Ontario Line Oct/21 Consultations: Downtown Segment

On October 7, a meeting date deferred from September 30, Metrolinx conducted a public consultation session on the downtown segment of the Ontario Line. This was (and still is) advertised as including “Osgoode, Queen, Moss Park and Corktown Stations”, but Osgoode was nowhere to be found.

Osgoode will be a complex station including an interchange with the University Subway (Line 1), and as originally proposed it includes a new entrance on the lands of Osgoode Hall. There was no information about this station in the presentation, and only a vague confirmation that there would be a future meeting to deal with this site.

Queen Station and its construction was covered in some detail, followed by Moss Park with rather less and Corktown with almost nothing. A major problem for Metrolinx is that they expect, nay demand, that the public comment on their plans with a short timeline because moving projects forward is so important. However, their procurement strategy leaves unveiling of many details well beyond the point where anything could actually be changed.

As in past articles of this series, I have reordered the presentation and Q&A session to group topics together for clarity.

Queen/Yonge Station

The station at Queen and Yonge is very deep. It will share entrances with the existing Line 1 station, but there will be some reconfiguration, notably of the link to the Hudson’s Bay basement level on the southwest corner of the intersection.

Despite its depth, Metrolinx claims that transfers with Line 1 Yonge will be faster than in the Relief Line South proposal because the City Hall Station on the RLS was located well west of Yonge Street.

Street closures for construction of this station will protect all delivery paths to businesses and offices, although there will be some changes to street directions such as James Street which is now one-way northbound.

Metrolinx spoke of the importance of maintaining “vitality” during the construction period. This will be quite a challenge if sites such as Yonge & Eglinton are anything to go by.


Vertical access to the new station will be primarily via two escalator and elevator banks east and west of Yonge as shown below. The existing escalators shown in dotted lines connect the mezzanine level of Queen Station down to the never-opened Yonge Station on the planned Queen Street Subway which is now used as an underpass and for storage.

Addendum: For an organization that was so wedded to fast, simple transfers at East Harbour and at Exhibition to offload the GO system, this connection seems particularly poor. There is no indication of any increased capacity in the link between the cross-passage under Queen Station and Line 1 as if this transfer is a relatively unimportant function.

The construction at Queen and Yonge will allow what Metrolinx calls a “long deferred TTC priority” to improve diversion routes available downtown. York Street, now two-way only south to Richmond, will become two-way to Adelaide, and track will be reinstated on Adelaide eastward (it is now operational only between Victoria and Church).

There is no word on whether the TTC will take advantage of this project to restore trackage on Adelaide between Charlotte (one east of Spadina) and York to provide an eastbound diversion around events in the theatre district.

There was no discussion on how the new road arrangement will affect cycling lanes in the area.

Q: Re 1 and 2 Queen East: Will underground parking lots remain functional? These buildings are right on top of construction site.

A: We are keeping access to parking and loading docks open. There is some work required in the NE corner for ventillation, but we will not close it.

Q: What is the impact on The Bay and its lower level?

A: We have been in close contact with The Bay. We will be reconfiguring the entrance from the Bay to Queen Station. It will be expanded and enhanced with a new fare line, OL access, connections across Queen to Cadillac Fairview tower and the Eaton Centre. The PATH network will be maintained, and the bridge over Queen will remain open.

Moss Park Station

Moss Park is now a large green space with an arena and other community facilities. The station is planned to be a cut-and-cover structure in the area now occupied by trees along the north side of Queen Street west of Sherbourne. According to Metrolinx, an arborist’s survey for the Relief Line South indicated that many of these trees were in poor condition.

Immediately west of Moss Park are the DND Armouries. The Ontario Line will be allowed to pass under the front lawn, but cannot encroach on the property at street level.

Metrolinx stated that open cut construction will be six months faster than mining this station.

As part of the project, there will be a new community centre and arena parking. Discussions are underway with the Arena Board and the City on revitalization.

Q: What about a second exit at Moss Park? Is there going to be a separate exit only structure?

A: There is only one entrance building. The challenge was to figure out how to use one “headhouse” without impacting on the park. An entrance at the west end was not possible because DND would not allow it on their property.

