September 20, 2023
What do LRT, ROW, and WWLRT mean?
Light rail transit (LRT) means streetcars operating in their own right-of way (ROW) separate from motor traffic, with some degree of traffic signal priority, for faster operation and far fewer accidents. Waterfront West LRT (WWLRT) is the planned LRT route to provide transit priority for TTC passengers traveling from Legion Rd in south Etobicoke to Exhibition Station (and on to Union Station).
Rebuilding Dufferin Bridge crossing the Lakeshore GO train tracks at the Exhibition
As part of the planning for the WWLRT, and in recognition of the time required and coordination needed for Lake Shore Blvd West infrastructure work, TTC staff and city planners identified a near-term connection between the Dufferin and Exhibition streetcar loops as a city transit priority in the April 2019 transit update to Executive Committee [PDF], where it was described as one of “the two most significant projects” in the Waterfront Transit Network. This was to provide for the interim possibility of having streetcars run from south Etobicoke to Exhibition streetcar loop via King St. West and Dufferin. From Exhibition, riders could continue to Harbourfront via streetcar or transfer to the Ontario Line subway station currently being built at Exhibition.
This route and service would not be an LRT, as streetcars would continue to run in mixed traffic between Roncesvalles Ave. and Dufferin loop, more than 2 kms in congested peak hour traffic. Consequently, the entire route – including the portions running in a ROW along the Queensway – would continue to be affected by traffic accidents, congestion, construction, legal and illegal turning movements, and temporary Gardiner and Lake Shore Boulevard closures. Delays in one stretch have knock on effects throughout the streetcar route leading to gaps and bunching vehicles, and unpredictable travel times.
Until funding, planning and construction of the full WWLRT with a right of way from Legion Rd. west of Park Lawn Ave, to Exhibition Station is completed, it’s important to ensure that the rebuilt Dufferin Street bridge incorporates the infrastructure needed for a Dufferin Loop to Exhibition Loop streetcar connection. The connection is also important for creating new routes, such as a Dundas West Station to Exhibition Loop streetcar service. It would also establish a much-needed direct connection between St. Joseph’s Hospital and the Ontario Line subway.
It is currently unclear whether the planning for this streetcar crossing has advanced sufficiently to be incorporated into the reconstruction engineering plans. It is vitally important for transit users in that it be engineered for streetcar crossings.
SETAC contacted Councillor Morley and Olivia Chow’s office on Aug. 21, 2023 requesting confirmation that the Dufferin bridge reconstruction will incorporate a streetcar crossing, and that any necessary funds be made immediately available to complete any remaining engineering work relating to the streetcar crossing.
As of Sept 20, 2023, we have not received a reply from the staff of either Morley’s or Chow’s office.
Update: Councillor Morley’s staff have since directed us to the city’s Dufferin Bridge web page. While the project overview portion notes that the city will be “Widening the bridges to allow space for pedestrian and cycling improvements,” there is no reference to a streetcar crossing. Similarly, the presentation slides from an August 3 public meeting do not indicate widening for a streetcar crossing. However, the meeting minutes indicate in response to a question from an attendee, staff indicated that “we will be widening the bridge deck to accommodate future TTC expansions.” Given the importance of a streetcar crossing, SETAC has asked that both the Dufferin Bridge and Waterfront Transit Network web pages be updated to clearly communicate the information.
What is the plan for the Waterfront West LRT link to the Ontario Line at Exhibition station?
As recommended through the Waterfront Transit Reset consultation process, the plan is to build a new exclusive LRT ROW from Colborne Lodge Drive and The Queensway to Dufferin Street at the Dufferin Gate. The goal of the WWLRT is to get South Etobicoke commuters to the Ontario Line subway station at the Exhibition as quickly as possible. It would connect to existing ROW on the Queensway and a future ROW between Humber Loop and Legion Rd. Collectively, the addition of these ROW segments would provide a fully dedicated and separated ROW for the streetcar from Legion Rd. to Exhibition Loop and the future Ontario Line station. It would provide long needed frequency and travel time reliability for transit users in south Etobicoke. The city is planning to implement some transit priority at existing signalized intersections.
Construction of the WWLRT is unfunded. However, following the Waterfront Transit Reset consultation process, on January 31, 2018 City Council directed the City Manager and other staff to prepare the background studies needed for the Transit Project Assessment Process Environmental Assessments. None of the necessary background studies have been initiated since. In the meantime, significant resources have been allocated toward advanced planning of the Waterfront East LRT (WELRT) connecting Union Station to the Port Lands.
Is a Streetcar Loop still planned at Legion Road?
No. Earlier proposals had a turn back at Legion Road. However with the approved Park Lawn Streetcar Loop, this Legion Road loop is no longer required. The planned streetcar ROW segment between Legion Road and Park Lawn is intended to separate streetcars from turning movements and queuing traffic approaching Park Lawn, which backs up quite a bit on left hand turns in peak traffic.
Where will the new Park Lawn streetcar loop be located? What will it look like? What will its capacity be?
The Park Lawn streetcar loop will be located adjacent to the new Park Lawn GO station and bus layovers to facilitate fast and easy transfer between streetcars, GO trains, and the 66 Prince Edward bus.
The current loop design is also near planned circulation areas, including the “Station Plaza” and a pedestrian corridor leading from the streetcar loop to Park Lawn Ave. and a signalized pedestrian crossing. The streetcar loop will be unidirectional, meaning that all eastbound and westbound streetcars will enter the loop from one access track, and leave by a second, either turning westward or eastward as they exit the loop at Lake Shore Boulevard West.
The TTC has indicated that planners should assume a maximum service level of 24 streetcars per hour. 12 of those streetcars would be 504s with 5 min. headways during peak service approaching from the east and turning back towards downtown. 6 streetcars would be eastbound 501s, and 6 would be westbound 501s – both on 10-minute headways.
To accommodate 24 streetcars, 12 of which will use the loop as a terminus, the planned Park Lawn Streetcar Loop will have only one layover track space for effectively three streetcar lines (501 Queen Eastbound, 501 Queen Westbound, and 504 King). As seen at other busy streetcar loops on the system, this causes delays for streetcars entering the loop to drop off passengers. In the last decade, both Dundas West and Broadview streetcar loops were expanded to have separate tracks and platforms for each streetcar line. Separate tracks and platforms are not planned for Park Lawn Loop however. During consultation processes, SETAC has communicated to city staff, transportation planners, and the TTC that one layover is insufficient. To date there is no indication that any change will be made to the new streetcar loop’s layover capacity.
Subway Extension to Sherway Gardens Mall and Big Box complex in South Etobicoke
This commercial area is already seeing condominium densification, and this will continue due to population pressures. Subway stations provide sustainable mobility to new residents, and is cost effective when transit oriented development (TOD) is built around them. A subway extension to Sherway Gardens would likely be a westward extension of Line 2. However, the Provincial Government did mention a future westward extension of the Ontario Line prior to the last election, and an alignment travelling through south Etobicoke could also extend to Sherway Gardens. The 1990s study of extending Line 2 westbound had it being built on the surface beside the Canadian Pacific mainline track alignment.