Toronto Council Approves Ford/Tory Transit Deal With Minor Amendments

On October 29, 2019, Toronto Council approved the proposed deal between the City and the Province of Ontario whereby the Province takes full responsibility for construction of four new rapid transit projects while the City retains control of the existing subway. The details of that agreement were examined in previous articles and I will not repeat their content here.

The debate ran all day, and it is no surprise that in the end the vote went in favour of the deal. Queen’s Park is in a position to impose its will on the City, and the offer of “free” new lines and retention of control of the TTC’s existing network was too much to turn down. Moreover, this becomes the Mayor’s signature transit “accomplishment” while his previous fantasy, SmartTrack, is a shadow of its original promise, for practical purposes a dead issue.

Several amendments were adopted in an attempt to put conditions or restraints mainly on the Ontario Line project. These are really more suggestions that the Province might, if it’s not too much trouble, modify aspects of their plans. However, Council is in no position to impose any conditions on Provincial actions as they have ceded control and pledged co-operation for whatever the Province eventually builds.

The following motions were adopted (quoted text is from the Council agenda item EX9.1 Toronto-Ontario Transit Update).

2b – Motion to Amend Item (Additional) moved by Councillor Mike Layton (Carried)

That City Council request the City Manager and the Deputy City Manager, Infrastructure and Development to request Metrolinx to ensure that transit-oriented development prioritizes inclusionary zoning and affordable housing requirements, while advancing the principles of good city planning, to the satisfaction of the Deputy City Manager, Infrastructure Development Services, and the Chief Planner and Executive Director, City Planning.

This is simply a request that planning for intensification around stations addresses a range of housing needs, not simply the highest end of the market. It does not affect the route’s design.

2c – Motion to Amend Item (Additional) moved by Councillor Mike Layton (Carried)

That City Council direct the Deputy City Manager, Infrastructure and Development Services and the Chief Executive Officer, Toronto Transit Commission to ensure there will be enough buses available should the Scarborough Rapid Transit fail earlier than the completion date of the Line 2 extension, and that this does not impact other services provided by the Toronto Transit Commission.

The TTC plans to report late in 2Q20 on the work needed to keep the SRT running for the next decade while we await completion of the Scarborough extension to Sheppard. This motion formalizes the need to build plans into future budgets to ensure that if the SRT fails, there will be vehicles and all this implies (garage space, operators, subsidy) to operate a replacement bus route without stealing service from the rest of the system.

3a – Motion to Amend Item (Additional) moved by Councillor Paula Fletcher (Carried)

That City Council direct the Deputy City Manager, Infrastructure and Development Services to immediately study the impact on road operations of the significant expansion of the rail bridges at Eastern Avenue, Queen Street East, Dundas Street East, Logan Avenue, Carlaw Avenue and Gerrard Street in order to safely service 6 new tracks and railbed, and the required rebuild of the Lakeshore Bridge as part of the Gardiner take down; and that this information be forwarded to Metrolinx to be considered in their amended Transit Project Assessment Process.

3b – Motion to Amend Item (Additional) moved by Councillor Paula Fletcher (Carried)

That City Council request the Deputy City Manager, Infrastructure and Development Services to formally inform Metrolinx of the City’s safety standard requirements to operate passenger rail in a shared track bed with heavy rail.

These amendments are the most substantial within the group because they address a technical issue that Metrolinx has not addressed according to City staff. There are minimum separation requirements between mainline railways and tracks for lighter equipment like subway trains or an LRT. These were discussed at Council as if they were a local standard, but there are also Federal standards for this that cannot waived easily by provincial fiat.

Councillor Fletcher showed a diagram of the space required allowing for this separation. This includes the existing three GO tracks plus the one additional proposed as part of the Metrolinx RER project to increase corridor capacity.

Updated 2:00 pm October 30: It has been pointed out quite rightly by a comment on this article that the chart below is not drawn to scale.

By contrast, Metrolinx appears to assume a corridor with all six tracks running side-by-side. (The diagram below, taken from a Metrolinx Blog article, does not show the space needed for platforms at stations.)

The effect of the at grade Ontario Line corridor will be very substantially different depending on the configuration. This also affects noise and vibration concerns.

