Cherry Street: Small Beginning to a Great Project

The Community Liaison Committee (CLC) for the West Don Lands transit Environmental Assessment wound up with its last formal meeting yesterday evening (Sept 27).  To our delight [I am a member of the CLC], we learned that the recommended scheme incorporates changes in street design that many of us had wanted to see in this small, but important link in the transit system.

A Public Information Centre will be held on Thursday, October 11 at the Enoch Turner School House (behind Little Trinity Church on King St. east of Parliament) from 4 to 8 pm.  This will be a drop in centre for people to review the design before it goes to the TTC and Council for final approval.

In the early days of this study, many of us despaired that we would see an “urban” street on Cherry which was to be 35 metres wide (almost twice the width of King Street, 20 metres) and with all of the charm of a suburban arterial.  Things have changed a lot through hard work both by the community and by the technical project staff. 

Three options made the short list for final evaluation:

  • the conventional centre transit right of way as we know it from St. Clair, Spadina and Queen’s Quay West
  • transit in the curb lanes with other traffic in the middle of the street
  • a transit/pedestrian precinct on the east side of the street with cars and cyclists on the west side, separated by a generous median.

The last of these won out.  Detailed drawings are not yet available online, but they will eventually appear on the project’s public meeting page.

In brief, the transit lanes are bounded by the east sidewalk and the median both of which double as the platform at stops.  The design provides direct loading to low-floor cars using raised areas of the sidewalk with ramped approaches.  Plantings and trees will be used to break up the space visually and give a more intimate scale to the pedestrian/transit realm.

The west side of the street includes continuous bike lanes in both directions as well as one through traffic lane each way and a single turn lane where needed.  Like the east sidewalk, the west sidewalk is 5 metres wide and includes trees.

The total street width is 32 metres, a bit less than the original plan, but the space is laid out in a way that will not feel like an expressway through the heart of the new neighbourhood.  Definitely it will not have the road capacity once proposed here.

There are two areas of special concern where fine details remain to be worked out.  At the north end, the connection at King and Sumach must deal with intersection geometry and curve radii, not to mention access issues for properties adjacent to the tracks and noise and vibration concerns.  This will be an opportunity for the TTC to step up its surface track design another level to allow the line to run in the curb lane close to buildings.

At the south end, there will be, at least temporarily, a loop in the vacant land immediately north of Cherry Street Tower.  Eventually, the line will continue south to connect with the Queen’s Quay East and Port Lands tracks, but the detailed design of that section is still in progress by another project.  Two options for the Cherry Street underpass at the railway were presented, and there may be other possibilities to connect road, transit, cyclists and pedestrians from Cherry to Queen’s Quay.

There are challenges in building and operating this design, but it is a scheme that can show the way for other transit projects in the waterfront where the clear intent has been to build a transit oriented community.

The next step, after Council, is formal approval by Queen’s Park, something that won’t be needed in future studies under the recently approved “Class EA” process.

11 thoughts on “Cherry Street: Small Beginning to a Great Project

  1. Is this route expected to be an extension of Queen’s Quay car? If so, what is the purpose of the loop at the south end that has appeared in all the drawings?

    Steve: In the short term, the Cherry Street line will probably exist as a branch of 504 King because this part of the route will be completed before Queen’s Quay and the reconfiguration of the Cherry & Lake Shore intersection. There are various possible route structures in the future depending on what links are built when including a through service from Broadview Station down to Queen’s Quay or a King/Cherry route down into the Port Lands..


  2. Sounds great! It will be amazing to see something like this in Toronto! Quick question: will the bikelanes be together, as they are currently (on the sidewalk), or will they each be beside the traffic lane of the same direction (as on all other Toronto roads)?

    Steve: The latter.


  3. Great news to start a Saturday morning Steve (even before coffee)…well done!

    Let’s hope the project receives enthusiastic support from both the TTC and Council.

