Toronto Council Pursues Details of Metrolinx Projects

An ongoing problem for anyone attempting to work with Metrolinx on their projects is the lack of transparency, the fog through which details emerge, if at all, on what they actually propose to do.

Distrust of Metrolinx to deal fairly and honestly with communities and their political representatives led to widely-supported motions when Council considered two reports regarding Metrolinx projects on October 1, 2020:

Included here are Council motions regarding:

Also included are recent replies to queries from me about the Ontario Line.

West Toronto Railpath

The Railpath is a “multi-use trail” (any human-powered travel but no motorized vehicles) paralleling the Weston rail corridor. An extension south from Dundas at Sterling Road to just north of King Street is in the works, but this could run aground on Metrolinx requirements for land in the corridor.

Residents in the area have already been through one bait-and-switch exchange with Metrolinx who renegged on a planned design for the rail overpass at the Davenport Diamond that would have seen substantial beautification and softening of its effect. Now that is a separate project looking for funding rather than integrated into the construction.

Councillor Ana Bailão represents the area, and her motion confers permission to City staff to undertake the necessary land agreements with Metrolinx that ties land for GO corridor expansion to land for the Railpath. If this cannot be achieved, the question returns to Council rather than being sorted out at the staff level without any political input.

EX 16.4 1 – Motion to Amend Item moved by Councillor Ana Bailão (Carried)

That City Council authorize the Executive Director, Corporate Real Estate Management, in consultation with the General Manager, Transportation Services, to negotiate, enter into, and execute agreements, as may be required, with Metrolinx, for the acquisition and disposition of necessary real estate interests required in connection with the West Toronto Railpath, including transactions that may not reflect fair market value, subject to the funding for the cost of the real estate interests being available within an approved capital budget, and on such terms and conditions satisfactory to the Executive Director, Corporate Real Estate Management, and in a form satisfactory to the City Solicitor; in the event the Executive Director, Corporate Real Estate Management is unable to negotiate an acceptable agreement to acquire the sufficient real estate interests from Metrolinx required to construct and operate the West Toronto Railpath Extension, the Executive Director, Corporate Real Estate Management will require further City Council authorization before entering into any land rights agreements in favour of Metrolinx for the GO Expansion Program along the West Toronto Railpath.

Don Valley Layover

As part of the GO Transit expansion program, Metrolinx plans to build additional train storage in many areas around their network. One of these is on the land of the former CPR Don Branch on the east side of the Don Valley adjacent to the DVP between roughly Rosedale Valley Road and the High Level Bridge near the Brickworks. This would store three trains, but it requires a service build and parking just north of the Prince Edward Viaduct adjacent to the rail corridor.

This scheme has aroused concern about placing such a facility in an area that is undergoing regeneration. One proposed alternative is to put the storage on the west side where, for part of its length in the area, the Bala Subdivision (GO Richmond Hill line) is double tracked.

A motion by Councillor Paula Fletcher whose ward lies east of the valley requests a review of this plan by various officials with a report back to the November 18, 2020 Executive Committee.

The date is no accident as it is not unusual for requests of this nature to languish within the bureaucracy either because they have no due date, or because other agencies such as Metrolinx refuse to coooperate. If that happens, the report should say so rather than giving Metrolinx cover.

A more general part of the motion directs City officials to update Councillors generally on the effects GO expansion will have in their wards.

EX 16.4 4a – Motion to Amend Item moved by Councillor Paula Fletcher (Carried Unanimously)

That:

1. City Council direct the City Manager and the Executive Director, Transit Expansion Office to advise Metrolinx that the City strongly recommends that Metrolinx undertake a study, in consultation with the City, General Manager of Parks, Forestry and Recreation, and TRCA which considers the possible impacts of this proposed facility on the Don Valley Park and the implications for the City’s Ravine Strategy, and a full range of alternative solutions and locations for the Don Valley Layover Facility Metrolinx is proposing as a part of their GO Expansion project; and report  back to the Executive Committee at its meeting on November 18, 2020 on the outcome of this request.

2. City Council direct the City Manager and the Executive Director, Transit Expansion Office, if Metrolinx does not agree to the request in recommendation 1, to conduct a study, in consultation TRCA and the General Manager of Parks, Forestry and Recreation on the possible impacts of this proposed facility on the Don Valley Park and the implications for the City’s Ravine Strategy, and a full range of alternative solutions and locations for the Don Valley Layover Facility Metrolinx is proposing as a part of their GO Expansion project; and include as a part of developing that report stakeholder and public consultations.

3. City Council direct the City Manager to provide an update on recommendations 1 and 2 to the to the Executive Committee at its meeting on November 18, 2020

4. City Council direct the City Manager and the Executive Director, Transit Expansion Office to update local City Councillors directly on the status and impacts of GO Expansion impacting their wards.

