Drifting Timelines on Metrolinx Projects (Updated)

Updated June 23, 2020 at 1:50 pm: The table of projects has been updated to include anticipated events, notably “financial close” dates, that were included in various project announcements by Infrastructure Ontario. Also Union Station Platform Expansion was described in the original version of this article as closing sooner than originally projected. This has been corrected to show a delay of roughly nine months.

Infrastructure Ontario recently released its Spring 2020 Update for P3 projects under its control including several Metrolinx projects. To date there have been three of these updates:

These updates include information on the project status, the type of procurement model, and the expected progress of each project through the procurement process. This provides “one stop shopping” compared to Metrolinx’ own site. As a convenience to readers, I have consolidated the three updates as they relate to transit projects to allow easy comparison between versions.

Some projects have evolved since the first version, and in particular the delivery dates for a few projects have moved further into the future. The “financial close” dates for some projects, in effect the point at which a contract is signed and real work can begin, has moved beyond the date of the next Provincial election. Whatever government is in power after summer 2022 will have a final say on whether these projects go ahead.

Subway Projects

Ontario Line

The Ontario Line was previously reported as a single project with a price tag of over $10 billion. In the Fall 2019 update, the intent was to have the financial close in Winter/Spring 2022 ahead of the election. In the Winter 2020 update, this changed to Spring 2022.

In the Spring 2020 update, the project has been split into separate parts to reflect industry feedback about the original scope.

  1. GO Corridor from Don River to Gerrard
  2. South Tunnels, Civil Works and Stations CNE to Don River
  3. Rolling Stock, System Operations & Maintenance
  4. North Tunnels, Civil Works and Stations

The GO corridor work will be done as a conventional procurement by Metrolinx and will be bundled with upgrades to GO Transit trackage.

The financial close for items 2 and 3 above is now Fall 2022, and for item 4 it is Fall 2023.

This means that an actual sign-on-the-dotted-line commitment to the project will not be within the current government’s mandate. Even the so-called “early works” comprising the southern portion of the route from Exhibition to the Don River is not scheduled to close until Fall 2022. The northern portion, from Gerrard to Eglinton will close in Fall 2023. This contract is being held back pending results for the south contract to determine the industry’s appetite for the work.

The southern portion, with a long tunnel through downtown and stations in congested street locations would start first. However, the line cannot actually open without the northern portion because this provides the link to the maintenance facility which is included as part of item 3 above although the actual access connection would be built as part of item 4.

An issue linking all of these projects is the choice of technology which, in turn drives decisions such as tunnel and station sizes, power supply, signalling and maintenance facility design. When the Ontario Line was a single project, Metrolinx could say that this choice was up to the bidders, but now there must be some co-ordination to ensure that what is built can actually be used to operate the selected technology. It is hardly a secret that Metrolinx is promoting a SkyTrain like technology, although which propulsion scheme (LIM vs rotary motors) is not clear. There are well-known problems with LIMs and the power pickup technology used on the SRT, and this would also be a consideration for the outdoor portions of the Ontario Line.

Scarborough Subway Extension

Like the Ontario Line, the Scarborough Extension has been split into two pieces. The first will be the tunnel contract from Kennedy Station to McCowan. This is now in the  procurement phase, and financial close is projected for Spring 2021.

The remainder of the project previously had a projected closing date of “Winter/Spring 2023”, but this is now just “2023”. With the tunnel hived off into a separate contract, it is reasonable that the remainder would have a later start date because the tunnel is a key component that must be in place first.

Metrolinx recently published a Preliminary Business Case for this extension. It includes the following text:

Kennedy Station Pocket Track/Transition Section

The Kennedy transition section extends roughly 550 metres from the east side of the GO Transit Stouffville rail corridor to Commonwealth Avenue and will include special track work and a pocket track to enable every second subway train to short turn to suit ridership demand and minimize fleet requirements, as well as lower operating costs. [p 24]

This turnback has been an on-again, off-again part of the project but it is now clearly included as a cost saving measure. With only every second train running to Sheppard/McCowan, the fleet required (as well as storage) would be within the system’s current capacity. This ties in with the timing of the T1 fleet replacement on Line 2 as there are enough T1s to run alternate, but not full service to Sheppard. This would be similar to the arrangement now used on the TYSSE where only half of the AM peak service runs north of Glencairn Station to Vaughan.

Richmond Hill Subway Extension

The Ontario government recently signed an agreement with York Region for the extension of the Yonge line from Finch to Richmond Hill. The status of this project is unchanged with an RFQ to be issued in Fall 2021, an RFP in Spring 2022 and financial close in Fall 2023.

Sheppard East Subway Extension

This project remains in the planning phase.

LRT Projects

Eglinton Crosstown

The main part of the Crosstown project is already under construction and, therefore, it does not appear in the IO project list.

On the proposed western extension, the tunnel portion has become a separate contract as with the Scarborough extension. It is now in the RFQ stage with the intent of the RFP issuing in Summer 2020 and financial close in Spring 2021. The fact that this work is already “in market” shows that the government has no intention of entertaining any option for surface operations through much of Etobicoke.

There is no date even for an RFQ let alone actual construction of the extension.

Finch

The Finch West LRT is under construction and does not appear in the IO list.

Hurontario

The Hurontario project had its financial close in October 2019, and it is now under construction.

Hamilton

The Hamilton project was intended to close in October 2020, but the project was iced by Queen’s Park. A review of alternative options is underway thanks to strong objection from Hamilton about the provincial decision and mis-characterization of the project’s eventual cost.

GO Transit Projects

Union Station Platform Expansion (Updated)

The RFP for this project was issued in February 2020, and financial close is expected in Fall 2021, an improvement from later than the originally projected Winter 2021.

