Ontario Line Downtown Segment Update

This post is the second in a series of four covering the June round of online updates to the Ontario Line project.

Updated June 18, 2021 at 9:05 am: The section on the First Parliament site has been updated with information about the location of the Parliament and other buildings provided by a reader, Michael Bethke, in the comments. With thanks for the information.

Updated June 18, 2021 at 8:00 am: A section discussing the two versions of the Metrolinx presentation deck has been added at the end of this article.

The first version of the presentation deck that Metrolinx posted contained two slides with howling spelling mistakes, but also with station diagrams that differed from those shown in the online presentation. Subsequently the “final” version of the deck was linked from their engagement page. I have updated the link to the revised deck below and have replaced the illustrations in the article. The first version is also available from my own site if Metrolinx deletes it from theirs.

From document properties in the published PDFs, it is clear that there are two different versions of the presentation deck, and the wrong one was published first.

At least Metrolinx caught the error before their online session, but they pushed out a deck with errors two hours ahead and did not flag that it had been changed on their site. Basic editing errors like street names raise issues about the care in other, more serious, parts of their work.

Meetings for other segments are scheduled on:

  • June 24: Corktown, East Harbour, Riverside, Gerrard
  • June 30: North to Eglinton from Danforth

The introductory article for the meeting is on the Metrolinx blog and the engagement page includes links to the four meetings and resources for them.

Information here is taken from the neighbourhood update for the downtown segment, the presentation deck for the June 17 meeting, and information gleaned from that meeting.

This segment runs from Osgoode Station over to the Don River. An important structural point about the Ontario Line is that the downtown segment is in bedrock unlike the Eglinton Crosstown line which is tunneled through glacial till.

On Eglinton this meant that passing under Line 1 at Yonge/Eglinton and at Eglinton West Station required structural support of the existing subway and mining under Line 1 rather than continuing with the TBMs. On Queen, the existing stations are just above the level of bedrock which will support them while tunneling proceeds 10m or more below in rock.

Projections for 2041OsgoodeQueenMoss ParkCorktown
Residents served116,50018,40023,60026,400
Jobs served1110,500150,00023,20015,700
Zero-car households18,7005,1004,1003,300
Station usage (busiest hour)212,10016,6007,3004,100
Transfers to/from Line 1 (busiest hour)2 5,7006,100
Transfers to/from surface (busiest hour)2 1,0006001,5001,900
Source: Metrolinx Neighbourhood Updates, Downtown


  1. Because station catchment areas overlap, some people and jobs will be double counted.
  2. Station usage may include passengers arriving, leaving and transferring which is a different number from originating passengers at each station. I have asked Metrolinx for clarification on this, but they have not yet replied.

Osgoode Station

Osgoode Station will include a link to Line 1 University. Two new entrances are proposed, one on the northeast corner in the grounds of Osgoode Hall, and one through an old bank building at Simcoe Street.

This diagram shows the general property requirements, but does not show the current use of the “130 Queen St” property as parkland with mature trees.

[This illustration has been replaced with the version from the “final” presentation deck.]

The drawing below incorrectly gives the impression that the tunnel is north of Queen Street running between Campbell House and the Canada Life building on the northwest corner of the intersection. This is an error that Metrolinx should correct. The map above clearly shows the tunnel running under Queen Street.

[This illustration has been replaced with the “final” presentation deck version.]

This is the existing bank building at Simcoe Street that will become a station entrance.

The northeast corner of Queen & University is part of the Osgoode Hall park. Osgoode Hall is part of the very early years of Ontario and Toronto history. Metrolinx talks at some length about preservation of the fence, but not about the gardens that are an integral part of the site.

Here is the same area seen from the east. This is a park with mature trees that simply cannot be replaced by post-construction replanting/reconstruction.

An important alternative that was not discussed in the presentation is the proposal for reconfiguration of University Avenue so that the east lanes become pedestrian/park areas with all traffic shifted to the west side. This should allow the new entrance in this expanded space outside of the Osgoode Hall lands.

Here is a view of the proposed design looking south toward Queen Street.

