Ontario Line East Segment Update

On June 24, 2021, Metrolinx held an online consultation session for the Ontario Line segment between the Don River and Gerrard Station.

In a distinct change from a previous round, Metrolinx did not begin by insulting the audience with claims that the session would deal with “myths and misinformation”. This is refreshing and long overdue. Metrolinx appears to be going out of its way to fine-tune the design through Riverside to produce the least side-effects as possible while preserving their preferred alignment. Although they are looking at underground alternatives, much of their work focuses on their planned scheme with a shared GO+OL corridor.

Since the previous articles I have written on this project, the East Segment Neighbourhood Update page has been substantially revised.

Readers should also refer to:

Metrolinx has revised maps of this segment to show the Ontario Line on the north side of the rail corridor rather than the “straddle” configuration previously shown.

Station Usage Projections

Metrolinx projections for each station continue to overcount the people and jobs due to overlapping catchment areas, and station usage counts show total ons/offs, ins/outs rather than the more common count of peak hour boardings in the peak and counter-peak direction. I have asked for but have not received the projected on-train ridership for each segment of the line so that this could be directly compared to data for other routes which are commonly stated on that basis.

Projections for 2041East HarbourLeslieville / RiversideGerrard
Residents served 15,8009,50011,900
Jobs served 1 50,0006,9003,800
Zero-car households 1 1,8001,3001,100
Station usage 214,9004,0003,300
Transfers to/from TTC routes 2 2,8002,000
Transfers to/from GO Transit 2 8,600
Source: Metrolinx Neighbourhood Updates, East

Notes:

  1. The counts of people and jobs near the stations probably includes some double-counting due to overlap of the catchment areas calculated on a 10-minute walk basis.
  2. Station usage and transfers are counted in both directions (ons and offs). These numbers are not the same as the number of peak hour, peak direction boardings.

Noise & Vibration / Future Estimated Train Counts

Metrolinx verified that the number of trains that will run through this corridor, between GO and the OL, are roughly as published by the community, who in turn took them from an article on this site. They verify our number of trains now/then. Seamless noise walls. Every train passby will be quiet(er). Walls will be built as part of early works. Although there will be more trains, the NWs will reduce noise all along the corridor (A Very Busy GO Corridor).

Metrolinx claims that despite a very large increase in the number of trains, of which some will still be diesel, the planned noise walls will make the actual sound effect from the corridor less than it is today. They will also be using ballast mats and resilient fixation for the Ontario Line tracks (akin to what is used elsewhere in Toronto including the Eglinton Crosstown) to limit vibration transmission from GO and the OL respectively.

There will be a mix of diesel and electric operation. Metrolinx spoke of this as a transition, but did not address the fact that current plans call for half of the Lakeshore East service (the Bowmanville trains) to operate with diesels while the rest will be electrified as and when that conversion occurs. All service on the Stouffville corridor will be electric as, of course, will be the Ontario Line.

Metrolinx argues that one source of noise will be eliminated with automatic operation of the OL because braking will be controlled. They also claimed that because the OL trains will use regenerative braking, not brake pads, this will also allow better control and reduce/eliminate flat wheels. Someone should tell Metrolinx that regenerative braking has been standard on transit vehicles for decades. The last equipment to use only friction brakes were the old red Gloucester cars on the Yonge line that retired in 1990.

On the subject of potential damage to buildings in the area, Metrolinx stated that the Heritage Report identified all of the old homes in the area. It is not entirely clear what they mean by “old” and whether this only applies to formally designated heritage structures or to buildings over a certain age. The Cultural Heritage Report (a 1000+ page document) notably has area-specific reviews of three of the four segments of the Ontario Line with the East segment notably missing.

Metrolinx plans to conduct a pre-construction condition survey, monitor conditions during the project and a post-construction followup to verify whether any damage occurred. MPP Peter Tabuns asked whether Metrolinx will do a pre-survey for all buildings in the “Transit Zone”, a fairly large area on either side of the actual construction zone. Metrolinx replied that the surveys will be site specific depending on the construction activity nearby.

There are specific requirements in the construction contract language for targets and real-time monitoring of noise and vibration.

Trees and Green Space

An ongoing question in this part of the Ontario Line is what will happen to mature trees.

