This week, we heard that the long-standing plans for converting the southern part of Queen’s Quay Boulevard into attractive, landscaped walking and cycling paths to complete the waterfront trail are in jeopardy. The TTC wants to rebuild the tracks as soon as possible, but Waterfront Toronto only has about half of the $80 million required to do the project. The TTC is threatening to rebuild the tracks in their current location, rather than shifting them as required to accommodate the new project, unless Waterfront Toronto comes up with the money right away; Waterfront Toronto, meanwhile, says that they just need the city to reallocate some of the money it has pledged to the Waterfront. But a project to remove car lanes and spend money on pretty walk/bike facilities on the waterfront does not seem like one that would be a priority for the Ford administration.
But there could be a simple temporary solution for Waterfront Toronto. The City of Toronto created successful pedestrian zones this year on Gould Street and Willcocks Street, on the Ryerson and University of Toronto St. George campuses, with a miniscule budget. They did it by simply using paint, planters, and other inexpensive materials. It’s a model adopted from New York, where a pedestrian plaza at Times Square was created the same way. The idea is to simply get it done, and then over time implement more permanent and high-quality infrastructure as the money becomes available.
Waterfront Toronto could do the same thing. Get the TTC to move the tracks, and simply paint in the bike lanes and add planters to create temporary cycling and walking spaces cheaply and quickly. It would probably cost less than a million. No doubt some money is needed to reconfigure infrastructure for the remaining car lanes on the north side, but that can probably be done with the money Waterfront Toronto already has laid aside for the project.
In fact, a similar solution has already been tried — when the Queen’s Quay walking and cycling reconfiguration was proposed, temporary bike and walking lanes were set up in August 2006 to give everyone a sense of what it could be like.
It wouldn’t be a long-term solution. The spaces would need to, eventually, be upgraded to the attractive, fully landscaped bike lanes and walking path that would attract visitors and create a really coherent waterfront experience. But until then, we’d be happy to at least have any kind of bike lane and walking zone linking the fragmented waterfront together.