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.

34 thoughts on “Front Street Extension: RIP?

  1. Sending the WWLRT to serve Ontario Place is a waste. It’s only heavily used on nice summer weekend. The current route is straighter, faster and can serve nearby parts of Liberty Village.

    I agree Bremner route isn’t a good idea. Focus should be put on improving the Queen Quay route.

    Even without the WWLRT, Union Station would need to be expanded just for the Waterfront East LRT.

    Steve: The issue with a south route is the change in land use along Lake Shore if the CNE lands are developed as a major hotel, convention and entertainment complex. Serving this with a streetcar line up under the Gardiner a fair hike from the venues through all sorts of weather is really not a good idea.

    Liberty Village is a separate matter, and that’s where the design of the proposed local street including transit service comes in.

    Union Station with the Waterfront East lines as proposed will have quite enough traffic without the WWLRT added to the mix. I have concerns that trying to fit all of the service even into the proposed expanded loop will be difficult both for physical operation of the cars and for movement of the passengers.


  2. I disagree, Transit is well served on every East-West corridor (King, Queen, Dundas, etc). Having 1 Corridor for vehicles and bicyclists is not going to kill the Downtown Core! Rather i’m sure it would be an alternate so that streetcars don’t get clogged with traffic.

    Another key point is that, if you destroy Front Street extension, the Gardiner is here to stay forever! Also, the major queue that sits at Spadina Ave will also remain and the Harbourfront LRT will be delayed by oncoming traffic as it currently is.

    It is really only in Toronto where a densly urban Gardiner Expressway has exits 3 km apart (From Jameson to Spadina) and so instead of trying to disperse it evenly and put less load on major transit streets (like Spadina), Toronto is now going to say forget it?

    Coach buses can take the ramp right onto Front and reach Union Station or the Bus terminal easily. Also….We can have an HOV lane on the Gardiner from 427 all the way to Front Street and then the HOV lane would turn into the ramp and you get all the carpools and buses able to enter the core faster then the general traffic…..consider that? The ramp for HOV only…Thats definitely transit friendly!

    The Front Street extension can honestly solve a lot of problems. Toll it, if you want (let’s say…put a charge for the exit ramp onto the Gardiner…that would be enough revenue to pay for the whole project).

    If even Transit, Bicycles, and Walking have a 40% share, 60% remains with cars and so don’t kill away a simple project that can help all modes of transport equally.

    Shelve it if anything, don’t just outright kill it.

    Steve: There is a good chance that the bus terminal may be relocated somewhere south of the expressway. If this happens, access via Front becomes meaningless. In any event, there are also plans to substantially pedestrianize Front between York and Bay as part of the Union Station plans. This means that traffic bound for east of Bay will not find Front Street a suitable way to get there. Adding a toll to the FSE will further deter its use.

    Political support for the FSE was also tied to the bizarre notion that it was essential for the development of Liberty Village. This is total crap. Liberty Village is developing very nicely on its own, thank you, and only needs a local road along its southern edge.

    I have never believed that the central portion of the Gardiner will come down unless it falls down from neglect and old age. To argue that we should build the FSE as a prelude to Gardiner demolition is nothing less than tempting me with false hopes — let us build a new expressway and then we might talk about tearing down the old one. We would end up with two.

    Expressway advocates have a bad habit of talking about “gaps” and “missing links” as if building just one more piece of roadway will sate their addiction. No, it will simply create another pressure point in the road network, another “small improvement” that is needed to make everything “whole”. The cycle never ends unless we stop it.


  3. I agree with the Steve on the overwhelming of even an expanded Union Loop.

    If a portal to the surface of Bay St. puts the streetcars to the surface by the time they reach the Front St. intersection, they can split the load by at least half. Such a portal, based on the drawing of the expanded loop Steve has posted earlier, and some personal “soft surveying” I’ve done around Union and Bay St. have me convinced that both portal and expanded loop can co-exist.

    Steve: Karl, I think your geography is askew. Bay and Front are north of the loop. Are you talking about extending LRT/streetcar service north on Bay? Please see my remarks in a nearby comment about a separate station west of Bay and south of Union.


  4. Steve: How would you suggest the WWLRT reach the subway/downtown. I understand, and agree with, your desire to see proper TTC service to the area around Ontario Place and agree with you about the potential mess at the existing (even if extended) Union Station loop. Bremner does sound “possible” if difficult but you seem to have reservations.

    You mention the Waterfront East line and I was wondering what’s happening with that. I think that everyone agrees that this line will run from Cherry Street (linking to the Cherry Street branch of the 504 King which is supposed to be built in 2009/2010) to Union but I do not think there is any agreement yet on the portal and how to actually get it to Union. The EA on this project seems to be stuck somewhere and promises of another public meeting seem unfulfilled. Any ideas on what’s going on?

