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Transportation : Development News

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Site plan for Scarborough bus garage gets unveiled

After years of debate, the TTC has filed for site plan approval for its new McNicoll bus garage near Steeles and Kennedy in Scarborough.

The $181-million facility will operate 24/7 and will have room for 250 buses, a traffic office, two service lines, an employee parking lot, a repair bay, bus cleaning facilities, a washing area, a body shop and other offices. About 50 per cent of building’s footprint will have a green roof and its energy use, stormwater retention and reuse, and waste management would meet the city’s green standards.

But the project, encompassing about 323,000 square feet, has ruffled a few feathers in its history, dating back to when the TTC started searching for a site in 2003. Over the last year, especially, the TTC received a barrage of complaints about the process and concerns about possible noise, dirt and other traffic and environmental impacts the garage might bring to the neighbourhood. Although the property is designated as heavy-industry employment lands, it is adjacent to the Scarborough Chinese Baptist Church, which launched a petition against the garage, and close to other more publicly oriented commercial properties.

Last winter, the TTC argued that the garage would improve transit service in the area, create jobs and provide a new customer base for local retailers and restaurants. It has also altered the design since its original proposal, improving the perimeter landscaping.

The deadline for comment on the Environmental Project Report (EPR) was last month and is now in the hands of the provincial Ministry of the Environment.

Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: TTC, City of Toronto legal documents

City seeks input for Complete Streets guidelines

If streets aren’t just for motorists, then who are they for? Pedestrians? Cyclists? Dog walkers? People in wheelchairs? Kids? Seniors? People hanging out on summer nights?
This month the city is currently seeking public input as it draws up its new Complete Streets guidelines, which would provide a more thoughtful process about how Toronto’s streets should look and feel. Rather than a one-size-fits-all approach, “complete streets” consider the many ways each street is used before making decisions on things like bike lanes, sidewalk cafés, street furniture, street trees, utilities, and stormwater management. More than 700 jurisdictions in Canada and the United States are adopting a complete streets approach.
“We’re trying to get feedback on the draft guiding principles and we’re trying to get an understanding from the public and stakeholders about what different types of streets Toronto has,” says Adam Popper, Complete Streets project manager. “The goal is to make streets safe and accessible for people of all ages and abilities, and to give people a range of transportation choices.”
Street types could range from arterial roads, where the main goal may be to move traffic efficiently, to neighbourhood streets where a variety of uses, including children playing, might need to be accommodated. “You’ll treat a street differently if it’s in an employment area versus a park versus a residential area versus downtown versus centres in other parts of the city,” says Popper.
The city has 10 drafted guiding principles divided under the categories streets for people, streets as places, streets for prosperity. “We want to check in with the broader public to see if we’re on the right track with those because they’ll be used to guide street decision-making.”
A June 18 open house will be followed by June 20 events in North York and Etobicoke and then an online survey. The guidelines are expected to be ready by the end of 2015.
Toronto has about 5,600 kilometres of streets, covering almost one quarter of Toronto’s total land area.
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Adam Popper

Has the city buried an underground solution for the Gardiner?