Image from Public Work

Queen Station

At Queen Station, the Ontario Line will pass under Line 1 Yonge. The existing station has an underpass between the northbound and southbound platforms that was for the never-built Queen Subway. This may be used as part of the circulation system between the two lines, but there is no detailed design yet.

Most access to the station will be through existing entrances in buildings on all four corners, but some surface space is required to dig down to the Ontario Line. It is not yet clear just what would be built in these locations. The second drawing below shows existing entrance locations.

[The illustration below does not appear in the “final” version of the presentation deck.]

[The illustration below has been replaced with the “final” version. Note also that 176 Queen Street West is not on the southeast corner of Queen and Yonge. It is on the north side at Queen and Simcoe.]

Here is the northeast corner of Queen & James Streets. It is not clear just what Metrolinx plans to do in the limited space available in front of this tower.

Here is the southwest corner of Queen & Victoria Streets. [This photo replaces a previous one that incorrectly showed the northwest corner of the intersection.]

Moss Park Station

Moss Park Station will be located north of Queen Street in front of Moss Park Arena. The intent is to build this station mainly as cut-and-cover because the land is open space, and restore the park afterward. At the western end of the block, the line passes under Department of National Defense lands at Moss Park Armoury.

In response to a question during the online session, Metrolinx assured that there is no plan for a “Transit Oriented Community” at this station. Already there are development proposals for some of the lands on Queen Street, and this location is going to change considerably in the future anyhow. The park itself appears to be safe.

The drawings below showing the station effects at the surface do not show an emergency exit structure (compare to Corktown Station below). Metrolinx was asked about this in the online session and waffled on the issue of redundant paths between the tunnel and surface.

[The illustration below has been replaced with the “final” version.]

[The illustration below has been updated with the “final” version.]

This is the northwest corner of Sherbourne and Queen.

Corktown Station

Corktown Station is located on the block between Parliament and Berkeley Streets between King Street and The Esplanade. This will be a large site because it will double as a tunnel launch site. The block north of Front will be used for the tunnel launch while the block to the south will be used for construction materials staging. Tunnels will be driven north and west from here to Queen Station, and south and east to the portal at the Don River.

The line passes under Cherry Street where there is a proposed extension of the streetcar further south to link into the planned Waterfront East LRT line. The question comes up from time to time about having a Cherry Station on the Ontario Line but there are two problems:

  • It would be very close to Corktown Station.
  • The Ontario Line will be on a grade at this point, although still well below street level, rising to the portal west of the Don River. This would not work for a station which must be more-or-less level.

During the online session, there was a question about using the Don Yard as a staging area and tunneling west from the portal location. Metrolinx replied that they had studied this but there is not enough room. That is a bit of a head-scratcher considering the relative size of the Corktown Station sites and the lands north of the rail corridor. However, there is also has the consideration of how such work would interfere with the GO Transit yard and the berm on which the rail corridor sits.

The station will replace all buildings on the two existing blocks and will include the First Parliament Site at The Esplanade (about which more below). [This illustration has been updated with the “final” version.]

This drawing shows the placement of the Ontario Line entrances but gives no hint of what is really in store for this property. [This illustration has been updated with the “final” version.]

The Government of Ontario has announced it intends to redevelop this site with five large buildings, mostly residential. The drawings below are taken from Infrastructure Ontario.

This is the general site plan:

At the north end will be the main entrance of the station.

The general massing of buildings and the link down to the station as seen from the northwest at Berkeley and King.

This is the view looking northeast from the foot of Berkeley Street at The Esplanade.

A major issue with this site is that the south end, now a parking lot, was the location of the First Parliament of Upper Canada (now called Ontario). At the time, The Esplanade was on the waterfront (hence its name). The building was torched by invading Americans during the War of 1812.

The City of Toronto has been working on plans for this area for many years, but these were pre-empted by the provincial announcement that it would expropriate the land for the Ontario Line. This has not exactly endeared Metrolinx and their project to the City and the local community. As they say in diplomatic circles, discussions are ongoing.

The site is of archeological interest both for colonial-era artifacts and for remains from the preceding indigenous settlements. Metrolinx goes to great pains to explain that they will engage in a full study of the site before they reach the point where the site becomes a staging area for Ontario Line construction. Eventually there will be some type of community/historical centre, and extensive consultation is planned. (See the presentation deck for more details.)

