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. I find this announcement amusing.

    He expects the City of Toronto and Ottawa to pony-up billions of dollars for his pet projects that they have absolutely no say in. York Region is expected to dump money in as well for a Richmond Hill Extension which, if history is any indication will not go over well. I doubt this will go over well and I doubt they relevant governments will just cough up billions of dollars. Even Frank Scarpatti in Markham who is drinking the subway kool-aid will likely balk at coughing up millions of dollars (under the guise that the subway belongs to Toronto).

    Steve: York Region paid the municipal share of the Vaughan extension north of Steeles. For Richmond Hill, it would be more because proportionately more of the extension is outside of Toronto. The real question is operating costs to which York Region does not pay one penny.

    This is all smoke and mirrors, just like when Rob Ford went in front of the media with a placard of subway plans. None of this will get built, at least not without more consultation.

    One thing to note about going it alone to get things started is that it gives off the impression that the Premier has a focus on Toronto and Toronto alone. I can guarantee you that if the province cuts funding to services across the province to fund billions of dollars in Toronto Transit improvements he will be a one term premier. If they do start building this stuff, I can see it being axed by the next government.

    Steve: It is my hope that by 2022, Doug Ford will have pissed off enough people on many fronts that he will be a one term Premier even without his transit machinations. My real worry is that he would try to make a comeback as Mayor of Toronto.


  2. It is a shame that City Council has no say but there is an old saying: “He who pays, decides” and Toronto City Council would do well to stop saying there is no money for anything and accept a slight tax increase to pay for transit projects. The Waterfront LRT is a perfect opportunity for a “do it ourselves” transit project.

    That being said, I don’t *hate* this map. And if the Ontario line truly will be based on the Canada Line in Vancouver then there are some advantages to it. Also it appears that they are going to build over physical barriers where possible and not digging under it. It is always cheaper to build a bridge than it is to dig a tunnel.

    And Steve correct me if I’m wrong but aren’t those Canada Line trains lighter, smaller but able to make tighter corners that subways just can’t make? So perhaps Liberty Village will have something running through it that eventually swings south to Ontario Place/The Ex?

    Given the messy history of politics and transit in this city there is good reason to be skeptical of it all so we will see. But this isn’t horrible on the surface of it combined and with the permanent transition of King to a streetcar only right of way, there are reasons to be hopeful for transit in the relatively near future.

    Steve: Yes, the Canada Line trains or similar can make tighter corners than regular subway trains, but we have to avoid trying to stop at every lamp post regardless of the technology.


  3. The Eglinton West Extension to Pearson Airport is reported to cost $4.7 billion. Much of it underground. According to Attachment 5 – Eglinton West LRT of the Executive Committee Report, Option 2 would cost $4.0 billion with 10 stops, mostly underground. Personally, prefer Option 4 for $3.0 billion with 7 stops, and an above ground portion between Scarlett and Jane.

    Guessing when Doug demands “underground” he wants “underground”, out of his sight whenever he drives SUV in the area. Hence, option 4, the most expensive option.

    Steve: Ford said “mostly” underground and this leaves some wiggle room. It appears that the section he refers to is between Royal York and Martin Grove where there is the greatest road congestion.

    More to the point, the line as in the announcement goes to the airport. The estimates in the attachment are only for the “City” portion to Renforth.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks Steve; it’s gotten bleak again, though this is a tonic.

    How surprising no comprehension of how GO Transit is also effective transit, and zero interest in exploring if a billion in to the GO Richmond Hill Line could make it an effective Relief option, but perhaps it’s because it’s not easily piratized and/or branded, like a new construct, and then maybe sold off, like the 407, to really offer value and respect to taxpayers.

    Council should respond strongly by stopping all work on the SSE and redirect efforts and the $$ to the Eglinton E LRT, to get something real started, and the TTC should be directed to halt the design work on the Line 1 extension, enabled by PTIF, just in case someone thinks the feds are lily-white in their buy-election interests, though now they’re looking pretty smart and caring in comparison. Maybe the reason F* might be delaying any subway theft bill is the politricks of the election, and the chance of disallowance.

    Fordwards is backwards.


  5. If the “Ontario Line” were extended to Sheppard, then presumably it will top out near 19K people per hour in the peak direction, as forecast in the Yonge Relief study. That’s close to the 25K max a light metro might be expected to carry, unless they’re planning on some abnormally long trains and stations.

    As such, the light metro configuration seems like a less than optimal choice. It either means forgoing a later extension to Sheppard to make sure origins north of Eglinton still crowd onto Line 1, or the light metro will reach capacity only a few years after the extension to Sheppard.