Metrolinx replied that now that the location of the retaining walls has been finalized, arborists will make an inventory. This will likely be available at the next consultation. They claim that the number of trees affected has been “very significantly reduced from the earlier design”. Metrolinx is working with the city on locations for replacement plantings.

In this round, Metrolinx has trimmed their space requirements so that some Metrolinx land can be added to adjoining parks. What remains to be seen is how attractive some of this land will be considering that it is adjacent to the rail corridor and the retaining walls. With one exception, these are long, thin patches of land much of which is now occupied by trees along the corridor.

Metrolinx plans to use a construction technique that will keep all work within their corridor to minimize effects on nearby parks.

As a guide to the community, Metrolinx is now marking the locations where new retaining walls will be built. The photo below shows the west side of the corridor north of Queen at Bruce Mackey Park.

Another location south of Queen gives a sense of how long trees have been growing in some locations. This is Strange Street, a small street that becomes a laneway leading to Saulter Street and the brewery of the same name. The area in the foreground will be the south entrance to Riverside/Leslieville Station.

Metrolinx has an unfortunate habit of referring to trees as “invasive” or “non-native” as if this makes them any less green, and dismissing the importance of preserving as many as possible. All of the trees in this photo will vanish either because they are on Metrolinx land, or because their crowns encroach on the exclusion area for electrification.

Source: Google Street View

New Bridges / Raising the Corridor

As I previously reported (see Raising the Rails in Riverside: Metrolinx Comments and Metrolinx Plans Major Grade Change on Lakeshore East Corridor), Metrolinx plans to raise bridges along the corridor to give added clearance to the street below. According to their East Neighbourhood web page:

New rail bridges at Eastern Avenue, Queen Street, Dundas Street and Logan Avenue will be built to revitalize the neighbourhoods and improve traffic flow.

Bridges will be replaced in consultation with the city and we will be building them to their current standards, with five metres between the bottom of the bridge and the roadway. By comparison, the Queen Street bridge has a clearance of only 3.9 metres. This means the connecting rail tracks must also be higher. They will be raised by 1.1 metres at Queen, 0.9 metres at Dundas, and 0.6 metres at Logan. Requirements for the bridge at Eastern Avenue are being finalized as part of the SmartTrack program.

This is a recent design change, and Metrolinx does not yet have an estimated cost, or at least one that they would share. They will publish this, along with detailed corridor plans showing the effect of regrading, for the next consultation round in summer 2021.

The existing bridge at Queen has a clearance of 3.9m. Raising it by 1.1m will take it to 5.0m.

Source: Google Street View

Clearance at Dundas will change from 4.1 to 5.0m.

Source: Google Street View

Clearance at Logan will change from 4.4m to 5.0m.

Source: Google Street View

The bridge at Gerrard is substandard, at 4.0m clearance, but it is not included. [Updated] Metrolinx confirmed that these bridges can accommodate GO’s requirements and there is no need to install new spans because the OL structure runs separately from the railway at this point.

Source: Google Street View

Lower Don Bridge

Metrolinx recently published a long report on the “Early Works” that will be undertaken in advance of building a new bridge over the Don River for the Ontario Line.

A concept for the bridge was included in the Presentation Deck, but it comes with the usual caveats about being only for illustration. The planned design is a single span supported on the west side of the river and the east side of the Don Valley Parkway.

In the original design, this would have been a pair of bridges on either side of the rail corridor to provide for across-the-platform transfers at East Harbour Station. That design has now been abandoned and only a single double-track bridge is required.

The revised plan in context is below. Some tracks (yellow in the drawing) on the GO mainline will be shifted slightly to make room for the OL when it emerges in a portal south of Corktown Common.

In the original design, cycling lanes were included on the OL bridges across the Lower Don bridge, but these have been deleted. Metrolinx is considering a multipurpose bridge north of the OL bridge, and they are working with East Harbour developers in the hope of delivering this as part of the Lower Don work. By making it a separate bridge, there are more options for siting and design of this bridge.

East Harbour Station

The station at East Harbour, as discussed previously, is now on the north side of the corridor rather than having separate eastbound and westbound platforms in a “straddle” configuration. This considerably simplifies construction and gives more room overall because only one OL platform is needed. There will be platforms for both the express (inner) and local (outer) GO tracks allowing far more service to stop here than in the original design.

It is quite clear that the much-hyped across-the-platform design has been completely abandoned. There are three platforms: one for OL trains, one for westbound GO, and one for eastbound GO. All transfers will occur via the concourse level of the station.