Unfortunately, Metrolinx does not have the strongest reputation for consultation and co-operation if this might interfere with plans already set in motion. How genuine their efforts will be remains to be seen.

As shown below, the North block will hold the new station and will be the major excavation first for tunneling and later for the station itself. The South block will be used as a materials staging area.

This is the view today from King and Berkeley looking southeast. The site is occupied by a car dealership and a Staples store.

One block further south, this looks northeast across the intersection of Berkeley and Front. The Parliament buildings, gaol and other more recent structures by Consumers Gas would have been on what is now the south side of Front Street where the Nissan dealership is today.

This parking lot is the south end of the site. This would originally have been quite near the shore of Lake Ontario before landfilling extended the city south. There was a path here linking The Esplanade to Mill Street.

A Tale of Two Documents

I began work on this article a few hours before the online session so that I could publish as quickly as possible afterward. To that end, when the presentation deck was posted by Metrolinx, I downloaded it. It is very common for journalists to start work on articles before an event using whatever materials are released in advance.

After the session ended, I noticed that two slides contained spelling errors that speak poorly to Metrolinx’ attention to detail.

Note “Younge” and Jame” Streets
Note “Parliment” and “Berkley” Streets

We all make spelling mistakes. I certainly do and there are a few eagle-eyed readers who let me know about them fairly soon after I publish.

With Metrolinx, accuracy is important because the problems we can see like this could reflect a lack of attention to detail in other aspects of their work. I tweeted the versions shown above because I was unaware that they had updated the deck.

Also, bluntly, given the heavy handed approach Metrolinx takes to community relations and information sharing, they deserved to be called out on this.

On reviewing other illustrations, it became clear that this was not simply an update of a few pages to correct spelling, but a new presentation deck with revised illustrations. The new versions are now included in the main article.

The file Metrolinx posted originally was called “updated … final” and was created at 3:54 pm. It was exported from PowerPoint as a PDF. A copy is available here.

Here are the document properties superimposed on one of the erroneous pages.

The version that was used in the online session and which is now linked from the event page is called “final … final” and was created half an hour earlier at 3:14 pm. It was created by an Adobe utility that converts PowerPoints to PDFs, and is at an earlier PDF version (1.6) than the “updated … final” version (1.7). This was probably created on a different computer with older software. There was no indication on the event page that this file had been replaced.

This is not the first time I have picked up a document in advance of an online meeting and found it was different from what was used later. The deck for a discussion of the maintenance facility site selection originally included “confidential” information for “elected officials” that was stripped from the final version. This information was actually useful in explaining Metrolinx’ analysis whether one agreed with it or not.

This is not the first time Metrolinx has published erroneous material. Recently their number for total station usage on the west segment was cited as “daily” while the numbers for individual stations was for “the busiest hour”. I published with “daily” because the peak hour numbers appeared to be unreasonably high, and because the “peak” values totaled to the “daily” value Metrolinx itself published. I queried this discrepancy, but Metrolinx never replied. They did, however, change the erroneous web page. I have revised my article accordingly.

Metrolinx has still not published detailed demand projections for the Ontario Line. It is not clear whether “station usage” counts people who enter and leave the station, as opposed to only originating or transfer-on trips. Their station profiles explicitly state that transfers are in both directions. TTC’s published station usage counts include only passengers entering the station. This is an important distinction in comparing the Ontario Line with the existing network because counting ins and outs doubles the counts relative to the methodology used by the TTC (and for that matter by GO Transit for its own stations).

Metrolinx is paranoid about information leaks, and I have heard that “the plumbers” are at work trying to find where they might originate. This was not a leak. This was not a hack. It was a case where Metrolinx published a version of a document they did not intend for public view.

If Metrolinx were less secretive about their work and less combative about criticism, we might all just shrug and say mistakes happen and move on. But when their approach to “consultation” is to say “we can do anything we want” and to treat “consultation” as an opportunity to attack “myths and misinformation” with misinformation of their own, the relationship is very different.

Tweaking their corporate nose over spelling mistakes is the least I can do.

