A Tour of the Ontario Line

On Tuesday, February 1 at 11:00 am, I will be giving a webinar about the Ontario Line for Smart Density, a planning firm in downtown Toronto.

The intent is to give a tour of the line and a general overview of how it fits, or does not, into the City along with a bit of the history of its predecessor, the Relief Line. Given the focus of Smart Density’s other webinars, I will touch on planned developments around stations on the line some of which are products of the “Transit Oriented Communities” program of Infrastructure Ontario.

Updated February 2, 2022:

The presentation including my detailed notes and a link to the video of the webinar are available in Webinar for Smart Density: An Ontario Line Tour.

14 thoughts on “A Tour of the Ontario Line

  1. Hi Steve, I’ve marked the date/time for your webinar meeting Feb 1, but don’t have ZOOM access info. Cheers, Andy B.

    Steve: The link is in the post. Click on the word “webinar”.

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  2. Did Metrolinx deign us with illustrations of the elevated station boxes through Riverside and Thorncliffe or is that a surprise that’s to come after they sign contracts?

    Steve: They have not yet published any station designs for Riverside, Gerrard, Cosburn, Flemingdon Park, Thorncliffe Park. Basically the whole “north civils” project is a mystery. I think they are still at the crayon stage on some of this stuff, or don’t want to terrify the neighbours.

    Also, they have not yet explained how the junctions at Osgoode and Pape will actually work, or how inconvenient they will be to use. They were big on really convenient transfers between GO and the OL because they are so desperate to “solve” the Union Station capacity problem, but don’t seem to give a damn about the convenience of stations anywhere else.

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  3. I truly do not understand why they would -once again- only build half a line.

    Connecting to the Sheppard subway (or, dare I say it, converting the Sheppard into an extension of the Ontario) would open up so much utility and connectivity.

    Sigh

    Steve: The whole issue of a “Don Mills Subway” has been a missed opportunity for decades. It took ages for the TTC to accept that they could not fit all of the riders onto the Yonge line and an eastern relief line was needed. It was quickly apparent (and indeed part of plans going back over half a century) that the line should go to Eglinton (remembering that at the time there were still a lot of fields on the northern end of Don Mills). Metrolinx own demand projections showed that a line to Sheppard would draw so much traffic from Yonge that demand there would actually drop and there would be plenty of room for riders from a Yonge extension northward.

    But instead of going further north, the Ontario line goes west with the principal reason no doubt being to serve development at Exhibition Place as well as the south end of Liberty Village which is already going to get a second GO station.

    I agree that the “Don Mills” line should go further north, but doubt we will see this for decades.

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  4. I’m curious as to the role that 388 Carlaw will play in the Gerrard Station. 388 Carlaw was “picked up” by Metrolinx late in the game, and there is no indication as to what Metrolinx plans to do with this large property, other than hold it for later development.

    Steve: The initial use of this property could well be as part of the construction staging area for work on the joint GO/OL corridor from Gerrard southward. Dickens Street is the access path. It’s an obvious property for resale and development as part of the wider redevelopment that will inevitably occur around Gerrard Station, notably on the Gerrard Square mall.

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  5. I hope this goes up to Sheppard ….these guys lack foresight.

    If the Yonge extension gets built, I imagine there would be increased load on the Yonge line, esp if Metrolinx starts charging for parking at the GO stations. For someone who has taken the subway daily to downtown for work from Richmond hill, the train gets full at Sheppard; true relief would connect the Ontario line to Sheppard.

    Separate question, have they considered extending the Yonge extension to 16th Avenue? Would make sense given there’s Hillcrest mall and lots of traffic there (not to mention 3 major condo developments at that intersection).

    Steve: It is possible that the line will go further north to a new yard north of 16th, but that is not yet definite. If it goes that far, then another station could make sense, although it would be at the rail corridor, a bit east of Yonge.

