Rethinking the Waterfront West LRT

The TTC’s 2010-2019 Capital Budget contains a project description for the WWLRT that throws the whole project into serious doubt.  Metrolinx funding has been deferred to 2022, and the schedule for the project now looks like this:

  • 2022 Construction starts; Park Lawn Loop is built
  • 2026 Service begins from Exhibition Loop to Dufferin
  • 2028 Service begins from Dufferin to Park Lawn
  • 2029 Service begins from Park Lawn to Long Branch

Most of the Lake Shore community residents who have attended EA meetings to discuss the design and effect on their neighbourhoods will have to wait two decades to see the project implemented.  Whatever happened to Toronto’s “Transit First” model for the waterfront?  Must we wait for the complete condoization of Lake Shore before anything happens with transit service?  How relevant will 2009 studies be if the project isn’t actually in operation until 2029?

This project has been gerrymandered throughout its history to suit whatever pet project (pro or con transit) happened to be on the front pages, and the idea that the line might actually have some useful transit function often appeared secondary.  Indeed, the original 1990 study describes a line that is unrecognizable in today’s plans which have been updated by amendment without any formal public participation or any sense of overall direction for the project.

Although the proposal goes back nearly two decades, we have very little to show for it.  First came a shuttle from Union to Spadina, then an extension to Bathurst, and finally an overbuilt right-of-way on Fleet Street.  Even as it was under construction, the Fleet Street right-of-way was no longer considered the primary route for a future waterfront service which would now run via Fort York and Bremner Boulevards. 

The “Bremner LRT” was born as an alternate route from the east side of Exhibition Place to Union Station bypassing the Bathurst/Fleet intersection.  Someone at the TTC finally realized that the toonerville trolley operation along Queen’s Quay, stopping at every lamp post for so-called transit priority signals, was inadequate for a frequent service into Union Station.  Alas, the road on which it should run was planned for, at most, bus service east of Spadina.  West of Spadina, there is a reservation of modest width.  By the time anything actually operates there, we will probably have a crop of mature trees that will be a significant barrier to LRT construction proposals.

West from Bathurst, Fort York Boulevard is not designed to accommodate LRT.  Debate continues over the alignment near Fort York where one TTC proposal conflicts with a proposed Visitor Centre and parking that will soon be approved by Council.  (The new parking area is intended to replace existing parking within the precinct of the Fort itself.) 

The original scheme along the water’s edge serving Ontario Place and the southern part of Exhibition Place was “amended” to a grim terminus behind the Horse Palace and under the Gardiner Expressway.  At the time, Ontario Place did not wish to lose their parking lot which was considered far more valuable as a way to lure visitors than a transit line.  Building a new underground terminal as part of the Trade Centre (which stands on the original Exhibition Loop site) was deemed too expensive, and this left us with the loop under the Gardiner remote from many activities at Exhibition Place.

The TTC proposes an extension west on the same alignment at least to Dufferin.  This will require a complete change in the stop design because Exhibition Place will now be a line station, not a terminus.  This will also affect GO passengers and who can now walk directly into Exhibition Place.  A grade crossing with the LRT line is impractical given the surge volumes pedestrian traffic from the trains.

Various schemes exist to get the line from Dufferin to a connection with the Queen route somewhere in Sunnyside, and a debate rages between the City and the TTC over which is appropriate.  The City prefers a connection via Colborne Lodge Road (the first traffic signal on the Queensway right-of-way west of Parkside Drive), while the TTC is pushing a connection into the Queen/Roncesvalles intersection.

Further west, the proposed Park Lawn Loop project is on hold as it isn’t really needed in the short term.  Residents of the Lake Shore communities continue their battle with the TTC over roadway design while pleading for reliable, frequent service on the 501.

Toronto needs to rethink the purpose of and plans for service to the Western Waterfront.  When the WWLRT was first proposed, it would have ended at Park Lawn, but, as part of Transit CITY, the scheme was extended west to Long Branch.  Long before 2029, there will be frequent all-day service on GO’s Lake Shore route at headways that will likely be better than those now operated by the TTC on the 501.  Fare integration may have actually taken place, and riders will treat the GO service much like a subway line rather than a commuter train.

In this context, does a local LRT route all the way from Union to Long Branch make sense?  Will the TTC still be trying to find some way of making the 501 work while starving Lake Shore of frequent, reliable service?

Redevelopment of Exhibition Place lands will begin soon with a new hotel planned for the north side of Lake Shore just east of Ontario Place, and in decades to follow, we will certainly see more of the CNE parking lot disappear under buildings.  Indeed, one might wonder whether the CNE, midway and all, will actually still exist in 2029.  (Attendance at the 2009 CNE was about 1.3-million.  Three decades ago, in 1980, it was 3.1-million.  The TTC carried 2-million trips to and from the CNE in 1980, and GO handled about 542,000.)

Transit for Exhibition Place must be designed to serve a variety of year-round events in a convenient manner.  As the southern edge of the park redevelops, a design intended to serve buildings along the northen edge will no longer be adequate.

New development and transit riding already exists and will continue to intensify north of the rail corridor.  Liberty Village and the surrounding area, as well as new developments along King and Queen West will require better transit service.  Although one could argue for a Queen Subway, such a proposal would fundamentally alter transit accessibility (depending on station spacing), would do little for people living in neighbourhoods well south of Queen Street, and would likely not be in service for a very long time given competing demands for capital funding.

Options include transit service east from Dufferin via an extended Front Street, but this runs into challenges when it reaches Bathurst.  Would it dodge south across the Bathurst bridge to join the Bremner LRT into Union, or continue east on Front?  Could some service be diverted south from King via Dufferin so that a “Roncesvalles car” as well as improved “508 Lake Shore” service run into downtown via Front and Bremner?

I don’t want to entertain yet another debate on excruciating details of the options here (we have been over this at length before), but the overriding concern must be a plan for what the city will be a decade or more in the future, not what it is today.

As things stand now, there are multiple studies and proposals.  Some have the force of approved and amended plans, others are under study, still others are wistful sketches on café napkins.  Decisions of past decades haunt us and limit what we consider as officially “possible”.  This is no way to plan the waterfront.

