The Long Arm of Metrolinx

Doug Ford wants his pet transit projects built now and will sweep away any opposition. His agency, Metrolinx, is more than happy to oblige if only to make itself useful.

There was a time when the Tories hated Metrolinx as a den of Liberal iniquity, but Phil Verster and the gang made themselves useful to their new masters with new plans. Ford returned the favour with legislation giving Metrolinx sweeping powers in the Building Transit Faster Act. In particular, Metrolinx has review powers over any proposed activity near a “transit corridor” (anything from building a new condo to extending a patio deck) lest this work interfere with their plans. They also have right of entry, among other things, to perform their works.

Metrolinx describes the various aspects of review in Building near a Metrolinx transit corridor

Operative language in the Act is extremely broad about “transit corridors”:

Designating transit corridor land

62 (1) The Lieutenant Governor in Council may, by order in council, designate land as transit corridor land if, in the opinion of the Lieutenant Governor in Council, it is or may be required for a priority transit project. 2020, c. 12, s. 62 (1).
Different designations for different purposes

(2) The Lieutenant Governor in Council may designate the land for some of the purposes of this Act and not others, and may later further designate the land for other purposes of this Act. 2020, c. 12, s. 62 (2)
Notice and registration

(3) Upon land being designated as transit corridor land, the Minister shall,

(a) make reasonable efforts to notify the owners and occupants of land that is at least partly either on transit corridor land or within 30 meters of transit corridor land of,

(i) the designation, and

(ii) this Act; and

(b) either,

(i) register a notice of designation under the Land Titles Act or Registry Act in respect of land described in clause (a), or

(ii) carry out the prescribed public notice process. 2020, c. 12, s. 62 (3); 2020, c. 35, Sched. 1, s. 4.

Building Transit Faster Act, S. 62,

Note that there is no requirement that land actually be anywhere near a transit project, merely that it “may be required for a priority transit project”.

“Resistance is futile” should be the Act’s subtitle.

Metrolinx has a diagram in Doing construction work near a Priority Transit Corridor which shows the bounds of their interest.

In various community meetings, the assumption has been that the “corridor” corresponds to the bounds of Metrolinx’ property, but that is not the case. A much wider swath has been defined in several corridors reaching well beyond the wildest imaginations of what might be affected lands. Needless to say this has not endeared Metrolinx to affected parties for “transparency”.

This applies to the “priority” corridors: Scarborough Subway Extension, Richmond Hill Extension, Eglinton West Extension and, of course, the Ontario Line.

In addition, there are constraints around GO Transit corridors, as well as separate Developer’s Guides for LRT projects in Toronto and on Hurontario. Note that these predate the election of the Ford government, and rather quaintly refer to the Eglinton West and Sheppard East LRT corridors. Although it is mentioned in the text, the Eglinton West Airport Extension is not shown on the map.

There is an interactive map page on which one can explore the bounds of areas where Metrolinx asserts various rights of review, control and entry. It is tedious, and one must wait for all of the map layers to load to get a complete picture. But fear not, gentle reader, I have done the work of wandering through the GTHA on this map and taking screenshots to show each line. I have attempted to maintain a consistent scale for the snapshots of the maps. All of them are clickable and will open a larger version in a new browser tab.

Readers should note that the areas of influence/control for Metrolinx corridors discussed here are separate from the effects of MTSAs (Major Transit Station Areas) on development around rapid transit and GO stations, a totally separate topic.

I will start with the Ontario Line because it is the most contentious, but Metrolinx territorial ambitions do not stop there.

Legend

There is a common legend for these maps.

Areas in pink are GO Corridor lands where infrastructure plans must be co-ordinated with Metrolinx.

Areas in blue are transit corridor lands including a 30m buffer on both sides. Note that this is measured not from the Metrolinx property line, but from wherever the “corridor” has been defined by Cabinet Regulation.

Areas in green are locations that are outside of priority corridors, but still where Metrolinx review and approval must be sought to avoid conflict with their plans. (Note that there are two subtly different shades of green on the map, one of which is for parks.)