This week council considers two possible fates for the Gardiner Expressway east of Jarvis: removal at the long-term cost of $461 million or a so-called hybrid rebuild of the elevated roadway at a long-term cost of $919 million.
How did it come down to these two options? Toronto has debated what to do with the Gardiner since before it was built between 1955 and 1964. Back in the 1990s, it was the western section that was under more scrutiny and in 2000, the city seriously considered burying the section of the Gardiner between the Canadian National Exhibition grounds and Yonge Street. In 2006, it was estimated that it would have cost $1.5 billion to bury the whole thing—a bargain compared to the options council is now contemplating.
Michael Meschino, principal of Entuitive engineering firm, holds out hope that the city will eventually come around to the idea that going underground is the best option. In the last few weeks, he’s been trying to drum up support for a concept, a collaboration with Chicago-based architects Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill, that came out of a 2010 design competition by Waterfront Toronto.
“We’re talking about what to do with the Gardiner east of Jarvis, but the Gardiner runs across the entire city and everything east of Dufferin Street is elevated, so when you make a decision east of Jarvis, you’re going to affect what you can do west of Jarvis, which runs right through the city core,” says Meschino.
Entuitive’s proposal would put the Gardiner into an underground tunnel east of Jarvis. Traffic would come out of the tunnel east of Cherry Street and onto a bridge across the Don River to connect with the Don Valley Parkway. Lakeshore Boulevard would be moved north, up against the rail lands. The benefits, as Meschino sees it, are clearing a large amount of new space for new waterfront development, as well as maintaining a direct connection between the Gardiner and the DVP.
If you keep an elevated Gardiner, Meschino says, “you’re going to develop parcels of land but you’re not really going to develop a community. What we want to do is push all that northward and push Lakeshore Boulevard northward to make one community.”
The plan works best on the assumption that the downtown section of the Gardiner would eventually be moved underground. Critics don’t like the fact that the Gardiner is elevated downtown, goes into a tunnel for just two kilometres and is then elevated again to cross the Don, which is one of the reasons the idea was rejected. The price tag, estimated in 2010 to be about $1.6 billion, also makes it a harder sell, though Meschino says the freeing up of a large amount of quality development land could be used to offset the cost.
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Michael Meschino

Revitalized Queens Quay gets final touches

With two-way traffic on Queens Quay finally opened this week, the downtown section of Waterfront Toronto’s pet project is about to be unveiled.
The ground broke on the revitalization of Queens Quay back in 2012, creating a mess of construction and detours along the waterfront for the last couple of summers. But the dust is about to clear to reveal new streetcar tracks and relocated roadways, as well as new bike lanes and snazzy pedestrian walkways. On June 19, the city will celebrate the official reopening of the stretch of Queens Quay between Bay Street and Spadina Avenue.
“We did a site walk with one of the [stakeholder] committees last week and it was overwhelming positive, people are excited about getting this street opened up and seeing this vision materialize,” says Mira Shenker, communications manager at Waterfront Toronto.
A few small fixes won’t be complete until after the Pan/Parapan Am Games. Toronto Hydro still has to install power cables into underground ducts. Until then, about 20 of the new 56 signature streetlights on Queens Quay will be temporarily replaced by aluminum poles and overhead powerlines, and six event power stations for the use by the Waterfront Business Improvement Area for events will be temporarily covered with boxes. Additional trees will get planted when Toronto Hydro is finished its work.
There’s even more good news for cyclists. The Martin Goodman Trail from Yo-Yo Ma’s Toronto Music Garden to Stadium Road, where cyclists can continue onto the existing trail through Coronation Park, will be open by the end of June.

Going east from Bay Street, Shenker says the Martin Goodman Trail along Queens Quay to Parliament should be open by early July, connecting to the existing trail that continues eastward.
“We just want to make sure that all the work at all the intersections is complete before we open the trail to traffic,” she says. “We’re addressing the lack of signage and potentially even fencing to indicate that the MGT is closed (for safety reasons) between Lower Sherbourne and Parliament until then.”
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Mira Shenker

Traffic and density concerns at site of former World's Biggest Bookstore

At the community meeting over the redevelopment of the former home of the World’s Biggest Bookstore, locals expressed concern about more than the density and design of the proposed 35-storey building.
Lifetime Developments has applied to turn the prime location at 20 Edward Street, between Bay and Yonge, into a mixed-use building with a three-storey commercial base and one-storey mezzanine. The proposal, which includes 629 residential units, would require changes to height restrictions for the flight path for Sick Kids Hospital helipad. There are five loading spaces proposed with direct access from the laneway to the north, a laneway, says Ward 27 Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam, that’s already in heavy use.
“There’s also concern about what kind of retail they will be attractive, whether it will be sensitive to the environment on Yonge Street,” says Wong-Tam.
Ward 27 has been hit with an avalanche of development applications over the past few years, particularly along the Yonge Street corridor. While much of the public debate has focused on building height and what the exteriors look like—sheer glass towers versus playful post-modern articulation—Wong-Tam worries that there hasn’t been enough focus on what the buildings are doing at street level, the impact on transportation and the impact of years of construction on neighbourhoods.
“The residents and business owners know that development is part of downtown life but they’re asking for better consideration of traffic movement, for complete streets and for opportunities to improve the public realm and urban conditions, including open spaces like parks and civic squares. That constantly comes up,” says Wong-Tam. “They’re also asking for more affordable housing. How is it we can add more and more density in the downtown core and not consider issues such as housing?”
Wong-Tam says the developers alone are not responsible for these frustrations. She says the planning process often doesn’t ask the right questions.