    Therefore, I question whether light metro is a good implementation choice, regardless of any savings over heavy rail. Also, unless it uses the same technology as the Eglinton line, it would be incompatible with anything Toronto already runs, and suffer the attendant problems and inefficiencies.

    If ever there was a project to build with heavy rail technology, it’s the Relief Line. The fact that heavy rail is contemplated across Sheppard but light metro is on tap for the “Ontario Line” is a farce.

    Steve: I think that somebody at Metrolinx is just itching to build a line that will be completely separate from the TTC and show off automated technology. To keep the cost down, it has to be a light metro. On the bright side, at least it will go to Eglinton in Phase 1. I think the City/TTC decision to always cast the RL as Pape-to-Downtown went a long way to undermining its credibility.


  6. Regarding the B-D extension and train yard: Is there still space and land available at the Agincourt CPR rail yard. This could easily be added beyond Sheppard, and even extending the line on surface to Finch (near Markham Road). Selling the Greenwood yard for development and buying land here may actually be cash positive as well.

    This of course would mean that Sheppard-Danforth-Bloor would not be a loop – something I would not be sad to be abandoned. Perhaps someone can put the bug in Ford’s ear that the Sheppard line could go to Agincourt GO, then STC, then Centennial, then UTSC.

    For the Ontario line, is there space near (under) the Millwood bridge next to the waste treatment plant for some type of yard? I also wonder how much that Carlaw jog added to the cost and whether this would be chopped in favour of either going straight down Pape, or following the rail corridor as you suggest. Finally, there was constant talk of bridging over the Don instead of under. Did this apply for the north crossing near Millwood Bridge, or did it also apply for the crossing near Eastern?

    Steve: It appears that they are talking about the Thorncliffe crossing, not Eastern Avenue. I am trying to get a confirmation on this.

    For Eglinton West, I hope the only push will be to reduce the cost in some areas while keeping it grade-separated. One possibility is elevating Islington (I assume it’s elevated at Jane and over Humber River). Also, there may be some opportunities West of Islington to either elevate and/or trench. All in all, it may be possible to avoid deep TBM (and deep stations) and build this whole thing with shallow cut-and-cover. If the push-back is for the on-street LRT, it will likely be met with equal stubbornness – just ensuring that it’s built entirely underground.

    All-in-all, enough details were missing that this couldn’t be properly analyzed.


  7. The other issue with the “Ontario Line” is the route west of Osgoode station. The map makes it look like it would travel south under Spadina and then turn east and follow the USRC out to Exhibition.

    Steve: I think you mean “west”.

    If so, that’s a waste, because we already have a frequent GO service to Exhibition at an increasingly similar cost to the TTC.

    A better routing would be to continue west further along Queen before turning south. The reasons should be obvious. Then a turn south to intersect with GO Liberty station, GO Exhibition/WWLRT station, and if Ford is actually serious about Ontario Place, a terminus just south of the Gardiner.

    No doubt the run along Queen would be more expensive than running along the USRC, but it’s better spent.


  8. Finally, there’s the money question. $11B is fantastically expensive for a 15km light metro line, especially since it’s partially above grade. But it’s in the ballpark of a tunneled heavy rail line in a dense metro environment. So I suspect there’s not a lot of savings to running light metro, with a lot of downsides.

    But the really interesting announcement was that Ford would be willing to fund it all on the province’s dime, if necessary. That’s an offer Tory should accept. That would free up the City to spend its few dollars on the EELRT and/or the WWLRT.

    The EELRT would seem especially doable, at $2B. Also, it would mean that the City was merely fulfilling the ‘bargain’ made to pair the SSE with the EELRT.

    And with that in mind, Ford’s plan doesn’t seem terrible, if he truly puts the province’s money where his mouth is. We could do worse.

    Worse, of course being that projects get re-started, costing us to lose another half-decade, only to build nothing.

    Steve: Ford said that if other governments won’t come to the table, he would pick up the tab. I suspect there will be strong pressure for the City to chip in or face reprisals on other accounts with the province. Now if only we could kill off SmartTrack as a brand, Ford would lose an important lever over Tory. As long as there are things the City hopes the province will pay for, then opting out isn’t an option. For the feds, it’s easier because they can say they are running a national program like PTIF, and all of Toronto’s allocation is spoken for.