Areas in purple lie along GO corridors where there is a 300m boundary for review of any proposed work. In some locations, this area is quite large on the maps and this begs the question of whether Metrolinx is asserting control beyond what is actually allowed to do. In any event, the GO Transit Corridor Development Guidelines includes the now-infamous diagram showing that any new development should be 30m from a GO corridor.

It is self evident that existing buildings along rail corridors are closer than the standard shown below, but the question remains of how much land adjacent to rail lines is constrained for development as “new builds” within the standards.

An Observation About Details

After looking through all of these maps, I cannot help the feeling that the process of creating them was a piece of dog-work handed to relatively junior staff who were simply given a formula about how to draw the lines. Now Metrolinx faces the uproar caused by an overly generous definition of their corridor requirements. Don’t hold your breath waiting for a revision.

Hapless Metrolinx reps at “public consultations” are in for a rough go, and this issue is bound to detract from discussion of other key problems with their proposals.

Other details of note include:

  • the complete absence of “Smart Track” stations,
  • the absence of the Yonge Subway “priority” extension
  • the presence of the Sheppard East LRT.

Ontario Line

Exhibition Station, Parkdale and High Park

Note that the blue “transit corridor lands” around the Ontario line are considerably wider than the space occupied by the actual transit line by comparison to the actual width (pink) of the GO Transit rail corridors.

Also note that Liberty Village Station does not appear on this map (Bloor Station is just out of frame, but does appear.

Downtown

The Ontario Line cuts a wide swath through downtown well beyond the space it will actually occupy.

Riverside

As on other parts of the Ontario Line, the “transit corridor” is defined well in excess of the Metrolinx right-of-way raising the question of whether Metrolinx can be trusted in their claims about their scope of work and affected lands.

East York

Through East York, the situation is similar to further south on the Ontario Line with a wide swath of property east and west of Pape Avenue defined as the “corridor”.

The extent of the Don Branch’s area of influence is intriguing because it extends all of the way to the former Leaside Station on the CPR rather than stopping south of the high level bridge near the Brickworks.

Don Mills/Eglinton

The “transit corridor” area for the Ontario Line extends further north than plans for the maintenance facility near Thorncliffe Park show.

Scarborough Subway Extension

Northern Section

The Scarborough extension shows a range of lands wider than, strictly speaking, a subway corridor, and this includes the portion of the SRT corridor through the Town Centre.

Note also the presence of the Sheppard East corridor.

Middle Section

Southern Section

The southern section of the Scarborough extension merges into the zone of influence of the Eglinton Crosstown at Kennedy Station.

Eglinton Corridor

Note that the Eglinton line is only a “priority project” from Mount Dennis westward, there is no restrictive blue zone around the part of the line from Mount Dennis to Kennedy.

Golden Mile

Central Section

Cedarvale (Eglinton West)

Caledonia and Mount Dennis Stations have expanded zones around them both because they are interchanges, and because of the yard at Mount Dennis.

Mount Dennis

Westward from Mount Dennis, the blue “transit corridor” reappears because this is a “priority project”. Note that it is substantially smaller than the corridor defined for the Ontario Line.

Eglinton West

The west end of the proposed Crosstown extension ends on this map before it goes into the airport.

Finch LRT

As on Eglinton East, the Finch line is not a “priority corridor” and therefore does not have a restrictive blue overlay around the line.

East Section

West Section

Yonge North Subway Extension

Langstaff Station

The map shows Langstaff GO Station, but does not show the “priority” North Yonge subway at all on whatever alignment it might take.

Hurontario LRT

Like other non-priority projects, the Hurontario line does not have a blue restricted area around its corridor.

Brampton Gateway

Cooksville

Sheppard East LRT

Yes, the Sheppard East LRT is protected for in the maps, including the proposed carhouse at the east end of the line.

Western Section

Eastern Section

Lake Shore East

Scarborough Junction

Whitby/Oshawa

An extremely large area around the GO corridor substantially exceeds the normal scope of GO controls. There is also provision for the beginning of the Bowmanville extension with protection around the land where the connection from the LSE corridor to the CP line would be built.