17 thoughts on “Ontario Line Downtown Segment Update

  1. For Queen station, I’m curious why they don’t close and use Albert St & Victoria St to dig down the shafts for the station. The Victoria Streetcar tracks are only a couple blocks from Church and are infrequently used, so diversions between Dundas and Queen could be accommodated there temporarily if needed.

    Steve: Victoria Street has been closed north of Queen for years for the construction project at St. Mike’s. I suspect that at both ends of the station structure they need to be very close to Queen Street, probably for vent shafts and maybe an emergency exit.

    Also in the online presentation, Richard made reference to using the Campbell House lawn for construction. Perhaps he misspoke or I misunderstood.

    Steve: If he goes after both Campbell House and Osgoode Hall, he will hear from more than a few very well-connected members of the legal profession. Metrolinx’ unbridled arrogance was on full display for that location.


  2. If I may suggest a small correction to this well-written blog. Peter Smith of DTAH presented to the First Parliament group that the site of the First Parliament buildings, the gaol, and Consumers Gas building were on the north end of the south site, closer to Front Street. The parking lot would be closer to the path between The Esplanade and Mill Street.

    Steve: I have updated the article. Thanks for the clarification.

    You are correct on Mx arrogance in the presentation. The timeline for the First Parliament site is to expropriate the property by 30 August, complete demolition probably by the end of September, complete the archaeological survey by the end of October, and begin the work of the Early Works site preparation in earnest in November. The concern expressed was about getting the archaeological work done before the ground freezes.

    Consultation with Mx has yielded little to nothing with respect to information shared with the community, although many promises have been made. Answers to questions from the April meeting were only just recently posted, with little information in them. Carrie mentioned contract language to be shared that is still not received. The waiting game is on, reminding me of a groom who asked about a prenup after the wedding. The meaningful consultation must occur before the contracts are signed, not after.


  3. Though I understand that it is often easier to build transit stations (or almost anything) on an empty site, it looks as though Metrolinx has fallen for the ‘drawing transit lines on a map’ trick. They seem not to have realised that the open spaces they see on the map (e.g. Campbell House lawn, Osgood Hall grounds, Moss Park and the First Parliament site) are all intrinsic parts of the mosaic of our neighbourhoods. They are not simply useful vacant land that can be expropriated, dug up and then sold as valuable building sites with their own transit stations!


  4. The station should not be called Queen … we will be travelling under Queen … it should be called Yonge. That’s like calling all stations on Bloor line … Bloor.

    Steve: Given Metrolinx’ history with station names (an entire Board meeting devoted to the name for “Hakimi Lebovic” on the Crosstown line), keeping it simple for now with the existing station names is probably a good strategy. One rare example of Metrolinx being restrained in their actions.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Metrolinx does lots of communications but really isn’t interested in the quality or the content. Here explained for the upcoming Board of Directors meeting.

    Steve: They neglect to mention the manner in which they attack community groups about “myths” and “misrepresentation” by circulating mythology of their own, and refuse to provide details of the effects of their plans.


  6. “The station should not be called Queen … we will be travelling under Queen … it should be called Yonge. That’s like calling all stations on Bloor line … Bloor.”

    I wouldn’t hold my breath, as far as I know, they aren’t planning to change the name of Eglinton station either.


  7. I hope there will be an opportunity for further input on station design. I don’t see how Moss Park Station would have a single building entrance, with access only from the east, when Jarvis Street is getting so many tall condo towers. It also faces away from the planned new recreation centre.

    Moss Park will cater mostly to walk up traffic, so it needs to be as friendly to pedestrian traffic from all directions.

    Steve: I would not be surprised if the absence of a second entrance at the west end of the station has to do with its location under DND property. However, there is still the matter of fire code. Metrolinx was quite evasive on this point during the online session.


  8. They should be giving us statistics projections for when the line opens, not 2041 which is 10+ years after it opens. A primary function of this line is to relieve current strain on the system, and the Yonge north extension depends on that function, which is planned to be completed well before 2041. They should also be using opening year numbers to justify the Building Transit Faster Act.


  9. With respect to the name changes, Metrolinx has stated that they will ask the local community to name the station (process unknown). There will be a lot of confusion between the names on the TTC line 1 and the current names assigned to the Ontario Line as I don’t believe that the entrances to the two systems will connect to one another. I will stand corrected if this is not the case.

