Updated September 22, 2021 at 6:50 am: Minor editorial corrections for typos and references between sections.
Updated September 22, 2021 at 12:05 pm: The date of the Downtown segment consultation has been changed by Metrolinx to October 7.
Updated September 22, 2021 at 5:00 pm: There are separate public engagement meetings related to “Transit Oriented Communities” organized by Infrastructure Ontario: Corktown (September 27), King/Bathurst (September 29), Exhibition (October 4), Queen/Spadina (October 6).
Throughout September, Metrolinx is conducting a second round of consultations covering four segments of the Ontario Line. The Western and Northern segments were the subject of recent meetings, while the Eastern and Downtown segments will be dealt with on September 23 and October 7, respectively. The Early Works Report for the Eastern segment is also expected to be released on September 23.
Videos of the past sessions are available on the linked pages together with a log of questions posed by participants. Some questions are answered in the video, and (eventually) those that were not covered in the online session are answered on the event page. (As I write this, only the Western segment page includes replies.)
A common part of all four sessions is a short presentation on the Station Design Principles for the Ontario Line. Although interesting in its own right, this diverts attention from some of the burning issues in specific neighbourhoods. Indeed, it is clear that Metrolinx treats some neighbourhood concerns as settled issues that will not be debated further.
For example, discussion of the Maintenance Facility in Thorncliffe Park now looks at superficial topics such as how it will be designed to fit into the community, but completely avoids the issue of site selection. Based on Metrolinx replies to queries from the City of Toronto, it is likely that the same tactic will be taken with the over/under alignment question in Riverside.
To a casual observer, this can give the impression that any residual grumbling is just sour grapes from those who are not willing to give up their fight.
In this article, I will deal with the two past sessions and issues of interest raised in them. Yes, gentle reader, I have watched over three hours of video to spare you the experience.
The Q&A information below has been reordered from the sequence in the online session to group related items together. In some cases, I have my own comments on the issues and these are flagged as such separate from the voices of participants in the meetings.
Questions about station design are included in that section of the article unless they are specific to an individual station.
Among the projects discussed are several that relate collectively to the Bloor-Danforth Modernization Project (Line 2) that was originally proposed when Andy Byford was CEO. It was always a report that was “coming soon” to the Board, but after Byford’s departure, references to it vanished without a trace. I will return to the collection of BD Modernization projects later in this article.
A major problem for decades with TTC capital planning was that many vital projects simply were not included in the project list, or were given dates so far in the future that they did not affect the 10-year spending projections. This produced the familiar “iceberg” in City capital planning where the bulk of needed work was invisible.
The problem with invisibility is that when debates about transit funding start, projects that are not flagged as important are not even on the table for discussion. New, high-profile projects like subway extensions appear to be “affordable”.
There is a danger that at some point governments will decide that the cupboard is bare, and spending on any new transit projects will have to wait for better financial times. This will be compounded by financing schemes, notably “public-private partnerships” where future operating costs are buried in overall project numbers. These costs will compete with subsidies for transit operations in general. Construction projects might be underway all over the city, but this activity could mask a future crisis.
Please, Sir, I Want Some More!
The current election campaign includes a call from Mayor Tory for added Federal transit funding including support for the Eglinton East and Waterfront East LRT lines, not to mention new vehicles of which the most important are a fleet for Line 2.
The Waterfront East project has bumbled along for years, and is now actually close to the point where Council will be presented with a preferred option and asked to fund more detailed design quite soon. This is an area that was going to be “Transit First”, although visitors might be forgiven for mistaking the 72 Pape bus as the kind of transit condo builders had in mind as they redeveloped lands from Yonge east to Parliament. Some developers have complained about the lack of transit, and the further east one goes, the greater a problem this becomes.
The Eglinton East extension to UTSC was part of a Scarborough transit plan that saw Council endorse a Line 2 extension with the clear understanding that money was available for the LRT line too. Generously speaking, that was wishful thinking at the time, and Eglinton East languishes as an unfunded project.
