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 2041||East Harbour||Leslieville / Riverside||Gerrard|
|Residents served 1||5,800||9,500||11,900|
|Jobs served 1||50,000||6,900||3,800|
|Zero-car households 1||1,800||1,300||1,100|
|Station usage 2||14,900||4,000||3,300|
|Transfers to/from TTC routes 2||2,800||2,000|
|Transfers to/from GO Transit 2||8,600|
- 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.
- 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.
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.
Clearance at Dundas will change from 4.1 to 5.0m.
Clearance at Logan will change from 4.4m to 5.0m.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The land east of the Eastern Avenue bridge is now a parking lot.
The land on Dickens Street is now a parking lot. This will be a staging area for construction materials.
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.