Waterfront East Surfaces At Last (Update 1)

Update 1, March 5:

The presentation materials from the CLC meeting on March 2 (discussed below) are now available online.  (Warning: 7.5MB file)

On March 2, I attended what is likely the final meeting of the Community Liaison Committee (CLC) for the Waterfront East LRT project.  Further discussion of this subject will now be consolidated with the Queen’s Quay redesign project.

The primary outstanding issue from our discussions going back a few years was the location and number of portals from the Bay Street tunnel to the eastern branch of the Harbourfront route.  Options involving a swing west into Harbour Street, down York Street or down Yonge Street were rejected in an earlier round as being impractical for various reasons involving available space and gradients needed to reach the surface within available city blocks.

Five options were studied in detail, of which one will be the recommended option going forward.  These options were:

  • Bay Street between Lake Shore and Harbour.  Under this option, the existing west portal and Queen’s Quay Station would be abandoned, and a new common surface stop would be created on Bay north of Queen’s Quay.  This option is physically constructible, but poses serious operational problems due to congestion of pedestrians, road and LRT traffic at the Bay & Queen’s Quay intersection.
  • Bay Street between Queen’s Quay and Harbour.  This option will not fit, physically, in the space available.  There is not enough room for tracks to rise to the surface to a “landing” before the special work for a surface intersection with Queen’s Quay.
  • Queen’s Quay between Bay and Yonge Streets.  In this option the portal would lie east of Bay and the stop would be just east of Yonge.  This scheme poses many problems because the road is constrained on both sides by existing buildings.  Access to these buildings, as well as the continuity of pedestrian and cycling areas planned for the street would be difficult or impossible.  This scheme is not viable.
  • Queen’s Quay between Yonge and Freeland Streets.  In this option, the line runs in tunnel to Yonge and then rises to street level just west of Freeland.  The station would be just east of Freeland.  This area has enough room to allow the Queen’s Quay design to be continued through the portal area, and has no adverse traffic impacts.  The Toronto Star building north of the proposed portal has no ground level retail that would be injured by the portal’s presence, and any new building on the south side can be designed for its environment.  This is the recommended option.
  • Queen’s Quay between Freeland and Cooper Streets.  In this option, the line would run in tunnel including an underground station at Yonge, and would rise in a portal in front of the Queen’s Quay LCBO.  The first surface stop would be near Jarvis Street.  This option was rejected primarily because of cost.

Initially, the line will be ended in a temporary loop near Parliament Street at a location to be determined.  A separate study is reviewing the redesign of the Don Mouth area including connection of the Cherry Street LRT through to hook up with the Queen’s Quay East line.

Construction of the new tunnel east from Bay will include modification of the existing structure under the intersection at Queen’s Quay so that a full “T” junction including a through east-west track can be installed.  This would allow a direct service linking the western and eastern waterfronts and on through to the Distillery District or the Port Lands.

The TTC also discussed the expansion of Union Station Loop, but their design has not changed noticeably for over a year.  Some fine tuning is required to bring their scheme into alignment with the proposed Union Station redevelopment plan and its new retail and GO concourses.

The first meeting of the consolidated LRT and Queen’s Quay Design CLCs will occur on March 11, and I expect to have more details on the overall scheme for the line in the larger context of the Queen’s Quay redesign project.

There will be a public drop in centre for these projects on Saturday March 28.  The final version of the Environmental Assessment for the Queen’s Quay East line will go to the TTC in May and to Council in July.  Assuming funding, the line would likely begin operating roughly in 2013.

I will post links to relevant documents as they appear online, as well as details of the drop in centre on March 28.

36 thoughts on “Waterfront East Surfaces At Last (Update 1)

  1. One of the concerns for this Waterfront East line is the type of landfill used in the reclamation of this previously under water area. Near the area of the Polson Iron Works, at Sherbourne Street, the Rollerboat is buried as part of this landfill. I’m sure the environmental assessments will identify where some of the obstacles, such as the rollerboat, are located.


