Waterfront East LRT Update: April 2023

The City of Toronto, Waterfront Toronto and the TTC held an online open house on April 5 to present the current status of the Waterfront East LRT project.

The presentation video and slide deck are be available on the project website. All illustrations here are taken from that deck.

Updated April 9 at 8:15 am: There is also a FAQ addressing many questions about this project.

Because this session fell on the first day of Passover, there will be a second Q&A session on April 11, 2023.

There is an online survey available to provide feedback on the project. Please note that although members of the project team almost certainly read this blog, comments left here will not be part of the formal record and might be missed by the team. Do not treat the comments section here as an alternative to using the survey.

The WELRT project has taken an extraordinary amount of time to reach this point, and only part of that can be put down to the pandemic. Indeed the last public session was conducted in 2021. The biggest problem is that the waterfront is nobody’s top priority. Even former Mayor Tory, who talked a good line about waterfront development, did not push the project until quite recently, and his momentum, such as it might have been, has now vanished.

Recently, many on Council and in the wider community have worried that residential developments along Queens Quay East and on Villiers Island (the new island to be created as part of the Don River rerouting work now in progress) would all be for high-end buyers or investors, and would not address Toronto’s housing needs. With a move to increase planned densities in the eastern waterfront, there is an even stronger need for much better transit. The area is now served by the Bay, Sherbourne, Parliament and Pape buses, but service can be quite unpredictable.

For the record, the AM peak service planned for schedules coming into effect May 7, 2023, is:

  • every 20 minutes on 19 Bay,
  • every 7 minutes on 75 Sherbourne,
  • every 7 minutes on 65 Parliament, and
  • every 19 minutes on 72 Pape.

Each route serves a portion of the waterfront and, depending on your destination, not all of them might be useful. Notably the two which link to Union Station are infrequent and unreliable. This is hardly a “transit oriented” neighbourhood.

In spite of the poor transit service, the eastern waterfront is hardly at a standstill. Many condos as well as commercial and academic space have appeared, and much more is planned. How a projected 50,000 workers/students and 100,000 residents will get around for the next decade is a mystery.

This project has been underway for a very, very long time as the chart below shows.

The current study is subdivided into three segments, plus future extensions into the Port Lands east of the Don River (dotted blue lines below).

  • Segment 1 (red) includes the Bay Street tunnel and the portal area on Queens Quay.
  • Segment 2 (turquoise) runs from Bay Street to New Cherry Street (which will open later this year).
  • Segment three includes the link via Cherry from the Distillery District south to Commissioners Street and east to an around-the-block loop just west of the realigned river (yellow).
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