Front Street Extension: RIP?

On November 13, Toronto’s Planning & Growth Management Committee will consider a report recommending that the Front Street Extension be deleted from the Official Plan, and that an Environmental Assessment be conducted on a local road north of the rail corridor in Liberty Village.

Official Plan Amendments take time, and the formal change would come before the January committee meeting and then go on to Council.

This change is long, long overdue.  For decades, planning for downtown streets was influenced by Front Street’s eventual purpose as a distributor for traffic from the Gardiner.  Streetcars for Toronto’s original scheme for the Harbourfront line was a bidirectional loop line via Front, Bay, Queen’s Quay and Spadina with a surface transfer station directly above the mezzanine of Union Station modelled after the Bloor Station transferway.  This option was rejected specifically because it would interfere with Front Street’s use as part of the expressway network.

(We were also told that the line could not possibly be on the surface under Bay Street because there was no place to shift the pedestrian traffic.  Tell that to all the people streaming through the teamways today enroute to GO trains and the ACC.)

With the FSE removed from the plans, we can examine transit needs in the western waterfront without it getting in the way.  The Waterfront West LRT is itself badly in need of review as a single entity, not as a hodgepodge of separate projects.

Sadly, the WWLRT seems condemned to travel through the Exhibition Grounds via a route under the Gardiner rather than along the south edge of the park where it could serve Ontario Place and any redevelopment on the CNE lands.  The alignment east of Strachan via Bremner Boulevard is fraught with problems of available road space, conflict with pedestrians and road traffic at Skydome and overcommitment of the capacity of the Union Station loop.

So much of our waterfront transit planning is done piecemeal with past studies used as excuses for continuing down the same failed path, a path of compromises and bad choices where transit always comes second.

Killing off the Front Street Extension is only a first step.