    Steve: I have received a few emails over the summer and early fall from the Waterfront folks saying that they have been working on various designs and that there would be meetings to present the results soon. We are still waiting. From what I have heard, there are two issues still outstanding.

    First, although the idea of a relocated, combined ramp on Bay Street solves a number of design problems on Queen’s Quay, it just won’t fit because the east-west streets are too close together. Second, a ramp on Queen’s Quay east of Bay (somewhere, to be determined) has problems of its own both in terms of local impact, the need (or not) for a “Yonge Station” and construction difficulties.

    As for the WWLRT, I am concerned that the Bremner alignment has to be underground more than was originally planned. The current scheme is to emerge from a ramp just west of Simcoe Street, but almost immediately this runs into a pinch point south of Skydome. There are also problems at Fort York, although these are being worked out. The underlying problem is that most of Bremner and Fort York Boulevard were never designed to be a major LRT corridor, and this was an afterthought.

    At Union itself, I have been wondering about terminating the line with a station just west of Bay and south of Union railway station, but I’m not sure there is room for this. I am waiting to see detailed plans for both the WWLRT and for the proposed expansion at Union (some preliminary plans exist, but more detail is needed to see how it could all fit together, or not).

    One big question is just how much demand there would be for the “WWLRT” once it gets west of Strachan. When you look at the demand projections, a lot of the riding originates from the existing and planned condos. This is local demand completely separate from whatever will come in from the western waterfront and Lake Shore. Many of those condos are close enough to downtown that they will generate more walking traffic than transit demand compared with residential concentrations further out.

    Again this is a problem of piecemeal planning where we see bits of lines designed to address local problems, and often that “problem” is that there is a perceived “opportunity” to build another chunk of the line. Those chunks are not necessarily in the right place.


  5. Actually, as someone who took the 509 streetcar to the Ex for the purpose of getting to Ontario Place for work for 4 summers, I can tell you that more often than not, the demand for service to Ontario Place is not something to be underestimated.

    Not only is it for Ontario Place, but also for the Molson Amphitheater, which generates a flood of traffic after a concert ends.

    But back to the point, Ontario Place generates quite a bit of traffic and there are a lot of people who would rather get there by transit than by car.

    This, added on to the point that the CNE grounds may be developed into something else, means that it would be beneficial to service an area that already shows current ridership, as well as potential future ridership. And also because people getting off at the Ex streetcar loop have no idea where to go to get to Ontario Place without asking someone who happens to be walking by first.


  6. What if the bulk of waterfront services were interlined? given that there will be high demand on both sides, wouldn’t it be possible for streetcars not to loop, but rather pass through Union Station, say, entering a portal on Bremner, stopping at a transfer platform, then heading south on Bay to wherever that portal will be? There would be a need for some looping at the station, but I imagine most of the service could be scheduled to interline. That, or a turn-around loop could be constructed somewhere on Queen’s Quay East, that while requiring more running time for streetcars, would take the pressure off of Union’s main loop.

    Steve: It would actually be simpler to continue the Bremner line east across Bay (including an underground intersection with the existing line) and approach the eastern waterfront via a different route. There is, however, a problem with an existing, new highrise on Yonge just south of the rail corridor. All of this needs detailed study, but the TTC and the Waterfront folks have been doing so much in private that there has been no opportunity to insert alternatives into the discussion.

    Once again, we will have a plan that is a fait accompli simply because nobody wants to entertain public comment. This secrecy works against the improvement of the transit system.


  7. Nothing askew about the geography, Steve. The loop expansion widens, I’m guestimating, around track 11/12 or so (based on Union’s old numbering system), but if the existing tracks between the expanded loop tracks are replaced with an incline, passing over the actual “U” portion of the loop at its northern end, the two can work very well together, as a LRV can choose to loop at Union or go to the surface at Union (but the stop beyond the portal would probably have to be located on the north side of the intersection of Front/Bay). Continue the tracks on Bay to at least Wellington if nothing else (loop Bay – Welling – York – King – Church – Wellington – Bay), although that’s not my preference.

    Steve: A surface loop could not possibly handle the volume of cars that will be coming to Union Station from the various waterfront lines. Leaving aside the question of road space for cars and trucks, the level of pedestrian activity on these streets limits movements at intersections, especially turns that must cross pedestrian flows.

    There is also a problem with your portal scheme because of the grade difference between the Front/Bay intersection and the existing streetcar tunnel. The rise is roughly double what exists today on Queen’s Quay and a very long ramp would be needed.


  8. Why does the Union loop have to be used? Why not extend the Bay LRT subway (that’s what is is) up deep under Bay to at least Queen, with additional stations at King and Queen? Most people would transfer for only a couple of stations anyway.

