Raising the Rails in Riverside: Metrolinx Comments

In a recent article Metrolinx Plans Major Grade Change on Lakeshore East Corridor I noted that a new set of drawings had appeared in the Ontario Line Neighbourhood Update, East web page showing a proposed change in the elevation of tracks in the shared GO/OL corridor between East Harbour and Gerrard Stations.

Here is a Metrolinx illustration showing the change. The layout as originally proposed is on top, and the revised layout is on the bottom. Note that where green space is shown neside the corridor, this does not necessarily exist as some of the Metrolinx property line is at or close to the sidewalk. The retaining wall plus noise barrier would be immediately adjacent.

I posed a series of questions to Metrolinx in an attempt to sort fact from fiction on this matter, and today had a call with their project staff to sort through the issues. The principal speakers for Metrolinx were Malcolm MacKay and Richard Tucker.

When was the decision made to regrade the rail corridor? Why is this being done?

According to Metrolinx, this has been underway for at least 6 months as a collaborative effort with the TTC and City of Toronto to establish bridge clearances and other design elements.

Substandard clearances are a concern on the road network for both the City and the TTC. Those of us who follow TTC service interruption reports often read of “mechanical problems” near Queen and DeGrassi Streets. These are almost always due to damaged or broken overhead thanks either to a dewirement, or to an over-height vehicle striking the TTC wires.

A related concern is that the bridges in this corridor are about a century old, and this is an opportunity to replace them with new structures that will have lower maintenance costs

Later in the conversation, I asked whether Metrolinx was saying, in effect, that “the City made us do it”. To this they responded strongly that they are not blaming the City, but there is a 5m standard for bridge clearances that they are following. They went on to say, possibly imprudently, that there were pro and anti camps on the question of whether this work should be done.

Obviously the pro camp won out, but drawings showing the change are quite recent, and there is no mention of this in all of the studies that have been published.

What is the extent of the work, i.e. between what locations will the track be raised from its current level?

From east of the Don River to Gerrard Street. According to Metrolinx, he TTC still has an interest in the Dundas Street bridge because they are protecting for an extension of streetcar service to Gerrard Station via Dundas and Carlaw.

By how much will the track be raised?

The change varies by location, but it will be between 900mm and 1500mm according to Metrolinx. For those who still think in Imperial measure, that’s just under 3 feet to just under 5 feet.

I asked whether a plan showing the new elevations exists in the style of “roll plans” that have been provided for other corridor projects. This will probably be published along with other details for the next round of public consultations later in 2021.

What are your staging plans for maintaining GO service during this work?

Metrolinx would likely slew the existing GO tracks to create work space on one side of the rail corridor at a time. This would allow all work to be done within the corridor rather than using adjacent spaces. Metrolinx’ property is wide enough for six tracks, and this means that three could be maintained in operation by shifting them to one side while work was done on the other side. There are no switches in this segment, and therefore shifting the tracks is relatively straightforward.

If low ridership on GO continues long enough, it might be possible to reduce the corridor temporarily to two tracks giving more room to work around the live operations.

What are the effects on the bridges in the affected area?

The bridges are old dating back to 1924. Metrolinx intends to replace them with new structures regardless of whether they are owned by the City or Metrolinx.

The elevation change will be entirely at Metrolinx track level. The road elevations will not change.

When I published my article, a few emails arrived suggesting what was behind this change. One claimed that the High Frequency Rail (HFR) project wanted a different track standard to support their planned operating speed. This seemed a bit far-fetched considering how close the tracks in question are to Union Station, and how short (2km) the segment is. The change in travel time from Toronto to Montreal would probably be measured in seconds.

Can you confirm or deny that at least part of the reason for the regrading is to suit HFR? If so, does the intent to use “tilting” trains change the spacing of the tracks needed for clearance?

Metrolinx replied that HFR did not play into decision making for rail heights or tilting trains. The alignment is designed to Metrolinx standards. They are not precluding HFR, but not changing bridges or track layout on HFR’s behalf.

A Question of Transparency

I will take it on faith that the City and TTC really have been working with Metrolinx for half a year on this matter, and that there may have been a debate about whether regrading the corridor and raising the bridges was actually necessary.