The site plan approval for 20 Edward Street is still under review.
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Kristyn Wong-Tam

City rolling out cycling survey, new cycling routes

Slowly but surely, the city is making some progress on intensifying its cycling infrastructure.
This month city staff are expected to recommend that the separated cycle tracks on Richmond and Adelaide streets, installed last year, should be extended to Parliament, connecting them with the Sherbourne track that’s the main north-south route in the city’s downtown eastside. The Richmond and Adelaide tracks, still pilot projects, are two of the city’s most visible new routes, though they peter out when they hit the Financial District.
Further west, the Environmental Study Report for the extension of the West Toronto Railpath is expected soon, looking at how the path should be extended beyond its current southern terminus at Dundas West terminus to Queen and King streets. On the waterfront, the Queens Quay reconstruction will connect the Waterfront Trail across Toronto’s central waterfront area between Bathurst and Parliament streets.
Meanwhile, the city has launched a survey to help develop a new 10-year plan for Toronto’s cycling network.
“The survey lets Toronto residents provide input on the objectives and criteria for selecting the routes that will form the cycling network,” stated Councillor Jaye Robinson (Ward 25 Don Valley West), chair of the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee, in a news release this week.
The plan aims to connect gaps in the existing cycling network, expand the cycling network into new parts of the city and improve the quality of existing networks. The survey asks residents to rank priorities: create new routes or improve existing routes? Build bikeways that support practical trips like work commutes or build bikeways that support recreational cycling?
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Jaye Robinson

Winner of Jack Layton Ferry Terminal competition: Now the details

The ridiculously tight space between the Westin Harbour Castle, Lake Ontario and the Harbour Square complex was a key inspiration for the winning design for the Jack Layton Ferry Terminal and Harbour Square Park. Chosen last week from five finalists, the proposal from KPMB Architects, Netherlands-based West 8 and Greenberg Consultants solves the space constraints by creating a park whose hills rise to become a green roof for the terminal itself. The plan puts one use quite literally on top of the other.
“It’s a flat area and this elevation is very significant. Being able to get higher changes your perspective completely,” says Ken Greenberg of Greenberg Consultants. “You can imagine people picnicking on those hillsides, and having kids sliding down them in the winter. It will be something special and different on the waterfront."
Anyone who’s been to the Toronto Islands knows just how uninspiring the current ferry terminal is. “All the charm of a large public washroom,” says Greenberg. The winning design would provide better views, more green space and, within the terminal itself, a grand wooden ceiling that would better protect people from the elements. The rolling hills also faintly echo other new-generation parks along the waterfront, like HTO and Sugar Beach.
What happens next? While the city tries to rustle up the funds to pay for the redevelopment project, the winning team will enter a period of study with the stakeholders to work out the details and technical issues. For example, what will the new ferry docks look like and where will they go? Greenberg figures that could take a year. When construction does start, the port needs to remain open, which makes it a particularly tricky redevelopment.   
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Ken Greenberg

This weekend, U of T will change the way we think about cities

This weekend, a three-day symposium at the University of Toronto's school of architecture has set itself the task of redefining the way city's are conceived.

Michael Piper, an assistant professor and the organizer of the After Empirical Urbanism symposium, defined one core challenge as an explosion of the concept of urbanism.

The term “urbanism” started out, he said, comprising just city planning, urban design and architecture.