There is an oddity in the announcement of the RFP being issued where IO claims that:

A successful bidder is expected to be announced in summer 2020.

This is clearly impossible for an RFP that has only just been issued and especially considering that their own Winter 2020 update shows a Fall 2021 date for the financial close.

Lake Shore East-Central Corridor (Updated)

There was an RFP for this project in April 2018, but the financial close date remains “TBD”. When this RFP was issued, IO claimed:

A successful proponent is expected to be announced in winter 2018.

Lake Shore East-West Corridor (Updated)

There was an RFQ for this project in February 2018, but no RFP has been issued nor is there a projected financial close date. When this project was announced, IO claimed:

A request for proposals is expected to be released in spring 2019.

Lake Shore West Corridor (Updated)

An RFQ was issued for this project in December 2017, and an RFP in April 2018. With the Spring 2020 update, the financial close has changed from “TBD” to “Winter 2021”. When the project was announced, IO claimed:

A successful proponent is expected to be announced in early 2019.

Milton Corridor (Updated)

An RFQ was issued for this project in November 2017, and an RFP in April 2018. With the Spring 2020 update, the financial close has changed from “TBD” to “Winter 2021”. When the project was announced, IO claimed:

IO and Metrolinx will evaluate the proposals, select a preferred proponent and award a final contract, anticipated to be announced in winter 2019.

ONCorr Project: GO Network Expansion

This is a very large project including future operation of GO Transit and possible changes in the propulsion technology. An RFQ was issued in March 2018 with an RFP in May 2019. In the Spring 2020 update, the financial closing date changed from “2021” to “2022”.

SmartTrack

In the Spring 2020 update, SmartTrack showed up as a project in the planning stage. A big challenge for Metrolinx and Toronto is that Ontario hopes to gain developer contributions to station costs, but is unclear how much or if such contributions might be. Also, we have not seen any definitive costs for ST stations. Whether Toronto can still afford John Tory’s signature plan remains to be seen.

Financing

The Infrastructure Ontario updates do not deal with financing except to the point of describing which type of project delivery has been selected, if any. Most projects include financing by the entity that builds/delivers them (that is the “F” in the acronyms for project delivery).

However, it is not clear how contributions from other potential partners would be handled. These include:

The Federal government: Ontario would like the Feds to contribute 40% of the signature transit projects, and the province has complained that the Feds have not stepped up with their presumed share. For their part, the Feds complain that detailed designs and business cases do not exist for some projects, much less a hard estimate of the cost. “40% of what” is a valid question.

Although Ontario may choose to string out its payments in the indefinite future with financing from the private partner, this is not necessarily the position another government might take. For example, it could be cheaper for the Feds to borrow on their own account and simply pay their share up front. The catch, of course, is that the payment would be based on 40% of the then-current cost estimate, not including future overruns or unexpected inflation.

Although we hear about this less often, Ontario would also like Toronto (or appropriate municipalities) to chip in 20% of projects within their territories. It is unclear where Toronto would find their “share” in the currently strained budget.

The danger with having a large collection of P3s as an integral part of the transit system is that paying the bills will be unavoidable and will crowd out spending on other projects and portfolios. As the shape of the post-pandemic economy emerges and we get a better sense of the resources that each government will have available, we may discover just how rich all of the transit promises were, and may suffer indigestion attempting to sustain them all.

38 thoughts on “Drifting Timelines on Metrolinx Projects (Updated)

  1. The Scarborough subway needs to be expedited as a COVID-19 job recovery effort and also because the SRT is breaking apart. BRT needs to be considered in lieu of the DRL for the next two decades while the economy recovers from this crisis of Biblical proportions. Simply speaking, the DRL is too expensive post-COVID.

    Steve: Actual construction on the Scarborough subway is unlikely to begin until sometime in 2023. As for BRT in place of the DRL, there is no place that a bus service of sufficient capacity (never mind the fleet required to operate it) would fit on the street network.

    While we’re on the subject of extensions that are “too expensive”, dare I compare the Scarborough extension at over $5 billion with the Ontario Line (or whatever we call it) at over $10 billion? Which one is the big waste?

    Scarborough could have had an LRT operating from Kennedy to Markham by now, but no, Scarborough “deserves” a subway.

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  2. How many tracks will there be between Gerrard and the Don River with the Ontario Line, Smart Track as well as the Lakeshore East and Stouffville corridors?

    Steve: We don’t know yet. Metrolinx has diagrams showing four GO tracks spanned by two OL tracks, but they refuse to answer questions about the effects of additional service on track requirements. Any plan is complicated by future service levels and stopping patterns which, again, Metrolinx refuses to comment on. They have also not addressed the issue of minimum spacing between mainline rail tracks and rapid transit tracks.

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  3. So does this mean if the PC party gets voted out in 2022 that the plans for the Ontario Line could significantly change? Is there a chance that a power change at Queens Park could lead to the elimination of above grade segments for item #4?

    Does financial close mean signing all contracts on the dotted line or are they already signed for and the close is for transfer/first payment of funds? I’m a novice when it comes to these terms.

    I highly doubt that rolling stock will change too much (maybe type, but not width and length) even with a different party running the province after 2022 because of what might be locked in from the south portion of the line’s contracts and design.

    Steve: “Financial close” is the point at which a contract is signed. It’s Metrolinx/IO P3 terminology. For any contract with vendor financing, the first payment date will depend on the financing scheme and on how much of the capital cost is fronted by direct payments from parties like the Federal government as opposed to back-end financing that does not start to be paid off until the line opens for business.

    It’s anyone’s guess what a new government might do. My point is that the option for review of the project would still be available.

    The south portion’s contract won’t be signed by then either. The only thing that will be underway or completed will be whatever is done in the GO corridor.

