Ontario Announces Toronto Subway Plan

On April 10, 2019, Premier Doug Ford announced his government’s intentions to expand transit in Toronto. The plan includes:

  • The “Ontario Line”, a rebranded and extended version of the Relief Line, will run from Don Mills and Eglinton to Ontario Place.
  • The Yonge North Extension from Finch Station to Richmond Hill Centre
  • The three-stop version of the Scarborough Subway Extension from Kennedy Station to Sheppard with stops at Lawrence East and Scarborough Town Centre
  • Extension of the Sheppard Subway east from Don Mills Station to connect with the SSE at McCowan and Sheppard
  • Extension of the Eglinton Crosstown west from Mount Dennis to Pearson Airport

Ontario Line

Although the technical details are still vague, it is clear that this route would be built with smaller trains than Toronto’s subway cars, something more like the “Canada Line” in Vancouver. This would allow a smaller tunnel diameter and less intrusive structures for any portion built above grade.

The route appears to follow, more or less, the proposed Relief Line South between Pape and Osgoode Stations, although from Gerrard to East Harbour better matches the rail corridor on the map.

A northern section will go to Don Mills and Eglinton (Science Centre Station on the Crosstown) providing service to Thorncliffe and Flemingdon Parks enroute. This settles the route selection issue for that segment which has been moribund with studies of many dubious alternatives since spring 2018.

To the west, the route will swing south to Ontario Place, although the alignment of this extension is unknown. Quite clearly this is part of the provincial scheme to make Ontario Place, and by extension the Exhibition grounds, a major transit accessible destination that does not depend on the existing GO/TTC links far from possible development at the Lake Shore. It is not clear how, or if, the Ontario Line would serve Liberty Village.

Despite questions by journalists, nobody seems to know, or be willing to say, exactly where the Ontario Line will go beyond its termini and a few intermediate points. This implies that a detailed route analysis has yet to be completed, let alone any consultation on the effects of the new alignment and technology. Some work already completed for the RL south might feed into the Ontario Line project, but a substantial portion is in areas where there is not even preliminary engineering.

The projected cost is $10.9 billion, about half again as much as the RL South, with an opening date in 2027. Daily ridership projections claim 400,000, but there is no breakdown of where these trips would occur. The projection is double what was expected on the RL South, but that is no surprise if the line provides direct access to Thorncliffe and Flemingdon Parks, can attract riders from 5 Crosstown, and possibly Liberty Village.

There is a huge difference between a route that is very peak oriented with a single primary destination such as most of the GO network and a route that will have strong bidirectional flow, many local origin-destination pairs, and a lot of off-peak demand. There is a direct analogy in the King car which carries huge numbers of daily riders, but between many points along the route and at various times of day. For example, 504 King carries 84,000 per day, but the peak point capacity inbound in the AM is only about 3,000 per hour. Most riders do not pass through that peak point. The Ontario line (as did the RL) has the potential to serve multiple demand patterns over the course of a day and hence get strong demand.

According to Metrolinx CEO Phil Verster, the Ontario Line is expected to divert 9,000 riders per hour during the peak at Bloor-Yonge Station. This is in the same ballpark as previous Metrolinx estimates in their review of the Yonge Street corridor.

An important part of any line with a new technology will be a servicing facility. The RL was intended to use Greenwood subway yard, but the Ontario Line will need its own site. Space for this will be tricky to find, and the location could affect the possibility of a staged opening rather than a “big bang” end-to-end service on day 1.

The government does itself no favours with such a vague announcement where basic questions such as route layout, possible stations and the technology could have been included even as examples.

Yonge Northern Extension to Richmond Hill

There is no “news” here beyond a provincial commitment to get this built, one it shared with the Wynne government. The design work is already nailed down, and all that is needed is for someone to say “go” and build it. The estimated cost is $5.6 billion.

This line is intended to open “soon after the Ontario Line” according to the Premier’s press release.

Scarborough and Sheppard Subway Extensions

To nobody’s surprise, Premier Ford announced a three-stop version of the subway with stations at Lawrence East, Scarborough Town Centre and Sheppard (although the station is named McCowan in anticipation of a future Sheppard Subway extension). The cost will be $5.5 billion, much above original estimates for the subway with an opening date “before 2030” compared to the hoped-for 2026 opening under current TTC plans.

A Sheppard subway from Don Mills east to McCowan will be studied with the intention of creating a “loop” route where Line 2 trains would end up back at Yonge Street by way of Scarborough. Ford plans to begin construction on this after the Scarborough extension opens, but this is more a political bone to Sheppard advocates than a real commitment being a decade in the future.

Notable by its absence is any reference to the western extension of Line 4 Sheppard to Downsview.

The proposed Scarborough Subway will trigger many other decisions/discussions among whoever is planning future capital works on the TTC.

  • Transportation Minister Yurek has repeatedly been quite dismissive of “outdated” technology on Line 2 Bloor-Danforth. What he is really talking about is manual train control, block signalling, and trains that have lost some of their lustre even though they are only half-way through their lifespan. Current TTC plans call for the SSE to be built on this technology with Automatic Train Control coming at a later date as a retrofit. Existing trains would be refurbished to last into the mid 2030s rather than being replaced with new trains in the mid-2020s. These plans may no longer be viable, and if so, the TTC’s capital plans (and by extension, provincial capital requirements as the would-be owner of the subway) must change.
  • A new fleet needs a new yard, and the decision to refurbish existing trains postpones the start date on construction of a planned maintenance shops and yard near Kipling Station. This project will have to be revived if there are to be new cars.
  • The TTC plans to keep the SRT running until 2026, and they are not entirely sure this is possible. If the extension will not open until 2030, how much longer can the RT be kept operational?
  • Will the construction phasing of the extension be such that it could open at least to STC earlier than 2030 so that the RT can be retired?

With the new opening date for an SSE, Scarborough transit users face close to a decade of continued rides on buses before those whose trips the subway serves will have better transit. Should the RT give up the ghost before the subway replaces it, the tedium of bus journeys will be even worse.

