At its meeting of December 8, 2021, the TTC Board received a report and presentation about the Bloor-Yonge project. This is a massive undertaking to expand capacity at the major junction of the subway network that is considered critical to future demand growth on the network.
Funding to the tune of $1.5 billion is already committed by the City, the Province of Ontario and the Federal government.
The project will:
- Add a new, separate eastbound platform on the south side of the existing station similar to the reconfigured Union Station where a northbound-to-Yonge platform was added.
- Convert the existing centre platform to westbound only.
- Add and reconfigure vertical access between the concourse east and west of the Line 1 station to Line 2 below.
- Substantially increase the concourse space.
- Increase ventillation fan capacity to reflect both the expanded station area and current fire code.
- Add new entrance connections at 81 Bloor East and link the existing automatic entrance on Yonge north of Bloor to the new platform.
- Reconfigure the main entrance of the station at 2 Bloor East.
In pre-pandemic times, severe congestion was common particularly, but not only, on the southbound platform. If nothing is done about this, the safety issues this brings will become more severe and train operations will be hampered by the volume of passengers.
Although Automatic Train Control will allow for more frequent service, this also means that passengers can be delivered to the station at a faster rate than today. If stairs, escalators and platforms cannot handle the added demand, the station will be a pinch point on the network. At a political level, the City of Toronto Council is already on record as requiring this expansion (as well as the Relief, now Ontario Line) as pre-requisites for the Line 1 Yonge extension to Richmond Hill.
The issues facing the TTC are summarized early in the presentation deck.
Modification & expansion of the existing Bloor-Yonge Station required to address current issues and future ridership demand as follows:
• Overcrowding of the Line 2 platform due to substandard platform width and congested vertical circulation in the AM and PM peak hour
• Overcrowding of the Line 1 platforms due to poor passenger distribution leading to congestion and queuing at vertical circulation in the AM and PM peak hour
• Overcrowding of Lines 1 and 2 platforms AM and PM peak hour hampering alighting and boarding leading to increase in dwell time for trains
• Projected ridership growth will exacerbate current deficiencies in station performance
• Projected ridership growth will greatly extend recovery time from a missed headway
• Line 1 expansion to Richmond HillPresentation deck, p. 3
“Do Nothing Is Not An Option”
If the station is not expanded, there will be severe crowding problems. The heat map below shows where these are projected to occur in the AM peak by 2031. Users of this station will recognize and remember this pattern.
There may be a lot of space at the station, but a lot of it is underutilized in part due to the station geometry which is closer to a “T” than a “+” junction.
Note that this problem exists even with the contribution of the Ontario Line to ridership diversion.
By 2056 if nothing is done, then the station simply does not function. There are far more people trying to use the station than the platforms or trains could handle.
Platform and Circulation Space Expansion
The expansion will dig out under Bloor Street (as well as within part of the existing building basement) to provide more circulation space for riders.
On the Line 1 (YUS) level, the expanded station looks like this. The new concourse space is primarily under Bloor Street. There will additional links between the concourse and what will become the westbound platform, although some of this work will not occur until after the eastbound platform opens.
The view below looks southeast on the northbound platform into the expanded concourse space.
On the Line 2 (BD) level, there is a completely new platform for eastbound riders. Note that the circulation elements to this platform are located off of the main part of the platform rather than in the middle of it as on the current shared platform.
On the westbound side, vertical elements will be relocated against the new south wall of that platform to shift the open platform space to the westbound track side in many locations. As noted above, this work will not occur until after the new eastbound platform opens.
The view below looks west on the new eastbound platform from the point of view of a train. The triple escalator on the left is visible in the plan above near the east end of the platform.
A Cutaway View of the Station
Here is the east end of the expanded station to show how it relates to Bloor Street. The triple escalator mentioned above is clearly shown in the access down to the new platform.
Note also the new escalator bank up from the Line 1 Concourse. These escalators would link into a new entrance there, possibly within a rebuild development where The Bay is today.
Project Time Frame
A tentative schedule for the project shows when various activities will occur. This is tied in with the procurement strategy the TTC plans to use in which the construction contractor is part of the design team so that issues can be identified before rather than during the work.
Design is already underway for “Early Works” needed to prep the site for construction, and the actual work on these will begin in mid 2022. Concurrently, the engineering team will be created with an intent of beginning detailed design to the 60-80 per cent range for phase 1 of the project (the eastbound platform) in 2023.
Actual approval to proceed with construction would occur in Q4 2023, and construction would begin in Q2 2024.
The second phase (westbound platform and main entrance reconfiguration ) would be designed in 2024, but not begin construction until mid-2030 following opening of the eastbound platform and possibly in conjunction with redevelopment of The Bay’s site which now includes the main entrance.
Meanwhile on Line 2
The Yonge line is not the only one in need of renewal and added capacity. Line 2’s shortcomings were known years ago and were discussed by the Board while Andy Byford was still CEO. He left, and the whole matter dropped from sight.
This will re-emerge as part of the budget discussions at the Board’s December 20, 2021 meeting. Issues include:
- Capacity on Line 2 for higher demand, new trains, stations, signals, power, train storage and operating plans.
- The problem of storing and maintaining a new, larger fleet of Line 2 trains that are planned for 2026 to 2032. The City is acquiring land near Kipling Station for this purpose (the former Obico Yard), but there is no funding in place for a track connection to it as well as the actual yard and carhouse.
One important change since Byford’s era is that Greenwood Yard will no longer be needed for a Downtown Relief Line, and so there is more storage capacity on Line 2 than was anticipated at the time. That said, all of this storage is full today at Greenwood, Keele Yard and Kipling Station due in part to the TTC’s small surplus of T1 subway trains. (Prepandemic service required 46 trains or 276 cars, plus 56 spares for a total of 332. The fleet numbers 370 cars.)
A related question that is sure to pop up will be whether Line 2 should be extended southwest from Kipling given new developments planned at and near Sherway Gardens.