That said, Metrolinx published extensive studies and community presentations showing the corridor at its present elevation, and with no provision for the construction effects of rebuilding the segment from the Don River to Gerrard, not even a mention as a possibile subject for further study.

There has been no evaluation of the construction effects, and proposals regarding mitigation of the combined OL and GO effects here are based on current track elevations. This affects sound barrier heights and the amount of room available for corridor “softening” with treatments such as vegetated slopes or additional trees where room is available for them. The drawings purporting to show what the corridor would look like simply do not match what Metrolinx now plans to build.

All this is not to say that raising the corridor and improving clearances are, on their own, bad ideas. It would be refreshing to have fewer service interruptions on the streetcar network here, especially considering that over half of the fleet is based just east of this bridge at Leslie Barns and Russell Carhouse.

If this has been a City and TTC concern for months, why does the local Councillor not appear to know this could be part of the project scope?

Another obvious question must be what effect this will have on the project’s cost and duration. Who is picking up the tab?

One cannot help wondering whether it is only good fortune that this design change came to light during the current round of consultations.

What else don’t we know about Metrolinx’ intent in this and other corridors?

All of the debates about the project until now were based on a false presentation of how the enlarged use of the rail corridor would affect the neighbourhood.

This is not just a question of settling a debate among “the experts” about whether to raise the rail corridor or not. This is not a minor scope change. This is not an “oops”.

Even with the best of intentions, the basic issues are transparency in public consultation and trust in Metrolinx.

Waterfront East LRT: June 2021 Update

Various projects for transit in the waterfront are working their way through a Waterfront Reset process. On July 7, 2021, there will be an update to Toronto’s Executive Committee on the status of transit projects including the Waterfront East LRT. Staff hope to take an updated Business Case based on the preliminary design to Council in Fall 2021.

The City of Toronto, Waterfront Toronto and the TTC held an online update and consultation session for the Waterfront East project on June 21, 2021. This covered several points and included significant changes in scope and design.

  • The new Union Station Loop will be fully built in one stage rather than a half-now, half-later approach. The full capacity of the new loop will be required to serve development underway and planned in the waterfront.
  • The new Queens Quay Station will include connections (some provisional) to adjacent buildings and to a tunnel under Queens Quay to the Ferry Docks.
  • The eastern portal location will be west of Yonge Street in front of the Harbour Castle Hotel. The hotel’s entrance will be relocated to the eastern face of the building at a new entryway to be constructed by extending Yonge Street southwards over what is now the Yonge Street Slip.
  • The western portal will receive an architectural treatment that will echo the new east portal.
  • The work will be staged so that through streetcar service could operate to the eastern waterfront from existing trackage on Queens Quay West while the Bay Street tunnel is closed for reconstruction of the stations.
  • Queens Quay East will continue a street design similar to that on the portion west of Bay with modifications to better clarify the pedestrian and cycling areas.
  • As previously planned, the Parliament Slip will be partly filled to allow extension of Queens Quay directly east to meet a realigned Cherry Street. This design is no longer entangled with plans advanced by Sidewalk Labs.
  • The first phase of streetcar service will extend east to Cherry and south to a new loop at Polson Street.
  • There are four options for the connection north via Cherry to Distillery Loop one of which would require relocation of the existing (but inactive) Cherry Street Tower in the rail corridor which is now immediately south of the loop. The most likely of these is a new portal for the streetcars east of the tower.
  • Following construction work on Bay Street, the surface level will be redesigned to improve its appearance and provide more room for pedestrians and cyclists.

The City’s presentation deck is arranged slightly differently from the sequence in this article because they focused on design exercises for each segment of the line. Here I have tried to pull some related matters together.

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Street Construction Project Update: June 2021

Several construction projects are underway by both the TTC and various utilities in locations that affect streetcar service in Toronto. This article is a compendium update.

Wellington and Church Streets from Yonge to King

One might have the sense that Wellington Street has been under construction almost forever. The 503 Kingston Road streetcar which normally would loop via Church, Wellington and York to King has running west to Spadina and turning back through Charlotte Loop.

The section of Wellington from Yonge to Church was supposed to be rebuilt this spring, but work suddenly halted a few weeks ago. The reason for this varies depending on the source, but basically there are conflicts between utilities underground and proposed reconstruction plans. Considering the number of agencies involved in this project, and the amount of planning/co-ordination that is supposed to have happened, the situation is a testimonial to appalling project management.

