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Ped/Bike/Transit Bridge or Tunnel to Toronto Island?

W. K. Lis

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A bridge too far? The case for a pedestrian, cyclist link to Toronto Island
It shouldn't be this hard to access the city’s best public space.

From link.

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When people ask me were they should go on these hot, hazy summer days in Toronto, I do two things.

First, I tell them to go to Toronto Island.

Then I give them a list of things they need to do to ensure their experience getting there isn’t miserable.

That list includes always buying tickets for the Island ferry in advance. If you do – either online or in bulk – you can skip the long and disorganized ticket sale lines and head right to the cage-like waiting area.

Once inside, get on the first ferry that shows up. Don’t even read the destination sign. All three ferries go to nice places and if you bring a bike – did I mention you should bring a bike? – you’re only a quick ride away from all destinations on the island-side.

Got it? Good. Trust me, once you perfect the strategy, it’s not as painful as it looks.

Still, there are moments every summer when I start to wonder why Toronto residents put up with this. Why is it so hard for the public to access the city’s best public space?

Which inevitably leads me to this question: why not build a bridge?

I’m not talking about a big, concrete span serving cars. Instead, I’m referring to an elegantly-designed lift bridge for pedestrians and cyclists spanning the 300-metre gap between the Cherry Beach area and Ward’s Island.

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Liz Beddall/Metro

I’m nowhere near the first person to suggest this. In 2004, at the request of the Globe & Mail, architecture firm Montgomery Sisam drew up a cool design for just such a bridge. In 2012, Urban Planner Astrid Idlewild wrote a blog post outlining a strong rationale for the link – also citing improved access for emergency services.

Of course, the bridge idea also has its share of detractors. Since bringing this notion up, I’ve heard from Island enthusiasts who aren’t feeling the need for a bridge.

Their reasons include issues with port security, challenges with marine traffic, the fact that cottagey Ward’s Island probably isn’t the ideal access point, and a concern that a fixed link to the mainland might fundamentally change the Island experience – and not for the better.

Maybe they’re right, and maybe there’s a chance a bridge isn’t necessary. City hall is in the process of ordering new ferries, needed to handle growing crowds, while Waterfront Toronto is developing a new design for the ferry terminal. Done right, those could work to improve access.

But I’m skeptical that these status quo improvements will change the Island-going experience enough.

I want to dispense with my need to give visitors a long list of tips to avoid miserable lines and interminable waits. To really fix that, a bridge might be the only thing that goes far enough.
 

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muller877

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MisterF

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I'm more in favour of having a LRT line. Single tracked with a lift bridge over the Gap. Not enough people use this precious parkland. Open it up to everyone and we don't need little parkettes downtown Toronto that will cost a fortune to buy the land and it is only used as an expensive litter box for animals.
Those little parkettes are largely paid for by developers. Every condo tower and other new development either builds a park or, far more frequently, contributes cash in lieu of parkland to the city. That cash is used exclusively for parks and it amounts to tens of millions of dollars.

I think that easier access to the islands is a great idea though.
 

muller877

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Those little parkettes are largely paid for by developers. Every condo tower and other new development either builds a park or, far more frequently, contributes cash in lieu of parkland to the city. That cash is used exclusively for parks and it amounts to tens of millions of dollars.

I think that easier access to the islands is a great idea though.

First lets look at cost. We know a tunnel costs $85M (Island Airport) so if a bridge is more than that...we get a tunnel. The ferry docks could be sold....based on the LCBO lands I'm guessing $50M (a building on the western edge of the site with a small ferry terminal on the eastern edge due to the location of the Westin). Net cost is $35M. The opex savings of converting from a ferry to a bus should cover the additional capital cost (in 2013 the ferry had revenue of $7M with income of $2M...bus service should cost less to run than ferry's)

And you get pedestrian access/bike access...but it needs to have a toll to cover costs (and pay for the capital outlay). Say a token to use the bus (TTC can run it directly from Union...Ferry subsidizes the cost). Then the toll for everyone (bus/bike/walk) would be 2 tokens ($5.60). (current ferry cost is $7.50 so depending if you are already on the TTC or walking directly it would be either cheaper or more expensive)

Then voila...we have bike access to the island without spending Section 37 money (plus emergency egress from the island for residents).

