Ontario Proposes Developments at Station Sites

The Government of Ontario has proposed that lands they plan to acquire for station entrance buildings on the Ontario Line at Exhibition, King/Bathurst and Queen/Spadina stations will be redeveloped to increase transit demand at these locastions.

For a description of the stations sites, please see my previous article Ontario Line West Segment Update. The site plans are included here to put the proposed developments in context.

In the station building renderings, the eagle-eyed readers will note the variation (including the complete absence in some cases) of the “standard” Metrolinx “T” symbol. On the Crosstown line, it has been rendered at a size where it almost disappears, whereas here, in some drawings, it is on a similar scale to the “T” found at the MBTA stations in Boston.

All of the designs shown here indicate the general form (albeit not the height) of what Ontario would like to see, and everything is subject to change.

All renderings from Ontario Proposes New Transit-Oriented Communities Along Ontario Line.

Exhibition Station

This view of Exhibition Station looks west showing new development on the lands north of the station. There is a new road, effectively an extension of Front Street, just north of the rail corridor. Next comes an island platform for the Ontario Line, and then the first of three GO Transit platforms. The northernmost GO track has an across-the-platform transfer the eastbound Ontario Line track. Other GO platforms and the TTC streetcar line are out of frame to the left in this rendering.

This view looks northeast at Dufferin Street with the Exhibition Station platforms visible in the distance. The Ontario Line’s tail tracks extend to Dufferin Street and then come the GO Transit tracks. The proposed streetcar extension from Exhibition Loop to Dufferin Street is out of frame to the right of and below this rendering.

The proposal breaks the development into two segments with a north-south courtyard between them. Whether this is what actually gets built remains to be seen.

This view looks east at Jefferson Street.

King/Bathurst

This view looks east on King at Bathurst Street. In the proposal, the existing buildings (or at least their façades) would remain with new buildings above.

Looking northeast across Bathurst and King.

Looking southeast across Bathurst and King. The indistinct building at the right edge of the rendering is the Wheat Sheaf Tavern which is intended to remain.

Queen/Spadina

The station entrances at Queen/Spadina will be on diagonally opposite corners. As at the other stations, the intent is to retain the existing façades and build above. Here is the northeast corner.

This view looks south on the east side of Spadina to Queen.

This is the southwest corner of Queen and Spadina. The new building’s podium retains the red brick of the classic old city buildings, but in a new structure.

12 thoughts on “Ontario Proposes Developments at Station Sites

  1. I’m from Scarborough, so I don’t know the context of the transit solution that the Ontario Line West Segment provides. The comments of projected usage being too low to justifying the expenditure draw my attention Everyone agrees Toronto needs improved public transit. I break down the needs three ways.

    1. There are services that are jammed like the Yonge Subway, Yonge/Bloor station.
    2. There are regions that are underserved like the Dufferin/Bathurst corridor and Victoria Park in need of infrastructure improvements.
    3. There are regions ripe for economic development for residential and commercial expansion such as Markland Wood or Westminster Branson.

    Toronto City government took strategic transit planning away from the TTC and never provided staff to perform that function. All cities, except Toronto, have staff to think about balancing the three kinds of needs: the crisis, the underserved and the future.

    The original relief line was conceived 20 years ago to divert the load of Bloor/Danforth (B/D) passengers transferring onto Yonge at Bloor. Today the Yonge subway is over capacity south of Bloor. Worse, the extension to Finch, extensive apartment developments in North York and at Eglinton and St. Clair have made the whole Yonge subway overcrowded.

    The Ontario Line is not a relief line to the Yonge Subway and will [be?] an empty train to the west.

    Nothing is being done about our serious problems of the overcrowding of Yonge and the crowded B/D subway. The Dufferin/Bathurst corridor and Victoria Park also suffer unjustly because of government inaction.
    Yet governments spend money on splashy “development” projects. Good government balances the transit needs among all three transit needs, the crisis, the underserved and the future.

    Dealing with crisis and underserved issues are hard and governments don’t have staff working on these problems.

    The Scarborough Subway Extension is budgeted at $5.5 billion to serve 103,000 daily trips. It was always a money loser but it was to serve the “Scarborugh Centre” development. There has been no Scarborough Centre development because a successful development in the suburbs requires parking space (Toronto is car centric) and there is not enough parking space. So the project becomes a financial disaster for transit and development.

    We need a department that will do the strategic thinking of how to address transit in Toronto. They should define the problem and propose at least three plans. I understand that there is not enough money to do everything and that is why the politicians should choose among the plans.

    The Liberals failed at good government and were thrown out. The Conservatives have not demonstrated good government on transit issues. Even if the Conservatives get thrown out, the NDP has no plan. If the outcome is a minority government we will be left with the status quo.

