Waterfront West January 2008 Update — Part I

The presentation materials from last week’s public meetings on the Waterfront West LRT Environmental Assessments are now online.

Several new and interesting aspects of the proposals appear in this round including:

  • Additional alternative routes between the Queensway and Dufferin Street
  • Preliminary information about the Exhibition to Union Station components of the line

I will summarize each of options, but for all of the gory details, please visit the project site.

In response to issues raised at previous public meetings, several additional aligments or variations have been examined for the section of the line west from Dufferin Street to The Queensway. These are shown in maps and in textual descriptions.

Major issues in evaluating these options include:

  • Should the line stay as close to King as possible providing easy access for residents of south Parkdale, or should it be located further south acting mainly as an express route from Swansea and southern Etobicoke?
  • If the line runs parallel to King in the rail corridor, should it do so at rail track level or at King Street level?
  • Should a connection be maintained at Queen and Roncesvalles between the WWLRT and existing services?

Leaving Exhibition Place

At Dufferin Street, there are two alternatives depending on whether the route is north or south of the railway corridor and Gardiner Expressway leaving the CNE grounds. In either case, if the line is on the “wrong” side of the tracks at Dufferin, it generally would switch over at Tyndall, just to the west.

I will discuss alignments east of Dufferin in Part II.

Option 1 (mainly south of the rail corridor)

This option turns south through a parking lot at the northwest corner of Exhibition Place, then turn back westerly to follow the south edge of westbound Lake Shore Boulevard to Wilson Park Road. (This is roughly the point where King Street veers northwest at Beaty Park.)

Sub option 1(i) runs along King Street itself to Roncesvalles, while 1(ii) follows the north side of the CN corridor at King Street level joining The Queensway near Sunnyside Loop.

Option 2 (mainly north of the rail corridor)

Option 2A follows the north side of the corridor continuously. Options 2B and 2C start on the south side of the corridor and include two different schemes for crossing to the north side.

At the west end, the options (i) and (ii) described above also apply to option 2 with a further subset of placing the route at rail corridor level or at the same elevation as King Street.

Option 3 (Lake Shore realignment)

This family of options begins with the line south of the rail corridor at Dufferin and crossing to the north side a short distance west at Tyndall. The options split at Jameson Avenue with 3A crossing to the south side of Lake Shore while 3B crosses back
north of the rail corridor at Dowling.

Option 3A gets back to The Queensway either with a bridge to the north side of the corridor west of the Boulevard Club (just east of the old Sunnyside Station site) or by continuing west to Colbourne Lodge Road (the main south entrance of High Park) and turning north. Option 3B is equivalent to option 2 and its variants west of Dowling.

Option 4 (Lake Shore realignment alternative)

This option follows the route used by Option 1 to get down to Lake Shore where it divides at the west end of Exhibition Place, but then runs in the median of a realigned Lake Shore.

Option 4A crosses back to the north side of the corridor at the Boulevard Club, while 4B continues west to Colbourne Lodge Road.

Preliminary Filtering

Common to the filtering in all cases is a preference to stay off of King Street itself due to constraints on road space, but to stay at the same level as King in the rail corridor for easy access from south Parkdale. Connecting to the Queensway will require a new junction somewhere near Sunnyside Loop.

At Roncesvalles, there is a design issue with the Polish War Memorial, and the line will have to skirt this site. This is not mentioned in the EA materials.

The Colbourne Lodge Road option was dropped because it takes the line further south making connections at Roncesvalles difficult, to say the least, and creates duplicate routes from High Park to Sunnyside.

This left the following variants going forward into the next stage of public comment and review:

  • For all Options 1 and 2 cases, the (ii) alignment staying on the north side of the rail corridor at the level of King Street.
  • For Option 3A, alignment (i) crossing to the north side of the corridor at the Boulevard Club.
  • For Option 3B, alignment (ii) running at street level west of Wilson Park
  • For Option 4, alignment 4A crossing to the north side of the corridor west of Downling

The period for feedback runs until February 22, 2008.

Comments

A major decision is needed here on whether this line will serve South Parkdale, or if it will only be an express route from the west to downtown.

The 2021 ridership projections show that the King and Queen corridors contribute about 1/3 of demand with am trips diverted from the 501/504 routes to the WWLRT. Since its total estimated ridership at Dufferin eastbound is only 2400 trips, this means that riding originating west of High Park is only around 1,600 trips for the entire AM peak, or less than 1,000 in the peak hour. This is nowhere near the level needed to justify the WWLRT.