Comment: I have asked Metrolinx for further information about how they meet fire code while having only a single headhouse.

Q: You need to consult with affected people in the Moss Park area.

Comment: There are two aspects to this issue. One is how the new station and the inevitable gentrification of the area will affect the present-day population. The other is how changes to community service provided at Moss Park will affect residents.

My impression from Metrolinx’ answer on this point was that they are only now coming to know how much goes on in this neighbourhood and beginning consultations in the community.

Q: You mentioned that an arborist had indicated that some or many trees at Moss Park had problems, but you are doing your own evaluation. These trees are integral to the community. What happens if your arborist says that they are ok?

A: We’re expecting that the health of the trees has not likely improved. We have a tree replacement plan, and are talking to City Parks about alternate locations. The City may also want to shift some activities now in the park to alternate locations.

Comment: No tree is safe from Metrolinx along its projects, and their catch-all answer is that they will replace trees that were removed on a 3:1 basis. Of course the new trees may not be in the same location, and will take decades to reach the scale of trees removed.

Corktown Station

The presentation on Corktown Station dealt mainly with site clearing and archaeology because development, including the station entrance, now falls under Infrastructure Ontario. They are hosting a series of open houses including a recent one on the planned development at Corktown. The September 27 consultation includes drawings of the overall site and how it would be developed.

King Street is the diagonal street at the top of the photo below.

Another view, looking southeast across the site, is in the Infrastructure Ontario presentation.

The south site will be the staging area for the tunnel boring machine, materials supply and spoil removal for at least the portion of the tunnel east of Yonge, and possibly all the way to Exhibition.

The site will be decontaminated from previous activity here by Consumers Gas (now known as Enbridge) who manufactured gas from coal on this site in Toronto’s earlier days.

Q: When will an archeological review of the Corktown site be made public?

A: We have only done a preliminary archeological review. Plans for a full review will be included in the Environmental Assessment to be issued in January.

Q: What is the timeline for construction, and what is the extent of the demolition? The Staples building? The Porsche dealership?

A: Demolition will begin before year end and the entire site will be cleared by early 2022 to allow for archaeology work. At same time they are measuring the contamination in the site.

They need to trench where there is high archeological potential, and have done a small dig already in an open area. This work has to be completed so that construction can begin in 2023.

Station Design

Q: We’re trying to get info on station architecture, but Metrolinx is getting defensive.

A: There will be one more set of consultations before year end. People are used to looking at a rendering and we can’t always share that level of detail because some will come out in the bid process. We won’t have a final product for about a year.

Q: Could a “Spanish solution” with three platforms and different lengths of trains be used?

A: We have modelled 100m trains, 90 second headways and platform edge doors. Decades in the future if more train capacity is needed, we could reconfigure train interiors. Three 3 platforms would make stations much more expensive and take more room than might be available.

Q: Many newer stations have exposed concrete walls and what appear to be cheap finishes. Can we be assured that major stops will have well-designed interiors, something more like London’s Elizabeth line vs stations on the Vaughan subway extension or Ottawa’s downtown LRT tunnel?

A: Stations will be well lit for vibrancy. On part of the line, stations are above grade and will get the light of day. There is a mixture of station typologies on the line.

There will be a “consistency of language throughout the journey”, and stations will be built to Metrolinx and Ontario Line design standards. Additional information on these standards can be found in the West Segment presentation materials.

Comment: “Evasive” does not begin to describe this answer. The West Segment presentation shows some general ideas, but does not show what an OL station will look like. Indeed, it includes a photo of the location of a proposed Osgoode Station entrance that is now a grove of mature trees.

Construction Effects

Q: What will be the hours of operation for construction? There are thousands of condo residents along the line.

A: The tunnel is in bedrock 30-40m underground and there will be no effect at the surface. The stations will involve deep excavations. We have detailed construction and noise plans, as well as real-time monitoring.

Comment: Metrolinx did not answer the question about hours of operation.

During the meeting, Metrolinx mentioned in passing that they may build the line as two separate bores working toward Yonge from Exhibition and Corktown, or a single bore west from Corktown. If they proceed with a single continuous bore, the access site for removal of spoil and supply of material at Corktown will be in operation much longer than if an east bore ended at Queen Station. Metrolinx did not mention this issue.