Eglinton West Extension to Pearson Airport

The province will build the Crosstown extension with much of it underground at a cost of $4.7 billion and an opening date of 2031.

The announcement did not get into details, but recent City studies show that the main problem with road congestion lies from Martin Grove east to Royal York where traffic that would have fed into the unbuilt Richview Expressway instead lands on Eglinton Avenue. This is a problem independent of the LRT, however it might be built.

The Financing

Although the total package of subway and LRT projects totals $28.5 billion, the Premier’s press release says:

The province will invest $11.2 billion to support these four rapid transit projects. This funding over-delivers on the government’s commitment to put $5 billion into subway extensions.

That is about 40% of the total. Ford expects contributions from the federal government and from the affected municipalities, Toronto, York and Mississauga.

As things now stand, there is $4.897 billion of federal PTIF2 money earmarked for Toronto. Of this, the City proposes to spend $3.811 billion on the Scarborough Subway and the Relief Line. Given that PTIF2 is supposed to have a three-way split among governments, it is unclear whether Ontario plans to put in its share to match the federal money in the Bloor-Yonge Expansion and SmartTrack Stations projects.

There would also be some PTIF2 money coming to York and Mississauga, but it is unclear whether Ford hopes to scoop some of this as contributions to the Richmond Hill and Pearson projects.

The City of Toronto has not confirmed how much is expected of it, but a figure of about 20% would fit with a 40-40-20 provincial-federal-municipal split. That puts $5.7 billion on the municipal tab, with most being due to Toronto.

During his announcement, Premier Ford went on at length about the dysfunctional nature of City Hall and claimed that they approve projects without knowing how to pay for them. More accurately, Council goes to great lengths to fit their spending within financial plans even though municipal megaprojects like the Scarborough Subway and the Gardiner Expressway hoover up all available money. Ford takes the line that “we can get it done” because of the much less constrained resources available to the province.

Ford asks why Ontario should spend money on projects that they would not own, a practice common for decades. Equally, Toronto could ask why it should pay to support provincial plans. Either way, both parties are stuck with a problem that is as much about accounting as it is about getting projects built. The real challenge for Toronto is that Ontario is in the position to say “we are building gazebos”, and if Toronto doesn’t like it, there are plenty of ways for Ontario to claw back a “Toronto share” from other programs. Toronto has no such luxury to force provincial participation.

Both Toronto and Ontario would borrow, probably on a 30-year term, for long-lived capital works like a new subway. The difference for Toronto is that they must offset this with revenue to preserve their good credit rating and pay down the debt over that period. For Ontario the debt disappears into a general pool which is offset by the asset, the subway itself, and in the end might simply be rolled over again like a credit card holder who only ever pays the interest. Minister Yurek says that Ontario’s Auditor General has confirmed that the government can use Ontario’s balance sheet to underwrite transit borrowing. This type of creative accounting goes back at least to Dalton McGuinty’s era as Premier when he took over Transit City claiming that only with provincial ownership could they make the books come out right. Ford is following a well-worn path.

The province will “upload” subway infrastructure and will take responsibility for life cycle maintenance. As I have written before, that’s an expensive proposition compounded by the years of hiding critical needs out of sight to avoid overloading the city’s debt projections. Transportation Minister Jeff Yurek was happy to slag the TTC saying that riders know subway technology is outdated and much-needed maintenance has been put off too long. He said nothing about how this would be fixed or how much Ontario would contribute to bringing the TTC up to the standard he thinks it should meet.

The obvious challenge is that if times change, especially before heavy construction and associated spending kick in, there is no guarantee that any of this will happen. Another government or another Premier may be unwilling to keep borrowing against provincial assets forever. That is, after all, a core Conservative criticism of Liberal fiscal policy.

The Wallflowers: Eglinton East and Waterfront

Completely absent from the announcement was any mention of the Eglinton East or Waterfront LRT projects, and these appear doomed unless Toronto, possibly with help from Ottawa, takes them on.

Eglinton East was part of the grand deal sold to Council when it backed the Scarborough Subway option, but we now know that it was never going to be built within the funding earmarked for the subway. The Waterfront has very strong growth rivaling anything in the suburbs, but very little transit. Toronto talks a good line on “transit first”, but never quite gets around to building lines to serve major developments.

According to a Tweet by the Star’s David Rider, Mayor Tory will ask staff to accelerate planning work on these projects. Toronto is good at studies, but the crunch comes when we have to pay for construction.

Spin, Spin, Spin

Not content to simply announce a pile of good transit news, Premier Ford and his ministers could not help adding spin to their presentations.

Ford talked of the TTC as a “critical service” and noted that 40,000 people transfer from GO to the TTC every day. (That’s actually 80,000 trips as they go back home in the evening.) This may be impressive as the crowds at Union will show, but it is a small drop in the bucket of regional travel.

Congestion and red tape at City Hall have prevented decisions on transit expansion, claimed Ford, but in the end he admitted that the City’s problem is that it does not have the money to do everything that is needed. Some of this, of course, arises from the anti-tax crusade Ford helped to run in his days on Council, and some from the province’s failure to return to the Davis-era funding formula for capital maintenance. The federal government is a latecomer to the table on transit funding with a share of the gas tax, but much more is needed. PTIF and PTIF2 help, but they have limitations and will expire.

Infrastructure Minister Monte McNaughton talked about the P3 model (Public Private Partnerships) which his Ministry is happy to push through its agency Infrastructure Ontario. McNaughton misrepresented delays on the Sheppard and Spadina Extension projects as showing that the TTC could not build on time or on budget when there are specific, well documented reasons for the problems these projects ran into. Many of them arose from political interference. His pitch was the standard “the province does it better” line that ignores cock-ups like Presto, the UPX and poor decisions on GO Transit facilities including Union Station.

