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Queen’s Quay Revitalization About to Get Derailed?

Toronto’s central waterfront—the heavily-travelled stretch of Queen’s Quay between Bathurst and Lower Jarvis—has long been slated for a makeover by Waterfront Toronto. The plans include a complete revamp of the streetscape, and require that the streetcar tracks currently running through the centre of Queens Quay be shifted a bit south from their current location.
Today, the TTC issued a report in anticipation of the next Commission meeting on June 8 [PDF]. In that report: a recommendation that unless Waterfront Toronto come up with the full funding for the revitalization project by the end of this month, the TTC proceed with rebuilding the tracks in their current location. This would mean that if Waterfront Toronto proceeds with its elements of the project later on, some changes to that overall plan would need to be made, though these changes are described in the report as “relatively minor.”
As it turns out, one of those minor changes might be turning Queen’s Quay into a one-way street.

The revitalization plan calls for moving the tracks south, having all traffic lanes—in both directions—north of the tracks, and a widened pedestrain concourse south of the tracks. Keeping the tracks in the current location will mean that there is only room for traffic travelling in one direction north of the tracks.
According to the TTC, the tracks are worn and need to be rebuilt relatively urgently (a streetcar derailed in April) as temporary fixes are only going so far; they are planning to do the work during the 2012 construction season. And thus, they say, they cannot wait any longer for Waterfront Toronto to come up with financing for the streetscape revitalization, and must instead procedd with relaying the tracks in their current location—a smaller project for which the TTC has its own funding.
Waterfront Toronto, meanwhile, told us today that they already have the money, and this is a purely administrative hold-up. We spoke with Marisa Piattelli, who manages government relations for the organization, by phone; she told us that this is not a question of securing financing at all, as the project is already included in the money Waterfront Toronto has been promised by all three levels of government. (WT is the result of a tri-partite agreement between the federal, provincial, and municipal government, each of which has promised $500 million. WT does not have all the money sitting in an account, however; funds are dispensed on an ongoing basis.) All it requires is shifting funds from other long-term projects to this one, Piattelli emphasized, a simple matter of moving money that has already been promised from one line item to a different one, to accomodate the time-sensitivity of this particular project. “We have been talking to the TTC about this project for years,” Piattelli says, “and there are no problems here except reallocating funds.”
The kicker? The level of government that would need to approve the reallocation, according to WT: the City of Toronto.
Waterfront Toronto’s budget—the specific allocation of funds for specific projects—gets considered and approved by all three orders of government each year. It was last voted on by city council in February, and will come before them again in January 2012. For reasons that are unclear, the reallocation request was not part of the plan that went before council in February, and thus the money, though everyone knows where it will be coming from, is not yet considered “secured.”
We asked Piattelli if WT knew that the TTC was going to request funding guarantees by the end of the month. She says that they did not, and in fact WT was only aware of today’s TTC report when Torontoist got in touch with the organization with our questions about it.
Both the TTC and Waterfront Toronto agree that they should be working in concert, and that all the construction projects should, as much as possible, be done in tandem. If the TTC approves the recommendation in this report, then either: the City will have to agree to reallocate the funds within the next month, and the entire revitalization project proceeds; or there will need to be a revised revitalization plan which includes (a) the possibility of turning a two-way street into a one-way street, and (b) putting Waterfront Toronto in the position of having to rip up roadwork in order to accomodate its own, later construction, rather than utilizing the TTC’s construction period to do work as well.
Any guesses as to how our mayor feels about that?


  • Dan_Parish

    Sounds like you may have helped save the project in the process of researching this piece by helping to get everyone onto the same page!  That's got to be worthy of a bonus or something. :)

  • qviri

    We're simply shocked.

    - Everyone

  • Nick

    This reconstruction is not compatible with the Fordses desire to sell off all the land to further the wall of condos along the waterfront.

  • Patricio Carlos

    This is going to be a disaster. When the Fords canceled the York bridge the thought of Queens Quay came to mind right away. I will be surprised if they approve the money for the WT to go ahead with this project. Once the TTC lays down the new tracks there is no way in hell City Hall is going to turn Queens Quay into a one way street and the south lane will stay open for traffic until the Leafs win a Stanley Cup. Say goodbye to city building for at least the next 4 years of Fords plus at least another 4 years of undoing the damage.