    Politicians do not make good transit planners. Voters are often duped, like those who thought SmartTrack was going to solve everything (Are we there yet?). None of the four Conservative Toronto transit plans make sense. The NDP have no plans.

    Watch out! The splashy marketing of development is merely a diversion from a failed transit plan. Politicians don’t understand transit, unfortunately neither do voters.

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  2. Thanks Steve, and especially Bill R from Scarborough. It really is helpful having different views and analyses presented openly, without the filtration through the systems of control. And yes, it is a Big Mess, all three parties and governments having a role in it, plus the votorists of course.

    I believe it was Ms. Neary on another comment suggesting that the west of University Ave plan was NOT a good value, nor so needed right now, which I would tend to agree with as the GO ridership is low, relatively, and may remain low for a longer time given ubiquity of computers and costs of core overhead.

    Good to have analysis from Bill R as to what ‘should’ motivate us to be doing these projects but add in getting re-elected; enriching some developers; and having construction interests happy, if not very well-looked after ie. jobs for men and machines in vote-rich areas, not in hospitals, daycares or making good drinking water for indigenous people universal. And yet what really needs Relief is more the Yonge corridor, which the Richmond Hill extension will make worse, not better, and because there wasn’t the pursuit of the EA to join Oriole GO with TTC/Relief north from Eglinton as per 1995 Metro OP, that’s where the resource – including staff and push from politicians – should be going to.

    And because of the lost decade in Scarborough, and the climate crisis, we really need to have more of a triage approach to some robust relief of the N/S demand especially as a near-emergency situation and focus on what can be done for sub-regional/faster A to J to O, and fill in stops/stations/links later, tho try to plan for them now. And triage will mean thinking more on-surface ie. existing corridors, with a development freeze until something’s in place.

    I wasn’t aware of this 1957 plan including Relief N, S, NE, and West to Islington until reading it in Ed Levy’s good book – and we do need that sort of longer/larger project that’s attuned to core demands/needs as much as suburban voters, and a few drivers. We do need to have a real competitive-to-car E/W service from at least the pinch point at base of High Park into the core – and not stop at a development site which is what lurks behind Mr. Ford’s idea, though he at least had the right idea about getting up to Eglinton, but nobody’s got any ‘Realief’ in case this new lines draws in more passengers and they want to transfer at Eglinton, correct?

    The density of the old core N of Queen on the Spadina line is fairly real however, and is likely more than other areas of Toronto that have subways/stations. And having bike safety in the core might be very competitive in both time and tax dollars, but that’s political, and it’s sad to see that a rare chance to make Queen St. safer in a known-to-be-deadly stretch is going to have tonnage of concrete burying it with a status quo track reconstruction ie. this climate emergency should mean we move the tracks N about about a meter from Niagara over to Brock to enable a westbound bike lane, and safer biking on south side. We’re already limiting Queen to one lane as it is with all those patios, and there’s been 20 years from the old Bike Plan noting the lack of safety.

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  3. The Exhibition Station entrance shows straight lines of the track with no crossover tracks. With an increase in the number of trains moving in and out of the station, how will Metrolinx handle a late train or a breakdown?

    Steve: These are renderings to give a general idea of the site layout. For the actual track, you have to look at the detailed GO corridor plans. Things like crossovers show up there because they affect both the operating plan and the noise & vibration numbers.

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  4. I’m all for more density on Spadina, which has laughably low density north of Queen.

    At least there’s the old 5 storey industrial buildings there. I can think of worse crimes against city form in Toronto — like single-family residential beginning immediately north of majority of the Danforth subway.

    The renders here look alright, I’m sure devil will be in the actual implementation (such as actual heights, parking, and the number of suites larger than 700 sq ft).

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  5. Is there enough space for a setback tower at Spadina to be compatible with Queen West’s HCD?

    Steve: The lot on the SW corner at Queen & Spadina is fairly shallow, 32m depth from Queen, 50m from Spadina (see Infrastructure Ontario site). However, as a provincially sponsored “Transit Oriented Community” development it does not have to respect the HCD or any other municipal controls.

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  6. It’s sad to see so much misguided talk about “density.” If you don’t give single-family house owners a virtual veto over all development, you can have good, livable density with a mix of buildings from 4 to 10 floors. Canyons of 40-storey condo towers sticking up from an other wise flat, single-family house landscape isn’t good density.

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  7. Bill R from Scarborough said :

    “We need a department that will do the strategic thinking of how to address transit in Toronto. They should define the problem and propose at least three plans. I understand that there is not enough money to do everything and that is why the politicians should choose among the plans.”

    Totally agree. But not just Toronto, but the agency should co-ordinate for all of Ontario, Windsor to Ottawa to Thunder Bay. Though, however short-sighted (re: need for Relief Line) and clumsy, the TTC did a pretty good job at planning and building before Toronto City council took that away from them, and then Metrolinx took planning away from Toronto.

