Transit City (5) The Southern Network

The southern part of Transit City overlaps the existing streetcar system and some of the studies already underway.  Transit City itself includes:

  • The Waterfront West LRT from Union Station to Long Branch

Other related schemes include:

  • The Waterfront East plans for East Bayfront, West Donlands and the Port Lands.  EAs for the first two of these are already underway.
  • The St. Clair streetcar right-of-way and its extension to Jane Street (see discussion in the West Network post).
  • A review of operations and service quality on the 504 King Route released today on the supplementary agenda for next week’s TTC meeting.  [I will comment on this at a later date.]
  • The proposed Front Street Extension.

The Waterfront West line has, until now, been described as ending in southeastern Etobicoke, currently planned for a new loop at Park Lawn and Lake Shore.  I am pleased to see that the Transit City proposal recognizes the potential of all of southern Etobicoke and extends the LRT plan all the way to Highway 27.  For years, it seemed like the Park Lawn terminus was an inevitable first step in replacing the streetcar service to Long Branch with buses and further isolation of the area from the rest of the city.

Lake Shore Boulevard could undergo a renaissance as a major new residential and commercial community, and good transit service can help this to happen.

The WWLRT would run from Long Branch Loop at Brown’s Line and Lake Shore (the western terminus of the 501 Queen route) east via Lake Shore, through the underpass into Humber Loop just west of the Humber River.  It would run along the existing right-of-way on The Queensway (built as part of the Gardiner Expressway project when streetcars were removed from that part of Lake Shore in 1957) to Sunnyside.

Here things get a bit hazy with competing versions of the route between Roncesvalles and Dufferin.  In one version, the LRT would run via existing tracks on King to Dufferin and then south into the CNE grounds.  In the other, the line would swing down to run parallel to the railway corridor and would be probably buried under the embankment north of the existing railway.

Either way, the line arrives at the northwest corner of the CNE grounds and would run on the surface east to connect with the Exhibition Loop now used by the Bathurst and Harbourfront streetcars.

East of Strachan Avenue CNE, the line is likely to veer northeast via Fort York Boulevard in its own right-of-way and cross Bathurst just south of the bridge over the railway corridor.  The line continues east on a road that doesn’t exist yet but would be an extension of Bremner Boulevard, skirts the south side of the Dome, nips down into a tunnel through the north side of the Air Canada Centre’s basement, and thence into the existing tunnel to Union Station Loop.

This is certainly a line with its challenges.

The section between Sunnyside and Dufferin will, I believe, wind up running along the railway corridor and that’s where Transit City places it.  Schemes to use the street trackage in Parkdale via Dufferin and King may sound good, but this is an area of notorious traffic congestion whenever the Gardiner is closed or blocked and during special events at the CNE grounds.  If the line is going to be a credible route into downtown from Etobicoke and Swansea, it needs to get there quickly.

This brings me to the route through the railway lands and especially around the Dome and ACC.  Both of these have large events that attract much traffic congestion and a lot of pedestrians.  The WWLRT’s route from Spadina to Bay must avoid being trapped in predictable snarls at these locations.

Another twist in the western waterfront plans is the almost but not quite dead Front Street Extension.  [As I write this, I am getting a bit punchy after hours of Transit City and Monty Python’s Dead Parrot sketch is playing itself in my brain.]  Some have advocated placing the WWLRT on a median in the FSE (or in place of the FSE) as a way to attract people omto transit from southern Etobicoke. 

I don’t agree because I see no need to connect any new road serving the Liberty Village area to the expressway network.  A local road extending Front West from Bathurst to Dufferin will do quite nicely, and the last thing we want to do is to sanitize the road project with a transit component.  The last time we tried that, we almost got the Spadina Expressway.

Moreover, using the Front Street corridor would require the WWLRT to swing north of the railway corridor and would require a completely different approach into downtown.  Before the TTC came up with the Fort York / Bremner route as an alternative to a toonerville trolley trip along Queen’s Quay, this might have been worthwhile, but I am unconvinced now.