  2. Thanks for the update, Steve. Quick question: will this ‘lrt’ be more like Transit City or more like the 509?

    Steve: Think 509-East. The line will be serving a high density neighbourhood and stops will be fairly close together.


  3. With the stop at Bay St. when there’s a full T-Junction, will there be a new station on the east side of Bay St. for non-Union originating/bound LRVs to service a stop at Bay St.? This could result in some LRVs servicing the existing Queen’s Quay Ferry Docks stop in addition to the new stop despite both being at the same intersection, but such a new station could be considered as servicing Yonge St. anyway (via an exit at such a new station’s east end).

    Steve: No. A through car could only serve the Freeland stop a block east of Yonge and the existing York stop.


  4. Are they including any non-revenue track on Parliament to connect to the rest of the network?

    Steve: No. The connection will be via Cherry.


  5. They buried a rollerboat as landfill? There is way too many questions to ask here. One,What is a rollerboat, and two why would they use that as landfill?


  6. The construction of the full T connection at Queen’s Quay and Bay will allow the TTC to run a Long Branch – East Docklands through service.


  7. Here’s the scoop on the roller boat and why it ended up as landfill:


    The Waterfront East line will start operating in four years? That seems pretty quick. Does this mean that there is a pretty strong political will to get this route up and running?

    Steve: Yes, there is a political will to get this done as part of the waterfront development. Also, it’s a comparatively small project with the most challenging piece being the construction of the new ramp into the Bay Street tunnel. The timetable assumes approval this year, detailed design through 2010 with construction for roughly two years. Remember also that the construction has to be integrated with the work on the traffic and pedestrian redesign of Queen’s Quay.


  8. Steve, is there a chance they will run this service on the south side where the redpath rail spur was located. There is lots of room there and it could continue east to meet up with the cherry street loop, where the old spur crosses lakeshore they can add railway gates to ensure traffic free crossing of the LRT. They then could run a broadview stn-union route, call it the 513. this could be constructed quick and easy, except for the cherry underpass which will require a new cut east of the road for this. this alignment makes sense. What do you thinks Steve?

    Steve: It is my understanding that the Redpath spur is coming out as part of the Queen’s Quay redesign.

    The connection at Cherry is part of the Don Mouth redesign and it includes a new underpass west of the existing Cherry Street crossing of the rail corridor.


  9. @ Robert Wightman – Why would the TTC was to do this? A route like that would be prone to delays similar to ones we see on the Long Branch-Queen route (The TTC is going to split this route soon I think… Steve correct me if I’m wrong.)

    I hope the TTC has enough rolling stock to make this a successful investment. Expanding the streetcar network while they slowly run out of vehicles to use seems rather counter productive…


  10. Matthew, the rollerboat you refer to was called Knapp’s rollerboat. It was designed so that waves would not affect it making for a calm ride. Unfortunately while it was impervious to the effects of the waves, it could not attain any major speeds and was therefore abandoned. in 1907 it got loose from its moorings at Polson Pier and crashed into the side of another boat. In order to pay for the damages the fittings and the hull were sold off. The fittings were claimed but the hull was not. When the time came to push the lakeshore as far south as it is now, the rollerboat was still there and was buried for use as landfill somewhere near Parliament. The exact location remains a mystery.

    For more info on the rollerboat you can visit the heritage toronto site where they have an article on it



  11. Steve: You probably (??) don’t want to add Rollerboats to the Swan fleet but if one wants information on the Toronto Rollerboat there is some at


    Personally I think Rollerboats would be likely to lead to panic among the Swan Fleet and result in yet more unexpected short turns to cause problems for Admiral Adam.

    Steve: My swans will be well tempered, imperturbable, unflappable, impervious to distraction or panic from passing marine curiosities including the admiralty.


  12. The roller boat was just about the stupidest invention that actually got built. In the 1800’s some genius decided that if paddle boats were good, why not turn the whole boat into a paddle wheel? So he designed a boat that would roll over the water like a rolling pin. I think it had two or three voyages on Lake Ontario before they gave up on it, and had to be towed most of the way each time.


