Ontario Line Design Changes Again (2)

This article is a follow-up to Ontario Line Design Changes Again including material from a new Metrolinx blog post.

As previously reported, Metrolinx has changed the track configuration between Corktown and Gerrard Stations on the Ontario Line so that both OL tracks are on the same side (north/west) of the rail corridor rather than straddling the four-track GO corridor.

When the Ontario Line was announced with much fanfare, a great deal was made by Metrolinx of the across-the-platform transfer connections possible at both Exhibition and East Harbour Stations with the GO Lakeshore corridor. The explicit benefit was to offload of GO/TTC transfer traffic from Union Station.

This design fell off the table (quietly) last year at Exhibition Station, but until quite recently, it was still advanced as the rationale for the OL’s configuration in this segment.

Now it too has disappeared and both OL tracks will be on the same side of the corridor. This actually makes life easier for Metrolinx designers including:

  • only one shared centre platform rather than two would be needed at stations, and only one set of vertical accesses (stairs, escalators, elevators);
  • electrification of GO will be relatively isolated from that for the OL which will run on a different voltage and probably a different height of overhead above the rails;
  • only one bridge rather than two will be required to carry the OL across the Don River;
  • only one tunnel portal will be required at Gerrard rather than two;
  • no tunnels under the rail corridor will be required to shift the eastbound OL first to the south side at East Harbour and then back to the north side at Gerrard;
  • there is room at East Harbour for platforms for all four GO tracks, not just the two outer ones, permitting this to be an express and local station as befits its location at a major development node.

Considering that Metrolinx is all about building projects more efficiently, one has to wonder why they didn’t pursue this configuration from the outset unless that cross-platform transfer was a holy grail untouchable until now.

The change is promoted as the result of listening to the community where more than a little opposition to the OL came from its intrusiveness and potential effect on buildings and open spaces. Until quite recently, Metrolinx defended their original design against all criticism.

Their tune has changed:

Re-positioning Ontario Line tracks at East Harbour means all Lakeshore East and Stouffville GO train services can stop at the station – something that wasn’t possible with the previous design. With a shared concourse providing easy access to all of the rail services that will serve East Harbour, more customers will be able to transfer between more trains, and travel to more places.

Customers who will be boarding the stations at Queen and De Grassi and at Gerrard and Carlaw will also see more benefits because, no matter what entrance they use, they’ll arrive at a centre platform that serves trains in both directions. They won’t have to worry about getting to platform level just to realize their train is on the other side of the rail corridor, accessed through a different station building. This will create a simpler, more accessible experience for everyone who uses the station.


But the improvements to the track positioning means teams can cut down on the amount of station buildings needed as well, which means even fewer impacts to the parks that have been developed around the active rail corridor over the years.

The line now occupies slightly less space than before, although the diagrams above are not engineering drawings showing the exact scope of work before and after the redesign.

Metrolinx is still silent on the need for or absence of crash walls between the GO rails, the Ontario Line and nearby buildings. These would add to the total width of the corridor.

Metrolinx would do well to show more detail for their new plan all the way from the Don River to the portal(s) at Gerrard.

Another round of community consultation is planned in coming weeks.

5 thoughts on “Ontario Line Design Changes Again (2)

  1. From what I’ve seen via Google Maps (and a general familiarity with the area as I used the 506 constantly between Coxwell and Roncesvalles) this is a more cost-effective (and engineering-effective) alignment. I think there is one residential property between Queen and Gerrard on the Kingston sub that might be directly impacted [crash wall notwithstanding]; however, it looks like the majority of the land on the north/west side of the sub bumps up against 1) parkland predominantly; 2) a few commercial properties and 3) one residential property (from what I can see). I wonder if this is sufficient to gain support of the Leslieville NIMBYs . . . not that their concerns were illegitimate.

    Are the Ontario Line “East Harbour” and GO “East Harbour” interligned (i.e. above/below -or- directly beside one another)?

    How will the OL leave the Kingston Sub / abort entry into the USRC / end up at King/Parliament? Are there any details for this?

    I’ve seen the overview map, and was just curious (as I thought the East Harbour OL station was to be “at” Broadview/Eastern not further (east/south) … any info on that?

    Steve: The intent is for East Harbour Station to be all in one place and on the same level as the GO trackage is today. Both OL tracks would be on the north side of the corridor with a share centre platform. Based on the description in the Metrolinx Blog, the four GO tracks will have shared platforms between the two westbound and two eastbound tracks. All transfers would be via a mezzanine level below.

    An issue for the revised alignment with the GO tracks pushed against the east side of the Metrolinx property is that this puts them right beside the Jimmy Simpson Rec Centre at a spacing that GO would never contemplate for a new build for safety/crash reasons. Their current standards require 30m separation. There is no mention of crash barriers.

    The original Relief Line station was under Eastern at Broadview, but the OL as proposed is above ground at the river, and shifted south to the rail corridor with the two directions straddling the GO tracks.

    The planned Corktown Station is on land just east of Berkeley Street and south of Front.