  9. There are similar projects planned or ongoing in Edmonton on a much smaller scale. Most of the projected costs are very low. One 7 km section, above ground with traffic, came in at $2.58 billion from the original $800 million. It’s now closed for three+ months due to additional problems. Now under construction is a 27 km railway (LRT) line, moves above ground with the traffic, and we are told it will cost $1.8 billion. The bus on rails crosses major traffic intersections causing havoc. It appears to me people have forgotten, or never connected the dots, showing the Federal, Provincial and City governments have the same tax payer.


  10. First concern is whether the City is capable of raising enough money to cover its share of this massive plan. Toronto’s share will be at least $5 billion (total $5.7 billion, less a few hundred million from York Region and Mississauga) if 20% municipal contribution is the goal.

    Regarding “Ontario Line”:

    1) The absence of the capacity figure is strange. Normally, both the cost estimate and the capacity are based on the design concept. If no design concept exists, then the cost estimate is pure fantasy. If the design concept exists, then the capacity figure exists as well, and there is no reason not to publish it.
    2) The idea of using “light metro” trains is not bad, by itself. Lower capacity of the individual trains can, to a certain degree, be compensated by more frequent service. Design details are needed.
    3) Using fully automated trains is a good idea; the world is clearly moving towards automated transit.
    4) Extending the eastern leg to Eglinton is a very good idea. This might be one of a few “efficiencies” that Doug Ford has actually found, as much fewer upgrades will be needed at the Pape/Danforth station.
    5) Having the western terminus at Ontario Place is a weird choice, and will guarantee a capacity mismatch. The eastern leg will open with peak demand around 17,000 per hour per direction, whereas Ontario Place will never generate more than 5,000. The said capacity mismatch is not an absolute blocker, but it will be wise to make provisions for a wye somewhere west of University Ave, so that another western branch could be added in the future.


  11. This has Michael Schabas’ fingerprints all over it. I find it rather humorous that the Fordies would allow a Liberal appointee who gave us such wonders as the Southwestern Ontario high-speed rail fiasco to craft their signature transit program. Or is that they really don’t care and might not be all that sorry to see it all go down in flames?

    Someone might want to do a tally of the transportation spending that really counts for Premier Dougie: highways. GTA West is active again and there is no end of projects on the go or ready to be announced that seem to have escaped the attention of our vigilant mainstream media types.

    But I really should have no fears. As Premier Dougie told us himself today, Metrolinx has a stellar reputation for delivering all of its projects on time and within budget. I’m sure they won’t muff his ICTS-to-Hell plan.

    I wonder what weasel words we’ll get in tomorrow’s budget regarding that big Ontario Northland rail passenger revival promise from Minister of Finance and Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli.


  12. Like many of you, I think that these miracle plans will come crashing down, probably within 2 years. The most likely destructive force will be funding. Doug [bless his innocent little heart] has always possessed an Alice in Wonderland attitude to magical funding that really doesn’t exist.

    If he finds that he must look elsewhere for real cash; his budget will come totally unglued, the groups who lose out to transit will begin to treat Doug the way our province treated Kathleen [we really know how to hate a premier] and Steve will get his 2022 wish.


  13. And once again any kind of actual transit expansion in Toronto gets derailed. By now we Torontonians should be inured to the shell game of transit planning. The bright and shinny train over here gets swapped out for the even flashier one over there, but at the end of the day the only winner is the politician who has held our attention long enough to win a few votes.

    The Sheppard line was proposed in 1985, was cut down to the first phase (the stub we have) in 2015 by Mike “the Knife” Harris, and finally opened in 2002 – a total of 17 years. Faster transit Doug, I am not holding my breath!

    One thing we can safely say is that Torontonians all want better transit, we want it soon and stop changing the parameters and BUILD something.

    One thing I have learned in my years is that for any job or project, you have 3 options; delivery, price and quality, however you can only have two of the three. So Doug, you want the fast delivery – do you cheap out and get a piece of crap that is always breaking down, or a reliable system that costs every taxpayer?

    Steve: Of course, Mike Harris cut back Sheppard in 1995, not 2015. He was in power too long, but not that long!


  14. Thanks Steve

    Brian Lilley, in the Toronto Sun, seemed to assert that the Ontario Line vehicles will use a non-standard narrow gauge. Hmm. That seems unlikely. Surely even narrow vehicles should use standard gauge, for flexibility?

    So, smaller vehicles, run more frequently. I am one of the people who liked the new Flexity Outlook streetcars. I’d say one weakness, however, is that having two narrow doors, and two medium-wide doors, is a bottleneck at busy stops, like King and Yonge. I anticipate this weakness will hurt Flexity Freedom performance when they are put to use. I wonder whether the claim that choosing smaller vehicles, and shorter trainsets, will improve performance, is based on any actual homework with actual vehicles?