Q: Will there be Queen Street closures at Sherbourne, University and Spadina?

A: We looked at all of the planned work by the City, utilities, the Gardiner project, etc., and have done a lot of traffic modelling to ensure that downtown will still “work”.

A combination of cavern and open cut construction will be used at stations. At caverns we will use sequential excavation remove portions of the cavern while maintaining the structure with secant piles, and will disturb the surface as little as possible. In some cases we need to drill shafts down, for example at Queen and Yonge we have to dig down. Corktown and Moss Park can be built as open cut stations without disrupting traffic because they are not under streets.

Q: Moss Park business owners on Queen Street haven’t heard anything from Metrolinx and yet they are going to disrupt the street, neighbourhood and traffic. What guarantees can be given to business owners that they will not be impacted like those business with the Eglinton Crosstown fiasco?

A: We have sent out contacts via Canada Post and others, but we know there are some we have not been able to connect with yet. We have lots of contact mechanisms, newsletters, meetings, etc. If you want to contact us, use the “book a meeting” function on the website or contact us email.

Comment: There is an echo here of the situation in Thorncliffe Park where Metrolinx did not contact business owners in advance of public consultations. At least on Queen Street, they had the good sense not to claim otherwise as they had in Thorncliffe Park where businesses only found out about the plans when they were released online.

Rolling Stock and Line Capacity

Q: How many trains do you plan to buy? Will they look like Montréal’s REM (Réseau express métropolitain)?

A: The train yard is designed for 44 [100m] trains with provision for an additional 10 in the future. The RSSOM (Rolling Stock, Systems, Operations and Maintenance) contract has three proponents competing each with a vehicle supplier and their standard rolling stock. The winner will develop a fleet management strategy for the number of trains in service by time-of-day and by year. The bid closes at the end of 2021.

The tunnels are designed for “full subway type vehicles” up to 3m.

Comment: For reference, a T1 subway car is 3.13 metres wide. Remember how Metrolinx snidely talked about how the smaller vehicles they planned for the Ontario Line were superior to TTC subway cars?

Q: What is top speed of trains?

A: The design speed depends on the proponents, but we are modelling 80-90 km/h including curves designed “a full high speed operation”. Station spacing allows us to get up to this level, and platform doors allow trains to enter stations at speed safely.

What About a Cherry Station?

The Ontario Line West consultation page included a question about a possible Cherry Station and a reply from Metrolinx:

Q: Is it best that you can add a station at Cherry Street so that the Ontario line can better serve the waterfront, the distillery district and the Canary district?

A: Thanks for your suggestion. Within a six-minute walk from the Distillery District, the Ontario Line Corktown Station is intended to serve this area, Corktown, St. Lawrence Market and the West Don Lands neighbourhoods, as well as provide relief to the busy 504 King streetcar. By 2041, we project that 26,400 people will be within a comfortable 10-minute walk from Corktown Station, and about 4,100 people will use the station during the peak morning hour.

When looking at the possibility of a station on Cherry Street, one of the important factors we considered was the distance between stations. If we located a station in this area, it would be very close to both Corktown and East Harbour Stations. As a result, the trains may not have enough time or distance to fully accelerate, impacting the overall time savings for travellers.

Please know that we are working closely with the City, TTC and Waterfront Toronto to develop complementary plans for future transit expansion such as the Waterfront East LRT and a streetcar extension down Cherry Street, with the goal of creating the best possible customer experience.

Comment: There are additional factors to consider for a station at Cherry Street.

It is likely that a Cherry Station was not contemplated in the early days of the Ontario Line when the eastbound and westbound tracks would have straddled the rail corridor requiring completely separate stations for each direction.

Even with both tracks on the north side of the railway, the OL will be rising from a deep bore tunnel to the portal structure west of the Don River as it passes under Cherry. This would put the station on a grade which is dangerous for passengers. It would be close to the surface where the station mezzanine might conflict with existing utilities, and could entail the closure of Cherry Street and the streetcar line during construction. There is a strong desire to keep this line operating as a connection to the Waterfront East LRT while the Bay Street Tunnel is rebuilt.

