GO Expansion Don Valley Layover Update

On June 24, Metrolinx held an online consultation session for its proposed Don Valley Layover. I wrote about this on June 27 in Metrolinx’ Ill-Considered Don Valley Layover. This article is an update based on that session.

There have been many Metrolinx consultations recently, and a few common threads appeared sitting through this many hours of their presentations and Q&A sessions. Some of the frustration with Metrolinx comes from the way they present material, and from what appear to be shifting positions on key issues.

What Is The Don Valley Yard?

As a quick review, this “yard” is in fact a single storage track, the former CPR, now Metrolinx, Don Branch that once connected the CPR mainline at Leaside to Union Station. It is called a yard because the original proposal was for a three track yard south of the Prince Edward Viaduct.

Metrolinx proposes to convert the portion of this line for storage of three trains between the point where the line crosses to the east side of the Don River roughly at Rosedale Valley Road and the high level bridge near the Brick Works. The site is not accessible by public transit, although it is passed on one side by the DVP and on the other by the Don Valley Trail with many cyclists and pedestrians.

Here is the aerial view.

Metrolinx June 29, 2021 Presentation, p. 2

This will require the creation of a service road alongside the track for access to and from stored trains as well as supporting buildings and a small parking lot just north of the Prince Edward Viaduct. The site servicing plan, which includes buildings, roads, utilities and elevations (grey numbers on the diagonal giving the height above sea level in metres) is shown below. The buildings (from south to north) include an electrical building, and air compressor, a staff building and a sanitary waste building.

Click for a higher resolution image.

The valley floor rises gradually to about 80m at the western edge of the Metrolinx site, but the roadway linking the buildings is at about 88m. The parking area shown is on the valley floor, but there is a ramp for vehicles up to the level of the rail corridor. There is also a stairway from the parking up to the staff building. The land owned by Metrolinx is outlined in a broken black line “— – –”. Because of the change in elevation, a retaining wall (yellow in the aerial view) at least 8m high will be required except adjacent to the rail line.

The claimed purpose of the facility is to store three trains between the AM and PM peak periods and, possibly, to perform some light servicing on them. This does not align with the original proposal that clearly talked of a 7×24 operation with three shifts of staff. That might have been an error, a cut-and-paste job from one layover site to another, but the traffic study does speak of arrivals and departures corresponding to shift changes well outside of the midday period.

In any event, there is no provision in the plan for fuelling and Metrolinx claims that they intend to operate here only between the peak periods. We shall see.

What is the Don Valley Layover For?

Metrolinx originally described the layover as, in effect, expansion of the capacity in yards east of Union Station. This would allow three diesel trains that would otherwise have to return to another yard such as Willowbrook at Mimico between the peaks to stay close to Union. This is part of overall network capacity expansion for planned additional service.

Exactly when service would expand to the point the layover is needed is not certain, but Metrolinx has a new reason to build this as soon as possible. Other planned work east of Union Station will remove some storage tracks from use and trains will, instead, be stored on the Don Branch. That work is almost certainly the realignment of part of the yard to accommodate the Ontario Line. Trains are stored overnight today east of Union in the Don Yard, and Metrolinx trusts us to believe that they will not do this while “temporarily” the space in the Don Valley handles the overflow.

Construction is expected to begin in 2022.

A related layover track that was not discussed or mentioned at all will be on the west side of the valley. Metrolinx plans to electrify the Richmond Hill line (former CN Bala Subdivision) with two tracks as far north as Pottery Road. The existing track known as the Rosedale Siding will be upgraded. This will allow for temporary storage of trains and/or use of the Bala Sub as a turnaround area for electric trains from Union Station.

It is quite clear that Pottery Road is a long way from Union Station, and the electrification is vastly more than is needed simply as a turnback area. However, there are no service buildings planned on the west side. Metrolinx claims that the tracks are not available as an alternative to the layover facility on the east side, and that the passing siding is required for operations. They really need to be more forthcoming with their operational plans and options because the infrastructure they are building exceeds the claimed purpose.