A widened corridor will affect six bridges between Eastern Avenue and Gerrard Street. The diagram below is from Councillor Fletcher’s presentation to Council.

3c – Motion to Amend Item (Additional) moved by Councillor Paula Fletcher (Carried)

That City Council request CreateTO to determine impact on future development opportunities and land value if the underground portals of the Ontario Line are built on the Riverdale Plaza site.

This motion attempts to determine whether there is a cost in lost development potential or property value for the Gerrard Station and the portal to the at grade section of the Ontario Line as compared with the underground design for the original Relief Line South.

4 – Motion to Amend Item (Additional) moved by Councillor Mike Colle (Amended)
That:

1. City Council direct the City Manager to request the Province of Ontario to defer its planned up-zoning in the Yonge-Eglinton area until the Ontario Line is completed. (ruled out of order)

2. City Council direct the City Manager to re-affirm the City’s concern about the existing overcrowding on Line 1, and the increased overcrowding that will occur at Eglinton Station as a result of proposed higher densities proposed by the Province as a result of Bill 108 and overriding of the “Midtown in Focus Plan” OPA 405. (ruled out of order)

3. City Council direct the City Manager to inform the Province of Ontario that the increased overcrowding at Eglinton Station will dramatically increase when the Eglinton Crosstown is completed in 2021.

Councillor Colle attempted to have some consideration of slowing growth at Yonge-Eglinton imposed at least until transit capacity improves, but Speaker Nunziata ruled much of his motion out of order on the grounds that Council had already dealt with the Yonge-Eglinton density question.

On a related note, the TTC’s current plans, once Automatic Train Control (ATC) is active on the entire Line 1, are to gradually build up the trains/hour service level over several years to ensure that the more frequent service can actually be operated. They will not operate the full 33 trains/hour (110 second headway) immediately. Moreover, the TTC owns only 76 6-car trainsets for Line 1, and of these 65 are used for peak service. Moving from the current 25.7 trains/hour to 32.7 would require about 80 trains plus spares, but the TTC does not have them. Until additional trains are ordered and delivered, the TTC will be in no position to move to the full service possible with ATC even assuming they can resolve operational problems that the shorter headways will trigger, notably terminal operations and station dwell time limits.

5 – Motion to Amend Item (Additional) moved by Deputy Mayor Denzil Minnan-Wong (Carried)

That:

1.  City Council confirm its position that capacity and reliability improvements on Line 1 remain a top priority for future capital investment.

2.  City Council request the Chief Executive Officer, Toronto Transit Commission to accelerate the study of the Line 1 Capacity Requirements and provide an updated report to the Toronto Transit Commission Board as soon as feasible to be considered in the allocation of new capital investment funds.

3.  City Council request the Chief Executive Officer, Toronto Transit Commission to proactively monitor and review platform congestion and safety at all major interchange stations, and in particular Eglinton Station, once the Eglinton Crosstown LRT is in operation.

This motion is self-explanatory. Council is well aware that there will be capacity problems in the interim period before the Ontario Line actually opens, and even that benefit will be short-lived in the planning sense with the limits of Line 1 only two decades in the future. An intriguing change reported by TTC staff is that the peak point on Line 1 will shift from south of Bloor Station to north of it in the completed network of the 2030s.

6 – Motion to Amend Item (Additional) moved by Councillor John Filion (Carried)

That:

1. City Council direct the City Manager, in consultation with the Chief Executive Officer, Toronto Transit Commission, in the negotiation of the applicable Master Agreement and/or other applicable Agreements with the Province and/or any other relevant provincial agency, to include a requirement that the in-service date for the Ontario Line be prior to the in-service date of the Yonge North Subway Extension, as stated in the 2019 Provincial Budget, and that the relative construction schedules be planned accordingly.

2. City Council request the City Manager to report to City Council by the third quarter of 2020 on a funding plan for the Line 1 Capacity Enhancement program so that funding sources will be secured in order that such enhancements occur prior to the opening of the Line 1 extension.