For many years, the TTC has know it would need a new fleet for Line 2 BD. The T1 trains on that line were delivered between 1995 and 2001, and their 30-year design lifespan will soon end. As of the 2021 version of the 15 year capital plan, the replacement trains were an “unfunded” project, and the project timetable stretched into the mid 2030s.
City budget pressures were accommodated a few years ago by deleting the T1 replacement project from capital plans. Instead the TTC proposed rebuilding these cars for an additional decade of service. This would stave off spending both on a new fleet and on a new carhouse, at the cost of assuming the trains would actually last that long. The TTC has found out the hard way just what the effect of keeping vehicles past their proper lifetime might be, and that is not a fate Toronto can afford on one of the two major subway lines. The T1 replacement project is back in the list, but there is no money to pay for it.
Finally, a signature John Tory project is SmartTrack which has dwindled to a handful of GO stations, some of which Metrolinx should be paying for, not the City (East Harbour is a prime example). If we did not have to keep the fiction of SmartTrack alive, money could have gone to other more pressing transit needs.
When politicians cry to the feds that they need more money, they should first contemplate the spending room they gave up by ignoring parts of the network and by putting most if not all of their financial nest-egg into politically driven works. It does not really matter if Ontario has taken over responsibility for projects like the Scarborough Subway because one way or another the federal contribution will not be available to fund other Toronto priorities. The same is true of the Eglinton West LRT subway.
Any national party could reasonably say “we already helped to pay for the projects you, Toronto, said were your priorities”, but now you want more? A related issue for any federal government is that funding schemes must be fitted to a national scale, and other cities might reasonably complain if Toronto gets special treatment.
Climate change and the need to “green” party platforms trigger proposals to spend money on transit, especially at election time. An oft-cited stat is that the transportation sector represents the largest contribution to greenhouse gases. This is the launching pad for transit spending proposals, but they are often misguided if not counterproductive.
The emissions due to the public transit sector are a very small portion of the total within “transportation”, and the real problem lies with the vast numbers of trips taken in private autos. If these are not diverted to modes with lower emissions, changes made to transit will achieve little.
Shifting demand to public transit will require more and better transit, and the magnitude of that shift must be substantial to make any dent in overall emissions. Political promises offer money for various schemes, but a gaping hole is better funding for day-to-day operations.
Far too often, plans focus on capital projects: electrification of bus and rail networks, not to mention rapid transit construction. Electrification by itself does not produce one more bus or rail trip, only a cleaner, quieter one. Rapid transit construction can improve travel options in the affected corridors, but system wide benefits and increased demand requires more than a new subway here and there.
Electrification of commuter rail service (GO Transit in Toronto) can bring improvements in travel time and reduced operating costs. Fewer electric trains with better performance can provide the same level of service as more, less sprightly diesel-hauled trains, or conversely more service can be provided at the same cost. This is always a tug of war for transit systems: take the savings from running fewer, faster or larger trains/vehicles, or invest the savings in more service. If all we do is to replace a 15-minute service of 2,000-passenger trains by changing out the locomotive, no additional service is provided and hence no contribution from reduced auto commuting.
A further wrinkle lies in the evolution of railway technology with battery powered trains used for “off wire” service on minor lines where the cost of conventional overhead is prohibitive for the service level, or where the line is not owned by the commuter operator. CN and CP have been quite firm that they will not allow electrification on their trackage and GO, for example, must make do with electrifying tracks that it owns.
Planning for electrification includes power and charging infrastructure as well as fleet plans that can span a few decades given the longevity of railway equipment. Government attention to transit projects can be measured in nanoseconds, especially when a former proponent goes to their electoral rest.
Metrolinx has yet to produce a consolidated roadmap for electrification, and the situation is complicated by a political desire to push rail service beyond its current limits faster than the wire would catch up, if ever. A candidate route for electrification might sprout an extension beyond the trackage Metrolinx owns, and that changes the planning for how the entire corridor will be served.
