Queen’s Quay Revitalization Plan

This week, Waterfront Toronto released detailed plans (18MB download) for the redesign of Queen’s Quay between Bathurst and Parliament Streets.

Updated May 7, 2009:  The presentation has moved to a new URL, and related information can be found on the project’s web page.

This plan is the culmination of several studies, some of which seemed to go on forever, but in the end we have a design that has widespread community acceptance.  By “we”, I mean Toronto, my city, a city that too often settles for half-baked functional plans that do little to stir real pride in what we have and what will be built.

Some elements of this plan have appeared on this site before, notably the design work for the East Bayfront LRT and the long debates on a portal to the Bay Street LRT tunnel.  I will try not to duplicate those details.

This post is intended as an overview of the long presentation, a walking tour, if you will, along the waterfront-to-be.  Page numbers refer to the PDF itself regardless of any numbers that may appear on individual panels.

Pages 3-6:  This study is part of a larger review of the entire waterfront including neighbourhoods outside of the Queen’s Quay Revitalization plan itself.  Page 3 shows three of these areas as they will be, not as they are including new residential areas and parks in what is now an underused industrial wasteland.  Worth noting here is hte size of these areas compared with downtown itself.  This is a huge addition to Toronto’s core, and we have to “get it right”.

Transit will be an essential part in avoiding the “suburbanization” of downtown.  Institutional attitudes to transit service — run as little as you can get away with — must change.  Nobody expects a new subway to be full the day it opens (indeed, some remain oases of underused calm for years), and the same will be true of new transit lines in the waterfront.  If Toronto and the TTC take the attitude that there are not enough people living there “yet” to justify good service, those people will buy cars as will those who follow as the neighbourhoods fill out.

Pages 15-17:  This page lists the stakeholders who sat on the Queen’s Quay project.  My name is missing [fie! Waterfront Toronto] because I was only on the East Bayfront group that was merged in at the end of the process.  One can’t be everywhere.

A great deal of work was done on detailed design at a level normally not seen at this stage of an Environmental Assessment.  However, that work was essential to understanding all the “little problems” that collectively could derail a project.  Waterfront Toronto must be commended for investing so much in this work.  No plan will be “perfect” in the sense that it suits every need, but the effort and inclusiveness here is a contrast to the arrogance of other agencies who present their plans as faits accomplis and ask the locals only to bless the colour of decorative tiles.  “Progress” takes time.

Page 19:  The pie charts on this page show the disparity in road space design at Bay Street.  Although the actual usage is over half pedestrians, the space dedicated to them is under 20%.

Page 21:  This is a single frame in the PDF, but the original showed a two-hour view of traffic on Queen’s Quay during a summer event.  This photo shows a row of tour buses.  These are an important component of traffic and business on Queen’s Quay, and design “transit” is not just a matter of improving the existing streetcar right-of-way.

Pages 24-26:  The “Problem Statement” summarizes much of what is wrong with Queen’s Quay today.  It has evolved from a road system totally unsuited to its present use.  Barriers to north-south waterfront access combine with incomplete and inhospitable east-west links and pedestrian spaces.  Yes, there’s a waterfront, but so much is haphazard, designed for a site, not for a neighbourhood.  The challenge for a redesign is to knit everything together with a grand new Queen’s Quay.

Pages 27-34:  Five alternatives were considered for the new street configuration.

  • “Do Nothing”.  This is the standard control option within any EA and represents things as they are.  Such an approach has major negative consequences as the ongoing development and intensification of the waterfront will overwhelm today’s layout.  Something must change, indeed should have changed long ago.
  • Centre transit right-of-way plus bike lanes, plus enlarged pedestrian spaces where possible.  This arrangement does not address the need for greatly expanded pedestrian space throughout the neighbourhoods or eliminate pinch points where pedestrians are a poor third.  Cyclists get space, but they must compete with cars and the nature of Queen’s Quay traffic is such that the bike lanes would often be blocked by other vehicles.
  • Centre transit right-of-way plus added road width.  This scheme puts the cyclists in their own dedicated space, but at the expense of pedestrians who are the heart of the waterfront’s activities.
  • South side transit with expanded cycling and pedestrian areas.  “South” is a relative term here because the streetcar tracks stay more or less where they are today, but the existing eastbound roadway is transformed to cycling and pedestrian space.  Two variants were considered for the north side of Queen’s Quay — westbound only traffic, and two-way operations.