This motion, too, speaks to the need to ensure that a crisis on Line 1 will not be created by funneling more riders onto it from an extension before all of the capacity improvements are in place. An obvious concern is that if the Ontario Line and other works are delayed, but the extension is built in parallel and completed first, there will be strong political pressure to open it whether the line can absorb the riders or not.

7 – Motion to Amend Item (Additional) moved by Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam (Carried)

That City Council affirm its support for the maintenance of new and existing lines to be done by the integrated and professional workforce at the Toronto Transit Commission.

Council can support the TTC workers, but there is no guarantee they will actually be used especially for new lines. Already the Crosstown LRT is to be operated by the TTC, but all maintenance is the responsibility of the P3 consortium.

8a – Motion to Amend Item (Additional) moved by Councillor Shelley Carroll (Carried)

That City Council direct the City Manager and the Chief Executive Officer, Toronto Transit Commission, as part of the negotiations with the Province and/or any other relevant provincial agency, to ensure that the parties set a timeline for negotiating a joint operating subsidy.

This motion addressed a smouldering issue for Council which faces the operating costs for all new lines, including the relatively soon-to-open Crosstown. Metrolinx has refused to discuss operating costs with the City for years, but the new deal makes a definitive arrangement and cost estimate much more pressing.

8b – Motion to Amend Item (Additional) moved by Councillor Shelley Carroll (Carried)

That City Council request the City Manager, in consultation with the Chief Executive Officer, Toronto Transit Commission to report back to Executive Committee on the state of good repair burden at the Toronto Transit Commission, separating out vehicle life cycle needs across subway, streetcar, bus and Wheeltrans vehicles, including assumptions of vehicle purchase programs possible at the City’s cost under the new terms negotiated with the Province.

New vehicle purchases have generally received special subsidies from both the Provincial and Federal governments, but it is not clear what, if any, funding streams will be available to pay for the TTC’s needs over coming years. A further consideration here will be that the TTC will be buying new subway cars that will actually serve extensions outside of the City.

9 – Motion to Amend Item (Additional) moved by Councillor Jim Karygiannis (Carried)

That City Council request the City Manager to communicate to the Province and the Federal Governments that, in future stages of transit planning, they strongly consider extending the current Sheppard Subway to connect with the new proposed station at Sheppard Avenue and McCowan Road and to identify this in their upcoming budget processes.

A motion to “strongly consider” does not commit Council to the Sheppard Subway project, but this was not a battle to be fought now. In any event, the request is to two governments over which the City has no control.

Notable by its absence from the discussion was the “North York Relief Line” as the Sheppard West extension is styled by Councillor Pasternak in his frequent advocacy for it.

11 – Motion to Amend Item (Additional) moved by Councillor Joe Cressy (Carried)

That City Council direct the Deputy City Manager, Infrastructure and Development Services, in consultation with the Chief Executive Officer, Toronto Transit Commission, as part of work with Metrolinx and as part of any future expansion of the Ontario Line, to ensure that:

a. there is full and affordable fare integration between all lines, systems and technologies, as per previous plans to implement fare integration approved by City Council, including a single fare for rides within the City of Toronto;

b. fares not be established based on distance; and

c. fares for any new lines be established by the Toronto Transit Commission Board.

The problem with demanding a fare structure is that it is not a Metrolinx decision, but rather one at the Provincial level to set subsidy levels for GO Transit such that it could afford its share of “fare integration”. As for fare levels generally, the new agreement dictates that all fare revenue flows to the City to partly offset the operating costs it will bear. The decision about how much riders would pay will directly affect the City’s revenue and subsidy planning.

12 – Motion to Amend Item (Additional) moved by Councillor Anthony Perruzza (Carried)

That City Council direct the City Manager to work with the Province of Ontario to identify all opportunities to accelerate the delivery of the expansion projects and to include an update on the measures taken in the City Manager’s semi-annual update to City Council regarding the status of the provincial transit expansion program.

This is something of a motherhood motion in that the constraints on project timing are already well known including the very preliminary nature of plans for the Ontario Line, the capacity of the industry to undertake concurrent projects and the rate at which Ontario will spend real dollars, as opposed to promises, especially if cost estimates rise above the announced levels.

Two losing motions (there were others) were of interest.

