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.