5. City Council direct the City Manager and the Executive Director, Transit Expansion Office to review the proposed plans for the Metrolinx’s layover facility and report back to the Executive Committee at its meeting on November 18, 2020 on all the expected uses of that facility and its impacts on the natural environment in and recreation uses of the Don Valley. 

Ontario Line

Recent changes to legislation regarding environmental reviews have worsened an already-bad situation by allowing Metrolinx to defer production of an actual “impact study”, a review of what their plans might actually do, to the last possible moment when review and changes are almost impossible.

This defeats the purpose of political consultation either with Council or with the general public and mocks the concept of local input. Metrolinx knows best and we will all meekly accept what they put on the table.

The recent Environmental Conditions Report for the Ontario Line project is a particularly damning example. There are thousands of pages reviewing conditions of buildings, the natural environment and even the general feelings people have about where the line might go. However, in the absence of an actual design, one cannot comment intelligently. Even worse, if one attempts to get details to clarify what may or may not be an objection, the response is “not now”, the details will come later.

In considering the update on Metrolinx rapid transit projects, City Council overwhelmingly approved a motion by Councillor Paula Fletcher requesting various clarifiations to be provided by City staff for the November 18, 2020 meeting of Toronto Executive Committee.

That date echoes the request regarding GO Transit expansion effects and puts both City officials and Metrolinx on notice that Council expects to be informed about what is going on.

This includes information that Council requested a year ago (see discussion of report EX 9.1 by Council later in the article).

A further request to City officials is for a comparison of the right-of-way and cost implications for both the Eglinton Crosstown western extension which is to be built underground, and the Ontario Line segment through Leslieville which is to be build on a narrower corridor above ground.

All of this is requested in by mid-November. Whether Council will actually get all they ask for is another matter, but this will at least put Metrolinx on record as saying either “we don’t know at this time” or “we will not tell you”.

Council Motion re Ontario Line Design October 2020

EX 16.5 2 – Motion to Amend Item moved by Councillor Paula Fletcher (Carried 21-2)

That:

1. City Council request the City Manager to review Parts 19 to 22 of Item EX9.1 headed “Toronto-Ontario Transit Update” adopted by City Council at its meeting of October 29 and 30, 2019 and to report back on those to the November 18, 2020 meeting of the Executive Committee and specifically address:

a. impacts on, both during construction and post-construction, on Jimmie Simpson Park and Recreation Centre and the seven other nearby parks;

b. the results of the study requested in Part 21 of Item EX9.1 on the impact on road operations of the proposed changes to the railway corridor to accommodate GO Expansion and Ontario Line, specifically the rail bridges at Eastern Avenue, Queen Street East, Dundas Street East, Logan Avenue, Carlaw Avenue and Gerrard Street in order to safely service six new tracks and Metrolinx’s response to that study;

c. potential risks and safety challenges of urban transit vehicles, like Toronto Transit Commission subway trains, running adjacent to heavy rail on railway lines and include :

1. an analysis of the crashworthiness of the technology proposed for the Ontario Line;

2. verification that Metrolinx is consulting with the Canadian Transportation Safety Board on the safety of running Ontario Line subway cars directly beside heavy rail cars in the GO corridor; and

3. advice provided by the Canadian Transportation Safety Board on the safety of Ontario Line subway cars running alongside heavy rail cars in the GO corridor; and

d.  other information requested by City Council, specifically impacts on local business during construction,  proximity of tracks to buildings and houses both for construction purposes and for operations, impact on maintenance of supportive housing for construction and for operations as well as all other matters raised in those recommendations.

2. City Council request the City Manager to report to the November 18, 2020 meeting of the Executive Committee on:

a.  the price comparison of constructing the Ontario Line above ground as compared to underground from Don River to Gerrard;

b. the price comparison of constructing the Eglinton West LRT underground as compared to above ground as originally planned; and

c. a comparison of the width of the railway track bed corridor where the Ontario Line is proposed to run aboveground from Don River to Gerrard and right-of-way width of Eglinton West where the LRT extension is proposed and a description of the adjacent built forms for each.

Council Motion re Ontario Line Design October 2019

In October 2019, Council considered a similar update about Metrolinx projects and, among many actions, requested information on a number of issues that affect the surface portion of the Ontario Line in Leslieville.

Clauses 19-20 of the recommendations approved by Council arose from an amendment moved by Mayor Tory at the Executive Committee. Clauses 21-22 arose from amendments moved by Councillor Fletcher at Council.

A year later, City management has not yet reported on these items in all likelihood because Metrolinx does not want to discuss these issues publicly. Indeed, without a detailed design that will not be available until the second quarter of 2021, some of these questions cannot be fully answered.