The City’s press release puts it this way:

In March, the City and TTC began construction to renew aging streetcar infrastructure on Wellington Street East (between Yonge and Church Streets) and on Church Street (from south of King Street East to Front Street East). The City encountered a number of complex infrastructure challenges that impacted construction including conflicts with underground utilities infrastructure, alignments that have not been properly cleared and scope changes.

City of Toronto, June 18, 2021

The track has been replaced from west of Yonge (the point where a previous reconstruction left off) to just west of Church.

According to the City, this project is “paused” for, among other things, giving merchants access to the sidewalk under the CafeTO program. However, construction will not resume until 2022 giving merchants and condo residents yet another year’s disruption when they had hoped the street would be restored. My correspondent in this area advises that the BIA is much displeased and wants the construction finished in fall 2021.

Broadview Avenue from Gerrard Street to Danforth Avenue

Streetcar service has been suspended on Broadview for a watermain replacement project that was due to get underway in May. A recent Construction Update (which is not yet online as I write this) advises that:

Unfortunately, due to an ongoing industry wide watermain pipe shortage, construction on the Broadview watermain project will be delayed until such time as the material is available which is anticipated to arrive at the end of July. This material delay will impact the project completion date, which is now estimated to be completed in spring 2022.

Broadview Watermain work may not commence until approximately late July or early August 2021. Once all pipes and materials can be secured by our contractor a revised project schedule and a Construction Update will be issued.

City of Toronto, Construction Update #1, June 14, 2021

What is not clear yet is whether this work will be broken into two segments allowing streetcars to return for some period over the fall and winter. Moreover, the TTC had plans to rebuild track in the same section of Broadview in 2022, and this work will have to be co-ordinated with whatever plans the City will have to complete its watermain construction.


The mammoth project to reconfigure and rebuild the KQQR intersection and the 501 Queen trackage west to Parkside Drive continues.

There are photos of the ongoing work in various locations:

I visited the site on June 20, and here are a few shots of the current status.

The excavation ends just east of Sunnyside Loop which will be rebuilt in this project. The intersection at Sunnyside will gain a traffic signal to assist streetcars in leaving the loop and turning east onto their new right-of-way.

There is no sign yet of whatever barriers will be added to separate road traffic from the streetcar lanes.

Metrolinx Plans Major Grade Change on Lakeshore East Corridor

Metrolinx quietly slipped a major change in its joint Lakeshore East / Ontario Line corridor plans by way of a web page update with no accompanying announcement or explanation.

Current version of webpage

Archived copy of webpage from May 14, 2021

Metrolinx plans to raise the existing GO Transit tracks by 0.9m to 1.6m in order to increase clearances under bridges on the corridor. The west and east limits of this work along the corridor have not been announced, and there are illustrations only for the area north of Queen Street.

The previously published layouts assumed tracks would stay at the same elevation as today, with the new Ontario Line to the west and north of the GO corridor at the same level. The new layout shifts everything higher. Note that the top drawing here is a cross-section where the Metrolinx right-of-way is at its widest with open space on either side buffering the mass of the corridor.

There are significant challenges in this scale of work on a busy, live rail corridor. One does not simply bring in loads of fill overnight and jack up the tracks. Bridges are a special concern particularly in any location where all tracks occupy a common structure rather than separate spans for each track that could be individually replaced or raised.

I posed a series of questions about this to Metrolinx, but they will not be responding until Monday, June 21 at the earliest.

  1. When was the decision made to regrade the rail corridor?
  2. Why is this being done?
  3. What is the extent of the work, ie between what locations will the track be raised from its current level?
  4. By how much will the track be raised?
  5. What are your staging plans for maintaining GO service during this work?
  6. What are the effects on the bridges in the affected area?
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Ontario Line Downtown Segment Update

This post is the second in a series of four covering the June round of online updates to the Ontario Line project.

Updated June 18, 2021 at 9:05 am: The section on the First Parliament site has been updated with information about the location of the Parliament and other buildings provided by a reader, Michael Bethke, in the comments. With thanks for the information.

Updated June 18, 2021 at 8:00 am: A section discussing the two versions of the Metrolinx presentation deck has been added at the end of this article.

