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"On the Waterfront":
Transit "reset" options



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Last week, the City of Toronto, the TTC and WATERFRONToronto hosted two public meetings to present options for new transit to serve Toronto waterfront communities between Long Branch and Woodbine Beach.

Rapid growth in several neighbourhoods at or near the water’s edge — including Mimico, Humber Bay Shores, Liberty Village, Fort York, King/Spadina, City Place, South Core and King / Parliament — is significantly transforming the waterfront. The City is already planning to expand several more waterfront areas, including Lower Yonge, North Keating, the Port Lands, South of Eastern, the East Bayfront and West Don Lands.

Throughout the years, transit planning along the waterfront has been inconsistent, incomplete or non-existent. For example:

  • Waterfront Light Rail Transit Line environmental assessment, 1995;
  • Central Waterfront Secondary Plan, 2003;
  • Lake Shore Boulevard West light rail transit study, 2008 - 2009: incomplete;
  • “Closing the Gap” environmental assessment (reviewing transit options to connect Dufferin Street with Park Lawn Road), 2008: incomplete;
  • Extending streetcar service to Dufferin Street environmental assessment modification, 2008: approved (but never implemented);
  • Bremner / Fort York alternative alignment environmental assessment, 2008: incomplete.
  • Waterfront East light rail transit line environmental assessment, 2010: approved (but never implemented);
  • East Bayfront Transit Implementation Study, 2013;
  • Various plans to improve transit along the waterfront east of Yonge Street, including the North Keating, Port Lands, South of Eastern, the East Bayfront and West Don Lands communities.

(Note how many of these studies ground to a halt during the regime of late mayor Rob Ford who disdained any form of rapid transit other than underground subway trains and had only slight interest in improving the central area.)

This hodgepodge of plans and proposals has resulted in a lack of any comprehensive plan for a transit network to handle transit for a growing residential population on the waterfront and travel from beyond the area to and from recreational destinations and post-secondary institutions. That’s why City Council directed the three agencies to study ways to “reset” plans for waterfront transit services during its meeting of November 3 and 4, 2015. (The City’s Planning division took the lead in the study.)

Despite the lack of co-ordination in planning, better transit is essential as the City projects both population and employment in the area to continue to grow. The current transit service is totally inadequate to handle to expected number of commuters into and out of what may be the fastest growing areas of Toronto over the next 25 years.

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During the two public meetings last week, Planning staff presented a number of options for improving waterfront transit — perhaps too many options. After the meetings, Waterfront Toronto also posted early evaluations of the various options. If you missed the meetings, you can have your say by completing an on-line poll here by 4:59 p.m. this Friday, June 3.

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You can learn more about the waterfront transit “reset” study here and here.

You can read a discussion guide to the waterfront transit reset study here (.pdf)

You can view the display boards from the meetings here. (.pdf)

You can view an early evaluation of the various options here. (.pdf)


The study team divided the area into four districts or segments:

  1. Long Branch to Humber River;
  2. Humber River to Strachan Avenue;
  3. Strachan Avenue to Parliament Street; and
  4. Parliament Street to Woodbine Avenue.

Segments.jpg


Segment 1 - Long Branch to Humber River

The study team developed three concepts for introducing rapid — or more rapid — transit in this area. The City is undertaking a separate transportation study for the area around Lake Shore Boulevard West and Park Lawn Road. Here’s an overview:

Segment 1 - Overview.jpg

Concept 1A: Improve streetcar service on Lake Shore Boulevard West

  • enhance service with left-turn restrictions, transit-signal priority and fewer stops.
  • provide better connections to GO Transit stations and MiWay, including more convenient direct transfers and improved cycling and pedestrian environment.
  • improve north-south bus service to address future transit demands and to connect the area to the rest of the rest of the city and the regional network.

Concept 1A.jpg

Concept 1B: Light-rail transit on Lake Shore Boulevard West

  • Reconfigure streetcar line to an LRT line, generally separate from traffic lanes with fewer stops.
  • Improve connections to GO Transit stations and MiWay, including more convenient direct transfers and improved cycling and pedestrian environment.
  • Improve north-south bus service to address future transit demands and to connect the area to the rest of the rest of the city and the regional network.

Concept 1B.jpg

Concept 1C: Light-rail transit on The Queensway

  • Introduce an LRT line along The Queensway, generally separate from traffic lanes.
  • Enhance streetcar service along Lake Shore Boulevard West (similar to concept 1A) to improve access to the Queensway LRT and GO Transit stations.
  • Improve connecting bus services.

Concept 1C.jpg

The study team evaluated all three concepts with a number of criteria. It has decided to continue to study concepts 1A and 1B because “the Lake Shore corridor offers better connections to where people want to go, including better linkages to GO and MiWay.”