Of the five options, three were carried forward for detailed study.

Page 37:  For those of you reading this from afar, the photo looks south on Spadina from just north of Harbord Street showing the Spadina streetcar right-of-way including the circle around Knox College.  Looking at this, I am reminded of plans for the Spadina expressway that would have transformed this into an arterial road in a ditch much like what we have north of Eglinton today.  On the waterfront, we were not so lucky.

Page 40:  John Bromley wrote to me pointing out that the “Salt Lake City” illustration is actually from Minneapolis.  You can read about Salt Lake’s plans on their own website.  That caveat aside, there is a clear desire by Waterfront Toronto that the transit serving existing and future neighbourhoods should be in the same league as systems already operating in other cities.  Toronto has a lot of catching up to do.

Pages 44-49:  A detailed review of the three options shows what each would look like both in a detailed plan view and in a three-dimensional drawing.  (Contrast this with the way that materials have been presented for the St. Clair project.)  In each case, we see the section from York to Lower Simcoe.  Note that in the final design (later in this presentation), the two existing stops will be consolidated, but that is not reflected in the drawings at this stage.

Pages 50-62:  An exhaustive set of tables reviews the impact of each design, and the two closely-ranked south-side options remain in the mix.

Page 66:  This illustrates the two-way option somewhere in the East Bayfront.  While it is quite beautiful, I must caution about the trees.  The size of trees shown along the streetcar right-of-way will be difficult to establish unless they are well cared for and allowed to mature.  Even so, they do seem to intrude on the transit and road space to a degree that is possible only because they have “grown” tall enough for the branches to clear passing vehicles.  Whether the trees we actually get will be so lucky remains to be seen.

Pages 67-78:  Much of the work on Queen’s Quay dealt with how people and vehicles will actually get to, from and around the neighbourhoods.  There are many competing demands including the residents, the hotels, the tour boat operators and various businesses.  Page 69 shows several proposed new north-south streets in blue.  The intent of these is to provide many north-south routes to Queen’s Quay giving direct access to sites without using east-west road capacity.  Other pages show how different types of traffic demand and access are served by the proposed road system.

Pages 84-xxx:  These pages show the proposed design for Queen’s Quay itself in plan view from east of Bathurst Street to Parliament.  Each view exists as a pair without and with trees.  There is an amusing gaffe in the illustrations in that many of the streetcars are facing the wrong way — no, we are not switching to left-hand running in Toronto.

From Bathurst to roughly the Music Garden (opposite Yo-Yo Ma Lane, named for the musician whose work inspired the garden), the road layout is essentially unchanged.  At the east end of the garden, the streetcar right-of-way swings to the south crossing over the eastbound roadway making its transition to the north-side configuration.  Note that this will require the reconstruction of the Spadina & Queen’s Quay intersection so that trackwork will be aligned with the new layout. 

The track layout shown on pages 87-88 is only for the purposes of illustration — please don’t write to me about the odd layout shown here.

At Rees Street, the existing westbound farside stop will become nearside placing the two platforms directly opposite each other.

Between Lower Simcoe and York, the two existing stops will be consolidated into a single set 0f nearside stops at the relocated entrance to the Harbourfront parking lot.

Between York and Bay Streets, there is an eastbound service road between the streetcar right-of-way and the Martin Goodman bike trail.  This provides access to the Harbour Square complex.

East of Yonge is the new LRT ramp up from the Bay Street tunnel.  The first surface stop is on the east side of Freeland Street.  Additional stops are east of Jarvis, east of Sherbourne and west of Parliament.  A loop shown at Parliament is a pro-forma design, and in any event this is intended as a temporary arrangement pending connection of Queen’s Quay into the revised Cherry and Lake Shore intersection that is part of a separate project.