The City, TTC, GO/Metrolinx and all of the waterfront neighbourhoods must consider many questions:

  • How will new development east of Exhibition Place, south of the rail corridor, be served?  How soon will service on exiting routes be improved, and what, if any, additional routes are needed to ensure adequate capacity and attractiveness of transit in this area?
  • How will Exhibition Place and Ontario Place redevelop over coming decades?  Should the originally proposed waterfront line to Ontario Place (or something similar) be built as a branch off of the existing streetcar network?  Should service be provided on both a new south branch as well as the existing north branch to serve events in different parts of the park?
  • How should the growing population in Liberty Village, King West and Queen West be served?  Is a Front Street line needed north of the rail corridor at least between Dufferin and Bathurst?
  • Does the western extension from Exhibition Loop to Dufferin along the north edge of Exhibition Place fit into future plans for that part of the site?
  • What need will there be for transit service to the western waterfront between Parkdale and Humber Bay?  Is the WWLRT the appropriate way to provide such service?
  • How will the Lake Shore communities evolve, and will their downtown-oriented travel be handled by GO, by a WWLRT, by north-south bus routes connecting with the BD subway, or by a local east-west streetcar service?
  • How will all of this fit into the TTC’s capital spending plans?

Yes, this sounds like an excuse for yet more studies.  However, we need to look at the waterfront as a unified set of neighbourhoods both present and future.  We need to look at transit improvements as part of a network, not as incremental, disconnected extensions that may prove inappropriate in the larger scheme.

30 thoughts on “Rethinking the Waterfront West LRT

  1. Steve asks: “How will the Lake Shore communities evolve, and will their downtown-oriented travel be handled by GO, by a WWLRT, by north-south bus routes connecting with the BD subway, or by a local east-west streetcar service?”

    GO is nice if you’re going to the financial district, to Exhibition Place, or even to the Blue Goose for a pint. However, the Long Branch station is only handy to the very west end of Long Branch and Alderwood, while Mimico station captures quite a bit of Mimico ‘uptown’ but is a bit of a walk from the lakeshore. New Toronto is nowhere near a GO station, despite having plenty of GO trains sitting in Willowbrook.

    GO trains can’t act as a subway line unless there’s a *lot* of integration with reliable local transit. Even more stations don’t really help, because the new stations will mostly be in industrial areas with little walk-on demand.

    Buses in South Etobicoke face the problem that there are only so many ways to get past the rail lines and the Gardiner. Kipling, Islington, and Royal York are the only major streets that make it. (Brown’s Line and 30th St get past the railway, but not past the Gardiner.) There are big gaps between these streets. A “Bus-to-the-Subway” approach either needs to greatly enlarge the route loops on the south end to pick up demand along Lake Shore, or there needs to be a really good local Lake Shore service.

    All this being said, I’ve been making the awful trek from Long Branch to Seneca’s Finch/404 campus four times a week. My starting stop has service by 501 Queen, 508 Lake Shore, 110A/B Islington South, and 123 Shorncliffe. As it turns out, my best bet is simply to catch whatever arrives first. Now, there’s a 6:15 110B that’s very quick, though I wonder if it’s just the operator; otherwise, it’s close to a wash whether I take a bus to the subway, or a Queen car right over to Yonge. (The Lake Shore tripper actually isnt’ all that great, because it can get caught in heavy traffic from Strachan east. I prefer a Queen car over a Lake Shore tripper.)

    The other interesting thing is that it’s an hour from Long Branch to Yonge via the Queen car starting at 6:15 AM, but it’s about the same time starting at 7:15 or 7:45. The buses to the subway, on the other hand, slow down as traffic builds.

    So, the Queen car actually works pretty well (in the mornings). The really funny thing is that the new “express” bus from south Etobicoke to downtown is only minutely quicker than a whistle-stopping, milk-running Queen car; the bus is scheduled to take 45 minutes from Kipling, and half an hour from Park Lawn. So no “express” buses please!


  2. Just think, by the time this line opens, you’ll be 80!

    I doubt it will ever get built. Same goes for Jane, Don Mills, and Malvern. So much for that light rail network — three non-intersecting light rail lines (Eglinton, Finch, and Sheppard) is not a network!

    Steve: You have forgotten the SRT which will be renovated and extended as an LRT line. This decision is already well underway and will likely be confirmed later this fall.

    Scarborough-Malvern is partly bound up in any decision on Toronto’s Pan-Am Games bid as UTSC is one of the venues. All the same, I wonder whether it would make more sense to serve UTSC from the north (as a continuation of the Sheppard line) at least as a first step.

    Don Mills is bound up in the debate over the DRL and where the northern terminus of such a line might be. I think that the TTC has wasted a great deal of everyone’s time by pursuing the original three BRT-oriented proposals (Castle Frank, Broadview and Pape) as possible southern termini and insisted on a surface alignment via existing bridges and streets. York Region wants the Don Mills route to come north of Steeles Avenue. Personally, I suspect that this would be the next TC route to receive funding if I had to pick one.

    Jane has problems with a tight corridor on the south end of the line. I have always considered that this route would make more sense as a branch of Eglinton rather than a complete replacement for the 35 Jane bus all the way to Bloor. Again we have a problem that the TTC conducts the study looking at each line separately rather than how parts of the proposed network might be rearranged or staged to best advantage.

    If I were a subway advocate, I wouldn’t consider what we have today much of a network either. Leaving aside technology choices, we build one line (or part of one line) at a time and fall further and further behind on overall needs. I have similar worries about GO/Metrolinx plans for massive increase in service on the “express rail” network. This sort of thing requires long-term commitment, not an approach that treats transit projects as something to soak up surplus capital if and when we have some.


  3. Why is Park Lawn still in the equation? I know that Humber is not a nice place to have a loop because it is isolated but Park Lawn? Here is a modest proposal. Take the exhibition loop and part of the horse barns and make it into the west end car barn to replace Roncesvalles. If you have been to the Royal Winter Fair in the past few years then you know that it is only a mere shadow of its former self. Half of the animal barns are empty and it is grossly over priced. If you make this a car barn then the Roncesvalles property could be freed up and sold for a large profit as a condo site. As a car barn it is ideally suited to feed the west end and Bathurst, Spadina and what ever becomes the Lakeshore, 509 or 508 service. You would need some track to get to Dufferin but this would be car house access and would not need to be private right of way.

    The 509 could be sent down the road between the convention centre and Strachan and then through the south side of the Exhibition and along whatever route is chosen to join up with the Queensway. This would serve the convention centre, the new hotel, Ontario Place, the Aquarium if it is built and whatever else is built down there. The Bathurst car could turn at the new carhouse, i.e. where it turns now or go to Union Station.

