In February Metrolinx submitted its reservations regarding the Front Street Environmental Assessment in front of Union Station which excluded any specific bicycle infrastructure. Yet the City chose to ignore it when making its decision at City Council. Cycle Toronto has asked the City and Province to rethink Front Street (as well as John and Jarvis).
Metrolinx's letter, however, didn't seem to have much affect on City Council's decision on Front Street. City Council did not delay the decision even though the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee had asked staff to consider changes to the plan. Staff came back with nothing, claiming to be unable to arrange the appropriate meetings. It's not clear if they knew about the Metrolinx letter. The Front Street EA went to City Council with no input on improvements for cyclists.
It's strange that Metrolinx, the provincial transit authority, seemed to have no effect on City Council's decision. Metrolinx is clearly concerned that the EA had ignored Metrolinx's key "mobility hub" objectives, prioritizing pedestrian and bicycle access to transit stations. Union Station is the largest and most important of hubs and close to some of the highest mode shares for walking and cycling in Ontario. The Metrolinx letter, written by Leslie Woo, Vice President of Policy, Planning and Innovation:
As the busiest transportation hub in Canada, Union Station plays a critical role in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area rapid transit network, serving more than 200,000 passengers daily. Planning for the station and surrounding area should reflect this importance, and emphasize seamless integration of all modes of transportation.
In 2011, Metrolinx released Mobility Hub Guidelines to clearly communicate the mobility hub concept and provide guidance on developing mobility hub plans and incorporating mobility hub objectives into other planning activities, including environmental assessments. A key objective of the Mobility Hub Guidelines is to prioritize pedestrian and bicycle access to stations, including the provision of a range of bicycle parking options and bicycle sharing in proximity to station entrances.
It is encouraging to see an emphasis in the EA on pedestrian priority and safety; however, I would encourage the City to consider this opportunity to concurrently improve access to Union Station for cyclists. In particular, the preferred concept identified through the EA provides minimal dedicated on-road space for cyclists. With the introduction of a greater number of taxi and loading zones, there may be a greater number of points of conflict between cyclists, pedestrians, and motorized vehicles. On Front Street, the consideration of on-street bike lanes or dedicated cycling facilities may help to reduce conflicts, especially in high activity areas, such as adjacent to taxi stands and loading zones.
I understand that BIXI station locations are currently planned for the north-east corner of Front and Bay Streets and the north-west corner of Front and York Streets. These stations are relatively far from station entrances, and do not provide clear and short connections for Union Station customers using BIXI. Providing additional BIXI bicycles in the plaza directly in front of Union Station would provide better access and visibility, creating a seamless connection between transit and bicycle sharing. In addition, the City should consider providing more bike parking directly adjacent to the station building itself and its entrances. Locating additional post-and-ring facilities on the north side of Front Street does not provide bicycle parking close to station entrances, and reduces convenience to station users arriving by bicycle.
I would like to comment the City for their work through this environmental assessment to improve pedestrian access to Union Station. The suggestions offered here provide greater consideration for cyclists using the station, and to provide more balanced access to the station by a wider variety of modes. Thank you for your consideration of these suggestions.