The first version of the presentation deck that Metrolinx posted contained two slides with howling spelling mistakes, but also with station diagrams that differed from those shown in the online presentation. Subsequently the “final” version of the deck was linked from their engagement page. I have updated the link to the revised deck below and have replaced the illustrations in the article. The first version is also available from my own site if Metrolinx deletes it from theirs.

From document properties in the published PDFs, it is clear that there are two different versions of the presentation deck, and the wrong one was published first.

At least Metrolinx caught the error before their online session, but they pushed out a deck with errors two hours ahead and did not flag that it had been changed on their site. Basic editing errors like street names raise issues about the care in other, more serious, parts of their work.

Meetings for other segments are scheduled on:

  • June 24: Corktown, East Harbour, Riverside, Gerrard
  • June 30: North to Eglinton from Danforth

The introductory article for the meeting is on the Metrolinx blog and the engagement page includes links to the four meetings and resources for them.

Information here is taken from the neighbourhood update for the downtown segment, the presentation deck for the June 17 meeting, and information gleaned from that meeting.

This segment runs from Osgoode Station over to the Don River. An important structural point about the Ontario Line is that the downtown segment is in bedrock unlike the Eglinton Crosstown line which is tunneled through glacial till.

On Eglinton this meant that passing under Line 1 at Yonge/Eglinton and at Eglinton West Station required structural support of the existing subway and mining under Line 1 rather than continuing with the TBMs. On Queen, the existing stations are just above the level of bedrock which will support them while tunneling proceeds 10m or more below in rock.

Projections for 2041OsgoodeQueenMoss ParkCorktown
Residents served116,50018,40023,60026,400
Jobs served1110,500150,00023,20015,700
Zero-car households18,7005,1004,1003,300
Station usage (busiest hour)212,10016,6007,3004,100
Transfers to/from Line 1 (busiest hour)2 5,7006,100
Transfers to/from surface (busiest hour)2 1,0006001,5001,900
Source: Metrolinx Neighbourhood Updates, Downtown


  1. Because station catchment areas overlap, some people and jobs will be double counted.
  2. Station usage may include passengers arriving, leaving and transferring which is a different number from originating passengers at each station. I have asked Metrolinx for clarification on this, but they have not yet replied.
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TTC Board Meeting June 16, 2021

The primary issue on the agenda for the June 16 meeting was the “near miss” in the subway in June 2020 and management’s failure to report this issue to the Board. Please see The “Near Miss” At Osgoode Station for further details on that item.

CEO’s Report

The CEO’s Report contained little new and included the usual statistics about which I have written before. These are supposed to be the “new improved” version, but they still hide more than they tell.

  • Service reliability:
    • “On time” performance is still measured only at terminals, and is reported on an all day basis.
      • For the subway, the target is that headways be no more than 1.5 times the scheduled value.
      • For surface routes, the target is that departures be within a window of +1/-5 minutes to schedule.
  • Subway capacity:
    • These values are reported as averages from several locations over the peak periods.
    • The index is the percentage of scheduled service operated, not the number of trains. This measures what proportion of planned service was provided, not the absolute amount of service or demand.
  • Vehicle reliability:
    • In many cases, the reported kilometres-between-defect numbers appear to be capped and do not reflect the actual maxima achieved nor the month-to-month variations.
    • Subway reliability changes are, in cases, reported to be affected by line closure that reduce the amount of mileage the fleet accumulates. This should only affect distance-based metrics if the failures are a function of something other than distance and if cars are prone to break down even if they are used less.
    • eBus reliability shows consolidated results for all three vendors with average MDBF values generally above the target of 24,000 km. This does not align with comments in the Financial update (see below).

A major concern for the TTC is the growing number of assaults on employees. This is a trend seen across the transit industry, according to TTC management, and it is related to the pandemic, stress levels and arguments over fares and masking. This index is measured per 100 employees and reported quarterly. In 1Q21, the value grew above 6 offenses per 100 employees per quarter.

Offenses against riders are also up compared to the pre-pandemic era, although the number is falling. This index is measured per-million-boardings, not as an absolute value. If riding falls, but offenses do not fall at the same rate, then the index goes up. Conversely, growing ridership could cause the index to fall even if the number of events does not. A common problem, according to management, is fights on the subway.