As we all know, the route from Long Branch to High Park does not have traffic congestion problems and its overwhelming issue for riders is service reliability. The major change in trip times for this segment will be in reduced waits for streetcars.

Is the ridership estimate sensitive to improvements in travel time between the Humber River and Union Station? Has an analysis has been performed to determine what such changes might make on demand? This has implications both for the alignment in Parkdale and for the route between Dufferin and Union.

As many of you know, Hamish Wilson has tirelessly blogged, deputed, harrangued and otherwise advocated to anyone who will listen that the WWLRT itself should be dropped in favour of picking up an express route to downtown from Queen and King at the Weston rail corridor. I am not convinced of this approach because the total trip time into the core (allowing for possibly taking riders out of their way) may not change much.

However, as we will see in Part II of this series, the Front Street corridor option has been dismissed by the study without any detailed examinating of alternatives or ridership projections. If we are going to definitively study options, then the word “all” is important.

I will continue this discussion in Part II later today.

10 thoughts on “Waterfront West January 2008 Update — Part I

  1. From the consultation meeting I went to in Parkdale, the debate wasn’t between having local or express service, but between having local service or less impact on the community.

    It seems to me option 2 provides the best local service, with the stops closest to the community, the best express service because it is shorter and straighter and is probably cheapest because it doesn’t require as many new bridges and moving Lake Shore around. All routes have a similar number of stops. All stop at Roncesvalles. Some are able to stop at Spencer. The Wilson Park stop isn’t projected to have enough ridership to justify a stop no matter which route you take. As someone from Swansea, I wouldn’t mind one extra stop to better serve the people of Parkdale. Stops could eventually be built even for the options that are further from Parkdale, if more bridges to the waterfront are built, like the community wants.

    The problem people have with option 2 is their fear of noise and vibration. Is their fear justified? Their consultant says it will be only 1 DB more then what is already there. But the people don’t trust the city and still bitter about the construction of the Gardiner. (I was waiting someone was going to complain about the extension of King streetcar service to Parkdale in 1892.) Several people expressed satisfaction with the current service on King and Queen street.

    In the end, option 3 is probably the best compromise between servicing Parkdale without impacting Parkdale too much.

    Steve: It is worth noting that the stretch of King from Roncesvalles to roughly Dowling has not been rebuilt yet to the new, low vibration standards. It would be interesting to know where those who complain about noise and vibration actually live.

    One big advantage the new line will have, depending on how it is built, is that the track will not be part of a roadway and therefore the problem of having a huge resonator transmitting noise into the ground and/or air won’t apply here.

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  2. FYI: There’s a typo in your maps and descriptions links

    s/durfferin/dufferin/

    Steve: It appears that the City has now fixed the spellings on their site and I have adjusted my links accordingly. Earlier today, the spelling “durfferin” was what they were using.

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  3. Steve said: This is nowhere near the level needed to justify the WWLRT.

    It’s refreshing that you’re being objective here. Will you oppose the WWLRT on these grounds? If not, why?

    Steve: First, I want to know where the WWLRT folks got their demand projections and these need to be verified. Next, yes, I believe that of all the schemes now on the books, the WWLRT ranks quite low in overall rankings. It has a lot of profile right now because of political support from some Councillors and because the EA is rolling along.

    My question for the planners is to identify where new population growth will occur in the corridor and whether this will be attracted to use the WWLRT to get downtown. There are pending issues with capacity east of the Exhibition, but that has nothing to do with the alignment from Parkdale to The Queensway and points west.

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  4. I’m sorry there aren’t others who fear blowing a couple of good transit opportunities and a few hundred million bucks on less-effective routes (the total costs of these Waterfront Transport Follies are around $950M or so). It’s a bus fleet or three, and maybe some streetcars, or even a bike path!

    I don’t just advocate for a bypass via the rail corridors to Front St., but it may be part of a solution.

    Interestingly the 1993 EA materials say that what’s more or less proposed is not worth it in either dollars or routing – a second more direct line is needed to really get Etobicarians pried out of their cars. The EA is really far more damaging than I could be.