You can view the results of the preliminary evaluation here.


Segment 2 - Humber River to Strachan Avenue

The study team developed six concepts for introducing rapid transit in this area. Here’s an overview:

Segment 2 - Overview.jpg

Concept 2A: Complete the “missing link”

  • Extend LRT from the Exhibition Loop westerly along the south side of the Gardiner and rail corridors.
  • Cross the Gardiner and rail corridors to connect with the “LRT-ready” Queensway streetcar right-of-way at a signalized intersection at Sunnyside Avenue.
  • Turn back 501 Queen streetcar service at Sunnyside Loop to improve east-west capacity.

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Concept 2B: Former Front Street extension

  • Introduce a LRT line westerly along the north side of the rail corridor, connecting with the “LRT-ready” Queensway streetcar right-of-way at a signalized intersection at Sunnyside Avenue.
  • Turn back 501 Queen streetcar service at Sunnyside Loop to improve east-west capacity.

Concept 2B.jpg

**Concept 2C: Lake Shore Boulevard West light rail transit line

  • Extend LRT from Exhibition Loop westerly along Lake Shore Boulevard corridor.
  • Cross the Humber River beside the Gardiner eastbound on-ramp, connecting to Lake Shore Boulevard West.

Concept 2C.jpg

Concept 2D: Lake Shore Boulevard West light rail transit line to Exhibition Loop

  • Extend LRT from Exhibition Loop westerly along Lake Shore Boulevard corridor.
  • Cross the Humber River beside the Gardiner eastbound on-ramp, connecting to Lake Shore Boulevard West.

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Concept 2E: Lake Shore Boulevard West light rail transit line via Colborne Lodge

  • Extend LRT from Exhibition Loop westerly along Lake Shore Boulevard corridor.
  • Connect with the “LRT-ready” Queensway streetcar right-of-way via Colborne Lodge Drive.

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Concept 2F: Dufferin Street / King Street West

  • Extend LRT from Exhibition Loop westerly to Dufferin Street.
  • Continue northerly along Dufferin St, possibly separate from traffic lanes, to King Street West,, then westerly along the King streetcar line with possible “operational enhancement”, including left-turn restrictions, transit-signal priority and fewer stops.
  • Connect with the “LRT-ready” Queensway streetcar right-of-way at King Street West / Queen Street West / Roncesvalles Avenue / The Queensway.

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The study team evaluated all six concepts with a number of criteria. It has decided to continue to study all concepts except 2B, which, the team concluded, “presents significant community impacts and construction costs.”

You can view the results of the preliminary evaluation here.


Segment 3 - Strachan Avenue to Parliament Street

The study team developed four concepts for improving rapid transit in this area. It also reviewed ways to connect waterfront rapid transit with downtown Toronto. The City has already developed an East Bayfront rapid transit plan, including:

  • light rail transit or streetcar along Queen’s Quay East, Cherry Street, Commissioners Street and Leslie Street to Lake Shore Boulevard East and Leslie;
  • streetcar service on Cherry Street between the Distillery District and the turning basin;
  • streetcar service on a new roadway extending Broadview Avenue southward to Commissioners Street.

Here’s an overview of the Strachan-to-Parliament area:

Segment 3 - Overview.jpg

Concept 3A - Fleet Street alignment

  • Upgrade the Fleet Street “LRT-ready” corridor easterly from Exhibition Loop to address transit and traffic operational issues, particularly in the area of Fleet Street / Lake Shore Boulevard East / Bathurst Street.

Concept 3A.jpg

Concept 3B - Fort York Boulevard / Bremner Boulevard

  • Introduce an LRT line from the Fleet “LRT-ready” corridor from the Exhibition Loop, northerly along Fort York Boulevard to Bathurst Street.
  • Continue easterly along the Fort York - Bremner corridor, crossing Bathurst Street and Lower Spadina Avenue.
  • Enter a portal east of Bremner Boulevard / Lower Simcoe Street and a tunnel under Bremner to connect with a larger Union Station loop.

Concept 3B.jpg

Concept 3C - Former Front Street extension

  • Introduce an LRT line easterly along the north side of the rail corridor, crossing the GO Transit Kitchener line underground to connect with the Bathurst Street / Front Street West intersection.

Concept 3C.jpg

Concept 3D - Lake Shore Boulevard West light rail transit line

  • Introduce an LRT line along the Lake Shore corridor easterly from south of Exhibition Place and Coronation Park.
  • Connect with Queens Quay west of Bathurst Street, operate in mixed traffic in the Bathurst Quay neighbourhood.

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The study team evaluated all four concepts with a number of criteria. It has decided to continue to study all concepts. However, the team noted that Concept 3C “presents issues”. The team adds, however, that “these issues could be addressed and significant transportation benefits realized if Metrolinx constructs a major transit hub along Front Street. Continued consultation to be conducted.”