Questions for Metrolinx

The following questions have been posed to Metrolinx, and I await their reply. This article will be updated with whatever information they provide.

  1. Osgoode Station was included in the list of sites for tonight, but in fact it was not covered. When someone raised this issue, there was no clear indication about when there would be consultation on this site, one that is historic and controversial. When do you plan to hold a meeting about Osgoode?
  2. There was a passing reference re the construction disruption at Corktown where you talked about the possibility that the tunnel will be one straight bore from Corktown to Exhibition rather than two separate ones east and west of Yonge Street.
    1. Is this a decision being left to the south tunnels bidders? It obviously has significant effects on construction staging and the length of disruption at Corktown.
    2. On a related note, how do you plan to construct the segment between Corktown and the portal west of the Don River?
  3. At Queen Station, you stated that the transfer with Line 1, although obviously deep vertically, is shorter than from the originally proposed City Hall station on the Relief Line South. This is hard to believe. Can you explain further?
  4. There was a question about station finishes where the answer quickly pivoted to the joys of above-ground stations and sunlight. This has nothing to do with downtown, underground stations. Do you plan simple bare concrete stations for the Ontario Line or not?
  5. At Moss Park Station, you talked about meeting the fire code while only having one exit building. I have been trying to figure out the plan in the presentation deck. Am I right in thinking that there are two separate sets of vertical access from the common lobby area leading to different parts of the station? How do you achieve compliance with only a single exit point?

17 thoughts on “Ontario Line Oct/21 Consultations: Downtown Segment

  1. I believe that stations were roughed in under the Queen and Osgoode stations when the Yonge and University subways were built. These were designed for Queen St. streetcars. Could probably be used now if an LRT or something like that were used for the “Ontario Line”. Andy Biemiller

    Steve: Queen, yes; Osgoode, no. The one at Yonge was not a full sized station. It will be used as part of the passageway to the vertical elements leading down to the Ontario Line.

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  2. Not strictly a transportation point but this issue has been nagging at me since the Relief Line was proposed along Queen; is there any reason I’m not seeing not to approach the feds about (and provincial support for) relocating Moss Park Armoury? Putting it in the Portlands, or some other industrial land proximate to a highway, seems more appropriate given the massive increase in land value, the restrictions on operational movements congested city streets must cause, and now causing the Moss Park station construction to be designed around the armoury. Our city needs policing, not garrisoning; a location within the city but outside the city centre would surely suffice for democratically appropriate aid to the civil power. Removing the armoury would allow for easier configuration of the site and for transit oriented development thereafter.

    Steve: Actually, it is the armoury near Fort York that will be up for review as its lease on the land runs out within the decade, I think. As for alternate locations, we cold put it in North York and call it the Mel Lastman Memorial Armoury with a fleet of snowplows making a decorative frieze around the building. Yes, it’s valuable land, but the feds are keeping it.

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  3. “Q: We’re trying to get info on station architecture, but Metrolinx is getting defensive.”

    To clarify, in the meeting, I was asking if there are any technical limitations that lead to the user-unfriendly transfer “concept design” of Queen station.

    But yes, Metrolinx do need to be more transparent. It is faster to go to Infrastructure Ontario Engage to find out how deep the stations with TOD are in Downtown.

    Steve: Thanks for the clarification. The design is, I think, very bad considering how big Metrolinx was on quick, easy transfers at East Harbour and Exhibition for their precious “GO Relief” service. There is no indication of any expansion of the rather small connections from Queen Station down to the passageways beneath. I will update the article.

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  4. You mention that the Feds are hanging onto Moss Park Armoury – where did you hear that? I understood that a private developer owned the land.

    Steve: Not sure. Somewhere in the many consultations. If it were privately owned, there is an obvious chance for a joint development.

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  5. The Corktown Station will mean the tearing up of parking lots. Wonder if the suburban automobile-centric councillors, bureaucrats, and ratepayers will be up in arms because of that? Won’t someone think of the automobile?

    (That’s being sarcastic, by the way.)