    Steve: I made a point of commenting minimally on some of the “leaks” that came out before the announcement, and my sense of the Ontario Line is that the scheme is not very far advanced. There is a lot of confusion about “smaller” vehicles, tunnels, track, etc.


  15. It seems weird that the Ford government would design a plan that requires massive amounts of money from the very levels of government that he regularly antagonizes. Why would the federal government give him money and let him take all the credit? Why would a mayor, who is notorious for refusing to pay for anything, raise taxes to pay for a subway when he could just do nothing and force the province to raise Toronto’s taxes for him? Toronto could also claim that its upload of existing subway assets *is* its contribution to the project and simply refuse to contribute more.

    If the Trudeau and the city were clever, instead of putting any money into this scheme, they would band together and take on the RL/Ontario-line themselves as their “contribution” to the plan, and let the province take on all the other white elephant projects by themselves. That way, the federal government and city can have full control over the most useful bit and can take all the credit for building it.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Canada line vehicles are still about 3 metres wide. I’m not sure they save that much narrower trains – they are far wider than Montreal metro train and even Eglinton LRT trains.

    I’ve no idea if they can do tighter corners, but gosh do they corner slowly between the portal on Cammie and the Y to the airport!

    Steve: However they are shorter and this could affect the minimum turn radius, but, yes, the Canada Line may not have been a good analogy for “smaller” cars.

    Looking at the map – perhaps I read too much into it but it seems pretty clear that “Ontario Place/Exhibition” station intersects the GO. How is this not Exhibition station with a new name and a 10-minute walk?

    Also odd on the map that the SSE is graphically drawn as a Line 5 extension and not a Line 2 extension. Presumably just a graphics oddity … or is it? 🙂

    Steve: A graphic oddity thanks to that appalling map style that seems to have taken over a lot of transit plans here lately. The subway is showing as arriving at Eglinton pointing north when, in fact, Kennedy Station points east.


  17. So the Ontario Line will use basically the same claustrophobic cars that can’t run in the snow in Scarborough?

    Steve: We don’t know yet.


  18. JW said: “Toronto City Council would do well to stop saying there is no money for anything and accept a slight tax increase to pay for transit projects. The Waterfront LRT is a perfect opportunity for a ‘do it ourselves’ transit project.”

    Indeed, though the Eglinton East LRT seems more deserving.

    It’s time for councillors to stop being Tory sheep willing to waste civic dollars on the Scarborough SE. Tory deceived the public and council about the SSE’s real cost, and then suppressed that cost during last fall’s election; he should have no political capital left on this one.

    And now that Dougie is determined to build his three SSE stops, there’s no reason for the city to contribute; it should shift that spending to needed LRT lines. Use Robbie’s 30-year SSE tax hike for good.


  19. Hi Steve

    Does the light metro system have the capacity to meet the demand that the DRL will generate?

    Steve: Until we know just what size of cars, trains and service frequency is planned, we don’t know.


  20. “I think that somebody at Metrolinx is just itching to build a line that will be completely separate from the TTC and show off automated technology.”

    What’s to show off? The SRT is a separate line that is automated. Even Line 1 is already partly automated and will be entirely automated in a few years.

    Steve: What’s to show off? No operators.


  21. Steve said: “I think that somebody at Metrolinx is just itching to build a line that will be completely separate from the TTC and show off automated technology.”

    Maybe it can be branded the “PC Memories of SRT Line”.

    Steve said: “I think the City/TTC decision to always cast the RL as Pape-to-Downtown went a long way to undermining its credibility.”

    Bingo. Now it’s going to cost them heavy rail, or maybe, getting built at all. On the other hand, I wonder if the Pape terminus was because City was gunshy over proposing a longer project that would cost over $10B, thinking it would be a dead letter.

    Steve said: “Ford said that if other governments won’t come to the table, he would pick up the tab. I suspect there will be strong pressure for the City to chip in or face reprisals on other accounts with the province.

    I figure the City has to offer Ford some fig leaves, but if they play their cards right, not a lot more. Limit contributions to the Crosstown West to the 20% the city would have paid for the at-grade configuration, which is a few hundred million. Forget about YNE, that’s York’s baby. Contribute the SSE tax to the Ontario line and expanded SSE.

    At least, that’s the desired end result. How you get there could be quite curious. There are a few strategies available, and I suspect that Tory could outmaneuver Ford.