Other potential storage yards within Toronto are already fully used, or have their capacity fully allocated to future operations, according to Metrolinx:

  • Don Yard (east of Union) is fully spoken for, even after construction there completes. Property adjacent to the Don Yard in the Canary district is constrained by several factors:
    • The Ontario Line portal west of the Don River and the approach to a new bridge over the river.
    • The Richmond Hill line curve north from the Union Station corridor limits the length of any new storage tracks.
    • A new school and housing east of Distillery Loop (not to mention the loop itself and the planned extension of trackage south to Queens Quay) will occupy land north of the rail corridor.
  • Bathurst Yard (west of Union) is fully allocated, and will lose space to the planned Spadina Station on the Barrie line.
  • Keating Yard is on City land that is earmarked for other purposes in the Eastern Waterfront designs including both the Gardiner/DVP interchange reconstruction, and future building sites. It is also physically difficult to reach for a train inside Union Station.
  • The Rosedale Siding might be needed for a future Richmond Hill service. This is a surprising statement considering how long Metrolinx has resisted the concept of upgraded Richmond Hill GO service because of difficulties with the corridor, including flooding, not to mention the competing allure of the Yonge Subway Extension.
  • The south end of the Don Branch (between the Union Station Rail Corridor and the bridge at Rosedale Valley Road) is not long enough for train storage without leaving a train partly on that bridge, according to Metrolinx. It is also considerably shorter than the Don Branch north of the bridge. Track in this are might be reconfigured in the future conflicting with its use for off-peak storage.

It is intriguing that there will be a new five-track, five train facility near Scarborough Junction. There is no provision here for train servicing. In theory there will be no need for diesel fueling or wayside power here because the Lakeshore Corridor and its trains will be electrified.

Metrolinx has mentioned that the Don Valley layover could be electrified in the future, but that will be a long way off as the GO Milton and roughly half of the Lakeshore service will continue to operate with diesels for many years and will require storage appropriate to that type of train. All the same, it is interesting that the Midland Layover Facility is intended for storage, and nothing more.

What About the Environment?

Creation of the Don Valley Layover will require doubling of the width of the Don Branch over its length. The line, abandoned for decades, is well grown-in with assorted vegetation that will be removed even if this is used simply to store trains without the associated servicing functions.

On this topic, Metrolinx’ position gets a bit muddy. They acknowledge that “this would be a challenging site” in the valley with parkland and flooding concerns. They speak of optimizing their design to keep the footprint as tight as possible, within their own right-of-way, reducing space requirements from three tracks to one. However, that change happened a few years ago and it is not in response to current community issues. They also stated that “don’t have all the answers” to concerns for this consultation, but claim that what will be constructed will have “minimal impact” on the Don Valley itself.

Another odd statement came here where Metrolinx said that over the next few months, they would be working to understand what they can do safely re the valley, community concerns, and operations; what types of maintenance will they perform and when, and where/when staff will need access. A few other times during the discussion Metrolinx gave the impression that the function of this layover is a moving target and that its purpose has evolved from whatever they might have planned originally.

The footprint of the site is 0.38ha. There will be “some vegetation removal” but Metrolinx is committed to retaining as much as possible with replanting and restoration to compensate. Vegetative screening will be a key element, and Metrolinx hopes that this will “accrue over time” so that facility will blend into the surrounding area. They hope it will “disappear”.

There will soon be an arborist’s review of the project area to flag what will be removed, or what might be relocated. That reference is a new one for Metrolinx who prefer clear-cutting and promises of trees yet unborn as replacements somewhere, eventually. Metrolinx routine talks about upgrading the tree stock by eliminating invasive and non-native species without ever considering that a mature tree has a value in its own right regardless of its species. We could cut down every Norway Maple in Toronto on the grounds that they are “invasive”, but the City would be much worse for it.

Flooding in the Don is rather common. From my own perch on the east bank north of the Viaduct, I have seen the Bala Sub underwater on several occasions. Metrolinx has reinforced their embankment where the river would previously undercut the railway just north and south of the Viaduct. The Don Branch is on higher ground and does not flood, at least not in the area where the layover is planned. However, access to both the Bala Sub and Don Branch where they run together does flood from time to time.

When asked about flooding, Metrolinx consistently ignores issues with that shared south end of the area and concentrates on the northern part where the Don Valley Layover will be. There is a footnote on the site plan above that TRCA has “expressed concerns about flooding” in the area around the servicing buildings.

Metrolinx stated that they would make “short term operational changes if there is a risk of track being flooded”. The considerations for this are different on the west side which would be electrified, although one of those “short term changes” could be simply to shut off the power.

One thing we do not know is whether the work now in progress to reroute and open the mouth of the Don River will reduce the instances of flooding further north.

On the question of noise, Metrolinx repeated the claim that they took into consideration sensitive areas nearby. In fact, they ignored residences immediately along the valley and only considered the seniors’ building at Danforth & Broadview. For daytime noise, there is no question that the DVP is the primary source, but this is not the case at night, especially when the weather is mild and windows are open.

Construction noise will be limited to the daytime because this is not an active rail line, and work will not conflict with train movements.

