In the first of two articles, A Big Announcement, or a Transit Three Card Monte?, I reviewed the proposed agreement between Ontario and Toronto whereby the Province would build four lines or extensions at no capital cost to the City, and ownership of the existing system would remain in City hands. This has been hailed as something of a “peace in our time” solution to the contentious relationship between Premier Ford and the City, but there are many outstanding issues that will not be resolved before the City signs on to the new deal.
In this article, I turn to three appendices to the City report, specifically:
- Attachment 3: Status of Preliminary Technical Questions
- Attachment 4: Assessment of Ontario Line
- Attachment 5: Assessment of Provincial Proposals Line 2 East Extension
Citations in this article are in the format [A3, p5] where “A3” is the attachment number and “p5” is the page number.
Reading through these documents, I was struck by how an essential section is buried right at the end of Attachment 4: the City/TTC evaluation of the Metrolinx Initial Business Case for the Ontario Line.
The main report is enthusiastic about the viability of the proposals and the contributions they will make to the City of Toronto. However, the attachments reveal the degree to which the scheme is far from complete or settled. There is a caveat that if the proposals change significantly, then the gushing support for the new plans could become only a trickle. But the political pressure is for the City to commit to the scheme, whatever it may become, in the rush to “get shovels in the ground”.
This is a long article intended to pull key points out of the technical discussion of proposed new lines in an attempt to highlight the major chunks without requiring readers to wade through every page (although the keen ones among you certainly will, I’m sure).
Timing of Market Calls for Procurement / Public Participation
The City/TTC have not received a detailed schedule from Metrolinx, however the Infrastructure Ontario Fall update includes the following timelines:
- Ontario Line: RFQ Spring 2020, RFP Summer/Fall 2020
- L2EE: RFQ Winter/Spring 2021, RFP Summer/Fall 2021
- YSE: RFQ Fall 2021, RFP Spring 2022
- EWLRT: To be determined [A3, p12]
This is aggressive for the OL and gives very little chance for substantive change before the RFP goes out. “Public participation” will be minimal in the best Metrolinx tradition.
The opportunity for feedback and input throughout a project’s development may differ given the anticipated P3 delivery model. Details regarding the Province’s proposed approach are provided as Attachment 11 to this report. City and TTC will continue to advocate for meaningful public consultation on provincial transit projects. [A3 p11]
There are conflicting priorities in completing work regarding the new design and changes to the Assessment with the desire for an expedited delivery process.
Q22: Has an assessment of construction-related impacts been undertaken as part of the preliminary planning and design? What about impacts on community, businesses, traffic congestion, noise, etc.? If not, when will this occur and be factored into decisions on build methodology, procurement, and a program for business and community supports?
A: The City/TTC expect that this will be undertaken as part of the updated environmental work for the TPAP(s).
Q23 Will the Province adhere to City permits and approvals, per the practice under the LRT Master Agreement?
A: The applicable Master agreement(s) for these projects are to be developed, and it will be the expectation that agreed upon service standards and timelines for applications, permits and approvals will be adhered to. The Province is seeking city commitment to explore opportunities to accelerate and expedite delivery including review of processes, and leveraging powers and authorities. [A3 p13]
Q29: Are you building the [Ontario] line to a budget of $10.9 B or are you building a line with a defined scope of work?
A: The project cost estimate is preliminary based on the current state of development. The scope in so far as length and areas served have been consistently stated. Future adjustments to scope, budget and schedule will be identified as part of subsequent phases of work. [A3 p15]
“Future adjustment” is a term that implies potential change, but how would this be handled with a P3 contract already in place? When do the requirements to deliver on time, on budget, supersede whatever objections or improvements might emerge from a review process?
Transit Oriented Development
One of the Province’s favourite terms now is “Transit Oriented Development” and the supposed ability to pay for transit with development charges and fares from new riders. There is a question, however, of whether the Province will seek higher density around stations to pay for its rapid transit plan even if this requires development at a scale beyond what the City has planned or the neighbourhood is expecting. What other costs will TOD bring for infrastructure, services, schools? The overdevelopment of Yonge & Eglinton, where the Province wants to see even more density, is a prime example.
Q13: With respect to “transit-oriented development” and seeking private sector investment, what assumptions are being made with respect to compliance with the City’s Official Plan policies and guidelines?
A: The Province has committed to work with the City to ensure that transit oriented developments advance a shared understanding for effective growth and high quality development of Toronto. The City and the Province are working through the details of an agreement on how they will work together to advance TOD opportunities. [A3, p10]
That is not the most reassuring of comments given the bull-headed nature of Provincial policy development. Doug Ford (and his brother before him) believes in the magic of the private sector somehow covering the cost of his dreams. This could have severe consequences for both the City and for the transit system if that dream is exploited to remove controls on high density development.
Getting There From Here
There is a problem throughout much rapid transit planning in Toronto that agencies only consider the end state after many projects have been built, new jobs and residences have been created, and magically we are transported to a future date and city where the models run.
Unfortunately, we have to get from 2019 to 2041, the year for all of the modelling cited in these reports, and there is no guarantee that the system can handle either the intermediate stages nor the “end state” if things do not occur as quickly as we hope.
Although GO expansion is part of the next decade’s work, there is nothing published to show how it will affect the TTC network for good or ill. Indeed, a major role for the Ontario Line now appears to be “relief” for congestion at Union Station almost to the point that relief of subway congestion is a secondary matter.
SmartTrack is a mythical “service” whose final configuration is still not known. Metrolinx has been quite evasive on this point, and the best we can hope for is a train every 15 minutes at “SmartTrack” stations along the Weston and Stouffville corridors. Two of the six ST stations may never be built because they physically conflict with, or lose projected ridership to, other services.
It may suit planners and politicians to talk of demand models for 2041, but what will the 2020s and 2030s look like on Toronto’s and the wider region’s transit system as we await the arrival of new services? This is a major shortfall in the City reports because they do not address the “how do we get from here to there” problem complete with associated operational and financial headaches. A scheme for the province to pay the entire cost of four new lines is wonderful, but there is much more to the transit system’s future than Premier Doug Ford’s map.