EX 9.1 Toronto-Ontario Transit Update

19.  City Council direct the Deputy City Manager, Infrastructure and Development Services to engage with Metrolinx through the next stages of detailed design and the Transit Project Assessment Process to mitigate the potential local impacts of the four new transit lines, with particular focus on the above ground sections of the Ontario Line and to ensure City staff are involved in reviewing and informing plans for:

a. safety, including City safety standards;

b. noise and vibration;

c. proximity of tracks to buildings and houses;

d. construction impacts and constructability;

e. impacts to local services and amenities including parks and community centres;

f. station location and integration with local communities;

g. accessibility; and

h. business impacts.

20. City Council direct the Deputy City Manager, Infrastructure and Development Services to request Metrolinx to mitigate the impacts described in Part 19 above and to consider options for constructing further portions of the Ontario Line underground, where local impacts cannot be reasonably managed.

21. 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 Lake Shore 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.

22. 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.

Metrolinx Replies to My Queries

I have been attempting to get answers from Metrolinx on some of these issues as background to articles for this site, but with little success. Here is a recent exchange.

My question to Metrolinx on September 29, 2020:

You have now released the “neighbourhood” page for the segment of the Ontario Line from the Don east and north to Danforth.

It shows a generic layout, and only shows the rough location of the OL tracks and stations, not of the new GO track layout.

An issue that I have raised with you before has been the regulations regarding lateral spacing between mainline railway tracks and tracks for lighter weight “rapid transit”. Has this issue been resolved for this segment of the line, and if so, how?

The reply from Scott Money at Metrolinx Media Relations, October 1, 2020:

The sections of rail corridor that will accommodate separate Ontario Line tracks alongside tracks for GO trains and other rail operations are similar to other rail corridors at home and abroad that successfully accommodate different tracks for different types of rail operations. These include:

  • Scarborough Rapid Transit and Stouffville GO train operations between Kennedy and Ellesmere roads;
  • Line 2 and CP railway operations between Bloor Street West and Kipling Station;
  • Calgary South LRT and CP railway operations between 39th Avenue and Somerset-Bridlewood Station;
  • Docklands Light Railway and Network Rail operations between Stratford and Pudding Mill Lane stations in London; and
  • the Berlin S-Bahn and the German Federal Railways operations for the entirety of the Ringbahn line in Berlin.

Metrolinx is using internationally recognized evaluation frameworks to determine what mitigations may need to be put in place to ensure reliable and safe Ontario Line operations. These include the Common Safety Method for Risk Evaluation and Assessment and the European Standard for railway applications to demonstrate reliability, availability, maintainability and safety.

Note that this does not actually address the geometry of the Ontario line or the required spacing between modes, but merely lists several cases where they co-exist. For example, the SRT tracks and the GO Stouffville line are not immediately adjacent to each other. The European citations may not be applicable because of different standards in those jurisdictions.

A related problem in the corridor is how Gerrard Station will be fitted in considering that this is not just an Ontario Line Station, but also a proposed SmartTrack station.

My question to Metrolinx:

I noticed that the Gerrard Station design makes no mention of a proposed SmartTrack station at this location. Has it been dropped from the plans?

Metrolinx replied with boilerplate that does not address the question of whether a ST station has been included in the design at Gerrard.

As a transit agency, Metrolinx is doing our part by responding to the urban environment and areas that are growing with increasing demands of service. These areas have been identified as growth areas as part of the City’s Official Plan, and the Province, the City and Metrolinx continue to work together on the planning and design of SmartTrack. Further information on the SmartTrack program will be available at a later date.

19 thoughts on “Toronto Council Pursues Details of Metrolinx Projects

  1. I’ve yet to pore over all of this, there’s so much Steve’s uncovered, and before I comment on some of the more nuanced aspects later, I’m floored by two items that I must comment on immediately:

    EX 16.4 4a – Motion to Amend Item moved by Councillor Paula Fletcher (Carried Unanimously)

    The nuances matter not to realize how profound this is: “Carried Unanimously”. Whoa! Very little of substance is carried unanimously at City Hall. There’s always the two usual suspects like flies in the ointment. I’ll make a note to check later as to who voted on that, and if they were all present.

    And this, something I’ve wondered about as it directly impacts what VIA will be allowed to use on HFR if and when it happens. Can DOT is not unknown to grant exemptions, but they’re even more lagging than the US DOT when it comes to embracing ‘looser regulations’ for ‘transit vehicles’ on federally regulated tracks, even if proven in other jurisdictions:

    1. an analysis of the crashworthiness of the technology proposed for the Ontario Line;

    2. verification that Metrolinx is consulting with the Canadian Transportation Safety Board on the safety of running Ontario Line subway cars directly beside heavy rail cars in the GO corridor; and

    3. advice provided by the Canadian Transportation Safety Board on the safety of Ontario Line subway cars running alongside heavy rail cars in the GO corridor;

    I believe that the US DOT now accepts APTA specs/regs as opposed to FRA ones for some US transit operations. This is something Steve or some of the other regular posters might know crucial details for.

