Waterfront West Update (Revised June 15, 2013)

Updated June 15, 2013 at 4:20 pm:

The shortest streetcar line in the world exists, albeit without service, as the first piece of new surface track appeared on the 509 Harbourfront route at the Peter Street slip.


On June 11, the eight expansion joints for the future bridge crossing were set more or less in place on the new bridge deck.


By June 13, the tangent rails had been added, although the expansion joints at the west end of the bridge (below) …


… had not yet been attached.

Note that, like subway track, the rails are mounted directly on the bridge deck, not on ties.  This approach is needed because the bridge design does not include the depth needed for the layer of ties normally found in TTC streetcar track.


The view below shows a close up of a test section of track built just west of the corner of Bay and Queens Quay.  The use of the rubber sleeve to mechanically isolate the track  is quite clear.  Under the plastic covers (with duct tape on them) are Pandrol clips holding the track to steel plates in the slab below.  The slab containing the track is separate from the base slab so that only excavation of the top layer is needed for track replacement.


The original Harbourfront track did not have the rubber layer and was quite noisy because the whole trackbed vibrated as cars passed.  This is one of the last pieces of mainline “thunder track” to be replaced on the TTC network, a process begun 20 years ago.

Updated May 15, 2013 at 1:40 pm:

TTC CEO Andy Byford spoke yesterday evening at a meeting of the York Quay Neighbourhood Association.  The question of transit service on the waterfront this summer was a major topic.

At this point, there is some uncertainty about when streetcar service will resume first to the loop at Queens Quay & Spadina, and then to Union Station.  A late November date had been mentioned by Waterfront Toronto in a recent briefing to the neighbourhood, but Byford himself talked spring 2014.  His remarks implied that this was somehow connected with work on the Union Station second platform.  If the real constraint is at Union, then completing the track on Queens Quay doesn’t appear to be the issue.

I have asked for clarification of the dates from the TTC who are, according to Byford, pushing Waterfront Toronto to get their work done.

In the meantime, there is a desire for improved service on the waterfront, and the TTC plans service increases on the 509 Harbourfront bus.  Weekend headways improved on May 12, and weekday improvements are planned starting June 24.

In response to a question about “seamless” transit service across Queens Quay, Byford replied that the TTC is reviewing travel patterns, but there is very strong demand to Union Station and the idea of replacing the rail link up Bay Street with some sort of people mover in the existing tunnel is a non-starter.  The 65 Parliament bus may be extended west, and the 6 Bay bus east to Parliament if demand warrants it.

Byford argued that the Waterfront East LRT needs to be built, and sought to avoid the impression that he is concentration only on the Downtown Relief Line (DRL).  Many LRT projects including Sheppard East, Finch West, Waterfront East and (pause here for a chuckle) the SRT/LRT conversion need to proceed too.

When the new Low Floor LRVs arrive, capacity can be increased.  This was an intriguing comment because it implies Byford is not considering a 1:1 capacity replacement with the new cars, at least on this route.

The YQNA has raised issues about signage and the difficulty of finding where transit service is during construction.  On his way to the meeting, Byford travelled by TTC and made the connection from Union to the 509 bus looking as if he were a tourist for a continuous set of direction signs.  He noticed that the path is not marked continuously.  This is a pervasive problem including on Queen’s Quay where the location of service is impossible to discover if one is unfamiliar with the area, and difficult even for a seasoned rider.  Constant changes due to shifting construction don’t help.  Byford agreed that improvements are needed.

A request for a free bus to the waterfront during certain times was rejected on the basis that the money could be better spend on service.  Expedited, all-door boarding and rigourous clearing of vehicles parked at transit stops can also aid service, Byford said.  (As a personal observation, I boarded a 509 bus southbound at King and Yonge as if it were a streetcar to get to this meeting thanks to a large truck parked at the bus stop.)

Residents asked for a stop eastbound at York, but Byford advised that this  has been rejected by city traffic engineers.  Requests for transit shelters should go to Waterfront Toronto who are responsible for street furniture.  (This entire exchange was odd given that earlier in the evening, Byford had talked about the culture of finger-pointing between departments and agencies.)