    Steve: A fascinating thing to watch during this process was the evolution of attitudes both in the community and in the professional staff. People have now been to Europe and seen what modern LRT lines look like including such backward locations as Paris [I am being ironic here]. The idea that streetcars/LRT don’t have a place in Toronto is fading, and the main issue is to “get it right”. The professional staff are warming to less conventional street layouts, especially for a project of this size where the development is almost from scratch.

    For their part, the TTC seems quite open to pedestrians walking across the tracks since they do so already on three existing lines. This is a huge change from the early days of the Spadina proposals complete with barricades. Yes, there is some sacrifice for speed, but you are never going to run fast service through an area with short blocks and considerable delays at stops. Indeed, I expect that we will save more, relative to current operations, by speeding up stop service with all-door low-floor loading than we will lose through street design.


  4. It certainly does sound good and much better than I had expected after attending several of the – informative – public meetings. I still think it’s too bad that the TTC tracks will not go through to the south side of the railway NOW as it does seem rather wasteful and space-consuming to build a (temporary) loop north of the railway. The land under the Gardiner would seem suitable for a loop (and a link) which could serve both the Cherry Street line AND the Queen’s Quay East line. Thanks for all your work on this. Do you know when the QQ East EA will be finished?

    Steve: We are still waiting to hear when the next CLC meeting will be on Queen’s Quay. The proposed design for the foot of Bay Street is challenging, but if the technical folks can figure out a way to fit in the design preferred by the community, it will completely change the way that transit works in that area. A related project that has just started is the design work for the revamped Queen’s Quay with the existing eastbound roadway converted to pedestrian space, bike lanes and park.


  5. Having the LRT on one side of the road is fine but looking at the diagrams it seems that there is only 1 lane per direction on Cherry Street. Why?

    Whats wrong with a normal 2 lanes and such? If there is the opportunity to take space unlike Queen and King then why not take it now before its too late? Have a 4 lane arterial with no turning lanes so that the street is a bit more calmer but the purpose of 2 lanes is to make sure that traffic can easily navigate around any problems that may arise. When you stick with one lane, your worsening the flow if any situation arises.

    Another point is that very few streets cross the railway corridor and as a result for people to go from the north to the south, they can only go through Cherry St or Parliament St so if you have the potential to have a simple 4 lane road and a 2 generous bike lanes and 2 transit ROW on the east side, then why not? What is wrong with a corridor thats 35 meters wide?

    I’m not really understanding this…

    Steve: Simple — Cherry is intended to be a local street with a strong pedestrian flavour as an extension of the Distillery District, not a high-speed arterial from King/Eastern down to Lake Shore. It’s capacity would always have been constrained at the railway underpass anyhow.


  6. I’m happy to see that they are breaking out of the inevitable centre reservation mold. This opens the door to a number of options for the future.

    Regarding the re-vamped Queen’s Quay arrangement, that was tried last year for a short time. The difficulty is that Queen’s Quay was turned into a one way stree westbound only. This is undesirable on any city artery but to make matters worse eastbound drivers were left with no alternative route other than Lakeshore Blvd which is a very different roadway altogether. Is there a chance that the current westbound lanes on Qheen’s Quay could be turned into one lane each way?

    Steve: That’s the design work now in progress, but I suspect Queen’s Quay will be one way westbound.


  7. I’m not sure you understood what I was trying to say in my previous message. I was saying how Parliament Street is the only other street that crosses the biggest barrier of all, the railway corridor. Unlike the Gardiner expressway, you can’t just walk under the railway wherever you please. Only in the certain designated underpasses. Same applies to transport and while transit is your goal, there is always the more then 50% population that for one reason or another needs to use traffic lanes. Freight, large families, late-night travel, etc.

    Making Cherry Street [wider?] wouldn’t exactly make it a “suburban arterial” as you stated in an exaggerated way. With the area being the way it is, there is no chance, and if Spadina is 6 lanes and calm as it is, why do you expect a 4 lane Cherry street to be a fast traffic arterial? It has no connections to the Gardiner Expressway to begin with.