    The only ways that the Tories can get around this is to force an earlier financial close, or to delay the election. An earlier financial close would have to be moved up at least six months. It will be interesting to see if Infrastructure Ontario “revises” the schedule with their next quarterly update. They would not have pushed the dates out to Fall 2022 without good reason.

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  4. Odds are quite high we need a reset of the ‘plans’ – including the follies of over-extension of the main spines, again. I remain thinking we need something direct to core via Don Valley, and a different fix for Scarborough, and otherwise focussing on Relief function, not relief project. It’s a shame that the federal level is only capable of shovelling out the billions, no questions asked about quality of plans, and we really need to have a more transparent planning process, which includes having the range of options fully outlined as well as review by very-arms-length teams of experts from out of country, so polluted has our ‘planning’ become, though yes, lots of good work on the details, but if the concept is wrong….

    Steve: As opposed to the out of country experts who are not-at-all-arms-length.

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  5. Steve,

    Even if the dates are pushed forward again from Fall 2022 for some of the items, with the north portion of the line being pushed back to Fall 2023, what are the chances a new gov’t can force Metrolinx to bury the north end?

    Metrolinx keeps pushing elevated only because of Schabas (and Ford’s desire to build quickly)… but if Schabas is gone, then do you think a change of direction for tunnel vs. air is possible?

    Could covid-19 be the blessing in disguise that causes a rethink back to rational transit planning and building even if it means we’re now a few years out all over again? Not building garbage is better than building it and having to pay to maintain it. We don’t want another SRT boondoggle again.

    Steve: It’s not a case of a new government “forcing” Metrolinx to do anything, but of the government having a different approach. Sadly, I suspect that even if Schabas and his buddies are pushed out, there will be a huge problem with how to pay for all of this and we risk getting nothing.

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  6. WIth the out-of-country experts, I’d been thinking UITP/APTA/Mexico City transit people, but yes, there are many types, and it’d be hard to keep atop them perhaps, so eternal vigilance on behalf of shitizens/users is necessary I suppose, thank you Steve.

    Steve: The problem also lies at the political and board level. If the government doesn’t want messy public participation, it puts heavy handed people in place and a regulatory framework that encourages pro forma engagement, but with the power to do whatever they want in the end. This goes back at least to McGuinty when he got rid of “Metrolinx 1.0”.

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  7. Is it possible that an election will come before the processes for the western section of the Crosstown reaches the point of no return. The Metrolinx report itself admits that the cost of going underground cannot be justified. The time and length, not to mention the construction mess should all mitigate against going underground and with the earlier plan of running the line on the surface there would be plenty of space on either side of the tracks for the automobile traffic. In addition, access to and from the platforms (just wait for the light to turn green then walk across to the platform) is far easier than with underground stations where all to often the escalators and elevators don’t work. I am at a point in my life where I find steps to be very difficult and I have been advised to consider getting a walker.

    Steve: The intent is to issue the tunnel contract for Eglinton West in Spring 2021. The RFQ is on the street, and the RFP will go out this summer once there is a short list of candidate firms. Of course depending on how much is actually finished by fall 2022, we could always fill in the hole. It’s been done before.

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  8. David said: “Is it possible that an election will come before the processes for the western section of the Crosstown reaches the point of no return. The Metrolinx report itself admits that the cost of going underground cannot be justified.”

    I don’t even know why Eglinton West needs to be tunneled, unless you consider it is in Fordland. But if Eglinton West gets tunneled I will be pissed because the Leslie station is above ground on the main part of the line and that prevents ATC between Mount Dennis and Science Centre all because of a couple of hundred losers living by the Toyota dealership who demanded a station and McGuinty was too cheap to tunnel it.

    If I recall, to keep some trams running ATC the short-turn point has to be at Laird? Which will be annoying and a nuisance since Science Centre is supposed to be a hub and it will be a pain offloading from one tram to another just to continue your journey to Science Centre.

    Steve: There is a compound problem here. If the right-of-way had run along the south side of Eglinton, there would not have been a conflict between turning moves to/from Leslie and the LRT operations leaving more green time for LRT trains. However, that arrangement would have fouled the plans to use the IBM cloverleaf west of Don Mills as the outlet for Wynford Drive which will be extended west and south through the new development on the old IBM lands.

    Also, I think the whole business about having to be under ATC in order to have full service east of Laird is a lot of hot air put out by people at Metrolinx who just cannot get their heads around the idea that it is possible to drive trains reliably at closer headways without it.

    The real problem is to have transit priority signals at Leslie that actually give priority to transit, something utterly unheard of in Toronto. The stop at Leslie makes this trickier but not impossible.

    I remember the lobbying for a Leslie station, and the people who wanted it could hardly be called “losers” any more than those who want a different treatment for various projects elsewhere are. That sort of language dismisses a position you may not agree without addressing the issues. There is a future in “public consultation” for anyone with that approach.

    Staying on the surface across the Don River also saved a potload of money, something that is obviously not a concern out in “Fordland” on Eglinton West. Ironically, the demand there will mean that half of the service will turn back further east. But that whole area was sensitized to the “interference” from LRT by an utterly bone-headed proposal to replace left turns at major intersections with hook turns that might have been possible for autos but impossible for trucks that make up a lot of traffic there. This was one of a few cock-ups in the design work for Transit City that undercut its credibility even before Ron Ford became Mayor and killed the plan. It’s almost as if the people at TTC and Toronto (then in charge) really didn’t believe in the project.

