(click on image for larger)
In an article entitled “Cycling To The Port Lands: creating a ‘Gateway’ at Leslie Street through the ‘Great Wall’ – Lake Shore Boulevard” – I tried to shine a light on all the problems that cyclists and pedestrians face in trying to access the new park, walking and cycling infrastructure that the City is developing to the south of Lake Shore Boulevard as part of the Water Front Toronto project, and the Leslie Spit Urban Wilderness innovation, Tommy Thompson Park.
It turns out my vision of Leslie Street as one of the key “Sentry Gateways” to the new infrastructure is not a new idea. Waterfront Toronto and the City of Toronto has been planning around this idea for years.
Making Waves: Central Waterfront Plan Part II -http://www.toronto.ca/waterfront/waterfront_part2.htm(pdf)
c) Promoting a Clean and Green Environment
( to see it full size click on image – or go to the toronto.ca link under the image)
In this plan from 2002 Leslie Street is marked as a key pedestrian, cycling and public transit access point to the proposed Lake Ontario Park.
And more recently at Water Front Toronto, under the tab “Portlands Greening” this:
“In April 2005, Waterfront Toronto along with the three orders of government announced a $10.5 million investment and plans for greening the Port Lands and improving public access to the area’s lakefront. This project includes work to improve the key gateways in the area such as Unwin Avenue, Leslie, Cherry and Commissioners streets, all of which are the major corridors that connect the city with the Port Lands and the primary routes that lead to a future Lake Ontario Park.”
A major redevelopment of Leslie Street is set for this spring (2012). The TTC has recieved the appropriate approvals to build an Ashbridges Bay Maintenance and Storage Facility for the new fleet of LRT vehicles on an empty parcel of land at the SE corner of Leslie Street and Lake Shore Blvd.. In order to connect it to the TTC’s track grid they need to lay rail on Leslie from Queen Street to Commissioners. The project will require a complete rip out of the street – sidewalk to sidewalk – black top right down to the street’s footings — and some major underground infrastructure re-jigging as well.
For some reason the TTC has tried to minimize the extent of the construction to come – they have said in planning documents (“Ashbridges Bay TTC Maintenance and Storage Facility – September 8, 2010″ - http://www.toronto.ca/involved/projects/lrv/pdf/epr/appendix-c-8.pdf) that the street will not be changed. In saying this they have signaled to the relevant City departments that required changes as part of the City’s Long Term Plan) need not now be actioned upon. These changes not now being acted upon include improvements in cycling and pedestrian infrastructure.
(Part of the City’s long term transportation plan is known as the “Complete Streets” framework, where it is understood that the city’s transportation foot print, especially in the older parts of the city, is at capacity and that thus car pooling, mass transit, cycling and pedestrian infrastructure needs to be accented when major public infrastructure redevelopments provide an opportunity).
So because the TTC has signalled this is a minor alteration to Leslie Street – for example - the City of Toronto Transportation Services has not done traffic counts towards making Leslie Street a better traffic corridor – even though several major land-use changes have, and are happening all around Leslie Street right now. Included are the new Box Stores: Canadian Tire, Loblaws and Price Choppers – and a gentrification of the residential population of the community – caused by the housing price boom which is ramping up house prices, especially in Leslieville, but also in South Riverdale and the West Beaches. A more prosperous population is more likely to have access to a car and thus drive to their shopping destinations – and thus increase traffic volumes in the neighbourhood in general, but especially along Leslie Street which is the route the city is enabling to service the Box Store Row that is developing there.
The TTC’s ‘nothing-to-see here’ attitude also puts planning blinkers on the City as the massive Water Front Toronto Development is just announcing a speed-ed up scheduling of development on the Port Lands - not to mention the imminent opening, 7 days a week, of Tommy Thompson Park on the Leslie Street Spit.
The Park Lands developments to the south of Lake Shore and Leslie Street and the idea that Leslie Street is one of the Great Gateways to these new public places – places that the World will visit – and the entire population of the GTA will use periodically over their lifetimes – is anathema to the Box Store Corridor tha Leslie Street has recently started to become.
In a great article in SpacingToronto (24 Jan 2012) ”Leslie Street – Gateway or Gate to the Waterfront?” Dylan Reid points out the crux of the problem is four lanes on Leslie Street – or two?
“The key question is, could Leslie Street lose a lane of traffic in order to create bike lanes and more pedestrian space? Currently, Leslie from Queen to Lake Shore is four lanes. Outside of rush hour, two lanes are used for parking and only two lanes are used for traffic, but during rush hour parking is prohibited to allow two lanes of traffic in the rush hour direction.”
But I think I sussed a way to have our cake and eat it too!
The problem is there is near capacity of traffic volume on Lelie Street – yet more and different typs of traffic is projected. We have to somehow reduce the volume of traffic on Leslie Street.
The biggest soarce of traffic – outside the rush hour commutes – is the Big Box Malls. 90% of the traffic in and out of these Malls happens via an intersection built just for them – and it funnels traffic onto Leslie Street – it must go – but how?
(click on image to see larger)
Below is a mashup I made over a map of the Leslie Lake Shore area. I have added new infrastructure that entices traffic away from Leslie Street by adding on and off merge lanes to Lake Shore Boulevard that feed a new Enterance/Exit for the Loblaws parking lot and Price Choppers lot respectively. Also, left turn lanes on Eastern Avenue will feed new bigger and more direct Enterance/Exits on the Northern flanks of these two Malls as well.
(click on image to see larger)
The Lights Leslie Street at the Malls Exits should be taken out, and the Exits reduced to one lane in and out (instead of three, with a left turn advanced green).
This should speed up traffic flow as well as remove 500 vehicles per hour from Leslie. With more room on Leslie infrastructure for cyclists and pedstrians should increase those types of traffic and eventually, as the TTC impliments their planned service route along Leslie, volumes into these malls should increase significantly with out coincident increase in car traffic on Leslie Street itself!
At the same time this new vision will open up Leslie Street for separted Bike Lanes, wider sidewalks a greener more inviting streetscape – that will connect the Waterfront Trail (formerly Martin Goodman Trail) and create a truly World Class Gateway to the new and innovative park lands to the south of Lake Shore Boulevard.
Posted: January 28th, 2012
Author: michael holloway
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