“But in the mid 1970s, for various reasons, the field began to expand,” he said, “into ethnology, anthropology, data analysis. It's become very complex, loaded with a series of other things, instead of just studying the physical space of cities, you'll study the people who live there and their cultural backgrounds. This is all very good, but with all this observing and civic engagement is that we've lost the idea of how to design. So what we're going is try to take all these empirical practices and how to make them operative and more design sensitive.”

The symposium, which is open to the public, has invited people from these many different disciplines and practises, who usually hive off into conferences of their own, to discuss how the future of thinking about cities might incorporate all their areas of expertise without losing track of the basic responsibility of urbanists, which is to make cities, rather than merely analyze them.

Piper says that in the 1970s urbanists, inspired by thinkers like Le Corbusier, began overhauling cities in ways they had not been overhauled since Hausmann re-did Paris. The result was much brutalist concrete and housing projects that have since been deemed disasters both by urbanists and the general public. He gives as an especially egregious example the Pruitt-Igoe housing project in St Louis, Missouri, built in 1954 and demolished as early as 1972, but Chicago's Cabrini-Green or Toronto's own Regent Park would serve as well.

Urbanists were ambitious and optimistic in those decades, thinking that their ideas were better than ones that had come before, and willing to sacrifice heritage and history on the altar of the new and Modernist.

“These practices have come from the failure of modernism,” Piper says, referring to the disparate state of contemporary urbanism. “We can't design the whole city, so let's just look at it. What we're saying is you can't design a city like the Modernists tried to, but it does not mean we can't attempt to think on a large scale or to think through design.”

Talks and presentations over the three days, from Feb. 27 to March 1 at 230 College Street, include “The Use and Misuse of History,” “Fictions of the Ordinary,” and “The Bias of Data.”

Entry is free.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Michael Piper


City hears from the public on the Scarborough subway

It looks like the Scarborough subway will indeed be going ahead, after a Feb. 10 council vote quashed Councillor Josh Matlow’s suggestion the issue be re-opened.

The city had just held its first public meetings on January 31 and Feb. 2 about the still-contentious Scarborough subway extension.

Though approved by council in 2013, there is still no funding for the 7.6km, $3.5billion underground connection between Kennedy and Sheppard stations.

The meetings, which were partially intended as information sessions, and partially to elicit feedback, asked for input on which route might be best, the timing for the studies that will have to be undertaken, and more generally, just how the public would like to be involved and consulted on the issue.

The subway extension is meant to be a replacement for the 30-year-old Scarborough Rapid Transit system, the construction of which some attendees remembered causing havoc with their basements, which had to be fixed by the TTC. Longtime resident Narita George told the Toronto Sun after the first of the two meetings that she was worried that is that above-ground project wreaked so much damage, that the much more involved underground construction would do even more.

According to Tim Laspa ,who is co-ordinating the consultation efforts, comments -- which continue to be taken online -- have ranged further afield.

"The McCowan Road and Markham Road corridor options received the most positive comments," he says, and also that "the City should consider provisions for a future expansion of the subway line beyond this extension. Participants identified several important local destination points to consider, including the Scarborough Hospital, Eglinton GO station, Centennial College and University of Toronto, Scarborough Campus."

The public meetings are meant to be the first phase of the project, to be followed, according to the city’s presentation, by choosing the corridor, recommending the alignment — that is, decide on the precise route and where the stations will be — and a final review. The city promised all of these stages would involve both online and in-person interactions.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Tim Laspa

The beginning of private transit in Toronto?

After a successful pilot project launched in the fall, Line Six is set to expand its alternative transit service.

Starting January 19, people will be able to catch the private bus service, which Line Six is calling the Liberty Village Express, between Liberty Village and Union Station during morning and evening rush hours, as well as buy passes, track buses and find stop with an app.

The price starts at $4.25 a ride for pass-holders, roughly 40 per cent higher than TTC’s cash fare.

Founded by Brett Chang and Taylor Scollon, both recent U of T graduates, Line Six is a technology company that charters buses to do the actual transporting. For the time being they figure this gets them around the legal grey area of providing private transit in a city with a legal municipal monopoly.