The Ontario Line
Key issues about the Initial Business Case are not reflected in the main report, but are at the heart of critiques of the scheme.
Since the IBC evaluated the Ontario Line against the Relief Line South, a project with a much narrower scope, it did not make an “apples-to-apples” comparison. Using projects of a more similar scope would have provided more meaningful conclusions on benefits and costs.
The IBC contained some inaccurate assumptions about design, vehicle technology, operations and delivery that were being considered for the Relief Line South. For example, fully automated operation was being planned and delivery options, including P3, were to be evaluated.
Based on travel demand modelling conducted by the City and TTC, Line 1 will be at or near capacity by 2041, even with the Ontario Line.
There are better city-building opportunities with the location of the Sumach, Carlaw and Gerrard stations as proposed for the Relief Line South in comparison to the Corktown, Leslieville and Gerrard stations as proposed for the Ontario Line.
Additional information and further design work is needed to understand the potential impacts and opportunities of the Ontario Line, including integration of land use and transportation planning as set out in the Provincial Growth Plan.
The IBC does not quantify environmental and community impacts beyond transportation-related impacts, which means that they have not been factored into the analysis in the same way.
There are many instances where conclusions are reached and/or statements made where no backup documents are provided. [A4, pp 19-20]
Imagine how much better the OL proposal could have been were it not developed in secret by planners with a tenuous understanding of the city.
As the planning and design work for the Ontario Line is still at a very early stage, details concerning the precise alignment and station locations are not yet available (e.g., the IBC provides only a representation alignment and station locations). As a result, the assessment of the project that follows is at a high level. [A4, p2]
The Ontario Line builds on and extends the work undertaken in partnership by the City, TTC and Metrolinx on the Relief Line South and North. Portions of the alignment follow the Council-approved Relief Line South alignment and share similar station locations. There are major differences in some areas, such as elevating the alignment over the Lower Don River and running above grade within the Lakeshore East GO rail corridor in the central section. Similarly, in the northern section, the Ontario Line follows one of the alignment options that was studied in the Relief Line North assessment, but with an elevated guideway. [A4, pp 2-3]
The Province has stated a project timeline with a 2027 in-service date for the Ontario Line, two years sooner than the accelerated Relief Line South schedule. It is anticipated that a more accurate estimate of schedule for the Ontario Line will be determined as the project advances. The Province has committed to ensuring the Ontario Line is in service prior to the Yonge Subway Extension. Given the current stage of the project and the variety of design challenges that remain to be overcome in a project of this scale, further design and development must occur before City and TTC are able to assess the validity of the stated timetable or the estimated cost at this time. [A4, p3]
The City and TTC assessment of the representative Ontario Line project as included in the IBC was guided by the Rapid Transit Evaluation Framework (RTEF). Background information on the RTEF is provided in Attachment 2. Information to support the assessment of the plans for the Ontario Line was obtained through a series of technical working group meetings with Provincial staff from the Ministry of Transportation, Infrastructure Ontario, and Metrolinx, and from the Initial Business Case (IBC) prepared by Metrolinx and released in July 2019. It is important to note that this assessment is based on the current early conceptual design. The project may change significantly through further design and a P3 delivery process, which could result in changes to the City and TTC assessment of the project in the future. [A4, pp 3-4]
Based on discussions with the Province and as noted in the IBC, procurement contemplates a P3, design-build-finance-maintain (DBFM) delivery model for delivery of the project. [A4, p3]
There are two big problems here. First off, the “M” in “DBFM” refers to “maintenance”, but it is uncertain which costs will be included in the P3 deal, and which costs will be to the City’s account. Moreover, Metrolinx states these costs on a Net Present Value (NPV) basis collapsing decades of future costs (operations and maintenance) into a present-day figure. However, City budgets do not work on this basis, and essential financial planning requires a knowledge of the new costs the City will bear from the day any new line opens.
Ontario Line IBC reports Net Present Value operating costs of $2.463B. This has not been validated by City/TTC. [A3, p6]
In turn, the new operating costs are related to the marginal new fare revenue because this, according to the provincial scheme, is intended to offset the costs. That, quite bluntly, is a fantasy because most of the riders on new lines are already TTC users and will contribute no new income to the system. Just like the riders on the Vaughan subway extension (the TYSSE), they get a better, faster ride for the same price as they paid before it opened, but Toronto shoulders tens of millions in new operating costs. New revenue could be further diluted if there is a fare integration between the 905 and 416 transit systems and existing cross-border riders contribute less to Toronto’s revenue stream as part of a co-fare arrangement. Nothing in the Ford/Tory proposal addresses these problems.
A vital but missing piece of information is the current ridership on various parts of the transit system and for the “do nothing” case that would exist in 2041 if the network were not expanded, although some figures do allow us to work backwards to this. For the Ontario Line, the projected demand in 2041 and the effect on Line 1 are:
- AM peak hour demand: 19.5k – 20.0k
- Daily Weekday ridership: 391k – 410k
- New Daily riders: 35.0k – 35.5k
- Capacity: 20K (opening day), 34k (maximum)
- Demand SB from Bloor: 33.5k – 36k
- Demand SB to Bloor: 31k – 38.5k (Note somewhere about high values are city projection, low values are Mlx)
Relief to Line 1 may be impacted by some of the Province’s project design decisions still to be confirmed, and land use changes for Downtown and Yonge-Eglinton, prescribed by the Province. [A3, pp 7-8]
The new daily ridership will be less than 10% of the total, and therefore the new fare revenue will be less than 10% of what one might, erroneously, assume using the total ridership as the basis of calculation.
Fares have a big effect on projected ridership, and the projected demands assume that the GO-TTC double discount will continue even though today it is in shaky ground and scheduled disappear in a few months with no guarantee of long-term financial support. There is no 416-905 fare integration in place, but this is a constant annoyance for cross-border riders and their political representatives. There is no discussion of how this might affect the Richmond Hill subway extension or the distribution of riders on the network.
