Streetcars and Fort York

As the Waterfront West LRT project inches its way through various studies and construction projects, it’s worthwhile to look back at how the area around Fort York, the oldest and most historical part of the route, evolved to its present condition.

Originally, the fort stood at the lakefront, but as with so much of Toronto’s waterfront, landfill has moved the lake quite a way south leaving both the fort and the nearby lighthouse somewhat inland.

For many years, streetcar service to the fort and the nearby CNE grounds has operated via Bathurst and Fleet Streets, and reconstruction of this approach is now underway to provide a dedicated right-of-way over much of its length.  Less well known is a scheme to install part of the WWLRT on Fort York Boulevard, a new road skirting the southern edge of the fort’s grounds and connecting into Bremner Boulevard at Bathurst Street. 

Some bright spark, I am sure, knows why Fort York Boulevard wasn’t built with the streetcar right-of-way in it from day one, but such is the nature of project planning in this town.  The Friends of Fort York are, I know, concerned that widening this brand new road may encroach on the fort’s lands.

The Fife and Drum is the newsletter of the Friends of Fort York abd Garrison Common, and its October issue contains an article on the early history of streetcar service to the CNE.

6 thoughts on “Streetcars and Fort York

  1. So, yes Toronto didn’t do the proper thing and put the ROW on Fort York Boulevard in the first place. Now I am further afraid that to cheapen out they will just take out 2 traffic lanes for LRT. Which brings me a question of clarification…

    Is the Bremner Boulevard/Fort York LRT line going to turn the cross section into a road with 4 lanes & ROW or 2 Lanes and ROW like on Queens Quay (Spadina to Bathurst)?

    While Queens Quay is a dead end road with light traffic, I’m sure the same can’t be said for Fort York Boulevard, explaining why it was made as a 4 lane road in the first place…

    Steve: A concern raised by the people at Fort York is that the road will be widened and take a bite out of their lands with, possibly, adverse effects on their site. Over the years, preserving the grounds of the fort has been an ongoing battle, and each nibble, small though it may seem, undermines efforts to preserve the whole. I think that the profile of Bremner east of Bathurst now under construction is likely what we will wind up with on Fort York Boulevard.


  2. The new section of Fort York Blvd being built from Spadina to Bathurst now has its concrete base poured right up to Bathurst and this new road will, I assume be opened in 2008 when the Bathurst Bridge and the streetcar track at the end of Bathurst is due to be rebuilt. This new section DOES have a wide space in the centre for the proposed/possible streetcar so I suppose the “bright sparks” have, finally, been paying attention. The section of FY Blvd. from Bathurst to Fleet is pretty wide so I think fitting in a ROW would not be too complicated nor involve much or any loss of FY land.

    Has any final resolution been arrived at on how this proposed line will get into Union Station and can a line (above or below ground) fit in between the new Maple Leaf Square and Telus buildings just east of York Street?

    Steve: There is a proposal to dip underground and run along the north side of the ACC into the existing tunnel connecting just south of the railway viaduct. However, there is some debate on whether operationally the Union Loop (revised four-track version) could be operated given the complexity and number of streetcar movements between routes and platforms. This is all still under study.


  3. Given its short history, I’d say all of Fort York Blvd. is “less well known” to most people. Many may only discover it when the east/west road through CityPlace connects it to Bremner Blvd. Is there any plan to include a private ROW in the original design of that stretch of road, or will it too have to be rebuilt?

    Steve: Some rebuilding will be necessary. The real question here is why go via Fort York Boulevard in the first place when there will be a dedicated right-of-way on Fleet and Bathurst covering the same distance.


  4. Re: Fort York Blvd

    My first guess would be space. The existing road barely fits between the support pillars for the Gardiner Expressway, and the road (with narrow lanes) turns twice there, making that stretch an interesting drive :). Fort York is immediately to the north, and condo property immediately to the south; it wouldn’t surprise me if the city couldn’t get any more land.

    Which makes it interesting that there’s a proposal to run LRT through there; I don’t think there’s room…


  5. Hey Steve,

    Is what I am seeing on the Bremner extension throogh City Place correct? Are they actually planning ahead by saving two lanes in the middle of the road for the Bremner LRT?

    Steve: Yes


  6. Re: Bremner extension

    Let’s see if the bright sparks have learned their lesson from St. Clair and are not planning to use centre poles for the LRT line. If they are still insisting on centre poles, then I hope enough width is available for buses to use the tracks when necessary.


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