The King streetcar line is famously oversubscribed, which makes it an ideal platform for Line Six’s innovations, which include the ability to book seats on more than one form of transportation. In essence, it’s a sort of transit version of Uber.

And being a technology company, it’s entirely possible that, should it prove successful, the TTC itself may end up being a licensee.

“The future of transit is not going to be people only using one system,” Scollon told the Globe and Mail, who listed the pair as part of the top 10 people making a difference in Toronto in 2014. “It’s going to take a variety of systems to get people from point A to point B.”
Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Dominic Ali

Pearson's Terminal 3 renovation moved into the check-in area

Pearson Airport has turned into a construction zone.

Terminal 3, which opened in 1991, has been undergoing an upgrade since last year, but the work only recently came to the surface when hoardings went up on the departures level in full view. According to Greater Toronto Airport Authority spokeswoman Shabeen Hanifa, there are new floors being put in behind there.

But this week, hoardings went up in the much newer Terminal 1 too, in the arrivals area. A new Starbucks is going in, and one level up, a Booster Juice. As soon as it’s done, Starbucks will be the first thing people see when they come through the sliding doors from their international flights. Perhaps appropriately, passengers coming through down the hall at domestic arrivals will continue to be greeted by Tim Hortons. (And as of today, to add another local touch to the often placeless 2004 terminal,  you can grab something from Caplansky's snack bar to substitute for whatever horror Air Canada was thinking of charging you $10 for.)

Branded as RethinkT3, the work on Terminal 3 isn’t expected to be complete untli 2017.

“Looking at the near future, a lot of work will ramp up in the early part of 2015,” Hanifa says. “We are close to completing work by the east check-in area for an updated screening point which is proposed to open in the new year. This means an expansion of the pre-board screening area in Terminal 3, from 5 lanes to 8 lanes.

“Once the east pre-board screening area opens, work will ramp up for food and beverage, and retail, including a new duty free.”

And by the time that work’s done, it could very well be time to rethink T1 again.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Shabeen Hanifa

Newly renamed ferry terminal to get new design

If you live in Toronto and have spent any time at all around the waterfront, you will almost certainly have been asked by a tourist at least once to direct them to the ferry terminal. Unless you already know where it is, is can be difficult to find from the street.

That is, no doubt, one of the issues that is being tackled by the entrants for the design competition, run by Waterfront Toronto, to comprehensively redesign not only the ferry terminal, but the 4.6 hectares of public space surrounding it on both sides, from the east side of Yonge Slip to the east side of York Slip, which includes the area around the Westin Harbour Castle and Harbour Square Park.

“The intent is that the designers have an opportunity to think of the space holistically in order to come up with a vision for that area,” says Waterfront spokeswoman Samantha Gileno, “and then we can look at creating a master plan so we can start prioritizing and funding the revitalization for the area.”

The first phase of the competition, the Request for Quotation (RFQ) closed on Friday, and Waterfront expects to release a shortlist of up to five by the end of the month. There will be a public consultation in the form of an exhibit of the proposals in March. The exhibit will also go online to ensure as much public participation as possible. Taking public opinion into effect, a jury will then select one design, at which point funding and timelines will be set.

“Sugar Beach came from the Jarvis Slip competition,” Gileno says, “and the mouth of the Don was also a design competition. Until the competitions were held, we couldn’t envision what might come out of it. You get so many great, innovative ideas flowing through these competitions.”

The ferry terminal, which was renamed after Jack Layton in August, 2013, is the city’s chief entryway to the Toronto islands.

“I think we all agree that this is a really important waterfront gateway, a site that in some ways isn't as accessible, prominent and beautiful as it deserves to be,” Gileno says. “I think it’s just time we rethink this.”

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Samantha Gileno


Weekend planners walk scopes out West Queen West

This weekend, about 65 people walked around  bits of Ward 18 with their councillor, Ana Bailao, and a few of the city’s planning staff talking about Queen Street past and future.