    I recall from memory (not what it used to be) that earlier Metrolinx reports (the now decade old Electrification one) noted that compatibility of rolling stock *on the same tracks and not temporally separated* would be an issue that would have to be resolved.

    I was taken aback reading “running alongside heavy rail cars in the GO corridor” … but going by prior expressed concerns of Cdn DOT on that, I can see that being a very real problem.

    I get the distinct impression still that Metrolinx really have nothing on the table. They’re making it up as they go along, waiting for a suitor to jump in and save them, and make their fantasy real.

    Of course, if it were full gauge trains compatible with VIA HFR electric stock (a slightly smaller loading gauge, a discussion with REM still ongoing as per shared use of Mount Royal Tunnel) then any ‘incompatibility’ would be neutralized by already established protocol. VIA have a study team that has worked on this now for over a year.

    One would think Metrolinx would be involved, or at least made aware of this info, but since Metrolinx are accountable to no-one other than Fed regulators for rail operations, then we’d be the last to know. If ever we do.

    Interoperability Study to Operate HFR VIA Trains on Montreal’s Réseau express métropolitain (REM)

    Steve: Problems between Metrolinx and various communities/Councillors abound, and Metrolinx has burned through their credibility on several fronts and this has also affected the credibility of City staff. They are caught between taking an apolitical position on issues and protecting the City’s interest (especially with a Mayor who is loath to criticize the Province). Some Councillors now think twice about delegating authority to staff to make arrangements with Metrolinx without Council review.

    The vote on Councillor Fletcher’s motion was 24-0 with all members present except Councillor Robinson (who is on medical leave) and the seat recently vacated in Scarborough.

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  2. I’ve always wondered why Metrolinx was willing to spend so much political capital on having the Ontario Line run above ground through Leslieville. I’m now thinking that maybe the provincial government refused funding for GO track improvements and a new station in the east, so Metrolinx needs this twisty Ontario Line route so that they can divert some of the funding away to improve the adjacent GO track and build a new station too.

    Steve: Metrolinx has capital needs for GO far beyond what the Ontario Line might offer for the brief distance the two lines run together. I suspect this is much more a case of Metrolinx and Queen’s Park having it in for Toronto and wanting to prove that they can deliver a better project no matter what it might entail. There are a lot of egos on the line in this.

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  3. Further to the prior post, I was just digging around Systra’s website, and lo and behold:

    News
    LEADING ARTICLE
    SYSTRA to play major role in Canadian metro line project
    04/08/2020

    SYSTRA has been selected to work with a group of companies as Technical Advisor for the Ontario Line, a proposed driverless metro line on the Toronto subway, in the city of Toronto, Canada.

    Article doesn’t state a lot, but it indicates that further digging is worthwhile.

    Steve writes: …especially with a Mayor who is loath to criticize the Province…

    Doubtless, he’s been a toady up until recently. With the hardened attitude now of Council, and large schisms on Coronavirus procedures with the Ford Gov’t, there might be hope for a change of tack. Tory *appears* to have more of a backbone of late.

    Steve: Considering that the contract for the “Train Control and Rolling Stock” section of the project has not been awarded yet, Systra’s statement is a rather bold one unless some of the project has already been brought in house as direct consultants to Metrolinx who would work with whoever is selected. I will pursue this question with Metrolinx and see what they might say.

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  4. The sections of rail corridor that will accommodate separate Ontario Line tracks alongside tracks for GO trains and other rail operations are similar to other rail corridors at home and abroad that successfully accommodate different tracks for different types of rail operations. These include: … Docklands Light Railway and Network Rail operations between Stratford and Pudding Mill Lane stations in London; and the Berlin S-Bahn and the German Federal Railways operations for the entirety of the Ringbahn line in Berlin.

    As much as I’m glad that Metrolinx now looks outside North America for comparisons (if only to defend their questionable schemes), the Berlin case is not really comparable. Berlin S-Bahn trains are heavier than Toronto Rocket (and I think Metrolinx is scheming to have Ontario Line trains be lighter), while the long-distance trains they run parallel to are lighter than GO’s full-length trains:

    • Toronto Rocket: 34 tons per car * 6 cars = 204 tons per train
    • Berlin S-Bahn Baureihe 481: 59 tons per 2-car unit * 4 units per train at their longest = 236 tons per train
    • GO Transit: 12 car Bombardier Bilevel * 50 t per car + MP40PH-3C locomotive around 130 tons = 730 tons
    • Deutsche Bahn: biggest trains around Ringbahn would be equal or comparable to ICE 3, usually 8 car multi-unit weighting 409 tons

    The London comparison is also questionable since the heavy rail operations past Pudding Mill Lane will be those of Crossrail and its Class 345 is also a lighter model at 264 tons per train; previously it would have been the Great Eastern Main Line which despite its grand name is a relatively short railway to Norwich with most services being commuter trains, with longest 12-car Class 321 topping out at 414 tons per train. It’s hard to understate how heavy the long GO trains are by European standards.