    How can it possibly take until 2026 to extend the line to Dufferin and what would be the point, to serve that Mediaeval feast?

    Steve: Actually, the idea would be to provide a way for cars from King Street to travel south and then east and into Union. A related question, however, is whether they would provide better service coming east on “Front Street” at least to Bathurst. I know it’s a radical idea to put transit where people are rather than where you happen to have a right-of-way, but I can always dream.

    This whole thread is stupid. Not your part Steve but that of the TTC and Metrolinx. If they are going to wait until 2028 or 2029 to improve service then they need to be shot. GO will not be able to provide the local service needed in this corridor nor will it be able to provide a fast service to Union because it should be full when it reaches Mimico or the Ex, Who ever came up with this lame brained idea should be strapped with their mouth over the exhaust of a “New Look GM” for a month.


  4. I think the failure of all these proposals goes back to the lack of a plan for dedicated revenue, it should have been the first thing figured out and announced. All these lines sounded like great ideas back when the economy was doing great, but now that every politician is facing the threat of multibillion dollar defecits and double digit unemployment the last thing they are going to be doing is introducing road tolls or new taxes to pay for this…so the only thing left to do is delay construction … and when you delay something for 10 years, you actually end up having to start again…

    Road tolls or a similar scheme would have been easy to announce back in 2007 (relatively), in fact, they could have begun to be phased in by now … politically they could have even made it look good now by saying, we were going to implement 2$ tolls, but because of the economic situation we’ll only make it 1$, and they still would have had some dedicated income source.

    Good luck to the mayor who runs on the “road tolls = transit” agenda now.


  5. I assume that Metrolinx funding information is in 2010-2014 Capital Program information that was distributed at the last TTC meeting and not available on-line.

    Did it provide similiar forecasts for the other TTC projects Metrolinx has in their 15 and 25-year plans? Such as the Yonge subway extension, DRL, Jane LRT, Don Mills LRT, Scarborough-Malvern, etc.?

    Steve: The information is in the “Blue Books” which contain the details of the budget. These are two binders roughly the size of a Toronto white pages (each) and they are 1600 pages long. It’s a very long read, although I have the advantage of lots of time, and of being familiar with their format having read them in previous years.

    These are available for review by request. In my case, I was working through a Councillor’s office, but you can also do this with the TTC through the General Secretary’s office.

    Only the Waterfront West line has a reference to delayed Metrolinx funding. Many projects have pro-forma dates because they are not yet funded at all, but for cash flow purposes, the budget shows what the project would look like if it started in a specific year. I will be writing about other lines in coming days, but wanted to look at the Waterfront first because there is so much more to talk about than an LRT route with limited options for implementation.


  6. Ed says: GO trains can’t act as a subway line unless there’s a *lot* of integration with reliable local transit. Even more stations don’t really help, because the new stations will mostly be in industrial areas with little walk-on demand.

    I’d disagree with that. I can see a North Toronto GO at Kipling, immediately east of the Canpa Sub, and a Humber Bay GO somewhere around Park Lawn (this one would cater to transit users, local area residents in nearby mid- and high-rise developments, as well as those arriving by car), as a replacement for the Mimico GO that has some major problems with its north platform and relationship between the station and yard movements. I’d also like to see Sunnyside Station restored-but-modified for accepting GO service. If those improvements were made, it’d be a powerful regional rail service. It’s different from a subway, sure enough, but has many of the same advantages.

    This by no means replaces the need for good local transit along Lake Shore, or the north-south routes in Etobicoke for that matter. On the contrary, it merely increases its importance. As has repeatedly been driven home before by Steve, parking lots won’t feed GO Trains running every 15 minutes or better all day long.

    This thread has me thinking about a 1km tunnel between 30th St and Shorncliffe Rd. Local residents along 30th would likely revolt against 30th become a thoroughfare, but it would allow better bus service through the area. 30th is well situated almost perfectly half-way between Kipling and Browns Line (which sorta does cross the Gardiner via The East Mall… not ideal, but functional).


  7. A large part of the problem is the overall planning for Toronto and the GTA. Instead of simply developing areas – or redeveloping them with high intensification projects (like high rise condos), we need to have a pro-transit approach. New developments must have transit set up prior to the completion of the development (this occurs in parts of Europe for example) – this means that there is little demand for a service (be it bus, streetcar, LRT, or subway) at first, but means that the service is there as people move in.

    The other option problem is that we also allow intensification without the proper transit services in place. This is partly the fault of Toronto/TTC and the province. For example, any intensification within 500m of a GO or subway station is bascially a guarantee to go through. Unfortunately, not everyone wants to use GO or the subway, so we need proper transit going to other areas.

    The issue with the Lake Shore portion of the 501 is that the streetcars do not make it all the way out to Long Branch – and the issue is not west of Humber (or even Roncesvalles for that matter), but east of Roncesvalles. This came up at the public meeting I attended about the WWLRT back in May. Hopefully the splitting up of the 501 route will help – although I still think a dedicted car for the Lake Shore and time based transfers will get people interested in using the streetcar. Of course is still 20 years away and the WWLRT may be history by then (yes that might happen if we can’t keep it on the table.)


  8. Wow now I know that some thing is wrong in the minds of these geniuses who run Metrolinx. All they do is defer one project, than defer another, who knows if we will get anything built. 2030? Are they serious so for another 20 years South Etobicoke’s only efficient rapid transit link will be the Bloor Danforth line (let’s remember that Lakeshore West line isn’t frequent enough and many people cant afford to use those means every day). I’ve really lost trust in these “transit planners” who knows what Transit City will look like, probobly that disaster that is St. Clair West today. The least they can do is build a simple extention of the Harbourfont line to Roncesvalles, that would help a lot of people whose ultimate destination is Union station and the surrounding area.

    Steve: Getting to Roncesvalles is not as simple as it looks, especially west of Dufferin.


  9. The elephant in the room here is the Gardiner. If it is going to be taken down before it falls down, then this will drive the design of a lot of other infrastructure including the WWLRT. A lot of money could be wasted by building something now and having to unbuild it later.