    The Old City Hall would make a pretty fancy entrance.

    Steve: The existing loop and Union Subway Station are at the same level. There is no room to go above the subway structure due to various utilities and the PATH tunnel network, and you would have to go under the Yonge subway. This would mean ramping down from somewhere around the south end of the rail viaduct, building a completely new Union LRT station, and then ramping up to run under Bay Street north. This is a very expensive solution to the problem which can be more easily solved by not taking all of the waterfront traffic into the existing loop area in the first place as I discussed in a separate reply.


  9. I’m sorry for going a little of topic but how will the Waterfront West line run into southern Etobicoke. I mean wouldnt this mean the 501 Queen line would have to run partially as an LRT as well? The only way I could see the Waterfront line working properlly is if the 501 route is abandonned west from humber loop but many people that live over there will be very much against that plan. I dont see a scenario where you can keep 2 lines running there.

    Steve: The intention is that the Queen and WWLRT lines would share trackage between somewhere around Sunnyside and the new Park Lawn Loop (to be built in 2009). The 501 would be cut back from Long Branch to Park Lawn.


  10. The volume of all waterfront routes doesn’t need to be handled, because the aim is to split the load, not re-direct the entire load as a whole. When dealing with a part of the load rather than all, a surface option becomes viable, especially if the proposal put forward for King St. with the alternating one-way blocks were to be carried through for the portion between University and Church.

    To reduce the load further though, split the load twice with a little more track up Bay, first at the existing loop, then again at Wellington/Bay (loop 1 = Wellington-York-King-Bay, loop 2 = Bay-King-Church-Wellington).

    The ramp length is already covered since the length of the proposed new loop is roughly double today’s Queen’s Quay ramp length, though longer would be ideal since the Queen’s Quay ramp is extremely steep. If the PATH could be reconfigured around Front/Bay (which is complicated and expensive), there’s enough room above the subway to run the LRVs overtop it beneath the surface, which could make the ramp gentler (it likely has to actually be two ramps, one on either side of the subway), and allows the LRVs to avoid the most pedestrian-heavy intersection in Union’s immediate area.


  11. A bright friend suggested that all this be called Waterfront Transport Follies (WTF) – and there’s always an element of that with how byzantine and carrupt all of this is.

    The developers of Liberty Village want a local road, but it’s like getting a bit pregnant with an $80-$90M mistake. If we finally got around to exploring all of the transit options in a logical, serious and open way, we could avoid this road cost and put in more transit, helping to make a mobility hub at the Ex.

    (As a snide note, I don’t think I’ve had any official notification on this meeting despite a dep on the topic earlier – thanks for the diligence Steve)

    My thinking has evolved a little bit in the six/seven years of FrontStration (eg. frustration), but I’m still very keen on Front St. transit on a surface ROW.

    But for a quick fix, shovels in the ground, logical and cheaper thing to do, let’s push the current Ex transit through the Ex grounds in a larger loop that gets near the front entrance of Ontario Place. Even just one way.

    A medium term, but still logical thing, is to start on a faster-to-core route for the Queen St streetcars by diverting some of them along the north side of the Weston rail corridor to Front St., and then get them up to grade level the eastbound readily using the remnant strip of Lands and Garden Trust on the south of wider Front St. that’s a nice spur line up to street level.

    Restoring transit onto Front St. is smart, serves many destinations, but in case there’s not quite enough room, split the eastbound ROW onto Front and the westbound on Wellington.

    Avoiding all of the railyards and Union Station for improved transit does keep it simpler, and that’s good. It also makes for better connecting with the TTC system at both Bathurst and especially (under-used) Spadina.

    My expanded thinking of enhancing the merit/use of any semi-express to the core is to push service in a ROW eastward past Union Station along Front, crossing the Don River near Eastern Ave. to claim – or reclaim – the use of Eastern Ave for faster transit than the Queen St. car over to Kingston Road. (Mr. Paul Christie suggested Eastern Ave to me awhile back and maybe the collective wisdom knows of some 20- or 30- year old study so that we don’t totally have to reinvent the wheel).

    So that’s a fix and an improvement to core transit.

    Improving the Etobicoke to core transit will NOT be done with the WWLRT as it’s too much of a slow milk run, and it’s own EA says that the best value is to do more study, and have a direct route in to the core via Front or perhaps Bremner. But somehow, this part of a recommendation within that 1993 EA was never done, but we did manage to spend multi-millions on land purchase for the road folly.
    As the WWLRT is c. $550M and the Union Station loop is c. $150M, having a good study ahead of spending $700M is wise. I hope we can do so.