The Eastern Waterfront studies are not part of Transit City but they have passed the “Terms of Reference” phase and are about to move into a round of public meetings to deal with planning and technology alternatives.  There is some debate over the design in the Queen’s Quay and Bay area.  The existing Harboufront tunnel portal is not seen as an asset to the local community, and idea of a second portal east of Bay is meeting with some opposition.  This is very much a discussion in progress and alternative schemes for connecting the Queen’s Quay service to Union Station will surface over the next months I am sure.

The Port Lands, east of the Don River, are not likely to develop for over 10 years and transit service to them is little more than a planning map for future consideration.  No EA has begun for this section of the eastern waterfront transit service, but it is an important component because of the projected future population living east of the river and south of Lake Shore Boulevard.

Eventually, a line in the Port Lands could hook up with Queen Street and some have suggested that it could also be the inner end of a Kingston Road LRT.  A lot depends on future developments and on how fast a trip a rider could reasonably expect from the Beach to downtown via that route.

In the post on the Western Network, I mentioned the Jane LRT and the possibility of routing it to the Bloor Subway via the Weston rail corridor to Dundas West Station.  Such an alignment would eliminate some of the justification for extending the St. Clair streetcar and its right-of-way west from Gunn’s Loop at Keele Street.

If there is an LRT line built down the Weston corridor, it could eventually be extended south from Bloor into the core, although the approach gets tricky south of King Street.  However, such an option is so far in the future, and I suspect so unlikely to be built, that I am not going to spend a lot of time thinking about design details and options.

10 thoughts on “Transit City (5) The Southern Network

  1. Surprising to see the 504 King Car is still being considered for improvements with its priority in traffic. This effort has been dormant for years while delays continue daily. I am not impressed that it will be 2008 before a mere two month demonstration is undertaken. I _would_ be impressed if it happened this July & August! There are over 100 days, just “get it done”.

    The reason the enforcement blitz didn’t work before is the same reason none of the blitzes accomplish anything permanent. People know it is just a blitz and will soon be over. Same reason nothing changes on the highways inspite of good ole’ Cam Wooley doing his thing every holiday weekend to reveal all the nut cases on our roads and all those rolling death traps. The enforcement has been to ongoing.

    Make use of what we already have and pay for; police. Also, a good way to make use of our Auxiliary police as well as regular police and parking control officers so motorists know Toronto is serious about transit priority.


  2. Regarding the 504 route, I take it everyday and there’s very little that traffic has to do with the problems they’re having from what I observe as a passenger (and someone who cycles on King and Queen in the summer).

    Their main issue is capacity.

    The only places that have traffic regularly are at King and Bathurst in the morning (people turning left from King onto Bathurst, to get to Adelaide presumably). In the afternoon, between Bay and York where all the cabs are lined up so King is reduced to one lane (and this isn’t even that bad IMHO). Also in the afternoon, between John and Spadina–there seems to be major blockage, probably mostly from people heading south on Spadina to get on the Gardiner (and they often stop in the middle of the intersection).

    In the afternoon most of the people are getting on between Yonge and University (subways), with some more between University and Spadina. By the time the 504 hits Brent (first stop after Spadina) people are getting off. The streetcar is usually only about ~80% full at Bathurst, ~60% full at Sudbury, and


  3. Steve, great site, and my first post here. Just a couple of thoughts.

    First, I was in Detroit in the fall with 3 friends to see a Red Wing game. Getting there, using the People Mover was fine. What blew me away was when the game was done, and to our surprise, above us were bright heat lamps to keep the crowds jovial after the home team victory. Simply apply this to our new LRT stations and Spadina/SRT lines to make the winter commute a little more bearable.

    Second, regarding the proposed Lakshore LRT. It would be wiser not to build a loop at Park Lawn (much like Humber, in the middle of grass, and a brisk walk from the local condos) but rather at Mimico Ave/Lakeshore Blvd. It will not capture more than a handful of people from the surrounding condos, and its too far east for those living in Mimico. It is a natural connection with the 76 Royal York S. bus and would catch the mid-high density condo/apartment population living by the lake in Mimico.