  13. The recommended option seemed the obvious one to me. People seemed to be concerned that the underground station sucked the life out the intersection. I don’t think we should spend a lot of money and disruptive construction so that people have to wait for the street car out in the cold.

    The real problem with the intersection is the 3 of the four buildings around the intersection don’t have entrances anywhere near the corner, or even at the street. In fact the Western Conference Centre is probably one of the few buildings in the city with no street entrance at all.

    Steve: Yes, for all of the concern about the Waterfront, the arrangement of buildings at Bay and Queen’s Quay is a textbook anti-pedestrian setup. Whenever I walk into the Westin for a Metrolinx meeting, I feel as if I am using the tradesmen’s entrance. The conference building across the street is just a hulk, and 20 Bay (home of GO Transit, Waterfront Toronto and Metrolinx) doesn’t have much presence on the street. Harbour Square assumes everyone will arrive by car.

    This is an example of what passes for good planning and, sadly, is a testimonial to the “old” City of Toronto’s inability or unwillingness to ensure good design.


  14. Not to be picky or anything, but why is it called a “T” junction? It’s really a wye (“Y”) junction.

    Steve: To avoid discussions ad nauseum of structures like the wyes at St. George/Bay/Museum or Greenwood Yard that include grade separations. We call an intersection with three legs a “T” intersection, after all.


  15. Matt S. Says:
    March 4th, 2009 at 2:09 am
    “@ Robert Wightman – Why would the TTC was to do this? A route like that would be prone to delays similar to ones we see on the Long Branch-Queen route (The TTC is going to split this route soon I think… Steve correct me if I’m wrong.)”

    Because they were stupid enough to through route 501 and 507. I was being facetious.


  16. I would like to thank everybody for this little piece of Toronto history. And thank you Steve, for letting everyone give me an answer. Once again I come on your blog Steve, and I learned something new.

    Now for a comment on the Waterfront east line. Down the road as new dwellings are built, do you think we can build the Waterfront east line to Coxwell station as an extension of Coxwell services? I was thinking along the lines of having the line below the Lakeshore grade seperated and right up Coxwell. We can have a relief line for Queen st. as it were, and achieve a streetcar to streetcar transfer at Coxwell and Queen for people flocking to the beaches. (Assuming the bunching and shorturning is solved on Queen)

    Steve: The proposed east end of the Port Lands network is at Leslie Street. As for Coxwell, major changes would be needed at Coxwell Station to accommodate a streetcar terminal. “Relief” is hardly needed for the Queen car which suffers from inadequate service.


  17. If nothing else, a T-junction will be useful in allowing streetcar service to continue when the Bay Street tunnel is closed for repairs (as has been known to happen).

    Speaking of closures, is there any hope that the Union Station loop work could be done at the same time as the T-junction work to avoid a double closure?

    Steve: The intent is for the Union Loop changes to be done in stages. Also, a lot of the space where new tracks are shown is in basement space under Bay Street and the Union Station teamways, and this means that we are not looking at major excavation. The biggest impacts will be in breaking through existing walls, and that will require staged closures.


  18. The loop diagram is now more complicated than I’ve seen it before. If I were to put a word to it, I’d call it “INSANE”. I’m quite pleased to see that the congestion issue is being tackled, but are they seriously considering building it to this extreme?!? Are the platform and siding lengths adequate for the as yet unbuilt new LRVs? Multi-car trains appear to be out of the question. This thing looks like an enthusiast’s dream and an operational nightmare!

    Steve: Yes, the spaces between the crossovers are long enough for one of the new cars. There is no intention of running trains of new cars on the “legacy” streetcar system and therefore platforms one car long are enough. I agree that the track layout appears excessive, and the degree to which they are making provision for cars to pass each other is a bit of a joke. By analogy, the crossovers at CNE loop are not used to the extent for which they were designed.

    Having said that, the intent is to build up this loop in stages and we may never see it fully implemented especially if the Bremner / Waterfront West line never materializes.


  19. I am glad to see that this line is nearing approval. I have a couple of questions though:

    1 What is the expected completion date and will there be enough equipment to operate it? When are the new low floor cars expected to arrive?