Metrolinx claims that this arrangement will offload up to 14 percent, 14,000 riders, from Union Railway Station during the peak hour. This is not entirely true because the benefit is gained from the combination of trips diverted at both Exhibition and East Harbour. Metrolinx uses the 14K number as if each station produces this effect on its own.

Riverside/Leslieville Station

The Leslieville station has gained a second name in recognition of its actual location. The design has been revised to stay within Metrolinx lands, although as previously reported, this will have a spillover effect because of the removal of trees and the installation of retaining walls. There will be entrances to the station on both sides of Queen Street.

Gerrard Station

At Gerrard, the station will straddle Gerrard Street with entrances from both the north and south sides. Part of the construction area at the east end of First Avenue is now occupied by a house. This land will become part of the existing park after construction.

Note that this is a location where the OL is clearly outside of the GO corridor as it begins to swing north and descend into the underground section north via Pape. The tunnel boring launch site will be on the north side of Gerrard.

Underground Options

Metrolinx says that they are studying five underground options including the version with an aboveground station at East Harbour, and a tunnel via Eastern and Carlaw along the original Relief Line Route (see An Alternative Ontario Line for Riverside?). Further information about these options will be released “very shortly”, they hope before the next consultation round.

As a rough estimate, they cite a range of $800m to $1b or more, and 18-24 months additional for construction.

Construction Access and Land Requirements

Metrolinx plans to perform the GO corridor upgrades and construction of the Ontario Line from within their property as much as possible. Access to the right-of-way will be from major streets using ramps built up to the corridor from adjacent streets. In the diagram below, “Early Works” refers to regrading and expanding the corridor, not to station construction that will occur as part of separate contracts.

The building at 356 Eastern Avenue is a self-storage building.

Source: Google Street View

The land east of the Eastern Avenue bridge is now a parking lot.

Source: Google Street View

The land on Dickens Street is now a parking lot. This will be a staging area for construction materials.

Source: Google Street View

The buildings at the east end of First Avenue will be taken as part of the Gerrard Station site, but access to the land will be from Gerrard. After construction, this will become part of the park at Gerrard/Carlaw.

Source: Google Street View

12 thoughts on “Ontario Line East Segment Update

  1. It was interesting to hear that they were considering the below ground option – I actually thought I’d misheard that before reading it here again. Do you think that this consideration is to appease the frustrated neighbourhood (we tried to put it underground), or is it the realization that raising the tracks, splitting the neighborhood, upsetting everyone, not actually saving that much money, may not be the best option after all?

    Steve: The City of Toronto Council asked for this study, and Metrolinx would look rather foolish if they just told the City to get lost. Instead, I suspect they are hoping that this will settle the issue, and they can get on with their preferred alignment. The City will wring its hands. The world will continue to turn as Metrolinx dictates.

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  2. I really don’t understand the push for an underground option. When we all bought our properties near a rail corridor with passenger and freight trains on it, did we think there was no chance of traffic ever changing on the line? If we’re going to spend hundreds of millions burying the line, couldn’t that be better spent providing better transit options to other neighbourhoods? Just seems selfish to me that we’re getting noise walls, green space, minimally intrusive construction, AND a well connected subway line and people are still complaining. Not just complaining—being snarky, eviscerating public servants over typos, spreading outdated or misinformation, and making me question why on earth I chose to live among such entitled people.

    Steve: When you bought near a rail line, did you expect the number of trains per day to rise to almost 10 times what it is now? The information “spread” on this blog is accurate, and it is Metrolinx who push outdated stories by talking about proposals and complaints that are no longer on the table. They have behaved arrogantly, made last minute changes in designs that even blindsided people within their own project, and acted as if “consultation” is a process they must go through, like a bad cold that they resent from keeping them from their manifest destiny. As for typos, they reveal a lack of attention to detail that speaks to the quality of their work generally. On that occasion they published the wrong version of a presentation deck. On another, they accidentally published a deck with info that they did not want the public to see.

    If you don’t want to live among such “entitled” people, sell your house, take your millions and bugger off to Etobicoke or Scarborough where the pols will happily build you a subway because “you deserve it”. That’s where the wasted billions are going.

