Transit Improvements for Pan Am Games? Dream On.

Toronto will host the 2015 Pan-Am Games thanks to an overwhelming vote in favour of Toronto’s bid on November 6.  No sooner was the announcement out, but we started to hear what a boon this would be for transit pending in Toronto.

Let’s take a serious look at what will actually happen.

Don Lands

The Athletes’ Village will be built in the West Don Lands with the intention that it be converted to assisted housing after the games.  This will no doubt spur construction of the Cherry Street branch off of the King route so that residents will have transit once the games complete.

However, there are no competition venues in this part of Toronto, and no reason to build new infrastructure to serve them.  We will get the Waterfront East leg, but like the Cheery Street branch, this project was already on the books and, I believe, funded by Waterfront Toronto.

The missing piece is the connection under the rail corridor where the existing Cherry Street underpass must be twinned to provide enough room for the LRT, the road lanes, cycling and pedestrians.  This underpass is shown as a “secure” area in the Bid Book, and there is no sign of the second span on the map.

Also missing from the Bid Book is any description of the as-yet unfunded reconfiguration of the mouth of the Don River and associated street changes in the neighbourhood.  These are vital to knitting together various parts of the new community, but they are nowhere to be found in the Bid Book, nor is there any need to build them as part of the games infrastructure.

Scarborough-Malvern LRT

The Scarborough Campus of UofT will gain a new aquatics centre to host some events, but attendees will likely arrive from many parts of the GTA of which only some would be served by the LRT line.  One might even argue for service via the north end of this route (south from the Sheppard LRT).

George Smitherman, Minister of Infrastructure and possible mayoral candidate for Toronto, has already said that Toronto shouldn’t be too hasty to look for spending on this type of improvement.

The Airport

The Air-Rail link will be in place by 2015.  The Bid Book says it will.  What the Bid Book does not say is that this will be a premium fare service that is not integrated with the local transit system, nor that its capacity will be limited by the size and frequency of trains for which the route is designed.

Meanwhile, the TTC should be pushing to get the western part of the Eglinton LRT completed for 2015, at least from the Airport to Eglinton West Station.  Is this asking too much, or will the TTC bumble along and stay with the current plan for the Eglinton line and a 2016 “phase one” opening?

Everything Else

The games generally take place well outside of Toronto.  The logistics of placing the Athletes’ Village so far away from the venues only makes sense because it is right beside the Gardiner and DVP, and these can be closed or restricted to provide bus shuttles as needed for participants, press and poo-bahs from the games organization.  New public transit infrastructure, beyond what is already in the pipeline, will have little to do with it.

A New Loop at Queen and Broadview? (Updated)

Updated November 7 at 11:35 am:

The proposed site for the new streetcar loop sits on the east side of Broadview just north of Queen, and this would make the entrance curves quite close to the Queen Street intersection.  Normally this is the sort of configuration traffic planners hate as cars would have to turn off Queen onto Broadview, slow for the northbound facing switch (with the butt end of the car still sitting in the intersection) and then proceed into the loop.  A far from ideal arrangement.

The existing parking lot’s rates are 75 cents per half hour to a $4 maximum before 6 pm, and a $3 maximum overnight.  At those rates, the atttraction is for long-term parking, not for local shopping.

The TTC has done without Parliament Loop for years and nearby around-the-block loops are quite adequate for buses.

A proposal many years back to build a new streetcar loop here for the King route was cancelled for budgetary reasons, and more recently Cherry Street Loop has been talked up as a turnback.  Other than as a possible eastern terminus for a split Queen car, the need for a new loop at Broadview is hard to understand, especially at the expense of a local parking lot.

The proposed new parking site on the west side of Broadview just north of Thompson Street appears as a vacant lot in the satellite view on Google. It is currently occupied by a temporary building which was a sales office for a proposed condo that was completely out of keeping with the neighbourhood and was rejected by Council. As I noted in the comment thread, a smaller loop could be built using this land, Thompson Street and the laneway connecting the two. This would leave the Legion’s building in the middle of the loop on the northwest corner. Why the TTC insisted on taking the larger parking lot for a proposed loop, a project that is not even in the Capital Budget, I don’t know.

Original Post:

Buried in the November 9 agenda for Toronto’s Government Management Committee is a report detailing an exchange of properties between various agencies.  One of these is the old Parliament Loop at King Street where an archeological dig has been in progress — this is part of the site of Ontario’s first Parliament Building.

In order to assemble the historic site for public use, there will be a swap of various chunks of land between private owners, the Ontario government, the Toronto Parking Authority and the TTC.

There is now a parking lot on the east side of Broadview just north of Queen, and this would become a new streetcar loop.  Although this would be a handy place to short-turn 504 King cars (rather than looping via Parliament and Dundas), it could also be an eastern terminal for a split Queen route should this be implemented on roughly the current route model.