    2 Is this the final design for Union Station? I assume that they are going to use the east side for the loading and unloading of one line and the west platform for the other line.

    3 Will the existing tunnel from the streetcar platform to the subway station be able to handle all the traffic? Is there any thought to having a direct connection into the train station without going into the subway station.? I doubt that the existing station meets fire and safety regulations.

    4 It appears that the Bremner connection is still in. Is this for the West Waterfront LRT line?

    5 Is there a map of the proposed route? It, like the Kingston Rd LRT, seems to predate Transit city.

    6 How does the track connection at Cherry St. Work?

    7 Is there any input or discussion on the proposed land use in all of the dockland areas or any reports available on line?



    1. The expected completion date is about 4 years away by which time we should have new cars. That, of course, is subject to funding and we won’t know where that stands until Queen’s Park gives a better indication of its transit funding in the coming budget.

    2. Yes, the east side is for offloading, and the west side is for loading.

    3. The exit from the station changes dramatically because it is contiguous with the new northbound-to-Yonge platform on the subway line. Also, the plan shows a connection into the GO concourse, but this needs to be updated (and expanded) to reflect the new layout planned for Union railway station including the GO and retail concourses.

    4. Yes, the Bremner connection is for the WWLRT.

    5 and 6. There is no map of the Waterfront east route yet, but more details will be visible when the proposed design for Queen’s Quay East comes out in the next few weeks. There will be a temporary loop near Parliament, but there is already a detailed EA in progress of the reconfiguration of that entire area including a realigned Cherry Street and a new connection under the rail corridor. Eventually, the Queen’s Quay East line will connect directly into Cherry and into the Port Lands.

    7. There are many reports available on the Waterfront Toronto site. Look under “Projects” and “Public Involvement”. Warning: Some reports on this site are very large.


  20. I was under the impression earlier that the decision had already been made that this would run in the centre of Queen’s Quay East. The presentation said this is not decided… might it run on the south side? I think it would be fitting if the LRT runs along the area where there are railway tracks currently. It can also minimize interference from auto traffic turning east-to-north off of Queen’s Quay East.

    Steve: There has been quite a controversy about this, but I think that the LRT will wind up on the south side. I will have a better idea after the joint CLC meeting next Wednesday and will report on how the wind is blowing after that meeting.


  21. Steve and Karl, be advised that the red path railway spurs have been removed from the old Can-par site, west. There is ample room for the LRT to be placed there. As Karl stated, it’s the best choice to place the tracks there.


  22. Robert Wightman said:
    2 Is this the final design for Union Station? I assume that they are going to use the east side for the loading and unloading of one line and the west platform for the other line.

    Steve said:
    2. Yes, the east side is for offloading, and the west side is for loading.

    Steve, even though you say “yes”, this isn’t what Robert said, is it? He said that the two platforms are for different lines — i.e. Queens Quay East cars would exclusively use the east platform and Queens Quay West cars would exclusively use the west platform. This is the way I was understanding the plans, too. I don’t know if I’m right, but it certainly makes the track layout make sense — you need the extra tracks so the West cars can bypass the East platform and vice versa.

    Steve: Yes, that scheme would make sense, but only if they build the whole thing at once. The minute I heard that they may stage it as demand grows, and especially as and when the Bremner line is added, then it’s no longer practical to dedicate one platform to each line.

    Also purely from a circulation point of view, it is far better to do all offloading on one side so that there is no conflict in the pedestrian flows. I will verify this the next time I am chatting with someone from the project.


  23. Once the route is extended and connected with Cherry, where do you anticipate the northern branch of the line would turn back? Cherry and King?

    Is contingency being made in the Cherry LRT plans for a second, northern loop?

    Steve: No. There are various proposals including a service east and north to Broadview Station. This would give the eastern waterfront a subway connection roughly equivalent to the Spadina car. There is definitely no loop on Cherry other than the temporary one just north of the rail corridor.