Asked about fuel and cleaning fluid spills, Metrolinx replied that they do not plan to do fuelling here and so the risk of a diesel spill is minor. It would come from a locomotive malfunction, not from onsite storage and piping. Despite the presence of a building dedicated to “Sanitary Waste Disposal”, they claim that they are not dumping toilets here. Possibly they have removed this from the scope of work, but should revise the design accordingly if so. The only other fluids will be water and cleaning products for the interior of the trains.

There was more in the conceptual plan, but Metrolinx is reviewing what work they will do at this site.

Metrolinx notes that they will use “Light sources that minimize impacts on the trail/park users and environmentally sensitive areas.” Well, if they are only planning to be there between about 10am and 4pm, light should not be an issue even on the darkest days of midwinter. At night, they can simply turn the lights off. This may sound like a trivial point, but it underscores a suspicion that provision for longer hours of operation is part of their plan.

Metrolinx claims that the project approval only covers a daytime facility (I believe that this statement is not correct), and that if they wanted to extend its hours they would have to get an amended EA. Considering that Queen’s Park regards EAs as a pesky nuisance, not a necessary control, that represents no guarantee at all.

As one questioner put it, “I don’t trust you guys”. Metrolinx has broken promises before, most notably on the Davenport Diamond project. Word gets around from one community to another.

What Now?

Metrolinx plans to talk to many groups to refine their plans. This is not the mark of a “done deal”, but rather of an agency that is trying to preserve a scheme in the face of considerable opposition. Some of their problems are “own goals”. Effectively they have said “this is happening” and now seek everyone’s help (or complicity) in making the best of a bad situation.

One cannot help wondering just how much damage they would have done if various agencies and communities had not complained, loudly, about Metrolinx plans.

Metrolinx plans to organize a walk of the affected area an discuss work already done by the Bring Back the Don group who spearheaded the reforestation project.

Metrolinx June 29, 2021 Presentation, p. 21

What Have You Done For Me Lately?

Probably the most frustrating things to sit through are recitals of so-called changes in the project. Metrolinx insists on trotting out changes from past consultation rounds, but to an unsuspecting viewer (most politicians) it would appear that Metrolinx is “listening to the community”. This reaches a height (or nadir depending on one’s point of view) when a set of options reviewed does not match any of the issues of current importance.

If Metrolinx wants to include this information in presentations, there should be a chronology showing when each change occurred and which, if any, apply to issues now under discussion. If nothing else, this might prevent recent arrivals on project and communication teams from spouting the same stories over and over again.

In the case of the Don Valley Layover, they repeatedly cite:

  • Change from a three-track yard to a single linear storage area. This happened even before the Environmental Plan was published in response to concerns about incursion into a sensitive area south of the Prince Edward Viaduct.
  • Redesign of their buildings both to move north of the Viaduct and to stay within their own property. This appeared in mid 2020 in response to objections about building directly under the bridge from the City of Toronto.
Metrolinx June 29, 2021 Presentation, p. 11

Similarly for the Ontario Line alignment through Riverside, Metrolinx claims that they reviewed five alternatives to their proposal. However, none of these was the one proposed by the community.

They have the gall to hold meetings and write to City Council giving the impression that they are listening when they are simply trotting out old stories, old wine in new bottles.

At the end of the online session, someone asked what service does this provide our community, what benefit is there for people within a mile radius. This was not an attempt at NIMBYism, but in response to a meeting invitation that said, in effect, come and see how this project benefits “our” community. Metrolinx replied that getting people out of cars is a good thing, and traffic on the DVP can be moderated through investment in transit. This is a rather poor example, but typical of how Metrolinx attempts to spin its work.

For the record, there was no notice of this meeting to residents of the buildings adjacent to the site beyond whatever various community groups provided. Most people do not know this is happening.

Are You Open to Change or Not?

Recent consultations have included offers to review alternatives and to establish working groups with communities. This does not align with the clear Metrolinx position that they have an approved plan and that’s what they will build no matter what.

In the Don Valley, they are reviewing the actual function of the layover facility and what work might actually be performed there. There is an implication that the scale of the facility might be changed, but there is nothing definite.

In Thorncliffe Park, there will be liaison groups, but they will deal with the de facto version of the project while attempting to mitigate the worst of its effects.

There appears to be a shift in Metrolinx style, if not the content of their message. They have stopped treating affected communities as people who are simply in the way of “progress” or who just don’t understand how difficult building a transit network really is. Condescension is no way to win over an audience.

This is moderately refreshing, but old habits die hard especially for an agency working for a government with an uncaring, unstoppable agenda.

What About High Frequency Rail?

One of the perennial railfan fantasy games for some time has been the question of what route a high speed, or high frequency train service would use to get out of downtown Toronto. Most of the corridors already have a lot of service on them and plans for significant upgrades.