    If Metrolinx is looking to get some ideas from Germany, operations would be a great place to start. The old central railway axis through Berlin, the Stadtbahn, has 2 S-Bahn tracks plus 2 regional-and-long-distance tracks (the latter widen to 4 tracks through most regional train stations). On this corridor they manage to have S-Bahn trains better than every 5 minutes (in each direction), 6 regional trains per hour per direction (every 10 minutes on average – and that’s on reduced covid schedules), and they thread in 3 long-distance trains between 8:00 and 9:00.

    By contrast Metrolinx’s plans require a dedicated track for each direction of trains from its owned corridors like Barrie, with trains every 15 minutes (4 trains per hour per direction). We could do so much more without pouring much concrete at all.

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  5. – Scarborough Rapid Transit and Stouffville GO train operations between Kennedy and Ellesmere roads;
    – Line 2 and CP railway operations between Bloor Street West and Kipling Station;
    – Calgary South LRT and CP railway operations between 39th Avenue and Somerset-Bridlewood Station;
    – Docklands Light Railway and Network Rail operations between Stratford and Pudding Mill Lane stations in London; and
    – the Berlin S-Bahn and the German Federal Railways operations for the entirety of the Ringbahn line in Berlin.

    For all these examples satellite imagery shows the metro tracks paired on a single side of the rail corridor, rather than straddling the heavy rail tracks as proposed for the Ontario Line, which seems like an important difference.

    They also seem to need space for the two rail types’ separate DC and AC power infrastructure.

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  6. Thanks Steve and commenters, and some thanks to the Council as well, though the majority of them at times are surely a large part of our problem, including the 23-19 Dec. 2016 vote on a motion of Mr. Matlow that essentially got us ignoring facts to squander billions, and yup, that’s still a trend if the Cons can get away with it, and press the federal Liberals for their ‘share’ of wa$te. A far better use of some of those millions, or even the increase in Mr. Verster’s salary would be to get international perspectives on our transit schemes via APTA and UITP, and have a public process beyond the now-even-more-damaged EA processes that still don’t/won’t measure any concrete usages, only 7% of global GHGs apparently.

    Of interest to some of us, speaking of Europe and GHGs, is better analysis ie. full-accounting of various modes, chart here and link to study.

    Bike is best, but it also doesn’t work for many of us given distances and at-times winter, which may well be withering with the climate changing, and we could also try plowing snow out of the bike lanes, or at least a consistent width of plowing, hoping that Canadians can plow snow.

    With biking, I’ve been a bit of an outcast within some bike circles for maintaining the best-use of the Rail Trail is for transit, especially! south of Queen, where we could think of doing a loop for sub-regional/faster TTC service from King and Queen, stealing a reversible lane idea from Jarvis, but for transit. That’s a likely ‘newer’ idea; using the rail corridor for better transit is how many decades old, and what a waste of a corridor the UPX really is, and if we have any hope of beginning to meet climate targets, we should halve the use of Pearson, or prepare to be sued by others for climate criminality.

    Other projects are also needing a reset, and it wasn’t good enough even before it devolved in to more of a ‘Dougsaster’. In particular, why don’t our EAs consider using parts of the Don Valley Excessway for some form of transit, and can we presume that the very dense core is going to be so much of a destination?, as one point.

    While it’s great that there’s interest in spending billions on transit, it needs to have value for all of us, and we’re not there yet. Since the Cons are not willing to listen and adjust, we have to fuss at the federal level to ensure that taxpayers are respected as are core communities: at least the federal Liberals are in a minority position and need to listen more, though they too are anxious to bribe suburban areas with goodies, and aren’t really into green infrastructure as greening infrastructure is more about bulldozing some airport runways than pouring mammoth amounts of concrete, even with lots of green dye added. Real value and real green ideas would come from Europe; can they bring in that UITP expertise fo a mere million or five? (And yes, sub-contract out some of the expertise here that know the shituations, not that too many of the consultants/experts are so willing to be ‘insultants’ and tell truths eh? For instance, will Mr. English be going along with the schemes or suggesting a Reset?, and I hope it’s the latter.

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  7. This will be a third class project with shoddy construction design and shoddy construction to save a buck here and a buck there because both Trudeau and Ford have failed to invest the money that is needed to build world class infrastructure that exists in places like China, Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, Brunei, Malaysia, India, and Singapore. Canada is lagging behind.

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  8. The location of the Don Valley Layover facility is strange to say the least. Metrolinx owns the long abandoned former CPR Don Branch (Belleville Subdivision) between Cherry Street Tower (near Don Station) and Leaside. This includes a large flat area where the station once stood. Putting tracks on a hill next to a river for overnight storage of trains is asking for trouble.

