmental assessment (EA) study of upgraded transit service between southern Etobicoke and downtown Toronto was undertaken in 1992-3.  As part of that EA study, it was recommended, and approved, that provision be made to develop a reserved streetcar right-of-way on Lake Shore Boulevard beyond Humber Loop with a turn-back loop at Legion Road. 

This improvement was intended to take place over time as re-development of the motel strip occurred, and would allow the extension of more frequent streetcar service west of Humber Loop as area population increases warranted.  At the time of the original EA, limited redevelopment had taken place along the motel strip.  Since that time, significant new residential development has occurred, particularly east of Park Lawn Road, more has been approved and additional proposals are expected in view of the recent Ontario Municipal Board ruling for development on Park Lawn. 

Residents have been requesting an improvement in transit service for some time.  The loop at Park Lawn will allow the existing streetcar short-turn at Humber to occur further west, thereby doubling the frequency of service to the Park Lawn area.

In 2002, due to changing land use on Legion Road and identification of environmentally sensitive lands adjacent to Legion Road, the City and Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) expressed concern regarding the potential impacts of streetcar operation on the area.  Following an analysis and evaluation of options, including consultation with the local area Councillor at the time, expansion of the existing bus loop on the southwest corner of Park Lawn and Lake Shore was selected as the preferred alternative. 

In 2003, City Council and the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority approved in principle the expansion of the existing bus loop to accommodate streetcars subject to review of the detailed design.

Increased traffic demands are evident in the Park Lawn/Lake Shore area, not only due to local development, but also due to development in areas beyond the Toronto borders.  As local development occurs, traffic demands will increase and, accordingly, the City has plans to improve road facilities in the area. 

However, road improvements alone cannot fully serve all of the transportation demand expected from both local and non-local sources. The provision of improved transit service is a basic premise of the Toronto Official Plan, which seeks to promote long-term sustainable growth.  By providing improved transit service throughout the City, residents and commuters will have alternatives to the use of the private automobile whose continued unlimited growth is not sustainable.

The Park Lawn loop is only one part of improved transit service between downtown and south Etobicoke.  An Environmental Assessment is currently underway to extend the 509 Harbourfront streetcar service west from its existing terminus at Exhibition Place to the existing reserved right-of-way track at Roncesvalles/The Queensway.  Also, additional right-of-way property on Lake Shore Boulevard to Park Lawn Road is being acquired as development plans are submitted and reserved streetcar operation will be implemented once all of the required property has been acquired.  Once these facilities are completed, service between south Etobicoke and downtown will be provided in a fully reserved-right-of-way, thereby minimizing the impact of traffic delays on service.  In the meantime, installation of the western terminus of this future reserved right-of-way will allow the more frequent streetcar service to be extended, to meet demand from existing and imminent development in the Park Lawn area, in advance of implementation of the new service to downtown in a fully reserved right-of-way.

Steve:  This is all very nice as far as it goes especially if you believe that all of the Queen service now scheduled to get to Humber will actually make it to Park Lawn.

2. Why not extend service to the existing loop at Kipling?

The TTC continually monitors service demands and adjusts service as necessary.  At this time, passenger demand west of the Humber Bay Shores area does not warrant additional service.  Extending the existing short-turn service beyond Park Lawn to Kipling is estimated to cost approximately $3.3 million a year in on-going operating costs, and would require the dedication of three additional streetcars.  Use of the TTC’s restricted available resources to provide such a service can only be justified if warranted by demand and, at this time, it is not projected that sufficient demand will exist west of Humber Bay Shores to justify this additional cost in the foreseeable future (i.e. for 10 years minimum and most likely more than 20 years).

However, the existing, committed, and proposed developments in the Humber Bay Shores area are expected to generate increased ridership and will warrant an improvement in service as far as Park Lawn Road in the short- to medium-term, and this improvement can be made at a much lower operating cost.

Kipling Loop is used for emergency turnbacks only and has not been used by streetcar service on a regular scheduled basis for decades.  Single family residential development is located immediately adjacent to the loop.  There are no known plans for redevelopment of this area, especially at the scale occurring in the Park Lawn area.

Steve:  Demand west of Humber is a function of service quality, and the TTC has done much to discourage use of the “Long Branch” car ever since its amalgamation with 507-Queen.  Given the frequent, wide gaps in service, it’s no wonder that there is no demand.  Meanwhile, Lake Shore Boulevard (all of it) is an “Avenue” in the Official Plan and as such should get enhanced transit service.  We will return to the question of integrated routes later. 

Kipling loop was used as the western terminus of the Queen car during two track reconstruction projects between there and Long Branch loop.  It was also the southern terminus of the 44-Kipling South bus for many years until that was extended into the former hospital lands south of Lake Shore. 