Pages 117-xxx:  This reviews the Eastern Waterfront transit plans that I have already discussed elsewhere.  However there are a few points of clarification needed.

The map on page 118 is the original schematic design for transit in the waterfront.  It does not reflect the planned relocation of Cherry Street, and it includes a southern extension of Broadview that does not actually exist.

Pages 137-138 show the proposed expansion of Union Loop.  In practice, this would be built in stages:

  • Stage 1 would include the expanded west (southbound) platform including the double-track section as far as the crossover.  Note that there is an island platform that includes a row of support pillars.  The two southbound platforms would serve traffic headed east and west on Queen’s Quay.
  • Stage 2 would include the expanded east (northbound) platform to provide a separate offloading space.  This would be required as traffic to the eastern waterfront builds up.
  • Stage 3 would include the connections to the Bremner streetcar tunnel as and when it is built.

Presuming final approval of the project in the fall of 2009, detailed design would proceed through the winter with the intention of construction beginning in 2010 for completion in 2012.  Preliminary staging plans west of Bay would likely see the existing traffic consolidated into the current eastbound lanes on the south side of Queen’s Quay while the north side is rebuilt.  This would likely include the streetcar right-of-way because it has to shift in places to make the north-side scheme work, and because the track is due for replacement in 2010. 

I do not know what the alternative service plan is, and I hope that the TTC and the City can find a way to do this with considerably greater speed than some of their work on St. Clair.  We really need to show people that this type of construction can be done with as short an interruption to access and service as possible.

Once the north side is rebuilt to the new configuration, traffic would shift over to it, and the new south side cycling and pedestrian areas can be created out of the existing roadway.

In the Eastern Waterfront, there is more flexibility in construction because there is no existing transit right-of-way.  However, construction of the new eastern tunnel and portal will have a significant effect from Bay to Freeland while it is underway.

14 thoughts on “Queen’s Quay Revitalization Plan

  1. Some questions arise from the presentation and other documents that I have read:

    1 Some documents and a presenter said that the existing right of way would move south about a m to give more room for the road way on the north side. The artist’s renderings starting on page 28 and running to 32, and I realize that they are not necessarily to scale, show the right of way in the same location and part of the north sidewalk removed. As most people do not want to walk there I don’t have an immediate problem with this.

    2 Page 47 shows the paved right of way required for east bound emergency vehicles if the road is one way while page 49 shows a grassed right of way with a two way street.

    Steve: Yes, with a two way street, the emergency vehicles stay on the pavement not the car tracks for eastbound travel.

    3 The right of way west of Spadina is to stay were it is until just west of the intersection where the tracks will swing to the south and the eastbound lanes will go to the north as shown on pages 88 and 89. This will necessitate the rebuilding of the special work in the intersection and the closing of the 509 and 510 lines through here. How do they plan to handle the transit traffic during construction?

    Steve: Detailed construction staging plans are yet to come. I can think of several ways of doing this, but there are so many variables it’s hard to say which approach they will take. What is certain is that there will be a lot of neighbourhood consultation about the whole process.

    4 Are they going to rebuild the west portal to reduce the grade to 5%? No mention seems to be made of this. I do like the clam shell portal coverings that they are proposing.

    Steve: No.

    5 TREES!!. They have a new design for planting trees that the landscape architect went over and they increase the soil available to 30 cubic metres from 1 to 2. They are going to put a large open structure like milk carton under the sidewalk and fill it with soil for the tree to be planted in. It will be open on the bottom and sides for water and roots to pass through. The structure will support a sidewalk on the top that is removable. This should allow the trees to reach maturity and live longer than 10 years.

    Steve: My main concern is that the location and spacing of trees shown could produce clearance problems between younger, shorter trees and streetcars. Even with a proper growing environment, they will have to be cared for, unlike the trees on Spadina that fell victim to a jurisdictional black hole (the TTC now pays the City Parks Department to look after them, but many have already been lost).

    6 Why is the TTC against ballast and tie construction with either paving blocks or grass in the right of way. Both are capable of supporting emergency vehicles if built correctly and would make track maintenance, especially stop replacement much more convenient. If the TTC continues with centre poles the emergency vehicles will not be able to use it anyways.

