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Visitors to Toronto Islands should have ‘fixed link’ option: councillor

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WATCH: Toronto plans ahead for next 25 years of Toronto Island Park – Jun 25, 2024

Visitors heading to the Toronto Islands should have the option of a “fixed link,” one councillor says.

Don Valley East Coun. Jon Burnside is asking city staff to look into the option of a fixed link – like a pedestrian bridge – to the islands in Lake Ontario.

Right now, visitors can only get there by boat — and with the city’s ferry service under strain, Burnside said staff should report back on the price tag of such an option when compared to the cost of continued ferry service.

“The city is in the process of replacing those ferries, but the costs have skyrocketed,” Burnside said in a member motion to council.

“Torontonians value their parks and greenspace but were recently told not to visit the islands due to excessive demands on the ferries.”

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2 ferries out of service forced city to issue warning

On June 15, the city issued a warning to travellers to avoid high-traffic periods to the islands as a pair of ferries were out of action for repairs.

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Two of the city’s ferries – Thomas Rennie and the Trillium – were not operating, and are not expected to be back in service for at least a couple of weeks.

The ferry takes people back to the city from Toronto Island across from the CN Tower and the Toronto skyline on Lake Ontario, Sept. 14, 2023. Valerie Macon/AFP via Getty Images

Instead, city officials suggested using water taxis — a private service — or choosing another day to visit the islands. It also advises visitors catch a ferry before 10 a.m., and returning to the mainland no later than 5:30 p.m.

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Toronto’s ferry fleet carries more than 1.4 million passengers annually and is an “essential service to Toronto Island residents and visitors,” the city said on its website.

“Although well-maintained, the current ferries are between 50 to 100 years old and beyond the average industry lifespan,” it added.

Toronto is in the midst of planning to replace its diesel-powered fleet with electric vessels, but it’s not expected to be completed until 2026.

Ex-council candidate proposed bridge

April Engelberg, an advocate for a bridge, proposed the idea when running for the Spadina-Fort York council seat in 2022. Ausma Malik was eventually elected to represent the area.

Engelberg pitched a lift bridge to connect the city’s Port Lands with the eastern edge of Ward’s Island — a 15-minute bike ride from the Jack Layton Ferry Terminal, she said.

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Click to play video: 'Council candidate proposes bridge connecting Toronto with island park'
Council candidate proposes bridge connecting Toronto with island park

The lift bridge, similar to one in Manchester, England, would raise to allow cargo ships into the harbour, while providing regular access to the islands for pedestrians and cyclists, Engelberg said at the time.

Burnside is requesting a report include the number of pedestrians and cyclists that could be accommodated year-round, and report to the infrastructure and environment committee before the city’s standing committee or council considers the next ferry procurement contract.

His ask will be considered by city council at its June 26 meeting.

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