    Let’s look at the alternates first, on how to reach the ever so wonderful waterfront other then transit. Sherbourne, Parliament, Cherry, then further further east you got Carlaw. None of these are “large, high-speed arterials” as you put it. They are actually low-grade arterials, according to the City of Toronto Official Plan.

    I don’t know if you do or do not consider non-transit traffic whenever you make proposals, but to be pro-transit is not to be anti-car. If you make transit attractive, they will come, which is evidenced by Yonge and Bloor lines which have 4 lane roads right atop of both of them. It depends on the land-use and in this case, the land-use proposed clearly supports transit. However, does that mean you make traffic R.O.W. so small that for future needs we are permanently in trouble?

    Steve: The community’s concern was that Cherry as the main north-south link into the planned developments south of Lake Shore would be overwhelmed with through traffic that should be on Parliament. The proposed layout makes Parliament the road link and Cherry the transit/cycling link. There is also a proposed pedestrian/cycling link at Trinity Street between the two, but this only makes sense in the context of a reworked lower Don design now in progress.

    The road design for Cherry is adequate to support the local demands that will be placed on it.


  8. So, what your saying is that Parliament St will be maintained forever as a 4 lane proper road for the entire length without the usual road narrowing thats been occuring everywhere within the city? Like a post that was written in the forum a while back, when a corridor is for transit, there has to be an alternate for road traffic or the transit corridor would be a total miss, something that isnt great at all…

    This also means Jarvis, Sherbourne and the rest will maintain its existing 4 lane cross sections too? Bike lanes are a great idea but you can’t place them everywhere. If everything else does stay in its exact present way, then i don’t think Cherry St will be a problem but i have a feeling that it is bound to change especially with todays report released by the City which calls for taking out lanes and creating bikeways, which is fine, but it would be best if it could be made as new capacity instead of taking away from exisitng capacity.

    Once Cherry St is planned and built, there’s no going back, thats all i can say.


  9. I saw the ricture of the proposed Cherry St. line yesterday eveing at the Enoch Turner Schoolhouse. I was particularly drawn to the intimacy of the street scenes. If there were two auto lanes going each way as Joseph C proposes this intimacy would be lost as Cherry street would become a six lane avenue like Spadina or St. Clair.

    The comparison of Yonge and Bloor with Cherry St. is invalid. There are six lanes of traffic on these streets but with two of them, the transit ones, going underground. Two streetcar lanes and two automobile lanes (one each way) make four traffic lanes which. Joseph C points out is precisely what we have on the surface on Yonge and Bloor Sts.

    As for the idea that transit users use the subways on Bloor and on Yonge despite the fact that there are four lanes of traffic above them may I point out that subway riders are completely oblivious to what is above them and they would be just as likely to use the subways were there twenty eight lanes of traffic above them as they would were there none.


  10. Steve I cerainly hope your suspicions that Queens Quay wil be one way westbound turn out to be false. Toronto folk have always opposed one way streets except on minor residential streets and there have long been hopes that Richmond and Adelaide will regain their two way status. Thus it seems rather strange that Queen’s Quay would be made one way, especially as there is no equivalent street in the opposite direct.

    Steve: Harbour Street is already one-way eastbound, but does not exist continuously all the way from Spadina to Parliament. The detailed design work on Queen’s Quay west is just starting, and I understand that work on the section east of Bay (the subject of the current transit EA) has been delayed to co-ordinate both projects.


  11. It sounds to me like they’re trying to have it both ways, i.e. beautify Queens Quay yet retain four lanes of automobile traffic even at the irritating expense of having one way streets. This conflicts with the anti-one way street policy as well as with brilliant and esthetically pleasing strategy of narrowing roads.

    Ah well! I’ve waited many years to see things get as good as they are. It’s amazing how different attitudes are since the Stop Spadina, Save Our Streetcars and David Crombie (not to mention Jane Jacobs versus Esther Shiner) Days which marked the great turnaround.


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