Some of the responsibility for improvements will lie, Byford said, with the new Group Station Manager whose territory includes Union Station.  However, this won’t look after problems with the surface portion of the 509 Harbourfront route unless there is some creep in the job description.  This begs the question of a surface equivalent of a GSM to look after community concerns especially when there are temporary route diversions for construction and special events.

(I will discuss the remainder of Byford’s remarks concerning his Five Year Plan in a separate article.)

Updated May 8, 2013 at 11:40 pm:  Streetcar service on Queens Quay and lower Spadina will not resume until late November, contrary to previous information here and gleaned from sundry TTC rumours.  The delay arises from Toronto Hydro being six months late on their work thanks to budget problems.

Demolition of the streetcar right-of-way began on May 6, 2013, east of Yo-Yo Ma Lane to the Spadina & Queens Quay intersection.

Yo-Yo Ma Lane marks the western limit of the “new” Queens Quay, an will be the point where eastbound traffic will cross over the streetcar tracks to the new roadway on the north side of the street.  The tracks will be rebuilt east from Yo-Yo Ma Lane to align with the new intersection at Spadina.

Demolition of the existing Queen’s Quay Loop begins on May 7.

The TTC tentatively plans to resume streetcar service on 509 Harbourfront in September late November, but this depends on many utility relocation projects along Queen’s Quay completing to the point where the streetcar right-of-way is no longer needed as a road diversion and construction staging area.

Waterfront Toronto will hold a public meeting on May 8.  From their website:

Community Update Meeting

Join Waterfront Toronto on May 8, 2013 for a detailed construction progress report. Learn more about:

  • Construction activities to date and our overall construction schedule
  • The types of construction to expect this spring and summer
  • Traffic management and TTC service

The meeting will be held from 6pm – 8pm in the Brigantine Room at Harbourfront Centre.

21 thoughts on “Waterfront West Update (Revised June 15, 2013)

  1. At this point Steve it may drag on longer… I had to call 911 when I got into work earlier after one of the workers hit a gas line on Queens Quay at Spadina.

    Appears they have failed to locate the utilities.


  2. Working in the area, as the summer season approaches more and more people will be coming down by public transit and will be faced with the new eastbound/westbound setup for the 509. While most of the stops have been duplicated eastbound along Harbour St. the one at York St. has not.

    From the corner of York and Queens Quay it’s probably easier to just walk straight up York to get to Union rather than try and catch a bus at Harbour & Lower Simcoe or Bay & Lake Shore. With more families coming down with kids and grandparents in tow the walk may be more than some can manage.

    I’m thinking the traffic levels along the stretch of Harbour from Lower Simcoe to Bay meant skipping the stop at York in order for buses to reach the left turn lane at Bay. Could a white transit priority signal (and not the mini traffic lights they used on Queens Quay which confused many drivers) be put in at York St. to allow buses to stop there and then get ahead of all of the traffic to make the next turn? Admittedly it’d be another phase at the intersection, but it could be what the intersection needs (a no car phase) to allow the traffic time to clear along that segment of Harbour St.

    I’ve mentioned this to Waterfront Toronto and am still awaiting a reply from them.

    Steve: The question of an eastbound stop at York came up at a meeting tonight at the York Quay Neighbourhood Association, and Andy Byford stated that the City’s traffic engineers would not allow a stop to be placed there. There seems to be a general problem that traffic issues are taking precedence over transit riders and pedestrians, especially for the eastbound service which is also very badly signed for people on Queens Quay who don’t already know where to find it. I will report in more detail on Byford’s remarks in an update to this article.


  3. When it comes to stops I would also like to point out that the westbound stops are not clearly marked either.

    When I need to catch a bus on Queens Quay I am better off heading to Harbour, Rees or Spadina because if I do not chances are the buses will simply drive past as they are unable to stop or do not see the stop.