Fares: Assume TTC fare system for Ontario Line and L2EE; assume existing double-discount for co-fares between TTC and GO. [A3, p8]
The projected demands show a range representing outputs from the Metrolinx model (lower) and City model (higher).
For the modelling, the assumed network improvements are not the same in the Metrolinx and City models:
- Metrolinx base network includes St. Clair, Liberty Village, East Harbour and Finch East SmartTrack Stations, Line 1 Capacity Improvements, GO Expansion, Yonge North Subway Extension, Eglinton West LRT, Sheppard Subway, and Broadview streetcar extension.
- City base network includes all of the above except the Sheppard Subway and includes the Lawrence East and Gerrard SmartTrack Stations, Sheppard East LRT, and Waterfront Transit Network. [A3 pp 8-9]
The capacity of the improved Line 1 Yonge will be consumed by 2041 even with the Ontario Line in place.
The Ontario Line will help relieve demand on Line 1. The modelling suggests that the Ontario Line is projected to reduce demand on Line 1 north of Bloor by between 700–2,000 riders per hour and between 3,200-5,400 riders south of Bloor in 2041.
This would reduce the demand north of Bloor to 31,000-38,500 passengers per hour and south of Bloor on Line 1 to approximately 33,500-36,000 passengers per hour; the upper end of these estimated range matches or exceeds the projected capacity of the line. [A4, p4]
The numbers and assumptions are consolidated in the following table [A4, p8]:
Key conclusions should be required reading for everyone who thinks that current plans solve all of Toronto’s problems:
1. The Ontario Line will provide relief to Line 1 in the short term.
2. Even with the Ontario Line, Line 1 demand will exceed capacity by 2041
- The City’s travel demand model estimates the demand on Line 1, north of Bloor, will exceed 36,000 passengers/hour in 2041.
- Based on these results, it is expected that Line 1 demand will exceed capacity both north and south of Bloor shortly after 2041.
3. The Ontario Line’s anticipated design capacity of 34,000 riders per hour will meet demand in the Ontario Line corridor for approximately 50 years.
- The selection of a transit vehicle for the Ontario Line that has sufficient capacity is crucial to the long term success of the project. Demand for the Ontario Line may exceed capacity earlier if development patterns shift as a result of its construction.
- A train with a capacity of 1100 passengers used by the TTC on Lines 1 and 2 would offer more flexibility to meet increased demand and ensure that the project is fit for purpose further into the future compared to the capacity of 850 passengers being planned for Ontario Line.
These conclusions mean that:
1. Additional expansion of the rapid transit network will be required by 2041 to meet future demand in the Yonge corridor; and
2. It is critical that the proposed performance of the Ontario Line be maintained or enhanced as design work progresses.
Additional travel demand modelling should be undertaken to analyze future extensions of the Ontario Line and other potential projects that could respond to the projected demand on Line 1. Extensions of the Ontario Line north to Sheppard Avenue and west to Line 2 and improvements to the Richmond Hill GO line among other projects should be considered. Impacts of possible changes in development patterns should also be further analyzed. [A4, p9]
Drawing Lines On Maps Does Not Make It So
A major problem with the Ontario Line is that route and design changes will substantially add to neighbourhood incursions during construction and operations. This is ironic from a Premier whose family is renowned for an insistence on underground transit operations.
As planning, design and delivery of the Ontario Line proceeds, potential temporary and permanent impacts to residents and businesses will need to be mitigated and well-managed. The portions of the line that are above-grade or on an elevated guideway have the potential for permanent noise and vibration, property, traffic, and visual impacts. For example, the section between Cherry Street and Gerrard Street East has the potential for significant impacts on the existing community and will require great care during the design process and during construction. Operational impacts may also result. Design and construction of the elevated crossing of the Lower Don will need to be well coordinated with numerous major infrastructure improvement projects, including but not limited to planned flood protection mitigation measures and the Gardiner Rehabilitation Project. [A4, pp 4-5]
What is unclear given the desire to move to proposal calls in 2020 is whether there is any opportunity to change the OL significantly, especially since the above-ground alignment is essential to providing a much longer route than the City’s Relief Line South at a relatively modest cost.
As anyone who lives, works or travels near the former construction sites for the Spadina subway extension or for the Crosstown LRT now underway knows, building a transit line produces substantial upheaval. This will be compounded by the shift of the OL from the Relief Line’s planned underground alignment to at grade or elevated construction in the name of cost saving.
Public participation to address these issues will be essential, and frankly I would be surprised if all of them can be resolved. Metrolinx’ notoriety for “participation” that is little more than rubber stamping plans they have already cast in stone, coupled with the urgency to build quickly and within the announced budget, does not bode well for meaningful discussion let alone changes to the design
Temporary impacts from construction are anticipated to be typical of a large urban infrastructure project. Impacts are likely to be focused around stations and construction shafts, and include increased construction-related traffic, noise and vibration.
This section of the proposed Ontario Line, from west of the Don River to the area near Carlaw Avenue/Pape Avenue and Gerrard Street East/Riverdale Avenue has the potential for significant impacts on the existing community and will require great care during the design process and during construction. The proposal to construct a significant portion of the central section above grade along the Lakeshore East GO Attachment 4 – Assessment of Ontario Line Page 15 of 20rail corridor will have temporary construction impacts that are anticipated to be shorter in duration (but potentially greater in intensity) that the complex construction associated with building underground tunnels and stations.
If widening of the Lakeshore East GO rail corridor is required to accommodate the project, property acquisition of homes, businesses and community facilities may be required. Operational impacts (e.g., slower train speeds) may result from the elevated nature of the GO Corridor, and from the grades and curves that may be necessary to fit along the alignment. The operation of trains along GO rail line embankment may generate additional noise and vibration that could impact sensitive receptors like residential homes, schools, and parks. Mitigation measures such as covered stations, vegetation strategies, and noise walls could be employed in the project design as appropriate to reduce impacts. Further design work is required to fully understand the permanent and temporary impacts to residents and businesses.
