Following up on Leslie St.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the potential for Leslie Street from Queen E. to Lake Shore to be turned into a gateway to the Leslie Street Spit and eastern waterfront when the TTC lays down tracks for its new car shed.

Last week I attended a community meeting about the project where many community members brought up this issue with the City and TTC staff present.

Staff replied to the community’s desire to at least investigate bike lane possibilities by stating that it was not part of the original Environmental Assessment or traffic study, whose mandates were restricted to assessing the impact of building the tracks, and as a result there was no analysis of this option. It was frustrating, because without studies no-one had enough information to assess and discuss the viability of bike lanes and what the impact would be (e.g. on parking). Everyone was talking blind.

It became clear that the City really needs to change its processes to look at not just the impact, but also the potential, for any street where major work is being planned.

Both staff and community members did point out that it would still be possible to create bike lanes after the tracks are laid, just without any substantial permanent infrastructure.

However, at this point another issue emerged. The TTC and the City plan to eventually (say, in 30 years) introduce full streetcar service in its own right-of-way through the redeveloped Port Lands, including an exit to Queen Street along Leslie. They explained that, while it might be feasible for the moment, they do not want to put a permanent bike lane in one of the traffic lanes because if they eventually claim the centre lanes for a transit-only right-of-way, they’ll need the curb lanes for vehicle traffic. And if one of them is being used for a separated two-way bike lane, it would be a difficult political battle to remove it.

It’s admirable that the City and TTC are planning that far ahead. And it’s somewhat flattering to Toronto’s bike community that staff seems to be in such fear of their lobbying power, but from the events of the last year it looks like the City is quite capable of removing bike lanes when it wants to.

It seems like it would be possible to create “temporary” bike lanes along one lane of Leslie for 30 years, using inexpensive and easily removed infrastructure to separate them from traffic. Given the vagaries of transit politics in Toronto, who knows what the situation will eventually be, and it seems foolish to deny a useful improvement now for a hypothetical plan 30 years in the future, at which point quite different solutions might have emerged.

Better news from the meeting was a presentation from Kim Storey of Brown and Storey Architects regarding the sidewalks. Whatever happens with the street, the TTC and the City are committed to working to improve the narrow, unsafe sidewalks along Leslie. Storey came up with ingenious ways to work within very limiting constraints to make the sidewalk at least decent, interesting and safe, even if it will never be a walking mecca.

6 comments

  1. And these ingenious ideas from Kim Storey are what, exactly?

  2. And these ingenious ideas from Kim Storey are what, exactly? 

  3. interesting how they can plan so far ahead to justify not putting one in, they must have done studies like this on basically every road in the city! friggin useless bike dept.

  4. I assume that when the official minutes of the meeting are published by the TTC a link to the Brown and Storey Architects presentation will be included.

  5. After attending the information meeting and thinking about the drawings of the project and reading your comments, Mr. Reid, I strongly feel that the plan for Leslie Street is to make the street into a streetcar servicing right of way – with limited auto use and minimal or no bicycle use. I believe this could be illegal virtual closing of a provincial and municipal right of way the two tracks are TTC vehicle service and access tracks – not actually part of the transporting people – all or almost all of the streetcars will be out of service/no passengers and that should be recognized with special planning for the best use of the rest of the right of way – !. Local traffic only on Leslie for residents and businesses, special parking provisions and as an extra, the bike 2 way right of way to link from Queen and above to the Leslie Spit and the Lakeshore Bikeways. It’s an extreme point of view perhaps but it seems less abusive to local needs. Leslie Street no longer is a reasonable 4 lane, arterial right of way!

  6. Links to:

    1) Minutes of the January 31, 2012 Public Consultation Meeting at SRCHC (which included a presentation from the “Leslie Street Complete Streets Working Group”)

    2) Brown and Storey presentation at that meeting

    3) The TTC response to all public input since public consultayion process started (September 14th 2011),

    .. can be found at the City of Torornto Web site under, “New Light Rail Vehicle (LRV) Maintenance & Storage Facility” —> “Public Consultation”:  http://www.toronto.ca/involved/projects/lrv/index.htm#pc

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