    The highest risk for highest reward is what I term “the Ford opening”. The City announces the WWLRT, WELRT and EELRT, as soon as possible, regardless of design progress, and with expectation the other governments will chip in. When talks fail, each level of government largely funds their own projects, with some token contributions around the edges. Toronto’s projects are much cheaper, but at about $6 or 7B over 10 years, fundable through modest property tax increases. Ford will need to find $20B+.


  22. Steve said: “Now if only we could kill off SmartTrack as a brand, Ford would lose an important lever over Tory.”

    Ford appeared to me to destroy much of his leverage over Tory, at least on the transit file, and especially over SmartTrack.

    1) Ford’s already kept the RER and now will build the RL. Tory now has an out – he can say that the RL with the extensions makes some or all of SmartTrack unnecessary.
    2) Ford’s baby, the Ontario Line, already contemplates building East Harbour and Gerrard, and maybe Liberty, so there go 2 or 3 out of 6 SmartTrack stations. Or, conversely, those three SmartTrack stations become the City’s contribution to the Ontario Line. Paying for Liberty station may even be leverage to make sure that the Ontario Line serves Liberty.
    3) The 3-stop SSE adds back the station at Lawrence, rendering Kennedy-Lawrence SmartTrack station moot.

    That leaves just Finch East and St. Clair West SmartTrack stations, if memory serves. They can become ‘future stations’, after Ontario Line is built.


  23. JW wrote: Also it appears that they are going to build over physical barriers where possible and not digging under it. It is always cheaper to build a bridge than it is to dig a tunnel.

    “Always cheaper”?

    If we were travelling along the surface and came to a river, it would be absolutely cheaper to build a bridge over the river instead of dig a tunnel under it.

    But what is the full cost comparison to take a line that is in tunnels on either side of the river, and climb to the surface and up onto a bridge to cross over the river? It may still be cheaper, but consider the costs of connecting two (four) tunnels with a bridge:

    – land must be acquired for the portals and surrounding area
    – land must be acquired for the transition from the portals to the bridge
    – west of the river, we are talking about space in established neighbourhoods
    – east of the river, we are talking about available land owned by developers with usage plans
    – new bridge to be designed and constructed
    – extra disruption in the construction area during construction
    – cost of TBM extraction, transporting across the river to a new launch site, and relaunching

    The last cost may be replace by having a separate set of TBMs and the tunnelling would start at the Don River heading each way. I suspect a third set would be used for the northern section between Eglinton and Thorncliffe, so having three tunnelling operation going at the same time would help bring down the construction time a little.

    I would be really curious to see a full cost comparison (both in money and time) of just continuing the tunnel under the Don compared to coming up and bridging it. Don’t forget, the tunnel under the Don will be through clay, not bedrock.

    Steve: Your comment about bridge alignment is not necessarily valid. It is not necessary to climb back to the surface to cross on a bridge unless you are planning to have that bridge do double duty as a road bridge. By analogy to the Don River crossing that will be required south of Thorncliffe Park, a perfect example is in Edmonton where the LRT crosses the Saskatchewan River. The bridge elevation was chosen as a compromise between how far down the LRT would go and how wide the bridge would be.

    The crossing at Eastern is another matter. I’m not sure there is anywhere to put the ramps up and down relative to both East Harbour Station amd development on the west bank. Don’t forget that you would have to get to an elevation sufficient to clear the DVP, the Gardiner ramps and various GO facilities. This is not a case where the bridge could be “at grade”.


  24. Steve said: “A graphic oddity thanks to that appalling map style that seems to have taken over a lot of transit plans here lately.”

    Speaking of graphic oddities, we should extend line 2 a few hundred metres from Kipling to the Hurontario line.

    Steve: The problem begins with the “cartographer” putting Port Credit east of Kipling.

    And who knew that Finch West LRT is turning northeast to get into the Finch West terminus? Someone should inform the design team.

    Serious Question: If Eglinton East is being renamed Cedervale when Eglinton Crosstown opens, why was Finch West named Finch West? I would have preferred that Eglinton East was simply named ‘Allen’ on the Eglinton Line.

    Steve: You mean “Eglinton West” station. That whole business with “Cedarvale” came from Metrolinx trying to avoid the confusion of multiple similar station names. They also appear to have given up opposing stations named after intersections. This is the “planning” agency that wants to take over all of southern Ontario. There will be some real reaches on station naming when they get to a city whose streets duplicate those names already taken in Toronto. “Dundas” may have to change its name to keep Metrolinx happy.