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  3. One thing (possibly among many) that Metrolinx got wrong is the clearance under a bridge. For a railway “subway” – where the road goes under the rail – the clearance is actually 4.8m. There is some merit in taking this opportunity to replace the 100 year old bridge. I wonder if taking the opportunity to replace the DVP bridge will be raised at some point in the future.

    The network arch chosen to cross the Lower Don River is a good choice – assuming it’s true. It can eliminate the pier in the middle, still have a very shallow superstructure depth (to minimize any grade raise on tracks), and is quite stiff with the criss-crossing cables. A truss, or half-through girder (like Logan) are your other choices and the arch looks best.

    I still think the underground solution would be to avoid Carlaw and that deep sanitary sewer, and go up Pape only instead. Hopefully that is one of the five options being considered.

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  4. Thanks for the detailed look at these plans.

    Do you understand why they want to raise the tracks rather than lower the streets? It seems to me that raising a substantial length of track is a lot more work than just digging a few streets down by a bit. For a rail line going up 1m or more affects hundreds of metres of track but for a road to dip down by that much has a much more local impact. Similar to other underpasses in the city the sidewalks wouldn’t even need to dip down further — just the traffic lanes.

    Steve: There are issues with utilities close to the surface of the roads, as well as the effect on nearby intersections that connect with streets in the area where the road elevation would change. Also, some locations are already a dip under the railway, and lowering the road would increase or lengthen the approach grades.

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  5. I consider Walter’s posts enlightening. Mx has been making up the design of the Ontario Line as they go along. Didn’t an early plan, place the OL tracks on each side of the GO tracks across the Don? The gradient changes through Riverside could be from GO’s electrification project. Let’s hope the underground route up Pape ends up the cheapest. I look forward to Walter’s promised post on Eglinton.

    Steve: Yes, the OL straddled the GO corridor because this was essential to the transfer design at East Harbour (similarly at Exhibition). Then that scheme proved too complicated and the straddle was removed. At that point, the single-sided option became the best thing since sliced bread for Metrolinx, although they occasionally forget and still talk about the cross-platform transfer.

    They don’t appear to have changed the estimate of transfers between the OL and GO at these stations since the EPR and Business Case which were completed with the straddle option. Amazing how what is important suddenly isn’t when it suits them.

    If they were more open in their “consultations” these options would have come out as a natural evolution of the project. But no. They keep secrets until the last possible minute and people discover that the project they have been discussing is no longer what’s on the table.

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  6. Metrolinx plans to raise bridges along the corridor to give added clearance to the street below.

    So they’re going to regrade from east of the Don up to Gerrard and bring bridges up to the 5 metre standard they’re “following” but leave the biggest bridge span in place at a “substandard” 4.0 metres? And by incredible coincidence the new dirt fill/regrading is only for the portions of the corridor that are conjoined with the Ontario RT line.

    Is this really something they would be doing if not for the presence of the Ontario RT line? Is it impossible to build their Ontario RT line without raising the embankment? The hamsters have been turning the wheels down at Metrolinx for almost 2 1/2 years on this and this only came up 6 months ago?

    Steve: There is a choice. Either Metrolinx are a bunch of bumbling fools who don’t talk to each other until they discover an “ooops” in a project, or they deliberately withhold information (a nice way of saying “lie”) that would have changed the entire public discourse.

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  7. Metrolinx was evasive with respect to replanting the tree (3 planted for each 1 removed) in the same location at Corktown Station. I’m not sure if their plan is to deforest Toronto and plant trees in Mississauga, York, or Pickering. Mx did say that they would plant native, sturdy trees.

    I hope that the money that Mx saves through their redesign in one area is spent on the Ontario Line in another area. Having a new bridge here or a new underpass there shouldn’t be figured into this budget. I always thought that they should start at the end stations and work toward the middle, so the end stations don’t lose out. Pape Station should not be the end of the line.

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  8. The transit theatre is becoming a(nother) tragedy, eh?

    It would behoove all of us to look at the ridership #s, and lack thereof GO being decimated, and think hard about what Relief function(s) would look like vs. a Relief project that seems only enough to let two other foolish extensions to main spines occur. How can we triage a fairly robust relief network function – which leads me to surface-thinking, but not in existing live rail corridors, and this regrading proposal should mean a pause on all pars of the ‘plan’ until there’s a good costing out, and clarity on who will pay. We really do have a horrendous number of other needs on the billlions, like affordable housing, hospitals, schools, other transit projects, road repairs everywhere, clean drinking water for many indigenous communities, etc.