Then we need the Section 37 money to convert it from bus service to streetcar service (at least on the island). Once you're on the island we need to get everyone dispersed throughout the park. I'm thinking of a heritage trolley on the Island/through the tunnel vs a full blown LRT (but of course compatible). Since there are no/very few issues with utilities it should be very cost effective to build (and no residents to gold plate everything). Say $8M/mile including heritage cars (single tracked with a double platform at the Centre Island Pier). It's a 4 mile distance so $32M

This can be run privately to avoid TTC bungling of capital builds and avoiding costly union agreements. You can have a loop at Cherry street on the mainland and it goes all the way to Hanlan's island for the beaches. Not a fast car...a tourist trolley (eventually LRT may be extended to the end of Cherry street so a natural place to put the fare gates for those getting on the streetcar)

Now can Section 37 be used for this?

It's a fairly long list of what Section 37 can be used for. The main limitations are (1) capital in nature and (2) available for use within the neighbourhood
http://www1.toronto.ca/City Of Toro...mentation-Guidelines-Negotiation-Protocol.pdf

Note that it is not limited by Ward but by neigbourhood (but most councillor's try to make it ward specific so they get credit for it next election cycle). Look at the current park expropriation discussions...the Section 37 funding is coming from the entire ward. Frankly if i'm in a condo at King & Brant will I use a parkette in the entertainment district? No. I'd use the Island though.

A bridge link to the Island and LRT tracks would fit into the Section 37 funding criteria for capital development (Parks can own the bridge/tracks and have a 3rd party operate them).

It's a question if it will improve the neighbourhood. I would argue that south of Queen street it would for both Wards 20 and 28. Ward 19 is building a new park plus any additional funds could be used for the new park at Ontario Place.

(at least it would improve it more than a parkette that's greater than 2 blocks away)
 

P23

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LRT is overkill I think. Just a small pedestrian/bike bridge with a path to the Cherry Beach roundabout would be great. It would make the islands accessible for everyone. I'm sure most people don't even consider it, but the $6/person cost does actually prevent some lower income people, especially families, from visiting the islands. They should be available to everyone in the city.
 

W. K. Lis

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The bicycle/pedestrian bridge (or tunnel) would probably have to be built strong enough to support and handle a fire truck or garbage truck at a time. There is a fire station (#335) on the island, but for maintenance or extra alarm fires, it would be simpler to just to drive them over.
 

MisterF

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First lets look at cost. We know a tunnel costs $85M (Island Airport) so if a bridge is more than that...we get a tunnel. The ferry docks could be sold....based on the LCBO lands I'm guessing $50M (a building on the western edge of the site with a small ferry terminal on the eastern edge due to the location of the Westin). Net cost is $35M. The opex savings of converting from a ferry to a bus should cover the additional capital cost (in 2013 the ferry had revenue of $7M with income of $2M...bus service should cost less to run than ferry's)

And you get pedestrian access/bike access...but it needs to have a toll to cover costs (and pay for the capital outlay). Say a token to use the bus (TTC can run it directly from Union...Ferry subsidizes the cost). Then the toll for everyone (bus/bike/walk) would be 2 tokens ($5.60). (current ferry cost is $7.50 so depending if you are already on the TTC or walking directly it would be either cheaper or more expensive)

Then voila...we have bike access to the island without spending Section 37 money (plus emergency egress from the island for residents).

Then we need the Section 37 money to convert it from bus service to streetcar service (at least on the island). Once you're on the island we need to get everyone dispersed throughout the park. I'm thinking of a heritage trolley on the Island/through the tunnel vs a full blown LRT (but of course compatible). Since there are no/very few issues with utilities it should be very cost effective to build (and no residents to gold plate everything). Say $8M/mile including heritage cars (single tracked with a double platform at the Centre Island Pier). It's a 4 mile distance so $32M

This can be run privately to avoid TTC bungling of capital builds and avoiding costly union agreements. You can have a loop at Cherry street on the mainland and it goes all the way to Hanlan's island for the beaches. Not a fast car...a tourist trolley (eventually LRT may be extended to the end of Cherry street so a natural place to put the fare gates for those getting on the streetcar)

Now can Section 37 be used for this?

