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.
Like many issues these days, this is premised on growing traffic. It appears to avoid the question, “what if reduced traffic doesn’t reappear–at least not more than pre-covid traffic?”
Steve: If you’ve been on the subway lately, it is not exactly empty. We cannot afford to defer this work any longer and basically hope that riders will stay home.
It still seems odd to me that you can spend $1.5B and they focusing their efforts on Bloor and not Yonge. If a major activity like this is being done, they must improve everything. They have nice level of service diagrams for the existing infrastructure – but I wonder if it really improves that much with these renovations (they conveniently didn’t show level of service after renovations).
I am still partial to the 1980’s plan of putting the Yonge SouthBound directly under Yonge. This is mostly cut-and-cover work with only a few buildings being needed to tie this in to the existing alignment. SB would have a single track, and platforms on either side. Once this opens, One of the tracks (existing SB) on the existing alignment is filled in and becomes a wider platform. Now the northbound also has platform (which is now wider) on either side of tracks. (you have also created a pocket track both north and south of Bloor).
Steve: There are buildings in the way of the route from Rosedale Station southwest to Yonge Street, and also for the path back to rejoin the southbound tunnel.
I didn’t realize there were plans to redevelop the Bay site.
Steve: Just the lower piece, not the tower.
Wasn’t this supposed to be done at Union Station after the second platform opened? I haven’t seen any sign of it happening.
Steve: I suspect that they found there would be structural issues in moving some of those walls and their associated columns. But it’s a good question worth chasing.
As with much else, I question if we’re not doing the detailed work on something that may well be another costly compounding error from other errors, and if we were really seeking good value for those multi-billions, we’d do things differently, though yes, B/Y is likely and has been a pinch point for a time.
Specifically, if we have a triage Relief route (not necessarily the OL), and avoid the foolish Yonge Extension to Richmond Hill by boosting GO services combined with doing what was in the eyes of Metro 25 years ago with a better connection to a Relief Line from Oriole GO via maybe Don Mills Rd., could we thus avoid or defer this complicated project and get far better use for the billions? Even having a cut and cover (perhaps) Relief line using some of the Belt Line trail connecting/transferring at south end of Davisville to east core might be a better value, perhaps.
However, as with SSE and the other suspect projects, we (taxpayers, riders etc), won’t be given the more honest details/answers it can feel like, just the bills and opportunity costs.
Steve: I assume that you are aware that the Belt Lie Trail runs through Mt. Pleasant Cemetery, an unlikely location for cut-and-cover subway construction.
Let’s face it – sooner or later many of these buildings will be torn down for redevelopment anyway. The low-rise Canadian Tire at Yonge and Church and its parking garage won’t be there for much longer, and east side of Yonge south of Bloor is lined with 2-3 storey buildings which are probably heritage and will probably become heritage facades when a developer comes knocking. Might as well tear them a few of them down for something useful.
We can build the Eg East LRT with that money…
Steve, is there any planning for platform doors at this station or anywhere else on Line 1?
Steve: It’s an unfunded item in the long range capital budget. We will likely see the Ontario Line open with platform doors well before they show up on the existing system.
Thanks Steve, and commenters. Yes, any cut and cover in Davisville/cemetary area would be a big disruption/change, and yet, could we think of a different/easier route for some Yonge Relief, done faster/cheaper? We do need some triage now and maybe a larger project with better planning in a slightly longer time frame than what the bullDouger approach is doing.
Not that other parties will bring sense with them, and the majority of Council/Clowncil also seems to have ab-sense, and/or zero courage, though sure, it’s very uphill of late, moreso as the federal level won’t defend a sense of democracy within Canada, and seems quite OK with any billions for trans*it, as long as we vote Liberal.
How to get to a reset and re-plan more like Madrid, via StephenWickens1 on twitter.
Steve: Madrid is the poster child for fast cheap subways, but there are important differences between that city and Toronto (among many others).
First, they build cut and cover where possible, and they try to avoid areas with lots of utilities to relocate. This is simpler albeit more disruptive. Where they do bore they try to stay shallow if possible ti simplify stations. Their geology is advantageous for this.
Second, they got a ton of money from the national government and the EU. This allowed for network planning rather than endless fights over where to build next. Everybody was getting a subway eventually and progress was visible enough to show this would actually happen. Network planning and construction also allowed for continuity of project engineering, management and workforce.
The part about working with rather than against communities is also instructive. Complex approval processes grew out of mistrust and the need to constrain gonzo proponents. Waterfront Toronto figured this out ages ago, although they did run aground on the Quayside project and the siren calls of Google/Alphabet.
It is too common to envy Madrid’s success while failing to absorb its lessons.
Also, any fool can draw lines on a map, but whether they are an appropriate “solution” or simply this year’s political scratching in the sand is quite another matter.
Could the closing of the Hudson Bay Centre store shorten the construction time?
Steve: I believe that partial demolition of the building was already proposed. The real difficulty will be that there is an underground stream that flows around various structures and occasionally makes its way into the subway station, notably at the west end of the Line 2 platform. The Bay is actually built on an underground bridge that carries the weight down to bedrock.