What we will not know, because it will hide under a veil of “commercial confidentiality”, is just how big a premium Ontario will pay to P3 proponents for the “risk” that they will assume, nor are we likely to know whether the contracts cover our every desire, or leave important facets of projects to the dreaded “change order” and its profit margins.

The province hopes for development agreements to offset some construction costs, but their priority is to “get shovels in the ground”. This raises an obvious question: just how short will they come up on finding contributions to a very rich construction plan from the private sector? What will they give away in exchange? For example, it came out at a Metrolinx Board meeting on April 10 that Metrolinx sold air rights at Mimico Station to a nearby developer. This was part of a deal that appeared to give GO Transit a new, expanded station at no cost.

An intriguing comment came from Premier Ford in answer to a question about involvement by the City of Toronto. Ford claimed that there have been 21 meetings with the City Manager, staff and the Mayor’s Office on the uploading process. But how many, if any, of these dealt with the provincial plan? Recent correspondence between the provincial special advisor and Toronto showed that there was a poor understanding of existing city/TTC work by provincial bureaucrats. Meanwhile, Ford thinks all is happy with the City and the Mayor. Smiles all around.

Premier Ford claims that if needs be, Ontario will go it alone to get these transit projects started. This at least has the benefit of breaking the logjam because waiting for both City and federal buy-in could outlast Ford’s mandate. That said, Ontario’s deficit will figure prominently in the budget to be launched on April 11, and no end of cutbacks (or “efficiencies”) will be justified to bring that “under control”.

Ford cannot have it both ways – he risks turning into a big spender, or more likely a purveyor of big, unmet promises, just like all of his predecessors.

73 thoughts on “Ontario Announces Toronto Subway Plan

  1. Did I remember this incorrectly, but when Crosstown West was resurrected as part of “Smart Track”, wasn’t the idea to do it all at grade so that it could ideally open at the same time as original portion of Crosstown that is under construction, in 2021? It’s obviously too late for that now, but at grade construction would’ve allowed the western extension to open 2-3 years after the Crosstown gets running. Now with the Ford “bury all or most of it” plan, 2031 (10 years later!) is the proposed opening date. This is nonsense, there is plenty of room in that most congested part of Eglinton (Martin Grove to Royal York) to put in a surface LRT without taking away road lanes (not to mention road congestion will improve with the removal of the 32 bus from it). The people who want to bury the Crosstown in Etobicoke don’t care about transit, that much is obvious.

    As many others have commented, building the Relief Line using some kind of “light metro” technology seems very shortsighted. My impression here is that Ford wants to find the cheapest way to divert enough people from the Yonge line to make the Richmond Hill extension feasible (something that, in my opinion, should never be done). Extending subways to the suburbs and beyond the 416 is what seems to be his only interest. As for “new technology”, heck why don’t we add a third, special rail gauge to the system just for kicks. We can call it the “Ontario gauge”. Or do it on a monorail…powered by hydrogen. The sky is really the limit here.


  2. “Some of the press reporting hints that some of the cost-savings the Ford government thinks they can anticipate will come from being able to purchase cheaper narrow tunnel-boring machines because the tunnels will only have to be wide enough for narrower vehicles.”

    I suspect the benefit of narrow trains is that they can use one big tunnel to fit both directions, rather then two smaller ones.

    Steve: For the record, the TTC’s plans for Scarborough are one big tunnel holding two subway tracks side-by-side, although the RL is planned as twin tunnels. But yes, smaller trains would need a smaller tunnel.

    “The Ontario Line will never have ridership demand anything close to the Yonge Line and as such there is no need to waste money building something with the same capacity as the Yonge Line.”

    I bet people said that when they where planning the original Yonge line. We’ll see when the Relief line is extended to Markham.

    Steve: It has been fascinating to watch both sides in the “how many people will the RL carry” debate. There are some who want it built as LRT (maybe even with some street running!) even though the projected demand if it goes to Eglinton and points north would be a real stretch. There are others who say “build it big because we will need it”. Needless to say, very different demand estimates justify each position.

    I was once in the LRT camp, but that was before the massive growth of downtown pushed up the numbers. Moreover, the portion from (at least) O’Connor to downtown would all have to be in tunnel anyhow, and so it might as well be a “subway”.

    Eglinton was a very different situation in the Transit City plan with that tunnel through the middle of the line, but surface for almost everything else west of Mount Dennis and east of Leaside, and with projected demands very much in LRT territory.


  3. I just assumed that the Premier’s announcement came 10 days late.

    Steve: Hard to say if it’s an April Fool’s joke, or Groundhog Day with the same subway plans over and over and over.


  4. I like Greg Gormick’s choice of words regarding this plan – whiz bang. Although I believe that there is a lot more whiz than bang…..


  5. If the decision is now to deploy light metro style transit for the Ontario line to relieve the Yonge line why not consider running more of the route (south of Danforth) using the existing rail corridor (elevated or not) thorough Union Station and then westward. This would eliminate the high cost of tunneling under Queen, savings years of construction time and billions of dollars. One could also add stops just east of Yonge at Jarvis and west of Yonge at Spadina/Front to disperse some traffic away from Union Station too. The billions saved could be used for other transit projects too.

    Steve: There is no room in the rail corridor for another set of tracks. GO is having problems in some spots just fitting in tracks for their own planned improvements. Even an elevated structure requires columns, and they require space including lateral clearance from the rail lines.


  6. arcticredriver commented on a quote of mine (despite his mis-attribution): I did a couple of google searches, and couldn’t find anything online that said anything about the Ontario Line being five flights below ground.

    I should have been clearer about this in that the words were said several times on the air by hosts and callers to NewsTalk 1010.

    That said, there is a basis for this…

    Steve responded: Please see the drawings in my article about the station designs. They are generally speaking three levels down, not five.

    Generally, yes, but I specifically spoke of Gerrard Station which is in fact five levels below the street, as one can see in the link to the drawing elsewhere on this site. I also pointed out the misconception that by bridging the Don at Eastern was somehow seen as being able to eliminate a five-storey-deep tunnel, even though that would only be at and near Gerrard Station, and is for reasons related to the sewer infrastructure.

