Front Street Extension: Going, Going …

This morning, the Planning and Growth Management Committee adopted a report recommending that the Front Street Extension be removed from Toronto’s Official Plan.

Soon, soon, the FSE will be officially dead.

Now if we can only get a sensible look at the Waterfront West LRT line rather than the piecemeal approach of past years.

For the record, I do not agree with schemes to bring transit into downtown via Front Street because this will run into severe problems in front of Union Station where current plans call for considerable increase in pedestrian space.

15 thoughts on “Front Street Extension: Going, Going …

  1. Pop the Dom Steve, you won 🙂

    Steve: Actually, the real celebration belongs to Hamish Wilson who has battled the FSE for years. Although we have not always agreed on transit alternatives, we’re both headed in the same direction.

    We need to find some suitable piece of infrastructure, preferably in Joe Pantalone’s ward, to name after Hamish.


  2. For residents near my area, to them the FSE was a non-starter. Not that they did not support it (they did), but they knew that that something like this would be hard to swallow.

    Hamish may have won, but the commuters from the west end trying to find an effective way downtown are still losers. The WWLRT is still far off, and doesn’t support areas where it would be useful, free parking is going to be charged soon, and we are still dealing with bus service which is spotty at best (the 112 and 50 have been notoriously unreliable and overcrowded as of late, must be the damned RGS screwing things with us).

    You want to cancel something that may have a potential benefit to commuters (never mind the drawbacks), fine. But always be sure to have a backup plan ready. The way we see it, there is none.


  3. Why does transit down Front Street have to mean tracks in front of Union Station? There must be somewhere at the Front/York/University intersection where you can build a portal and a loop, with a walkway to the subway station.

    Steve: Some of the proposals for Front Street transit have included continuing the line further east. There is no room left to thread a line along Front either on the surface or below grade. West of Union, all available land that would be close enough to provide a direct connection to the subway is already built on. An underground station might be possible somewhere west of Simcoe, but that would run into existing PATH tunnels and would still be a fair hike from the subway.


  4. “There is no room left to thread a line along Front either on the surface or below grade.”

    It doesn’t need to go through … the proposals to bring it to the existing loop have no provisions for extending further east. There’s no reason that the Waterfront West LRT can’t simply terminate at York. And if they need space, there is that 300-space city-owned underground parking garage at York and Front. Bonus – less parking spots. Waterfront East and Queens Quay/Bremner services can run out of the existing loop.

    Though given that the width of Front Street between University and Bay is 33 metres, (and then 30-metres between Bay and Yonge), it doesn’t seem unreasonable to put two tracks through there – it’s wider that St. Clair!

    Steve: Yes, there is that parking garage, an intriguing prospect. Going further east, all of the space on the surface is already spoken for by expanded pedestrian areas and taxi stands, and at the first level down, you will bump into the planned Northwest PATH connection. The station would have to be west of York/University, and a direct connection between the fare paid areas of this station and Union would be quite tricky to implement. I don’t know about things like sewers and watermains.


  5. I think Hamish would settle for a bike path in his name. Perhaps the part of the railtrail that will end right at that spot?


  6. Front Street finishes at Bathurst on the west and at Bayview Avenue at the east (Bayview avenue becomes Front Street and Front Street becomes Bayview avenue).

    I will assume this Front Street Extension is on the Bathurst side, but where would this extension go to? Do you have any diagrams or maps?

    Steve: The extension would have gone west from Bathurst and become a ramp connecting into the Gardiner near Dufferin. What is likely to be built instead will be a local road serving the bottom end of Liberty Village completing the line of Front Street west to Dufferin.


  7. I don’t think Front St. West has a practical option for surface transit, but I am curious about what Front St. East might hold, together with Parliament tracks extended to Castle Frank, and terminating downtown at Wellington-York-King (or Adelaide if capacity is insufficient)-Church. It would be like the eastern counterpart to 510. Cabbagetown and Chinatown South are very different nabes, but if Spadina is an example of the transformational power, it could bring quite a face lift to St.Jamestown, Cabbagetown, and Regent’s Park.

    Steve: One big difference on Parliament is that it is not an eight-lane wide right-of-way and there is no way to squeeze a frequent streetcar service on a right-of-way between Castle Frank and the core. It’s important to remember also that Spadina’s primary function is to get people to places on Spadina, not to Union Station, and therefore it is not trying to be a “relief line” of any kind. Also, Spadina was a thriving commercial strip before the streetcar showed up. It helped, but there was something there to begin with. Parliament is quite another matter.

    At Castle Frank Station, I believe that there are problems with the structure supporting the bus loop and it would not be able to hold LRVs. There would also be problems with the traffic on Bloor Street itself.

    A closer analogy to the Spadina car might arise, but not to the same extent, if and when there is a through-routed service from Broadview Station to Queen’s Quay East via Cherry Street. Even so, there are limits on how many cars we can fit in Broadview (they spill out onto the street regularly today even with two bays).


  8. A local road should be built instead, two lanes only, one east and one west. As far as the WWLRT goes they should go back to the drawing board on that one. We need a new route for this WWLRT. I think the lakeshore alignment along the south end with a ROW would be better. Make it like a subway, stops would be 1.2 km apart with a new underground section from just east of Bathurst to union via a York street underground alignment, with a new loop where the parking garage is (Underneath).