    Just a few days ago I was waiting at York street westbound for a bus heading to Spadina and the bus just drove past. It is down to one lane to begin with and he could not stop. To add insult to injury, the stop does not even look like a stop as it is just a stop post buried in amongst the fencing and barriers. If you did not know the stop was there you would be unable to locate it.

    Simply put, the TTC has to rethink the stop locations along Queens Quay. What may have worked when construction was just starting or prior to it does not work now. Some of the stops including the ones at York and Simcoe are dangerous. Its one lane and the stops let you out into a construction site, NOT on the sidewalk.

    My father drove the 509 for a period and swore he would never do it again given how the stops keep moving and inaccessible they are. Long story short Steve the TTC needs to do a better job managing the 509 service as the construction keeps bringing about the need for changes.

    Just my two cents Steve but at this point catering to the condo residents is not working out that well. As much as I hate to say it, the TTC needs to eliminate more stops during construction given the situation. While I see the need to provide service westbound between Harbour and Rees its not exactly workable. The people that live in these condos are going to have to suck it up and walk to Harbour Street or to Rees at some point.

    Steve: “Catering to the condo residents” means all of the people who live there. This is not a trivial issue.

    There have been big problems with the westbound diversion because Hydro is roughly 6 months late thanks in part to budget snafus at that organization. This has thrown all of the work plan off. The utility work was supposed to complete in the “spring” of 2013, but the date looks more like late fall now. Until that happens, there are fewer lanes available for traffic and transit and they are constantly shifting to accommodate work in progress.

    As on St. Clair, Hydro screws up a project and other agencies take the blame.


  4. Spring 2014!

    Well, that explains the appearance of extra 501 cars during AM peak. By the time we have all the streetcar routes in service again, the new LRVs will be starting to enter service (I hope!)


  5. Assuming they are still operable, any chance of the PCCs being used on St. Clair between St. Clair West station & Yonge?

    Steve: There are only two cars, and they don’t get out a lot. Maybe with the Harbourfront line close, they need a new home this summer, but I think they would get better exposure on St. Clair west to Oakwood or Lansdowne.


  6. Another debacle of poor co-ordination between various agencies and utilities, or total lack of care by one, and the TTC will take the blame again. I can hear the Ford brothers and their rant about “Another disaster like St. Clair.” By the time they get Queen’s Quay West running they could build Queen’s Quay East. Fortunately I will be away this summer and will miss most of the circus.

    I think you are right Steve about the need of a surface manager to keep up with everything that happens at the waterfront this year. It needs someone with the authority to change things immediately instead of having to wait for higher levels of management to think about it.

    As you said

    “On his way to the meeting, Byford travelled by TTC and made the connection from Union to the 509 bus looking as if he were a tourist for a continuous set of direction signs. He noticed that the path is not marked continuously.”

    This is probably one of his best features; he actually rides the TTC and sees it from a passenger’s point of view. I know that there are a number of others in the TTC who do this but they all should be forced to do it. When Hunter Harrison was at CN he made all the supervisory staff work as train crews so they could see the problems from the pointy end.


  7. The work on the second platform at Union Station is very complex and consequently slow, and, at the same time, fascinating to watch as little machines burrow under and around a maze of utility vaults, lines, cables, pipes etc to expose the subway box. The project is about to open the new western end of the ticket hall, closing and demolishing the existing part, which will likely block access to the street car loop for (my guess) 6 – 9 months.

    This then gives a window to finish Queens Quay track laying, replace the King and Dundas intersections on Spadina, and modify the platform at Spadina station, all to facilitate the return of streetcars the moment Union access opens, likely early in the new year. Is that asking too much?

    Queens Quay is in an appalling mess right now, and what happens when, any day now, for the second year in a row, throngs of visitors descend upon Toronto’s principal waterfront playground, is anyone’s guess. No doubt, like St Clair, the overruns will result in some store owners not making it. Thousands of condo residents must daily hoof it to find busses or walk up to downtown.