    The change in my thinking is to have a Front St. transitway keep on going west somehow via bridge over the Weston railtracks to link to Liberty Village, and then cross over the railtracks to the south side ahead of the Dufferin St. bridge, or at the bridge, and avoid all of the north bank and Parkdale altogether to head out to Etobicoke, a possible linkup spot being the existing under-Gardiner tunnel at the base of High Park near Colborne Lodge. The car barns at Ronces are still accessible, and the speed of the Queensway car would still occur.

    Sure, maybe there are other options beyond High Park.

    But maybe we can also compare a GO service option to this costly TTC based one, and GO might be a better deal eh?

    As for dealing with the Gardiner, providing better transit would seem to be the way, and it’s in accordance with our Official Plan as a novel concept.

    The road project, and the core councillors including Mr. GIambrone who was supporting the road folly, never analyzed the impacts of letting the car traffic from the Gardiner seep up into the core to King and Queen St. via the new Bathurst exit – and how that infiltration would harm the challenged streetcar service on those routes.

    So as Mr. Giambrone switched his mind on the FSE after becoming elected and then supporting the Pantalone Parkway, (with the warts of infiltration cost etc. ), I’m guarded about supporting what Mr. Giambrone wants.

    Thankfully the province had the smarts to invest in longer GO trains in the 6-year wait to have some transit instead of a road, and these trains are giving more capacity than the road would have at less cost. I assume they are now in service.


  12. Out of curiosity, what is the expected time to Union Station from say, Humber Loop? What is it now running from Humber Loop then along Queen to Yonge? Rush hour mornings, I mean.

    Steve: I have not seen a running time comparison recently and, of course, with the various changes over time in the alignment, it’s hard to know just what the value might be. Another important point is the question of whether we measure from Humber, or from some place further west.

    The line west of Humber will remain essentially as it is today. Lake Shore is not particularly congested, and the delay to passengers from unreliable, widely spaced service greatly exceeds any saving in travel time that is likely to occur. Just looking at the 501, the time to get from Roncesvalles to Yonge with no road congestion is about 25 minutes. Congestion can double this value in the worst of cases, but much of the running time data from my detailed study of the route falls between 20 and 35 minutes. One big problem is the scatter in values causd by unpredictable traffic delays.

    If the line branches off onto its own right-of-way somewhere west of Ronces, say at Colbourne Lodge Road, it will have a fairly quick run into downtown. If it is taken in via King and Dufferin before it gets onto the right-of-way, it will lose its faster trip through Parkdale. At the inner end, the speed will depend on the alignment, the amount of grade separation and the looping arrangements at Union.

    I would be quite surprised to see a saving of more than 10 minutes on average, but what will happen is that the times will be reliable. If this is combined with frequent service, Lake Shore might see a quality of service that has been missing ever since the Long Branch 507 and Queen 501 were amalgamated.

    In the meantime, I can’t help thinking that the TTC is going out of its way to avoid actually improving service on the 501.


  13. Well Front Street Extension might be dead.

    But I still think the best answer for the Waterfront West LRT is down the Queensway, then some dedicated new track on King, then on some kind of new structure from Wilson Park Road to Dufferin (perhaps crossing the CN tracks twice), then along the the Front Street Extension alignment, right to Bay street on the surface.

    Then save the Union loop for a new Lakeshore East service, the Spadina cars, and a Harbourfont service – that should intersect the Waterfront West LRT somewhere (and really should head up Dufferin … but that’s another issue).


  14. Before the subway, Bathurst streetcars operated from St. Clair to Adelaide and Church via Bathurst and Adelaide. Rush hour streetcars also ran east on Front Street to downtown. The Fort streetcar only ran south from the Wolseley loop (Queen & Bathurst) to serve the area south of Front Street.
    Maybe its time for the return of streetcar service on Front Street itself. Even extending it west on an exclusive ROW west of Bathurst to serve the south side of the Liberty Village area. Until then, it could be a branch of the WWLRT.


  15. If anyone wants to add streetcar service back to Front, I urge them to explain how they will navigate the daily mess of cabs and traffic in front of union station.


  16. Front street is a write off as it is. Good to see the city come to its senses just to leave it be!

    Just a question, if the Gardiner ever gets torn down, how will that effect the WWLRT? Especially going through the exhibition and what not.

    Steve: I don’t think that the section through the CNE will ever be torn down. First of all, there is nothing to be gained from doing this and a lot of potential harm. As you note, we would have to, at a minimum, put the LRT and Exhibition Loop somewhere, but to the east there are the problems of Fort York and the Bathurst Street crossing. Previous schemes to dismantle the Gardiner started east from Bathurst where it runs above Lake Shore.