    Steve: Actually, Gerrard is only four levels down from street level by those drawings. The fifth level is one up to the SmartTrack station on the rail corridor.


  7. Andre wrote: … heck why don’t we add a third, special rail gauge to the system just for kicks. We can call it the “Ontario gauge”.

    That would have us come full circle! While not unique to Ontario, 5’6″ track gauge is known in North America as “Provincial Gauge” and at one time, a number of the railways in this province were built with that gauge. Of course, there goes the “smaller” aspect of his Ontario Line trains.


  8. The ultimate irony in Doug’s plan is the opposite to his comments. This is just another stop on the line to nowhere that Toronto has perfected. Among other things, it will probably put the relief line off by another decade, as the flaws reveal themselves and changes have to be made.

    So, why not buy some more streetcars plus [260], from THOSE guys, rebuild Coxwell’s missing tracks, and run alternate Kings and Queens to Danforth, on both Coxwell and Broadview, in rush hour. If I remember correctly, the Flexities can run in trains, which would cut down on congestion on Queen, east of the Don, and add to capacity. Of course, this would be a stop gap, but it’s much better than nothing. Nothing is what we will have, until 2050, if we continue to give into the bickering and thoughtless new plans that rule bigtime today and tomorrow, and tomorrow et al.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. It’s cool how all toronto transit plans, both real and Ford vaporware, copy the Transit City blueprint from 2007. It (plus DRL below Bloor) really mapped out Toronto’s transit future for a half century

    Maybe one day, in 2057, future premier Michael Ford will finally propose an underground, hydrogen powered Jane line completing transit city!


  10. Steve, thanks for directing my attention to your earlier article with the fabulous drawings of the Relief Line’s stations!

    The Doug Ford government seems to be claiming that the Province will be able to construct the Ontario Line at a lower cost per kilometre than the City could construct the Relief Line. This claim is partly based on using new, different, narrower rolling stock.

    Leaving aside the question of whether narrower rolling stock will have a long-term future cost, if it can’t supply the passenger capacity we will eventually need, what cost savings can be expected from designing for narrower vehicles?

    How much of this cost savings should be attributed to narrower vehicles requiring narrower tunnels that will require disposing of less excavated material? Is this a significant fraction of a tunnel’s total cost?

    Can a narrower tunnel boring machine turn faster, and thus bore its tunnel more quickly? Would this faster boring represent a significant fraction of a tunnel’s total cost?

    The Czeck Republic and Poland both operated some particularly narrow streetcars. They are kind of cute, also rather short. Looking at them it is clear that, if tall passengers are going to stand upright, even really narrow vehicles will require tunnels not much narrower than the tunnels we’ve used for our heavy rail.

    I think a further issue to bear in mind with narrow vehicles is that the narrower a vehicle is, less and less floor-space can be devoted to seats, or it will be difficult for passengers to make their way to the exits when it is time to get off.

    Steve: Tunnel boring costs are roughly proportional to the amount of material to be removed which goes up as the square of the diameter. This is also subject to the ground conditions through which the tunnel is built.


  11. Build the DRL/OL as an LRT as the demand does not justify a subway. Moreover, run it at grade or in a trench or elevated wherever possible. It might be even better to build the Yonge extension as an LRT starting from Finch with easy walk across the platform as a transfer which would be fully accessible much like what was originally proposed for Scarborough (Sheppard as well as for Bloor-Danforth).


  12. Regarding cost savings through narrower trains, it might be useful to note that a lot (probably the majority?) of the cost of a subway line is in stations. Making the tunnel marginally smaller is small change in comparison. Cut the station at Sumach and you’ll probably be ahead.

    Canada Line in Vancouver is standard third rail and the cars are 3 m wide by 3.6 m tall, compared to 3.1 m wide and 3.1 m tall for Toronto Rocket. Not much savings there. It was also mostly built cut-and-cover, to much local resentment. Rest of Vancouver rapid transit is, of course, SRT size. Canada Line trains are much _shorter_, 41 m with stations expandable to 50 or maybe 60 m, compared to 6×23 m for Toronto Rocket. But that’s very visible in its capacity.


  13. Jarek suggested dropping the station at Sumach. Sumach and King is a lightly used stop on the King streetcar now, but, in ten years, the new residential buildings in the Distillery and Canary districts could make it close to as dense, with as many riders, as Liberty City near King and Dufferin.

    The disadvantage of sprinkling stations every 500 metres, or adding a station every time there is a knot of density, is that it makes the entire route slightly slower. With the exception of the station that was retrofitted between Sheppard and Finch, all the stations on the Yonge Line, north of Eglinton, are about 2 kilometers apart. How much longer would it take to get from Union to Finch, if there was a station every 500 meters north of Eglinton?

    I would drop Sherbourne South/Moss Park station. I am not really familiar with the city, between Danforth and the Science Centre. Would I be right to happily save $600 million by sacrificing building stations at Flemingdon Park, Cosburn, and that other one?

    Steve: Flemingdon, Thorncliffe and Cosburn all serve high density development. In the case of Thorncliffe Park, the area is a bit of an island thanks to local geography. Also it has a large area in its northern half ripe for intensification. I highly recommend against planning for an area you don’t know. That tripped up Tory’s consultant on SmartTrack, as you might recall.

    I may be boringly repetitive with the suggestion that, not only should the DRL/Ontario Line go all the way to Sheppard, it might be better, all around, if it was the new route that went to Richmond Hill. If the route was frugal in how often it stopped, it might be able to get from downtown to Richmond Hill faster than by traveling on a train on the Yonge route, that had been extended to Richmond Hill, even though it takes a significantly longer path.

    If it is the DRL/Ontario Line that goes to Richmond Hill that would guarantee that subway riders boarding at Richmond Hill or 407 stations would not drive the Yonge Line beyond capacity.