    Steve: Metrolinx has stated that the entrances to the station at Queen and Yonge will be through the existing subway entrances, and so this will be rather like Bloor-Yonge with Line 1 on top and Line 3 (as the OL will be known) on the bottom. The difference will be that there will be a mezzanine level in between because of the depth of Line 3.

    Similarly there will be a direct connection between the Line 1 Osgoode Station and Line 3, but there are no details of how this will work. The proposed new entrances will likely go straight down to the Line 3 level, especially the one over at Simcoe which is too far west to link into the existing Osgoode Station concourse. The entrance proposed on Osgoode Hall lands, on the other hand, could replace the existing sidewalk entrance on University, east side, north of Queen. This would really make sense if the University Avenue redesign occurs and the current northbound lanes become a pedestrian area.


  10. “This is an important distinction in comparing the Ontario Line with the existing network because counting ins and outs doubles the counts relative to the methodology used by the TTC (and for that matter by GO Transit for its own stations).”

    It seems to me that the paying fares come from riders entering the station. It’s rather like the Island Ferry or the Confederation Bridge to PEI. You pay to get in, but getting out is free. If this is true it throws their business case into a tizzy with an ROI of less than 1.0. Kind of like the Sheppard Line.

    Steve: I think that for the Business Case, they count riders correctly, but for the PR associated with this round of consultation, I think they are goosing the numbers.


  11. For Moss Park, I am surprised there is no entrance on the south side of the street. There is opportunity – a parking lot, that building on the intersection that has been abandoned forever in addition to the numerous other buildings that could house an entrance.


  12. Though Ontario Line TBMs will go through bedrock at a deeper grade than the original Queen subway plan, underpinning of Queen station was done at Yonge during original subway construction (along with the legendary ghost station). Osgoode was also underpinned in anticipation of the Queen subway as part of the University line construction in the early ’60s. I was on an advisory committee a few years back when Relief Line planning was being done by the city, and those underpinning jobs were seen as part of the reasoning for doing the Relief Line at Queen, even if the push to serve the East Harbour site made crossing at Wellington a possibly wiser, and certainly more direct alignment option.

    I have a picture of some of underpinning work being done on Queen just east of Yonge from an old Coupler magazine. There was also, apparently, a long-standing Metro policy of keeping Queen free from underground utilities that could interfere with subway construction from Parliament to Trinity-Bellwoods. City and TTC people were unaware of that and the possibility that cut-and-cover might make sense for the core parts of the Relief Line … all water under the bridge now. A similar policy was to have been in place from Finch to Steeles.


  13. Why is there a need to carve out a chunk of Osgoode Hall for a new Ontario RT station building if it isn’t needed at “Younge” when the latter is expected to see higher peak traffic at both levels within a smaller mezzanine?

    I was on an advisory committee a few years back when Relief Line planning was being done by the city, and those underpinning jobs were seen as part of the reasoning for doing the Relief Line at Queen, even if the push to serve the East Harbour site made crossing at Wellington a possibly wiser, and certainly more direct alignment option.

    I would have to check the notes but I swear the city planning division made claims that tunneling the RL through bedrock under King or Wellington was a non-starter because of depth issues increasing costs when compared to shallower Queen stations.

    Steve: Yes, an issue for the more southerly alignments was that bedrock was closer to the surface and tunneling through it was unavoidable. Metrolinx has simply chosen to go through rock all the way. It is amusing that this makes stations deeper, and therefore transfer times longer, something they used to denigrate the deep RL station at Broadview. They don’t seem to mind the depth when it’s their own design.

    Meanwhile at East Harbour, Metrolinx has discovered the importance of offloading Union, something the RL would not have done.


  14. It sure seems that the design is pretty decided, though major issues swirl around for me such as what really needs relief? What other options are there? What about sub-regional travel? And should we spend huge sums to detour to help a developer vs. direct to core? And now, it seems that maybe demand has cratered, and thus any overload of Union, (which may now be finished and how much over-budget?) is much less of an issue, and won’t show up again for a long time, though yes, we need to invest in transit etc. Ben Spurr looked at a fresh report of GO/Metrolinx and it’s costing us about a billion in operating, with the future of remote work more likely to continue than core-centric bustle.