    Steve: I live right beside the Don Branch at the Viaduct. The CPR tracks on the east side of the river have never flooded in the decades I have been here. The problem is on the west side with the CNR and the lower end of the CPR where it is on the west side beside the CN. Going further north would require reconstruction of the high level bridge just north of me at the Brickworks. Metrolinx plans to use the space south of the bridge down to the point where the Don Branch crosses the river, roughly at Rosedale Valley Road.

    There are separate issues about the invasive nature of the proposal for the park land although this is mainly for the crew building and parking right at the viaduct. Metrolinx already owns the land around the CPR corridor although it is quite overgrown today, and that vegetation would be removed.

    Council’s recent motion asks that Metrolinx consider the west side for storage, but that gets into the segment that floods (remember the underwater GO train a few years back?). Metrolinx talked about regrading the Bala sub to avoid this problem, but it would be a complex expensive project.

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  9. I think I’d seen this in previous years, but was reminded of it in Ed Levy’s book – that the province was to lead an EA to align/re-alignRIchmond Hill GO tracks better for connection to Eglinton at Don Mills as part of the last Metro-era Official Plan. I guess it never happened, and odds are most with memories of it are well-muzzled or retired, or would lose positions if anyone did remember it. But as part of the interest in governments coughing up huge sums is to keep the construction interests happy/working/consuming, what about a straightening up of a part of either the spur line (now a semi-private jogging/biking trail for a fairly exclusive area but at least it’s still a public corridor), or adding a new, direct beside/under Don Mills Road extension to ‘dock’ at the Ontario Science Centre corner, and yes, maybe use the parking lot for the GO trains instead.

    As for Ontario Line, given finances and dip in demands, while we’ve totally needed Relief over a few years if not decades, can we get Relief function with a smaller, more direct, and sub-regional surface option that actually avoids Riverdale completely by using the Don Valley via Thorncliffe? Yes, some plans of the past have thought that way. Sure, maybe best thing is a subway, but as much of our subway is above-ground, maybe we can squeeze the billions by doing a subway on the surface instead of a lot of tunnelling..

    If anyone wants to squeeze the billions of course….

    Steve: It is worth remembering that in the late 1980s, the Yonge Subway was absolutely packed and there was something of a crisis in capacity. Then the early 1990s recession hit and about 20% of the TTC’s demand vanished by 1996. It took a long time to return to those levels in part because we entered an era when spending on things other than day-to-day transit operations took political priority. During that drop, the Richmond Hill Subway gained credibility because there was “excess capacity” on the Yonge line. We know how well that has worked out.

    Be careful not to say “oh we can aim lower now” because of what may be a temporary lull in demand. That same argument could be used to strangle transit generally.

    Meanwhile, there is a desperate need to look at transit improvements beyond a few rapid transit lines. TTC has been understating the problems with crowding on the system as a whole for years to avoid pressure to increase service. We are seeing the same thing today in reporting of system averages for the return of ridership that do not reveal where the real problems lie. That return will be even harder to nurture if the busiest routes are too crowded to attract riders.

    Remember that it’s not so long ago that the TTC came to the recognition that its ridership growth was constrained because there was no spare peak capacity and all of the growth was off peak, and then they burned through that too.

    Meanwhile, we have advocates for “green” transit talking about massive spending on replacement of buses with all-electric models. What is needed is spending on MORE buses, not replacements, especially not of vehicles that have many years’ life remaining. We saw the same thing years ago with the first batch of hybrids. The feds would only subsidize them if they were used to replace diesels, and so that’s what we did. Adding to the fleet would allow the TTC to operate more service, but of course that would mean more subsidy and the need to build a few new garages.

    Too much of the transit debate looks at one line at a time to fix problems in a specific location while missing the wider view of the transit network.

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  10. Don Valley Branch

    Here is another choice for the Ontario Line. Reactivate the old CPR line that Metrolinx already owns, confirm the high bridge is suitable for use with/without repairs for lightweight LRV equipment such as coming to the Eglinton West LRT. Extend Don Valley line northward to Eglinton Avenue East (a short distance northward from Leaside) and transfer there!

    Phase 1 Stops Eg East, Danforth, Distillery Loop (transfer TTC 504 King car) .

    This will get Ontario Line into operation YEARS ahead of time AND save $Millions.

    Steve: Not quite that simple. First off, the high level bridge is only single track and is not in good shape. It must be replaced. Second, a connection at Danforth would be extremely difficult because the Don Branch is under the Prince Edward Viaduct and would be hard to connect to Broadview Station. Third, the CPR might be a tad upset about sharing their corridor at Leaside, and as they are a federal company, Metrolinx can’t do a think about it. Fourth, depending on the route you took, you would probably completely miss Thorncliffe Park.

    The Ontario Line is not simply a question of getting from Eglinton to downtown, but of serving many places along the way.