Although the Board sought more details, management did not have the detailed stats to hand and could only report limited anecdotal information.

Customer mask use continues to be reported at over 96 per cent, with only a few percent above that wearing masks improperly. Very few riders were observed unmasked.

Ridership has not changed much in the past month, and the stay-at-home order, only recently expired, has reduced demand.

Average weekday boardings were 502,000 on bus routes (36% of pre-COVID), 286,000 on subway lines (19% of pre-COVID) and 81,000 on streetcar routes (23% of pre-COVID) for the week ending April 24, 2021. There was a small increase in boardings for all modes the last week of April.

CEO’s Report, p. 11

Bus occupancy continues to be reported as well below the level seen in September 2020. Like many TTC stats, this chart shows all route, all day values and does not break out hot spots and times. There is no reporting of where “Run As Directed” buses are used or of their efficacy in reducing crowding.

This chart will bear watching as demand grows with relaxed pandemic rules and later in the year with a resumption of in person activities in schools, some work locations and entertainment venues.

Financial Update

The quarterly financial update tracks the ongoing status of the Operating Budget and major Capital Budget projects.

On the Operating side, the TTC projects a shortfall in revenue because ridership has not recovered at the expected rate in the first months of the year. This will be almost completely offset by reduced expenses over the year. In the short term, the TTC is running ahead of budget because cost reductions have exceeded revenue losses, but this is not expected to last as service ramps up to handle demand growth through the second half of the year.

The key indicators for operations are shown in the table below:

Note that the TTC projects it will schedule about 3 per cent less service hours over the year than originally planned, and for the year-to-date has actually scheduled about 5 per cent fewer hours than budgeted due to lower than expected demand. This falls more heavily on the subway which is operating at 87 percent of normal service levels, while bus and streetcar services are at 97 and 95 percent respectively.

The actual versus budgeted ridership is illustrated in the chart below.

Service levels are planned to begin rising in September with a return to 100 per cent of service budgeted for January 2022 when ridership is expected to hit 50 percent of pre-pandemic levels.

With ridership at only 50 percent at the start of 2022, the City and TTC will continue to be challenged to operate 100 per percent service levels. Provincial and federal support programs are based on their fiscal years which end on March 31. Funding for Covid support for much of 2022 is an unknown. This will be a major budget issue.

On the Capital side, there are only a few projects with significant news.

The major overhaul of streetcars now in progress to repair manufacturing defects on the first of the fleet will not complete in 2021.

The projected underspending on the 204 LRV procurement is due to project closure activities not being completed until 2022. The Major Repair Program, also included in this project, is tracking behind schedule due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced Alstom’s production facilities to temporarily shut down in late March 2020. Currently, Alstom is working on accelerating the program to be completed by the end of 2022.

Financial Update, p. 18

This will affect the level of service that can be provided on the streetcar network, and the expected return of buses to bus routes will be delayed.

On the Line 1 ATC project, revenue service is planned to extend from Rosedale to Eglinton in 4Q21. Completion to Finch would be in 3Q22. There is an issue at Eglinton Station due to the Crosstown project and the timing of the shift in platform stopping location further north as planned for the new links to the Crosstown concourse below the subway station.

On the eBus project, vehicle reliability is cited as a key issue:

Vehicle Reliability and Fleet Availability: Only one (New Flyer Industries) of three vendors for e-Buses are meeting availability and reliability targets. Action Plan: The TTC is working with all vendors on a daily basis to improve both vehicle availability and reliability to address these issues through root cause analysis, vehicle modifications and improvements for the supply chain.

Financial Update, p. 33

This raises questions about the planned split tender for eBuses and how the TTC will deal with a vendor that has not met reliability targets. A further update on the head-to-head competition between vendors is due in 1Q22 but the RFP for buses will be issued in 4Q21 for deliveries in 2023.

The “Near Miss” At Osgoode Station

On June 12, 2020, there was a “near miss” incident where two trains could have, but did not, have a sideswipe collision just south of Osgoode Station. The was first reported in the Toronto Star by Ben Spurr on June 4, 2021 (the linked article is behind the Star’s paywall).

Immediately this spurred several questions including “how could this happen” and “why did the TTC Board only learn of this through the newspapers almost a year after the fact”.

