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.