    Ben Spurr in the Star: According to Metrolinx’s annual report, the agency received an operating subsidy of $961.6 million from the province in the 2020/21 fiscal year. Ridership on GO and UP was 6.8 million, which works out to a subsidy of about $141 per trip”

    Such a shame we can’t TAKE the money commitment and park it somewhere where it cannot be clawed back or re-allocated, and in the meanwhile, have better planning funded from all of the interest and go slower and more honestly. This set-aside-Now! should also apply to federal Fliperals or whomever it might be as well, and while it may be a large sum, we’re likely coughin up more with the hidden subsidies to cars and other private vehicles eg. climate, now over 420ppm, oops.


  15. I am preparing a list for MX regarding the Downtown Line. Please advise on questions you may have. Thanks in advance.

    A question that I have is “Where will the TBMs be recovered?” Mx presentation said there will be 2 TBMs moving north and west and 2 TBMs moving south and east. I don’t think that they will drag them out backwards from whence they came.

    Steve: Good luck getting clear answers. I too am interested in their TBM plans. I’m not entirely sure they know. The whole P3 arrangement where the details of construction are worked out after they have signed the contract puts things ass-backwards. I think Metrolinx only recently realized that they have to deal with property and access requirements before the contracts are signed to avoid greater delay afterwards. There’s very much a sense of a gang that does not fully understand what they are doing.


  16. Is there a clear reason why entire station buildings must be built at places like Queen or Osgoode? I’ve really appreciated the ease of just jogging down stairs that are accessed directly from the sidewalk right next to TTC streetcar stops. Of course, understand facilities like elevators for accessibility need to be housed somewhere, but couldn’t there be additional access directly from the sidewalk as already done at those stations?

    Steve: Metrolinx appears to want direct access to their station separate from the path through the existing station. This could also be related to fire code as Osgoode has only one concourse level today.


  17. Greetings Steve, I hope you’re doing well. I’m wondering if you could clarify a couple aspects of the DRL/Ontario Line project. Is the core goal to relieve subway congestion at the Yonge-Bloor interchange and the Yonge line south of Bloor, or would the project still be viable based on the other benefits such as providing subway service to new areas, relieving streetcar congestion and diverting riders away from Union? Also, there have been several proposed east-west alignments ranging from as far south as the rail corridor or Front to as far north as the current Queen route. Do you know why they settled on the Queen route and how this relates to how employment density is distributed downtown? Is it simply that locations further south such as Front or King are too peripheral to downtown employment? Cheers and thanks for all you do!

    Steve: The OL, descended from the Relief Line, started out as a project to relieve Bloor-Yonge and thereby enable the extra load from the Richmond Hill extension, but the OL has taken on other purposes including Union Station relief for GO to the point I wonder if Metrolinx has lost track of the original rationale. In particular, with the projected transfer traffic from GO at Exhibition and East Harbour, the OL is pushing dangerously close to capacity fairly early in its life cycle. That could threaten the viability of a northern extension of the OL to Sheppard if too much capacity is eaten up by that short downtown segment.

    I don’t think anyone ever seriously expected much diversion of traffic from the streetcar lines even though Metrolinx projections show some of that. I think that they have underestimated the inconvenience of transfers to/from streetcar lines which would happen at a peak point on the OL (Gerrard and Riverside stations to the east). Over at Liberty Village, it’s a fair hike down to the Exhibition Station from a lot of what I might call “greater Liberty Village” which extends north to Queen. There are similar hopes for the Smart Track station at Liberty Village, and I cannot help chuckle that on one hand we are offloading GO with the OL and on the other we are giving it more business with the renmants of Smart Track.

    The Queen Street alignment was a choice by the City who sold it on the grounds of a “City Hall” station and “nearby” low income neighbourhoods (to a station in the Sherbourne/Parliament area). I’m not sure how many people from Regent Park would walk down to Queen Street with the Dundas and Carlton cars on their doorstep. With the OL’s extending the line from Osgoode west and south to the CNE, this begs the question of why the line didn’t stay further south such as under Front/Wellington, but that planning decision is long past.


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