  17. For your info

    Looks like those new changes are having a better effect on the 501 based on what I saw Oct 31. Long Branch cars were layover about 8 minutes at the loop.

    Got on a peak load car heading east about 5pm at Royal York. It was level 5 crush load from Lansdowne to University that where it fell to crush load. Driver try bypass stops, but all of two had stop request, otherwsie he would had pass more than those 2.

    Every west bound car was at crush load plus with only a minute or 2 between cars up to Spadina. A large gap to York street where there were 3 cars heading west. 80% of the cars going to Long Branch. Rest to Humber.

    There was another eastbound behind us when I got off at Bay and it was sitting at Humber when we pass it. Never saw an eastbound in front of us for the whole trip. Couple more westbound at Yonge.

    On Nov 1, saw 3 ALRV”s all in a row at Church going west with 2 more west of Jarvis. Saw no eastbound in the east and one in the west at Bay. This was 2:30.

    Talking to a driver who was doing overtime off Spadina that this change is working and heard the supervisors like this. Queen was short of drivers on Sat.


  18. I’ve commented on the FSE before – and I want to say that I’m not generally an advocate of urban road contruction but the FSE has to be seen in its proper context. The FSE was a means of getting some of the traffic coming off the Gardiner out of the central waterfront – killing it doesn’t affect the volume of traffic on the Gardiner, which is about 6000 cars an hour at its peak.

    Characterizing it as an “expressway” is specious and simplistic. Really it’s kind of like creating a Richmond-Adelaide interchange for the Gardiner – tearing down the eastern Gardiner from Yonge to the DVP is premised on upgrading this interchange – are you opposed to this as well?

    It was a mistake not to build an interchange between Jameson and Spadina in the late 50s but then they expected a north-south expressway in the west end would be built which of course I’m glad wasn’t.

    Yes the focus should be on transit, but reflexive opposition to any road project, even one that will prevent the new waterfront from being clogged with cars, doesn’t add value to city building initiatives. The biggest issue is paying for the FSE – I’m glad that it won’t be Waterfront Toronto, but the City should still try to tap senior government infrastructure programs to get this road built and to pay for tearing down the eastern Gardiner, which it will make possible.


  19. Steve,

    The FSE report passed committee. If all goes smoothly and the report passes Council (and it should) the statutory meeting to consider the Official Plan amendment will be at 9:30 or 10 am at the January 8th meeting of the Planning and Growth Management Committee. Also staff has been directed to begin an EA for the a new Liberty Villiage local road. That street would not connect to the Gardiner, but would stop at Dufferin. Issues such as how far east it will travel, the width of the alignment, and function (transit, cycling, etc.) will be considered in the EA.



  20. One final point – I could never understand why the City never looked at the alternative of putting single lane westbound on and off ramps from the Gardiner to Fort York Boulevard or Bathurst.

    Steve: The Gardiner is rather high relative to surrounding streets in that neighbourhood. Also a pair of ramps would do nothing to improve the already crowded area around Fort York. That location is a National Historic Site and will, starting in 2011, be part of celebrations of the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812.

    Apparently the City is looking at replacing the ancient Bathurst bridge over the CNR tracks which would further offer the opportunity to separate the streetcar tracks and car lanes (and add bike lanes).

    Steve: This plan has been in the works for quite some time, and it includes widening Bathurst so that the streetcars can have an exclusive right-of-way from Front down to Fleet Street. The bridge design is under review both due to concerns about headroom for the pedestrian ways under the new south approach, and because the street needs to be higher up to accommodate electrification of GO Transit.

    This solution would seem to accomplish much of what the FSE wanted to (Front Street currently ends at Bathurst) but not involve building any new roadway. As it is, a Gardiner that ends at York or Yonge without some sort of network improvements to the west will be the ultimate example of Jane Jacobs “fire-hose” metaphor: 6000 cars an hour flooding the central and eastern waterfront – what great urban planning!

    Steve: Or, we could take the view that the fire hose will have a cork in it rather like the ones at the bottom ends of the Spadina Expressway and Highway 400. The traffic coming into the core is already on the Gardiner and the FSE would only encourage more. Jane Jacobs fought against expressways and the destructive force of building cities for cars, not for people.


  21. Say, Gord, will this street you’re talking about be an extension of Front Street? The new street might as well be that or an extension of some other street as well as anything.

    Steve: I will answer on Gord’s behalf. Something the detailed study needs to decide is whether to build a continuous street out to Bathurst meeting up with the existing Front Street, or only a local road to fill in the bottom of Liberty Village. If the new street only comes east to Strachan, it doesn’t have to jump over the railway to get to Bathurst.


  22. Steve Said … “Jacobs fought against expressways and the destructive force of building cities for cars, not for people”.