    Steve: I believe that you have already made this point, one way or another, several times in the past few days.

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  9. Interesting that OL bridges are deemed to trigger conformance with rail/road standards (and force said conformance on adjacent heavy rail structures). One wonders how the same principle was avoided for the USRC East track E0 bridge widening.

    While it was noted in comments above that residents near the line bought on the understanding that a line already existed, said residents would not necessarily have expected shadowing from higher embankments and noise walls.

    Raising the Dundas bridge will be welcome – the combination of the road dip and the centre span makes a tricky approach when driving in inclement weather. If there is a serious notion of protecting for streetcars then presumably the centre span will go. If the bridge is only raised the minimum and thus the road dip not eased, the climb back to Logan seems a bit steep but one trusts the TTC brain trust have already sent someone down to check the elevations.

    Steve: Remember that Metrolinx makes up arguments for or against proposals more or less as they go along. Consistency is not their strong suit. They get away with it because the pols they report to know even less about the real world than Metrolinx does, or don’t care as long as there is a plausible rationale they can put in their letters to constituents.

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  10. Steve: There is a choice. Either Metrolinx are a bunch of bumbling fools who don’t talk to each other until they discover an “ooops” in a project, or they deliberately withhold information (a nice way of saying “lie”) that would have changed the entire public discourse.

    “Ooops” is one the squares on the Michael Schabas transit bingo card. He’s quite fond of drawing lines on napkins and perhaps this is one of those pesky consequences. For someone hailed as an expert, that word does come up a lot when he’s involved. I wonder if Metrolinx will ever give a straight answer on this.

    Steve: Not until there is a thorough housecleaning under a new CEO and another government.

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  11. Thank you “Bill R”. I would gladly fulfill my promise about posting about Eglinton – but I don’t recall making it. By the title, it doesn’t seem to fit this thread.

    I just read some type of June 21, 2021 update to Executive Committee and it stated

    “Metrolinx noted that the benefit of the underground options studied did not outperform the existing above-grade option.”

    Of course, they studied 5 impossible alignments where you go over Eastern Avenue and under Queen, along the rail corridor, trying to change 16m of vertical elevation within 300m. All 5 are small variations of the same impossible idea. It appears that Metrolinx might have misled you – unless there is another 5 routes being studied.

    If you were holding out hope for consideration of a Carlaw alignment, or my preferred Pape alignment, don’t hold your breath. The important thing for Metrolinx – as long as they avoid the logical alternatives, they will always find ridiculous examples to prove that their solution is best.

    Steve: I will write about this in a separate article. Metrolinx has basically ignored the options the city wanted them to look at, trotted out options that they know won’t work and said “see, we were right”.

    “Mislead” is a nice parliamentary term, and it is not used lightly.

    This is disgusting, but I will save my full ire for that article.

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  12. I noticed some criticism of Michael Schabas. According to Wikipedia…

    “Building on plans for a Downtown Relief Line which had originated in the 1950s, Schabas is credited with making the case for major changes to the project, doubling the line length without a proportionate increase in costs and raising the benefit-cost ratio from 0.5:1 to more than 1:1.”

    Seems like a pretty good accomplishment to me. Even though the Ontario Line has major problems, it’s much better than the Relief Line.

    Steve: That is a generous description. It suits many people, especially those at Metrolinx, to pretend that the Relief Line North did not exist until they invented it with the Ontario Line. It was always known that the RL could not come into its own until it ran at least to Eglinton if not to Sheppard. Indeed, if to Sheppard, the RL was forecast to draw so much riding from the Yonge Line that its demand would be easily handled without the planned additional service possible under Automatic Train Control.

    The RL North study was underway by Metrolinx when the Wynne Liberals were in power, but all work stopped a month before the election. It stayed stopped in the Ford era until the Ontario Line appeared. The whole benefit-cost ratio depends on ridership and trips diverted from auto travel. By far the largest component on notional benefit in Metrolinx calculations is the imputed saving from reduced auto usage and from short travel times. The Relief Line could not possibly compete because it was only half a subway.

    Metrolinx is very good at spinning numbers to make themselves look good.

    Meanwhile, Schabas was an original architect of the badly oversold “SmartTrack”. The effects of that scheme still plague regional planning.

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