2d – Motion to Amend Item (Additional) moved by Councillor Mike Layton (Lost)

That City Council request the Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer, in consultation with the General Manager, Toronto Transit Commission, as part of the 2020 capital budget, to report on an accelerated Capital Plan for the Toronto Transit Commission made possible by a one percent increase to the City Building Fund.

Although we still don’t know what the 2020 Budget or 2020-29 Capital Plan will look like, this was an attempt to accelerate discussion of priorities if new tax revenue were allocated. What we did learn, however, is that a one percent increase would fund debt of about $640 million. This shows the amount of new tax revenue that would be needed to fund a substantial state of good repair program not to mention the unfunded portion of the billions in City commitments freed up by the Provincial deal.

10 – Motion to Amend Item moved by Councillor Gord Perks (Lost)

That City Council amend Executive Committee Recommendation 3 by adding the following between “Preliminary Agreement” and “and in anticipation”:

and an agreement which requires the Provincial and Federal governments to pay two-thirds of the Toronto Transit Commission’s state of good repair and rolling stock costs, …

This was a motion doomed to lose because it would make the whole deal subject to an agreement from two governments to substantially increase TTC capital funding, and by implication funding for comparable transit systems elsewhere in Ontario and Canada. When we do get an updated TTC Capital Plan, it will be interesting to contemplate just how much spending this would represent.

Toronto faces massive future costs to keep its transit system running, and the implications this has both for transit’s ability to move people in the region and for the City’s financial state are unsettling to put it mildly. Even so, Council persists in throwing any money it thinks might be available to more new lines rather than to maintaining and operating what it has won back after the Province decided that taking over the subway, let alone the rest of the transit system, was not worth the effort.

14 thoughts on “Toronto Council Approves Ford/Tory Transit Deal With Minor Amendments

  1. As for fare levels generally, the new agreement dictates that all fare revenue flows to the City to partly offset the operating costs it will bear.

    Did the City just get Presto fees waived? I imagine not, but it would be an amusing consequence. I hope the City at least negotiated lower Presto overhead in future as part of this agreement.

    Steve: The word “Presto” does not exist in this agreement, nor is there anything definitive about future operating costs or fare integration.

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  2. Fletcher’s diagram misrepresents scale. The distance between GO lines is 4.27m, the distance between GO and Ontario Line would be 6m.

    The overall expansion from 20m to 34m to support 6 tracks is significant, but the extra 3.4m needed to separate OL is greatly exaggerated by Fletcher’s diagram. Metrolinx’s diagram is also wrong, but more accurate.

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  3. “This motion addressed a smouldering issue for Council which faces the operating costs for all new lines, including the relatively soon-to-open Crosstown. Metrolinx has refused to discuss operating costs with the City for years, but the new deal makes a definitive arrangement and cost estimate much more pressing.”

    Has even a preliminary report been completed about reshaping the north-south bus routes, particularly west of Yonge, been done at all yet? I can see the TTC contemplating slashing service on routes like Bathurst, Ossington, Rogers, Dufferin, and Keele to offset the increased expense of the Crosstown because they would assume ‘everyone making the more complex and indirect north-west or south-east transit trips will switch to the Crosstown instead.

    This all needs to be fleshed out soon with the Crosstown now already less than 24 months from opening.

    Steve: There is a route map, but no details of proposed service levels, in a TTC report from 2016.

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  4. Steve, can you help? They changed the Junction bus (#40) and the last week has been hell between 6 and 7 pm. The buses don’t move, they’re packed,and I’ve witnessed two screaming altercations between frustrated passengers and the drivers. The driver I spoke to says the drivers need 15 more minutes; they changed the route but not the time.

    Steve: I will add this to my list of routes to review for November 2019.

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  5. Pretty dismal and even ‘deep-pressing’ though it makes much sense to try to get up north to Eglinton, via Thorncliffe etc, especially in time for that opening – so break out the markers!?! I sure hope there are some fiscal conservatives up at the province who want to respect the taxpayers and squeeze the billions, which is seeming pretty easy here, if the politricks and Mr. Ford weren’t involved. We need those billions not only for smarter transit, and Scarborough LRT and for maintenance, but also for housing, etc.