3. Why not implement an express bus service between south Etobicoke and downtown now?

The TTC analysed peak period express bus service between south Etobicoke and downtown in 1999, 2003, 2004 and 2005.  In all cases, the analysis indicated that the financial performance of the service would not meet the TTC’s minimum financial standard and so, the express bus service was not approved by the Commission.  It is intended to update this analysis using newer population and travel information as part of the normal review of service requests for 2007.

However, it should be noted that provision of a peak period, premium fare, limited service express bus is not a replacement for more frequent streetcar service that could be provided to the Park Lawn area. This service can be provided for longer periods of time at
lower cost than a special express bus and will serve a greater number of potential transit customers since it is not limited to a single destination or a specific time of day.

Steve:  Continuing my remarks about the Long Branch car from above, one other thing the TTC has managed to do with the poor service on Lake Shore is to drive away the strong local demand which existed (and which could grow again) among communities along this route.  An express bus does nothing for people who want to get around in the west end, and if anything, gives the TTC more of an excuse to short turn service before it gets past High Park, let alone anywhere near Kipling.

4. Won’t the added streetcars turning at Park Lawn worsen the already bad traffic congestion?

Traffic analysis undertaken by consultants, assuming the existing intersection configuration, indicates that the added 6 streetcars per hour turning left at Lake
Shore Blvd and Park Lawn Ave. would have minimal impact on the intersection performance assuming development in place up to 2007.  An average peak hour increase in delay of 1-3 seconds per vehicle was estimated to occur, with the largest increases being 6 sec for southbound left turning vehicles in the a.m. peak hour and 10 secs. for westbound vehicles in the p.m. peak hour.  Improvements will be made to the intersection, including a widening of the southbound approach, when development plans are finalized for the northwest corner of the intersection. 

In addition, Lake Shore Blvd will be widened east of Park Lawn Road to provide a reserved right-of-way for streetcars in the future.  The widening will maintain two through lanes for traffic and appropriate turn lanes in each direction.

During times when the Gardiner Expressway is blocked due to accidents, the traffic congestion in the surrounding area, including Park Lawn and Lake Shore, will worsen as it does today.  This type of situation is common anywhere in the city when traffic flow is
unexpectedly interrupted.  The presence or absence of streetcars at Park Lawn and Lake Shore will make little difference to these exceptional situations.

In fact, the aim of improving transit service to the Park Lawn/Lake Shore area, including to the waterfront park, is to increase the number of people using transit instead of using their cars.  Thus, the streetcars should be seen as part of the solution to area traffic problems rather than being identified as contributing to the problem.

Steve:  I would add only one point here:  Frequent streetcar service will attract people to transit.  What passes for service today will not especially in a neighbourhood full of people who can afford to drive. 

5. How will the loop fit into the existing environment of the park?

The current bus loop was built by the former City of Etobicoke to high standards including landscaping to integrate the loop into the park environment.  The expanded loop will be built to the same standards and will be enhanced with increased landscaping and lighting, and an improved entrance to the park as requested by City Parks staff.  The degree to which the loop encroaches onto parkland will be minimised, and its location where there is already a transit loop and no adjacent built use further minimises impacts.  TTC staff are working closely with the City’s Parks staff to develop an acceptable design including a suggested improvement to the park entrance.

In addition, noise studies indicate that predicted noise level increases will be within MOE standards.  Improved rail lubrication and trackbed isolation methods will be incorporated in the loop design to minimise any noise impacts.

6. Will the new loop provide a safer environment than the existing Humber Loop?

Yes, in that the loop at Park Lawn will be in a more visible area with more people around. The new loop will be designed with upgraded pedestrian-scale lighting.  The design will also be reviewed by TTC security staff to ensure that all appropriate safety and security measures are included.

7. Why not improve the 66 Prince Edward bus service?

As part of the ongoing network review process, consideration will be given to improving the 66 Prince Edward bus route’s operating hours and routing in conjunction with the implementation of the Park Lawn streetcar loop.  With the proposed increased development in this area, improved service on the bus route will likely be warranted and TTC will continue to monitor changes to development and potential transit demand to determine when such service improvements should be implemented.

However, any improvements to bus service would be in addition to the improvements to streetcar service that would occur with the construction of the Park Lawn streetcar loop. The bus and streetcar routes are not entirely interchangeable, even though both can be used to get to and from downtown.  The 501 Queen streetcar offers a greater variety of direct destinations, more frequent service, and longer periods of operation than can be justified on the 66 Prince Edward bus and it, therefore, remains an important and necessary element of transit service to the Park Lawn area.