You can view the results of the preliminary evaluation here.

Linking to downtown

The team identified four groups of proposals to link waterfront transit to the city’s core.

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Downtown concept A1 - expanded Union loop

  • Expand Union Loop, according to the approved East Bayfront transit environmental assessment, to increase station capacity and to improve terminus operations with new platforms and more by-pass and crossover tracks.
  • Implement the Bremner Boulevard route as originally envisioned.
  • According to the approved East Bayfront transit environmental assessment, build a new tunnel to provide through service on Queens Quay East.

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Downtown concept A2 - extend underground alignment easterly

  • Eliminate Union Loop by extending the existing Queens Quay “LRT-ready” tracks easterly under the rail corridor or under the nearby development, creating an in-line station on a continuous route.

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Downtown concept B1 - Second loop

  • Build a second downtown terminus loop, likely on the west side of Union Station.
  • Maintain Union Loop, limiting operations to its current capacity.
  • Implement the Bremner route, however likely not as originally envisioned.
  • According to the approved East Bayfront transit environmental assessment, build a new tunnel to provide through service on Queens Quay East.

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Downtown concept C1 - Tunnel bypass

  • Maintain Union Loop, limiting operations to its current capacity.
  • According to the approved East Bayfront transit environmental assessment, build a new tunnel to provide through service on Queens Quay East — and potentially extended to provide an underground station for access to the ferry terminal.
  • Build a new terminal loop in the east.

Union Loop C1.jpg

Downtown concept C2 - Tunnel bypass, repurpose Bay Street tunnel

  • Repurpose Union Loop and Bay Tunnel for pedestrians.
  • Enhance Bay bus service to Queens Quay — perhaps with reserved bus lanes.
  • Extend “LRT-ready” tracks on Queens Quay through a tunnel from west of Bay Street to east of Yonge Street.
  • Build a new terminal loop in the east.

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Downtown concept C3 - At-Grade bypass

  • Split off a separate LRT line in the area of York Street to avoid the current portal and underground service to Union Loop.
  • Operate in mixed traffic along the Queens Quay roadway between York and Yonge Streets before connecting to the approved East Bayfront LRT alignment.
  • Build a new terminal loop in the east.

Union Loop C3.jpg

Downtown concept C4 - At-Grade bypass, repurpose Bay Street tunnel

  • Repurpose Union Loop and Bay Tunnel for pedestrians.
  • Enhance Bay bus service to Queens Quay — perhaps with reserved bus lanes.
  • Extend “LRT-ready” tracks along Queens Quay, eliminating Bay Street tunnel portal.
  • Build a new terminal loop in the east.

Union Loop C4.jpg

Downtown concept D1 - Distribute on network and use current Union Loop

  • Distribute and loop transit service from the east and west over upgraded LRT corridors.
  • Maintain Union Loop, limiting operations to its current capacity.
  • According to the approved East Bayfront transit environmental assessment, build a new tunnel to provide through service on Queens Quay East — and potentially extend it to provide an underground station for access to the ferry terminal.
  • Build a new terminal loop in the east.

Union Loop D2.jpg

Downtown concept D2 — Distribute on network and Bay Street light rail transit

  • Repurpose Union Loop and Bay Tunnel for pedestrians.
  • Introduce semi-exclusive transit corridor along Bay Street potentially linking with the Relief Line.
  • Provide through service on Queens Quay at-grade.
  • Build a new terminal loop in the east.

Union Loop D2.jpg

Downtown concept D3 — Bay Street light rail transit

  • Repurpose Union Loop and Bay Tunnel for pedestrians.
  • Introduce semi-exclusive transit corridor along Bay Street potentially linking with the Relief Line.
  • Provide through service on Queens Quay at-grade.
  • Build a new terminal loop in the east.

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The study team determined that it would continue to study all these concepts, except for C3.

Segment 4 - Parliament Street to Woodbine Avenue

The study team developed two concepts for improving rapid transit in this area, which has not previously been studied as part of a rapid transit plan. Here’s an overview:

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Concept 4A - Lake Shore Boulevard East corridor

  • Extend proposed Commissioners LRT from Leslie Street easterly along the Lake Shore corridor to connect with the Queen streetcar.

Concept 4A.jpg

Concept 4B - Eastern Avenue corridor

  • Extend proposed Commissioners LRT from Lake Shore Boulevard East northerly along Leslie Street to Eastern Avenue and then easterly along Eastern to connect with the Queen and Kingston Road streetcars.

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The study team evaluated both concepts with a number of criteria. It has decided to continue to study both concepts, because they both “present opportunities without introducing any major issues”.

You can view the results of the preliminary evaluation here.