    As for the money or supposed lack of, there has been no limit on spending for fighting the Covid, government budgets all out the door. Their economists say that that is no problem due to the near-zero interest rates. So how come no money for transit infrastructure? Meanwhile, each of the 5 largest banks in Canada reports $1 billion in after-tax profits each quarter, so that`s $20 billion each year. South of the border, I am always reading about $ billions, trillions looking for investment opportunities. The money is out there. And back to Canada, the Feds toss money towards transit with no strings attached regarding good planning – that is like throwing good money after bad.

    Bill R also said:

    “The Liberals failed at good government and were thrown out. The Conservatives have not demonstrated good government on transit issues. Even if the Conservatives get thrown out, the NDP has no plan.”

    I concur. The NDP has no plan. I checked their website some months ago, nothing. One of their MPP`s is their “transit critic”, I forget the name, but her webpage does not even mention transit, only housing. How can we take the NDP seriously about forming the next government if they are blind to transit? I was going to write Andrea Horvath on this matter. Can we trust the Liberals, because they were no good at transit either?

    Steve: The NDP’s former transit critic has been moved to the housing portfolio. Before she became an MPP, Jessica Bell was very active in transit issues in Toronto. She was the founding Executive DIrector of TTC Riders which, although it started small, is having an increasing effect on transit discussions in the city. The NDP site correctly lists her present portfolio as Housing and Urban Planning critic. Jennifer French from Ottawa is now the Transportation critic. The website is up to date, and policy info is here. The transportation section starts on page 15. I have my own problems with the NDP, but if you are going to critique them, at least make the effort to refer to current information.

    I agree with Bill R regarding the Ontario Line-Relief Line. The Ford government wants to make it subway-lite in order to save money and time building it. But, surface construction in Riverdale threatens the neighbourhood, the proposed transit yard in Leaside threatens the Muslim community, and the zig-zag along Queen Street will increase costs significantly. And subway-lite instead of a regular subway means that Toronto is burdened with yet another incompatible transit type (just as the Eglinton-Crosstown and Finch LRT vehicles are incompatible with streetcar track).

    As a quick solution for overcrowding on the Yonge subway, may I suggest a simple band-aid? Put streetcars on Yonge Street.

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  8. Steve, I apologise, I should have not assumed that the NDP policy on transit had never been fleshed out. I took a quick look at, and it looks quite thorough on the broader issues. I will study it before making any more comments. It should be interesting to compare with the Greens and Liberals, and, of course, with what the Ford government is doing.

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  9. One of the primary complications of development over transit stations is the timing. It is difficult to design a station to accommodate development over it when there are no detailed plans available for the development or its construction. It is best done at the same time as the station build, so that the plans can be properly co-ordinated, although even that can be difficult to control as construction proceeds. Doing it after the station is in place is always more complicated and more expensive, which is why many developers pass on the opportunity, particularly at more suburban stations where there is usually cheaper, unencumbered development land available nearby the station. So, will Metrolinx be taking development plans from private developers at the same time as it is creating its detailed station plans? This will require a legal agreement to be in place between Mx and the developer that will extend to subsequent owners should the building be sold. Or will Metrolinx itself be acting as the developer?

    On an unrelated note, I’ve always wondered what the “T” is for. I know that some other cities use it to designate their rapid transit stations, but it is not a known or widespread application in Toronto, and applying it only to selected transit lines with no customer-obvious unifying factor seems to be more confusing than informative. Does it stand for “Transit?” “Transportation?” “Toronto?” “TTC?” Why is it only on non-GO Metrolinx lines, and how does it unify with the TTC signage at existing transit stations? I asked Metrolinx several times about this, but no one seemed to know or care too much about it one way or the other. I suppose it’s a small thing, but why put something in a design if its purpose isn’t functional or obvious to the people who will use it? To me, the use of this “T” symbol is just another symptom of the dysfunctional and fragmented transit governance system our politicians have gifted us.

    Steve: If they had to use existing TTC design standards, there wouldn’t be graft for pals of the people building the Metrolinx projects. And we know that Metrolinx regards everything the TTC does as not worth bothering to use. Remember how they talked about “outdated technology” on the Relief Line and then had to eat their words.

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  10. Steve: “Remember how they talked about “outdated technology” on the Relief line and then had to eat their words.”

    Eat their words, yes, except that the province still went fishing for non-subway technology and ended up with something very like the SRT, but which they can still say isn’t TTC’s accepted subway technology. Same as the original decision not to use TTC-gauge track. Nothing good results when one’s over-riding objective is to prove one’s authority.

    Steve: I suspect there is more than a touch of ego there, never mind authority. We’re right. We are always right.

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