There are two contenders:

  • From Union Station east and north via an upgraded version of the Don Branch to CPR Leaside, then northeast to some point where the line could break off onto its own right of way to Peterborough, Ottawa and Montreal.
  • From Union Station east via the Lakeshore Corridor to Scarborough Junction, then north to a point where service could break off onto its own right-of-way to Peterborough, etc.

Whenever this has come up in discussions about Metrolinx corridor plans, the reactions have ranged from merely coy to incomprehension. The Feds are well-known for HSR/HFR studies, much less so for actually committing to building anything. This may change on July 6 when the Minister of Transportation Alghabra makes an announcement.

In any event, if the HFR were to use the Don Branch, this would require Metrolinx to find a new home for its trains. Moreover, the construction of an electric line there would affect nearby greenery due to clearance requirements, but not to the extent of the Metrolinx plans. The Stouffville Corridor is a simpler choice and, I suspect, the one that would be used.

We shall see.

Or maybe not.

20 thoughts on “GO Expansion Don Valley Layover Update

  1. How critical is that layover, if it is planned for just 3 trains. I’m tempted to suggest that they should extend those trains to something like Kennedy GO station, and have more tracks for layover in the former SRT corridor. But may be the timing does not work out; they might want the layover place while SRT is still running, or when the SRT corridor is converted to a bus route.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Steve scores knock-out after knock-out, it’s hard to know where to start quoting, so accepting the ‘gist’ of what he posts on the Richmond Hill Line and de-facto electrification creep north from the Lakeshore line, how much is left of the reason Metrolinx nixed electrifying the line?

    Twinning the line would be a challenge, but compared to what Mx has bitten off, and all the attendant reasons for it (believable or not) for other lines, perhaps the greatest reason for not revisiting RH electrification (and admittedly, closing or altering some crossings) is it would debase the need for the Ontario Line significantly, not least the northern section.

    Thanks for the reminder of the Fed announcement tomorrow Steve. It might be a fire cracker, it most likely will be a damp squib.

    Steve: Thanks for the compliment. There was a rather odd motion recently at Markham Council in which the mover claims (a) that Metrolinx will be doing an Initial Business Case on the Richmond Hill line and (b) postulating a raft of stops that would make it more a subway line than a regional service, including some that are physically extremely difficult. It reads like a railfan fantasy, not as a serious motion.

    I have no problem with the Ontario Line going further north. The Relief Line studies showed it would have a huge effect on Yonge Line demands if it went to Sheppard.

    As for electrification, I cannot help thinking that the only thing keeping the idea alive is the current push to reduce carbon emissions. GO Transit has studied this since before Metrolinx even existed and their position that available capital should be spent on expansion, not electrification.

    With the provincial announcement from MTO last week about their grand plan for GTHA transit and highways, we really are in pre-election La La Land. I felt that writing up the Metrolinx meetings came first because they deal with something that might actually happen.


  3. Michael writes:

    I’m tempted to suggest that they should extend those trains to something like Kennedy GO station, and have more tracks for layover in the former SRT corridor.

    The problem there would be the limited capacity of the LE line that will be straining with the need for the Stouffville Line and more.

    Your point has real value though in inverting the logic of accepting the need (in light of the foreseeable LE constraint) for service/storage in the Don Valley or access from. In for a slippery penny, in for a dielectric dime to add to the ongoing logic to then continue electrification north on the RH line…which could/would then offer other possibilities. Partly with a foot in fantasy, I’m struck by the use of standard track gauge for the Ontario Line. That in itself offers possibilities in the future.

    With a caveat that: *Even if it’s a service facility* to ‘stone two birds with one kill’. Electrify and twin the RH line north to service both OL vehicles and electric Mx vehicles in one facility. Being ‘yard track’ highly simplifies that sharing with Transport Canada regs.

    What an obvious PR coup for Mx! Nah Stevens…it’s too easy and obvious…

    Steve: Don’t forget that there is already a five-train yard planned east of Scarborough Junction at Midland.

    As for shared trackage, that is a railfan fantasy I would not expect to see even on certain transit aficionados’ sites that shall remain nameless.


  4. There are three water authorities regulating the Don. They nixed Mx’s attempt to double track the Richmond Hill line in the RER project because the proposed berm locked in the storm water run-off in the Pottery Road section. Mx refused to construct the culverts to the size the water authorities required under the berms.

    The serious flood concern is the regional flood which would be more consequential than a hundred year flood, yet Mx never acknowledges it.


  5. If it’s a three train layover for Union, could they build tail tracks in the current north side service area just east of Yonge, and relocate the service access into the Church Street Green P parking garage directly beside it?