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  9. According to a recent Star article, Metrolinx is considering putting part of the Yonge North subway extension on the surface to reduce costs. The article indicates that the surface section would follow the Richmond Hill GO line from about Kirk Drive to Langstaff / Richmond Hill Centre. On Google Maps, this appears to be a short surface section. York Region politicians are upset and apparently feel that the region deserves a subway entirely under Yonge Street. Markham Councillor Keith Irish reminded Doug Ford of the Fordian slogan of “subways, subways, subways”, which to York Region politicians means means 100% underground, of course, ignoring that some sections of the Yonge subway were built on the surface.

    Steve: Metrolinx appears to be pinching pennies wherever they can. The real question at the north end of the line is whether a rapid transit station immediately adjacent to the GO corridor is preferable for future demand and development to one that is under Yonge Street as originally planned. The article states:

    “the proposed new alignment might also have the benefits of serving emerging communities east of Yonge and providing improved connections to existing transit services in the region.”

    This actually sounds as if Metrolinx wants one consolidated interchange at its existing GO station, and is looking at the development potential of the acres of surface parking on existing lands around the rail corridor.

    I must say that the idea of putting the bus interchange at Steeles back on the surface is an important change. The original huge underground interchange had the feeling that Steeles, not Richmond Hill, was the end of the line. The question is whether Metrolinx will design a terminal that is set up for development above the station from day one rather than a cheap-as-dirt interchange that sterilizes the land on which it is built. They are big on transit-oriented-development, as long as someone else pays for it.

    Another factor the Star does not mention is the question of how many stations between Finch and Richmond Hill actually survive in the final version.

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  10. It’s so very helpful to have the comments and commentary to be reminded just how danged complex it seems to be to do anything, with layers of ‘should have…’ and ‘could have’, so it’s not quite so simple as a line on a map, though at other times, the simpler line might be the smart thing, especially if it’s Keep It Simply Surface especially for less-used corridors.

    With an option to the Yonge subway, old plans Steve had dug up and others, seem to suggest a further option, but we’ve likely complicated it all by approving a ton of buildings in the road, again, in building our options shut.

    Eglinton/Don Mills/OSC may be VERY important for ensuring a set of transit convergences, including adjusting the former spur line now a Rail Trail, but what about diverting the GO trains down Don Mills, perhaps in a trench, or tunnel to stop at Eglinton and the OSC?

    Steve: There is no GO train on the track that crosses Don Mills north of Eglinton. That is the CPR mainline and it’s off limits for GO. Do you mean the Bala sub where it crosses Don Mills north of Lawrence?? At some point it still has to rejoin an alignment into Union. This seems like a very heroic change for comparatively little benefit.

    We do have to do some heavy construction some times, yes, and I’ve gleaned via this site I think that the existing GO line through the Don Valley is somewhat inferior, though it exists, plus there’s that unused spur line with bridge over Don Valley, where supports are still very solid, though bean counters don’t invest in maintenance, so the deck may be shot, sigh.

    Steve: Yes, the deck is shot. Current plans for that line is to be double tracked up to roughly the south end of the bridge and used as GO train storage. This is shown clearly in the Richmond Hill corridor upgrade plans. It would, coincidentally, put a GO layover spot right below my apartment. If service were restored on this line through to the CPR at Leaside, the bridge would have to be rebuilt as it is not fit for train usage and has been out of service for decades.

    I hope we can find an interest in really exploring ALL options soon; perhaps a lack of capital may help, and we also need to ensure private mobilities have near-same user fees as the transit systems, including health care costs. By what percentage did the demand on hospital services go down with the traffic decline? Surely that should be a policy goal vs. carnage.

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  11. I wonder if Metrolinx has told York Region something along the lines of “if you want more than the bare minimum of a subway stopping at Steeles and Richmond Hill, you’re gonna have to pay for it!”

    I honestly doubt if there is enough construction capacity (covid or not) to build all of these projects simultaneously without hugely increasing costs…

    Steve: We will also get a sense of the industry’s appetite for some of these projects as responses come in to RFQs and RFPs currently on the street.

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  12. Metrolinx’s claim of needing to pinch pennies for the Relief Line rings hollow when they are willingly overspending and overbuilding on the Eglinton West and Scarborough extensions.

    As for the original Transit City plan for the Eglinton West LRT section, it wasn’t that TTC and Toronto staff didn’t believe in the project, far from it. The LRT “well” had already been poisoned by the St. Clair project, a mountain that all of the TC projects had to climb. The silly hooked left-turn idea on Eglinton West was proposed by the project consultant and, though not supported by many TTC and City staff, was a well-intentioned but totally misguided attempt to bring “out-of-the-box” thinking to the public. Wrong idea, wrong time, wrong audience. Even though it was taken out of the design soon after, it had already become set in people’s minds as another reason to oppose any surface option regardless of the design. Once the die was cast against surface LRT among the public, the politicians of all stripes soon followed, with facts no longer of any concern, which is where we currently are. I can’t think of even one proposed expansion of the TTC network which has facts guiding the design.

    Ideally, the pandemic impact on government budgets would help to bring us back to some semblance of fact-based decision-making for transit, but I hold little hope of that based on what I’ve heard thus far from those in charge.

    Steve: Whether it was the consultant or the TTC, that idea should have been spiked before any public presentation, just like the ridiculous idea of how a Don Mills line would have reached Danforth via surface rights of way carved out of Pape and Broadview. In both cases, if somebody other than the “fans” like me who saw how the projects were being sabotaged had actually taken the consultants out for a sound thrashing, Transit City might have retained some credibility.

    Consultants may have been the origin of the ideas, but it was the TTC and City who let those schemes appear with all the weight of “professional” proposals, and both must bear the blame for what followed.

    This is one case where I have no qualms about saying I damn well knew the plans shown to the public were crap, and in the process watched our one chance in decades for a credible LRT network go up in smoke. It was an appalling experience. The only good thing I can say is that Metrolinx planners are at least as bad.