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  11. Thanks again Steve, for initial post, comments of others and then your insights. It’s hard to be a dreamer in ‘Carontop’ – a simpler bit of subway relief in an obvious place took, oh, 15 years to do cheap paint, and it’s still not done, and part of it may still be ‘wrinkly’, and will the City plow the snow out of the bike lanes or into them? And they still don’t want to do basic gutter maintenance on the Viaduct, where I’m pretty sure that salty seepage will be bad for bridge at some point in time, and sooner than later if not well-sealed.

    Steve: Many years ago, the entire bridge deck was replaced due to salt corrosion. It was quite a show here the year it happened.

    As for aiming high – absolutely we need to spend larger sums on transit, but the political will for cost-effective transit often isn’t there; the options seem pretty limited; and we need to do things far far sooner than later, so a degree of triage for climate’s sake is kinda necessary. So what about a subway on the Gatineau Hydro corridor; mostly surface? Except it would have to be dug down for most intersections/crossings, which wouldn’t necessarily be stops either.. I don’t think that would be such value for us compared with other surface measures, including a more neutral look at the Smart Spur option, but heck, we haven’t gotten close to perhaps 10% of the 2001 Bike Plan in Scarborough, readily done for cancellation fees I think…

    With the obstacles to a surface option/Ontario Line as briefly outlined by Raymond from E – I’d be very surprised if the piers of that long bridge were not solid for another century. The deck is possibly troubled – why do the owners of such an ‘asset’ get to neglect it to decrepitude whilst collecting large and increasing salaries? Another point is that single track can be doubled up from time to time, as I think the example in Ottawa shows us, and it’s safe and effective.

    And meanwhile, I read an older tweet from Andrew Lewis who opined about ‘transit theatre’ – but not to be into building things, ever.

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  12. Re the possibility of running tracks down Hydro corridors; you may want to check on this, but I believe Hydro will not allow surface rail lines beside its towers; these towers must first be buried, as was the case with the south end of the Kitchener LRT.

    Steve: Yes. Hydro has changed its view of shared use of corridors over the years since the SRT was built. It is often cited as an example of what could be done, but this is out of date.

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  13. Glad to have the infobit about Hydro towers and other usages – and to tie it in to energy policy and resilience in case of an ice storm, maybe it’s past time in this greenhouse century to bury a hydro line in conjunction with some transit, but also make this new electric facility receptive all along its length to have inputs from all the solar panels on Scarborough roofs. While costly, it’d likely be a better deal than Pickering and perhaps other supply.

    Steve: The Hydro corridor is a high voltage line of the type found all over the country and in climates much harsher than Toronto’s.

    As for feed ins from solar panels, this is typically done at substations handling local distribution, not at major transmission lines.

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  14. Thanks: two things.

    1) There seems to be inconsistency in usages, and planned usages such as the Meadoway project, another relative waste of a corridor in my view. We did use the Finch corridor for a York U busway as well.

    2) Yes, high-voltage, but also brittle. Of all the corridors to consider for increasing resiliencies of widely distributed power generation to feed at least one hospital, this seems like a very good one. Plus, it’s super-wide.

    Steve: Hydro has no objections to uses such as parkland or even a road (e.g. York U Busway, parking lots), but not infrastructure like a rail corridor. Basically, anything that can be easily closed/removed is ok.

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  15. Reading these comments, as well as recent articles referencing the Pape community organization, I roll my eyes and question the resistance to these projects. Without question, neighborhoods will be impacted on the entire line. So what? Millions of people will benefit, and this far will be far greater than the disruption to a few thousand people.

    You ask for more details on location, rationale, and my question to you is “why do you want to know?” So you can criticize further and delay a project that, again, far outweighs the disruption to the few?

    As citizens, you are not entitled to know anything about the execution of the project. Your only entitlement is to Vote for the elected officials whom, in turn, fund these projects. That’s it.

    Your voices can be heard at town halls, on social media platforms, etc, but rest assured outside of a small number of streets in Riverside, Leslieville, Greektown and into Thorncliffe Park, people downtown, East York, North York, as well as Midtown, will read your posts, and put up with your protests, but ultimately they will for this project.

    Back in Leslieville and Riverside, future homeowners will boast when showcasing their homes:

    “5-minute walk to the Ontario Line; minutes from downtown; close to all the shops.”

    And again, you will say that current homeowners and businesses along the route will be sacrificed. Yes they will, undoubtedly. So what? An infinite number more will benefit.

    Millions of people have been impacted by previous transit projects. Eglinton line, Sheppard Line, Streetcar rail, UP Express, Union Station, etc, etc, etc. Millions more by highway projects – 407, 404, Rapid Transit in Peel and York Region. Home and land get expropriated all the time.

    Now it’s the east-end’s turn.

    Steve: I am publishing your bilge so people can see the type of intolerant comments that come in here.