    I’m seeing maybe four transit troubles in a roughly south of Queen corridor:

    1) better east-west direct quick transit from Etobicoke
    2) serious problems with King/Queen transit
    3) better transit to Ex and particularly Ontario Place
    4) serving new condos in Railway Lands
    4.5) with a lot of unexplored potential for transit use of the Weston rail corridor which Steve says is under-used, and it does tie into Union/Spadina

    For the express routing, I’m currently favouring new track on the south side of the railtracks west of Dufferin out to Etobicoke, or at least the Colborne Lodge area and then near Dufferin cross over to the north side of the tracks with an expensive bridge, but then do a Front St. transitway to pick up on the GO station at the Ex. Then heading directly east over another costly bridge – but just for transit – no cars – instead of the FSE road tunnel then to Front St. and in along a ROW, though I’ve always said split the east and west ROW between Wellington and Front. The GO stop would also give service to Liberty Village, and near-subway stop spacing east of Bathurst.

    Ontario Place deserves transit though – and why not loop the current loop through Ex and then up on the east side of the Automotive Building.

    The TTC does seem determined that Bremner is what they want to build on, but they are ignoring that we could probably help ease loadings on the Bloor subway by providing a diagonal surface shortcut from DDW into the core, via these railtracks, or land to the north that may require buying or clearing to avoid complications with railways.

    And I believe there’s a way expediting some of the King and Queen cars into the core if we looked at it along this corridor.
    But there are a lot of hopes and fuzzy thinking wrapped up in a couple of disjointed EAs that don’t really provide good transit nor value, especially to urban transick users.

    I still urge a good corridor study ahead of a near-billion (FSE@255M + WWLRT@540M + adjustments@Union Station Loop@c.$150M = $950M.

    That’s almost a subway, and I think there are about a dozen other transit priority options.

    We have to do better.

    Steve: One big problem with the WWLRT is that it has proceeded in bits and pieces without a coherent overall framework. As another writer says in a later comment, there are two different demands trying to be served by one line.

    The first is the long-haul traffic from southern Etobicoke. What’s a shame is that there is also (or used to be) reasonable demand in this area that was driven away by poor service. Running times on Lake Shore won’t change with an “LRT” operation, and reliable service will make more improvement in total trip time than anything else the TTC could do.

    The second demand is from the near-downtown starting no further west than Liberty Village and including all the new condo developments east of the CNE grounds. I believe that this could be better served by a route designed for that purpose than by one gerrymandered to connect in with a line to southern Etobicoke.

    As for Bremner Boulevard, at least they have now started to study it, but I am very concerned about its operational feasibility and impact at Union Station. I will comment about this more in Part II of my post on the Waterfront Update.

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  5. As far as I can tell, very few condo dwellers in the west Humber bay area take the Queen car, even though it passes right by their front doors. Another couple of motels just closed, with “Thanks for 59 years of business” on their signs. More condos must be coming soon.

    How to get these people to consider the Queen car? Maybe a splashy “West Waterfront LRT woo hoo!” is the only thing that will make them notice the transit at their door? I’m not saying that this would be a cost-effective publicity campaign, but it might work.

    The Queen car is the only useful transit service in the area west of the Humber. The Prince Edward bus is a winding ride to nowhere, and you have to walk to Humber loop to catch it, unless you can find the sporadic 66D down Park Lawn. Royal York South is too far west to be considered, even for the condos west of Mimico Creek. The Lakeshore car is too infrequent to be useful.

    Moving Humber loop to Park Lawn will help people between the Humber and Mimico Creek, but won’t do much for anyone living west of the creek. But everyone knows that already.

    Steve: The single biggest problem with the 501 in Etobicoke is that it does not run frequently and reliably. Condo folk have little use for long waits on windswept safety islands when they could have driven downtown faster in their nice warm cars.

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  6. Some of the slides and text are about choosing the alignment from Exhibition to Union. Is this part of their mandate? They seem to be choosing between the Fort York/Bremner route, or just going straight down the Front Street Extension and Front Street.

    So is this part of the mandate as well? And is this supposed to be local service, or to provide service out to the Queensway?

    Seems to me if the point is to built a regional LRT system, that the best way to connect the Queensway into downtown is go down Front (which would help the underserved East Liberty Street area). But if you want to serve all the new development south of the CNR, then the Fort York/Bremner route would make sense.

    Perhaps one route that does everything for everyone isn’t the answer.

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  7. Oh, three other details.