  25. As the cost escalates on the Ontario Line it will probably shrink back down to the Relief Line. Whatever is built will be automated. That was always the plan. Regarding the size of the vehicles, I defer to the wisdom of planners and demand projections. So far, not really a big change.

    Where I’m stuck is the idea of running on the surface to save money. In general, I’m all for it. But doing it downtown while spending billions to bury light rail in the suburbs makes no sense. It is totally backward, precisely the wrong approach.

    My question, Steve, is about the portals at the Don River. I understood that a bridge was considered for the Relief Line, but the planners were concerned about the risk of the river flooding into the tunnels.

    Can you shed any light on this?

    Steve: There is always a question of possible floods even with the line completely underground, but portals make it easier. The bigger problem is that a surface alignment requires threading through a lot of existing structures, and I would be surprised if it is possible. This could be one of many details that the boffins at Metrolinx/IO are still working on, if we believe Jeff Yurek’s interview on CBC today. How they can have a cost estimate when they don’t even know where the line will go or where the stations will be is one of those mysteries best not dug into. If the City were to do this, they would be pilloried for going ahead with a half baked project.

    I look forward to the Wrath of Ford descending on Metrolinx/IO when they are unable to deliver on his promises.


  26. The interesting thing about the whole thing is that there are subtle signs that the Ford government is realizing that some subway plans are just napkin doodles. Reducing the Sheppard subway to just lip service is the clearest sign of this since extending line 2 to Sheppard basically ends any chance of a separate Sheppard subway being anything other than a white elephant.

    However, the “light metro” idea for the relief line shows that there is still a stack of napkins since any private sector partner would want it to match the rest of the subway network as much as possible. That way, if they successfully automate the line, they will have a much easier time getting the contract to do the rest of the subway network.

    Steve: Except that there already is an incumbent for ATC on the TTC, and that project will finish to Finch in a few years, and should be well underway on Bloor-Danforth by the time the Ontario Line opens.


  27. It’s occurring to me that the proposed Ontario Line isn’t really catching up to the 1957 plan, as that Relief West on Queen St. reached out to Islington. And we really need to be focussed on the disastrous-to-system/core/finances extensions surely coupled together as a package to $crew the core. Extending the Yonge line is stupid; use the Richmond Hill GO line and why is the TTC doing the design work for this sell-out right now? The Suspect Subway Extension in to Scarborough is another perhaps worse-for-most expenditure: sure we have to do something, but this is truly bad value, finally a hint of it coming out after the election, of course, because the dismal/desulTory majority at the City are happy with keeping the $crews to the core – the function is to pay for inferiority. Like, what would happen if we applied the same political will of clearing a part of King St. for transit to all sorts of other places, including Scarborough, but also Yonge, and Danforth, since we could think of having express supplementary buses there, as we need the Relief now, not in a decade, right?


  28. Calvin Henry-Cotnam wrote: But what is the full cost comparison to take a line that is in tunnels on either side of the river, and climb to the surface and up onto a bridge to cross over the river? It may still be cheaper, but consider the costs …

    If the Ontario Line is still going to have a station in the campus of the former Unilever facility, on the east bank of the Don River, the campus requires building a berm to protect the site from a 100-year flood, similar to the berm constructed on the opposite bank to protect the Canary District.

    So, if the Ontario Line bridge should be high enough to pass over even a 100-year flood, maybe it could be constructed to emerge from the tops of the berms themselves? Or if not emerging from the tops of the berm, but rather from the side that faces the river, have whatever portion of the bridge that would be under the 100-year flood waterproof, so 100-year flood water doesn’t pour down the tunnels.


  29. 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.

    Hmm. Do narrower vehicles always permit using narrower tunnels? Didn’t the tunnels for the Crosstown have to be larger than those used for the TTC’s heavy rail lines, Lines 1, 2, and 4, to leave room for collecting power from trolleypolls, or pantograph, instead of via a third rail? Boston’s subway system uses very short heavy rail vehicles on one of its routes, because that route uses a tunnel under its harbour that was originally designed for streetcars, and it is just too narrow, and its curves are too tight, for longer vehicles.

    So, if the Ontario Line is built, designed for short trainsets, using narrow vehicles, and it turns out ridership requires longer trainsets, and wider vehicles, will we then have to build a more or less parallel DRL 2.0 to supplement it?

    Oliver Moore, writing in the Globe and Mail, wrote:

    The adapted relief line would be a lighter and smaller version of a traditional subway, similar to the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) in London.