    Full ‘Queen Street’ service should be provided to this point-with every 2nd car turning back east at this point-instead of Humber loop-and providing a reliable alternative for locals to downtown. The Queen line has been declining, and it’s time that Humber loop be relegated to a secondary loop, since it of little service to anyone in that area.

    Also of note, there is a new linear park along the lake being built along this stretch also. This would be of great benefit to this area.

    Steve: I hope that the Park Lawn idea will die a natural death now that Transit City has clearly shown the WWLRT going to Long Branch. That loop was a compromise from an earlier proposal a bit further west at Legion Road, and both of them, I feel, contained a hidden agenda to do away with streetcar service west of the “private right of way”. We all know that it’s “impossible to run good service” without such a facility even though the Long Branch car ran quite nicely until the TTC messed it up by through routing it with Queen.


  4. To follow on from the last poster’s comment. I’m always surprised how cold Toronto subway stations, particularly the indoor bus loops are, on a cold -20 day. Having just spent the weekend in Montreal, it’s a pleasant change to have a blast of warm air come at you when you open a metro station door.

    Obviously not all locations can easily be heated … but why couldn’t there be at least enough heat in a station like Main to bring the temperature up a few degrees. Montreal seems to be able to do this, and they always seem to have an even tighter budget than Toronto.


  5. It’s really too bad that Mimico GO Station is relatively ‘transit inaccessible’. The 76 Royal York runs past it, the 76B rush service comes within 2 blocks, and the 15 Evans can almost see it before turning westwards 5 blocks north. If only it wasn’t so isolated it could be a useful magnet collecting commuters from the area south of the Gardiner who want to get downtown. While the WWLRT will be great for local commuting in Mimco and New Toronto, but it’s too bad the exisitng resources couldn’t be better utilized for commuting – a problem with the infrastructure history of the area. I don’t see a solution, but it seems a waste of potential for a GO station.

    On the hypocritical side, I live in the area and like that Royal York is a quieter arterial road than say Islington or Kipling.


  6. I lived in Montreal for seven years and I remember hearing that the stations weren’t directly heated. If I remember correctly the only heating comes from adjacent buildings. So downtown, many of the stations are well heated by the underground city. Does anyone else know about this?


  7. I vaguely recall reading something about the type of ventilation systems that are used, and that somehow that is why the stations stay warm in winter (and get quite hot in the summer). In fact, I think it was something along the lines of not having direct ventilation from outside, but I can’t remember any other details. I’ll see if I can find out where I read about that. I do know that the stations definately are not directly heated.


  8. Further to my post above with regard to warm Montreal Metro stations, I found some information that seems to match up with what I was thinking:

    “One noticeable missing item with either the MR-63’s or MR-73’s is the fact that air conditioning does not exist in the métro. MR-63’s have an overhead fan system, and the MR-73’s fan system have mainly side vents which blow the air towards the sides of the cars in an effort to improve air circulation within the car. This works in conjunction with a tunnel fan system, which attempts to intake warm air from underground so that the stations, tunnels and rolling stock, while still a bit warm underground during the summer months, usually do not reach unbearably hot temperatures”.

    So in the winter, I believe I recall reading that the warm-air intake fans in the tunnels are not operated (or at least, not as frequently), which keeps the stations warm.


  9. I am also glad that the TTC has done a good job of publicizing a cost-effective package to improve transit in Toronto. For some reason the 540 million (including streetcars) waterfront west lrt does not discuss the Bremner alignment. The map shows only the current QQ route.

    Steve: I believe the reason for this is that the Bremner route isn’t yet “official”, and of course it is outside of the study area of the EA. Yes, yet another EA will be required for that piece of the line. Nice work for an army of consultants.

    I have a special interest in the line for reasons that deal indirectly with transit. Last year a 150,000 square foot aquarium with a 600 car surface parking lot (and room to expand according to Pantalone) was to replace most of the park lands in the western Exhibition grounds.