The intent to construct an elevated guideway for the Ontario Line in Thorncliffe Park and Flemingdon Park will have permanent impacts on residents and businesses. Overlea Boulevard is a busy mixed-use arterial which connects Thorncliffe Park and Flemingdon Park, with several high-rise apartment towers, businesses and shopping centres front onto the boulevard. Designed poorly, the impacts of elevated guideways can be severe.
The Ontario Line design must mitigate the visual, noise and vibration impacts that can be created by an elevated guideway. The guideway design should preserve sightlines and visibility from street frontage to businesses and commercial signage. Public realm strategies should be implemented to mitigate the negative aspects of elevated guideways and enhance the character of Overlea Boulevard and Don Mills Road. Further design work is required to fully understand the impacts. [A4, pp 14-15]
If the Lakeshore East GO rail corridor requires widening to accommodate the project, there may be impacts on adjacent parks and recreation centres. Leslieville station is proposed to be located adjacent to the Jimmie Simpson Recreation Centre, McCleary Playground, and Bruce Mackey Park (on Degrassi Street). Gerrard station will be adjacent to the Gerrard-Carlaw Parkette, an important neighbourhood amenity. Further design and analysis is required to understand the degree of impact to these facilities, which will be determined by the exact location of station platforms, vertical circulation, entrance buildings, and other infrastructure. Consultation with the Parks Forestry & Recreation division will be essential to ensure the functionality of these parks and recreation centres is maintained to the extent possible. [A4, p16]
Between Cherry Street and Gerrard Street East the project will be above-grade within the Lakeshore East GO rail corridor, rather than in a tunnel, in order to reduce costs. These cost savings will be partially offset by the portals that will be needed to transition between an underground and above-grade alignment and additional property costs if widening of the rail corridor is required. Maintenance and operating costs may be higher for above-grade sections, as the infrastructure will have greater exposure to the elements. [A4, p17]
The GO Transit Relief Line
Some of the impetus for alignment changes and the for the western extension of the OL show up as a major new goal for this project: capacity relief at Union Station for GO Transit. At both Exhibition and East Harbour Stations, the OL is projected to have very convenient “across the platform” transfer links with GO. There are no detailed designs showing how this would actually be possible for a two-track OL and a four-track GO corridor.
In any event, Metrolinx appears to be treating the Ontario Line as a “relief line” for GO Transit, in effect a “last mile” service for the inner end of commutes. This will only be attractive with very convenient transfer connections and with little or no fare barrier to dissuade riders from simply staying on GO Trains one more stop to reach Union. There is a projected drop of 20k peak hour riders at Union GO station thanks to diverted trips from the Lakeshore West and East services. These need to be accounted for separately in demand projections for both the service level needed to handle the trips and for fare revenue calculations. If the City is covering the operating cost for a “GO Transit relief line”, this should be clearly understood as part of the deal.
Exhibition Station, the western terminus station, will contribute to good network development by providing interchange opportunities with Lakeshore West GO rail services, and existing and future TTC bus and streetcar services at Exhibition Loop and in Liberty Village. Good pedestrian access to Liberty Village would provide excellent rapid transit connections to that area. Frequent service on the Ontario Line, combined with a track arrangement allowing cross-platform transfers between Ontario Line trains and GO trains, will provide a very attractive alternative for many passengers on GO Trains destined to the northern part of the financial district that would otherwise continue to travel through Union Station. [A4, p5]
The western section is critical to providing significant relief to Union Station, by providing GO Transit riders an alternative route to the Downtown and Financial District with a transfer opportunity at Exhibition station. This was not one of the project objectives for the Relief Line South or North. AM peak hour station usage at Union Station is forecast to drop by approximately 20,000 passengers with the Ontario Line in service. This relief could allow Union Station to operate more efficiently by reducing train dwell times and platform clearance times, which could in turn increase Union Station’s capacity to bring additional GO Transit services to the station. The western section does not significantly impact demand on, or provide material relief to Line 1.
The western terminus at Exhibition station is proposed to be at-grade, to provide a cross-platform transfer opportunity with Lakeshore West GO trains. Frequent 90-second headways during peak periods will mitigate the impact of passengers being exposed to the elements in an exterior station. Nevertheless, passenger comfort could be improved by providing climate-controlled waiting areas on the platforms. [A4, p10]
And at East Harbour:
The Ontario Line provides optimal interchange opportunities with other higher-order transit services in the central section. Direct connections are provided at Osgoode, Queen, and Pape stations to existing Line 1 and Line 2 trains. An elevated crossing of the Don River along the existing GO rail bridge creates an opportunity to provide a cross-platform exchange for passengers transferring between Lakeshore East or Stouffville GO rail services to the Ontario Line at East Harbour, saving passengers several minutes of journey time and making the transfer more attractive. [A4, p6]
Transfer Links to Other Routes
At Pape Station, the link between the Relief Line and the existing Line 2 Danforth subway station involved a considerable vertical transfer [See Relief Line South Station and Alignment Plans and scroll down to the Pape Station drawings]. The need for a convenient link, the same sort of thing Metrolinx wants for its GO-to-OL connections, is essential at Pape Station so that time that could be saved in changing to or from the OL is not wasted trekking through the station.
The central section approximates the route of the approved Relief Line South, and therefore functions to provide relief to Line 1 and reduce passenger congestion at Bloor-Yonge station. It is essential that the interchange between Line 2 and the Ontario Line at Pape station is designed in a manner that encourages riders bound for Downtown to transfer at this location. This requires minimizing the vertical separation distance between the two lines and providing multiple, direct, legible routes for passengers making the transfer, in order to minimize the transfer journey time. The ease of transferring is particularly important from the westbound platform to southbound platform, corresponding with the predominant passenger flows in the AM peak period. [A4, p10]
The length of the proposed transfer in the Relief Line design is affected by the depth of its tunnel. It is not clear whether this will be improved with the Ontario Line.