    As I recall, the Docklands Light Railway, although integrated with the London Underground, was designed, paid for, and built by the Canadian brothers who redeveloped under-utilized land into London’s Canary Wharf district. I am puzzled as to why Moore would point it out as a model to copy.

    I visited London in 1996, and made a point to ride the DLR. The trains, and stations, were clean, modern and beautiful. But, my understanding is that expensive expansion has been required, because ridership far exceeded capacity, and that the stations were rebuilt, so they could accommodate longer trainsets. If I am not mistaken, they were expanded twice, first to double, and then quadruple, the station length. That is certainly not a model to emulate.


  30. Steve said: “You mean “Eglinton West” station.”

    Yes. Losing my compass or my marbles around here…


  31. Steve wrote:
    Your comment about bridge alignment is not necessarily valid.

    I beg to differ, and go so far as to say that any discussion of crossing the valley at Thorncliffe is not valid. Doug’s big dog and pony show was partly to show up how he would “improve” on what the city was planning, from faster to his view of better to less expensive.

    When the idea of bridging the river instead of going under it as a means to cut costs, I do not for a moment believe he was talking about Thorncliffe. I say this because of a few factors:

    – the city’s design only included RL south from downtown to Pape
    – Ford’s announcement included “doubling” the RL and did so by implying that anything beyond the downtown to Pape stretch was even on the minds of the city
    – the hoopla over the bridging instead of tunnelling has been played in the news media in the context of not having a station “five flights below ground”

    Followers of this blog know that the city had begun the plans for the relief line north of Pape, but had anything been suggested about vertical alignment? Ever since using Edmonton’s LRT and travelling over the Saskatchewan River I have always pictured a relief line in Toronto that emerges from the south wall of the Don Valley somewhere near Don Mills Road.

    If I am mistaken that Ford is talking about “bridging instead of tunnelling” at Thorncliffe instead of Eastern, please cite where the new plans make this comparison. Also, somebody better call the various news outlets and let them know this as they have taken the “bridging instead of tunnelling” to mean that there will not be a five-storey deep Gerrard Station. Adam Vaughan even asked in one interview, “Does he even know the geography of the area?”

    Steve: First off, it turns out that in the budget there is an explicit reference to the crossing at East Harbour, and so that question is settled. The reason I thought that this would be up at Thorncliffe was there had been some talk of going under the river there, and this would fit with comments about very deep stations that would be needed, notably in Thorncliffe Park. If it’s a bridge, then that station can be at a reasonable depth.


  32. 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.


  33. According to the Star, the Greenwood Yard would be expanded to house the Ontario Line rolling stock! I imagine that one could demolish some of the adjacent residential area for expansion. Or one could open the Kipling Yard to free up space at Greenwood.

    I wonder if the province would use cut-and-cover to build the Ontario Line, like used for building the Canada Line. Would that account for the quick 5-year construction time?

    Steve: I have a problem with that comment in the Star. If Greenwood is to be the site for the Ontario line’s yard, then the cost of shifting Line 2 operations to Kipling is an integral part of this project. Moreover, it has to get underway almost immediately in order for Greenwood to be freed up in enough time for conversion anticipating a 2027 Ontario line opening.


  34. I hope someone has snagged all the displays so that we can put them in the new Museum of Transit Studies that will go in the Old City Hall.


  35. GO Urban. Network 2011. The Big Move. Transit City. Southwestern Ontario HSR. And now this. My shelves are creaking from the weight of all those transit plans of the past that never really saw the light of day except as pre-election vote chasers.

    This latest trainload (automated or not) full of horse manure is all part of Premier Dougie’s fantasy about leading a multi-term political dynasty that shall rule over Ontario for many election cycles to come. He is encouraged in this delusions by the likes of Dean French and, on the transportation side of the ledger, Phil Verster and Michael Schabas. They all stand to remain profitably employed so long as they keep coming up with whiz bangs like this one.

    Who wants to put a bet down on one term for these cretins?


  36. I fully agree with Pacific Mahasagar that there simply is not enough demand or ridership to justify building the Ontario Line as a full capacity subway. I do believe that the Ontario Line might warrant an extension even further north.


  37. Not a perfect plan but a very good start by Premier Ford. Now that the Ontario Line will serve several areas traditionally served by streetcars, I wonder if ridership on some of those routes might fall below levels necessary to justify them as streetcar routes. As such, it might be time to halt the purchase of additional streetcars until a ridership projection study can be done.