    The deal required the city to take care of the costs of the needed road capacity to service the development. The aquarium eventually turned down the offer saying that even with the road improvements the windswept grounds were not serviced by a quality transit link to downtown. Pantalone who essentially runs the EX has been getting the city moving on the Dufferin jog elimination and a Dufferin Extension to Lakeshore. While I believe the FSE to be mainly motivated by other interests, the local arterial and ramps also add some more regional road links for the Ex.

    The Environmental assesment (and modified EA) for this WWLRT in this area is divided into two sections with two separate time tables. The first section would service the largely undeveloped western Exhibition grounds and then cross the Dufferin bridge over the Gardiner. This would allow for transit to pay the (fiscal and political) costs required to widen the Dufferin Bridge which along with the other 2 Dufferin improvements will make the arterial a much busier route. Oh yes, the future Front Street ends just 10 feet to the north at a building owned by [a former Councillor].

    Steve: Given the very real probability that the route under the embankment north of the railway will be used to get to Sunnyside from Dufferin, it wouldn’t make any sense at all to replace the existing bridge at Dufferin Loop just for the LRT line. Build the whole thing in one go rather than having WWLRT cars stuck in traffic through Parkdale.

    One has to remember that the original plans to extend streetcar service to the western exhibition grounds by Pantalone would have ended at Dufferin. He since lobbied to get the 20 million link built along Queens Quay from Bathurst to Spadina which gave the Ex direct service to downtown and an additional justification to serve the western grounds (direct service from Union to Etobicoke).

    Steve: I think that you have your timeline a bit fouled up here. Connecting the eastern and western loops at the CNE grounds would do very little for development by itself that couldn’t be obtained simply by extending the Bathurst car over to the west side of the grounds. The link via the Dufferin Gate is not required operationally, and most of the traffic to any major event or attraction would come from downtown.

    The 5 residents’ ssociations in Parkdale High Park last month asked the TTC to set up a Community Liason Committee (CLC) to work on route implementation (as exists with eastern streetcar extensions). The community was allowed to participate in a CLC on the future 2nd part of the route (Dufferin to Roncessvalles) but not Dufferin to the Ex loop.

    The explanation was that the mayor has really made this section a priority and wants to see shovels in the ground as soon as possible. They are worried that neighourhood input would slow down the plan. Pantalone has the ear of the mayor.

    Steve: Not allowing residents’ associations to participate in the EA is a violation of the CLC process. If the TTC wants to ignore the community, that’s easily done as we have seen in the past.

    A lot of people in Liberty Village (BIA and new residents) want either transit service on the north side or convenient pedestrian access across the tracks to get to the line (especially as the King car’s tough to access and get on during rush hour). Pantalone has already expressed his preferences for the southern alignment and pedestrian connections can’t go forward until a final answer comes on Front Street.

    All in all, Transit city promises a coherent vision for transit service – conflicting political aims will always help and/or hinder implementation. That’s life.

    Steve: The great tragedy of the CNE grounds is that transit plans are driven by every interest except moving people conveniently. A proposed new loop on the Lake Shore was vetoed by Ontario Place who felt parking was more important than transit.

    The National Trade Centre displaced the old loop up to the edge of the site in an unattractive location under the Gardiner. Moving this loop to the north side of the site was approved as a minor variation to the already-approved EA for the south route.

    If someone really wanted to develop the western lands at the CNE, the line would have run along Lake Shore rather than what is, in effect, a back alley.


  10. Once the Waterfront West light rail is built, it will have convenient transfers (I presume) to the 511 and 29. Would there be any possibility of extending 63 Ossington and (not as importantly) 47 Lansdowne to this new line? I imagine people going downtown on the west side would rather take 63 and transfer to the new light rail line than get on the King or Queen car.

    Steve: The problem with the 63 Ossington is that it would have to cross the very wide and busy grade crossing on Strachan Avenue, and this could be the source of much delay. As for 47 Lansdowne, Jameson Avenue (the logical route to the south) is narrow and badly congested. Also, there’s no guarantee that there would be a station at Jameson on the WWLRT although this would certainly be a logical place for one.


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