    As a business person serving the public, the mantra is to pay most attention to what the client sees – tidiness, cleanliness, presentation, competence, service etc. For our government provided services, for which we pay fees and taxes and who are supposed to be responsible to us: Waterfront Toronto, Toronto Hydro, TTC; the opposite seems to be true. It is unfathomable that Hydro would start a very public project without the resources (finance, per Steve ) in place to complete it. Waterfront Toronto, and by extension the city, by passively accepting such excuses, thumbs its finger at the public.

    And the TTC; just take a look around Union Station. Construction fences more at home in a coal mine, with construction seemingly going on on both sides; sweeping that seems to be on a monthly schedule, and appalling, incoherent, inconsistent signage all over the place, and insufficient pedestrian capacity.

    The part of these projects the public sees, – fencing, sweeping, signage etc, cost a pittance in contrast to their huge overall cost. So why not treat the situation as an ‘opportunity’, to put on a show for the ‘client’. This project, at probably the single most peopled place in the entire country, deserves a clean, attractive fencing system, with clean tidy project information, hourly maintenance and cleaning, and a signage system including bus stops, that is appropriately sized, attractive, coherent, consistent and works. The VIPublic insists on it!


  8. Steve, is there any timetable for the opening of the west mezzanine at Union Station? Nothing is posted and I cannot seem to find any information anywhere.

    All in all it seems like a nightmare scenario on Queens Quay West. I am awaiting a 3 or more alarm fire at a condo along Queens Quay because right now traffic is down to one lane for track work and fire trucks get stuck in traffic enroute to emergencies. It’s the Seventh Wave all over again!

    Steve: I believe that the west mezzanine will open late 2013 or early 2014. At that point, the east mezzanine will close for reconstruction, but that won’t take as long because part of it (the south end) is already partly completed.


  9. You do know I mean Union Subway Station right? The west mezzanine is completed with signage but I was wondering when THAT will open and the eastern part of the mezzanine will close.

    Steve: Sorry, I thought you were talking about the railway station. No I don’t know when the subway west mezzanine will open, but will chase the TTC for an update. Both this project and the railway station changes are overdue for dates on when various events will happen, if only on a rough basis.

    Reading between the lines on the TTC’s construction page for Union Station, it would appear that the changeover is imminent.


  10. With the increased frequency for the summer on the 509, would it be possible to have say every 3rd bus continue up Spadina up to King to provide some sort of continuous routing that mimics the 510 streetcar? It would eliminate the convoluted looping at the south end of the 510 bus and possibly improve service along that stretch of Spadina. At the current frequencies most travel in packs of 3.

    Trying to get to Chinatown from the Harbourfront currently involves two transfers on bustituted routes! Additional confusion is added by some of the 509 buses displaying 509/510, leading some to believe the buses continue up Spadina despite the destination reading EXHIBITION. It would be a curious route running from King Station to King & Spadina via the Harbourfront. Given the traffic along King at times it may be faster to take the detour!

    Also, an odd bit of possibly misplaced/leftover signage, but there’s a temporary bus stop signed 509 Harbourfront southbound on University at Front. They were at one point running on York while Bay and Front was closed, but the sign should have come down when they reopened the intersection lest some unwitting passenger wait at that stop for a bus that will never come!


  11. It looks like shuttle buses will continue to serve the “509 Harbourfront” route until at least autumn, and people travelling to Harbourfront Centre and/or the Island Ferry Docks have gotten accustomed to using them. As soon as it’s given the green light, construction on new streetcar tracks will begin and hopefully streetcars will be trundling along Queens Quay West on the “509 Harbourfront” route just in time for the winter festival season.

    Steve: Actually, the current schedule won’t see streetcars back at Queens Quay Loop on the Spadina route until November, and on the Harbourfront line until the new year. The latest holdup is that construction at Union is behind schedule, and the section of the fare control area where the streetcar loop connects to the subway won’t be open as soon as planned. Maybe for a Valentine’s Day festival?