    Since people are in those cars, doesn’t it follow that we’re building cities for people? Those cars don’t exactly drive themselves you know. Population growth is THE destructive force, not expressway construction.

    Compare Toronto now to the Toronto of the 1970s — our transit system back then worked, traffic wasn’t that bad, and you could easily find affordable parking downtown. What changed that? Growth. Once cities grow beyond a specific size, the party’s over, and we crossed that line in the 80s. And it’s not about sprawl — even if the city had continued to grow in a pre-1950 form, we’d still be in this mess. There’s no sprawl in Manhattan and it’s a transit nightmare.

    Steve: There are more people living downtown today than would have commuted there via the Spadina Expressway. That expressway would have been followed by the 400 south, the crosstown and the Scarborough expressways all bulldozing through neighbourhoods where people lived then and now.

    It’s time we proposed bulldozing a few neighbourhoods in the 905 to make way for more road capacity just to see how open the folks living there are to “progress” in the name of making room for people from the 416 driving their cars out into suburbia.


  23. Actually the evidence is pretty sound that that an expressway lane can only carry at most about 2000 cars an hour – the only way the Gardiner could carry more traffic would be to widen it which no one is proposing, Steve. I find the whoe FSE issue amazing because the prevailing wisdom is actually empirically, and technically, dead wrong (but very satisfying to believe by some) – it is a network/efficiency issue, not a capacity one.

    The allusion to the Spadina Expressway would be accurate were it 1971, and had it been built to College not Eglinton, where it obviously can’t bring any traffic into the core – the Gardiner could, in contrast, spill out onto an eight, or ten-lane Lakeshore Boulevard at Yonge Street (this is what the EA will likely recommend if the FSE isn’t built).

    I guess one could ask what the ultimate agenda of the anti-FSE crowd is – perhaps to close the Gardiner at the Humber bridge? I think this proves my theory that, politically, downtown Toronto is its own worst enemy – the most likely outcome of this issue will be that a new Tory government in Queens Park uploads the Gardiner to the province and kills any hope that any of it will ever be torn down. But maybe we don’t even need to wait that long – I expect Dalton McGuinty and Stephen Harper will shortly announce endless billions to rescue the auto industry and the biggest highway building program in Ontario’s history – though maybe you’ll have your misguided victory on the FSE – in the big picture, however, it will be tiny indeed.

    Steve: I could turn your entire argument on its head by saying that since roads into downtown have a finite capacity, then we should not be building any more ways to collect and distribute traffic for them. No, we misguided fools don’t want to close the Gardiner at the Humber River. We want to avoid giving those who insist on driving the idea that anything will be done to lessen congestion. The real answer is massive improvement of GO rail service.

    There will still be congestion. There is always congestion, but travellers will have an alternative.

    As for a rescue of hte auto industry, we have to ask a fundamental question. Why are the “big three” the focus of so much hand-wringing when there are other companies who produce cars in Ontario? I have a hard time generating sympathy for plants and their workers who were proud to continue turning out gas guzzlers when the market was clearly headed away from that style of car even without the economic upheavals of the past year. This is one of those cases where we see two very different approaches in the private sector to addressing a market — one group of companies built for the future, one for the past. The economic problem is that the latter are so important for their spinoff value (pensions, secondary and tertiary wage spending effects) that we cannot afford to let them go under.


  24. M. Briganti said: “Since people are in those cars, doesn’t it follow that we’re building cities for people?”

    What if Steve had said “…the destructive force of building cities for people in cars, not for people once they leave their cars”?

    You can’t enjoy a city very much until you leave your car and then you don’t want expressways to replace what you came there to enjoy.

    Steve: And don’t forget all those parking lots that vanish thanks to the downtown economy.


  25. Black Creek Drive (400 extension) opened to traffic in 1982. Today, I would not use Black Creek Drive during any rush hour. It seems like forever to get up in the morning and down it in the afternoon.

    Same problem with Eglinton Avenue West near the 401. Morning rush is very bad with the westbound traffic, and afternoon rush is even worse with the eastbound traffic. I avoid Eglinton Avenue West if I have to get to the airport during the rush hours.

    I can see the same problem with Front Street is it was ever connected with the Gardiner (non-)Expressway.