    For what its worth, here’s my napkin: The Gardiner west of Spadina should be at grade and go around the Ex. 5 westbound lanes on the current alignment and 5 eastbound lanes where current Lake Shore is. Lake Shore Blvd west of the Ex should be downsized to a 2 lane street. I would have Bremner go below the new west bound Gardiner and Strachan go above it. Given this infrastructure, the LRT could travel Bremner->Fleet->Manitoba and on westward. For the Ex GO station a pedestrian bridge could take people over the Gardiner and the LRT tracks as well as north over the train corridor to the Liberty village area.

    And for a surface level Gardiner, I wondering about the name Frederick Blvd. A suitable nod/jab to the past.

    Steve: There is already a Frederick Street in the Old Town running south from Adelaide between Jarvis and Sherbourne. Poor old Fred will have to make do.


  10. 2029? Is that supposed to be a joke?

    I agree with you that we need to plan for the line for when it opens. Planning for a line that would work in 2009, then building it for 2029 is, well, silly. We need to look at the city’s official plan (it’s online, I have a copy on my laptop, so Metrolinx has no excuses there) and come up with reasonable assumptions of what the Toronto of 2029 will look like.

    One question is what will be the political priorities of the day. A recent Ekos poll puts a 2-to-1 margin of people who would rather have “Less taxes and Less services” over people who would rather have “More services and More taxes”. While this might suggest a lack of funding, so-called ‘Green’ and pro-environment agendas are taking the forefront in governmental planning. What side of the line that public transit falls on will be a very important question in the coming decade.

    Steve: They want less services until their day care closes, or their school’s swimming pool, or their subsidized express bus, or their free metropass parking. I have big problems with that sort of poll because context is everything. If the previous question were “do you agree that all politicians are crooks” or “do you agree that municipal workers don’t give value for their pay”, it would hugely influence the result of any question about taxes.

    There’s also the question of the geographic distribution of the respondents. Poor Albertans are just finding out what happens when you spend money you don’t have. They have low taxes, but it’s a fool’s paradise.


  11. I think that the Waterfront West line is unnecessary, and poorly thought out. There are numerous alternatives that would completely eliminate the need for it, most importantly improved GO service on the Lakeshore line.

    For the eastern portion of the waterfront (east of Roncesvalles):

    – Local service along the waterfront, south of the rail corridor, is adequately served by the current 509/510/511 streetcars, which have a lot of spare capacity along the Queen’s Quay/Bathurst/Fleet section, except during the CNE. Service along Bremner/Fort York to serve CityPlace can be adequately handled by 510/511 and possibly a new Bremner bus route.

    – Improved GO service is the best solution for providing service to the CNE/Exhibition Place, as streetcars simply do not have the capacity to provide adequate service to major events like the CNE. Liberty Village is already served by the Lakeshore Line, and a station could be added to the Georgetown South corridor.

    – I don’t think there is any need for local LRT service to the south side of Exhibition Place. Unless some very high-density developments are planned there, GO/510/511 and possibly buses along Lake Shore should do just fine as it is perhaps a 10 minute walk (max) from Exhibition GO station to Ontario Place.

    – There is no need for a connection between Roncesvalles and Exhibition Place because there are better alternatives for serving the western portion of the waterfront (see below).

    For the western portion of the waterfront (Park Lawn to Long Branch):

    – This section is best served by a combination of improved GO service, and a shortened 501 streetcar (possibly with some streetcar priority improvements, though congestion is rarely much of a problem along Lake Shore). A GO station should be added at Humber Loop to allow transfer between the two.

    – Until frequent GO service is in place, service should be provided by frequent all-day service on the upcoming 145 express bus.

    Waterfront West is clearly the lowest priority of all the Transit City LRT lines, probably even than the east ends of Scarborough-Malvern (the “Pan Am line”) and Sheppard.

    Steve: That “10 minute walk” from the GO Station to Ontario Place is a pain in the butt if the weather is bad. When the CNE is setting up some event blocking the route, even finding Ontario Place is an adventure. For a purely seasonal, fair weather attraction this may be tolerable, but for year-round facilities that will be used by a variety of people (including some for whom that trek is simply not physically possible), it’s unacceptable. If the Exhibition Place becomes a satellite convention centre to downtown, convenient service linking the two nodes will be essential.


  12. Perhaps it is worthwhile delaying the WWLRT if the Downtown Relief subway line is truly part of a 25 year plan and may put a station at Queen and Roncesvalles. The scale of what is needed between Roncesvalles and Union on the waterfront may be entirely different if the WWLRT connects to the western end of the DRL. It is too bad that coming up with Transit Ciy, Bus Transit City, and the various RTES studies that occurred over the years couldn’t have been part of an all encompassing master plan created by engineers based on multiple financing scenarios. As it is everything seems like planning by the seat of your pants like the idea of LRT on Bremner and a small streetcar spur on Cherry.


    Bremner and Cherry have very different origins. The Cherry Street line was planned as part of the Waterfront East transit network, and it’s a stub on the maps only because the rearrangement of the Cherry, Lake Shore, Queen’s Quay intersection is part of an as-yet unfunded project to completely restructure the mouth of the Don River. By itself, Cherry wouldn’t make sense, but connected through to Queen’s Quay, this will allow services to run from Broadview Station to the Waterfront (as an example) or from the Port Lands to King Street, just to give two examples. Although Cherry is rather desolate today, there will be a major neighbourhood built around it over the next decade.

    Bremner appears to have evolved from concerns that running the WWLRT through the Bathurst, Fleet, Lake Shore intersection (not to mention along Queen’s Quay from Bathurst to Bay) could be tedious, and might interfere with green time for auto traffic at that intersection. As things stand, the TTC had to fight for what they get today, and even that’s inadequate for periods of heavy service such as we see for special events. Fleet was rebuilt specifically as the private-right-of-way link from Strachan to Bathurst, but by the time it was done, the alternate scheme via Fort York Boulevard and Bremner was on the table. As anyone who looks can see, only the most recently built parts of these roads has provision for a transit right-of-way, and there are concerns about how a frequent LRT service would fare south of the Dome when the area is thick with pedestrians. There are also issues at the Bathurst Street bridge regarding street elevation and the need for a level section at the Bathurst and Fort York crossing.

    Cherry is part of a network plan. Bremner is a patch-up to an already piecemeal WWLRT scheme.

