Tuesday, June 2 was a long day for members of Toronto Council’s Executive Committee. Many transportation issues were on the agenda including Union Station Revitalization, Western Waterfront Master Plan, Queen’s Quay redesign, and the Gardiner Expressway replacement EA.
As if that wasn’t enough, an open house for the Scarborough RT extension took me out for a ride on the Milner bus.
This transit blogging is harder than my pre-retirement work!
Union Station Revitalization
As I reported last weekend, a report will be going to Council in July seeking approval for the revitalization project. At the Executive Committee, staff and engineering consultants presented an overview of the project as it now exists.
The presentation material is not yet available on the City’s website, and if it doesn’t show up by the end of the week, I will scan selected pages.
At this point, the major outstanding matters are:
- finalization of funding from Ottawa and Queen’s Park, expected to be concluded over the summer;
- Council approval of the Head Lessee agreement for commercial space in the station;
- completion of detailed design and construction planning.
I will report further on this once the presentation materials are online, one way or another.
Western Waterfront Master Plan
The report was adopted by the Executive Committee and will go to Council in July. Members of the public who spoke at the meeting praised the design and sought only minor changes. These will be addressed in a supplementary report to Council.
As I reported, there is now a conflict between the preferred design for the waterfront overall, and the TTC’s design for the Waterfront West LRT. It is unclear at this point how that conflict will be resolved.
Queen’s Quay Revitalization
In a previous post, I detailed the scheme for the redesign of Queen’s Quay from Bathurst to Parliament. The report before Executive includes further details:
Some of the detailed design issues remain to be worked out as several speakers noted:
- Bus traffic patterns at the Radisson Hotel at the foot of Rees Street. The existing exit via Robertson Crescent is to be closed. This is a TTC requirement due to signalling problems with the nearby Rees Street intersection, but the scheme is opposed by the hotel, and by others who are concerned about the alternative design of a bus loop built over the water’s edge south of the hotel. The hotel also objects to the loss of a west to south left turn at Rees for traffic approaching their site from the east. The location is constrained by the position of buildings making lane rearrangements from the proposed scheme difficult even though there is vacant space (a parking lot) on the northwest corner.
- Cycling lane arrangement westbound at Spadina. Just west of Spadina, the Martin Goodman trail reverts to standard bike lanes, and cyclists need to cross from the south to the north side of Queen’s Quay. This crossing is mixed in with other traffic movements at Spadina and Queen’s Quay in a way that defies understanding, and will almost certainly require yet another dedicated traffic signal phase, the last thing we need here. The original design shown at the Waterfront Toronto open houses had an odd transition where the Martin Goodman Trail abruptly vanished at Yo-Yo Ma Lane, but the design linked above has been modified to show only eastbound bike traffic on the south side of Queen’s Quay west of Spadina. There was a lot of shilly-shallying by staff about whether they intended to redesign the street all the way to Bathurst, but the reports clearly state that the study area is from Bathurst, not from Spadina eastwards.
- Access to condo development lands and Redpath Sugar site east of Yonge Street. Both of the affected properties lie east of Yonge and south of the transit right-of-way. The condo developer would like to see an underground “Yonge Station” replace the proposed stop at Freeland Street as this would simplify access to their property. Of course, an underground station is a costly item, and it would be much less accessible than a surface stop. Redpath Sugar is concerned that vehicle access to and from their property will be constrained and that they would not be able to get trucks in and out on a timely basis. Like the Radisson site further west, both properties raise the question of how frequently there can be openings in the transit “right of way” for cross-traffic.
A supplementary report on these issues will come to Council in July when this matter is up for approval.
Among the public speakers to this issue, there was widespread praise for the way that the consultation and design work has been handled by Waterfront Toronto and related groups. I can say from my own participation in parts of this that other organizations in the GTA (the guilty parties know who they are) could learn a lot about meaningful public participation. Although the process took longer than expected and the level of design was far more detailed than we normally see in an EA, the result was that many issues were resolved, or at least identified for detailed review, as part of the EA rather than being left to fester and undermine the project’s credibility.
Predictably, this item attracted the most attention on the agenda and we can expect another skirmish in the “war on the car” debates when it reaches Council in July.
The staff report and Draft EA set out the plan for an extensive review of the proposed takedown of the Gardiner from Jarvis Street east to the Don River, a study that will take the next two years to complete. Four options will be considered:
- “Do nothing”. This is the standard base case for any EA. In fact “nothing” does not quite describe the impact as there will be substantial repair costs to the existing structure associated with leaving it in place.
- “Improve”. This would involve retention of the existing structure, but with possible changes to improve the environment under it (Lake Shore Blvd.), beautify the structure and possibly reconfigure access ramps to remove barriers at ground level.
- “Replace”. A new expressway would be constructed underground, at grade or elevated, not necessarily in its current location (e.g. it could be moved to the rail corridor).
- “Remove”. The functions of the expressway and Lake Shore Blvd. would be consolidated into one at-grade road.
Both Waterfront Toronto and Mayor Miller have publicly endorsed the “remove” option, but a full study is required to determine whether this is feasible and what the effects will be. There is something of a Catch-22 in some of the opposition to this study saying “not now” or “we fear chaos will ensue”. Well, if there is no study, we won’t know when the time will be right or whether it is even workable to divert traffic onto an at-grade street. Regardless of whether the right or left wing is in power by the time the EA is completed and a decision must be taken on the Gardiner’s future, we need the background information to make an informed decision.
A fundamental issue here is that the Gardiner east of downtown was designed to feed both the DVP and the Scarborough Expressway. The Gardiner is much wider than required just for traffic to and from the DVP, and the amount of land sterilized by the expressway structure is large. For future development, the location of the structure and/or road must be known so that planning for adjacent property, and indeed the value of that property, will be clear.
The study will look not only at the Gardiner, but at the road systems of the city as a whole. For example, the Richmond/Adelaide ramp system’s function will change if the DVP feeds into a University Avenue style street in place of the Gardiner/Lake Shore. Other parts of the road network might also be affected, although further away from downtown, the marginal impact of trips bound for the core is smaller in the total traffic flow.
As I mentioned at the outset, after spending much of the day at the Executive Committee, I headed off to Scarborough for the RT Extension Open House. I will comment on that in a separate post.