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