    Transit City was put together by people who gave some thought to the network, but at the time, the DRL was nowhere on the horizon (and I still think the west branch will not be built even in the medium future). Previous rapid transit studies considered only subway (and some ICTS) routes, and they were focussed on commuting traffic to the core area with radial extensions of the network. The DRL did exist in early plans, but was scrapped because the suburbs didn’t want more capacity (and hence incentive for development) downtown. Funding constraints forced lines to be played off against each other rather than considered as a unified improvement to the network.

    The intention for TC was to ensure that there was a set of local routes that could be incorporated into the then-developing Metrolinx regional plan, but at a cost lower than subways (which Metrolinx could not possibly afford). Metrolinx was charged with building a master plan and did a tolerable job, but failed on two critical factors.

    First, they designed a network, but not an implementation strategy, a view of how the network would behave depending on which pieces went into place first. This led to the whole debate about sequencing of the DRL, the Richmond Hill express rail, and the Richmond Hill Subway. Their follow-up “benefits” analyses look at lines in isolation rather than at the interaction between various parts of the Metrolinx network and existing local transit such as the Yonge Subway.

    Second, getting acceptance of LRT at Metrolinx was very difficult. We were only at the early days of people in Toronto believing it could be done (and having to work uphill against the screwup on St. Clair), and at Metrolinx all they wanted was subways, ICTS and BRT, plus commuter rail for the regional services. The ability of Ontario to ignore what the rest of the world is doing is truly staggering.

    The Transit City Bus Plan is actually a followup to the Ridership Growth Strategy, and could just as easily have been called RGS II. However, there’s some benefit in getting more mileage out of the “Transit City” name. Again, this is a network based scheme, not an isolated showpiece on one small part of the system.

    The big gap today is that Metrolinx is only beginning to realize that its beautiful network requires massive investment in local transit systems to act as the feeder/distributor component. That issue was steadfastly ignored during preparation of the RTP, although those pesky politicians on the original Board made a lot of noise about it because their local systems would be affected. For their pains (and other useful interventions in Metrolinx planning) they were dumped by Queen’s Park.

    Consolidated planning has been the goal of many advocates, professionals and politicians, but the prevailing mindset has always been to look at things in isolation.


  13. Neil says : “I wondering about the name Frederick Blvd. A suitable nod/jab to the past.”

    How about Sam Cass Way. It’s all his fault anyway. First we lost the DUPONT car…


  14. To be honest, my take on Waterfront West is that the best solution at this point might be to make it a subway. In all seriousness, I see doing this as part of the DRL as potentially easier, and certainly politically sexier than messing around with the 501.

    The subway itself could run west from downtown somewhere between Queen and the waterfront (doesn’t really matter for this discussion, I kind of like a Front or railway corridor route that jogs up to Queen around Dufferin), runs to Roncesvalles and then turns north to Dundas West. I’d terminate the 501 at Roncesvalles, which would become a major transfer station. The Long Branch car would run Roncesvalles or Dundas West to Long Branch, with downtown access via the subway. The waterfront itself would get at least a couple subway stations (I’m thinking something like Rogers Centre, Fort York, CNE, King/Lamport Stadium/Queen, Lansdowne, Roncesvalles). No transfer free ride, but the transfer would get you to a fully grade separated line.

    Clearly this is a real long range option, but so, apparently is the LRT now. As far as I can tell, the only real downside is a potential increase in transfers and cost, but this is a subway we should be building somewhere around this area by 2029 anyway. Ontario Place gets nothing, but, again, that’s not in the plans as they exist anyway. This could even make the Duffering/Exhibition loop gap filler a nearer term project, if we actually look at it as something isolated, more like the 509 connection that part of a major expansion.

    Steve: I am not holding my breath for this.


  15. Speaking of the Park Lawn to Long Branch stretch – I wonder when the TTC will publish the results of the community consultation meetings they held in May?


  16. Steve: That “10 minute walk” from the GO Station to Ontario Place is a pain in the butt if the weather is bad. When the CNE is setting up some event blocking the route, even finding Ontario Place is an adventure. For a purely seasonal, fair weather attraction this may be tolerable, but for year-round facilities that will be used by a variety of people (including some for whom that trek is simply not physically possible), it’s unacceptable. If the Exhibition Place becomes a satellite convention centre to downtown, convenient service linking the two nodes will be essential.

    There are far more important uses for limited transit dollars than building an LRT line to save people from walking 10 minutes in the rain! Not to mention, the LRT would be severely underused outside of the 2 weeks of the CNE even with significant expansion of Exhibition Place. Buses would be perfectly sufficient to provide local service to the south side of Exhibition Place and Ontario Place.

    Steve: I am not talking about the CNE as it exists today, but with redevelopment of the Lake Shore frontage into an all-year entertainment, convention and hotel centre. As for that 10 minute walk, remember that comment the next time someone complains about stops being too far apart.


  17. After all that awkwardness and family in-fighting over the Georgetown corridor, nice to see a issue where it seems pretty clear cut that the entire pro-transit community can hug one another and then, in a spirit of fraternal bliss, sigh as one while collectively directing exasperated glares at the powers that be.

    Your summary of this whole sordid narrative was excellently put together, Steve. The WWLRT undertaking really does strike me as the epitome of mission drift, with the project continually re-mutating to adjust to whatever was the broader plan of the era (various CNE redevelopments, Transit City, etc.), but without the line ever taking on an attractive-enough form that it really won any kind of grassroots support or a political champion who’d go to bat for it. When the latest iteration found itself jostling for position in the Metrolinx funding queue against projects with simpler histories and straightforward benefits, it was doomed to sink to the bottom.

    I think the time has come to close the book on this poor old sap. We can start fresh with a clean slate and do an unconstrained study of the corridor in a few years time, but for the time being any kind of planning money being shovelled at this dinosaur is a waste. The only exception I’d make would be a willingness to look into redoing how the line interacts with the Exhibition grounds and potentially getting a new terminus as part of a smaller-scale study.

    If we get the WWLRT frame out of the way, we can look more clearly at what I think are two distinct problems: (1) How best to improve the flow of riders from existing and new development in the “lower West side” (Parkdale, Liberty Village, Niagara, Trinity Bellwoods etc.) to downtown and (2) How best to improve the flow of riders from existing and new development in South Etobicoke to the rest of the city.