  26. Yes, it passed committee.
    Despite the reassurances from Mr. McPhail and Gord, we still are unable or more importantly, unwilling, to really look at all the transport problems in this broad corridor from High Park east to the core and roughly from Queen St. south – but it really does need a corridor study with a transit-first focus, and this would include the GO trains.
    I found it ironic that Gord was speaking in favour of a road – politricks I suppose. I would have thought that having Liberty St. completed from Dufferin to Strachan a few years ago would have sufficed to slake the motorheads demands for more more more….
    Folks know that I favour a Front St. transitway, and it was amazing to find out that the WWLRT EA said a more direct line in would make the WWLRT of value; otherwise it wasn’t worth it. And they suggested a third component of the EA study to analyze this direct route in (which could include Bremner). but I’m 99% sure this was never done.
    As for the EA of the local Front St., will they actually examine the “do nothing” option? Why do we need a local road? Isn’t there enough asphalt in the area already? I think they’re fudging the cost of it to – suggesting it’s $40 to $50, but I was never able to get a local cost figure when it was all bundled up to entice the senior levels of government to help pay for it.
    If it’s $60M, don’t we have some other parts of the grid that need a link – like maybe Lawrence?
    And what about just adding another GO train, and ensuring that it stops at the Ex GO stop.


  27. I have to agree with Hamish Wilson as to the wisdom of a local only Front St. extension – seeing that it’s still going to cost a pretty penny. Grid-wise, it would make sense to join E. Liberty to Front – but this would still require the expensive underpass and rail work.

    Just curious, however, what does he think the transportation problems are that are unique to the area he suggests? (We’ve all got problems!)

    As an East-Ender, we see a proposal to tear down our end of the Gardiner – but without any projects to improve transit from here to downtown and beyond. You westenders will keep the expressway AND get a WWLRT to boot!

    And what does GO transit have to do with things? Service has been continually improved as ridership has grown.

    Steve: Where GO fits into all of this relates in part to Hamish’s ongoing battle against the WWLRT. His premise, with which I agree to some extent, is that the WWLRT is not a viable way to provide an alternative transit link from southern Etobicoke to downtown, and that this traffic could be better handled by GO. My own view is that the idea of a WWLRT has been so bastardized with piecemeal planning and construction that it will not attract the hoped-for riding. Moreover, the biggest problem today is infrequent and unreliable service on the 501.

    From my point of view, the proposed massive expansion of GO capacity in the Lake Shore corridor will tip the scales of how commuter rail is seen in Toronto. It will no longer be service now and then for commuters, but something close to a regional “subway” because of service frequency. There will always be traffic on the Gardiner, but people coming into downtown will have a strong transit alternative.


  28. I am not sure if the Front Street Extension’s death is good or bad. I do know that the jam caused by cars making a left turn from WB Front St. to SB Spadina then to WB Gardiner causes a tremendous traffic jam. It has a traffic cycle time that is much longer than most of the other lights in the downtown. The FSE would have helped solve this problem which causes a long delay to NB Spadina cars. Perhaps this left turn should be abolished and the traffic forced to go elsewhere. Would it be possible to have Ray Bremner or whatever the road that comes out of the Roger’s Centre have an on ramp to the gardiner. Something needs to be done to alleviate or eliminate this problem.

    As for the WWLRT I do not believe running it along King St. would be appropriate for riders coming in from South Etobicoke. There needs to be a faster right of way to attract riders. King should stay as a local route. Some one suggested adding another GO train but I do not know what advantage it would be to this area even if it did stop at the Exhibition as there is no local transit connection, except for Exhibition Loop, to it. I guess the final ROW for the WWLRT line depends on what happens to re development in the Exhibition area. I do believe that a saving of 10 minutes to the downtown would significant as would improvement in reliability of the service if it were to have a PROW from Sunnyside to the downtown.

    I am really of mixed opinion on the FSE. I don’t like the idea of a major arterial along it but they need to do something about the traffic going on to the Gardiner via Spadina.


  29. “It will no longer be service now and then for commuters, but something close to a regional “subway” because of service frequency.”

    That’s what worries me, because the next time CN scatters containers over the Lakeshore line, closing it for a day or even several, the implications for the region will be all the more serious. There must be an increased focus to eliminating derailments and other disruptions – and one part of that will likely mean dealing with level crossings in places like Oakville which won’t be popular.

    Could someone enlighten me as to the physical difference between the FSE and a putative “local road”? Am I understanding correctly that the object of such a local road would be to join E Liberty Street/Strachan Avenue/Ordnance Street to the intersection of Front and Bathurst at the north end of the bridge? If so, how does it get across the rail alignment? Presumably the notion of spending kind of money for a tunnel on a local road is out.

    If by bridge (with the help of the depression of the rail alignment per the Strachan Underpass Recommendation) doesn’t this have an impact on the City Council approved plan to join Fort York-Garrison to Stanley Park per a 2001 Council decision? (see Sec1:41 of the Strachan document) One might say seven years is a long time ago for such plans but if the City is using it as a justification for picking the Strachan option (the right one I think) then it’s surely operative.

    Incidentally, the rail deckover indicated in that plan is something I think we should be looking at a lot more of to generate public space (especially stuff like sports fields which Toronto is quite deficient in) in the western part of the city, in widths and separations which continue to permit unrestricted diesel operation for freight and longhaul passenger operations.