    1) GO needs a back-up for when it doesn’t work. Let’s hope it keeps working, but it’s a brittle system, and the volume of people it serves overwhelm what we’ve got. So we need to overbuild to Etobicoke.

    2) there’s also a huge travel demand on the Gardiner beyond just the #s of new residents. If we hope to curtail ghg emissions, we have to provide better transit, and this is the best corridor to start with, given how the lake breezes carry the stink inland for smog formation. Could we see getting a 30% cut to the Gardiner traffic with effective transit ahead of tolls? Why not?

    3) does the transit system serve existing demand or is to build in advance to facilitate devilopment. One other post of yours made mention of gold-plated service on the waterfront while the rest of the system groaned.

    thanks

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  8. One MoveOntario 2020 project, (in this case, likely emphasis on the 2020 part) that muddies things on this corridor is the potential for electrified “SuperGO” service. It obviously wasn’t on the radar when the EA began, and I imagine even now it’s not foremost in people’s minds as a competitive option, but hear me out here for a sec.

    How much of the potential demand for WWLRT in a carless ROW has to do with south Etobicoke folks’ hunger to scoot to Union as fast as possible?

    We haven’t gotten much of an idea of what sort of headways the goal is to get SuperGO down to: before MoveOntario fell from the sky, the GO steady-as-she-goes expansion plan was to get down to 30 minute off-peak headways on diesel-pulled Lakeshore runs in the nearish term. For the sake of argument, let’s assume something like a 15 minute headway off-peak (it’s a virtually freightless triple-track corridor as-is, so assuming the ridership’s there, its doable.)

    Moving to EMU trains would shave another few minutes off the existing Long Branch-Union trip time (its all in the braking/accelerating time, apparently, with something like 20 minutes worth of savings if you count all the way back from Hamilton.) If the timing’s right, it would be a massively faster option for the express traveller uninterested in stopping at Roncesvalles or Keele or what have you. And the more massively faster it is, the less right the timing has to be.

    With those sorts of numbers, GO suddenly smells a lot more metro-like in terms of entering the “local” transit market. Even if you end up sitting on your butt at Mimico station for twelve minutes before the train shows up, you’d still potentially beat a streetcar rider to Union.

    Now, given the stop spacing on GO lines, getting to Mimico probably would be the kicker in all this, but that’s something that TTC dollars could readily fix, rather than, say, paying to put one rapidish transit line right beside another.

    Wait, isn’t there a region transit body that’s supposed to be pointing stuff like this out? Metro-something?

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  9. Steve comments:
    “The single biggest problem with the 501 in Etobicoke is that it does not run frequently and reliably. Condo folk have little use for long waits on windswept safety islands when they could have driven downtown faster in their nice warm cars.”

    I strongly suspect that your average condo dweller has never even thought about trying the streetcar: they’ve seen it, they’ve seen it go under the Gardiner, where does it go? Who knows and who cares?

    For a condo dweller to have had experience with the long waits presupposes that they have bothered trying the service in the first place. The WWLRT may give them the extra incentive to at least try it because all the hoopla will get it into their heads that the streetcar at their front door goes somewhere useful.

    It’s funny, but there are people who work here at Queen and Spadina, and drive in to work from Mississauga *along Lake Shore Boulevard*, who have no idea that the streetcars they see at Kipling and Lake Shore are the same ones they see at Queen and Spadina.

    Of course the service sucks west of Humber, as I very well know. But it also seems to be one of the Great Mystery Routes. That’s ironic, given the 24-hour service. At least Kingston Road has the excuse of limited service.

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  10. The assessment of Go Transit service as “brittle” is odd. Notwithstanding recent problems, GO’s on-time performance is better than most any transportation agency/company. (“Brittle” is better applied to the TTC streetcar fleet – which often need to be tendered along by a little truck that nudges stalled cars forward. )

    I’m a little surprised at the low figures for the WWLRT. However maybe not when you consider that the advantage of the new route over existing service is not that great for typical trips. The South Etobicoke denizens can take the 501 and get right into downtown. Yes – service slows up once it gets into the “core” a certain distance. However, the WWLRT goes to Union – which means a transfer or more likely a walk. So the trip time isn’t going to be that different for many people.

    Same for people in Liberty Village to get to the financial core. They can walk to King and get right in. The new route would bring them to Union – and a transfer/walk.

    $540 million could be put towards a good chunk of tunnel section for one of the existing routes.

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