    Steve: Actually, the Ontario/Relief line does not intercept traffic on the heavy streetcar lines like King and Queen where most of it originates, and the combination of latent, unserved demand today plus growth over the next decade will offset at least part of any traffic diversion the new line would provide. Related issues include the fine grained origin-destination pattern and the station design.

    For example, someone who is now on the King car eastbound at Bathurst can simply stay on board and ride through the now-uncongested King Pilot into the core and avoid the time required to transfer to the Ontario line and be carried north to Queen Street which might, or might not, be their destination. The faster Ontario Line trip from points where it would intersect streetcars (Gerrard, Leslieville, Queen/Spadina, Bathurst/King) must be weighed against the transfer penalty and the question of whether a rider is going to a downtown station that puts them closer to their destination than they are simply by staying on the streetcar.


  38. Steve wrote: For example, someone who is now on the King car … can simply stay on board and … avoid the time required to transfer to the Ontario line…

    I strongly agree with this point. Thanks. It makes me wonder whether the stop at Sherbourne and Queen is even necessary. (I noticed the list of stations merely called this one “Sherbourne”, but we already have a Sherbourne station. Maybe “Moss Park”, if it is built. The station at Bathurst and King? My suggested name? Wheatsheaf, naming it after the oldest tavern in Toronto, found on the SE corner…)

    Steve: The Sherbourne Station is part of the city’s RL plan and is intended, along with Sumach, to be close to low income neighbourhoods. Ironically, it will also accelerate the gentrification of Queen Street and the replacement of the 19th C buildings with new condos, a process that is creeping north from King already.

    Henry Colton referred to: …the hoopla over the bridging instead of tunnelling has been played in the news media in the context of not having a station “five flights below ground”

    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.

    From some discussions a few years ago I think I remember that tunnel boring machines are designed to either tunnel through rock, or designed to tunnel through sand / clay / gravel / regular dirt. Wasn’t there a long route, in Spain, where construction was complicated by having to swap out digger heads to tunnel some portions through rock and other portions through dirt?

    I live near King, and take photos of the excavation sites for new construction, so I know that bedrock can be quite shallow. Bedrock was found only two storeys down at one of the first excavations I really paid attention to, the condo on the NW corner of Parliament and King.

    So, I am extremely curious as to how deep the DRL’s Sumach and Unilever stations were supposed to be.

    Would the DRL’s Pape platforms have been built deep enough to be in bedrock? Would that have justified tunneling the entire DRL through bedrock?

    Steve: Please see the drawings in my article about the station designs. They are generally speaking three levels down, not five. The bedrock levels are shown in the drawings, and the line is within bedrock except right at the river crossing where bedrock dips. The line transitions above bedrock between Gerrard and Danforth, and Pape Station, including the new DRL portion, is well above bedrock.

    Are the Bloor platforms at Yonge dug through bedrock?

    Steve: No. This is an old stream bed that is responsible for many tunnel leaks here.

    As Steve wrote earlier, DoFo’s plans for the Ontario Line looks like it may still be on the back-of-the-envelope stage. So, maybe they are considering whether Sumach or Unilever would be cheaper if they were built entirely above ground?

    Steve: Putting Sumach above ground would create a structure conflicting with the Eastern Avenue flyover, not to mention a big intrusion in the neighbourhood until the line dove underground.

    Pacific Mahasagar questioned how much capacity a DRL/Ontario Line really requires:

    Many of you have questioned why the Ontario Line is a light metro instead of a full fledged subway? Well … 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.

    Yeah, but wasn’t part of the need for a DRL to divert riders from outside Toronto from travelling up and down the Yonge Line, which is sometimes operating beyond its capacity, with ridership demand continuing to rise? So the Ontario Line’s capacity should be set not just by the number of riders from the surrounding neighbourhoods, and nearby feeder bus lines. Its capacity should take into account tens of thousands of riders from outside Toronto.

    The one good thing in DoFo’s transit announcement is for the Ontario Line goes north of Danforth. In 2017, when there were a series of public presentations showing different alternative alignments for SmartTrack, I buttonholed some of the planners, as to how many riders who would normally use Yonge would be diverted and instead use a DRL that had a northern terminus at Danforth. I pressed hard and one planner specified how many Yonge riders they expected phase one of the DRL to divert.

    I don’t remember the exact number, but I remember exclaiming, “Why that is only one trainset per hour!” It was pitiful, shocking. A DRL, or an Ontario Line, intended to divert riders from Yonge, should really go at least as far as Shephard, or even the 407. Its terminus should have a bunch of bus-bays, and a kiss-and-ride, for those riders from outside of Toronto.


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