“We discussed everything from public space to the heritage buildings,” Councillor Bailao says, “how the older buildings were in relation to some of the new condos. The Gladstone, what is now the Theatre Centre that used to be a Carnegie library. How people see all that integrating is really important.”

It’s an approach to the public meeting the city’s been using for a few years now, getting citizens out of the meeting rooms and away from the Powerpoint and into the streets.

“I think it’s extremely valuable,” Bailao says. “You experience the environment you’re talking about, the heights of the buildings, the light, the contrasts; you’re looking at what’s going to be the new park.”

The walk, and the report that will follow in February based on the participants comments, is the result of a November, 2013 city council decision to do a planning study of Queen between Bathurst and Roncesvalles, an area that could, given recent precedent, end up being known as West West Queen West, or Queen West West West.

According to the city, the study is looking at “heritage character and value of buildings in the area, built-form and height of new developments, existing policy context, transit capacity and parking in the area, public space improvements, understanding and defining the character of the street and developing a vision for future development along the street.”

A preliminary report was issued at a more traditional community consultation on July 10 of this year.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Ana Bailao

Mega Six Points intersection takes shape

The first watershed for the reconstruction of the mega-intersection known as Six Points has been reached, with the grading of Dundas Street West.

Peter Milczyn, former councillor for the area, now the riding’s representative at Queen’s Park, and well known city-planning and design geek, tweeted out a picture on Friday of the site, which looks like a bit of a wasteland at the moment, but will soon be a key element in the large-scale reconfiguration of the area.

The project, officially known as the Six Points Interchange, has been years in the planning, and is meant to support the development of the central Etobicoke area around the intersections of Dundas, Kipling and Bloor as a residential, commercial and transportation hub.

Much of the residential development is already underway, with Kipling station already engulfed by towers trading on the site’s current subway and highway access, and future Metrolinx hub status.

In addition to re-organizing the roads, the project includes upgrading and re-arranging major infrastructural elements such as watermains, sanitary and storm sewers, as well as telecom and hydro. The project also includes plans to incorporate what’s known as “district energy” into the area, generating and sharing heat from central hubs, obviating the need for individual heating plants for each building.

"This work is the implementation of the vision for the Etobicoke City Centre to create a pedestrian friendly urban community," Milczyn says. "The City Centre Streetscape Plan will be implemented with wide sidewalks, street trees, bike lanes, public parks. The City of Toronto will then be able to release a portion of its 20 acre land holdings for redevelopment. The first project will be a YMCA Community Recreation Centre, followed by retail, office, and mixed use development."

Workers will be on the site from 7am to 7pm Monday to Friday until it’s completed in roughly four years.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Peter Milczyn

Airport tunnel enters final phase

It's hard to tell which is more impressive: That the Billy Bishop Airport tunnel just won project of the year from the Tunnelling Association of Canada, or that there’s such a thing as the Tunnelling Association of Canada.

Last week, the concrete was poured to create the floor of the tunnel’s mainland pavilion, and this week, the first of two water mains that have been built into the tunnel will be hooked up.

It’s the final stage of the project begun in 2012, to create a six-minute pedestrian connection to Billy Bishop Airport, Canada’s ninth busiest. Beginning in a few months, passengers and employees will be able to use an elevator to descend 30 metres to subterranean moving sidewalks that will take them under the bit of water known as the Western Gap at a speed of 2.3km an hour so they no longer have to wait for the ironically named Marilyn Bell ferry to transport them across one of Lake Ontario’s shortest spans.

“Right from the start, the Toronto Port Authority has worked to ensure that this tunnel was designed and constructed in a manner that puts the traveller experience first,” said Ken Lundy, the city’s director of infrastructure, planning and environment in a prepared statement. “Building a tunnel of this scale and complexity while maintaining efficient operation of a busy airport is no easy feat, but we were up to the challenge and are proud to have the project recognized by the Tunnelling Association of Canada.”

The tunnel will open as soon as those moving sidewalks and elevators are installed, and the final landscaping is completed.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Ken Lundy
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