Connections to the streetcar network are important as a collection/distribution function for the OL, but there is a serious potential for disruption of the surface network due to station construction at locations like King/Bathurst and Queen/Spadina. The TTC and City project strong ridership growth (not to mention latent, as-yet unserved demand) on the streetcar routes, and the last thing they need is major upheavals or service suspensions.
Stations along the western section of the representative alignment provide good connections to surface transit routes. Importantly, King-Bathurst station provides a transfer opportunity to the heart of the Financial District with the 504 King streetcar, while Queen-Spadina station will connect with the 501 Queen and 510 Spadina streetcars. [A4, p5]
The Corktown station will be located west of Parliament Street near King Street, instead of near King Street/Sumach Street/Eastern Avenue as proposed by the Relief Line South. This station will provide a new connection to buses on Parliament Street, but will be more distant from the developing area in the West Don Lands, as compared to the Sumach station.
The central section connects well with local TTC bus and streetcar services. The Leslieville station will be located at Queen Street and the Lakeshore East GO rail corridor, just east of Broadview Avenue, instead of the Queen Street/Carlaw Avenue location proposed by the Relief Line South. The Leslieville station will provide connections to streetcars on Queen Street but will not connect to buses on Carlaw Avenue. [A4, p6]
At Exhibition Loop, there is a question of just what demands all of the transit real estate will serve, and how the Waterfront LRT will fit into the overall scheme.
The western section will interface with some important existing and future transit infrastructure in the vicinity of Exhibition station. The Exhibition Loop is an important facility for serving TTC streetcar and bus customers, and provides necessary space for terminating and storing streetcars and buses to support service on several busy routes. The first phase of a future expanded Waterfront streetcar network, connecting Exhibition Loop to Dufferin Gate Loop, is currently at 30% design and is planned to be constructed parallel to the Lakeshore West GO rail corridor. Any conflicts between the proposed track arrangements to permit cross-platform transfers between Ontario Line and GO trains must be identified and resolved. [A4, p6]
Depending on the design of the Exhibition station, there may be impacts on the TTC’s project to connect the Dufferin and Exhibition Loops as part of the Waterfront transit reset. There are no significant impacts on design or projected ridership on the East Bayfront component of the Waterfront transit reset. [A3 p9]
Meanwhile, SmartTrack could take a hit at Gerrard Station thanks to the surface alignment for the OL.
The location of Gerrard station on the Ontario Line may preclude the construction of the planned SmartTrack station at Gerrard-Carlaw. More work is required to understand the interdependency of these two stations and consider design options. [A4, p 6]
There is also the question of whether the SmartTrack station at Lawrence East would even be required if there is a competing station on the subway extension.
The specifics of the fleet to be used remain an issue for the P3 proponents. Metrolinx will not specify a technology, but will leave it to the Ontario Line’s builders to propose and supply one. Metrolinx would only give a performance specification in terms of minimum possible headways and line capacity. A related issue that is not mentioned in the reports is the importance of station capacity. Carrying 34,000 passengers per hour is a fine goal, but they must be able to get into and out of the stations expeditiously particularly at major transfer points.
The Ontario Line will use a transit technology that is not the same as existing TTC subway technology and trains will not be compatible with existing TTC subway trains, tracks, or other facilities. TTC and City staff continue to advocate for interoperability of trains to allow for shared use of facilities, provide economies of scale in purchasing trains; and increase flexibility in operations.
It is understood that the Ontario Line is planned to operate with very frequent service of up to one train every 90 seconds in each direction. Delivering such a frequent service can be challenging, and will require highly optimised trains, signals, terminals, and operating practices. It is assumed that service at all times of the week will be operated in accordance with standards similar to those used by the TTC, which call for a train every five minutes or better at all times. [A4, p 9]
Messing with Station Locations
The City’s Ontario Line review is notable for the number of comments about relocated or additional stations, not to mention alignment changes. This goes far beyond the level of “tweaks” that could be incorporated in the design as part of a Council approval, let alone before the RFP process in 2020. There are many examples, and this begs the question of what the OL might have looked like with City input before it was announced. Some of what is proposed here shows the effect of many authors and less-than-thorough editing, specifically to produce a unified City Planning view of where the OL and its stations would more productively be placed.