8. What action is being taken to improve reliability on the 501 Queen and 508 Lake Shore services to Long Branch?

The TTC is well aware of the problems in the Queen Street corridor and has been evaluating the situation across the line.  Potential solutions, including revised schedules and splitting the route into shorter, more manageable pieces are now being reviewed for implementation.  Any changes implemented will be monitored over time to evaluate their effectiveness in improving service reliability.

Steve:  Considering that the routes were amalgamated well over a decade ago, a review of alternate service designs is long, long overdue. 

9. Why were more options not presented at the November open house?

As indicated, a full environmental assessment (EA) study of upgraded transit service between southern Etobicoke and downtown Toronto was undertaken in 1993.  Commonly referred to as the Waterfront West LRT (WWLRT), this EA study recommended that provision be made to develop a reserved streetcar right-of-way on Lake Shore Boulevard beyond Humber Loop with a turn-back loop at Legion Road.  A full public consultation program was undertaken as required by the EA legislation, including two meetings with the Marina del Rey and Grand Harbour residents.

The original EA report, which was approved by City Council and the Ministry of the Environment (MOE) in 1995, included a process for dealing with change from the original approved alignment.  A number of alternative loop locations were considered as part of the EA study including the Park Lawn location.  The Legion Road loop was selected based on a potential connection to a relocated GO Station which was being considered at the time.  GO Transit now has no plans to complete this relocation.

In 2002, due to the changing land use on Legion Road, the City requested the TTC to find an alternate location for the Legion Road loop.  In addition, the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) expressed concern that the loop could negatively affect their proposed Bonar Wetlands project which had been approved immediately north of the loop site.  In accordance with the approved EA amendment process, an analysis was undertaken considering three options:

  • The original location on Legion Road;
  • The west edge of Humber Bay park on the south side of Lake Shore Blvd, just east of Legion Road; and
  • The existing bus loop on the southwest corner of Lake Shore/Park Lawn expanded to accommodate the streetcar operation.

The options were evaluated based on benefits to transit customers, operational feasibility, capital costs and community impacts.  It was concluded that the best alternative was to modify the existing bus loop in that it was found to be an equal or, in light of the changed land use on Legion Road, a better alternative than the original proposed location.  The full TTC report is available at http://www.ttc.ca/postings/gso-comrpt/documents/report/f1733/_conv.htm.

Discussions on the alternative loop location were held with the City Transportation Planning and Parks staff, TRCA, and with the then local Councillor (Irene Jones), all of whom supported the conclusion.

MOE has confirmed that the relocation of the loop from Legion Road to Park Lawn falls within the definition of a minor modification to the original EA undertaking.  The process for addressing such a modification is outlined in Chapter 11 of the original WWLRT EA report.  The appropriate excerpts as contained in Section 11.2 are noted below:

“During the design and construction of the undertaking, modification to some of the project concepts may occur.  This could be due to:

  • Site specific problems which may occur during the design of the project;
  • Improvements in the design to provide more benefits and/or less adverse impacts;
  • Circumstances which develop at the time of construction.

“These are modifications which may result in changes to the program presented in the Environmental Assessment report.  However, they would not alter the conclusion that rapid transit in the corridor is required to meet project objectives.

“Minor modifications to the project will be addressed without requesting formal approval from MOE.  Modifications to station concepts and other surface facilities will be subject to liaison with the local municipalities and public agencies.  Likewise modifications associated with construction techniques, minor alignment adjustments within existing right-of-way, new Building Code requirements and other adjustments will be governed by specific legislation of the affected agencies.  Affected public or agencies will be consulted and advised through the existing approval process.”

In accordance with this process, affected agencies have been consulted, information has been posted to the City’s website, and an Open House was held on November 22, 2006 to consult and advise the local community of the change.  A report will be going forward to the Commission in 2007.

10. What is the process from this point forward?

Funding for the design and construction of the Park Lawn loop expansion is recommended for inclusion in the proposed 2007-2011 TTC budget.  If you wish to provide additional comment on this project and/or other TTC ssues you may contact your City Councillor and/or the Commission.  [Information about Commission meetings, etc, deleted.]

11. When is construction of the loop scheduled?

Construction of the loop is scheduled for summer of 2008.

12. With a new Park Lawn Loop, what will the increase in streetcar service be during non-peak hours?

Service will double between Humber Loop and Park Lawn.  The same frequency of service that is now scheduled as far west as Humber Loop, will be extended further west to Park Lawn.

TTC will add an average of 6 streetcars per hour most of the day to the existing service west of Humber Loop to Park Lawn Loop.  The existing 501 Queen service west
of Humber Loop is 5-6 streetcars per hour in the peaks and midday periods, Monday to Friday, for an average frequency of a streetcar every 10 minutes.  The new
service will add the same number of streetcars per hour for a total of 10-12 streetcars per hour, or an average frequency of a streetcar every 5 minutes during the peaks and midday periods.

