Metrolinx Announces Construction Plans for Queen Station

Construction of a new lower level station at Queen and Yonge will close roads in the area for an extended period according to a new blog article from Metrolinx. Between early 2023 for about four and a half years, Queen street will be completely closed from Victoria to James Street.

Source: Metrolinx

James Street will also be closed as well as a portion of the west side of Victoria Street.

Streetcars will divert both ways around the construction site via Church, the Richmond/Adelaide pair, and York. This will require York to become two-way at least south to Adelaide Street (it is two-way only from Queen to Richmond), and new track will have to be installed. Although the map above shows partial occupancy of Victoria Street, it is not clear whether the tracks, long out of use thanks to construction at St. Michael’s Hospital and at Massey Hall, will finally be reactivated.

Source: Metrolinx

Reconstruction of Adelaide Street is already in the City’s plans for 2022. Originally, when I asked about the scope of work, the feedback I received from the TTC was that this would only involve track removal from Charlotte Street (east of Spadina) to Victoria. However, with these diversion plans it is clear that new track will be required at least to York Street.

An obvious question here is what plans Metrolinx has for Osgoode Station, and whether a Queen diversion west of York will be required. It is conceivable that the Adelaide trackage may yet live again further west. There will also be construction effects at Queen/Spadina and King/Bathurst. I have written to Metrolinx asking when details of these projects will be available so that the entire plan for downtown construction will be clear.

Source: City of Toronto, TOInview

A further issue is that there is a major reconstruction of King Street planned in 2023. This would have to be well out of the way before Queen Street could be closed. If there will be track on Adelaide to which a connection could be provided at York, a new east-to-north curve would be an obvious addition at King.

More generally, there should be a plan for the future use of downtown streetcar track to support the various diversions needed for construction and to restore some of the flexibility in streetcar operations that has been lost over the years as less-used bits of track fall victim to various construction projects. A list of potential locations includes:

  • Adelaide Street from Charlotte eastward, not just from York, including connecting curves at York.
  • An east-to-north curve at King and York.
  • Reactivation of track on Victoria between Queen and Dundas.
  • Addition of curves in the SE quadrant at Church and Carlton (reconstruction is planned there in 2022).

I have written to the TTC asking what their plans are.

Too often, chances to improve the network have been missed when track is rebuilt “as is”. This is an excellent chance to rectify past oversights.

A further issue in all of this will be the effect of redirected streetcar (and other) traffic on the cycling network downtown. I will seek info about this from the City of Toronto.

I will update this article when I receive additional information from Metrolinx and the TTC.

22 thoughts on “Metrolinx Announces Construction Plans for Queen Station

  1. I would like to see York two way from Queen to King with all curve in at Richmond and Adelaide plus King. Adelaide track should go back to Spadina and, if possible, Richmond as far as Spadina. This would allow for a lot more ease of detours.

    Steve: A big issue on Richmond generally will be the bike lanes.


  2. I had highlighted a number of Steve’s quotes, only to realize this is the common denominator to any of the multitude of very good questions raised by this:

    I have written to the TTC asking what their plans are.

    What I suspect, and many others I’m sure, is that the TTC and City are as in the dark as we are.

    I haven’t read the blog, only Ben Spurr’s piece in TorStar, and evidently, City Council’s approval is needed for this. Oh the irony!

    What’s Doug going to do if they say ‘No’…or attach hefty strings to it, as well they should, and not just costs? Will his Fordness pare down their powers yet again?

    I’m boggled as to how this has been sprung out of thin air?

    More comment later on this…


  3. If Richmond and Adelaide remain as one-way streets, then having one-way streetcar tracks all the way to Spadina and Bathurst in the west, and Parliament in the east is doable.


  4. I 100% agree that if ‘they’ are making (returning) York to two-way tracks from Adelaide to Richmond, they really need to bring the extra track down to King and add the necessary curve. On the City’s TOInView website they have long-listed track work on Adelaide from Charlotte to Yonge/Victoria in 2022 so I hope this latest announcement means that Metrolinx will be covering the cost from Yonge to York (plus necessary curves) and the TTC can then deal with the straight section from York to Charlotte. It would be a great pity to repave Adelaide from York westwards (which is also getting a new watermain) without fixing the track.