Social equity could be further improved by considering changes to the representative alignment in the western section that could provide stations at Queen-Bathurst and King-Strachan, which would provide an additional station in proximity to Alexandra Park and improve streetcar connectivity with the Parkdale NIA to the west along King Street. [A4, p11]
Social equity could be further improved by the Ontario Line project by examining a potential station location between Berkeley Street and the Don River that would be better situated to serve the Regent Park NIA, and the social services/community facilities emerging in the West Don Lands neighbourhood. The improved geographic coverage provided by such a station could also bring additional population within an 800-metre walking distance of rapid transit. [A4, p11]
Social equity could be further improved in the northern section by considering the benefits of adding a second station in Thorncliffe Park. This could better serve the greatest population concentration and provide improved coverage of a neighbourhood with a relatively large geographic area and disconnected street network. [A4, p12]
The Ontario Line could be improved if the alignment better served the southern part of the King-Spadina Secondary Plan area, one of the densest and fastest growing areas of the city. Consideration of an alignment that passes through stations at King-Spadina or Front-Spadina would further improve the coordination of land use with transportation planning. [A4, p12]
Refinements to the Ontario Line plan have the opportunity to further improve the coordination of land use and transportation planning. Improvements to the spacing of some stations would provide better geographic coverage of higher-order transit access for neighbourhoods served by the Ontario Line and increase the existing and future population within the walking catchment area of stations. In particular, the proposed spacing of approximately 500 metres between Moss Park and Corktown stations, and between East Harbour and Leslieville stations, is considered to be close together for higher-order transit. As a result, some of the walking catchment areas are duplicated for these stations, while leaving a 1.7-kilometre gap between Corktown and East Harbour stations where a station could be better located to serve the rapidly-growing West Don Lands neighbourhood. [A4, p13]
Further modifications to the representative alignment could improve public health and environment considerations in the western section, particularly some heritage impacts that were emerging during the preliminary design and engineering work being undertaken for the Relief Line South. If the alignment were to follow Simcoe Street to include an interchange station at St Andrew station, impacts to key cultural heritage resources around Osgoode station (e.g. Osgoode Hall, Campbell House, and 250 University Avenue) could be minimized by avoiding the need to construct a second platform on the Line 1 Osgoode station. [A4, p16]
In the western section, further analysis may provide additional ways to reduce costs and maintain an ambitious schedule. For example, alternative alignments running within the rail corridor could be less costly, and achieve some of the other planning objectives for the line. Alignments that do not follow public rights-of-way could be shorter and less costly, but introduce some construction risk to the project. The technical feasibility of these modifications would need to be assessed. [A4, p17]
The Ontario Line could enhance support of employment growth by considering an alignment following Simcoe and Front Streets, with an interchange station at St. Andrew. Providing a station closer to the Financial District and along the southern edge of the dense employment in the King-Spadina area, this alignment would have an even greater employment concentration of 320,000 existing jobs within 800 metres of stations, projected to grow to over 405,000 by 2041. [A4, p18]
Supporting growth can be further enhanced by examining station spacing along certain portions of the alignment and considering station locations closer to employment growth in the South of Eastern area and the eastern portion of the Port Lands. As previously discussed, Moss Park and Corktown stations are relatively close together, as are East Harbour and Leslieville stations. While both Corktown and Leslieville stations are projected to have high employment densities within their 800-metre walking catchment areas, much of this catchment area is duplicated by the area served by Moss Park and East Harbour stations. At the same time, the currently-proposed alignment bypasses some nearby employment areas like the South of Eastern and Port Lands precincts east of Carlaw Avenue, which are projected to grow significantly in the medium to long term. While the Leslieville station must continue to provide a good transfer connection to the 501 Queen streetcar, consideration of a station closer to these employment lands, with high-quality surface transit connections, would be beneficial to supporting future growth. [A4, pp 18-19]
Although the northern section has a lower concentration of jobs than other sections of the Ontario Line, the stations capture existing and projected employment growth in the area served by the line. Employment growth is concentrated in the western part of Thorncliffe Park near existing business parks. Within 800 metres of stations, over 22,000 jobs are projected in the area by 2041. The Ontario Line alignment could capture more employment growth by serving both the west and east side of Thorncliffe Park. This could be achieved through an improved station access strategy or by adding another station on the west side of Thorncliffe Park, optimizing the spacing between the two stations to provide the best coverage of this community. [A4, p19]
The Line 2 East Extension (formerly the Scarborough Subway Extension)
The Line 2 East Extension (L2EE) as now proposed returns to the three-station version of this project, but shifts the Scarborough Town Centre Station completely out of STC itself. This would continue the eastward shift if the “centre” of STC to put more of the lands east of McCowan in the station’s immediate area while breaking the direct tie in to the shopping mall and existing government buildings to the south.
Prior to the Provincial change in scope for the project, Scarborough Centre Station was proposed to be located on Borough Drive north of Town Centre Court on lands currently owned primarily by Oxford Properties. The associated bus terminal was to occupy lands to the west of the station that currently are occupied by the Scarborough Centre RT station and bus terminal. An alternative location for the station is now under review, on the east side of McCowan Road with the bus terminal contained within the block bounded by McCowan Road, Progress Avenue, Grangeway Avenue and Bushby Drive. [A5, p2]
Fleet Planning & Automatic Train Control
There has been some confusion about service levels and the number of trains required for this extension for several years. The report’s reference to seven additional trains depends on a current surplus of the “T1” type of equipment now used on Line 2 Bloor-Danforth.
As proposed, the extension will be fully integrated with the existing Line 2 and have through service at Kennedy Station. A turn-back may be included east of Kennedy Station to enable reduced service to Scarborough Centre, subject to demand and service standards. The extension will require approximately seven additional six-car, 138-metre-long trains to provide the service. The trains would be interoperable with the other trains on Line 2. With the station at Sheppard and McCowan supporting storage of up to six trains, there is sufficient storage and maintenance capacity existing at the TTC’s Line 2 storage and maintenance facilities to accommodate this increase in fleet size. [A5, p2]
Here is the history of this surplus and related issues:
- When the TYSSE was first proposed, it would not use Automatic Train Control (ATC) and would operate with a mixture of the existing T1 fleet and new cars purchased for the extension.
- The scheme to run a hybrid signal system with ATC and conventional signals on Line 1 led to many technical and vendor co-ordination problems, and this was eventually dumped in favour of a full ATC conversion.
- The T1s are not suitable for upgrade to ATC, certainly not when they were expected to be replaced in the mid 2020s.
- The Line 4 Sheppard operation runs with TR trains now, and these are ATC equipped so that they can run over Line 1 in ATC territory to reach maintenance yards. Line 4 itself does not use ATC.
- The combined effect of running Lines 1 and 4 entirely with TR trains was to produce a surplus of T1s that had originally been earmarked for these routes. The TTC owns 370 T1 cars (61 6-car sets plus 4 additional cars) but uses only 46 trainsets for peak service on Line 2. Allowing for spares even at a generous 20%, they need only 55 leaving some spare for the Line 2 extension, but not enough to run full service to STC (the original terminus of the one-stop SSE).
- The TTC originally planned to acquire a new fleet for Line 2, including its extension and a conversion to ATC, in the mid 2020s, but this has been deferred. This leaves a need for some additional Line 2 trains to equip the extension before the full conversion of that route.
- When a new fleet is acquired, it will need a new yard and carhouse both to allow the old and new fleets to co-exist, and to provide facilities for six-car trains as now on Line 1. Greenwood Shops is configured for two-car sets, but not for permanently coupled six-car trains. The City/TTC is buying land (the former CP Obico yard) west of Kipling Station for this purpose, but there is no timing for construction of a carhouse there because acquisition of new trains has been deferred. The extra cars needed for the L2EE will be stored on line north of Sheppard East Station.