    Problem (1), quite frankly, has really never had anything to do with what’s been going on south of the railway tracks. I think the most cost-effective way to tackle it is by juicing up service the on existing King West corridor, and contemplating things like a blanket ban on left turns or rolling out transit priority signals even without a precious reserved ROW. (We could mail aggrieved drivers $50 per complaint with the money saved on a needless Bremner rebuild).

    An additional corridor along Front West is certainly a tantalizing prospect, although it runs into problems in terms of streetscape once you hit Union—a pricey but intriguing solution, IMHO, would have it dive into an underground loop under Front at York connected to the new PATH there (assuming a streetcar loop at PATH/Union subway station concourse level, you could also have a fare-paid walkway dropping down from it and then sneaking underneath to the west end of the new south subway platform.)

    On the subject of Problem (2), good on Steve for pointing out what keeps getting forgotten, namely that 15-min headway electric GO trains will be a game changer for South Etobicoke. I’d wager that transit ridership patterns will even change noticeably once the existing trains drop to a 30 minute headway in the coming months. While other posters are right that it may be worth looking at additional or replacement stations along the corridor, a good place to start would be for the TTC to provide better feeder service to the existing stations and at least make a commitment to roll out full Presto integration for those vehicles.

    Finally, in light of the speed advantages of King vs. Queen, the TTC should really look at shifting some 501 runs to Long Branch into 508s, including off-peak service. If the 501 split becomes permanent, there will be even fewer potential disadvantages for a King car versus a Queen car slated to turn at Broadview. Might as well ensure that folks in Etobicoke are on the fastest possible ride.


  18. Picking up on previous suggestions that the DRL could bring commuters to the Queen/Roncesvalles area (sometime later this century), I think that the Waterfront West LRT line could merge with the DRL at Roncesvalles. The main “subway” line in San Francisco is like this with a central underground corridor of LRT trains that branch onto multiple above ground streets on either end of the downtown. If the DRL is built for LRT vehicles running underground from Pape to Dundas West, it could have a branch that allows LRT trains to continue west onto the Queensway for a much quicker commute to/from downtown for South Etobicoke. This form of DRL/LRT could also link up with the future Don Mills and Jane LRT lines to extend it as a continuous system to the north. Concerning the volume this system could handle, take a look at how efficient it is in San Francisco acting as the backbone of their rapid transit system.

    With this in mind, I say good riddance to the previous WWLRT plan that really wouldn’t give rapid transit to anything west of the Ex.


  19. Re: Stuart and San Francisco

    The problem is that from what I’ve heard SF isn’t that efficient at all. I’ve heard of average speeds in the tunnel that end up below a walking pace, and LONG delays at portals trying to sort out the coupling and uncoupling of subway length trains. They can get away with it largely because this is actually a four track tunnel, with BART paralleling most of the Market St. subway and accepting Muni fares within the city.

    To be honest I do actually like the IDEA of a DRL with light rail vehicles and through routing, but have come to agree with Steve that the numbers say subway.


  20. Steve: I am not talking about the CNE as it exists today, but with redevelopment of the Lake Shore frontage into an all-year entertainment, convention and hotel centre. As for that 10 minute walk, remember that comment the next time someone complains about stops being too far apart.

    Perhaps IF enough development actually takes place to actually justify this, then we can think about a short LRT spur starting at Strachan/Fleet to serve Ontario Place and terminating there, with the 511 using the existing loop and 509 using the new route or vice versa. This would cost a fraction of the cost of the entire line, which I think is unnecessary with improved GO service. But since the west end of 509/511 is usually near empty outside the CNE, it will be a while before this is needed. For now, bus service in the form of a rerouted 29 Dufferin to serve the Ontario Place parking lot ought to be sufficient to provide local service.


  21. Metrolinx funding has been deferred to 2022

    And to think, I made a deputation to the Commission suggesting the WWLRT should be moved up because the faster service it will provide will reduce the streetcar shortage.

    Further west, the proposed Park Lawn Loop project is on hold as it isn’t really needed in the short term.

    Park Lawn Loop is needed whether the WWLRT is build or Queen stays the same route it is now. It will allow increased service to the high density condos recently build in the Humber Bay area. It certainly is a higher priority then rebuilding the non-revenue track on Richmond or Adelaide and wouldn’t cost much.

    Steve: Actually, the cost of rebuilding non-revenue track on these two streets is comparatively small, and Adelaide in particular badly needs reconstruction as a street, not just for the streetcar tracks. This is a long-unavailable bypass track for King between Spadina and Church. Parliament is also in the rebuild list and badly needs it. There are slow orders all of the time, and this is a heavily used diversion and short-turn track.

    The “Bremner LRT” was born as an alternate route from the east side of Exhibition Place to Union Station bypassing the Bathurst/Fleet intersection. Someone at the TTC finally realized that the toonerville trolley operation along Queen’s Quay, stopping at every lamp post for so-called transit priority signals, was inadequate for a frequent service into Union Station.

    Queen’s Quay is going to undergo a radical transformation. The streetcar ROW will now be on the south side, so very little vehicle traffic will now cross it allow for much improved transit priority. They even plan to reduce the number of stops by one. Hopefully it will no longer be a “toonerville trolley operation” at the end. The plan has been approved by council. The should be able to fund it, as the the tracks urgently need rebuilding, anyway.

    The should mean the Bremner LRT is no longer needed. I’ve argued against it in the past. That route might save time crossing Lake Shore, but it will still have to cross Spadina at it’s most congested and several other streets. With the redesign, Queens Quay no longer cross streets at all. If they are willing to build a tunnel for Bremner they may as spend the money building a tunnel between Fleet and Queen’s Quay, below Lake Shore.

    Steve: The tunnel you propose is a non-starter because there is no place to put the approach ramps. The real problem at Lake Shore and Bathurst is that transit doesn’t get enough green time, and Lake Shore gets too much. As for the rebuilt Queen’s Quay, it will be an improvement, but I still don’t expect it will be a speedy trip to Union.

    At the time, Ontario Place did not wish to lose their parking lot which was considered far more valuable as a way to lure visitors than a transit line.

    The parking is now gone. Converted to a bike trail.

    Steve: It’s not just the width of the bike trail, it was the loss of the entire parking lot to a major transit terminal that would have been the primary link to the CNE grounds.