  • rich1299

    I don't see why Ford would have a problem with this, after all it will move the streetcars out of the way of the car traffic. The money is already there too, it just needs to be redistributed. Of course it was a project started by Miller so on that basis alone I wouldn't be surprsied if Ford refuses to go along with it.

  • Paul Kishimoto

    4 years to undo the damage is way too optimistic.

    When you enact bad policy, the next guy (gal) can replace it. When you let people build the wrong stuff in the wrong place, the next person can't just decide to take a wrecking ball to it—especially if you let it become private property.

  • butterfly99

    That may be true, but this was planned under Miller. Ford will do his best to cancel it.

  • istoronto

    You would hope that the majority of councillors would defeat any attempt by the Fords to stop the development of the waterfront as planned. Ford has always thought of the waterfront proposal as a boondoggle. He'll kill it given any opportunity to do so. Which is odd because he thinks billion dollar NFL stadium down there would be prefect for the area. It isn't about the money. So, what is it about?

  • tyrannosaurus_rek

    Hope, but don't bank on it. Ford Nation still has the numbers on council, and it's quite possible they will resent all the money and attention being given to a downtown ward's waterfront instead of their own. Ford has fractured City Hall almost to the point that there's no longer a sense of Toronto, just a downtown and where taxpayers live.

  • Bryan Cook

    Can't say I'm too sad about the lane chang going away that was a thick idea. If you look at the images thay seemed to be based on the plan that all cars will become thinner.

    Queen's Quay is fine the way it is it just needs some touching up and a access to resources such as libraries, schools and a wider variety of entertainment. Big plans like this aren't really needed, just bike lanes and better pedestrian access to downtown. Redesign the intersections on Lakeshore blvd so people can actually use them. and for gods sake put in some parking.

  • Transity Cyclist

    “Queen's Quay is fine the way it is”

    Dead wrong, Bryan. The project's Environmental Assessment report clearly states that the problem is that while non-automobile modes account for 70% of the Queens Quay traffic through intersections, they given less than 50% of the space within the Right of Way.

    More specifically, pedestrians make up 47% of traffic volume, yet are allocated only 20% of the Right-of-way space. These figures vary slightly at different intersections.

  • Bryan Cook

    20%, 50%, 47% have you ever seen a car
    before?A single car makes up about 12 close walking
    pedestrians or 4 well spaced ones. The average car along any stretch of road has one person maybe two. Streetcars carry close to 100. Of course cars get more space than pedestrians or streetcars. We may not like it but cars need more space to move. Removing that space will not magically make people stop driving. Look at Front and Spadina. Rush hour packed with cars. Pedestrians and Streetcars flying past. Yet people drive every day through that mess.

    I've worked along Queen's Quay for over five years, I’ve walked, cycled,
    taken transit and driven. What doesn't work is same thing as any
    other downtown road, not enough bikelanes and parking. Expanding the pedestrian path by the margin they want is unnecessary some sidewalks are already more than 6m wide. If anything look at the Danforth where the pedestrian path is covered in patio furniture and smokers.

  • Paul Kishimoto

    This is entirely incoherent.

  • 640k

    Things look like they're going to end in tragedy for the sailboat in image 5 unless it turns around quickly!

  • Transity Cyclist

    “Expanding the pedestrian path by the margin they want is unnecessary”

    Dead wrong again. Space allocated to pedestrians (sidewalks) are often at over-capacity, causing pedestrians to spill out onto traffic lanes. This surge in volume happens most often during festivals and special events (some opponents will argue that this does not happen on a daily basis, even though festivals and special events are a frequent occurence at Harbourfront. That doesn't matter. The point is that there's no getting around the fact that Queens Quay and Harbourfront are, and will always be, places for festivals to take place, and we should accommodate the pedestrian activity they attract).

    It was also mentioned in the ESR (Environmental Assessment Report) that Queens Quay operates more like a 1-lane-per-direction for general traffic anyways (even though 2 lanes per direction are provided). This is because of stopped vehicles, legal or illegal.