    Obviously wouldn’t be cheap to buy and reconstruct that garage, but it’s much closer to where the layover is needed, and the miles of track, flood protection and retaining walls currently on the table aren’t exactly pocket change…

    Steve: That’s an interesting space, although it’s tight. There is probably room for two 10-car trains there, including the switches and curves needed to connect to the main line, but three is a stretch.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Evidently there is to be an announcement today concerning HFR. So perhaps we should be a little more hopeful and less critical? You speak of a “yard” for Metrolinx but doesn’t that intrude on one of the old CP routes Via is contemplating? After all, the right of way still exists which would run through to Peterborough, clearly mentioned in the HFR map.

    Here’s an idea: instead of GO using the existing CN through the Valley, why not use the CP along with Via, put a station at Leaside, then relay the track which paralleled the CP and up to the GO (currently a trail) and electrify the Richmond Hill line.

    Steve: I mentioned the HFR announcement at the end of the article. We will see what route they have in mind at which point all of the speculation one way or another will be moot.

    As for going up the CP and then via the long-abandoned connection north to Oriole, that is a non-starter. First, that’s the CP main line you would be crossing to get to the trail, and they really do not want the interfering traffic. Definitely not electrified. Second, that trail runs through a residential neighbourhood and saw almost no rail traffic even it was active because it was an emergency diversion route, not a regularly used line. There is also question of the future service level on the RH corridor and whether it could be operated on a single track.

    This idea comes up regularly, and Metrolinx was even showing the trail as if it were a live rail line that could be part of their network quite recently. They are a tad out-of-touch on that.

    This is a non-starter for several reasons. The basic requirement first is to see GO’s proposed operating plan and whether using storage somewhere else on their network is such an onerous added cost that the Don Valley layover is “worth it”. A basic point in any debate is “don’t accept the premise” because you will be arguing on your opponent’s turf. If the “need” for the layover is not as critical as Metrolinx makes it out to be, the problem solves itself without having to massively reorganize usage of tracks in and near the Don Valley.


  7. Thanks for the deep dive in to this topic. Can the Don Yard not expand underneath the future DVP alignment? Alternatively, has Metrolinx studied a “stacked” option where a below grade yard is built under the Don Yard. As the GTHA continues to densify, compact solutions must be built. The Don Valley is so important to the greening of our city we simply can’t add more infrastructure to it!

    Steve: A stacked option would put the yard below the water table of the Don River. Considering that it would need a portal in precisely the area that typically floods, this is not a very good idea unless Metrolinx plans a submarine service.


  8. 1. Alternative location – Canary district. This location was suggested by Peter Tabuns and shot down by Metrolinx. Although developers are moving forward with air rights over Metrolinx rail lines on the west side of Union station apparently the same thing is impossible because it is east of Yonge street.

    Steve: There is a big difference in the amount of land west of Yonge and east of it, not to mention that the rail corridor west of Yonge is lower than the level of adjacent planned development at the Front Street elevation, whereas in the Canary district the rail corridor is above the surrounding land where development would occur.

    2. Instead of storing the trains downtown, they could return back to their origin. Metrolinx shot that down because the trains would be empty. Disregard that Metrolinx repeatedly positions GO Expansion as “all-day, two-way service”. In fact, Full Business Case mentions “ADTWS” on 55 pages, including up front in the executive summary as the biggest strategic priority of GO Expansion. “This document is Metrolinx’s Full Business Case (FBC) for GO Expansion — an investment program that will transform GO Rail into a Rapid Rail system that will provide faster and more frequent two-way all-day service across the GO Rail network.” So commuter service or all day two way service – which is it?

    Instead of storing trains downtown they could pass through Union onto other lines – again supporting the all-day, two-way service for the region that Metrolinx has so heavily emphasised as the rationale for billions of public funding.

    Steve: As these will be diesel trains, they would normally only be assigned to certain corridors. The real question here is why sending three trains out to Willowbrook would so utterly upset GO’s careful plans. It’s not as if they would be going back to Milton for storage. As for mid-day service, fewer trains are needed during that period, and those that are surplus have to be parked somewhere. This does not upset the plan for all day frequent service.

    3. When questioned about the ridership forecast and cost/benefit modelling Metrolinx took the position that the pandemic is the same as a recession where ridership was temporarily down, recovered and then grew. It seems there is absolute fear at Metrolinx that up-to-date data would show a systemic change in commuter habits; a permanent change that benefits employers (less rental space) and commuters (less time commuting). Meanwhile, Metrolinx is preparing a hybrid work from home policy for its office workers based on 2 days at home/3 days in office but of course they are the only company in the whole GTA that is moving to this model and therefore commuters will flood back to the office in September.