Lake Shore West

Mimico

GO is showing a very large area around Mimico Yard, well over the usual width which can be seen on either side of the Canpa sub that runs north to Kipling. It is not clear what entitles Metrolinx to enforce such a large review area here (and in a few other locations such as Oshawa above).

Port Credit

Port Credit hosts the interchange between the Hurontario LRT and the LSW GO corridor.

Oakville

Aldershot

Hamilton

Hamilton includes both the CN and CP corridors as well as protected lands well away from the actual locations of rail operations.

Niagara Falls

The line to Niagara falls has the standard zone around it all the way to its terminus including an incursion across the USA border. Does Metrolinx have undreamed-of ambitions for international expansion?

Stouffville Corridor

Sections of the Stouffville Corridor are covered by maps of intersecting routes. Most of the line north of Toronto simply has a GO Transit purple band all the way to the Lincolnville terminus.

Barrie Corridor

Barrie

Most of the Barrie Corridor simply has the standard GO Transit purple zone around it. Here is the terminal in Barrie.

Kitchener Corridor

The Junction

Northern Etobicoke

Airport and UPX Spur

Bramalea

Guelph

Kitchener

Milton Corridor

Kipling / Six Points

Milton

19 thoughts on “The Long Arm of Metrolinx

  1. The Niagara Falls ‘excursion’ indicates the absurdity of the claims, but in real terms, it’s the Cdn Feds that will put the kibosh to Ford.

    The “Notwithstanding Clause” cannot be used to defang the Railway and Transportation Acts, and a myriad of others pertaining to federally regulated matters, as we’re now seeing with the 413 fiasco. Ford and Minionlinx appear to be trying to kick sand in the Fed’s face. Ford is in for a big fall…and Humpty Dumpty finds a partner.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m thinking that Metrolinx ought to enter into partnerships with VIA and Amtrak to promote rail passenger expansion in Ontario plus international rail passenger expansion.

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  3. Toronto shall now be known as the municipality of Metrolinxia.

    Steve: No, slightly more arrogantly, Versterworld.

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  4. I can only assume, from Metrolinx’ assertion of rights south of Lake Shore Blvd in Mimico, that it is planning to run GO trains on what is now, quaintly, called “streetcar track”. The fears of residents about an LRT on Lake Shore destroying their community seems to have been taken up and implemented by Metrolinx.

    And I did have lunch with a Riverside resident, who was very, very unhappy that his property, which is a block away from the rail corridor, is nevertheless constrained and entailed and all sorts of bad stuff.

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  5. Steve: No, slightly more arrogantly, Versterworld.

    Uh oh. What happens when the AI on the Ontario Line trains becomes sentient?

    Steve: If the folks who brought us Presto have anything to do with it, the trains will spend their time telling us all the things they cannot do, and overbilling us for the privilege.

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  6. Could you imagine the abject outcry from ‘Conservatives’ (large and small ‘c’) and Developers Inc. if an NDP or Liberal regime tried enacting same?

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  7. Metrolinx as an election issue

    Metrolinx should not be political. It should be like the TTC. No one thinks the TTC is political. The major problem for the TTC is that it is forbidden to do strategic transit planning, it is only allowed to produce Operational Plans. It has the required constituents to undertake strategic planning (demand flow analysis, operational planning, engineering, construction, project management etc.) but City government didn’t “trust” the TTC with it but neither did the City establish a strategic transit planning department.

    For the next Provincial election we should make an election issue of taking the politics out of Metrolinx (Mx). It should be like the TTC no visible politics. What political party will force a charter for Metrolinx requiring it to work foremost in the public interest of the citizens of Ontario tomake independent evaluations of public transit projects’ effectiveness, value for money and lifespan.

    As Mx has ultimate transit decision authority, there must be an appeal process, perhaps within the Ombudsman’s auspices.

    Toronto, left to its own devices has failed to provide coherent public transit plans. In its oversight role Mx should intervene to assure city transit capacity is appropriate to real estate and population growth plans.