There is a question of whether or not a turnback would be provided at Kennedy so that service could short-turn there much as is done on Line 1’s western branch at Glencairn Station during the AM peak. This also affects design for Kennedy Station’s subway and LRT extension components.
If the Provincial L2EE concept includes infrastructure to accommodate a scheduled turn-back of service east of Kennedy Station it could conflict with current designs for an eastern extension of Line 5 Eglinton Crosstown LRT (i.e. the Eglinton East LRT).Further analysis and design work is required to fully understand the implications of this potential conflict, should it arise. [A5, p 6]
An important point in all of this is that even with the added trains for the extension, there is no provision for improved service on Line 2 until sometime in the 2030s because there will be no spare fleet, nor will Line 2 be converted to ATC allowing more frequent service.
There is an interesting question in the renewal of the Line 2 fleet and the eventual implementation of ATC. With the 8km extension being a “provincial” project, should the Province be on the hook for part of the new fleet’s cost as well as the conversion of the signal system? (A similar problem will apply to Line 1 whose fleet must eventually be expanded and replaced with many cars serving the “provincial” portion of the line and the segment outside of Toronto.)
Service on the extension will be operated as an extension of the existing Line 2 and will be of comparable quality to service provided across the existing TTC network. It will also match service that will be provided across the subway network in the future. Tunnels, stations, and other infrastructure would be designed to protect for the future installation of an Automatic Train Control system. [A5, p8]
Q47: Does the cost estimate include or not include Automatic Train Control (ATC) implementation on Line 2?
A: No, this is not currently assumed. [A3, p18]
It is downright ridiculous that Metrolinx was happy to slag the TTC over the Relief Line design claiming, inaccurately, that it would use obsolete technology, but proposes to do exactly that for the L2EE. Future conversion will lead to problems and technology conflicts as on TYSSE. This is a bad decision to save money in short term and allow L2EE to run with an aging, rebuilt, non-ATC T1 fleet.
If the riders of Line 2 want to complain that they get aging, hand-me-down trains and wonder when they will ever see a more modern fleet, they should ask Doug Ford and Rick Leary about these plans.
According to the City’s report, Metrolinx has produced a Preliminary Business Case for the L2EE, but has not yet published it. Note that the “external expert advisors” cited here report to Metrolinx, and should not be confused with the “expert panel” created to advise the City on the proposed upload and new subway projects.
Staff have not been provided with any information regarding the scope or findings of the PDBC, but it is our expectation that the PDBC will address issues such as the inclusion of a turn-back east of Kennedy Station, and reflect advice from a panel of external advisors convened by Metrolinx. Metrolinx has assembled a panel of external advisors with a mandate of reviewing previously developed plans and assessing their technical and commercial deliverability. Since mid-summer, the panel has been working with Metrolinx and IO for the purposes of providing advice on topics such as financial and economic modeling, tunnel and station design, costing, construction and delivery. TTC and City staff met with the panel to provide information on the project over the summer. [A5, p3]
Project Cost & Schedule
One of the mysteries of rapid transit plans in Toronto is the relative speed of construction of new lines. This has much more to deal with when governments want to spend money than with the actual time needed to build things. The 8km L2EE will not open until 2030, but 15 km Ontario Line can open by 2027. Yes, some of the OL is not underground, but the likely reason for the delay in L2EE completion is to avoid competition with the Ontario Line and Line 1 extension projects, their associated spending, and their requirements within the construction industry (which can also affect costs).
Delaying the opening to 2030 means that the SRT must be kept alive for another decade, and this will be challenging with what, by then would be 45 years old.
It is the City and TTC’s understanding that the $5.5 billion project budget announced in 2019 Ontario Budget was based on the City’s estimate of approximately $4 billion (adjusted for inflation) for the express extension to Scarborough Centre, and an additional $1.5 billion for scope associated with the additional two stations.
The City’s anticipated completion date for the express L2EE was Q2 2026 / Q2 2027 (with and without applicable schedule risk allowance respectively).2 The 2019 Ontario Budget has estimated a completion date for the 3-stop L2EE at 2029-30.
The City and Province, pursuant to further negotiations, will continue to discuss responsibility for funding costs for maintaining the Line 3 (Scarborough RT) and/or replacement transit service in Scarborough due to the delay in the scheduled completion of the L2EE as a result of the change in scope and delivery of the project.
The TTC are currently undertaking a review of the impacts on the SRT of extending the in-service date of L2EE to 2029/30. [A5, pp 3-4]
As on the Ontario Line, the ridership for the L2EE will come primarily from existing transit users, not from new transit users. Therefore, the new revenue the TTC will obtain to pay for the L2EE’s operation will be considerably less than the full ridership projection might suggest.
With 11,000 new riders per day, and assuming strong bi-directional demand with “counterpeak” travel and from STC, this would translate to something on the order of 1,500 to 2,000 new trips in the peak hour and direction. (Assume two-thirds of the new trips are in the peak direction, or 7,333. Of these half would be in the AM and half in the PM peak, or 3,667. Of those half would be in the peak hour.) This is about 20% of the peak hour demand westbound to Kennedy Station on the L2EE.
Preliminary travel demand modelling suggests that the L2EE will attract approximately 11,000 net new transit riders per day by 2041. Preliminary modelling also suggests that the extension will also increase the peak westbound demand on Line 2 (east of Pape Station) by approximately 1,000 riders in the AM peak hour. The total estimated number of riders of westbound riders on Line 2 is expected to be less than the already expected eastbound demand. Expected demand will require future modernization to Line 2. [A5, p 5]
The key conclusion from this analysis is that while the L2EE will increase westbound demand towards downtown during the morning peak, this increased demand will not exceed previously expected eastbound demand towards downtown. [A5, p7]
These are bizarre statements which, in effect, defend the L2EE from charges it would overload the existing subway by saying that the problem will be even worse on the western leg. The real issue is that the capacity of Line 2 BD today is only 26k per hour based on T1 trains on a 2’20” headway (26 trains/hour).
