Toronto’s Waterfront Transit Reset planning has been underway since 2016, and most of the decisions about routing were settled by early 2018.
A major outstanding issue was the link from Queens Quay to Union Station. Three options were originally under consideration:
- Retaining the streetcar link with an expanded loop at Union to provide greater capacity and an underground junction at Queens Quay leading to the Waterfront East line.
- Replacing the streetcar operation am “automated people mover” (now “APM”, but originally called a “funicular”) using two linked trains, one in each tunnel, and an expanded station at Queens Quay. The APM trains would be linked by a cable that would move the cars, and they would have no on-board propulsion. When one train is at Queens Quay, the other would be at Union.
- Replacing the streetcar operation with a pedestrian walkway and moving sidewalk from Union to Queens Quay.
In the two latter schemes, the original idea was to keep the streetcars on the surface at Queens Quay with links down to a station below.
The walkway/moving sidewalk option was discarded early in the process because there was not enough room for a bidirectional ramp (akin to what used to be at Spadina Station) and walkway, and a unidirectional ramp would pose accessibility problems.
Two technologies remained – streetcar and automated people mover (APM) – for the tunnel with sub-options for the interchange between APM and streetcar.
Streetcar with expanded Union loop and Queens Quay Station (modified EA)
APM with streetcar below grade at Queens Quay / Bay
APM with streetcar at grade along Queens Quay
The design of a surface station at Queens Quay proved to be unworkable because of:
- the space that would be taken out of the street by track, platforms and vertical access to the station below,
- the volume of transfer traffic projected and its potential conflict with other activity for this location,
- the need for an outdoor transfer connection.
For both remaining schemes, an underground station would be required at Queens Quay although the design would vary depending on whether the streetcar or people mover option was selected for the Union link.
The two options were evaluated for various factors including user experience, overall network benefit, construction effects, and cost. On balance, the streetcar option won out, and the people mover option was not as simple and cheap as its proponents had thought. The one criterion on which the PM did rank better was construction difficulty.
This recommendation will go to Toronto’s Executive Committee, the TTC Board and Council in April along with reports on other major projects including SmartTrack and the Scarborough Subway Extension. How much attention the Waterfront will get in the midst of debates on larger projects remains to be seen, and of course there is always the problem that available funding falls far short of paying the bills for every project on the table.
Toronto talks a good line about “transit first” development, but never puts up real money. The waterfront is always a project for some indefinite future time, but not now. As a city, we love new buildings and crow over the number of cranes in the sky, but we assume that travel demands these buildings create will magically flow over the existing network. On a regional scale, this has delayed needed growth in GO Transit and the Relief subway line, and on a local scale it limits transit growth to a handful of very expensive subway extensions whose value is counted first in votes.
Development at a scale many parts of the GTA can only dream of will occur within a few kilometres of Union Station, and there is a great danger that transit will not be ready as buildings come on stream.