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  13. What is a hook turn?

    Steve: Assume you are approaching an intersection eastbound. To turn left (north), you would first make a right turn to the south, travel a short distance to a point where a U-turn is possible, and then head north. This configuration only “works” where the road geometry and general traffic volumes allow you to get across southbound traffic after making your right turn to reach the point where a U-turn is permitted, and for your vehicle to actually be able to make that turn in the available space.

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  14. Thanks again, Steve and commenters for filling in the context that should let us start to figure out what is and usually isn’t so feasible. I’m not sure which aspect of what track is labelled Bala etc. but south of York Mills there’s the GO line that has a split to the west of the former spur line now a Rail Trail and the GO service continues south on towards the meandering course of the Don Valley rail to Union.

    Steve: The GO Richmond Hill line is the Bala subdivision. Where it splits south of York Mills was formerly onto a connecting track to the CPR mainline further south.

    My rough thinking is to redirect many of these GO trains on this Richmond Hill Line via a newly built but direct route aligned with Don Mills to stop/dock at the OSC, and forgo trips of many trains through to Union Station, thus feeding Eglinton, though I don’t think there’s ANY capacity on Yonge to have any increase in Eglinton transit users doing a transfer on to Yonge, and hope to be wrong about that. Or at least there wasn’t ANY extra capacity ahead of C-19; that too may be fluxed, not that we seem to pivot very well, numble may be the term. (It’s not ‘nimble’ and also implies being numb if not dumb, and could also resonate with ‘fumble’, and even ‘Fordble’, which is less of a problem nowadays, but sure would be nice to find out what Medical Officers of Health have said in the past about climate change and car exhaust, if he’s actually respecting what the experts say. And then maybe, he might listen to transit experts, right??)

    Steve: The last thing we want to do is to put more riders on Eglinton and hence onto Yonge. As and when the Ontario line reaches Eglinton, feeding it from the north is natural, but I’m not sure that redirecting GO trains is the way to do this. People who are on the GO trains are already avoiding the TTC rapid transit network. Why would you put them back onto it?

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  15. I agree that there were problems with the way Transit City was rolled out, some, but not all, of which belong at the feet of TTC and/or City. As a “fan” on the outside, you have the freedom to point out the problems publicly, and more power to you on that because it’s needed. However, many of the staff on the inside of these projects don’t have such freedom and must work under the directions/constraints imposed by those in charge, which include the politicians, City departments, and senior project managers (many of whom for TC were on-contract consultants), despite disagreeing with the direction.

    You can now add Metrolinx and their consultants to that list of decision-makers.

    Again, let me emphasize that your critiques are legitimate and valuable and I am in no way advocating stifling criticism. I am merely suggesting that not all of the staff involved were incompetent or didn’t care. In the case of TC, which was developed by David Miller with TTC staff, there were many TTC staff who believed passionately in it, still do, and were just as dismayed at seeing it whittled down. But, as many of us learned the hard way over many years, that and $3.00 will get you a cup of coffee. That’s not a complaint, nor an excuse, it’s just a statement of reality.

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  16. Hamish said: “It’s a shame that the federal level is only capable of shoveling out the billions, no questions asked about quality of plans…”

    Oh, I so agree! I could hear the Feds say “municipal transit is not under federal jurisdiction, therefore we are not interfering.” However, no matter, taxpayer dollars are taxpayer dollars, and we taxpayers want bang for the buck. Can the Feds really justify wasting “infrastructure dollars” on awful plans?

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  17. What a hypocrisy! Eglinton West LRT must go underground, but the Ontario Line must go above ground.

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  18. Steve wrote:

    The last thing we want to do is to put more riders on Eglinton and hence onto Yonge. As and when the Ontario line reaches Eglinton, feeding it from the north is natural, but I’m not sure that redirecting GO trains is the way to do this. People who are on the GO trains are already avoiding the TTC rapid transit network. Why would you put them back onto it?

    And can’t argue, except we gotta really think about how to maximize the network capacity and options; so if we do heavy construct for heavy rail aligned with Don Mills, perhaps to have the main destination at Don Mills/Eglinton for a concentrated employment node; could we also do a two-for-one for the alignment construction work, and have an Ontario/Relief Line function onto or atop or beside any heavy rail? Yes, it’s messed up that Eglinton feeding in to Yonge isn’t so in ‘plans’ ie. it’s seeming to stretch Yonge further if it succeeds in drawing in new ridership for the many billions.

    But I’d be quite OK with having the Ontario Line reworked/reset to chop off the Riverdale side and do a direct trip from Thorncliffe south in the Don Valley and exit the valley at Gerrard for core access on that axis, which is also very very close to multiple major destinations.

    Steve: In all of your twiddling with lines on a map, you have lost the “relief” effort of connecting with the Danforth subway. Remember also that midtown is a major destination and everyone is not going to the financial core.

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  19. Steve: The real problem is to have transit priority signals at Leslie that actually give priority to transit, something utterly unheard of in Toronto.

    Funny story about this one… Crosstown signal priority can’t be done. The folks in the traffic play time department of the city have tried nothing and they’re all out of ideas.

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  20. I confess, I actually thought the downstream Michigan-left for median LRT’s was a good idea. Then I went to New Orleans last October, which has real life examples of this system for its “LRT”. In reality, the streetcars actually stop for U-turning vehicles which block the tracks whilst waiting for a gap in opposing traffic. There are signs that tell motorists to “Look both ways [for oncoming streetcars]”, but I doubt that even if they upgraded the signs to “cars yield to streetcars”, it would have any effect. For this reason, there’s a speed limit imposed on the streetcars.