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  6. I am suprised that Matlow did not seek an amendment. Then, he must agree with the plan but Matlow still voted against it. Almost everyone voted for the plan but Matlow still votes against it. Reminds me of Rob Ford who voted against everything just like Josh Matlow.

    Steve: I did not include most of the motions that lost, including Matlow’s attempt to revive the Scarborough LRT project in place of the subway extension, to fund the Eglinton East LRT to UTSC, to build the Eglinton West extension entirely on the surface.

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  7. Opposing the Ontario Line will only cause delay. The Ford government is guaranteed to be in power until at least the middle of 2022. Supposing that someone other than Ford becomes Premier in the middle of 2022 and switches back to the earlier plan, it will take at least a few years before construction can begin (say 2025) which will mean that it will be at least 2035 before the DRL can open.

    Keep in mind that a completely underground DRL with subway sized tunnels and stations will take far longer to construct than the Ontario Line.

    If instead of trying to oppose the Ontario Line, we all unite behind it, relief to the Yonge Line and Yonge-Bloor station can be provided by 2027 and may be even a few years earlier around 2025 if construction, etc is sped up.

    And what if Ford is re-elected Premier in 2022? Considering all this, it is not a good idea for anyone to waste time by opposing the Ontario Line. Many people are already opposing the Ontario Line on the grounds that it uses a different rolling stock than the subway system. But so what? The SRT, the streetcar system, the Eglinton LRT, the GO Train system, the UPX all use a different rolling stock from the subway as well as from each other.

    Many people are opposing the Ontario Line because part of it is not underground. But neither is the Eglinton LRT, the SRT, or the streetcar system.

    I think that the Ontario Line is going to provide very fine service and it is much better than the alternatives of delaying relief by as many as 10 years or not building anything at all which is why let us all unite behind the Ontario Line even if it is not perfect as nothing in life is perfect.

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  8. @Joe: “Many people are already opposing the Ontario Line on the grounds that it uses a different rolling stock than the subway system. But so what? The SRT, the streetcar system, the Eglinton LRT, the GO Train system, the UPX all use a different rolling stock from the subway as well as from each other. “

    I don’t know much about the projected figures for the OL, other than from a tweet from a journalist (I think?) that said that the capacity of the DRL would’ve been a theoretical 44k riders an hour compared to the OL’s 34k, and that’s what I’ve seen as the bulk of the outcry.

    I don’t think anyone is bothered that the streetcar system or GO Train uses different types of rolling stock – they are, after all, different systems with different aims and ridership numbers – and the SRT has been so troublesome for the TTC in the last decade or so that I doubt that anyone is really okay with the different rolling stock being used.

    Steve: The projected 44K riders/hour on the OL assumes a smaller space/rider on trains than the value the TTC uses for its subway calculations, as well as the ability to sustain a 90 second headway, something that is very challenging in the real world. It is the Holy Grail of transit operations, but exists more as a goal than a reality.

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  9. It is not surprising that the people (Steve Munro, Josh Matlow, Adam Vaughan, Paul Ainslie, and their likes) opposing the Ontario Line are the very same ones who oppose the Scarborough subway. These people would much rather see a DRL that stopped at Danforth vs an Ontario Line that went north through poorer areas to Eglinton. These people just can’t stand money being spent in poorer areas (Scarborough, Thorncliffe, Flemingdon Park, etc). The on-surface LRT on Eglinton in Scarborough was justified because Eglinton in Scarborough is wide enough. Well, so is Overlea Blvd. There is no reason why we can’t have on-surface or elevated transit on Overlea Blvd. Steve, poorer areas like Scarborough, Thorncliffe Park, Flemingdon Park, etc pay taxes too and as such, can you explain your position why no tax dollars should be spent in these poorer areas such as Scarborough, Thorncliffe Park, Flemingdon Park, etc?

    Steve: You are completely misrepresenting my position on the Ontario line (and quite likely that of the others you name) by claiming that I/we want a DRL stopping at Danforth. This is total BS, and you should know better.

    I have advocated for a “Don Mills Subway” to at least Eglinton for years, and feel the biggest problem with the TTC proposal of Danforth to Downtown has always been that it is too short.