    At this point, I don’t think the TTC has really nailed down a final route structure, and a lot depends on the buildout of the housing in the waterfront, not to mention the timing of the Port Lands (the area south and east of the Don mouth) development. There’s a good chance the new carhouse will go down there, but whether it its initial access is from the east (via Leslie) or west (via Cherry) is uncertain.


  24. All the information I have seen on Waterfront Toronto’s plans for the central Waterfront show the LRT line will be on the south side of Queen’s Quay so it certainly makes sense to keep it on the south side as it moves further east. Some of the early plans for the eastern section – east of Bay – do show the LRT and the rail line in the middle of Queen’s Quay but, as W. Zentos says, the rail line which used to go to the Redpath Sugar refinery has now been torn up east of Parliament Street (and the rest of it is doubtless going to be removed when they start construction in the area further east.)

    I am a bit surprised that this line is now not expected to be operational for 4 years (2013) as the Corus Building will bring people to the area in early 2010 and the new George Brown health sciences campus and residence will bring a large number of transit users to the area in 2012. I thought one of the TTC’s new mantras (in addition to ‘streetcars in their own right of way’) was to build transit BEFORE people’s travel patterns get set and they all buy cars! If I really believed a 2013 date it might be fine, however, the TTC and Waterfront Toronto do not have a good history of making their deadlines!

    Steve: There is a subtle difference in what is meant by “the south side” on Queen’s Quay West. The streetcar tracks are staying right where they are, but the existing road lanes to the south will be converted to pedestrian and cycling space. I have not yet seen detailed designed for Queen’s Quay East, but it may very well be that the streetcars wind up in the “middle” of the current right-of-way, but still south of the traffic. I will know better after the Queen’s Quay East CLC meeting on March 11.

    As for timelines, yes, this has been dragging on forever. The TTC has great dreams of leading development, but the projects take an eternity.


  25. “No. There are various proposals including a service east and north to Broadview Station.”

    That would make sense – the King service seems overloaded between Broadview and Jarvis now (I completely fail to understand the logic of turning half the King cars at Cherry, unless there were an equal number of cars coming from Broadview also being turned at Cherry).


  26. Just out of curiosity, now that we’ve mentioned Broadview, is it wide enough to accommodate a private ROW? If so, has that ever been proposed and do you see any merit in considering it?

    Steve: No. Broadview is a very busy 4-lane street that has no room for a right-of-way. Also, to access it, you need to travel east along 4-lane wide King and Queen Streets including the Don Bridge.


  27. I have been looking at the two pictures of the Union Station revised loop on page 24 of the CLC presentation materials and they appear to be for two different designs. The top loop is much simpler than the bottom and lacks the double crossovers; in fact it seems to have a passing track for each of the platforms that would be useless unless each platform were used for both loading and unloading one line. The bottom design has the double crossovers and allows LRT’s to pass each other like at exhibition loop. This design would appear to be more useful. Do you know if the top design is a first stage loop while the bottom is for a final stage? The top design appears to show 4 CLRV’s on each side; does this indicate a platform length of about 200 feet?

    You also mention “legacy” streetcar lines, does that include the rebuilt and newly built lines such as 509, 510, 512 and the proposed WWLRT and the East Queen’s Quay? Also do you know if the TTC has discovered the double bladed switch and since these are to be built in a “subway” that the LRV’s would actually be able to negotiate it as well as, or perhaps even better than a single blade switch.

    Steve: The second design is the “current” version. It is laid out to handle 30 metre cars, something I verified with TTC staff recently.

    The “legacy” network is the existing streetcar system plus the new waterfront lines because necessarily they will be operated with the new “city” fleet operating from a new carhouse in the Port Lands and, probably, Roncesvalles.

    As for double blade switches, yes the TTC knows about them and, I believe, plans to use these for new lines. However, we will continue to have a large number of single blade switches at conventional streetcar intersections, and the new fleet must be able to handle this type of track.


  28. The original plan, I believe, was to turn every 3rd or 4th King car at Cherry street, which would make for scheduled unpredictability on Broadview, not to even account for late runs and short turns.