    Even if these turns were to be signalized, it’s hard to visualise how the phasing would have worked. Obviously, U-turning vehicles face a red in the presence of a streetcar, but what happens when U-turning traffic sees a green? Would opposing traffic face a red, or would U-turners have to yield and wait for a gap even though they just saw a green? If they still have to wait for a gap even though they just saw a green, they would risk blocking the tracks again.

    Did the TTC or its consultants actually run simulations or animations that show how the signal phasings would have worked with Michigan-left-turns along LRT lines?

    My goodness, I feel like such a fool.

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  21. Mary-Ann said:

    The silly hooked left-turn idea on Eglinton West was proposed by the project consultant and, though not supported by many TTC and City staff, …I can’t think of even one proposed expansion of the TTC network which has facts guiding the design. Many of the staff on the inside of these projects don’t have such freedom and must work under the directions/constraints imposed by those in charge, which include the politicians, City departments, and senior project managers (many of whom for TC were on-contract consultants), despite disagreeing with the direction.

    Jacob Louy said:

    Did the TTC or its consultants actually run simulations or animations

    My two sources for Toronto’s public transit are Steve’s blog and attending public information sessions. I have never had this explained to me, but in my experience the TTC is not mandated to design high order transit projects. So the hooked left-turn and 4 lane, no left turn on the Eglinton East portion of the Crosstown LRT cannot be attributed to the TTC (they are crazy Metrolinx plans).

    In planning, the TTC produces an “Operational Plan” but all high order transit plans are part of the “Official Plan” prepared by City Planning. The really stupid plans (Sheppard Subway, Yonge subway extension to Richmond Hill, Scarborough Subway Extension, Ontario Line and SmartTrack) are beyond the mandate of the TTC. Most people are unaware of how limiting the TTC mandate is and blame the TTC for the transit problems, but the real problem lies with people with 4 letter names like Tory and Ford.

    The elephant in the room is Metrolinx, who has no one as qualified as Mary-Ann, in fact quite the opposite, Mx staff have no understanding of Toronto’s transit issues. Steve attended a public information session where the Metrolinx staff member could not even tell the audience what the frequency of service was for the ridership estimates on Smarttrack. Metrolinx had used walk-in catchment instead of bus catchment estimates for Smarttrack station usage. Metrolinx planned Eglinton East to be 4 lanes on the Crosstown project until they did a traffic survey. Metrolinx doesn’t care about the quality of life issues for people living next to the Ontario Line tracks. Mettolinx is not accountable to the citizens of Toronto but builds all the high order transit junk. They don’t know what they’re doing.

    I’m not sure this is totally correct, but it’s based on what I personally experienced.

    Steve: On Eglinton East the road could have been widened, but it wasn’t to save money. I think that this decision predates Metrolinx’ takeover of the project, but it is something they could have fixed.

    As for the organization, I am no fan of Metrolinx although given their position they could do good work. However, there is an arrogance about Toronto in particular that pervades Queen’s Park and is reflected in the focus of its agencies. I remember how George Smitherman, as an MPP and cabinet member, was quite dismissive of Toronto’s problems. When he decided to run for Mayor, he started to see that Toronto had a lot of good dedicated civil servants who knew their stuff, and that Queen’s Park was badly out of touch with municipal issues. This problem goes back decades well before Metrolinx existed.

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  22. Lets go Sanfransisco and just draw lines to build…. but bigger and make Windsor and others , Ontario pay.

    Steve: A convenient political fiction is that the rest of Ontario pays for Toronto’s transit when, in fact, Toronto is a net exporter of tax revenue to the rest of the province.

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  23. Hamish Wilson talks about taking the Ontario Line through Don Valley right to Gerrard. This might save a few dollars, but doesn’t solve the relief role (as Steve pointed out) – and it is likely too far north.

    The key is to get people off both the Yonge and Danforth lines and especially away from Yonge-Bloor. The problem is well upstream of here. The B-D extension to Sheppard/McCowan simply puts more riders onto Danforth. The exact same problem existed with Transit City – which also forced the exact same people onto the Danforth line. The solution is to all these riders to continue without switching. The plan 9 years ago was to connect SRT with Eglinton – which would solve that problem. Dumping the riders onto Yonge was not great – but it at least better balanced the load between Y-E and Y-B stations. Unfortunately, no transit experts or politicians were thinking about the Relief Line at the time. Now that we have a concept of a Relief Line to Eglinton – we realize how great it would have been to extend SRT to Eglinton, which would have kept a sizable number away from Y-E station.

    So now what to do? Well if Eglinton is capacity restricted by being on-street, then we need a new way of getting NE Scarborough to avoid using Danforth or Yonge. That’s were the Don Valley comes in. Use the SRT alignment from STC and extend either; i) along Ellesmere to Vic Park, or ii) down to the Gatineau Hydro corridor and across. Now you can make a quick stop (or 2) at Thorncliffe and take the Don Valley to downtown. A bit of map gazing suggests you be able to interchange with Castle Frank and go down Parliament.

    Steve: I live across the Don Valley from Castle Frank Station, and I can assure you that there is more than “map gazing” required to make a link there, let alone go down Parliament. And by what sort of alignment – underground, elevated? If you think Eglinton on the surface was a bad choice, just imagine a narrow four-lane city street.

    As for the hydro corridor, it misses the major development node at Don Mills/Eglinton, and makes a lousy connection at Thorncliffe Park as it runs along the north side of the industrial zone, not through the residential/commercial portion. Its route to the northeast does not touch any major centre. There is also the teensy problem that Hydro does not want transit lines on its property.

    If you’re going to propose routes, you really need to do the basics like identifying specifics of the alignment, not simply lines on a map. That sort of “planning” qualifies someone to work for the Mayor or Premier, but not much more.