TTC management launched an external review of the incident, and the report from it is dated February 3, 2021. Management planned to bring a report to the Board in September 2021. A partly redacted version of the external review has been published by the TTC. Portions are omitted for reasons of confidentiality as permitted by the City of Toronto Act.

This report is about labour relations or employee negotiations.

This report is about litigation or potential litigation, including matters before administrative tribunals.

Osgoode Interlocking Incident Report, p. 1

What Happened?

A northbound train (run 114) at St. Andrew Station was held due to an on-board emergency. In order to maintain service on the University-Spadina leg of Line 1, the TTC directed a southbound train (run 123) at Osgoode to short turn via the pocket track south of the station.

Although this track is not often used, this type of move is common at several locations on the subway network during emergency turnbacks or when a line is split for construction projects.

An important distinction with Osgoode pocket track is that it ends in a blank wall north of St. Andrew Station. Unlike other locations with centre tracks such as the one between St. Andrew and Union, or those on Line 2 between Broadview and Chester, or beween Ossington and Christie, this track dead ends and can only be entered from one direction.

For reasons that are not yet clear, the Automatic Train Control system (ATC) (which had already been operational in this part of Line 1 for a few months) did not work, or was not used by trains entering the pocket track, and they did so under manual control.

The correct operating procedure was for a train leaving the pocket to switch back to ATC mode so that its move onto the mainline would be managed and protected by the signal system. This was not done, and when run 123 left northbound under manual control there was a conflicting move by train 114 which had by then left St. Andrew Station under ATC. There was no mechanism for the ATC system to detect the potential conflict between the trains.

The guard at the rear end of run 123 saw run 114 passing by on the mainline, and alerted the operator at the head of the train. He stopped run 123 5.8 metres away from run 114.

This incident arose through a combination of events and design:

  • ATC either did not work, or was not routinely activate for movements into the pocket track.
  • Manual operation of trains in ATC territory is very rare and should be done with maximum supervision to ensure there are no conflicting movements. When there is an emergency, supervisory attention could be divided among multiple activities.
  • The train stopped in the pocket track clear of the switches, but the signal indicating if a route out of the pocket was clear was beside the train and not visible to the operator.
  • There was confusion by the operator of the train about whether he had clearance to proceed out of the pocket track. Line 1 is in transition between operating modes with different indications by signals and console displays depending on the location and whether a train is in manual or automatic mode.
  • The track layout makes it possible for a train to drive manually out of the pocket toward the northbound platform even though the route was not actually clear.

The diagram below (excerpted from the external report) shows the track layout for a train moving into the pocket. Switches 5B and 5A are aligned for movement between the southbound platform and the pocket. There is a sign at the south end of the pocket track indicating where trains should stop, but it is possible to be clear of the 5A switches without reaching this point. However, if the train stops north of that sign, signal X8 could be beside the north end of the train rather than in front of it.

Once run 123 pulled into the pocket, the 5A/5B switches realigned to their normal position for through service southbound. However, this creates a problem on the northbound side as illustrated below. The 5A switch is set for a move out of the pocket to the northbound track, but the 7A switch is aligned for through northbound moves from St. Andrew Station.

This is an inevitable result of a three-into-two track arrangement because under normal operations, both 5B and 7A will be set to the straight for regular operations. Switch 5A will direct an outbound train from the pocket onto one of the mainline tracks unless that move is blocked by some other means through the signal system.

In the pre-ATC system, the train would have been stopped by a “trip arm” at signal X8 that would have tripped emergency brakes. (In the Russell Hill crash in 1995, a trip arm failure contributed to the disaster.) In the ATC system, protection depends on the train being in ATC mode, or if in manual, the movement being carefully managed to avoid conflicts.

One method to protect this track configuration is used at a few exits from pocket tracks, but not all. The south end of the pocket between Lawrence West and Glencairn Stations illustrates this. There are two separate crossovers and switches leading from the pocket track, one each to the northbound and southbound main lines. Each set of switches operates as a pair. During normal mainline operations, both of these would be set leading into a dead-end track in case a train were to move south without being stopped at a signal.

Source: Google Earth

At the north end of this pocket track, there is no comparable setup, and the track arrangement is the same as at Osgoode.

