I Told You: Swan Boats Are The Answer!

TTC Chair Adam Giambrone, reported to be off at his cottage, may be getting too much fresh air for his own good.  The National Post reports that our fearless leader has asked newly-minted Chief General Manager Gary Webster to investigate setting up commuter ferries to downtown from Etobicoke and Scarborough.

In a related story Mayor Miller is less than ecstatic.  Maybe the air is different where he is today.

The idea is to run fast ferries from two locations — Bluffers Park in Scarborough and Humber Bay Park in Etobicoke — to downtown.  I am not going to waste time on a clever jokes about this idea, much as the idea of putting swan figureheads on the new craft and getting one of them named after me has its merits.

Here are the reasons this is a cockeyed scheme:

  • This is a commuter service requiring a parking lot at both terminals.  Aside from my feelings about park-and-ride services which have been discussed elsewhere, this would require lots of all-day parking in locations where we want to encourage pedestrians to congregate on sand and grass, not asphalt.
  • Bluffers Park is at the bottom of the Scarborough Bluffs at the end of a long road which may not be negotiable in winter.  This would definitely be a terminal only accessible by auto.  Unlike Humber Bay Park at Lake Shore West, Bluffers Park is nowhere near Kingston Road.
  • I believe that the beaches at both locations are shallow.  Unless we plan to build new quays out into the lake, the ferries won’t just pull up to the shore as they do at the foot of Bay Street.
  • Someone travelling to downtown must (a) get to the ferry terminal, (b) wait for the scheduled departure, (c) travel to the downtown terminal, (d) walk over to Queen’s Quay Station, (e) wait for the 509/510 service to appear, (f) ride one stop to Union and then (g) get to their office.  Commuter ferries make sense where there is a comparatively large body of water to cross, and if the time saved by the ferry trip is substantial compared to other routes.
  • The length of time for these trips will easily exceed the time that even a lumbering CLRV would take to get from Park Lawn and Lake Shore to downtown.  To the east, we won’t provide a direct service from Brimley and Kingston Road to downtown on the TTC, but there is a GO station nearby.  If the TTC really wants to provide an express service, all they need to do is run an express bus.
  • The service would not be able to operate frequently, and GO transit will almost certainly have better headways.
  • This would be a completely new mode for today’s TTC.  Experience from over 50 years ago of running the Island Ferries does not translate to this type of commuter ferry operation.

The TTC has two Environmental Assessments in progress, one for Kingston Road and one for Waterfront West, addressing travel from exactly the same locations as the proposed ferries.  Maybe we should have towed the Trillium up from Queen’s Quay to Dundas Square last week instead of the Bombardier mockup!  A network of canals in place of Transit City would make Toronto a tourist paradise.

Part of me really wants to see a marine division in the TTC if only to see how badly they would screw it up.  Common sense, however, has a shorter answer: 

The Transit Commission, when formally asked to approve a study of this plan next week, should tell Adam Giambrone to figure out how to run his streetcar network before he branches out to ferries.

If you want to get people from the lakeshore to downtown, run better service on the system you’ve got.

For more information about potential marine services:

Swans on the Don

More Swans on the Don

In another thread, Dennis Rankin wrote:

Hi Sarah and Steve:-

If today’s CFMX Radio news report was real and not part of my awaking dreams, then I will suspect a high level of collusion between you two and Adam Giambrone if any of those proposed Scarborough and/or Etobicoke to the Downtown Ferry Terminal high speed ferries have swan figure heads.

Could the first one launched be christianed ‘Hans C. Andersson’? Which of the two of you will be appointed Admiral? Will the Trillium be retrofitted with ultra high pressure boilers and after burners? Possibilities worth pondering? Maybe not!

[Note:  Sarah and I were co-authors of Swans on the Don.]