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  24. Reading all the suggestions leaves one with the opinion that no panacea exists, at the moment, to the dual overcrowding problems [Yonge Line and Bloor/Yonge jam fest].

    It would appear that the time has come to sit down with Canadian Pacific [bring money], and have a serious discussion about rail integration and public responsibility. A long shot is better than no shot at all.

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  25. I keep hearing references to work being done on the Finch West LRT. The only work I was aware of was the removal of Georgio Mammoliti from the scene. Surely actual construction hasn’t started has it? What work is being done?

    Steve: Mammo is no longer on the critical path and has no effect on this project. Metrolinx publishes regular updates on the project website including the most recent, June 2020. There is a lot of construction underway, mainly utilities and the replacement of bridge spans at Highway 400, not to mention the carhouse.

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  26. Just a point of clarification about the Hamilton LRT and the provincial task force reviewing alternate options. That review concluded and the report came out back in mid-April so that’s not in progress, it’s finished. And the recommendation was: LRT or BRT. Every article I saw on that report back in the spring listed it in that order, LRT or BRT, with BRT consistently being the second mode of transportation listed.

    There hasn’t been any movement on the Hamilton rapid transit file that I know of since then and the task force that Doug Ford & Co. set up clearly didn’t provide the answer they were looking for by authoring that report with that result in it. The cancellation of the Hamilton LRT happened shortly after Doug Ford’s rant about how the place is a mess because they keep voting in the NDP there etc, and the LRT cancellation was widely seen as Ford taking the opportunity to stick it to an NDP stronghold including opposition leader Andrea Horwath’s riding which the line would have passed through.

    Oddly enough, the Hurontario LRT is proceeding but then it passes through a bunch of ridings in Mississauga that all voted PC. Would it be rude and vulgar of me to suggest that this correlation smacks of blatant partisan politicking rewarding people who voted one way and punishing others that voted another rather than being a pure by chance co-incidence?

    Steve: What? Ford a partisan leader? Surely you jest!

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  27. Pardon missing a few days worth of thread/comment – sideswiped. Yes, Danforth also needs relief, – so what about better linkage between the GO/TTC at the Main/Danforth stations? Not a new idea; and indeed, we could have a surface Relief if somehow we could manage to have trains of some description go from Main/Danforth to Dundas/Bloor via Union,though yup, it’s going to be less-easy for that.

    Steve: The problem with a link at Main and Danforth (assuming one gets built eventually) is that the walking + waiting time inbound is long enough on average that this is a disincentive to transfer. Outbound is not as bad because one would be switching from a less frequent to a more frequent service. There is also the tiny matter of the fare premium which QP and Metrolinx have no interest in eliminating.

    I think the Gatineau could well be part of that Relief as well, though yes, having good linkage at Don Mills and Eglinton also needed. As for Hydro not wanting transit lines, how did the York busway come in to being? And maybe we should have stuck with only that.

    Steve: The York busway was supposed to be temporary. The idea might also predate the point at which Hydro changed their policy. Remember that the TYSSE had a very, very long gestation period.

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  28. Darryl C Preston said: “It would appear that the time has come to sit down with Canadian Pacific [bring money], and have a serious discussion about rail integration and public responsibility. A long shot is better than no shot at all.”

    A better idea would be to grab the land that CP’s Leaside yard used to occupy if CP hasn’t sold it off yet. Using it to build a dive-under to the Don branch might convince CP that Metrolinx doesn’t need to build one or two additional tracks to serve the north-east GTA.

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  29. As just another ‘out there’ idea, not having looked at Google Earth etc., maybe we could build a new section from the Richmond Hill GO tracks but on the DVP, itself, having the end of the line at the Broadview Station connection. Yes, further work on the engineering etc. needed but there is proximity to each other near Lawrence area.

    As for relieving Danforth, Gatineau corridor is quite wide, and while valid worries about basic connectivities, if we can spend so much time and millions on the clunker of the SSE, then it’s clear money isn’t a problem for either planning/dreaming, or building, especially as surface is likely to be a couple of billion cheaper, if tax dollars are of any concern.

    Steve: There is a place for you in the highest ranks of planning professionals. The connection to Broadview would be complex. There is a substantial vertical distance, and the station plaform ends at Broadview just before the line makes the turn to go straight west under Danforth onto the Viaduct. There is an existing Seniors building in your path and the subway goes under it (the building came after the subway). If you zoom in on the satellite view, you will see that there is a ventillation grating in the north sidewalk of Danforth which is just beyond the west end of the station box.

    Note also that there is a constraint in how much space you can take from the highway because of grades and other existing structures, not the least of which is the eastern arch of the Viaduct which is already a pinch point for the road.

    Remember that “SmartTrack” was planned from Google Earth by a consultant who was working in London, UK, at the time.

    I cannot emphasize enough the importance of actually visiting locations, not just looking at satellite views. I am looking at where it would be simply by gazing out of my window.

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  30. What platform extensions are being planned for Union Station? As you know the station was enlarged and rebuilt only a few years ago.

    Steve: The Union Station changes are described on Metrolinx site. There is the new south platform, and there are plans to remove a few tracks so that the narrow former baggage platforms can be widened. This is also related to a move to more through trains with hookups of services east and west of Union so that dwell times on platforms can be reduced. Some of these changes should have been done as part of the original project, but it took time for Metrolinx to wake up its capacity problems at platform level, not just in the concourse.