    Last I heard, TTC track on Victoria from Queen to Dundas (originally planned for several years ago) is supposed to be completed in 2023 after a Hydro project – which is apparently being held up by a conflict with a utility company (that is now a legal case!)

    Steve: Closing both Queen and Victoria at the same time might not be a good idea. I really hope that somebody is plotting all this out, but experience tells me that 2023 is going to be a real hash.


  5. Interesting news.

    Do James Street and Albert Street even need to exist these days? I’d think we’d be better off if they were pedestrianized, with a one-way (clockwise?) contingency for delivery/service vehicles.


  6. On a more general point. I completely agree with you that TTC Management ought to present a consolidated plan for the downtown streetcar track network. I remember how hard the TTC fought for the west to south curve to remain when the former “Olympic Building” (now CityTV) was built at Victoria & Dundas and it now goes below the building. Has it ever been used, I think not! Then they ‘forgot’ about adding the extra curve at Gerrard and Broadview that had actually been approved by the Board. Perhaps you may feel it would be useful to prepare a draft that they could use!

    Steve: Yes, the corporate memory at TTC suffers a lot on anything with significant lead time compounded by staff turnover. I know that at one point they were looking at re-establishing Adelaide at least to Spadina, but suspect that nobody remembers this. The Metrolinx blog article implies that there have already been discussions, but knowing what that typically means for Metrolinx, I would like to hear confirmation from the TTC and City on this.


  7. While I have never been keen on a Queen Street alignment for the Ontario Line, I do see an opportunity for big improvements in the downtown core.

    The one-way streets were a 1960-70’s method to make auto traffic faster & more efficient. Autos no longer have the priority, because pedestrians, bicycles, and public transit rank higher now.

    By making Richmond and Adelaide Streets two-way and restoring streetcars, it would alleviate traffic on King and Queen Streets.

    The two hour window for TTC fares makes transit-hopping easy & convenient.

    At the same time, the TTC and city council should consider restoring streetcars on Yonge Street as relief for the subway line.

    Steve: I was with you up to the last paragraph. Subway relief is not just about service on Yonge, but about service to the areas people who would otherwise try to ride the Yonge line come from.

    That’s why it is important to divert them from the BD line before they ever get to Yonge or St. George stations, and to siphon off as many long-haul trips with GO as possible. Oh dear. We can’t afford to subsidize TTC level fares on GO Transit, but we can spend billions on new subway lines. Utter BS.


  8. Steve, you mentioned a couple of things:

    Connecting the Ontario Line to Osgoode Station, I believe that the original intent was to place an OL station right in front of City Hall. That’s about half-way between Bay Street and University Ave./Osgoode. I guess that the plans are still up in the air.

    Steve: No. Metrolinx plans a station at Yonge running from Victoria to James Street, and at University running from just east of University to about Simcoe. Nothing up in the air at all.

    About bike lanes on Richmond (and everywhere), it is a dangerous situation that a driver might be making a right turn on a green light and not see a bicyclist in the blind spot. Bikes ought to have their own signal, and to yield to turning cars on a full green.


  9. Steve, thank you for your kind reply. About a Yonge streetcar, yes, I totally agree with you about diverting passengers away from BD, and Yonge, too.

    I am picturing a typical workday afternoon at 5 pm, and people have been riding from King over to St. Andrews just so that they can actually get on a train. Especially on a muggy hot day like today. And maybe they need to go to College, maybe Bloor, maybe St. Clair. Seriously, would not a Yonge car to St.Clair be ultra popular? And the car would stop at smaller intervals?

    As for transit funding, there’s many $trillions out there looking for safe investments, and TTC bonds would sell like hot cakes.


  10. Do James Street and Albert Street even need to exist these days? I’d think we’d be better off if they were pedestrianized, with a one-way (clockwise?) contingency for delivery/service vehicles.

    In my observations from an office overlooking James Street, it serves for street parking. So very important in Toronto, obviously.

