Ontario Line Downtown Segment: Consultation Follow-Up

Updated October 14, 2021 at 12:50 am: Metrolinx’ responses to the absence of material on Osgoode Station, and of the suggestion of “ballot stuffing” have been added.

After the recent online consultation session for the Downtown Segment of the Ontario Line (Osgoode to Corktown), several issues came to mind and I wrote to Metrolinx for clarification. They have not yet answered most of them.

The Depth and Complexity of Queen Station

The cross-section for Queen Station included in the presentation shows an Ontario Line deep underground. This station is deeper than the City Hall Station on the Relief Line which was located immediately west of Yonge Street.

Ontario Line

Queen Yonge Cross Section Looking North, Ontario Line. Source: Metrolinx

Relief Line

City Hall Station Cross Section Looking North, Relief Line. Source: Relief Line South Detailed Design

These two drawings are not at the same scale. The illustration below clips portions of each with scales adjusted to match. In both designs, the new structure leaves a gap below the existing station for structural support. However, with the Ontario Line directly under the Yonge Line, the concourse level (one above platform level) cannot share the same vertical “slice” that the Relief Line, offset from the Yonge Line, uses. This forces a deeper station than would otherwise be needed.

Metrolinx claims that transfer times between the two stations are actually shorter for the Ontario Line than the Relief Line, but this is hard to believe considering that OL riders must walk east or west at the concourse level just to reach an escalator upward from what would have been platform level on the Relief Line.

Note that in both cases, the level of the passageway under Queen Station (the remains of a never-used Yonge Station on a Queen line) connect to the circulation system of the new station. It is not clear, however, that the capacity of the existing passage, stairs and escalators is up to the potential level of transfer traffic. That problem is common to either design.

What Is Happening at Osgoode Station?

The meeting announcement clearly states that Osgoode Station would be up for discussion. This is a controversial site where Metrolinx plans to build a new entrance and access shaft where there is now a grove of trees on the northeast corner of Queen Street and University Avenue at Osgoode Hall. See: Ontario Line v Osgoode Hall. Trees on main streets downtown, let alone on an historic site, are not exactly common, and the Metrolinx plan verges on civic vandalism.

In particular, there is a proposal floating around at City Hall to substantially reconfigure University Avenue by extending the east sidewalk (shown below) into the northbound roadway. The trees at Osgoode Hall are an integral part of the new design.

This locations of station entrances for the Ontario Line are different than in the original Relief Line plans because the OL station box is shifted west. (See the article linked above for detailed layouts.) The Relief Line station ran from just west of University to York, with a new expanded entrance on the southwest corner at University and a completely new entrance at York and Queen. The Ontario Line station runs from west of Simcoe to University with new entrances through the Osgoode Hall lands and through an old bank on the southwest corner of Queen and Simcoe.

This is a controversial subject, and Osgoode Station was included in the announced meeting agenda. This agenda is still online on the meeting page. Clearly when this meeting was announced Metrolinx intended to include Osgoode Station.

That page now claims:

The presentation focused on timely updates for Queen, Moss Park and Corktown Stations. While this presentation did not feature an update on Osgoode Station, the panel welcomed and responded to questions about all four stations within the segment.

That is flatly not true. A few people asked about Osgoode Station’s absence from the presentation, but there was no substantive discussion because no material was presented.

Metrolinx has not yet posted any replies to the questions submitted online, but there is an added wrinkle in that regard. There had been a popular question about Osgoode Hall that ranked third on the list on September 28.

By October 12, this question had gained more support, but also a large number of down-votes pushing it well down the list. One might speculate that this is a question Metrolinx would prefer not to answer. In this age of challenged votes, we cannot tell whether any ballot-stuffing was involved. (See Metrolinx’ reply at the end of this section.)

I asked Metrolinx about Osgoode Station’s absence from the actual agenda, and here is their reply:

The Ontario Line virtual open house on October 7 did focus on the Downtown segment, which includes Osgoode, Queen, Moss Park and Corktown Stations. However, similar to other open houses we have hosted across the alignment, we did not feature an update on all stations in the segment.