    The Doug Ford government was prepared to buy distinctly new vehicles for the Ontario Line. Well, if the line went farther north, with long sections where we were frugal and didn’t place stations that would end up being lightly used, there would be sections where vehicles designed for higher speeds would have enough time to really get up to speed. Current generation subway vehicle seems to be designed with the idea that stations are close together, so they might as well have a modest maximum speed. Should vehicles chosen for routes with long sections with no stops should be designed to take advantage of those long sections?

    Steve: There is not much point in building a transit vehicle to operate above about 80kph which Toronto trains could do were it not for constraints of the signal system. There is also an issue with track maintenance and power consumption to accelerate to that high speed for comparatively short distances.


  14. Narrower trains would not in of themselves lead to cost savings. However, compared to the Toronto subways, these narrower trains can handle sharper turns and steeper grades. This could lead to modifications to the alignment. The cost really depends on depth. Deeper increases ventilation costs. Deeper increases emergency exit costs. And of course, deeper increases station costs. The best way to reduce costs is to be shallower. Once your shallower, TBM may not be possible and cut-and-cover is required.

    It’s all a vicious circle where one either:

    a) minimizes the extent of disruption. With TBM, there is no (minimal) disruption between stations. However, at stations, the disruption is massive; in terms of duration and cost. And also, typically these stations are at intersections, where the disruption is most disruptive.
    b) minimize duration of disruption. With cut-and-cover, the line is by definition shallower. There is disruption along the entire length of the line, but due to the shallow and repetitiveness of construction, the duration of disruption is quite small. Using faster set concretes, or even precast concrete – which didn’t exist when Yonge was built – would could even consider a rolling full closure for a period measured in weeks. The stations are also shallower, so these can be built faster with less cost. These would still be cast in-place concrete, so the disruption would still be measured in years – but maybe 2 instead of 4.
    c) minimizes cost. Which would basically follow option b), but some of the time savings options not being pursued.


  15. @arcticredriver: When suggesting new development in Canary District will drive ridership at a Sumach subway station, you have to ask where will those people be taking the subway to? Westbound, you’d probably have to be heading beyond Spadina for added time entering and exiting subway stations to make it worthwhile not just taking the King streetcar in its transit priority corridor. Eastbound there’s no high-density destinations worth noting – yes I’m sure a few people will take it to the Danforth or to the Science Centre but it’s not going to be subway-ridership numbers.

    Downtown is by far the most common destination from the “shoulders of downtown” areas, and from Sumach it’s mostly not going to be significantly faster than on the streetcar. (From Dufferin or Parkdale, yes.)

    Not to mention from middle of Canary District you’re only a new pedestrian bridge away from an 8 minute walk to the East Harbour station.

    Stations at Sumach and Sherbourne make sense if you commit to redeveloping the area as a major _destination_, probably with lots and lots of office space. Otherwise they’ll be like a Greenwood station, only more expensive and with more transit options for people nearby.

    Or for that matter drop the double station at Osgoode if you’re looking for station savings…


  16. There is plenty of office space between Sumach and Sherbourne but the majority of it straddles King Street not Queen Street. The city in its infinite wisdom placed Sumach and Sherbourne stations to serve the priority neighbourhoods of Moss Park and Regent Park if you take what the planners said at face value.

    Steve: What was really going on was that a line which, if placed further south, would have competed (at least in demand models) with SmartTrack was shifted north in a blatant piece of gerrymandering. ST will not be anything like what is promised, and yet the RL will be built in the wrong place to suit it.


  17. If the Ontario government wants to extend the Sheppard Subway East, why not run the alignment along Sheppard with stops at Warden and/or Victoria Park, Agincourt GO, and STC as the terminus? Which gives Scarborough a 3-stop subway using the Line 4 trains.

    [Corrected by Steve to refer to Line 4 based on a later comment from the author.]

    Maybe the province can offer to build the extension as part of an agreement that sees them take over ownership and maintenance of Line 4 from the TTC (or similar).

    Having a subway to point at would presumably also allow the province to extend Line 5 along the SRT alignment, terminating at McCowan or beyond. Especially since it’s already owned by the province anyway.

    This way, Doug can claim victory on uploading subways, Scarborough gets their subway, there’s a direct line from STC to the airport, and it might happen before 2026. Too good to be true.


    Sorry, not Line 2 trains. Line 4 (4-car TR) trains. Which are a pretty nice step up from the SRT.


  18. The part of the Ontario Line from Pape station to Queen station needs to be built ASAP which suggests shallow ‘cut and cover’ tunneling should be used for those parts of the line. This will allow the most crucial part of the line to be constructed cheaply and rapidly.


  19. @Jarek, wrt your prediction that it would take riders from the Distillery district just an extra 8 minutes to walk to the Unilever subway… google directions says 14 minutes. When Liberty Village was built, in the west, planners were criticized for not anticipating that all the new residents there would overwhelm the King streetcar, packing them so tight riders would left on the curb because vehicles were already full. Streetcar service from the Dufferin Gate loop to the new Distillery loop may have fixed this. Nevertheless, if a new subway route was passing near Liberty Village, wouldn’t we give them a stop?

    @L. Wall, when we discussed the Relief Line’s route, and were somewhat surprised it didn’t proceed across King, or Wellington, someone, maybe Steve, pointed out that the final choice of routes was being made by City politicians, to whom it might have seemed too obvious to explain that it should terminate at City Hall.

    I wonder, if the choice of route of an Ontario Line is not being made at City Hall, will any thought be given to a more southerly alignment? Probably not, as reconsidering the route alignment would open up criticisms that wasteful review of plans is causing useless delays. Steve directed me to an earlier article that showed drawings of the Osgoode and Queen platforms of the DRL. The Eastern entrance of Osgoode emerged at the SW corner of Nathan Phillips Square, while the Western entrance of Queen emerged at the SE corner of Nathan Phillips Square, so City Hall had two stations serving it. Thanks Steve!