    About bike lanes on Richmond (and everywhere), it is a dangerous situation that a driver might be making a right turn on a green light and not see a bicyclist in the blind spot. Bikes ought to have their own signal, and to yield to turning cars on a full green.

    Certainly – as long as we give bicycles most of the signal duration 🙂

    Failing that – in Before Times, I used to ride Adelaide and Richmond daily from the west to Bay Street. Richmond Street, where not dug up for watermains, was by far the best, safest-feeling piece of bicycle infrastructure downtown north of the lakeside Martin Goodman Trail. If it is a dangerous situation, everywhere else is a lot more dangerous.

    The streetcar diversion track on Richmond up to York didn’t really give me problems riding, but it might be a bit different if it was actually used and had stops and passengers.


  11. The amount of disruption along Queen is pretty staggering.

    I remain concerned about the risks of constructing the Ontario Line as a short light metro rather than longer, heavier rail (subway). It would be terrible, given all the cost and disruption, to see the Line reach capacity only a decade after completion.

    Are the underground stations being built with any extra length for future capacity expansion? Or is that to be left to the P3 bidders to discard as cost savings?

    Steve: It looks like the stations will be built at the standard train length with no provision for expansion.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. The only reason streetcars should ever return in any fashion to Yonge St. would be for heritage/tourist reasons. A good business plan could be made for this, including doing what San Francisco did: by heritage vehicles from other fleets (if there are any left, including in private hands, is another issue). However, there are other potential routings on already existing tracks (with some modifications) that could benefit a tourist service that would not limit it to just one street (Yonge), and this service could be operated in a big loop, and not one limited the way the Belt Line tour tram was. Of course, this is all pie in the sky thinking because historically (100th anniversary pun there) the TTC cares nothing about it’s own history.

    Steve: The TTC does care about its history although the ability to celebrate this has been constrained by the pandemic. There will be a book. Full disclosure: I did not write the text, but was one of several people who helped to review the content, pro bono.


  13. To echo Ross’ concerns – has rolling stock actually been confirmed yet? I’m not as up to date as I used to be, but my most recent memory is that it would be somewhere between an LRT and a full subway…which is a pretty wide range. A quick google shows a crush load of ~1500 for a Line 1 train, vs ~700 – less than half – for a full length, 3 car Crosstown LRT. It would be interesting to get a sense of what the “standard train length” they’re building the stations at is, and how that might affect train capacity, and therefore overall route capacity vs. service frequency.

    Steve: First off, crush loads are never, ever used for planning purposes except in manufacturers’ brochures and occasionally in fanciful claims by planners of potential capacity. It is impossible to sustain a crush load while having acceptable station dwell times (not to mention platform capacity issues). The extra “capacity” from a higher load is offset by a lower practical trains/hour throughput, especially if one is already running very frequent service. The TTC figure for a Line 1 (TR) train is 1,100; for Line 2 (T1) it’s 1,000. See the TTC Service Standards at page 14 (p10 in the document numbering because of the index pages).

    The TTC planning standard for their own Flexitys is 130/car, and the Crosstown cars are slightly larger, so we’re talking somewhere around 400 per three-car train. Note that is an hourly planning average and actual loads can vary from car to car.

    Many illustrations Metrolinx has published show trains not unlike the four-car SkyTrain vehicles in Vancouver. That appears to be the target design. They also speak of headways at about 100 seconds (1’40”) or 36 trains/hour. The signal system is probably capable of handling bursts of shorter headways, but probably not if the trains have to actually stop for passengers at busy stations. Again, there is the difference between theoretical best case and achievable levels over a peak hour. At 36 trains/hour, the riders/train would be about 280 for a capacity of 10k, or 420 for 15k.

    These numbers didn’t look too bad until Metrolinx started hyping the OL as an offload mechanism for GO Transit, notably at East Harbour station where transfers would be onto already-busy trains coming south from Don Mills and the Danforth Subway. Their ridership projections for 2040 show an inbound demand of slightly over 20k westbound at Corktown Station.


  14. Hi Steve:

    Do you think the TTC would mandate the COVID vaccination to all employees? (Bus operators, Streetcar and Subway operators, collectors, supervisors and people working at head office and transit control)

    Steve: No, they will wait for this to be done either as a provincial rule or a Council policy.