    See Where Would a Don Mills Subway Go? (December 2008) and A Don Mills Subway For Toronto (October 2013).

    The OL is intended to run elevated through Thorncliffe/Flemingdon Parks, and I have no problem with this subject to alignment and station designs. There was a time when a relief line might have come north further east, not via Pape, and cross the valley east of the Leaside Bridge rather than west of it. In that case, it might have to run underground through Thorncliffe Park on a north-south rather than east-west alignment. (See the map in the 2008 article linked above.)

    It may suit your warped view of the world to imply that I want lower class transit for lower class people/areas, but that too is a complete misrepresentation. If we only aim to build the most expensive transit mode everywhere, whether it is actually needed or not, then those poor areas will be lucky to get better bus service, not rapid transit.

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  10. Josh Matlow actually tried to revive the transfer version of the Scarborough LRT? How dense can a person be. If he thinks the subway is too expensive, then he should suggest a rapid, transfer free route from STC to the downtown area, or at least to the Yonge corridor.

    1. The Eglinton-Scarborough Crosstown would have done this – by connecting to B-D, DRL, Yonge, Spadina subways.
    2. SmartSpur would have done this – RER or frequent electrified GO from STC down the Stoufville line to Union.
    3. Perhaps a Sheppard extension from Downsview to STC would also serve the purpose – in conjunction with a DRL to Sheppard or Seneca College.
    4. Maybe a whole new transit line, that goes roughly parallel to Ellesmere (elevated, just as existing part is) and then downtown via the Don Valley, would do this.

    The fact is that there are better options than the B-D subway extension – the first being too late at this point in time. I suspect many others realize this as well, but are afraid that people like Matlow will use any farther explorations of better routes as an excuse to kill the whole Scarborough transit improvement.

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  11. “If he thinks the subway is too expensive, then he should suggest a rapid, transfer free route from STC to the downtown area, or at least to the Yonge corridor.”

    Not everyone in Scarborough lives next to STC. Besides being much cheaper, the other advantage on the Scarborough LRT is that it would have gone much deeper into Scarborough give people a much shorter bus trip before they got onto rapid transit, which would more then make up for the extra (one level instead of three level) transfer at Kennedy.

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  12. Why the fixation on a “rapid, transfer-free route to downtown” from STC specifically? STC is not the centre of the world, even in Scarborough.

    The Bloor-Danforth extension will provide a transfer-free route (well, assuming that every other train doesn’t short turn at Kennedy), but it’s not exactly rapid, and heading home, passengers may well have to stand to beyond Pape station.

    I would suggest that going to your local GO train station, including Scarborough, Eglinton, Guildwood, Rouge Hill, Kennedy, Agincourt, or Milliken, will give you a rapid, transfer-free ride downtown. Of course this is at extra fare currently. Maybe RER or SmartTrack will change this. In any case, rapid, transfer-free, and comfortable.

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  13. How many shills for Metrolinx do you think are out here, Steve? This is like watching a re-run of a bad movie we’ve both seen before.

    Steve: You should see the crap that I don’t publish. I think that a lot comes from Ford Foamers. My favourite (who has not shown up recently) regularly posted from an IP address in the Ministry of Health, but that was under the Liberals.

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  14. So, with lighter rolling stock than the heavy rail on other lines, how worried should the public be that the Ontario Line will run out of capacity earlier. Some people foresaw the Yonge Line well before it reached capacity. I’d never heard of the DRL until a decade ago, or maybe less.

    Should the Ontario Line really be extended to Sheppard? To Highway 7?

    If it reached Highway 7, in 2035 or 2040, would it already be beyond capacity, requiring a DRL 2?

    I have a bee in my bonnet. I think all the stations on the Crosstown, where it intersects a subway line or GO line, should be wide enough for passengers to board from both sides of the train. I think Steve told us adding additional east-west platforms at Yonge-Bloor station has been under consideration, at a very substantial cost. Yeah, this should have been done while building those stations, when the cost of doing so would have been much less.

    One weakness of the Flexity Freedom vehicles is that the 2 broad doors, and 2 more narrow doors is less doors than our heavy rail vehicles.

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