February 17, 2020

WTF is up with the Railpath?

On Wednesday, February 26, the City of Toronto will be hosting a public meeting at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) to reveal the final design of the West Toronto Railpath extension to Abell Street. (pre-register here) Ahead of this meeting, I felt it was worth highlighting some good, bad, and ugly recent developments.
West Toronto Railpath extension rendering (via City of Toronto)

The Good – Douro and Wellington

A public consultation was held in December regarding bike lanes on Douro and Wellington Streets. Cycle tracks were recommended from Shaw Street to Strachan Avenue – not sure why the City bothered mentioning the door zone bike lane option – while painted bike lanes were proposed the rest of the way from King to Niagara Streets. This project would connect with the new Garrison Crossing (east of Strachan) and future King-Liberty bridge; as well as the existing Shaw and Strachan bike lanes. While it would have been nice to consider a bi-directional cycle track on the south side to make it a true Railpath replacement south of King, I am pleased to see strong support in the consultation report and look forward to seeing the bike lanes installed this summer (or fall) assuming council approves them in April.
Douro-Wellington bike lanes (via City of Toronto) - Note the ones proposed on Wellington will be similar to those on Douro west of Shaw
You can read Jun N’s take here.

The Bad – Existing Railpath Closures

Starting in Spring 2020, parts of the West Toronto Railpath will be closed for Metrolinx’s plans to add a fourth track along the Kitchener line. The first closure from Ernest Avenue to Bloor Street for building a new GO/UP Express station tunnel is expected to last twelve months. The second closure in Spring 2021 from Bloor to MOCA for trail realignment is expected to last two to three months, while the final closure will happen in Fall 2021 from Ernest to Wallace Street for the same time frame and purpose. A small parkette is expected to be added with all work to be completed by early 2022. The first two closures will effectively force people on bikes to cross Bloor at Perth Avenue which is not signalized, given pushing bikes upstairs is not practical.
Phase 1 of Railpath Closure (via Metrolinx)
You can view Metrolinx’s display panels here.

The Ugly – Abell to King
Proposed Railpath options for Sudbury Street (via Dandyhorse and City of Toronto)
With the proposed bike lanes on Douro and Wellington, it’s worth asking the question “WTF is happening between Abell and King?” The last time a public meeting was held for this Railpath stretch happened in December 2014 or over five years ago!!! A few options were proposed on Sudbury Street including sharrows on both sides, sharrows downhill and a bike lane uphill, and a bi-directional cycle track. The local Cycle Toronto ward groups opposed sharrows, while some residents opposed removing parking and trees to accommodate the bi-directional cycle track. Shortly after that meeting, the City decided it would not make a recommendation and that further study would be needed.
Proposed King-Liberty Station Design (via City of Toronto)
If further study is needed for this stretch, why has nothing happened after five years? Part of this delay is caused by Mayor John Tory’s SmartTrack which includes a King-Liberty Station to serve Liberty Village residents. The station design includes two options for extending the Railpath; either adjacent to the rail corridor or along Sudbury Street. The station design factors in the King High Line to Liberty Village first proposed in Fall 2014, as well as two rail corridor crossings.
Remember the King High Line? (via Dandyhorse and Friends of the King High Line)
With the Ford government effectively putting SmartTrack station procurement on hold – instead focusing on the Ontario Line, the Yonge subway extension, the Eglinton West LRT, and the Scarborough Subway – a Plan B is needed to get the Abell to King section back on the radar. In addition to Metrolinx, city staff has been negotiating with property owners at 99 Sudbury and 1071 King to incorporate the Railpath with proposed developments there. An interim on-street connection along King from Sudbury to Douro is also being considered.

Bonus - The CAMH Shortcut

Back in 2016, a shortcut was opened through CAMH which would connect the Railpath extension to the Richmond and Adelaide cycle tracks. While this will be a useful connection, there would still be a gap between Abell Street and just east of Dovercourt Road. If the Railpath ends up being extended adjacent to the rail corridor, bi-directional cycle tracks would still be needed from Abell to Dovercourt to provide a seamless connection to the CAMH shortcut.
CAMH Shortcut (via I Bike TO)
You can read Herb’s take on I Bike TO.

Next Steps

As residents attend the upcoming Railpath meeting, I encourage them to push for a temporary signal at Bloor and Perth to help people navigate the Railpath during the closure, as well as get the Abell to King gap back on the radar. It is also important that the City take every opportunity possible to accelerate construction, given construction is not expected to start until 2021 per the most recent consultation.

All aboard!
Rob Z (e-mail)

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