    I still think the WWLRT is an effective and affordable way to bring people from south Etobicoke and south Parkdale downtown. One may quibble over the route, but I think the choices so far have been good. People trying to pull it off track by suggestion diversion to Ontario Place and along the park and up Colborne Lodge. These destinations are really only busy during summer weekend. Even if redevelopment makes these destinations more popular year round, the day to day commuters will make up the majority of riders and the priority should be to serve them.

    The only alternative I’ve seen is 15 minute GO service with integrated fares. With infrequent stop it’s benefits may or may not outweigh it’s disadvantages. The WWLRT has it’s EAs well under way and was listed in Move Ontario 2020. 15 minute GO service much more of a distant dream.

    Steve: Actually GO’s plans are more advanced than you think given the status of the Lake Shore corridor in The Big Move. The key points, however, are fare integration and more stops, the latter made possible with electrification.


  22. Anyone who thinks that GO is going to be a transit panacea for southern Etobicoke and Liberty Village is in for a rude shock. GO operates on a 10 minute headway in the peak hour and most of those trains do not stop at Long Branch or Mimico because they don’t have any spare capacity. As long as they have to follow FRA rules the headway is not going to get much better; certainly not enough to overcome increased demand from the 905 area. Also GO cannot afford to haul empty cars to the end of the line and back to carry the local riders in southern Etobicoke unless there is suddenly a large a. m. destination in that area for people from the 905.

    I believe that this is why GO wants its electrification study to look at segregated Rights of Way so that they can get away from FRA rules. It is nice to say that GO should be allowed to come up with its own rules but it isn’t GOing to happen as long as there is any possibility of interaction between mainline railway cars and GO equipment and GO realizes this; thus the request to look at the possible, a completely segregated Right of Way to eliminate the need for FRA compliance.

    The other problem with GO is south Etobicoke is its station locations. Long Branch and Mimico are not convenient to most of the population and there is no place between them to put another station. Also there is not really anyplace to put one between Mimico and the Ex except maybe Sunnyside. I don’t think GO is the answer to most of the transit problems in this area. Even if you re route all the buses to feed the two stations.`


  23. So a whole bunch of money on studies has been spent on stuff which won’t have a shovel in the ground for 1-2 decades? W T F. I bet the people who turned out for consultations will be thrilled. Revenge for the Front Street Extension not being approved?

    The City has raked in a bunch of money from all the developments in King West, it’s time for some of it to find its way to the TTC. The Ex-Dufferin-King-Dundas West service is a great idea, especially for Liberty Villagers/Roncesvallians willing to hike 200m from Queens Quay to the Island Airport Ferry.

    I have my doubts that given GO’s ambitions in Niagara and Hamilton there will be many seats heading inward from Long Branch when Long Branchians need them, even at a maxed out schedule.


  24. Tom says: “Finally, in light of the speed advantages of King vs. Queen, the TTC should really look at shifting some 501 runs to Long Branch into 508s, including off-peak service. If the 501 split becomes permanent, there will be even fewer potential disadvantages for a King car versus a Queen car slated to turn at Broadview. Might as well ensure that folks in Etobicoke are on the fastest possible ride.”

    I haven’t seen any clear time advantage in using King St. Sometimes it may be slower to take King. Running times of King vs. Queen vary by time of day and state of the weather. If I had to generalize, Queen is slower Roncesvalles to Dovercourt, while King is slower Strachan to Yonge.

    Removing the Dufferin/Gladstone jog will help Queen service considerably; maybe something can be done for the offset multi-phase lights at Lansdowne/Jameson.

    For King, speeding up service downtown means keeping the curb lanes clear of stopped/parked cars and taxis. Good luck with that.


  25. I think there should be 3 seperate overlapping routes, which intersect with a subway station:

    508 Lakshore = Long Branch to Dundas West station (12.5 km)
    501 Queen = Dundas West station to Broadview station via Queen (12 km)
    507 Beach = Neville Loop to Broadview station (7.5 km)

    When streetcars also connect at a subway station, it really improves service reliability, provides better connections to other transit routes, and makes for easier staffing flexibility because operators could be shifted between several different streetcar routes.

    It also completely removes the brutal passenger experience of getting dropped off in the middle of nowhere at 2 am during December when the streetcar short turns at somewhere like Humber Loop.

    These 3 routes are somewhat challenging at the stations, and do overlap with the King streetcar route a little, but I think this would really improve overall service even though it requires transfers to make long distance trips. Based on my experience, only a small percentage of people ever make long-distance commutes by streetcar…it’s usually faster to drive or take the GO train.

    I’d like to see two major transit hubs created: one in the west (Dundas West station) and one on the east (either Broadview or wherever the Don Mills LRT will connect to Danforth).

    The Dundas West station would offer connections to the GO station…maybe even move the College streetcar up there, too…and the Dundas streetcar should be extended further north into the Junction, like they used to be, which connect to the proposed Jane LRT, which could come down to Bloor via Dundas instead of Jane (if it evers gets built at all).

    Something similar could happen on the east side, too…instead of using Broadview, it could connect with wherever the Don Mills LRT will connect to at Danforth. Make that a “hub”, too.

    I think if the existing streetcar routes were improved, together with the LRT lines, they could function as “downtown relief lines” instead of building another massive subway project. The streetcar infrastructure is already there and could easily handle more capacity, if certain barriers were removed along the route (more streetcars/LRT vehicles, ban left turns, remove on-street parking, fewer stops, etc).

    There would probably have to be station improvements at the hubs to handle the additional routes, but there is available parking lots near both those stations…the TTC could buy this land for station improvements.

    Steve: I disagree strongly with the idea of splitting the route so that everything comes up to Broadview Station. There just isn’t that much demand over here as transfer traffic from Queen, and you would force everyone wanting to travel between downtown and points east of Broadview to transfer. There would be severe streetcar congestion at Broadview Station where it is quite common today to see both platforms full and cars waiting on the street that cannot enter the station.

    A similar problem would occur in the west end where you force everyone to transfer at Ronces.

    This sort of route structure reminds me of the TTC in the 1960s when they assumed that everybody wanted to go to the new BD subway, and were amazed when some of the surface schedules didn’t work because those pesky riders wanted to stay on their more convenient surface trips.


  26. I drove down through the Ex from Lakeshore, The Queensway, King and Dufferrin today and I want to know why do all the Bathurst cars still go to the Ex, especially in the a.m. rush? Most of the time there is little demand or need for the 511 service to the ex. I understand that there is heavy loading on the 509 from the Bathurst Area to the subway. If they ran even half the cars to union it would help with the loading, especially when all the condos in this area get built. What was the service like when the 511’s all went to Union while Fleet street was re-built?

