Metrolinx Don Valley Layover “Consultation” Update (Corrected)

Correction: Metrolinx has advised community members that the pop-up at Frankland School is one of a series of such events and is not intended as a formal consultation session given with almost no notice.

In their continued goal of always being right (one might say “Resistance Is Futile”), Metrolinx has published another article about why we just must have the Don Valley Layover track on the former Don Branch from roughly Rosedale Valley Road to the “Half Mile Bridge”.

There is little new in this article which re-iterates much previous material, but at greater length in an attempt to appear oh-so-reasonable.

Of particular interest is the sense that after resisting community input, Metrolinx appears to be softening their position. “Appears” is the operative word here.

While working on that, Metrolinx is making sure to protect the Don Valley, as the area sees this work to come later this month (December).

• Arborists (tree experts) will evaluate trees in the vicinity of the proposed layover
• Biologists will assess the habitat features in the adjacent area 
• Heritage experts will assess any impacts on heritage features in the area including the Prince Edward Viaduct
• Engineers will assess the current infrastructure.

Metrolinx initiated a procurement process for the technical advisor that will advance the design for the layover facility. In addition to architects and engineers, this team will include landscape architects and restoration experts.

Metrolinx expects to have the consultant on board early in 2022 to begin the initial design and work with the community.

What is not clear is whether there will actually be any change to the proposed design, or if this is a typical “consultation” where the community gets to choose the colour of the wallpaper.

There will be a pop-up consultation at Frankland School tonight (Dec 2) starting at 4:30 pm. What, you say you don’t know about this? That’s no surprise as Metrolinx does not mention it on their own engagement site, and few people who live in the area have heard of it. However, in due course it will serve the purpose of reassuring Metrolinx Board members and politicians that there has been “consultation”.

See correction text at the beginning of this article.

Metrolinx claims that the Don Branch is the only suitable location, but they have never addressed key questions:

  • Metrolinx claims that the “Rosedale Siding”, a second track on the GO Richmond Hill corridor west of the Don River, cannot be used for storage as it is required as a passing track. (Indeed with the recent diversion of VIA trains over this route, GO and VIA trains passed each other using this siding.) However, they fail to acknowledge that the right-of-way held three tracks, not two, in the past, and that a third track could be restored. (See photos in this article.)
  • Metrolinx claims that support buildings are required at this location even though a similar storage facility on the Lakeshore East corridor at Midland has no buildings and trains are simply parked there.
  • Metrolinx has not addressed a proposal to place the support buildings and parking, to the extent that they are actually required, at the north end of the layover track beside the Bayview/DVP connection road rather than at the Viaduct.
  • Metrolinx plans to use the Richmond Hill corridor as a turnback area for trains at Union Station. However, they are electrifying double track all the way to Pottery Road, far further than is needed as a turnback facility. This implies that the line will be used for something else, possibly storage of trains, but Metrolinx is silent on this.

Metrolinx talks about reduction in the footprint of the layover facility, but this typically refers to revisions made a few years ago when the proposed location was changed and some of the buildings were redesigned. They have not addressed why the buildings are needed if only between-rush hour storage is planned, as opposed to the ovenight operations that were contemplated in the original scheme.

By conflating changes made in the past with current community criticism, Metrolinx implies that they are altering their scheme today. That is misleading, as parliamentarians would say.

The whole matter of Metrolinx’ relationship with trees is fraught on many of their projects. Of particular concern is that they bring in an arborist to review the situation well after they pass the point of no return in design lockdown.

The site review they now plan is rather odd considering that the Environmental Assessment and Site Selection processes are complete. If they are truly contemplating reopening the question, this would run contrary to their approach on many projects where “consultation” proceeds while Metrolinx assumes that nothing will change and plans accordingly.

In a separate article, Metrolinx claims that the area to be occupied has already been disturbed by construction.

Placing these buildings immediately north of the viaduct will take advantage of construction that has already been done in the area. This is an area where green space was previously disturbed during the rehabilitation of the viaduct and there is already an access road in place to support an adjacent hydro facility.

That statement might have been valid for the originally proposed location south of the Viaduct which was used some years back as a staging area for work on the bridge. However, the area north of the Viaduct is treed as anyone can see looking down from the subway on the viaduct, and as I can simply by looking out my apartment window. Even the staging area south of the bridge has grown back in, and the idea that it is expendable because it was “disturbed” is no longer valid, but it suits Metrolinx to misrepresent actual conditions.

(For the record, I live in the building at the upper right of this image.)

Google Earth June 2021

At the heart of this debate is a fundamental distrust of Metrolinx’ intentions based on their dealings with many communities in many projects. “Trust” is not a word one would use.