Source: Google Earth

Implementing a dead end track such as at the south end of Lawrence pocket track is difficult to retrofit because there is usually something in the way. This sort of thing must be designed into lines when they are built.

Much of the discussion of this report was in camera and that took roughly an hour and 40 minutes. When the Board returned to public session, it passed two motions. The first was to have a public presentation of the investigation’s findings and the corrective actions taken over the past year at the July 7, 2021 Board meeting. The second was a clear direction that management should inform the Board about serious events at the time they occur.

Chair Jaye Robinson moved “that the TTC Board direct the Chief Executive Officer to alert the Board when an incident meeting the identified thresholds for escalation occurs and subsequently report to the Board once a comprehensive review or investigation has been completed”.

During the Covid era, there has been a gradual slippage of responsibilities from the Board to management as those at the political level have been pre-occupied with city-wide issues. The Board is there to provide oversight and direction, not simply to receive “good news” reports.


Ben Spurr’s article on the Board’s actions is here (paywalled).

Ontario Proposes Developments at Station Sites

The Government of Ontario has proposed that lands they plan to acquire for station entrance buildings on the Ontario Line at Exhibition, King/Bathurst and Queen/Spadina stations will be redeveloped to increase transit demand at these locastions.

For a description of the stations sites, please see my previous article Ontario Line West Segment Update. The site plans are included here to put the proposed developments in context.

In the station building renderings, the eagle-eyed readers will note the variation (including the complete absence in some cases) of the “standard” Metrolinx “T” symbol. On the Crosstown line, it has been rendered at a size where it almost disappears, whereas here, in some drawings, it is on a similar scale to the “T” found at the MBTA stations in Boston.

All of the designs shown here indicate the general form (albeit not the height) of what Ontario would like to see, and everything is subject to change.

All renderings from Ontario Proposes New Transit-Oriented Communities Along Ontario Line.

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Ontario Line West Segment Update

Updated June 17, 2021 at 5:20 pm:

In the table of station usage counts, I cited the values as “all day” numbers in the original version of this article because Metrolinx own summary article showed the total value as “daily” not as “peak hourly” . I asked Metrolinx about this discrepancy, and they have not yet responded. However, they have changed the article in which “daily” was used to now say “busiest hour”. I have updated this section accordingly. Other questions to Metrolinx have not yet been answered. (Screen captures are included later in the article.)

Meetings for other segments are scheduled on:

  • June 17: Central downtown
  • June 24: Corktown, East Harbour, Riverside, Gerrard
  • June 30: North to Eglinton from Danforth

The introductory article for the meeting is on the Metrolinx blog and the engagement page includes links to the four meetings and resources for them.

All drawings in this article are taken from the Presentation Deck for June 10. Street view photos are from Google Maps.

Project Schedule

A common question during the session was “when will this affect me”. The entire project is complex and will affect areas in different ways as it moves through its stages. The published schedule concentrates on pre-construction activities. In the chart below, related activities share the same colour so that, for example, the Lower Don Bridges are all yellow.

Early works that can occur before major construction include:

  • Exhibition Station reconfiguration and expansion (construction to begin imminently)
  • Lower Don Bridges (construction begins in early 2022)
  • Corktown Station (no start date shown in the plan)

There are four big contracts that will affect neighbourhoods along the route.

  • The Lakeshore East joint GO and Ontario Line corridor between the Don River and Gerrard is an “Early Work” scheduled to begin construction in the second half of 2022. This segment is controversial because of potential effects on affected neighbourhoods, and Metrolinx’ aggressive efforts to counter “myths” and “misinformation” about their project. See Metrolinx v Riverside: Where Does the Truth Lie?
  • In mid-2022 contracts for the south segment structures and for “RSSOM” (Rolling Stock, Systems, Operations and Maintenance) will be awarded with construction to begin in 2023.
  • The north segment structures contract will go to its RFQ stage in early 2022, with RFPs to selected proponents late that year. Contract award will occur in 2024 and construction would begin some time afterward.

For the south segment, the tunnels will be deep underground, typically about 30m down. They will be bored through rock starting from the west end of the line. Spoil removal and materials delivery will occur at the Exhibition with the tunnel portal west of Strachan Avenue and truck access to the Gardiner Expressway at Dufferin Street.