    Updated August 19 at 1:35 pm: The City of Toronto announced today that vaccination would be mandatory for all employees, and the TTC has announced that it will implement the same requirement.


  15. I vacillated about posting this, as linear comparisons are difficult, for a number of reasons, but this is food for thought after some of the excellent posts above, and Steve’s comments on projected capacity and lack of forward vision on both Metrolinx’ and the TTC’s part.

    Full disclosure: I haven’t completely researched how many main streets in London were closed for Crossrail construction, it appears very few were, even finding this article was a challenge, and Crossrail is a monster mainline in tunnel project compared to the Ontario Line: (Think 9 car single decker electric GO trains passing under Toronto’s core)

    Major Paddington road to shut for two years for Crossrail work
    February 3, 2012 Updated: 1:31 PM October 14, 2020

    One of Paddington’s busiest roads is set to close for two years from next week to allow for the construction of a new Crossrail station.
    All vehicles, including buses and taxis, will be diverted to alternative routes around Paddington. Transport for London will be monitoring the situation closely to “limit disruption and congestion”.
    Crossrail programme director Andy Mitchell said: “It’s vital that the impact of Crossrail’s construction on central London is kept to a minimum. “A full-closure of Eastbourne Terrace will mean that construction of the new station box at Paddington can be completed in two years instead of four years enabling station fit-out to commence and Eastbourne Terrace to be re-opened as soon as possible.”

    Crossrail did complete the project in the two year time-frame.

    Here’s how they did it:

    Byrne Bros. introduced precast solutions for the majority of the architectural feature work, including the Domed Coffer units and the permanent props spanning between the perimeter diaphragm walls. This construction method ensured the quality of the product was fully controlled and provided programme savings by removing in-situ works and replacing it with precast units.

    Search “Eastbourne Terrace crossrail construction” for many more engineering articles on this particular project.

    The point is this: How can it take Metrolinx four years to do what Crossrail achieves in half the time for a massively more complex project? Melbourne’s Metro might be a better comparator, but I’m reminded of the adage of ‘New York City and Toronto being the most expensive places in North Am to build underground infrastructure’.

    Disruption is unavoidable on Queen with the proposed routing and methods. But *four years*?

    I’m still digging on this, pun fully intended.

    Steve: You have been a tad selective in your quotations. As the second article makes quite clear with its photo, the project did not return the street fully to operation, but only made two lanes available only for transit and construction vehicles. This happened after the work reached a point that the full road width was not required as a staging area for the excavation. As for precast units, it is not uncommon to do this particularly for relatively small units that are as much decorative as structural. The articles show a lot of cast-in-place concrete. There is no discussion of utility relocation, but it is possible that this was done during the early work period before the complete street closure.


  16. Regarding Crossrail, one way they’ve managed to reduce amount of road closures is by demolishing a lot of buildings. Several blocks around Tottenham Court Road are gone, so is a block by Hanover Square, and a large area by Farringdon. One reason they’ve done this is because the tunnels and stations aren’t generally below roads, another is because these buildings were 4-6 storeys rather than 20.

    That’s not really something that’s an option for a station at Queen and Yonge. I don’t think even Metrolinx would suggest to knock down Hudson’s Bay or the Eaton Centre. One Richmond West is the closest thing that could conceivably be knocked down, or maybe the block between Queen and Richmond east of Victoria – but neither is close enough for the construction site to tie into the existing Queen station easily.

    Another point is that Crossrail is significantly larger in scale than Ontario Line: among other points, stations are very long (240 m platforms), and they’ve generally done two dig-downs at either end. If Skytrain is the intended reference for OL, the platforms there are 80 m.

    As a general point, perhaps Crossrail is not the best reference point for quick construction, since it’s delayed by several years now. They might have not closed Eastbourne Terrace for four years, but the entire project was supposed to be done in 2018…

    You could argue whether Ontario Line should have been built differently – you could maybe do the Crossrail techniques with tracks and stations in different locations – but for Ontario Line as it exists right now, Crossrail is a poor comparison.