    The east end went through extensive consultation about the Relief Line and had an underground alignment was accepted that avoided the problems foreseen with running on the surface in the GO corridor. Even the underground version would have involved upheavals notably at stations and at the planned interchange with the Danforth subway. It would not have been a project “out of sight, out of mind”.

    Meanwhile, thanks to the Ford family (Mayor, Premier) and a lot of very nasty politicking, the proposed Scarborough surface LRT network is only a memory with subways substituted for the SRT and a subway planned for Sheppard East. Out in Etobicoke, the Eglinton line will be buried at great cost even though there is plenty of room on the surface for it.

    Why do I want to know? Because the public is entitled to understand how their tax dollars are being spent, for starters, and how their city is going to be modified. They especially should know why not one, not two, but THREE separate subways are to be built in areas where they are not required, but in Leslieville, the line must be above ground.

    “As citizens, you are not entitled to know anything about the execution of the project.” Well if you don’t work for Metrolinx, you should. This fits right in with their attitude.

    And, by the way, my comments and those of many others are often directed at the shortcomings of Metrolinx proposals where they are clearly making things up as they go along and in some cases have not yet finalized just what it is they plan to build. If that’s the case, why shouldn’t anyone comment on the project?

    And who the fuck do you think you are to make such a comment? Why don’t you just crawl back under whatever rock you call home.

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  16. So – what about a pandemic Relief busway on the Gatineau all through Scarborough running from Eglinton and Vic Park area out to the 401, done by maybe January? for $40M? (buses not included, and it would be smart to bury at least some cables under the busway right? The Gatineau has very good connectivity for both E/W/ and N/S, and runs on diagonal, so it’s even faster than a mere off-road/exclusive RoW. It doesn’t use as much concrete however, so that’s an issue, and if we were to use some of the excess concrete as a roadbed that too would help close a loop vs. extractivism. And if we did encourage/support solar through Solarborough, and had a set of recharging stations for e-buses…..

    Steve: By January? What year?

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  17. Dave said: “As citizens, you are not entitled to know anything about the execution of the project. Your only entitlement is to Vote for the elected officials whom, in turn, fund these projects. That’s it. “

    Dave, your pronouncements about what citizens are entitled to is a fact-free crap fest.

    From elected officials to the most junior civil servant intern, as a citizen I am owed total transparency when it comes to transit projects. I demand and expect no less.

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  18. Steve, just for the record, no one in a position to know has offered any hints on the super-advanced rolling stock the Ontario Line will use that will allow that route to be finished (1) earlier; (2) more cheaply, than the DRL?

    I think I am going to repeat that old engineering joke, where the engineer tells the customer: “You want high quality? And low cost? And on time delivery? You get to pick just two.”

    Steve: Metrolinx routinely uses photos of Vancouver’s Skytrain as examples of what they plan for the Ontario Line. I think it is fairly obvious what they have in mind.

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  19. Steve, you think Ford and his team see the Skytrain as the new technology that will save construction time and contruction costs? Vancouver used the lineal descendant of the technology of the SRT for its first two rapid transit lines, I thought they considered it for the line they completed prior to the Winter Olympics, and chose a more conventional technology from South Korea for that line.

    So, you think they see SRT/Skytrain technology as the wizard new technology that will save money? It was my understanding that Vancouver rejected using it for their third route because it was too expensive, more expensive than more traditional technology.

    I am not aware of any reason why SRT/Skytrain route could be completed more rapidly than a route using more traditional rolling stock. Are are aware of any justification for that assumption.

    Ford and his team seem to have been willing to build a route with a lower passenger capacity than one of the TTC’s heavy rail routes. Maybe we have beat this to death, already, but I am concerned that, with future growth, and an extension to Sheppard, or Highway 7, the Ontario Line will have a decade or less between its completion, and when it too is being used beyond its capacity. And, if the DRL was built, and eventually extended to Eglinton, Sheppard or Highway 7, Toronto will get a couple of decades out of it, prior to it reaching its capacity.

    If that is true, and there really are cost savings in building the Ontario Line, those savings are likely to be wiped away by the need to construct a DRL v2.0 when the Ontario Line reaches capacity.

    Steve: Because the Canada Line was going to be physically separate from the rest of the SkyTrain network, Vancouver specified the bid without a prescribed technology, and Bombardier did not win. The real problem is that the stations are too small and the fleet will have to be expanded to handle demand.

    As for the OL, Metrolinx has been itching to build a SkyTrain line for years, and when Ford took control of the new projects, this was their perfect opportunity. The savings will come from having part of the line above ground thereby saving on tunnel and station costs. Also, with the ability to run very close headways with ATO, they plan to address the future capacity requirement. I believe that the planned stations on the OL are longer than those on the Canada Line and so a constraint on train length won’t be as much of an issue here as it is in Vancouver.

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