It's a fairly long list of what Section 37 can be used for. The main limitations are (1) capital in nature and (2) available for use within the neighbourhood
http://www1.toronto.ca/City Of Toronto/City Planning/SIPA/Files/pdf/S/s37-Implementation-Guidelines-Negotiation-Protocol.pdf

Note that it is not limited by Ward but by neigbourhood (but most councillor's try to make it ward specific so they get credit for it next election cycle). Look at the current park expropriation discussions...the Section 37 funding is coming from the entire ward. Frankly if i'm in a condo at King & Brant will I use a parkette in the entertainment district? No. I'd use the Island though.

A bridge link to the Island and LRT tracks would fit into the Section 37 funding criteria for capital development (Parks can own the bridge/tracks and have a 3rd party operate them).

It's a question if it will improve the neighbourhood. I would argue that south of Queen street it would for both Wards 20 and 28. Ward 19 is building a new park plus any additional funds could be used for the new park at Ontario Place.

(at least it would improve it more than a parkette that's greater than 2 blocks away)
I didn't read your whole post, but cash in lieu of parkland has nothing to do with Section 37. Section 37 deals with increased height or density in exchange for money for public facilities. Section 42 enables the city to take a percentage of the land or land value for parks. Section 37 is for bonusing while Section 42 deals with all developments. Often both are taken.
 

Admiral Beez

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One of the best things about the Islands is the effort in getting there. If there was a bridge or tunnel, especially one with zero cost, the islands would be packed with thousands of people from all across the GTA, including that IMO bane of all parks, the massive multi-generational extended family BBQ. Yes, this is my Wasp heritage coming in, I know, I can't help it, IMO public parks are for walking, exercise, companionship and reflection - just my opinion. By restricting access to those who have both the time and the means to take the ferry, the islands are less crowded and thus more enjoyable for all who make the effort.
 

P23

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It's not exactly easy to make it out to the Eastern Gap, in fact it would probably take the same amount of time or longer than the ferry depending on where you start from and your method of transportation. If you want a serene park with nobody around the ravines are often a good choice, or make your way out to Rouge park which has it's own time investment.
 

AlvinofDiaspar

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One of the best things about the Islands is the effort in getting there. If there was a bridge or tunnel, especially one with zero cost, the islands would be packed with thousands of people from all across the GTA, including that IMO bane of all parks, the massive multi-generational extended family BBQ. Yes, this is my Wasp heritage coming in, I know, I can't help it, IMO public parks are for walking, exercise, companionship and reflection - just my opinion. By restricting access to those who have both the time and the means to take the ferry, the islands are less crowded and thus more enjoyable for all who make the effort.

Easy - the Island is a fairly large space - properly design it so that you can accommodate passive, individual uses as well as group activities. Ultimately one should be able to get to any point along the waterfront and be able to access the Islands as part of a giant linear park space.

AoD
 

gweed123

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I'd like to see a gondola built directly from Union to Centre Island. The height can be flexible, with one section higher to allow for ships to pass under, and another section lower to not interfere with the Billy Bishop flight path.

A direct, frequent link with relatively little infrastructure requirements aside from two terminals at either end and some pilings in the lake.

It would also provide one of the best views of Toronto anywhere, and would be a tourist attraction unto itself.
 

muller877

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One of the best things about the Islands is the effort in getting there. If there was a bridge or tunnel, especially one with zero cost, the islands would be packed with thousands of people from all across the GTA, including that IMO bane of all parks, the massive multi-generational extended family BBQ. Yes, this is my Wasp heritage coming in, I know, I can't help it, IMO public parks are for walking, exercise, companionship and reflection - just my opinion. By restricting access to those who have both the time and the means to take the ferry, the islands are less crowded and thus more enjoyable for all who make the effort.

I agree it shouldn't be zero cost. We need to fund it somehow. Either charge the $5 to get on the island or nickel and dime people for services on the island (bathrooms, fire pits, a chair on the beach, etc).

I think the difference is not WASP or not...it's do you have a back yard or not. If you have a back yard (or your parents do) it makes total sense to have your family BBQ at home. But when your entire family (and friends) live in apartments and condos a park is the only place left for a large gathering (and connecting with nature if you also do not have a car). The Island is a huge area that is very accessible by those in apartments and condos...and we should make it more accessible. We are becoming more urban and need these spaces to connect with family & friends.

And we need to create the ability to spread them throughout the island. That's why I think there should be a trolley service to allow for every one of these huge groups to find a great place for a BBQ or whatever they want to do.
 

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