  12. As of right now they are in the process of closing the untouched section of the mezzanine at the Subway Station. The entrance doors are closed and they are starting to close off parts of the mezzanine bit by bit. This should be fun 😛


  13. When construction begins on a new streetcar route east of Union Station to the West Don Lands via East Bayfront, what will be the name and the number of the new route? Will it be a new “507” (the old Etobicoke lakeshore route)?

    Steve: I don’t have the faintest idea, but doubt that 507 will be recyled.


  14. “The original Harbourfront track did not have the rubber layer and was quite noisy because the whole trackbed vibrated as cars passed. This is one of the last pieces of mainline “thunder track” to be replaced on the TTC network, a process begun 20 years ago.”

    The portal tracks approaching St. Clair West Station are quite noisy. Did the TTC rebuild the tracks during the ROW construction?

    Steve: No, they didn’t.


  15. Could it be that my earlier comments in this thread about absent sweeping and poor signage around the 2nd Platform construction site were read and acted upon? The lower area between TTC and GO is suddenly much cleaner, with two city staff picking up gargage and cigarette butts seemingly on an ongoing basis. Good start! Now what about the upper area in front of the main station; permanant puddles full of garbage, sandbags anchoring the fence are long since split and dispensing sand all over. And looking thru the fencing all along is a panorama of garbage amongst the building materials, with Tim Hortons paper cups most evident. Does this reflect the living rooms of the construction workers? Is this reflective of the quality of the work?


  16. Steve said:
    “The view below shows a close up of a test section of track built just west of the corner of Bay and Queens Quay. The use of the rubber sleeve to mechanically isolate the track is quite clear. Under the plastic covers (with duct tape on them) are Pandrol clips holding the track to the steel ties embeded in the slab below. The slab containing the track is separate from the base slab so that only excavation of the top layer is needed for track replacement.”

    To my amateur eye this looks very like the way track has been laid by the TTC for the last decade. Why was a test track necessary? Is it actually different to what they have been doing recently? If so why?

    Steve: Yes, that’s how the TTC has been building things, more or less. However, the Peter Street bridge is an unusual setup because there isn’t the same depth of structure below the rails. This was a test of how the track layer would be built for that span. In the first photo (the one with only the expansion joints) note that there are no ties. In the later photos, the track is bolted directly to the bridge deck much as subway track is built. Whether this technique would have been used if the bridge were built “from scratch” is another matter, but Waterfront Toronto is stuck with the bridge in its current form.

    I included the photo of the test section mainly to illustrate the sleeve around the rail. I will update the article itself with more detail.


  17. Since we’re talking old track, the last couple days have seen the un-earthing of the cobblestone trackage on Old Weston Road between St. Clair and Davenport. The curves at Davenport were completely removed for some sort of utility work by the contractor. I don’t know if they planned on stripping out the rest. They didn’t seem to have been prepared for this discovery.

    Steve: This sort of thing happens from time to time as there is abandoned track all over the city buried under the pavement. Streetcar track has peeked through recently at Church/Wellesley and at Sherbourne/Front, and I’m sure those are not the only two locations.


  18. Recently, work on new streetcar tracks on Queens Quay West has begun, just east of the Spadina loop. However, shuttle buses will continue to run on TTC’s “509 Harbourfront” route, which serves Toronto’s central waterfront, and will stay around longer than originally expected. As the tourist season is in full swing, there will no doubt be an increase in service on this route.

    When will streetcars eventually be scheduled to return to Queens Quay West, and which route?

    Steve: The 510 Spadina car will return as far as Queens Quay Loop probably in mid-December. The 510 plus the 509 Harbourfront car cannot resume service to Union Station until February because the concourse at Union Station where the loop connects to the subway is under construction.


  19. As soon as work is complete on the Union Station loop (located underground) and new streetcar tracks are also complete, streetcars will be ready to rumble along Queens Quay West.


  20. Hey Steve,
    You said that Yo-yo-ma was was the western limit of the new Queens Quay. I thought that they would continue and finish at Bathurst. Am I wrong?

    Steve: Yes, you are wrong.


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