  30. Steve, Good points; I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree. We do agree on the need for major expansion of transit capacity into downtown (which is why I read your website – a great discussion of the various options). I have actually recently moved to Calgary where I work for the city, and even here in “Oilberta”, the discussion is about expanding transit options – though even with the C-train there is much work to be done!


  31. Mark Dowling said: “There must be an increased focus to eliminating derailments and other disruptions – and one part of that will likely mean dealing with level crossings in places like Oakville which won’t be popular.”

    If the high-speed rail project for the Quebec-Windsor corridor ever comes to fruition (maybe this time it will if there are infrastructure dollars to be spent) this will eliminate all the level crossings and with luck get the passenger corridor separate from the freight corridor.

    I believe that there are two level crossings in Mississauga between Long Branch and Port Credit GO stations, two in Oakville (the one at Kerr St. is planned for a separation already) and then another at Burloak. I don’t remember if there are any west of there. A separation of freight and passenger traffic plus elimination of level crossings has been a problem for years and must be finally addressed if the passenger service (GO, VIA) is to be truly improved.


  32. Robert Lubinski Said;

    “I believe that there are two level crossings in Mississauga between Long Branch and Port Credit GO stations, two in Oakville (the one at Kerr St. is planned for a separation already) and then another at Burloak. I don’t remember if there are any west of there. A separation of freight and passenger traffic plus elimination of level crossings has been a problem for years and must be finally addressed if the passenger service (GO, VIA) is to be truly improved”.

    I believe there is also one at Pinetree Cresc. at the West end of the Port Credit GO Station as well as two in Lorne Park; at Lorne Park Rd and Clarkson Rd. and at Spruce Park just west of Cawthra road. There are also two or three between Cawthra Rd and Dixie Rd. I believe that there would be an uproar if all of these level crossing were to be eliminated by closing off the roads but the amount of traffic probably does not justify the cost of a grade separation if it has to be built to full highway clearances. It will be interesting to see what is done about them.

    I do not believe that Super GO will meet much of the needs that the WWLRT line would meet because of the station spacing and location. It would also be inefficient to carry the cars needed to provide the local capacity all the way from Oshawa to Hamilton. The two systems are complementary, not competivie.

    Steve: A lot depends on what is done with bus feeder services and fare structures. The biggest problems today are getting to Long Branch or Mimico stations, waiting for a train and paying a separate fare. Think of Kipling Station when it was (and still largely is) in the middle of a field.

    The WWLRT, judging by the number of cars provided for in the fleet budget, will have vastly better service than the 501 does today and this will benefit both local and longer trips. If the Metrolinx proposal to extend the line to Port Credit (where it would connect with the Hurontario LRT) goes forward, there is a chance of reverse direction demand.


  33. Not sure what Mimmo means about Manhattan being a “transit nightmare”, but when you consider that in an area roughly the equivalent of from Dufferin to Yonge, and Lake Ontario to the 407, there are perhaps 6 times? 10 times? the subway stations, numerous express alternatives to local buses, consistent wayfinding signage (I know this one comes up a lot), coherent station announcements and a greater proportion of accessible stations than the entire TTC subway system. Now, I know that there’s no sense comparing systems, as there is a vastly different history at work here, regarding construction, funding, political climate. Public transit in New York became a necessity a long time ago – the roads can only hold so many cars, and there’s only so many places to park and so many tolls people are willing to pay. The added advantage of there having once been competing subway and transit companies in the City, and you get the useful redundancies and Express lines underground that they have today.

    What I am concerned about with regards to the TTC and their expansion plans/dreams/hallucinations, is the consistent goal of finding new ways to bring more people onto the system from outside the downtown – yet very little being done to handle those new riders. Sure, let’s expand the subway up to the 407, and through York U to Vaughan, so that by the time they come downtown, there is no room on the trains in rush hour at Bloor. There’s no room for more trains, the new signal systems will allow for putting them ever so closer together – which only will work when you put a firm cap on how long the doors remain open, which is hard to do with the masses all jostling to get on. And there’s no point, without dedicated ROW’s, of trying to add extra streetcars and buses trhough the downtown core. So where are all these extra riders to go?

    I suspect I see the method to the madness – a) when the TTC needs further funding for expansion and equipment, they can go to the 905 and say Hey Guys – you’re riding it now, you should help fund it; and b) by overloading the downtown core, the province and the feds will see the overcapacity numbers and be obliged to build – wait for it – the Downtown Relief Line! Either that, or someone builds a third track under Bloor and under Yonge, to take people past the logjams – but then, this isn’t New York, is it?


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