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  6. Obviously, there’s some interest in opening up the scope/scale/routings of whatever might be built, and presumably Steve (and others) will touch upon the polluted politricks of ‘planning”, which for me include needing a triage approach up to Eglinton via Thorncliffe, but also using regional transit for regional transit. That is, not being suckered in to acquiescing to having a, an over-long, brittle spine made any longer ie. no Yonge extension but a neutral look at Richmond Hill GO line enhancements. And that is really needing Relief right now, with such drops in ridership? Maybe the Yonge line first and foremost, then maybe Danforth, and do we really need to be having the Relief of Union as much as we’re being taken towards?

    Steve: My talk is not intended as a detailed critique or an exploration of various alternatives beyond mentioning the few that have come up in community discussions.

    As for your alternative scheme, you really need to decide whether to argue for relief, albeit on another alignment, or that relief is not required. You can’t have it both ways. The long-abandoned CP/CN connection south of Oriole is a non-starter because, among other things, any line using it would miss Thorncliffe and Flemingdon Parks, not to mention Don Mills & Eglinton where there will be a lot of development.

    Richmond Hill GO definitely needs improvement, but that does not negate the justification for serving the Thorncliffe/Don Mills corridor with local rapid transit.

    It is also worth noting that ridership on the TTC was recovering before the last wave hit. I think we should not write off downtown too quickly. And, of course, if downtown really is dead, then there is little need for more service to Richmond Hill no matter how it is provided.

    Union relief is a Metrolinx invention that does not make the problem at Bloor-Yonge go away. If anything, I regard it as a convenient fiction to justify their original design considering it was never mentioned in any discussion of GO Expansion until the Ontario Line scheme came along.

    You can’t argue from two conflicting points of view at the same time, although Metrolinx frequently tries and hopes that nobody notices.

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  7. Steve, can you touch upon the real estate valuations once the OL is built. Will it bring much development with it around its stations particularly the northern tip (Eglinton, Thorncliffe, Flemo)? If so what are your concerns surrounding gentrification in the Flemo / Thorncliffe communities.

    Metro Park Condos the first start to the gentrification will be launching on Tuesday and the CEO stated “The project, “is paving the way for what is going to be an incredible revitalization of Flemingdon Park,” Levy says. “It will evolve into what it once was, which was a very luxurious apartment neighbourhood back in the ’60s and ’70s.” This project is starting at $1400 p/sqf which equates to for a 500 sqf 1 bedroom = $700,000 with no parking.

    Nearby, we can see on Rochefort 4 mid rise rentals also being demolished soon and I am afraid this will become a common trend in the coming years once Ontario Line is closer to finishing. Right now all this action is happening because of Eglinton LRT and I can only imagine what will happen once Ontario Line comes through.

    What are your thoughts about the Don Mills and Eglinton and south Flemo area in terms of gentrification and becoming a major city hub where the wealthy will come and play.

    Steve: This is a good point! There has been so much focus in the housing debate on the future of single family home neighbourhoods and the “missing middle” that the possible disappearance of existing larger forms of affordable housing is missed. New transit can be seen both as a boon to communities that now face longer bus-based commutes, and as a threat by destabilizing the housing market, not to mention the effect of upzoning for “transit oriented communities”.

    At Don Mills and Eglinton, what is seen is a lot of empty land (or a large recently commercial/industrial plot) that will sprout new towers, but only a short distance south, there is a lot of midrise from the original development of Flemingdon Park in walking distance of two Ontario Line stations. At Thorncliffe Park Station, an obvious target for development is the parking lot around the mall, but whether that is what goes first remains to be seen.

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  8. ydccfa Wrote: Separate question, have they considered extending the Yonge extension to 16th Avenue? Would make sense given there’s Hillcrest mall and lots of traffic there (not to mention 3 major condo developments at that intersection).

    I don’t think Hillcrest Mall is a major destination for people south of Steeles. I have lived in north North York for almost 30 years and have not been to Hillcrest mall more than a dozen times. Promenade and Centerpoint have been much more frequent destinations.

    The only reason to extend subway further north than Highway 7 is to make it easier for people north of 16th Avenue to get to the subway (i.e. shorten their drive or bus ride).