    Originally, the OL was planned to turn east and go through the open space (I use that term guardedly) between the rail corridor and the condos immediately north of it. The eastbound track would tunnel under the rail corridor and rise onto its own bridge over the Don. The westbound track would rise on the north side of the rail corridor east of Distillery Loop.

    With the revised plan, both directions of the OL stay on the north side of the corridor and there is no need for a tunnel under it. However, this also makes the OL structure wider on the north side. There is also the issue of the relatively short distance from Corktown Station to the portal where the OL would rise to the level of the GO tracks, and whether this short segment can actually be tunelled because it is close to the surface. If not, that has implications for Distillery Loop during the construction. Metrolinx has not released any plans for this segment showing the effect of the new alignment.


  2. I had trouble believing that the across the platform transfer from GO to OL was necessary to relieve Union because the transfer from Union GO to Line 1 is pretty long by comparison. Final destination will be a much bigger factor when deciding whether to transfer at East Harbour vs continuing to Union than a couple flights of stairs.

    Cost/fare issues will also be a bigger factor. If the time to the final destination is similar via East Harbour + OL vs Union and walking, people will choose Union if it’s cheaper. This is one of those areas where, as Steve points out, Metrolinx has a tendency to look at things in isolation which can lead to twisted designs like the original OL straddle plan. Who is going to pay an extra $6 per day on top of the GO fare to use the OL when if they can still use Union?


  3. Thanks Steve, and commenters.

    I came across the phrase “transit theatre” recently on Twitter – perhaps on c_9 or pbkwood – and yes, it can feel like that, if not tragedy, though definitely some aspects of farce, eg. the push to have tunnelling contracts signed ASAP despite a clear waste of billions, but what’s a billion or five?

    And I gotta think about how inadequate even this is, and is it part of a deflection/keep ’em busy so we ignore larger things like how the cars are subsidized, and the less-obvious billions in the health care costs/climate crisis (now at 420ppm), and storm sewer capacities provision with no user pay here.

    So are there not two demands needing relief for this greenhouse century? One being N/S, and another being the Line 2/Beach area? (And yes, there’s E/W from Parkdale/Etobicoke to the core as well). And thus with this adjustment to one side of tracks – and it’s complicated and will be still – is it maybe time to push for having something extend up to Main/Danforth in this line and have a separate, and again, mostly surface, but robust new capacities from Eglinton via Thorncliffe to the core, or near-core, with immediate priorities and far fewer stops? We need Relief functions, and perhaps if there’s surface relief as a focus, somehow, we could forgo a batch of costly changes to Yonge/Bloor and add another billion or whatever to doing smarter transit and relief. Yes, this Relief could well be extended to the west and NW up to Dundas and Bloor, and would be a better use of that Weston corridor vs. UPX as per Ed Levy’s ideas, and older plans. And once wasn’t Metrolinx thinking of using Wellington for transit? Too bad we dug out a bit of Front St. and didn’t clear, or keep clear that horrendous tangle of utilities etc for transit as per other old designs/plans.

    Providing something for this greenhouse century in a somewhat timely manner is uphill – and yup, would like some of those involved in having this mess fester be doing roadwork or some other outside/exposed work through the hotter summers that lurk.


  4. I foresee a disaster waiting to happen. When an OL train derails on its elevated guidway, sending the first 2 cars off the edge and onto the GO tracks below. as a VIA locomotive travelling at 90kph comes around that curve with no time to stop. it, too, crashes and derails into the adjacent tracks, just as a GO Express train on its way to Union crashes into the whole mess. its cars derail and one goes straight into the community centre destabilizing the exterior wall and causing the west side of the building to collapse. Hundreds of lives shattered dozens dead or very seriously injured. People will ask “who would be so stupid as to design something like this” and Ford will read the headlines and say to himself “My heart just goes out to those poor folks.”

    Far-fetched? maybe not so much.

    Steve: Your premise is wrong. The OL tracks are at the same elevation as the GO tracks, not above them. However, there is the general issue of how close to buildings the tracks will be and the relative crashworthiness of mainline rail trains vs OL trains.


  5. The relocation of the Ontario Line track to one side of the corridor seems to be a reasonable and sensible option, but this also means relocating GO trains closer to the Jimmy Simpson Rec Centre. I’m curious how Metrolinx plans to address that. In general, if people were upset with an electric Ontario Line train near Jimmy Simpson they are likely to be far more upset by a diesel locomotive pulling 12 bilevel carriages.

    Steve said: “….at a spacing that GO would never contemplate for a new build for safety/crash reasons. Their current standards require 30m separation. There is no mention of crash barriers.”

    I can see Metrolinx not wanting to mention crash barriers in order to avoid scaring people. But I wonder if there are ways to take advantage of having OL trains, as well as the shorter OL platforms, to minimize the corridor width and space requirements. Nothing too fancy like stacking the OL tracks between East Harbour and the eastern tunnel portal.

    Steve: They already get a narrower corridor thanks to the combined OL platforms, but I don’t think they have thought through clearances for GO. Their current drawings show the outermost eastbound GO rail hard by the Jimmy Simpson building.


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