    Toronto is overwhelmed when undertaking billion dollar transit projects. Mx can play a role but when doing so, must be required to undertake authentic local input and organize project management timetables to allow for timely local input which can change the project.

    Metrolinx can play an important role in co-ordinating regional transit eg the GTHA, but must be in the best interest of citizens, no politics.

    We must recognize its failures. The Public/Private/Partnerships (P3) that failed the Ottawa LRT, the Crosstown LRT and UPX (though not totally Mx’s fault). Mx must take ownership of the hard parts of projects and not dump them onto P3’s thinking the problem is eliminated. The costs come back to the citizens. This is the cycle we must stop. Some stuff is hard and will cost a lot, own up to it. Let’s work honestly and do our best as good citizens.

    Is this something you could vote for?

    Steve: No one thinks the TTC is political?

    “Scarborough Subway” vs “Transit City”?

    “Smart Track” vs “More Buses”?

    “Cutting Fares” vs “Better Service” vs “Efficiency”?

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  8. Okay, let’s say I own a house on land within the large swath Metrolinx is claiming priority over.

    Let’s say I wish to build an addition, or underpin my basement, or–lordy–build a “Laneway Suite” on my property.

    Let’s say I disagree with the way Metrolinx is working, especially as they use their meat-axe to carve through Leslieville and Riverside with their so-called “Ontario Line.”

    Let’s say I hear they can derail (ha!) my small development plans based on the wide powers they’ve claimed for themselves (and supported by a Conservative Premier-for-Life whose abuse of the Notwithstanding clause of the constitution has granted his government near-absolute power).

    Am I going to voice my disagreement?

    Or will I hold my peace, hopeful that some other nail will get hammered while I proceed quietly with my “little plans.”

    Is this not the very definition of what’s called a “chilling effect” to quash dissent?

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  9. I believe this is all part of what is called political terrorism. Our temporary premier is doing a nice imitation of Senator Joe McCarthy with Phil Verster as his Roy Cohn. Or is he David Shine?

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Steve: Doug Ford wants his pet transit projects built now

    Every public project in Ontario is Premier Ford’s pet project because Mr Ford is the Premier Daddy of Ontario. Even Mr Ford’s opponents and critics call him with respect and complements such as the pet name Premier Daddy from the CBC which is one of his fiercest critics for you can’t help but admire the man for moving at lightning speed to build transit and other infrastructure in Ontario.

    Steve: He may be “Daddy” but with a vicious, abusive streak that brooks no dissent.

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  11. JL Allderdice writes:

    “…a Conservative Premier-for-Life whose abuse of the Notwithstanding clause of the constitution has granted his government near-absolute power”

    I and others have made sharp barbed comments on the Notwithstanding bandstand, and that, along with the Principality of Metrolinxia, it’s become very clear that the OntCons have prodded themselves off of a gangplank of their own making.

    Note today’s National Post:

    And note the irony that this opinion appears in the Post, the seemingly first of the major pubs to allude to Ford having a ‘change of mind’…(Duh!)

    Was it the drugs wearing off, or the solicitors buzzing in panic-mode that woke Ford up on this?

    That’s one shoe to drop, albeit it’s yet to happen. I highly suspect it will, for many reasons.

    The next shoe to drop will be the self-proclaimed Principality of Metrolinx. Speaking of solicitors, the question is who gets to apply for an Injunction first on the Principality’s claimed illegal borders? The Feds or a private entity with very deep pockets and principles that just won’t stand for insurrection?

    Metrolinx are claiming jurisdiction over Pearson Airport! Let alone other swaths of federal jurisdiction.

    Someone inside the Party better have a little talk with Dougie (just little, don’t want to overwhelm simple minds) that playing with guns comes under federal jurisdiction.

    Anyone want to wager on whether the letters have been mailed yet? Or delivered by special courier…

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  12. Further to my last post, I thought it best reference the legal basis of my claim. The situation is layered, but even more against Metrolinx than I had assumed: (Full disclosure, it’s been a few years since I’ve read this fully, there may be even more damning revelations for the Vesterites, I just did a quick reference.)