    If complete Presto data was available it would have been interesting to see where in Toronto most riders north of Steeles end up and thus what is best to improve their commute. Maybe subway is helpful or maybe it is improved GO train service that would do the trick.

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  9. I am sure it would be way cheaper and less complex to just have the south end run from east harbor to union and put a stop in between and much less disruption to traffic for 10 years while this line gets built.

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  10. Hi Steve,

    I am considering buying 2 pre-construction condos at Metro Park (25 St Dennis Drive – Flemo). My question is how many years do you think it will take for Flemo to be gentrified. Like another poster mentioned Rochefort 4-5 buildings will be demolished in soon order.

    Would you say by 2030 or 2035 all the mid rises or most of them will be demolished? or what is your take on gentrification on the flemo area? As an honest and emphatic investor I am concerned all of the Flemo citizens will be displaced in a decade’s time. Thoughts?

    Steve: I really don’t have a sense of how quickly Flemingdon Park’s inventory of midrise buildings will turn over. In a year’s time, the Eglinton line will be running, but it will be until 2030 before we see the Ontario Line as well. Of course, this area is not just sitting beside two future rapid transit stations, but also beside the DVP which is as much of an attraction especially for people who do not work downtown.

    There is a lurking problem with the provincial imposition of density around transit stations within a “10 minute walk”, typically defined as 500-800m. On a straight-line basis, 500m from Flemingdon Park Station gets you east almost to Deauville, and 800m pretty much covers the rest of the way to the DVP. The overlapping circles of Science Centre and Flemingdon Park Stations cover a large area. I will be interested to see how the advocates who are happy to demolish anything in sight in the name of more housing would react to the loss of existing midrise housing stock. The usual arguments about single family homes and NIMBYism don’t wash here.

    25 St. Dennis is an infill development with new buildings, including two towers and some townhouses, added around an existing rental tower. At least nothing is being lost, unlike on Rochefort one block to the north.

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  11. Hi Steve,
    You mention the desire to see the OL go further north. Do you believe with the technology choices that the trains, stations, etc. would have the capacity to support an extension north considering the projected growth of the city?

    Steve: Yes, although there remains the question of how much surplus capacity will actually be eaten up at the south end by traffic diverted off of GO Transit. My gut feeling is that Metrolinx overstates this.

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  12. Steve: Yes, although there remains the question of how much surplus capacity will actually be eaten up at the south end by traffic diverted off of GO Transit. My gut feeling is that Metrolinx overstates this.

    Is Metrolinx expecting people to get off GO at Exhibition instead of Union and take OL to places on Queen (presumably mostly at University and Yonge)? I guess it all depends if these people currently take the TTC for two stops or simply walk the PATH (or above ground). If they walk then they are unlikely to want to spend an extra 6 bucks a day to transfer to OL, or will want to transfer at OL in any case (and travel with downtown bound traffic) when they can transfer at Union and ride in more or less empty trains.

    Steve: Yes, and similarly at East Harbour. I think they have underestimated the pull that simply being on the GO train already and riding one more stop will have. Moreover, the problem for PM peak travel is worse in that someone would ride to East Harbour or Exhibition and then face getting on a full GO train outbound from Union.

    There are times I think that some planners at Metrolinx do not understand how transit riders actually behave.

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  13. Thank you, Steve, for an excellent webinar. On a personal note, you are looking great! It has been some years since I last saw you, and you have not aged at all.

    One question arising from the webinar. I see that there is a detailed design of Queen station. Please tell me that it is not true that the elevators only go one level at a time and are not even together but spread out throughout the station. For example, at Finch station, where someone with disabilities must use three different elevators at three different locations to go up or down three floors to transfer between the subway and buses.

    Steve: The elevators make the journey in a single “lift”. It’s the escalators that involve the to-and-fro moves. And of course both of them are well east and west of Yonge Street and Queen Station. I have added a cross-section drawing back into the presentation to give another view of the station, and it shows clearly that the elevator shafts run top-to-bottom.

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