I have no illusions that this work will be stopped, but wish that Metrolinx would stop trying to prove “the community” wrong and address real concerns about their proposals. This is a small part of a much larger project, but it shows just how things can go wrong with “public participation”.

10 thoughts on “Metrolinx Don Valley Layover “Consultation” Update (Corrected)

  1. Mx states they own the track and slope. Their website states RoW is 15 meters from outside rail. That’s a small portion of the slope. The ‘required’ trackside service road construction continues to be the most destructive element of the location…especially as it extends through the ESA south of the viaduct to the steel bridge.

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  2. There’s actually one thing to be quite thankful for here – Steve’s blunt but articulate and factual dissing of what is becoming a larger Frod as it were, and what a shame we haven’t had far more serious and comprehensive plannings with both GO and TTC, such as doing the EA for a better connection from Oriole GO to something at Eglinton/Don Mills as per last Official Plan of Metro, prior to the ‘amanglemation’ of the last Con regime. If we could try another top-down approach, and have the temerity and imagination to explore Davis-era plans, (thanks Steve for having that image on your site), maybe we could save many billions for transit, yes, but also for eyecare, nurses, housing, deficit reduction, upgrading schools vs. selling off and trashing the buildings, etc. etc.

    And speaking of images, very glad there’s a clear one of a no-brainer for some of us: a fairly empty Don Valley Excessway with guesstimating 40 (forty!) people moving thereon, and why aren’t we thinking of using, or converting portions of it for a fast, direct trip to the core, or near-core, as part of a triage Relief that is very focussed on Yonge Relief as Eglinton’s opening soon may well push more people onto Yonge at a full point.

    Carservative transit planning lurks in at least two major parties however, and the TO core is dominated by these ‘carservatives’ (and an amusing tpo on a new sticky computer keyboard led me to dropping the c and a smirk;), – and as there’s near-zero dimes of these polluticians in the transit follies and a smell that they’re happy to manage a decline of transit, whilst blah blah about climate emergency, now worse.

    Maybe the Toronto Council will ask the federal level to declare us a ‘Dougsaster’ zone, but it’s unlikely, so citizens need to be pressing the federal level parties, and other provincial level parties on this mess, including the future of Metrolies as it is becoming known, but also robust EAs that also measure concrete usages.

    And there are billions to be perhaps saved, what a shame there’s not a small tiny fraction of those public tax dollars available for public interest defence, which has been subsumed for a few decades.

    Because what’s a few billion, eh?

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  3. Using the CP Don Valley line as a storage track is crazy. They *could* be using it instead of their new Indian-built train. (Yes, it would cost a lot to upgrade and maybe doubletrack the CP Don Valley line, but I believe a lot less than any of the alternatives. And it could be done more quickly than alternatives, even with a Broadview transfer. Could be single-track now–double if/when needed. A place may be needed for GO storage. Of course, had CN not given away the line through Don Mills, the Don Valley line would have been better for the Richmond Hill line as well–very slow and winding. And that line in the valley could have been used for storage tracks. Wishful thinking. We live in an era of madness–not to mention unknown future traffic patterns. (I will believe that alternative downtown business will appear–*when* I see it. Seems to me that white collar work will partially stay “at home”. And I doubt if blue collar work will return to the heart of downtown. Cheers, Andy

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  4. The core of the issue is demonstrating the actual need to build it and if so – when does it need to be ready? Neither question has been answered by Metrolinx.

    Metrolinx published the Full Business Case for GO Expansion in 2018. The cost benefit ratio calculations are wishful thinking and mistakes. In summer 2021 Metrolinx quietly updated their algorithms for BCR calculations but did not re-publish an updated outcome. Even then the algorithms were full of holes leading to much more optimistic projections. These BCR calculations are not neutral evaluations to help government make decisions, they are numbers used to backfill decisions already made and defend budgets already allocated.

    When I challenged the Board of Directors about their governance of Metrolinx and their role challenging the CEO and staff, the Chairman ignored the question of governance and took the role of defending the outdated model and data. He also said that as long as a project has a BCR greater than 1 ($1 invested gets you $1 value) then the actual value of the BCR doesn’t matter. In other words, they don’t know the actual BCR, they won’t challenge the staff to find out and they don’t care what the actual number is at all. Nor are they interested finding and cutting out the less effective parts of GO Expansion. Helluva way to govern a $16.8 billion project.

    The question of work from home vs commute has always been a simmering issue for GO since it is focused on providing commuter service to Union station. In the original modelling numbers as low as 3-5% were used growing to 8% in 2041. The Covid accelerated work from home and ridership dropped. Metrolinx says that Covid is a temporary issue, like the 2008 recession, and ridership will bounce back then growth will require expansion. The point is it’s about “work from home” has been accelerated by Covid. Work from home went from 5% to as high as 95% and is now around 77%. Forecasting WFH trend is now very tricky and is of critical important not only to Metrolinx but also to every REIT owning buildings in the downtown core. The point is 2018 numbers and assumptions are obsolete with the conclusion GO Expansion is a dubious investment. Parts of it probably make sense and other parts (Don Valley Layover being one) are either unnecessary or can be deferred for quite a long time.