    @MJS, your suggestion that Scarborough could be told that extending the Sheppard Line to Scarborough Town Centre is their promised subway… lol. Scarborough people almost certainly really want to go downtown, not to North York, where they have to take the already packed Yonge Line to get downtown.

    Google directions says it is about 10.5 km from Don Mills Station to the Scarborough Town Centre. Would it be easier to build than the 6.5 km subway from Kennedy to STC?

    Now if it connected to an Ontario Line, or DRL, that went all the way to Sheppard, maybe everyone would be happy?


  20. Pacific Mahasagar said: “Many of you have questioned why the Ontario Line is a light metro instead of a full fledged subway? Well, why is the Eglinton Line an LRT and not a full fledged subway? Why is the UPS not a full fledged GO train? It all boils down to ridership demand. The Ontario Line will never have ridership demand anything close to the Yonge Line and as such there is no need to waste money building something with the same capacity as the Yonge Line.”

    It does indeed boil down to demand. Eglinton’s demand is around 6K pphpd in 2031. The line’s capacity is around 15K, and it will likely not reach that within the infrastructure’s 30-35 year lifetime. Hopefully.

    The Yonge Relief study pegged the Relief Line long version (to Sheppard) at over 19K pphpd. That’s right in the ballpark of the Bloor-Danforth line, and far more than when either Line 1 or Line 2 opened. Coincidentally, if the Relief Line got to Sheppard by 2031, it would drop ridership on Yonge enough to put the Relief Line, B-D and current YUS lines’ ridership demand fairly close to one another.

    We don’t know the proposed configuration yet, which is why Steve doesn’t want to speculate on capacity. Most light metro tech scales up to 25K pphpd, and some can do 30K. That seems like plenty today, but it won’t in 2040, which is not that far away.

    Light metro is just a really limiting move for a route with that kind of demand. We’ll be left with a number of bad choices: avoid extending the line to Sheppard and beyond to limit demand, rebuild as heavy rail before the light metro infrastructure approaches end-of-life, or shift demand away by starting to build another heavy rail line to the east much sooner than otherwise.

    As for the Relief Line never having more ridership demand than Yonge, that’s not a sure bet. Push a Relief Line subway to Highway 7 and it’s ridership will be similar. More importantly, it will buy us decades until we have to completely rebuild Yonge-Bloor again, or somehow twin the Yonge line.

    Due to high ridership demand, and assuming we ever want it to go north of Eglinton, the Relief Line presents a relatively straightforward technology decision. As light metro, it’s a stunted line with an orphan technology. Based on the government’s napkin numbers for the Ontario Line, we’re saving no more than $3B, and likely less, by choosing light metro. It’s easily worth that price to build heavy rail instead, because of the higher capacity and later savings. That’s even ignoring the unaccounted costs of using a different technology.

    Light metro is the right choice for a lot of places and times. The Relief Line, today, probably isn’t one of them.


  21. For the Ontario Line it should be extended along Dufferin Street. Stopping at Dufferin Gates, King, Queen, Dundas, College, Dufferin Park, Dufferin Stn. Even Towards Fairbank Station with Additional more Stops. Like Dupont, Davenport, St Clair, and Rogers. This will relive stress on Route 29 Dufferin. As well as a replacement of at least 20 Articulates Buses on Route.

    Steve: Replacing 20 buses at a cost of several billion dollars is not the wisest use of the little transit money we have.


  22. @arcticredriver. Per the plans, the eastern entrance to a Unilever station would be at Broadview Avenue. I called the middle of Canary District along Rolling Mills Road. Rolling Mills Road to Broadview Avenue, _in a straight line_, is 630 metres which OSRM indicates is an 8 minute walk. This assumes a “new pedestrian bridge”, to clarify, a bridge to be built, which even if we insist on a “signature bridge” would be significantly cheaper than a subway station.

    Liberty Village residents were unable to get on the King streetcar because prior to getting to them, the King streetcar had passed through at least 1 km of densely built-up city between Dowling and Dufferin. Google Maps has a nice 3D satellite view you can use to view the area, I recommend starting at King and Jameson. I will be really happy with Toronto’s city-building effort when that is the case for streetcars arriving at Cherry and Mill (1 km south of Mill gets you to Polson which currently has a big-box store in the fields) but I will not hold my breath.

    By all means we can “give them a stop” but is it the best use of the money? But hey maybe we can use a proprietary technology to make the tunnels marginally smaller (and lock us into expensive maintenance contracts that will be paid after Ford is long gone).


  23. @arcticredriver I agree that downtown is the destination for most. However, if the Ontario government is committed to extending Line 4 anyway, then it might have advantages over the currently proposed SSE:

    – a new GO connection at Agincourt, which would let Union-bound riders get on the ST Line/SmartTrack before Kennedy, with a similar total travel time

    – a transfer at Sheppard-Yonge station instead of Bloor-Yonge; which is larger, and would let Union-bound riders get on Line 1 before both Line 5 and Line 2 riders

    – use of the 4-car TR trains instead of the aging T1 trains, especially considering the issues mentioned above about the Transportation Minister’s view and SSE plans

    – allow the TTC to (finally) leverage (or even divest themselves of, if the province really wants subways) an asset that has been chronically underused

    – possibly built using cut-and-cover along Sheppard (as the current section of Line 4 was), with potential cost savings/offset and sooner completion

    If a future Ontario Line goes to Eglinton as proposed, how much ridership from STC would be diverted from Line 2 to Line 5 (to transfer at Don Mills / OSC instead of Pape station)? Even an extended Ontario Line to Line 4 wouldn’t help STC riders if Don Mills station was the terminus for both. In every case, riders would have to take the same SSE from STC to Kennedy.

    Assuming Line 4’s current 43km/h average, a subway-only trip from STC to Union, via an extended line 4, would be about 60 minutes versus the current 56. How many riders would sacrifice an extra 5 minutes for 1 less transfer and a more comfortable ride (or even a seat) on brand new subway trains the whole way?