    Steve: I think that the jury is still out on how quickly Metrolinx recovery will occur. That said, the recent “discovery” that the Don Yard is needed as overflow for Don Yard during planned construction there is rather convenient as it “forces” Metrolinx to build a Don Valley Layover they might otherwise not require so soon (2022).

    4. Flooding in the valley was discounted as problem because Metrolinx is aware of it and monitors the weather forecast (good story here) which one would assume was the situation in 2013 when a GO train was stranded in the very location that Metrolinx aims to electrify. Metrolinx is becoming more dependent on a broader range of operations by using the Don Valley as a piece of infrastructure beyond the Richmond Hill line. Electric and diesel trains will be coming from a number of lines as Metrolinx must clear through traffic at Union station. Flooding in the Don Valley could create network wide chaos.

    Steve: Yes, Metrolinx answers questions about flooding by misdirection to issues of whether the layover facility will flood (almost certainly not) as opposed to track on the west side approach. I had the feeling that the person who answered this question really did not understand the situation, an unfortunately common situation for Metrolinx.

    5. Metrolinx has stopped including an ecological benefit as a rationale for the Don Valley Layover. The appropriation of badly needed urban park space for expansion of diesel services into a flood plain is an undefendable position from an ecological perspective.

    Steve: They talked about wanting to improve the environment, but this seems to be confined to replacing mature vegetation with non-invasive, native species with no consideration for the park as a park. It sounds like a talking point dreamt up by a comms person to give the impression of “doing something”.

    6. They have yet to acknowledge the importance of First Nations history in the Don Valley. There will [be?] archeological studies however nothing has been proposed to address current cultural needs. Currently the cultural situation requires acknowledgement of the importance and long history First Nations had with the land. The first dispute about the scope of the Toronto Purchase occurred when the surveyor tried to include the east side of the bank of the Don River. In the subsequent 200+ years it got a lot worse and was only settled in 2010. What continues is a complete lack of acknowledgement of First Nations history by the City of Toronto and the Province from the perspective of telling the story before 1787. 10 City funded museums all dedicated to colonial history, nothing dedicated to the thousands of years before that. This is not Metrolinx’s problem however the Don Valley remains as an expansive and accessible site that could be respectfully developed to address that gap.

    7. Metrolinx continues tries to keep people focused on just the building, not the overall impact of the train storage east and west of the river, the access roads, the re-development of the bridge over the Don River, the security fencing that will surround both train parking areas in the valley. Public interest, as understood by Metrolinx remains being able to use the 8 foot wide paved trail instead of the valley as a whole.

    Steve: I don’t know if Metrolinx does this just from stupidity or as deliberate misdirection of the debate. Either way, this suggests that a lot of staff and consultants should find work elsewhere. So much of what they plan could be so much better done if they involved the community and knowledgeable people early, didn’t hide their plans under a blanket of “confidentiality”, and actually made sure that people handling “public participation” knew at least as much as the people coming to the sessions from “outside”.


  9. @Alex,

    I like Alex’s dual level idea, except the bottom level would be for Swan Boats.

    If Metrolinx ever gets around to modernizing Union Station the way it should have been done, there would be a number of pocket tracks on either side of the station. Most of the old platforms are too narrow so to widen them you need to remove a number of tracks with in the station. Using the old track numbering system which starts at track 1 next to the concourse you remove tracks 3, 6 and possibly 9 to widen the platforms for tracks 4, 5, 7, 8, and 10. The tracks that used to go through would join the through track on either side at the entrance to the platform as the pocket track between Union and St. Andrews on the TTC does. These would be usable to store trains for short period of time of for turning trains.

    This would eliminate 3 platforms from service but make the remaining ones safer and with more and wider stairs faster to empty.

    Steve: Metrolinx is planning to consolidate platforms as you suggest, but I have not seen an updated track layout to know whether they have left room for pockets in the space outside of the station as turnaround tracks. Their focus seems to be on the bottom end of the Bala Sub for that function although it is only easily accessible from the low-numbered platforms.


  10. Let’s just destroy all of nature and whatever natural goodness that is left in our cities all in the name of ….hmmm I don’t even have a khosher word for it, that’s how bad I think of this corporate vacant land space eating giant.
    Before our kids are adults they will never know what was, only what they will see… Metrolink is a Thanos put simply. Messed up all the way.


  11. Once again, many, many thanks to Steve, this forum and commenters. Even Minionlinx, as they have brought forward something useful – the concepts of using/re-using older transit/rail options within the Don Valley itself, which I think is absolutely necessary in this climate crisis, and it’s not such a pristine environment, sadly, and some of the real issues/problems are what the ‘carservatives’ in charge will NOT address – the DVP itself.