Stations will be built using a “keyhole” method by digging down from future entrance building locations and then mining outward to create station caverns for the concourses and platforms. This is similar to the approach used for a few stations on the Crosstown project to avoid excavating within streets. That is particularly important for locations where there are streetcar lines and many underground utilities.

The first stage of construction will be to tunnel, with station construction to follow once the tunnel is in place. Metrolinx has not published a detailed schedule, but station work would begin in 2024 in the south segment as tunnel work progresses from Exhibition east to the Don River. Metrolinx expects station sites to be under construction for about three years.

The major RSSOM construction in the early years of the project will be the Maintenance and Storage Facility north of Thorncliffe Park. After the tunnels and aboveground structures are complete, the RSSOM contractor will outfit tracks and systems, but this activity would largely be within the completed tunnels and guideways.

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The Long Arm of Metrolinx

Doug Ford wants his pet transit projects built now and will sweep away any opposition. His agency, Metrolinx, is more than happy to oblige if only to make itself useful.

There was a time when the Tories hated Metrolinx as a den of Liberal iniquity, but Phil Verster and the gang made themselves useful to their new masters with new plans. Ford returned the favour with legislation giving Metrolinx sweeping powers in the Building Transit Faster Act. In particular, Metrolinx has review powers over any proposed activity near a “transit corridor” (anything from building a new condo to extending a patio deck) lest this work interfere with their plans. They also have right of entry, among other things, to perform their works.

Metrolinx describes the various aspects of review in Building near a Metrolinx transit corridor

Operative language in the Act is extremely broad about “transit corridors”:

Designating transit corridor land

62 (1) The Lieutenant Governor in Council may, by order in council, designate land as transit corridor land if, in the opinion of the Lieutenant Governor in Council, it is or may be required for a priority transit project. 2020, c. 12, s. 62 (1).
Different designations for different purposes

(2) The Lieutenant Governor in Council may designate the land for some of the purposes of this Act and not others, and may later further designate the land for other purposes of this Act. 2020, c. 12, s. 62 (2)
Notice and registration

(3) Upon land being designated as transit corridor land, the Minister shall,

(a) make reasonable efforts to notify the owners and occupants of land that is at least partly either on transit corridor land or within 30 meters of transit corridor land of,

(i) the designation, and

(ii) this Act; and

(b) either,

(i) register a notice of designation under the Land Titles Act or Registry Act in respect of land described in clause (a), or

(ii) carry out the prescribed public notice process. 2020, c. 12, s. 62 (3); 2020, c. 35, Sched. 1, s. 4.

Building Transit Faster Act, S. 62,

Note that there is no requirement that land actually be anywhere near a transit project, merely that it “may be required for a priority transit project”.

“Resistance is futile” should be the Act’s subtitle.

Metrolinx has a diagram in Doing construction work near a Priority Transit Corridor which shows the bounds of their interest.

In various community meetings, the assumption has been that the “corridor” corresponds to the bounds of Metrolinx’ property, but that is not the case. A much wider swath has been defined in several corridors reaching well beyond the wildest imaginations of what might be affected lands. Needless to say this has not endeared Metrolinx to affected parties for “transparency”.

This applies to the “priority” corridors: Scarborough Subway Extension, Richmond Hill Extension, Eglinton West Extension and, of course, the Ontario Line.

In addition, there are constraints around GO Transit corridors, as well as separate Developer’s Guides for LRT projects in Toronto and on Hurontario. Note that these predate the election of the Ford government, and rather quaintly refer to the Eglinton West and Sheppard East LRT corridors. Although it is mentioned in the text, the Eglinton West Airport Extension is not shown on the map.

There is an interactive map page on which one can explore the bounds of areas where Metrolinx asserts various rights of review, control and entry. It is tedious, and one must wait for all of the map layers to load to get a complete picture. But fear not, gentle reader, I have done the work of wandering through the GTHA on this map and taking screenshots to show each line. I have attempted to maintain a consistent scale for the snapshots of the maps. All of them are clickable and will open a larger version in a new browser tab.

Readers should note that the areas of influence/control for Metrolinx corridors discussed here are separate from the effects of MTSAs (Major Transit Station Areas) on development around rapid transit and GO stations, a totally separate topic.

I will start with the Ontario Line because it is the most contentious, but Metrolinx territorial ambitions do not stop there.

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