Line 2 is full today, and riders must let trains pass them by before they can board. There is something seriously wrong with planning for the future of Line 2 if problems of overcrowding and latent demand are not even acknowledged. This has a spillover effect for Line 1 and for whatever “relief” line is built. Once Line 2’s capacity rises, this will further stress transfer traffic to other routes.
A related question for Line 2 and its transfer stations is the matter of capacity to absorb traffic from Line 1 running with more frequent service. None of this is addressed in the reports.
Yonge North Extension
The reports contain little information on the Yonge North Extension. Although it is the subject of a completed Environmental Assessment, there may be changes such as the elimination of stations or alignment shifts depending on input from the “expert advisors” to Metrolinx.
The primary issue with this line is its affect on Line 1 south of Finch Station and especially at Bloor-Yonge.
The projected demand in 2041 is 14k to 20.3k (depending on whether you believe the Metrolinx or City estimates) southbound to Finch Station in the AM peak hour.
By the time we get to Bloor, the demand approaching from the north would be 31.0k to 38.5k riders. The difference is crucial because the planned capacity of the route would be 36.0k/hour (110 seconds 32.7 trains/hour at 1,100 per train). This means that by Metrolinx’ estimate, there is room on Line 1 for the new riders, but the City’s projection is that the subway will be overloaded.
South from Bloor, the difference between the numbers is smaller with a range of 33.5k to 36k, but in any event, the Yonge line will effectively be full.
The basic problem with hourly peak ridership is that it is not evenly distributed over the hour whereas the train service and capacity arrives as a continuous stream. Even achieving a 110 second headway will require a combination of disciplined operation, good scheduling and the ability to get passengers into and out of trains promptly at busy stations (aka short “dwell times”). These are not strong points for the TTC.
The Richmond Hill extension will bring 19,800 net new riders on an all day basis, compared to weekday Line 1 projected ridership of 1.154 million. New fare revenue will not come close to covering operating costs especially if some sort of fare union between Toronto and York Region lowers the revenue received from all existing cross-border travel.
Eglinton West LRT (EWLRT)
Much of what might be built as an extension of The Crosstown LRT west from Mount Dennis to Renforth and eventually to Pearson Airport is still to be determined in design. What was originally to be a surface LRT given the available space and the relatively low demand has evolved into a line that will be at least partially grade-separated to deal with traffic issues and the delicate (political) sensibilities of people who live along the route.
The decision by Council to put part of the route underground has triggered the need to maintain a local bus service thereby undoing part of the reason for the line’s existence.
Q10: What are the impacts on the City/TTC transit network resulting from these projects?
A (for EWLRT): No significant impacts to existing network; would need to maintain existing bus service on corridor due to stop spacing. [A3 p9]
Projected peak demand on the EWLRT is 4,300 per hour eastbound east of Jane Street. New riders attracted by the line would be 5,500 per day, and the report does not compare this to existing demand or give a sense of how heavily this is skewed to peak direction, peak period.
The planned capacity of the line is 5,900/hour. As a matter of reference, the capacity operated today on 504 King at Bathurst eastbound lies between 3,000 and 3,500 per hour during the AM peak, and this is done in mixed traffic, with single Flexitys, not two-car trains on their own right-of-way as planned for Eglinton Crosstown.
Q52: How many stations are proposed and where are they located?
The City and TTC understand the Province is generally considering seven stations on Eglinton, west of Mount Dennis Station, at Jane, Scarlett, Royal York, Islington, Kipling, Martin Grove and Renforth. A future extension in Mississauga would run to Pearson Airport.
Additional details regarding station locations are expected to be discussed in an Initial Business Case anticipated to be released in late 2019 or early 2020. [A3, p19]
Although there is a stated peak capacity, all day service levels have not been published yet. Moreover, there is no information about fares and the potential for a zone boundary, especially if the line is extended beyond Toronto to the Airport.
Q53: Will the service levels and fare be comparable to the Eglinton Crosstown LRT?
Per the package of terms presented by the Province, the City/TTC and Province will discuss service levels and fare agreements as part of the negotiation of the Master Agreement or Agreement(s). [A3, p19]
Eglinton East & Sheppard East LRTs
The Eglinton East and Sheppard East LRTs exist in a vacuum outside of the Province’s four key projects. The EELRT looks to be the possible recipient of “spare” Federal PTIF money in the grand funding swap proposed with this deal. However, this begs the question of who will own the extensions of the Crosstown line and why the City should be diverting scarce dollars it has to extending a Provincial line rather than building (or rebuilding) something of its own. This is the sort of shell game the Ford/Tory deal involved.
As for Sheppard East, it is still officially in the plans, but the Province talks of a subway extension on Line 4. Realistically, this is far enough in the future that we will not see any action on it from incumbent governments at any level. However, the presence or absence of a Sheppard East line does affect a decision on a maintenance facility for Eglinton East if that line is built first because originally the two were to share a carhouse at Sheppard and Conlins.
Design decisions for the L2EE may require changes to the EELRT conceptual design and how it connects to Kennedy Station.
Clarity about future rapid transit on Sheppard East corridor is required before recommendations about the location of the Maintenance and Storage Facility and Malvern Extension can be made. [A3, p9]
Some subway advocates have pushed for through-running of a Sheppard and Scarborough (STC) subway. This is not in the cards in current plans.
Q50: Is the McCowan station proposed to be an interchange with the proposed future Sheppard East Extension or a direct connection? What intersection on the McCowan alignment is the McCowan station (i.e., Sheppard and McCowan)?
A: An interchange station is assumed and is protected at Sheppard East and McCowan.
The assumption is that the Line 2 terminal station at Sheppard and McCowan would include future provision for passenger connections to a future east-west rapid transit line on Sheppard Avenue. There is currently no provision for through-running of trains between Line 2 and any future east-west line on Sheppard. [A3, p18]