    The GTAA may acquire, directly or through its subsidiaries, real properties in the vicinity of Pearson Airport and the City understands that such properties may, from time to time, be transferred to the Government of Canada and form part of the Ground Lease in connection with the GTAA’s long-term objective to develop Pearson Airport as a mega-hub which may have a financial impact to the City if such properties cease to be subject to the payment of real property taxes, and an impact on the development of surrounding lands;

    Para H, second page: Agreement between Mississauga and the GTAA

    Let the games begin!

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  13. Of course in all this, Ford is still the boss. It’s incredible that in the report on the Eglinton West LRT it is clearly stated BY METROLYNX that the new plan to build a lengthy portion of the line underground rather than on the surface does not justify the cost to build it that way. The only way the report could be more honest would be if it pointed out that the portion in question goes through the southern portion of Doug Ford’s riding. We all know the opinion of the Ford brothers regarding “streetcars”.

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  14. And let’s not forget the hidden Metrolinx strategic transportation guru (advisor is their term for him) who is going to show us all that the only way to build transit is with his automated mini-metro plaything. This guy also knows how to make every train or transit route profitable. He told me so himself over drinks at the Royal York’s Library Bar a few years back when he was flogging the Southwestern Ontario high-speed rail plan he concocted for the Ontario Liberals.

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  15. We are trying to get the Federal Gov’t involved in this mess. The first thing was to push a condition that the Fed $ for OL et al came with strings (vaguely defined at this time), secondly we filed a request for a Federal Impact assessment (after the first one was declined) for the cumulative impact of all projects, third we looked for areas where Federal jurisdiction could apply and proposed the lower Don Valley be added to the Federal List of contaminated sites (Fisheries), 200 years of tannery, railway yards and other factories etc.

    The point is Toronto Danforth is riding that splits NDP/Liberal and there will be a Federal election before there is a Provincial one. Ford may have unleashed Metrolinx but it’s being partially fed by the Feds and they need to step up the governance.

    Steve: I think the Federal talk about environmental revie was pure window dressing. They don’t want to be seen to be holding up “vital” work especially in transit which is part of their environmental improvement program. Trees come a distant second after getting cars off the road.

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  16. @Bill R

    TTC used to make long-term strategic plans. It was entrusted by Mayor Miller to develop Transit City because Service Planning had the expertise. Since Rob Ford was elected Mayor the City has been given control over transit planning which is rolled together with many responsibilities. Today, TTC is extremely weak there are no public institutions left that understand and support transit.

    Also, transit planning should be political. Planners make mistakes. Politicians should be the democratic oversight of the technical work and make clear decisions based on publicly available information. And we should hold them to account for these decisions. The problem is when there is no transparency.

    Steve: Andy Byford was happy to give up Planning to the City as he didn’t see the importance of keeping the expertise in house. What’s more, the senior folks in planning were not part of Andy’s crowd and were not in a position to argue their case over a pint. It was one of his major missteps, along with hiring and promoting Rick Leary as his successor.

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  17. Wait, hold on. I own property shaded purple on these maps, which is within 300 m of a GO corridor. I did not receive any notification of the designation or the Act from the Minister. Is the map wrong or is the Minister in contravention of the Act?

    Steve: The purple is only a generic 300m zone around rail corridors. Notices went only to properties in the pink zone.

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  18. Not sure about the TTC (I assume they do) – but many agencies around the world have infrastructure protection teams and maps/information on when they should be consulted.

    It’s never going to be perfect – some incompetent developer managed to drill a pile through the roof of a tunnel a few years ago in London. Note who was the Network Rail route managing director for that area – one Phil Verster!

    Agree with you that this has been done exceptionally poorly by Metrolinx – a good example of infrastructure “safeguarding” done well is this recent one by TfL for the future Bakerloo line extension. Clear map, informative and clear guidance. (You’ll need to scroll down a bit.)

    Steve: Yes, clear, both in the textual description and in the map. Parts of the FAQ sound remarkably similar to the Metrolinx text. I wonder if Mlx cribbed TfL’s version as a starting point?

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