    Steve: The TTC does not have enough 4-car TR trainsets to extend the Line 4 service further east. More would have to be purchased. Also, only the easternmost part of Line 4 is cut-and-cover. It will have to tunnel at least to Victoria Park to get under the DVP and then back closer to the surface.


  24. “somehow twin the Yonge line”

    Easy. Just take the centre 2 lanes of Yonge St. and build a Transit City LRT line. Move all the short-haul traffic to the surface, leaving the subway mostly for longer trips. Close some subway stations … or not.

    I have to admit part of the attraction of this idea for me is the fit of apoplexy Ford would have upon learning that a subway under a road is not sufficient to ensure that surface transit is not built, but I actually do think it makes sense, or will make sense. It would be a massive increase in Yonge Street’s capacity to move people.

    If that’s still not enough, build LRT lines on Mount Pleasant/Jarvis, Avenue/University, Bathurst, and any other north-south arterials that can divert north-south traffic from Yonge St. There is no fundamental reason why all the traffic has to be funnelled to Yonge and in fact it’s probably a bad idea to do so.


  25. Some of you have asked as to why the Ontario Line stops at every lamp post such as Sumach? The answer is too much political interference by Tory led City Hall. City Hall had even cancelled a station at Yonge St and moved the station to City Hall and thankfully, Premier Doug Ford reversed this outrageous decision by City Hall. City Hall moved the line from under Pape to under Carlaw because a handful of residents were concerned about construction noise. City Hall moved the line from King to Queen to reduce it from competing with Tory’s SmartTrack that will never be built. What Premier Ford needs to do is to appoint an independent committee to review the alignment and station locations to filter out the relentless political interference by Tory led City Hall.

    Steve: Your pro-Ford bias is showing. The station locations on the Ontario Line map are tentative as is the route. “City Hall” station is a name chosen to differentiate from Queen, but it has not moved yet. Simmilarly, there is no indication that the Leslieville Station is not at Carlaw and Queen, not Pape. I do agree about the Queen Street alignment and SmartTrack, but Ford isn’t changing that even though a route further south could simplify some of the issues of getting to Ontario Place.


  26. If someone believes that placement of stations on the “old” plan was due to political interference by the City Hall, I am really curious what they reckon is the reason for the station at Ontario Place. Premier Ford will surely be appointing an entirely independent expert panel that will critically scrutinize the decisions of their boss, like those about Ferris wheels, or casinos.


  27. Isaac Moreland said: If that’s still not enough, build LRT lines on Mount Pleasant/Jarvis, Avenue/University, Bathurst, and any other north-south arterials that can divert north-south traffic from Yonge St. There is no fundamental reason why all the traffic has to be funnelled to Yonge and in fact it’s probably a bad idea to do so.

    ‘somehow twin the Yonge line’ was my shorthand for just about any solution. The key point being that if the relief line can’t handle more than 30K, it means having to build more transit capacity to offload Yonge sooner than if it was built as heavy rail.

    The upside is that it’s quite possible we’d later get another line, say, under Bayview. But I wouldn’t hold my breath. It’s far more likely we’ll just have a Yonge line needlessly congested because the Ontario line can’t be extended due to capacity constraints, much like Yonge is today.

    Steve: I didn’t comment on this idea at the time, but the big issue with just building a bunch of surface lines is that they are useless without feeder services, the ones that now bring riders to the subway. Mt. Pleasant, for example, would not generate a lot of traffic in its own right. The whole idea of “relief” is to intercept long before they reach Yonge with an attractive alternate route.


  28. Steve,

    I was looking forward to working with you on the RLN again, as we both actively participated that one night, at the inaugural Stakeholder Advisory Group meeting, at the Thorncliffe Banquet Hall in March 2018.

    However, with no additional meeting notices forthcoming, even after the election blackout periods had ended, I long ago suspected that the RLN was not moving forward.

    I would like to share with you the feedback, more of a report actually, that I returned to the RLN team in Spring 2018. Would it be possible to email it to you separately?

    Steve: See my email page.

    It is great that Thorncliffe Park and Flemingdon Park are specifically identified in the Ontario Line. However, I wonder about the following:

    Fare Integration:

    Depending on how it is financed, built, and operated will residents be able to afford to use the Ontario Line?

    Steve: So far, the province claims that any subway lines would be part of the TTC network. What we don’t know is how much they will charge Toronto to build them and provide service. Tis could affect the financial situation on the whole network, not just the Ontario line.

    Train Yard:

    The only “available” land around Thorncliffe Park for a train yard is East York Town Centre. While that mall is sorely in need of improvement, I hope the Province isn’t anticipating shutting down the entire retail centre of the community to build its line.

    Steve: There is a lot of open space at Thorncliffe, and the yard could be underground with provision for development above.

    Politics (Unfortunately):

    Are Thorncliffe Park and Flemingdon Park included in the first phase of the Ontario Line partly in the hopes of turning Don Valley West (Kathleen Wynne) and Don Valley East (Michael Coteau) Tory blue in the next election? A nod to potential voters in Leaside and Don Mills more than anything? i.e. We’ll do in 10 years what the Liberals promised to do in 20 to 25 years, and take out a former premier and a potential future OLP leader in the process.

    Steve: I think that’s a secondary consideration. Don’t forget that there won’t be a line there for close to a decade. Mind you, Scarborough voters have been conned into voting for a subway that is now over a decade away.


  29. The horse has left the barnyard and race track.

    These construction zones will only make it difficult to travel within Toronto and the GTA, with traffic times, accidents and confusion increasing ten-fold.

    These expansion projects should have been done since the 1990s when Canada increased the immigration quotas.

    How can one not think, and expect to have 1950s transit infrastructure and networks for a growing population of the 2020s?

    The Metrolinx Crosstown project has made Eglinton Avenue one of the most congested areas of Toronto. It doesn’t help that taller condo towers are currently under construction.