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  31. Broadview Stn actually kinda needs a second exit at its west side, so there are escalators as a tech, which would overcome much of the height/level issue, and no interest in doing any tunnel in that area, simply staying aligned with the DVP and making the TTC or GO passengers walk a bit. This is a heresy, except at Spadina transfer about same distance between GO Danforth and Main, but not as much a heresy as say, charging cars some tolls, or getting car drivers active. Or adapting an existing RoW for transit as an efficiency improvement in this greenhouse century. And I’m familiar with the area, though one can always learn a bit, and I sure wish the City would seal the seam on the Viaduct gutters for bridge protection and funny how the City puts up bollards for cyclists everywhere but where they’re most needed – on the rightwards curve entering the Viaduct…

    Steve: Broadview already has its requisite 2nd exit to the station loop. Nobody in their right mind transfers at Spadina when they can just go up/down one flight at St. George.

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  32. Regarding the Union Station upgrades I’m afraid I was more than a little confused. I thought we wee talking about the TTC station. Obviously we switched carriers without my being aware. Thanks for the clarification.

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  33. Thanks Steve, including comment-back. Spadina lost its moving sidewalk to save $100,000 a year in power, but my sense is plenty of people are still using the passage, and with the C-19 crowdings, many might be preferring a less-intense transfer point. And with any new Don Valley transit, in plans through the decades as in Ed Levy’s books, it might be quite possible to intro a new destination of a plaza/cafe of sorts at intermediate level and with a great view/light, and open up the west end of the Broadview Station, which does need a second exit. Yes, it’s not as simple as some things, but my strong sense is that it’s viable enough, and no reason why we can’t have imagination applied given costs proposed/sunk with SSE etc. We absolutely need to have new lines, sub-regional and maybe not initially connecting with Bloor/Danforth to avoid the further overload of B/Y, and there’s a way to do a 3-in-1 relief project mostly on-surface. We might soon be interested in squeezing the billions, though we still would have to be doing some larger spends, and thanks for letting it be kicked around a bit already.

    Steve: We don’t justify a long, little-used transfer path based on covid. If we took that approach we would be rebuilding the entire system to give uncrowded routes and platforms at major stations.

    As I said before, Broadview already has its fire-code mandated second exit directly to the streetcar/bus platform. Putting one over at the valley has little benefit to riders most of whom want to transfer to/from surface routes.

    Fitting a plaza/cafe at the west end would be challenging because part of the structure would be under the existing senior’s building.

    All of this is to justify a GO/BD Subway connection when the RH line should be used to divert traffic off of Line 1 much further north.

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  34. I’d be quite OK with bypassing both Riverdale and Danforth with any N/S Relief project; but if we did a few other things for Danforth/Bloor Relief eg. Main/Danforth connectivity and maybe linking St. Clair Ave Easts, then yes, let’s think of a more extensive connection at Broadview, where the west end of it does feel quite removed from exits. And build out into valley, not try to be under senior’s building as yes, foundations matter.

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  35. I pretty much daily used Spadina station to transfer from southbound to westbound trains, back when the walkway was working. The walkway gave a seven-league-boots effect of walking at great speed. It was always a disappointment if the walkway wasn’t working.

    True, transferring eastbound to northbound, I almost always used St. George.

    Since the walkway was closed….nope, would not use.

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  36. Steve had opined earlier that the Sorbara extension had momentum, and I found copy of March 22, 2007 Strand that quoted Mr. Giambrone as “There are better ways to service more people and get more riders than the York subway”….So the momentum has been more from the province than the City, as noted in the John Barber column of Oct. 22, 2002 Toronto transit planning crazy and political’; with a good Joelle VanderWagen column of about 7 years ago about what might be termed the Subway Industrial Complex. It’s shameful we can’t reclaim a sliver of the capital spending for a better planning process, or processes, as there are a set of options that don’t get discussed, even before our benevolent leader opts to change the EA process to perhaps include climate change and concrete use, right?

    Steve: Yup, the Vaughan subway was a vanity project for the “city above Toronto” and a way to make some developers richer than they might have been otherwise.

    I had an amusing experience years ago at a TTC Board meeting when Tony Perruzza, then a member of the board, came wandering over to me and, thinking I was Ted Spence, the York U prof whose basic job was to get the subway approved, launched into a spiel about how everything was all set. Then he spotted the real Spence about 20 feet away.

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  37. All of these plans seem ridiculous. They demonstrate poor planning and delusional thinking by Metrolinx. Newfoundland has already discovered that the market will no longer lend money to it due to poor COVID finances, and the federal government is literally printing money to keep the provincial bond market afloat. The federal government is itself mostly tapped out, and the cities will likely need a round of layoffs in the next year or two. How is Metrolinx going to get financing for any of these projects? I seriously doubt Corporate Canada will be able to get any private financing for this stuff unless it involves ripping off the province somehow.

    Metrolinx should be looking to the future and preparing for the post-COVID world. They should be doing surveys to figure out how many people have given up and are planning on leaving the city permanently. Maybe people will give up on transit for a few years, and the city needs new cycling and walking facilities. On the off-chance that there’s a small infrastructure stimulus plan, Metrolinx should be prepping some shovel-ready projects like new subway cars or streetcars. Maybe some projects that can go shovel ready in only a few months and should be prepped like the Hamilton LRT or a one stop SSE or maybe some electrification or something.

    All these plans show that Metrolinx is still thinking like it’s 2019 when we need 2021 thinking.

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  38. Re the Hamilton LRT: The Task Force coming out in favour of the LRT was not surprising considering the makeup of it. Various influential bodies, such as the Chamber of commerce, real estate board, labour unions etc. have been putting pressure on the ford Government to rethink that cancellation. However, Federal funding on top of the $1 billion still on the table from Ontario seems to be the key. The virus situation has undoubtedly sidetracked progress. By the way, the one local PC MPP, representing a generally rural riding, is strongly anti-LRT and may have influenced Ford towards cancellation.

    Steve: What, a Tory who doesn’t actually represent the affected area having influence over a government decision, surely you jest! I have a backlog of articles to write, and will turn to the Hamilton LRT report next week.

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