  17. Why don’t we follow the streetcar, bus, streetcar model which has been in place for many years including at present? This means using buses for the central portion of the route. This can save us from having to go through highly disruptive streetcar track construction on streets such as Richmond, Adelaide, etc. Buses are also more versatile and streetcar diversions are very time consuming. This will also alleviate the streetcar shortage.

    Steve: The central part of the streetcar routes is where the heaviest demand is. It makes no sense to use them only on the outer portions (which get rebuilt from time to time too), and to add an unnecessary transfer connection to every journey.

    The “shortage” of streetcars is caused by the fact that so many of them had to go through major retrofits thanks to manufacturing problems. With what you propose, you might as well just get rid of the streetcars altogether. Then you can start to complain about having so many buses in the way of your car.


  18. That’s the first time I’ve seen Crossrail as an example of how to do things fast!

    The new Elizabeth line station at Paddington, under Eastbourne Grove, is almost a greenfield project, with no existing lines, or even pedestrian tunnels, above or below the station. All they had to do is dig down to the new tunnel, and build the structure. Similar to how Metrolinx is already building many of the new stations on the Eglinton line, which is being done without long-term closures on Eglinton.

    Also, it looks like the line will finally open next year, 8 years after Eastbourne Grove was reopened. Works on the station itself took another 7 years, only being completed a few weeks ago.


  19. Is it significant that you have not (yet?) reported on the response from the TTC on what THEIR plans are for dealing with the streetcar disruption due to the planned (Metrolinx) work on Queen?

    Steve: The questions I posed to them touched on other issues such as adding missing curves and track for flexibility in general, and whether they were looking beyond just the Queen Station project.


  20. Thanks Steve, and commenters. I’m very slow on all of this, perhaps the heat. Star editorial was a good swipe at the closure; and we really do need a re-think of scads of these plans, but no big deal to squander billions it seems, for less-effective and perhaps debilitating projects that will be a perpetual drain on fares/taxes, when we can’t manage user pay for highways like the DVP or the Gardiner (and which never get considered for heavy transit usages).

    I’d suggested we need much deeper thinking about superficial and surface options, and maybe a set of Relief projects, in the spirit of silver buckshot, not a silver bullet. And thus a triage mostly on surface project, done quickly and cheaper, using as much existing linear as possible but with the potential to spend big like the SSE, when warranted. But getting new ideas, like some that are 25 or 40 or 50 years old, into the ‘process’, is very uphilll, and one can only hope that somehow, either the provincial Cons wake up a bit, or the Liberals don’t get their majority and the NDP get smarter about transit, and how costly and really stupid some of the projects actually are vs. big jobs, and some folks deserving subways.

    And yes, it’s vital to have a good east-west pair of direct bike lanes, so keeping Richmond and Adelaide very safe and functional, with extensions somehow in to Parkdale and east to cross the Don are really essential policy choices, a bold thing for Caronto (and yup, they were in the 1992 study, but without the extensions)


  21. A recent Toronto Star editorial condemned the proposed 4½-year closure of Queen street between Victoria and Bay streets as unacceptably too long and disruptive. The Star wants Metrolinx to come up with a better solution, but offered no suggestions.

    The original Metrolinx idea of digging two shafts in areas where the sidewalk is wide seems unrealistic given the construction sites along the Crosstown. I suspect that Metrolinx wants to dig a trench in Queen Street, perhaps something reminiscence of the building of the Yonge subway before 1954.

    Did the Relief Line designers have a better idea before Metrolinx took over?

    Steve: I have the station plans but not the construction plan for the Relief Line, and so I don’t know how the RL designers planned to build the station. However, the station was further west with its western edge at Bay Street, and it was called “City Hall”. This might have simplified things because the RL station box would not be under the existing Queen Station box and underpass. The RL would be in bedrock, two levels below the underpass, or three counting down from Queen Station platform.


  22. @Peter Strazdins “Bikes ought to have their own signal, and to yield to turning cars on a full green.”

    Agree on the first part. Not so much on the second. The through traffic should have the right of way in cases where both bikes and autos share a signal phase.

    Liked by 1 person

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