    I realize that while you know much you are not the great transit god in the sky or at Davisville. I just hope to spark some more discussion.

    Steve: My supernatural powers are vastly overrated, although there are times some good old-fashioned smiting would not go amiss when dealing with advocates of certain technologies, and planners in agencies who feign public consultation but just want quiet, unobtrusive rubber stamps in their audiences.


  2. The diagrams on the pages in the 80’s are very detailed.

    I see a problem on page 87, where the eastbound traffic is supposed to cross over both streetcar tracks. This will likely not work as planned, as many drivers there are stupid, and streetcars cannot be stopped on a dime. The mapped loop at parliament may also cause problems. The earlier mention of going all the way around to get to the harboufront centre is likely not going to go over well.

    I also see the grade for the new entrance may be 7.5%. I don’t know what that means, but it’s interesting to note.

    And how is the proposed new loop supposed to work? Looks like a nightmare.


  3. I’m curious about the criteria scoring for the one-way vs. two-way northside auto traffic: on pg. 57 on Automobile effects the one-way option gets a higher score (2 green, 4 yellow, 1 red) than two-way (6 yellow, 1 red).

    But when the scores are summarized on pg. 59, the two-way option gets a green while one-way gets a yellow. This tips the overall balance in favour of the two-way (everything else matches). Since both options are carried forward it may not matter, but is this an error or rather a pre-determnation slipping through?

    Steve: Some of the analyses in those EAs have a lot of room for gerrymandering, although in this case there isn’t a harmful side effect.


  4. Steve: I understand per this document that there’s officially a planning black hole for between Parliament and Cherry for the next few months, but seeing as streetcar alignments are now nailed down on either end of the gap, having this “provisional” QQ loop at Parliament strikes me as a little strange. Dare I say it suggests that the supposed integrated planning between these various precincts is anything but?

    I get that the ultimate Cherry-based network out across the water into the Lower Don Lands proper is still some many years off, but–and correct me if my timelines are out of whack–is there any real reason that as of opening day for this Waterfront East line we couldn’t have it running on the south side of QQ all the way to Cherry, and then turn north into the Distillery district, and have the ROWs constructed as a single project?

    Steve: The nub of the problem is that Waterfront Toronto has money for the section announced so far. They do not have funding for the reconfiguration of the Don Mouth and associated street changes including the link to Cherry. Hence the scope of the proposal stops where the money runs out.


  5. One of the things that the pictures of the other cities’ street cars (p 40) shows is that the clunky, high-rise streetcars in Toronto need some serious work on their aesthetics.

    The Strasbourg cars may not be to everyone’s tastes, but they show at least more than a passing nod to exterior design, and they’re low to the ground. Heck, even Dublin understands how design can make a transit system attractive enough that one might want to ride it. ‘North American cllunky’ does not do the TTC a great service, nor does it project Toronto as a city sufficiently conscious of its appearances to attract tourism.

    Has anyone ever attempted some form of calculation about how much attractive design (external in internal) might increase the number of TTC riders?


  6. Someone is still stealing the 3D CLRV model and doesn’t have the sense to fix the red colour of that housing on the roof. The photo on page 66 also has them somehow ‘mirrored’ with the door-side pointing to the centre of the ROW. All the photos from page 84 through 115 and 136 have the cars running the wrong direction on their respective tracks. Did we give this work to a dyslexic Australian? I find these kinds of oversights infuriating! How much did this document cost us?

    As far as I’m concerned, the only remotely attractive ‘car-of-the-world’ depicted is the Seattle/Portland streetcar design. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but the US trend is giant/boxy and the European trend is senselessly roundy/futuristic. I refuse to accept a ‘Gehry-inspired sculpture’ driving around town when those sorts of design choices always lead to compromises in reliable/practical engineering and passenger comfort.


  7. Trevor Says:
    March 30th, 2009 at 5:55 pm

    “One of the things that the pictures of the other cities’ street cars (p 40) shows is that the clunky, high-rise streetcars in Toronto need some serious work on their aesthetics.

