I am rewriting the chapter “City Travels with Mom” in my memoir and it got me thinking about construction for public transit then and now. Here is an excerpt from my memoir about construction for the first subway line in Toronto.
During the first line, the Yonge-to-Eglinton subway’s building phase, Mom and I would emerge from Eaton’s or Simpson’s department stores at Queen and Yonge Streets into a deconstructive mess. Yonge Street had become the big Toronto dig, with the construction crews using the “cut and cover” method of tunnelling sections at a time, digging by hand and leaving heavy timber coverings supported by “steel cross members” for walkways. In winter, the Queen and Yonge corner was snow, slosh, mud and cold. (excerpted from You Can Go Home – Digging up the Dirt, ©2014 Sharon A. Crawford).
What a difference from today. This summer Toronto is experiencing the worst constructive mess and milieu in my lifetime. Just for public transit alone, there is a big LRT (much of it underground) being built in the northern part of the city. Although it is necessary to get the people in this overloaded city moving, the actual construction is causing problems. The tunnelling method is different (see http://urbantoronto.ca/news/2014/04/construction-progressing-eglinton-crosstown-lrt), but intersections where it is occurring have slowdowns and stoppages of some sort happening. This drives motorists into residential areas and may be partly to blame for the death of a seven-year-old girl hit by a car in one of these residential areas.
Toronto Transit (TTC) is also bringing in new streamlined streetcars which I hate. I’ve posted about this before. The first of these streetcars go on the Spadina Ave. line August 31, so now we get intersections completely closed for upgrades to the tracks. The TTC has removed the old streetcars and temporarily put on buses.
Then there is the construction further downtown on Front St. and Queen’s Quay. On Front St. it is the renovation of Union Station – both the choo-train part and a new subway train station underground. Both, especially the subway train station with its so narrow platforms, were needed and at least it is being done in stages. But what convoluted passageways for pedestrians – lots of outside stairs up and down to get to streets. And the street itself for one long block is completely closed to traffic – there are a couple of make-shift crossways from Union Station to the Royal York Hotel across Front Street. Maybe I should be thankful I’m travelling by bus leaving for my holidays but am returning by train, late at night, so will have to check out the latest walk-around for then so I can get to the subway without problems to come home.
Queen’s Quay is being changed to more of a pedestrian-friendly walkway with fewer lanes for vehicles. Despite the stairs business outside Union Station, this Queen’s Quay issue is much more of a nuisance and as far as I’m concerned bad for the tourist industry last year and this year as Harbourfront Centre and all its summer activities go on there now. I went down once this summer and that may be it – just because of all the construction. It was so bad there was a cop directing pedestrian traffic in the middle of the blocked-off street. At that point, vehicles weren’t allowed. The buses (again temporarily replacing streetcars) have their routes fractured. You literally have to get the bus going west at one end of the closed block and the bus going east at the other end and never the two shall meet. I decided I could do better with the 10-minute or so walk from Union Station (even with all its stairs at one end and crossing the pseudo-highways – with lights – near the other end). Some people have found their own way through this Queen’s Quay mess rather than the marked off ones. And I don’t blame them.
And into this milieu is the Gardner Expressway – an up-high overhead expressway built over 50 years ago and now crumbling. That end of the Gardner near Union Station and Queen’s Quay is also going through construction
Many of these updates/upgrades renovations are for the PanAm Games coming to Toronto in July 2014. With all due respect to the games, this pre-construction is driving us all nuts. And I don’t mean just motorists but also pedestrians and cyclists.
I suppose this is all due to our over-expanding city (people-wise and condo-wise – many built and being built in…you guessed it…downtown Toronto).
No wonder I relish my little corner of Toronto, especially out in my garden (when the rain isn’t falling down, but that’s another story). You can actually see a few butterflies and hear the birds sing. Of course, we also get racoons and squirrels…
Sharon A. Crawford
Only Child Writes