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  6. The Queen Station cross-section diagram shows a big rectangular space (coloured white) just under the passage running immediately under the Line 1 tracks. Is this Lower Queen Station? There was a comment that this space would provide a passage to the Ontario Line below. But the diagram seems to indicate that it would not be used at all.

    Steve: I have no idea what that is. It is far too low to be the Queen subway tunnel. I will have to ask.

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  7. For an organization that was so wedded to fast, simple transfers at East Harbour and at Exhibition to offload the GO system, this connection seems particularly poor. There is no indication of any increased capacity in the link between the cross-passage under Queen Station and Line 1 as if this transfer is a relatively unimportant function.

    The whole transfer BS was fairly obvious PR messaging and sell jobbing to justify axing the underground subway and moving to their preferred RT Skytrains. It’s only become more clear after they insisted on an elevated to underground transfer at Don Mills and dumped the East Harbour and Exhibition cross platform from their plans as soon as they became inconvenient.

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  8. The tunnels are designed for “full subway type vehicles” up to 3m.

    Comment: For reference, a T1 subway car is 3.13 metres wide. Remember how Metrolinx snidely talked about how the smaller vehicles they planned for the Ontario Line were superior to TTC subway cars?

    I remember that clearly, as my obvious ‘train of thought’ at the time was as to how Siemens have developed the 700 series of vehicles for the UK’s rail network, with emphasis on fully automatic versions like Thameslink’s 700 and 7XX versions, 2.80 metres coach width, standard track gauge, and the 717 dual voltage (750VDC subway third rail and GO standard 25kVAC catenary with automatic change en-route) and purposely adapted for tunnel use with emergency escape doors each end of the train.

    A significant difference between Class 717s and the earlier Class 700s is the provision of fold-down emergency doors at both ends of each train. These are required for emergency evacuation of passengers[5] while inside the deep-level Moorgate tunnels.

    Siemens began testing the Class 717 units in Germany during June 2018.

    Class 700:

    The train itself was developed specifically for the Thameslink Programme and was the world’s first ‘second generation’ fully digitally-enabled train in passenger service. The Class 700 was also the first mainline train to successfully use Automatic Train Operation (ATO) and the European Train Control System (ETCS) to increase capacity across London.

    These trains, once approved by DoT, could run not only on ‘The Ontario Line’, but on GO electrified mainlines too, offering a ‘run through’ ride eliminating the need for massive interchange stations.

    The Siemens 700 series and type of vehicle have been conspicuously absent from mention by Metrolinx. Odd, considering the incredible advantage such running would offer.

    State-of-the-art Class 700 first entered passenger service five years ago. Over 58 million miles travelled by 115-strong fleet since 2016.

    If Bombardier (now Alstom) didn’t have a fix in for this before, I’d be surprised. The tech can now be matched by others, albeit Siemens obviously have a well-proven product.

    Steve: Don’t forget that all of the GO expansion planning predates the Ontario Line and this whole capacity crisis at Union Station (which strikes me as a timely invention to further justify the Ontario Line). GO would never have considered interlining trains from its routes onto the OL because the OL didn’t exist until comparatively recently, and the capacity crisis even more recently.

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  9. As to mention in prior posts as to ownership of the Fort York Armories, some troubling news:

    I don’t have a PDF reader loaded, so copying the relevant info difficult, but it is in the opening paragraph, gist:

    ‘City of Toronto owns the land, building on 99 yr lease as of 1932’.

    The implication? The Province, as proven by recent legal rulings, can do with it as it wishes, lease contract pending.

    Further comment withheld, my stomach sinks…

    Steve: Remember that the lease in question applies to the DND Armouries, not to the historic Fort itself which as a National Historic Site is untouchable. With luck, we will be rid of DoFo and his ilk long before 1932.

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  10. My question for Metrolinx…given recent deaths of cyclist and pedestrians by construction equipment (cement trucks, dump trucks, etc.) what is the plan across the project area, especially in high traffic areas downtown to protect cyclists from the impacts of this construction…including bike lane changes, routes for construction vehicles, quickly responding to concerns from the community, and requiring construction vehicles that have high visibility of vulnerable road users.

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  11. The construction at Queen and Yonge will allow what Metrolinx calls a “long deferred TTC priority” to improve diversion routes available downtown.