    Steve: This scheme makes sense when Cherry is only a stub track ending at a loop at the rail corridor. However, once Cherry runs through to Queen’s Quay, the routing options are much more complex.


  29. Just curious here (pie in the sky) but how difficult would it be given the current plans to extend streetcar service north up Bay Street? Please don’t respond to this by telling me how unlikely or useless this might be as I am fully aware; just curious.

    Steve: The biggest problem is that the existing streetcar tunnel is at the same level as the subway (there will be an across the platform transfer between Union Loop and the new northbound platform on the Yonge line). If streetcars are going to continue north on Bay, they need to get up to the surface somehow, and with limitations on gradients, the ramp would have to start somewhere at or south of the rail viaduct. This would put a surface station on Bay south of Front, an area that will be very congested with road and pedestrain traffic. Also, the direct connection to the subway would be lost.

    Crossing at the level between the subway and surface is impossible because the PATH pedestrian tunnels and various utilities are in the way, and the ramp up to that level would likely conflict with the loop track in Union Loop.

    It’s not a question of being unlikely or useless, only that it’s just about impossible to thread through existing structures and street space use.


  30. Is there any chance at all that the planned underground station might get move just a little west so as to put it more in line with Yonge Street? Also, I guess I’ve been a little out of the loop and was a little surprised to read Jonathan’s mention of plans to extend streetcars north on Bay. What can anybody tell me about those plans and is there anywhere on the internet where I can find out anything about such plans?

    Steve: The location of the station is constrained by both the street geometry and the need to get under a sewer that is at Yonge Street. If you look closely, you will see that even this sewer must be moved west so that the LRT line can ramp up to the street with enough space to keep the grade reasonable.

    There is no plan to extend streetcars up Bay Street. Various people propose it from time to time, and it runs aground on many problems, some of which I mentioned, but also because there really would be a big problem fitting an LRT right-of-way in with all of the surface traffic. The volume of streetcars arriving at Union (and their passengers) could not be accommodated on the surface.


  31. Testing. Testing Testing.. Alright everyone charging at 200 volts… CLEAR!!!! Thats it I am calling it at 9:00 PM . This blog is dead.. Where are you steve?

    Steve: I am working on some long articles. One on Waterfront projects, one on the Queen car, one on St. Clair construction and plans. It’s been very quiet lately, and I have been preoccupied with other things.


  32. Well Steve since you have been “slacking off” lately because of the quiet times I have been forced to browse the web for other interesting material. One item that I have come across in a number of sites is the need for both LRT and STREETCARS. The rational is that LRTS are for more rapid transit and cannot perform the local distribution required for built up area because their stop spacing is too great. They like the streetcars because

    “One of the streetcar’s most important features is its cost per mile. While light rail ranges from $45 to $55 million per mile, the streetcar averages $15 million per mile. At 80% of the capacity of light rail, the streetcar becomes a high capacity, affordable urban circulator.”

    It also has a permanence that a bus does not have and this seems to be important. Lines that started out as “tourist circulators” have developed a strong local ridership. Perhaps we should be looking at streetcar lines on roads that are not suited to LRT, I found a lot of information from links on http://www.hamiltonlightrail.com/. The company that wrote the report is called, HDR one company many solutions, and their website is http://www.hdrinc.com/ .

    Steve: The whole LRT versus “Streetcar” debate is left over from the days when we embarrassed to say we liked streetcars, but it was ok to call them LRT. Any discussion of appropriate technologies also has to look at demand in a corridor and the built form of development existing or planned.

    Just because a line is a “streetcar” doesn’t automatically mean it has closely spaced stops. Also, I have problems with some of the low costs attributed to “streetcar” implementations because they may take advantage of situations where other street redesign is not part of the project (or at least isn’t charged to the same budget).


  33. Is this new Portlands carhouse going to replace Russell carhouse?

    Steve: Initially, I suspect the two will co-exist. One for the old fleet, one for the new. Longer term, Roncesvalles makes more sense as the surviving “old” carhouse, although it would probably require major overhaul. This would give the TTC an east and west end carhouse as today, and the Russell property could be sold off.


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