    “Has anyone ever attempted some form of calculation about how much attractive design (external in internal) might increase the number of TTC riders?”

    The busiest trams that I have ever ridden are the 1920’s double decker single truck cars in Hong Kong. Most people do not care what the car looks like. They care about the service.


  8. I agree with the final option, converting the south side of QQ into a pedestrian/bike way. The road is too close to the lake to serve as an arterial road; if we are serious about the waterfront, converting it to a 2-lane road/transitway is a no-brainer. I worry more about Lakeshore as a 10 lane road, and barrier to the waterfront, with all the Gardiner traffic spilling onto it, though Steve knows well enough about my position on the deletion of Front Street as a potential mitigator.

    Steve: What intrigues me is that we still have at least three competing views for what Front Street should be — an arterial feeding to/from the Gardiner, an LRT line, and a pedestrian precinct near Union Station.


  9. I think the common element in those three views is that Union Station and its vicinity are the only significant source and destination along the street (I’m counting Skydome in the vicinity). The problem is that it can’t properly serve both as an arterial and as a major transfer terminal. There simply is not enough room for both. There will be too much traffic no matter what Gardiner scheme emerges to leave transit on the surface. If transit goes underground then it reaches the Convention Centre at best and leaves no room for a ‘city fleet’ turning loop. While I’d love to see steetcars return to Station Street where they looped once-upon-a-time, there is still too much conflicting road usage around here, and we really don’t need any more disjointed connections at Union.

    If the point is to get people into and out of Union Station then there are other possible corridors whether or not they be underground. And if we’re going to ‘give the streets back to the people’ then there are much more major changes needed to the transit and regional transportation infrustructure beyond this area before the auto traffic dries up.

    Steve: Station Street will be closed. There is a new development that will stand partly in what is now that street east of Simcoe.


  10. Steve, I still don’t see or hear of any plans, like earlier plans for a 4 lane “ramp road” next to the railway berm. This road was in the original Yonge street terminus planned for the gardiner. The ramp road would be much better than spilling traffic to a ten lane lakeshore. They should keep Lakeshore as a six lane road and build the ramp road. Pedestrians would need two light cycles to cross a ten lane road. By building this ramp road to the DVP, you can actually terminate the gardiner at Yonge instead of Jarvis.


  11. Looking at the plans, it struck me was any consideration given to what would happen if streetcar service was interrupted and replaced with temporary bus service? As it stands whenever buses appear on Queens Quay they use the actual road and not the ROW to drop off and pick up passengers. If this continues to be the practice, we’ll be left with a bit of a problem as there really isn’t anywhere for shuttle buses to make stops.

    I’m hoping as well that they’ve (the TTC and the City) learned their lesson about how the wires will be strung up. Having centre poles like St. Clair would only compound the above issue.


  12. It looks like they plan to keep the current street layout for Queens Quay between Spadina and Bathurst and have eastbound cars and west bound cyclist cross over.

    Is that to avoid rebuilding the newly built track in the area?

    Steve: No. The Queen’s Quay project scope had to end somewhere, and Spadina is the official boundary. However, a transitional section is needed and that takes the work a bit further west, but not to Bathurst.


  13. The Queen’s Quay project scope has a prefect place to end: the end of Queen’s Quay West at Stadium road.

    The Spadina to Bathurst section can be redesigned the same as the rest of the street. It is already one lane in each direction with few driveways on the south side.

    The Bathurst to Stadium road section is also already one lane in each direction. All that is needed is to shift both bike lanes to the south side of the street which will precisely line up with where the Martin Goodman Trail now ends.


  14. Hi Steve,

    I just read your post about the updated plan for QQ from Bathurst to Parliament…

    I really want to see the Detailed Plans provided by Waterfront Toronto but I can’t access them through your link. I keep getting an error message. Are they still available or is something a little messed up?

    I live in a condo at Queens Quay/Spadina and walk east along QQ everyday on my way to work so I am very excited and interested in these plans.

    Please help.


    Steve: The posts have been moved. I have updated the link information at the top of this item.


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