    Isn’t it interesting how Metrolinx tries to frame this as doing what the TTC won’t do to “improve” service? It’s what they said about raising the tracks through Riverside too. Like they’re doing us a favour.

    At the end of the day Metrolinx is the one digging the hole for 5 years downtown and trucking in however many millions of tons of dirt to Riverside. We know who is responsible.

    Steve: A common Metrolinx tactic is to present whatever their plan “today” is as having a benefit that they might have denigrated in other circumstances such grousing about the “extra costs” of maintaining the streetcar network.

    The reason the “priority” is long deferred is that until all of the condo construction on Adelaide completes, it is impractical to talk about rebuilding the road. The TTC was looking at Spadina to Church, not just starting at York.

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  12. The station boxes appear to be about 200 meters long .. while the platforms are suppose to be 100m. Have they mentioned at all if they are protecting for platform extensions underground?

    Steve: The added space is occupied by ventillation and other equipment. There has been no mention of extending the platforms, only of buying more trains and rearranging seating to increase the capacity with standees.

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  13. I feel like I’m missing something. Why is the transfer at Queen *so* deep? By my very rough math it’s 5+ stories below line 1…which is absurd. That’s approaching London “Tube” or DC metro levels of deep. I’m not sure what kind of express escalators Metrolinx is planning but it’s almost impossible that this connection would be faster than the old City Hall station on the RL.

    Would it have to be as deep if it were under Wellington? 😉

    Steve: I am going to write a separate article about Queen Station comparing the OL and RL designs. The OL is forced go deeper because the station box is under the Yonge subway, whereas the City Hall RL station would have been to the west. The extra depth is needed for a mezzanine level above the platform that won’t fit at the same elevation if the platform is directly under Yonge Street.

    Stephen makes an interesting point on running combined rolling stock that can service both GO and Ontario Line trackage to avoid heavy transfer traffic. Nothing would divert traffic away from Union like the trains not actually going there! That being said, I don’t know how it would work from a route / network perspective – I suspect the majority of GO traffic *wants* to go to Union, and diverting certain lines up through queen instead likely wouldn’t work.

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  14. Diverting GO trains directly into the downtown relief tunnel has many problems, first of which being that it robs the downtown relief subway line of capacity for its primary goals, namely relief for Bloor-Yonge and the inner Danforth subway and service up the busy Don Mills corridor. Luckily there’s also many other problems, like high platforms on Ontario Line vs low platforms at GO stations, incompatible signalling, and that GO runs their service with relatively infrequent, long trains (even a short 6-car Bombardier BiLevel train is 150 m which is 50% longer than the Ontario Line stations sized here), so hopefully even the geniuses at Metrolinx won’t attempt this as a deflection from whatever problems they might have.

    There _is_ a role for a “second downtown crossing” sort of projects, but right now in Toronto we’re far away from where it would be the best solution – there’s a lot more easier, better things that can be done first.

    The supposed Union Station capacity crisis is amusing considering pre-pandemic GO ridership was something like 215k/day. I can believe that vast majority of them got off at Union, but Bloor-Yonge was at 204k people for Line 1 and 196k people for Line 2, so essentially the same passenger numbers in a vastly smaller space underground.

    Steve: Yes, it is annoying the degree to which the potential capacity for subway relief has been usurped by GO Transit’s recently-discovered capacity crisis at Union Station.

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  15. I’m so very glad there’s such detailed and well-informed criticisms arising; we do need a big pause and reset of these schemes, and am pleased that there is a wider call for such via John M McGrath and perhaps it’s more diplomatic on the burying of billions because TVO funding could well be cut, just because….

    We also need to somehow pry the alleged transit multi-billions of commitment AWAY from the governments and polluted processes to more of a trust, where interest allows for open planning and discourse vs. what some folks are now calling Metrolies.

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  16. The Queen Station appears to be below (or adjacent) to 2 Queen St West – the building on the corner of Yonge and Queen that Cadillac-Fairview started to restore about 2+ years ago and stopped. Anyone know if it is paused so that it can be incorporated into the Queen Station?

    Steve: The lower level will be incorporated into the station with a new entrance, fare line, etc.

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