As you noted, we did not include new information about Osgoode Station in the October 7 presentation. There are a few reasons we did not cover Osgoode in the presentation. First and foremost, we did not have significant updates to share about the station. Additionally, we aim to keep the presentations to 30-minutes to allow ample time for questions. Given that we had substantial updates to cover for all of the three other stations but not for Osgoode, we did not explicitly highlight this station during the presentation. Nonetheless, we welcomed questions related to all Downtown stations and will post responses for any questions we did not get to answer during the live event in the coming weeks. 

We look forward to bringing new updates and more information to the community about all stations across the Ontario Line as they are available. We also always welcome questions and feedback via email, phone, and social media. Anyone interested in learning more about any station can also visit our website or book a meeting with a community relations team member.

Email from Caitlin Docherty, Community Relations & Issues Specialist – Ontario Line, October 12, 2021

To have no update on a controversial station site, if only to say “we have some ideas and we’re working on it”, suggests avoidance, not merely a desire for brevity. Moreover, there was no suggestion during the meeting of an alternate date when that site could be discussed.

This is not a trivial issue both in its own right, and because Metrolinx operates to a clock ticking quickly and inexorably on a compressed approval timetable. Delaying discussion makes real debate, let alone the possibility of modification, more difficult.

It is all very well to suggest that people can contact Metrolinx one-on-one, but this is not the same as a published community meeting where whatever claims Metrolinx makes are public and can be challenged. Even in public meetings, Metrolinx makes statements that can be charitably described as misinformed. They can claim to have “consulted”, ticking off a box in the legislated process, but without a public check on their accuracy.

Updated October 14, 2021 at 12:50 am:

Metrolinx has replied further:

Consultation is absolutely planned once we have new significant updates to share for Osgoode. During the virtual open house, we welcomed questions related to all Downtown stations and will post responses for any questions we did not get to answer during the live event in the coming weeks. 

I want to be very direct with the second half of your email. Metrolinx does not manipulate the votes in any way on Metrolinx Engage. We use the votes to gauge community interest and determine which questions we will have time to answer.

Email from Daryl Gonsalves, Community Relations & Issues Specialist – Ontario Line, October 14, 2021

I will take this at face value, but it is clear that somebody really didn’t want to have a discussion about the trees at Osgoode Hall.

More Questions

The following questions to Metrolinx await answers.

Queen Station

  1. 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?
  2. Was there any reason for the change in the OL elevation other than the geometric constraint at Yonge caused by shifting the station eastward?
  3. From a construction point of view at Queen Station do you plan to dig two shafts down east and west of Yonge, and then mine inward from the sides?
  4. With the station at Yonge now being an entire level below the RL plan, what does this do to elevations at Osgoode and Moss Park compared to the original RL designs?

Moss Park Station

  • 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? This was a known advance question and simply including a station plan would have answered this.

Corktown Station Construction Effects

  • 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?

Station Finishes

  • 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?

9 thoughts on “Ontario Line Downtown Segment: Consultation Follow-Up

  1. Possibly the Osgoode Hall trees question was downvoted by people who want University Avenue to remain a runway for their personal vehicles? They might be organized outside of Metrolinx…

    Steve: That sounds far too devious!

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  2. I will take this at face value, but it is clear that somebody really didn’t want to have a discussion about the trees at Osgoode Hall.

    because that alongside your other articles about leslieville and don valley, the world aint goin to end over 5 replanted trees. There are people out there that do in fact want this and other infrastructure built asap and not to have nimbys slowing down the process.

    Steve : The issue with greenery is pervasive through many Metrolinx projects as is their double-dealing when conducting “consultations”. And it’s a lot more than five trees.

    This is not about nimbys, much as Metrolinx would love to portray their critics that way.

    And I see you are so proud of your identity you hide behind “anon” and a garbage email address. Now piss off.

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  3. Should not having many votes up and down be a sign that there is greater interest in the topic? It seems to me that a comment that gets 20 up votes and 20 down votes has 40 people interested in the answer with perhaps half not happy with whatever the answer ends up being.

    Steve: The early votes were much more strongly in favour 13:7, but the “down” votes grew more proportionately over two weeks. Why would someone be opposed to a reasonable question that talked about an alternative that could be incorporated into an already-proposed reconfiguration of the area? This question was posed on September 4 and Metrolinx has still not answered over a month later.

    Their strategy has always seemed to be to “run the clock” so that by the time they do come out with some half-assed answer, it is too late to make any changes.