    Furthermore, the distance pedestrians are forced to cross over general traffic lanes is too high for Queens Quay to be considered “pedestrian friendly”. Many intersections require pedestrians to cross at least 20 metres of general traffic lanes (some go up to 28 metres). The ideal crossing distance across general traffic lanes is 15 metres, as in Queen Street, Yonge Street, King Street, etc.

    Final point, I absolutely hate it when someone thinks I want people to get out of their cars, because that's not how I (or we advocates for this project) think. Our goal is to give more space to pedestrians when they need it. Our purpose is NOT to inconvenience drivers, but we expect them to make some trade-offs which may happen to inconvenience them in order to better accommodate other travellers.

    Before you respond, I recommend you read about the project here:

  • leslieville

    Why would anyone want to do something that would benefit the waterfront? It is not like it is the only waterfront in the world…. (please note sarcasm).

    Seriously, the unrealistic promises made at election time will result in this city being caught in a standstill for any infrastructure development.
    The promises in tax savings will likely equate to about $60 per year on a home property. The decline in property value in the city will impact property owners at a higher level.

    To the mayor, take my tax dollars and make the city beautiful, make transit work, make sure I continue to get the services I have come to expect.
    If you fail at any of these, you are failing as a mayor.

    The growth of a city is not measured by tax deductions, it is measured on it's growth and the quality of life.

  • Transity Cyclist

    It's outbound.

  • 640k

    Hah! Shows you what I know about sailboats.

  • iSkyscraper

    Gagging on my Famous Amos cookies as I read this from my desk here in New York.  Oh Toronto, you are so screwed.  Why did you vote for this know-nothing buffoon?  Maybe someone should take Ford to Milwaukee and show him that even blue-collar, beer-belly American cities know it's smart to invest in architecture and urban waterfronts?

  • nevilleross

    Why did we vote for Ford? Because of the paucity and easy availability of all of that right-wing bullshit media coming from your country, that's why. How about you try and get rid of it so that it doesn't affect Canada anymore?

  • ab416

    oh I wish I knew skyscraper, his popularity is sinking though…

  • Bryan Cook

    I have honestly never seen this surge
    of people spilling into the streets that you describe. And the figure
    in the report show two jaywalkers. Note also this is at the narrowest
    point of the whole harbourfront were a park is being built.As
    for the fact that two lanes are used because of illegal parking, how
    would removing those two extra lanes solve this? Would everyone just
    decide to obey the traffic laws from now on?

  • Bryan Cook

    Kidding I glanced at the key points and while some good points are raised they can all be solved by adding more intersections and bike lanes. Meanwhile problems caused by removing the two other lanes are mentioned but no solutions are brought forth.

    Also I'm not a car advocate I'm a walking advocate but i see no need to piss of motorists, including vital delivery and service vehicle operators for no substantial reason.

  • qviri

    Red herring. If the only cars on the road were vital delivery and service vehicle operators, we wouldn't be having this discussion.

  • Transity Cyclist

    “I have honestly never seen this surge”

    Sorry. But I have. And so have the authors of the ESR. Between taking your word and taking the ESR's word, the ESR is a far more credible source than a naysayer.

  • Transity Cyclist

    “i see no need to piss of motorists, including vital delivery and service vehicle operators for no substantial reason.”

    Loading areas would be located along the northside (they will not be eliminated).

    According to the transportation modelling software, the capacity of intersections for motorists actually increases with the new design (this is more attributable to the new signal phasing system than the road geometry itself).

    I'll try not to repeat what the ESR already states, but there's an interesting statement on Page 8-21 regarding east-north left-turns.

    Why do naysayers assume that these changes like this would piss motorists off? Besides the perceive loss of a lane to pedestrians and cyclists, motorists don't lose much else, and may even benefit from the new layout (reduced conflict between other modes, especially from transit and jay-walking pedestrians, improved signal timing,

  • Nick

    I have seen this pestrian surge too, Bryan: on summer weekends it's nuts down there. And there's no continuous bike lane from Pickering to the Humber – it's missing at Harbourfront and there isn't space to squeeze one in without removing a lane of traffic in both directions, which is the whole point of this endeavour. There's lots of parking on the north side of Queen's Quay, which tourist visitors can access from points north. Torontonians deserve a beautiful waterfront, finally…