  9. Steve said: At Castle Frank Station, I believe that there are problems with the structure supporting the bus loop and it would not be able to hold LRVs. There would also be problems with the traffic on Bloor Street itself.

    I don’t think that would be an insurmountable problem since the structural provision for streetcars to run beneath Bloor across the Rosedale Valley already exists, as it was never used by the subway. Just drop a portal in before it reaches Bloor. The amount of tunneling would be very small (the loop alone would probably account for half the tunnel total). If an underground loop is installed just in front of the entrance to… I forget what the institution is called along Castle Frank on the south side of Bloor… but it doesn’t come up to the edge of Bloor, meaning there should be room for a loop protruding south of Bloor a little. The level of such an underground loop should roughly be able to align with the mezzanine level between subway platform and bus terminal.

    As for the width of Parliament, I agree that it is a problem. However, the tracks are there and it is a shame that they cannot be used for revenue service. Perhaps the King St. Mall proposal is viable on Parliament? Vehicular access is very often available behind the buildings along Parliament, and an attractive streetcar service would see more customers for business than people parking in front of shops can accomodate.

    Steve: I agree that you could use the Rosedale Valley span of the Viaduct and an underground station at Castle Frank, but Parliament Street itself simply is not suitable for a transit right-of-way in the King Street model (or any other, such as the cockeyed scheme for Pape or Broadview in the Don Mills LRT study). It also has a lot of intersections with traffic lights and would make a ride down Spadina look like a speedway.


  10. And yet Bathurst works so well.

    I don’t think we need to toss out the use of streetcars on routes where they share with cars. Sure, it won’t work as well where there is congestion. But Parliament is rarely congested.

    Whether the demand is there is another story. But I have to wonder if it wouldn’t be an idea where it is, such as on Dufferin.

    We will never be able to make the Carlton route in a right-of-way … but no one would consider converting it to buses now. Yet we dismiss other potential mixed-traffic streetcar routes?

    Steve: To be clear, my understanding was that the proposal was for a Spadina-like operation on Parliament. That means a right-of-way, not mixed traffic like Bathurst or Carlton.


  11. During my time working on Front Street West, it came to my attention numerous times that there simply was no form of transit along Front Street at all. Considering the vast number of workers and tourists traveling from Union Station to either the Metro Convention Centre, CBC, various office buildings, various condominiums, the CN Tower, and the SkyDome (refuse to call it by the OTHER name) I still don’t understand to this day why a simple 1 or 2 bus loop couldn’t be made between Union Station and Spadina. That trek during the winter months is quite a hassle, especially with the lack of PATH connection to the west end of town from Union.


  12. “I think the lakeshore alignment along the south end with a ROW would be better.”

    That ROW, along with the parking spaces that it was said Ontario Place would never give up, has been turned over to a lowly bike trail. Construction has already begun.


  13. Raffi said: still don’t understand to this day why a simple 1 or 2 bus loop couldn’t be made between Union Station and Spadina. That trek during the winter months is quite a hassle, especially with the lack of PATH connection to the west end of town from Union.

    But it’s still faster to walk than wait for a bus that might come every 10 or 15 minutes, even if on a short shuttle routing, not to mention an extra fare for GO riders. Many people walk to the end of the first leg of the Skywalk at Simcoe St. (excluding the current time where that exit is closed) and then across Front St. to get further west. The RBC Centre currently under construction will connect the CBC, Simcoe Place through to Metro Hall, thus extending the PATH connection all the way to John St, albeit a little indirect if coming from Union Stn. From what I remember of the 121 bus, most of the traffic to the west was headed for Queen’s Quay, I rarely saw the bus actually stop anywhere on Front St.


  14. Robert, fair enough.

    I suppose waiting for the bus outside in the cold would defeat the purpose. I used to take the Skywalk to Simcoe St. like you mentioned, and it did help a little bit because then you could (though frowned upon) walk through the Metro Convention Centre for another chunk of the walk. But like you also mentioned, that option has since been closed off.

    Luckily I don’t work down there anymore so I don’t have to worry about all that, but on the topic of that PATH connection to RBC Centre, I’d say it would only benefit those coming in from St. Andrew station (aka nobody who takes the GO). I guess its kind of an unfortunate street.


  15. Pardon me for missing this – less connected these days.
    But it’s a somewhat empty “victory” because it has always been about providing effective transit instead of a stupid road project, and we’ve been far far too slow and late in exploring the many options that exist, or could exist if we dreamed about restoring transit to Front St.

    There is a strong need for good transit to and from the Etobicoke area to the core, and regrettably, the WWLRT won’t be it despite its $650M cost assuming c. $150M to rebuild the Union Station loop.

    One thought that’s just been occurrring to me is that maybe we could knock off $500M by initiating every 20 minute mini-GO service from Etobicoke to the core – but it seems the WWLRT EA hasn’t been able to think of GO as an option, just as the FSE EA wasn’t able to think of GO as an option and was poised to displace the GO tracks for c. $65M and a lot of disruption.

    Sure I could be misinformed (again?), but with this $650M cost, surely we could spend a million or two for a bit of study ahead of embarking upon major expenditures? Don’t we need to squeeze the millions a little better?

    And I do favour a Front St. transitway but extended east to Eastern Ave. to provide a surface downtown relief line with expedited travel. This route would also let the Weston railtracks feed TTC transit into this route for more surface service.


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