January 29, 2016

Twelve Days of Bicycles - Eleven Trails Ablazing

UPDATE (2016/02/09): This post has also been featured in Dandyhorse, which can be viewed at this link.

Until February 15, 2016, stakeholders of the West Toronto Railpath Extension have the opportunity to comment on the Environmental Study Report (ESR). Hard copies of the report exceeding 400 pages (including appendices) can be read at the Parkdale, College-Shaw, and Fort York Libraries, while an online version is also available at http://www.toronto.ca/westrailpath. The West Toronto Railpath is a multi-use path popular with west-end residents which goes along the Kitchener GO corridor from Cariboo Street to the current terminus of Dundas Street West. This first phase was completed in 2008 and won an urban design award in 2011.
Existing West Toronto Railpath next to Kitchener GO Line
As part of the recommendations from the 2012 Bikeway Trails Implementation Plan, an environmental assessment for extending the West Toronto Railpath – first identified as a trail candidate in 1998 – was launched. The EA had the study area split into the following three sections:
  • North (bridges required at Dundas Street West and Lansdowne Avenue)
  • Centre (from Lansdowne Avenue to Dufferin Street)
  • South (from Dufferin Street to the future Fort York Pedestrian & Cycling Bridge)
Railpath Extension Study Area (Page 3 of Section 1)
 Three key goals were set for this EA. These include the development of a high quality active transportation facility with the “dream trail” following as closely to the Kitchener GO line as possible, connecting communities along the corridor from the Junction to Liberty Village, and connecting with future active transportation projects such as the following:
Existing & Planned Cycling Infrastructure (Page 2 of Section 4)
The West Toronto Railpath’s second role as a linear park addresses the issue of Toronto’s west end having the lowest amount of parkland per capita in the city. This is in spite of several large parks in proximity such as Trinity Bellwoods Park and Sorauren Avenue Park; the latter of which has been the focus of a potential bridge to connect with the Railpath.
Parkland per Capita (Page 7 of Section 5)
The consultation process consisted of three public meetings each attended by 80-110 people, as well as two stakeholder workshops. These involved the City of Toronto, Province of Ontario, Metrolinx, and external stakeholders such as the Cycle Toronto and Friends of the West Toronto Railpath. Communication was also done with aboriginal communities such as the Mississaugas of New Credit in the event archaeologists identified ancestral burial sites.
Preferred Alignment of Railpath Extension (Page 14 of Section 7)
The recommended alignment is to build the “dream trail” adjacent to the Kitchener GO line from Dundas Street West to Abell Street; southeast of the Queen-Dufferin intersection. Given the lack of land south of Queen Street and the number of concerns raised at Public Meeting #3 such as sharrows, trees, and parking (link to Dandyhorse article about the meeting); no recommendation was made south of Abell Street and the EA mentioned further study would be needed.

The cost of the extension per Section 8 of the report is approximately $22.8 million including a 20% contingency for cost overruns and 5% for public art and urban design features. Of the expenditures, crossing the Barrie GO line is reported to be the most expensive covering almost a third of the total cost ($7.3 million).
Hard copy of Railpath Extension Environmental Assessment
Those wishing to comment on the environmental assessment are encouraged to contact Maogosha Pyjor with the city’s Public Consultation Unit by phone at (416) 338 2850 or e-mail at mpyjor@toronto.ca.

Blaze away!
Rob Z (e-mail)

2 comments:

  1. In some ways, this project (if done) is a sell-out of urban cyclists in the west end. The City is very happy to spend big on off-road paths, and they're really fine sometimes, but it's given a great imbalance to what we've done of the Bike Plan, which was deficient in providing safety for west-end cyclists to begin with.

    Rather than having the millions perhaps be spent here, where are the safe E/W connections? Urban cyclists that wish to commute, and also relieve transit, are often doing more direct routes, though yes, absolutely some commutes use the Rail Trail, and it's good sure, but as always, then what?? when it ends or one needs to get on to the road.

    There's also some doubt - and I'd love to be wrong - that the Smart Track and RER will be placing such demands for train/transit on this adjacent rail corridor that the Rail Trail will get munched for more rails. As this is all a fluxed up situation, it's unwise to be sucked into thinking this is all going to happen and it will be the greatest thing for the west end. Let's ensure the on-road safety happens first in at least two direct, connected, safe corridors ahead of more off-road, though yes, sure, it'd be nice.

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    1. While I agree there needs to be more east-west connections (especially Queen west of the Railpath extension), I disagree about the Railpath being a sell out to west end cyclists. The extension, if done right along with the appropriate connecting routes, can act as a natural extension of the Richmond-Adelaide cycle tracks; providing a safe route from the Junction to Downtown. There is a role to play for both multi-use paths and on-street bike lanes in this city.

      Getting the Bloor pilot project extended west to Parkside/Keele as soon as possible will also help with east-west connectivity, and I hope it goes all the way to Six Points per the draft bike plan. Last, but not least, the sharrows on College from Manning to Brock need to be replaced with proper bike lanes as soon as possible; along with adding bike lanes from Brock to Dundas and then extending Dundas from Sorauren to Dupont.

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