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  4. Pardon my language but Steve has been bitching endlessly about cutting down half a dozen trees on the grounds of Osgoode Hall but Steve had no problem with cutting hundreds of trees in Scarborough thanks to Steve’s push to build surface LRT on Eglinton in Scarborough. And thousands of trees have been cut in Scarborough and Markham due to the double tracking of the Stoufville Line. If Steve really cared about the environment, why has he not raised any objections to cutting thousands of trees in Scarborough and Markham? But this same Steve is up in arms over cutting half a dozen trees in Downtown Toronto. Steve is nothing but a NIMBY in the skin of an “environmentalist” (SARCASTIC QUOTES).

    Steve: Pardon my language, but you are a dumb f*ck who posts regularly, under pseudonyms, and usually with blithering stupidity and profanity.

    I have a big problem with Metrolinx tree clearances, especially where they have occurred without notice under the “approval” granted via the GO Expansion years ago. I have been trying to hold Metrolinx’ feet to the fire generally on this program to get accurate info about what they have done, including actual replacements. The issue comes up “downtown” these days because that’s where the Ontario Line happens to be. Not in Scarborough.

    The point about the Ontario Line is that, in theory, it has not been approved yet, and there is still a chance to prevent some of the worst effects, but with their “early works” programs, Metrolinx is making sure that the damage is done before a new government can undo them.

    I try to be civil with Metrolinx and engage them as an agency that could do a lot of good if only they were not so arrogant.

    As for you, I look forward to deleting your future comments, as per usual.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m late to both this post and the ‘consult’ – and how to get the point that things proposed may be somewhat technically well done, but fundamentally wrong in location and in the underlying presumptions (likely including depth)?

    Certainly there’s far less immediate demand for transit now; on both systems – and thus it seems we shouldn’t be so full speed ahead vs. better/more options, if we had the will and imagination to dig up other old plans, which with use of the surface of Don Valley, including the DVP south of Thorncliffe, could be a few billion, and done far faster.

    And maybe we need two projects; one as a triage for Yonge and N/S, and another far more aligned with the 1957 plan, though maybe directly east-west on King or Adelaide, and going out to Islington as per 1957, not just up to Eglinton.
    The federal level and other parties are likely the leverage points; as per usual, the core is being outvoted/subjected/driven over by the carservatives, and what’s a few billion? And it will not be progress to have a Relief project of sorts only to have more loading on Yonge by any further extension of that brittle spine..

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  6. Your previous illustration of the proposed Moss Park station showed another underhanded piece of business – the resuscitation from the grave of the replacement of the John Innes Community Centre, which replacement was originally going to be a privately-funded transgender recreation centre, then, after that donor got cold feet, became a City of Toronto porkbarrel project that died after months of so-called community engagement. (I requested all the documentation and I attended every meeting, so I know whereof I speak.)

    Do you plan simple bare concrete stations for the Ontario Line or not?

    The Harris government reduced the budget of the Sheppard line by the same ostensibly extra and superfluous amount spent on “flash” (actual term used) for Downsview. (Toronto Life published that fact and David Lawson of the TTC confirmed it to my face.)

    Steve: Yes, there was that whole “we shouldn’t waste money on flash” business that flowered, if we can call it that, at Downsview and on the Sheppard Line. On the TYSSE, we have palatial monuments at street level above bare-bones stations (where the concrete problems are already evident) below.

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  7. One of the reasons for originally putting the Relief Line Queen station west of Yonge was to have the west entrance closer to City Hall, in addition to reducing the need to go deep and deal with the complications of building below the existing subway. Obviously, something has changed from that original design assessment, though I’m not sure what would cause that significant of a change after so much design work had been done under the original premise.

    Steve: Metrolinx and their Boffins have messed around a lot with the Relief Line designs while claiming that they recycled much of the original work. At East Harbour, they were adamant that the “across the platform” transfer possible with the surface alignment straddling the rail corridor was essential, and that the planned Broadview/Eastern station was too deep and far away. Such considerations do not seem to bother them elsewhere on the line.

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  8. If only the original RL plans had routed the line to King Street as it should have. There are buildings east of Yonge slated to be demolished for new development soon and there is a lot more surface space to play with around and to the west of University.

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