    Indeed the illustration at top of article shows a marvellously empty place immediately beside the proposed storage place, and if it’s only three trains, heck, what about a part of the DVP for all that storage and if there’s a perfectly good roadway and bike trail nearby, why do another road, except it’s often all about cars, concrete, and ‘safety’.

    But these rail options should be thought of for movement, and not storage, and it is again the BIG issue of how to somehow get a reset/reworking of the initiative and the millions/billions for broader public benefit (including saving quite a few billion and maybe a few precious years) with a focus for triage in a sub-regional Relief function, not a mega-project. And this should include linkages at the top end, even as a priority, (which would match the top-down nature of the transit since Mr. Ford torque over), and as it turns out, would be based on real planning efforts by the former Metro level eg. last OP that urged an EA of connection between Oriole GO and Eglinton Don Mills, only 25 years ago.

    And wouldn’t it be nice of the province/Metrolinx muscled in on a development at Celestica for the public interest reasons of better transit just as the City/transit’s been upturned? And this would be just a first step in a very full and open process of options for Relief function, (and maybe we need two or three projects – and find the billions easily in smarter projects vs. the Ford priority projects, which should have how many billions in quick savings from smartness?)

    Until there’s something actually built for functional Relief, also have a development freeze through the Yonge corridor – not popular with developers, agreed.

    Steve: Metrolinx will never muscle in on a major development scheme where Doug Ford’s developer friends stand to make a fortune, unless, of course, DoFo would expropriate them without compensation.

    And begin to address the flooding issue by an asphalt tax, or stormwater drainage fee, as Ms. Susan Bonnell observed in A History of the Don (maybe not correct title) that about 70% of that storm surge in the lower Don is from up-rivershed storm sewers, so rather than costly works that keep construction interests busy, maybe a depaving and user pay would be better, and far more fair. But like transit, it’s a bit ‘desulTory’ eh?

    Steve: I suspect that the south end of the Don will continue to flood for the foreseeable future. A tax will not make the water go away, only, maybe, deter more parking lots from being built and a very slow conversion to other forms of rain capture. Don’t make any plan that needs short term change dependent on a long term evolution of the city’s structure.

    I’m quite sure that there are a host of other possibilities for train storage, though we need to be reminded that this is a vital part of any line on a map, thanks Steve. For instance, was any part of the Ex ever considered for train storage, or does the Province want to take over the site for sale to a deviloper? – and we should be glad the pandemic slowed them down! Or, could we find a billion in some Eglinton W LRT project and dig out Wellington St. for something of a linear nature, and make sure that the tunnelling is wide and tall enough for subways and LRTs vs. the short-sighted Eglinton tunnel. The Canary area option also seems possible, despite a levels difference, and what about the Lakeshore too? And I hate to suggest the wider Weston corridor as that’s where a Rail Trail Extension should go at some point, but the higher better usage is for transit, though again, higher better use is for transit, not storage ie. surface Relief on the faster diagonal, which means adjusting the UPX folly, oop$.

    Steve: Dig out Wellington Street??? There are a lot of utilities down there and this was one of the reasons cited for not putting the Relief Line there even though it would have been an ideal alignment. The issue with the Eglinton tunnel is not that it is too small for subways, but that the grades and curves are designed for LRT. The Weston corridor is full and the railpath is pinched in some locations.

    With the pandemic decline in transit riderships, and potential for a much slower recovery to ‘normal’, even though it’s very much of a climate emergency, given the situations of mis-match and making mistakes, we should be – somehow – really having a more neutral/removed/longer process for exploring ALL options for this needed N/S Relief function via Thorncliffe to core. And presume that there’s plenty of $$$$$$ – so all options/things can be considered, such as maybe – others might know – is there any room on the ‘north’ side of the main CP line to shift those tracks northwards? And how’s that Missing Link process coming, and isn’t that a waaay better $pend for the federal level than the Ford transit schemes?


  12. I think Joni Mitchell summed up Metrolinx’ long term plans:

    “Don’t it always seem to go
    That you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone
    They paved paradise, put up a parking lot
    (Ooh, bop-bop-bop-bop, ooh, bop-bop-bop-bop)
    They took all the trees put ’em in a tree museum
    And they charged the people a dollar an’a half just to see ’em”

    Copyright Joni Mitchell 1970


  13. The only map I’ve seen accompanying the reporting on the VIA HFR shows an Eglinton stop prior to Peterborough. I assume this means it has to involve the Don Branch, presumably with a flyover (or under) of the CP mainline? I imagine the station would be intended to be steps from the surface Sunnybrook Park stop on the Crosstown. That or they attempt to integrate it into the Celestica redevelopment.

    Steve: Kennedy Station on the Uxbridge Sub (Stouffville GO) connects with Lines 2 and 5 as well as a major bus node. Sunnybrook Park Station is a non-starter.


