YQNA begs city to consider alternate plan for streetcars

Members of the York Quay Neighbourhood Association (YQNA) know waterfront traffic. So when they make suggestions about how to route streetcar service along Queens Quay from Bathurst St. to the portlands and still tie it in to Union Station, planners take notice.

YQNA planning chair Ulla Colgrass reports that the association has proposed that a right-of-way streetcar run at street level from the westernmost end of Queens Quay straight through to the portlands.

In addition, Colgrass explains, “we suggest Waterfront Toronto reserve the ground floor and one floor below in the conference centre at the corner of Bay St. and Queens Quay, which is slated for redevelopment. The ground floor can become a transit concourse with shops, restaurants, tourist information etc., open to both Bay and Queens Quay.”

The proposal notes that ample escalator access connects the concourse to the existing tunnel into Union Station. The tracks can then be used by electric trains without drivers, which could run continuously between this hub and Union Station.

The conference centre will be on city-owned leased land that is being rezoned for development. The rezoning will include the creation of the transit concourse as a condition of redevelopment.

According to Colgrass, the YQNA proposal would save the $330 million cost of digging another tunnel east from Bay St. to Freeland St. It would also “prevent Queens Quay from getting another ugly hole in the ground for the streetcar tunnel,” she opines. It would “cut the high maintenance costs of the tunnel under Queens Quay” and “avoid crowds piling up at Union Station.”

The proposed  concourse would also potentially end the many one- or two-stop streetcar rides from Union Station to Harbourfront. It would “make a great start for Queens Quay as a pedestrian boulevard, with people walking to ferries and events,” Colgrass continues.

On the bright side, Colgrass adds, “Queens Quay is currently under construction to become a beautiful, tree-lined boulevard with wide spaces for pedestrians and cyclists.” She observes that after much effort, YQNA feels more secure about getting the park at York St., but with new buildings coming to York and Queens Quay, city planners estimate that an additional 28,000 people will live and work in the area.

“Residents in the area pleaded in public meetings with the developers and city councillors to create an animated, human-scale streetscape with shops, restaurants and public amenities. Instead we are getting more of the barren corporate looks because that is what the developers can sell to tenants,” Colgrass mourns.

“As long as the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) controls the city’s developments, these excesses will continue and no voice of reason can influence them. MPP Rosario Marchese’s bill to abolish the OMB recently passed second reading at Queens Park. The public gallery was packed with citizens who supported this bill, which could become a historical turning point for Toronto.”