    I still think that the exixting Exhibition Loop should be turned into the west end car house to replace Roncesvalles. There is room under the gardiner for 4 to 6 tracks and if they closed that road along the north of all the buildings and used the passenger platform they could probably get another 4 tracks in. It would be a long skinny yard but would be workable and re-coup some of the money spent building it. There is lots of underused land just to the west that could be used for the maintenance building. This would allow Roncesvalles to redeveloped and it should be a very expensive piece of real estate. A track could go west from this new site to Dufferin for car house moves. This track could also be used for the 508 or whatever service from South Etobicoke and The Queensway to downtown via Union Station if you wished until proper right of way could be built.

    I agree with Steve that the current loop is in the wrong place and is basically useless most of the time. It doesn’t even make a good connection with the GO station. It is a walk to BMO Field and Ontario Place; it is not convenient to the entrances to the Convention Centre. It might be convenient to the Toronto Police stable as I am unsure of its exact location. Most of the Ex is a large, poorly built parking lot with little cohesiveness to its design. Before we completely redevelop it, if that is to happen, let’s get a proper transit right of way in it.


  27. Your comment on TTC thinking reminds me of what I read in a 1965 book my late dad had on the all the electric rail transportation in northeastern Ohio. In the section about the Cleveland Transit System the author told of how when the HRT line first opened there bus passengers who preferred their through express busses rather than change to the rapid transit and refused to budge when a bus would come to a rapid transit station. the author then went on to describe what he called “zigzag” scheduling of busses to try to force riders onto the rapid transit. It sure didn’t help CTS much if at all because ridership just went on one slippery slope.


  28. Someone once suggested (I think it was on your site Steve) that the WWLRT should turn north at the South Kingsway and bring people from the Lake Shore community up to the Bloor subway at Jane station.

    At the time I thought they were crazy, but after reading these comments, and staring at Google maps for a while, I think they may be onto something.

    If memory serves, the South Kingsway would be wide enough that it could be a ROW, and I think the Lakeshore community would be alot better served by a service like that.

    What do you think Steve?

    Steve: It certainly was not I who made such a suggestion. I prefer to send the “507” to Dundas West Station at off hours (evening and weekends) and downtown via King weekdays during the peaks and midday. This would provide additional service on the west end of the King route where it is needed.

    I don’t think going up South Kingsway is a good idea at all given the density of the neighbourhood. Roncesvalles is an established streetcar route.


  29. It’s somewhat disappointing that there’s not the interest from government to improve the east-west waterfront transit, though I’m unsure just how much more will be done with GO, and it could be very helpful.

    BUt in all my opposition to the FSE, and yes, the WWLRT, I’ve always been in favour of better transit, and significantt funds to be spent on it, just we can’t waste things, and have to have some value for it all.

    Value includes spending more if the end result is better.

    The waterfront corridor needs more transit, not cars, as the pollution from the cars combined with the inward drift of the lake breeze means that we really need to fight smog here on the lakefront and it’s a busy corridor so transit is a natural.

    My thinking had changed a bit to think that we should do a mini-DRL by taking many or some of the Queen/King cars and deflect them on the north side of the Weston railtracks at either Queen or King to get down to Front St., and even had thoughts that to really get a decent line we should push it further east along Front to Eastern Ave., to really get a quick line along our waterfront, something not with milk run stops but more subway spacing stops including at Liberty Village, somewhere near the GO station.

    Interestingly, a neighbour, passed on a 1989 document on the Waterfront planning with a good point from the Commissioner or Planning and Development about transit priority in the core with some specific reference to the DRL.

    “It should be noted that in the area of the Railway Lands development itself, the Relief Line proposals have the transit tracks running under either Front or Wellington Streets between Union Station and Spadina Avenue, not in the main TTR rail corridor.”

    Starting with a surface route would also be ok; but I fear that once again we’re going to let the opportunities to do good transit be built on so options are limited.

    That’s not ok.


  30. Hi Steve, I’ve been living in Toronto for almost two years now and have been following your website for about 6 months……I have a few questions regarding the TTC’s unique track gauge and the standard gauge to be used on the Transit city lines.

    1. Since this precludes connectivity with the current system, how will this work for the Waterfront West Line?
    2. In The Star today the TTC stated there would be no connections to the current system, but isn’t this building ourselves into a box?
    3. Doesn’t this mean alot of duplication, ie maintenance facilities are incompatible.
    4. What view do you take, pro or con?

    Steve: Here are my responses.

    1. The WWLRT is largely part of the current network, and the only new trackage will be between the existing Exhibition Loop and Sunnyside (or maybe Colbourne Lodge Road which is in High Park). It will be a TTC gauge line with “city” cars.

    2. No it does not. The two systems are quite distinct geographically, and the only link even the TTC talked about was running the St. Clair car out of Black Creek carhouse once the Jane line makes the connection. The 512 will continue to run from the “old” network’s barns for at least a decade before the south end of the Jane line is built, and I don’t hold much hope for that part of the TC network anyhow.

    Some people talk about a Kingston Road line coming right into downtown. Please folks, be serious. This is not a high priority part of the network, and Kingston Road will be lucky to get just the BRT (feeding into the Danforth Subway) that has been proposed. By the time anyone seriously considers an LRT line from southern Scarborough to downtown, I would hope there would be proper GO integration to perform the same function.

    3. The TC lines will have their own heavy maintenance shop, separate from the city system. Indeed, the TTC’s long-range scheme is clear with the function of maintaining the “city” Flexity cars moving from Hillcrest to the new Portlands carhouse. Only the trucks with their different gauges are different. Motors, electrical systems and other components would be repaired on a component change-out level and could be trucked (pardon the pun) to a central repair depot.

    4. I have already stated that I have no problem with TC being standard gauge.

    I do agree with Metrolinx that there is no reason for the TC cars to be specified in such a TTC-centric way that this adds to the cost or makes them significantly different from equipment that might run in other Ontario systems. However, there has been no sense to date that the TTC was trying to do anything like that.

    It’s a bit of a tempest in a teapot, brought on in part because of the perception that the odd gauge somehow prevents bidders other than Bombardier from entering the market. That’s hogwash, but it’s the sort of thing lobbyists and politicians hang their hats on.


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