  14. To quote from Ledbelly and The Weavers in The Rock Island Line:

    “Eastbound train was on the westbound track,
    “Northbound train was on the southbound track.
    “The conductor said, ‘Now ain’t this fine?
    “What a peculiar way to run a railroad line.'”

    Two dumb-as-dirt railways that are going to have trains all over the map at our expense.


  15. Those of you saying that Metrolinx should not build a train yard there because it is prone to flooding, your argument does not hold water for Metrolinx plans to build flood prevention systems. In any event, we are talking about a once in a century event where you might have just enough water for it to be called a “flood” and contrary to popular belief, the so called “flooding” of the GO train a few years ago amounted to ankle deep water and not some sort of catastrophic Biblical style floods. I think that the facility will function just fine, I have faith in the engineers.

    Steve: You don’t know what you are talking about.

    First off, the drawings of the proposed facility that Metrolinx has published make no provision for flood prevention.

    Second, as someone who has lived beside the line for over 40 years, I can assure you that the water was more than ankle deep. Metrolinx has a photo of this in a recent consultation deck at page 15. That’s up at Pottery Road. Down at Dundas Street, there are times when the DVP, which is higher than the rail line, is under water.

    The flood protection work Metrolinx has done is to reinforce the west wall of the river channel where it was prone to undercut the Bala subdivision tracks. This only prevents the ballast from washing away, but does not prevent the line from flooding when the water rises high enough.


  16. Mikey probably means “the so called “flooding” of the GO train a few years ago amounted to ankle deep water on the upper level of the bi-level coach“. 🙂

    We have seen multiple “hundred-year storms” in a single decade now.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. So why cant Metrolinx just use the GO Maintenance facility as storage? It’s right there at Royal York Rd. It’s not that far, and it has everything they need. If space is an issue, well VIA Rail seems to have tons of spare track since they offer a fraction of the service they used to.

    Steve: First off, VIA claims that one of these decades they are going to start running more service and they will need the yard for it. Second, Metrolinx does not want to dead head trains from Union to Mimico, although frankly for three trains each way, I can’t see what the big problem is.

    There are aspects of the Don Valley plan that have the “smell” of originally being for 7×24 servicing, and Metrolinx seems to be lumbered with the proposal even though it makes less and less sense economically even before we talk about the environmental issues. Old plans die hard, even when they no longer make sense.


  18. CPR ripped up 4 tracks at Leaside yard & they can have the layover there keeping the Don Branch open for VIAs highspeed overnight route.

    Steve: I don’t think VIA has any plans for a high speed overnight route. A fast train leaving Toronto at, say, 11 pm would be in Montreal by 3 am which is not much good to anyone.

    As for the tracks removed by CP at Leaside, they were on the north side of the right-of-way. The Don Branch connects on the south side east of the point where most of CP’s tracks used to be. The geometry doesn’t work well, although it would be interesting to investigate. However, it would require reconstruction of the high bridge at the Brick Works pushing up the cost substantially.


  19. Why did Metrolinx buy that land connecting to the CP line for? They should have another rail service to the north east Scarborough and going to Peterborough. Then it would remove so many cars off the highways and that rail line would not be a waste of money. If you want cars of the road build rail line> No one is taking transit as it’s not that accessible, and driving in Toronto is a nightmare.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. The Bala Sub in the lower Don Valley is in kind of an impossible position in terms of flooding. The long-term best pie-in-the-sky option would be to reroute all the trains along a rebuilt Don Branch and new track parallel to CP until the point where the CP line crosses over the route to Oriole. (It is probably too late to restore the Leaside Spur, though that would also make sense.) And, oh, while doing that, add a Thorncliffe Park station.

    Sooooo, suppose VIA actually built its HSR plan — and ran it next to CP from Agincourt Yard to the Don Branch, and then over the Don Branch, rebuilding the high bridge. If they were throwing around that sort of money, they could also elevate the final section along the west side of the Don for the full 1.3 miles to get it out of the flood zone. This would be a perfectly viable shared railroad for GO and VIA, and midday GO storage facilities could be located *further out* north of the bridge, at a number of possible locations.

    As far as I can tell, Canada, Ontario, and Toronto only seem to throw money at ill-thought-out half-baked uncoordinated plans, however. If someone comes up with a coherent, unified, multipurpose plan, it suffers the fate of Transit City. Only disconnected, atomized non-integrated ideas like “UP Express” get funded, and any form of synergy has to be snuck in by underlings and concealed. Or something. The politics around this is very weird to me, even though I’m used to watching bureaucratic turf wars and anti-transit politicians in the US.

    Liked by 1 person

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