During the weekday evenings, the existing frequency of a streetcar every 16 or 20 minutes (3-4 streetcars per hour) will change to every 8 or 10 minutes (6-8 streetcars per hour).  Weekend service will also double and frequencies vary depending on the time of day.

Steve:  As I mentioned earlier, the critical point for this community (and for the growing developments in Swansea) is that service actually get west of Sunnyside Loop.

13. Can TTC build the streetcar loop at Superior Avenue south of Lake Shore Boulevard instead of Park Lawn?

Based on currently-known development scenarios, ridership projections indicate that there will not be sufficient demand to build a loop and provide service west of the Humber Bay Shores (Park Lawn) area in the foreseeable future (i.e. for 10 years minimum and most likely more than 20 years).

Steve:  I understand that the real issue here is that the TTC does not want to pay for rebuilding the bridge at Mimico Creek (just west of Park Lawn).

The biggest problem with the WWLRT study is that it’s another case of a old study done when conditions were much different being dusted off with minimal changes.  The Official Plan’s goals for Lake Shore didn’t exist when this line was concocted.  Moreover, the TTC assumed that anyone living in south Etobicoke would go north to the subway, and indeed many new bus services sprang up over the years linking the old Lake Shore communities to the Bloor subway.  If you want to go downtown via Queen, well, you live on the wrong map.

The whole issue of transit in south Etobicoke needs thorough review, and it should not be constrained by the TTC’s blinkered view of what is or is not on the table.

2 thoughts on “Western Waterfront and Park Lawn Loop

  1. As a resident near Lakeshore and Islington, I would like to chip in and say that the existing streetcar service along the Lakeshore line is absolutely terrible. It is far too inconsistent and I simply do not take the streetcar to get downtown much anymore, especially if I have to actually be somewhere at a specific time. For a leisurely sunny Saturday or Sunday afternoon excursion to St. Lawrence Market, fine…if you have an entire day to kill.

    I have stood waiting on Lakeshore so long that I have walked back to my house and taken my car…and still get there faster than if the streetcar had actually arrived when it was supposed to. Disgraceful. If the TTC was a private company

    And because the frequency is so bad, you can’t even use the streetcar to get around locally, either…the beer store is just up Lakehore near Long Branch, but it’s a 1.5 hour trip by streetcar…or a 5 minute drive by car.

    I’ll admit that once you’re actually on the thing, the trip from Islington to the Roncesvalles is actually pretty quick, depending on how many people have been waiting along the way to be picked up…but then it crawls along Queen and/or King.

    Implementing an express steetcar route downtown would help somewhat, but I don’t think it makes any logical planning or financial sense. The line would be only useful for commuting and would not serve any of the communities in between.

    Why haven’t other alternatives been looked at for Queen and King? I know they have narrow ROW’s, but surely a case could be made for at least providing a dedicated transit row on ONE of them, maybe a pedestrian-only promenade like in Europe…or make each street one-way in opposite directions?

    How much would it cost to shift the tracks to one side of the road? That would eliminate the left-turning conflict debate that happened with St. Clair. And you’d only need one set of poles, no wires strung across the entire road. Again, Europe has these all over the place.

    The possibilites are limitless for someone who has the guts to champion them politically…the will of the communities is there.

    I’m so sick of seeing these EA studies propose transit lines based on current demand patterns! Transit isn’t only supposed to serve commuters going to and from the downtown core. A streetcar line will pay for itself in the long run when it provides consistent, frequent service, both locally and for commuters.

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  2. Would resurrecting the 507 streetcar (operating WITH whatever 501 and 508 cars actually exist) be feasible?  Even at a reduced frequency (say, 15-20 minutes), it would at least supply some form of reliable transit along Lakeshore.  With the local (or past demand of) traffic, a line only to Humber/Park Lawn could be sucessful.  And a transfer there as well could be tolerated.  (PS: I don’t live in the area, or close to it, so I only know about the situation from your website, Steve.)

    Steve:  The real issue with the 507 is that it needs a decent eastern terminus as a replacement for Humber Loop.  The TTC overshot a bit when they made it Neville.

    A few years ago, I proposed that the 507 (or 508 or whatever) run into downtown via King (as the 508 does now) but more frequently at least at peak periods, and to Dundas West Station otherwise.  This would give the folks in southern Etobicoke a service that did not spend all its time short turning at Sunnyside or Shaw, and would also supplement the off-peak service on Roncesvalles that is often marred by 504 short turns.  This is not the only possibility.

    The underlying problem is that any reorganization of the 501 service into separate parts will inevitably mean that the TTC has to run more cars to handle situations where new route segments overlap.  Better service would not be the end of the world, but they are averse to this (a) for budgetary reasons and (b) due to the shortage of vehicles (although there are a few spare streetcars).

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