    Those commuting using the 34, 51 and 54 buses know how congested it can be during early morning and afternoon peak hours. The 54 bus is slower on rush hours; what used to take 15 minutes down Eglinton Avenue is almost one hour on some days.


  30. Steve, you are considered a reliable source, over on the wikipedia. There is a discussion there, over whether there should be two separate articles, one for the DRL, and one for the Ontario Line, or whether they can best be covered in a single article.

    One of the individuals holding out for covering both the DRL and the Ontario Line in a single article justified their opinion by quoting you from this specific web-page “The ‘Ontario Line’, a rebranded and extended version of the Relief Line, will run from Don Mills and Eglinton to Ontario Place.”

    My position is that, while both routes will connect Pape and Osgoode stations, the Ontario Line’s actual alignment of the Ontario Line remains unspecified; the stations, even if at the same locations, will be different, as the Ontario Line is supposed to use vehicles of a different gauge, and shorter trainsets; a brand new environmental assessment will have to be done. So, I think there should be two wikipedia article.

    My interpretation of your comment is that it was simply a short-hand. If I got that right I’d appreciate confirmation.


    Steve: If only our transit problems were limited to debates about whether there should be one Wikipedia page or two! In this case I come down on the side of one as so much of the Ontario Line is a reworking of the DRL. Until the time some future government actually starts to build anything, it is little more than a line on a map and a lot of political spin.


  31. The city prepares an annual employment survey which maps out where the heaviest concentrations of jobs are. I made a graphic with an overlay of the existing and proposed rapid transit lines.

    The dense downtown zone is bordered in the west by Spadina and Jarvis in the east, Bloor in the north and roughly the rail corridor in the south. The downtown shoulder areas are bordered by Queen in the north and the rail corridor in the south, Bathurst in the west and Parliament in the east, together with Southcore form an upside down triangle.

    This graphic doesn’t account for future office developments east of Yonge around St. Lawrence or Parliament nor west of Yonge along King/Wellington/Front or Southcore and the East Bayfront.

    It’s glaring how all of the proposed GO and TTC stations skate around the outer edges of the zone which will induce a lot of foot traffic and dependency on last mile transit. GO is limited because the corridor can’t be moved but the TTC doesn’t have such an excuse. Sometimes it feels like the city is purposely trying to knee cap itself.


  32. The Toronto Star published a pair of articles, on April 16th, that took opposite positions on “Is Doug Ford on track with his transit plan?” The “No” article was written by Gord Perks, who mentioned work he did with a guy named Steve Munro, in 2002. Perks said he and Steve Munro used the delightful phrase “pencil crayon planning”, in 2002.

    But it is the “Yes” article, by a guy named Jan da Silva that I wanted to comment upon.

    Da Silva’s article’s sixth paragraph says:

    Narrower trains will make it possible to build a single tunnel rather than double bore…

    Woah! Da Silva is “President and CEO of Toronto Region Board of Trade”. Is she an insider who might know something about why DoFo thinks narrower trains will save money? Haven’t we discussed the pros and cons of boring subways with one single bore tunnel, instead of two parallel tunnels for each direction? Could it be that DoFo also thinks the cost savings he claims he can make will come from boring a single tunnel, instead of two parallel tunnels?

    In a reply to an earlier comment I made Steve wrote

    Tunnel boring costs are roughly proportional to the amount of material to be removed which goes up as the square of the diameter.

    If the Ontario Line uses a tunnel boring machine that bores a tunnel wide enough for the platform between tracks that will result in something like four times as much muck to dispose of as two single tunnels. If the single tunnel is only wide enough for two parallel tracks, and the platform level is excavated the same way as the underground stations on the Eglinton Crosstown, that is still going to be close to twice as much muck to dispose of.

    Steve: The single tunnel design uses stacked tracks and platforms at stations. The surface construction is for two access shafts down to the tunnel to provide the mandatory 2X paths from subway to surface to meet fire code. The footprint of this construction is considerably less than excavation of a full station.


  33. Steve wrote: The single tunnel design uses stacked tracks and platforms at stations. The surface construction is for two access shafts down to the tunnel to provide the mandatory 2X paths from subway to surface to meet fire code. The footprint of this construction is considerably less than excavation of a full station.

    Thanks! So, that still leaves the question as to whether this saves money. Does DoFo merely think it saves money /initially/?

    If I recall correctly most of the underground stations on the Crosstown were budgeted to cost $150 million to dig out and construct, while surface station cost just a couple of million each.

    If I recall correctly the Crosstown station platforms are long enough for trainsets of four vehicles, which I presume will be taken advantage of when the route is at full capacity. Perhaps DoFo thinks that, by using one single large bore tunneling machine that stations will, initially, only need to be long enough for a single vehicle – about the size of Queen’s Quay station, and that future governments will have the responsibility of finding funds to make the stations longer, when longer trainsets are required?

    Well, the DRL had eight stations, but only five of them are brand new., Wouldn’t that mean the cost savings of only having to dig two access shafts, to reach that single bore, would only apply to Gerrard, Carlaw, Unilever, Sumach and Moss Park stations? So, even if these five underground stations cost, I don’t know, $30 million each, not $150 million to dig and build, that would only shave 0.6 billion off the construction cost of the DRL Plus that 0.6 billion has to be offset against the higher cost of disposing of the extra muck from the bigger bore.

    And the plan of building tiny stations defers costs, misleadingly underestimating the route’s overall cost. Surely expanding the platforms of tiny stations, so they can use longer trainsets will cost more, in the long run, than simply building longer stations in the first place?

    Steve: I don’t think that Ford “thinks” anything about the cost of this project, and only knows what he has been told by Metrolinx who seem to be working very hard to “impress the boss”. If they had details about how they are going to build this line so much more cheaply that the TTC’s plans, they are not sharing them.

    Of course, it may be that Metrolinx awaits a fresh shipment of napkins to continue their work. Remember that the consultant behind this designed SmartTrack from his office in London, England, using out of date Google street view.


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