    Metrolinx really needs to be taken out to the woodshed and forced to redo their BCR and present them publicly with breakdowns specific to each line. There is money to be saved, which is far better spent on education or long term health care. The negligent management of the public purse coming out of the Minister of Transportation’s office these days is grounds for inquiry and firing.

    Steve: Metrolinx made itself very useful to the Ford administration as his builder of subways including the ludicrous Eglinton West tunnel. They obviously hoped to get Crosstown open before the election, even if it was an inherited project. However, in part thanks to their own ham fisted legal battles with their P3 “partners”, “2022” is starting to look like an odometer that’s about to roll over to the next value. (Apologies to those who only know about digital readouts and have no idea what I’m talking about.)

    The challenge for any new government will be what to replace it with? Who can be trusted to right the ship, and who should walk the plank? And even then, what does a new regional transportation policy look like?

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  5. It will be interesting to see what Metrolinx does for storage track over the next ten years as GO Expansion happens.

    For example, the CN storage track along Lake Shore just east of the Don Roadway…or maybe even those sections of rail that run in the median of Lake Shore. Or maybe the auxiliary track in Mississauga between Cooksville and Erindale GO station, or the Orangeville-Brampton Railway (which starts at Streetsville Junction and is about to be sold by the town of Orangeville).

    Back to the Don Valley layover, if their premise for storage is acceptable it makes sense that they would first look for land close to downtown that they already own. Both the sections of the Don Branch fit that bill. I wonder if there are reasons why using the west side Don Branch (Richmond Hill GO corridor) would not work but the east side Don Branch (former CP corridor) would. Aside from the cost of replacing the third track could it be that there are crewing issues? Is it possible that Milton Line trains (that run with CP crews) have to get storage and cleaning on (former) CP track thanks to arcane railway rules that Metrolinx knows about but won’t explain?

    Steve: I doubt it is anything that complex. When this proposal started out, it was a three track fan in the flood plain south of the Viaduct, and with provision for overnight servicing. The east side is the only place something like that would fit. Then it became one long storage track, and the buildings were under the Viaduct. That ran afoul of the City because things fall off of the bridge when repairs are underway and so the third iteration put the buildings north of the bridge as currently proposed. This is a case where the original purpose of the facility dictated design choices, but Metrolinx has not walked that back and said “just what are we building this for anyhow”. In particular, they appear to be providing electrified storage on the west side all the way up to Pottery Road, but claim this is just for Union Station turnbacks.

    I really think that most people who do Metrolink PR don’t know the history and wind up pissing people off with rote responses coupled with a strong implication that “there has already been consultation” and “you just have to accept progress”.

    At today’s Metrolinx Board meeting, there was a question to Phil Verster that was clearly a setup, and allowed him to trot out his ever-so-reasonable spiel about community consultation. They are their own worst enemy and could achieve so much more if they were not just trying to railroad previous decisions through.

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  6. The community pop-up was a joke. Frankland community centre has very very little foot traffic so I think they were expecting a quiet night of computer games, Tiktok videos and then ticking the box for community consultation. They had no map to explain what and where the plan was for the 15 or so attendees. At one point someone arrived and demanded the line be buried, confusion reigned until some explained the meeting was focused on the Don Valley layover. After that it dissolved into unfocused splinter chats.

    There was no coffee or cake.

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  7. The choice of the time is telling. A start time of 4:30PM onwards appears to be chosen to be inconvenient as possible. Most people are still at work or just getting off. Then most people have to think about dinner preparation. If they were serious they would have had it at 7:00PM like many other public meeting I have attended.

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  8. I find it ‘interesting’ that in their weekly Toronto East Newsletter, the headline story is: “How Don Valley Layover is Part of a New Vision for Transit in the GTHA”. Clearly all of us who think this is an unnecessarily large project are simply old fuddy-duddies who are standing in the way of progress!

    Steve: It’s typical Metrolinx spin. They seem to be more and more desperate to portray their work as meaningful to the future of mankind.

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  9. If they definitely need this here, they should make things better elsewhere in the valley…my suggestion is to replace the Bayview/DVP off-ramp junction by converting it from a cloverleaf to a traffic circle…this would take up much less space in the valley which could be reclaimed and returned to park. It would also allow for better pedestrian access from Castle Frank to the Brickworks, and better bus access throughout the valley.

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