A further problem lies in Metrolinx’ decision under a former government to leave technology decisions to a future P3 builder/operator of the GO rail network. This is an abdication of the public sector’s role in setting policy, but it suits a political climate where significant decisions can be hidden within the “commercially confidential” P3 arrangements.
Subways, Subways, Subways!
Everybody wants subways, but they do not necessarily produce a change in travel patterns proportionate to their cost and implementation periods. The Spadina extension to Vaughan benefits its riders, but most of them were already using transit for their travel. We have given them a faster trip, but not diverted many cars off of the road.
A fundamental problem with subways is that they tend to be extensions of existing routes and serve demand oriented to downtown areas. Improved connectivity for existing riders is a good thing, but we should take care not to treat a big hole in the ground as automatically producing a huge environmental benefit.
Rapid transit that serves the region cannot depend on subways as a solution. They are too expensive, too long to build and provide too little coverage. What is needed is the will to take road space for a more finely-grained network than a subway plan could achieve, and to focus not just on downtown but on travel across the region. This will be challenging because we have built a car-oriented region with very diverse travel patterns that cannot easily be replaced by transit.
Electrification of bus service will be a nice show of environmental support, but if those buses run infrequently and do not provide a true network of service, they will carry few riders and auto emissions will continue to dominate the roads.
What About eBuses?
Electric buses are starting to make inroads on transit systems as replacements for diesels and diesel-electric hybrids. The TTC’s head-to-head test of three vendors’ products is still underway, but a large purchase is likely within a year. The hope is that new buses will not expose us to the type of reliability issues seen in early hybrid buses (also hailed as a “green” solution in their day, as were the compressed natural gas buses before them).
Electric buses have higher up-front costs, not to mention the charging infrastructure, although they are expected to have lower lifetime operating costs. Schemes to fund electric buses can run aground (and have in the past) if they attempt to achieve too much, too fast.
The nature of provincial and federal programs is that they tend to be short term policies, funding that evaporates if it is not used within a brief period. This was a major problem with some of the pandemic relief for “infrastructure” stimulus because it could not be spent within the allowed time period. A related issue arises if government “A” offers funding that is conditional on governments “B” and “C” chipping in a share. This can trigger a need for a city like Toronto to spend capital it had not planned simply to get the handout from another government within the allowed window. If that funding is tied to a more expensive technology, the net benefit could be zero if old buses are simply replaced one-for-one.
Bus fleets have a lifetime of about 12 years, and the TTC’s fleet, for example, has vehicles of varying ages. Any electrification program that is short term will trigger either premature replacement of buses (some of which themselves may have been bought with previous rounds of “stimulus”), or will limit the program’s take-up to only part of the fleet.
If governments are not willing to make a long-term commitment to funding, then planning for any conversion will be difficult.
Free Transit is Not The Answer
Another supposedly pro-transit scheme is the reduction or elimination of transit fares. This is a populist appeal to lowering user costs, but it would not contribute anything to actual service.
For medium and large sized system, fares cover much of the operating cost ranging roughly from 40 to 70 per cent. On smaller systems where fares now cover a small proportion of total costs, and service has capacity for higher demand, free transit is a simple option, although it contains the seeds of its own failure if ongoing funding does not keep up with operating costs and demand.
There is a parallel with using ride shares as a transit alternative, and one trial system that ran out of allocated funding because demand exceeded projections. If the response to “we need more service” is “we cannot afford it”, then the political commitment to greening transportation is simply not serious.
The shift to free transit, however provided, could produce more demand, but service will always be constrained by how much we, collectively, are willing to spend.
Without question, the cost of riding transit is one of many things those with little income must juggle. If the desire is to make travel cheaper for them, this should not occur for every rider just because of the political simplicity of the message.
On the TTC, fares contributed just under $1.2 billion in 2019, two-thirds of the system’s total cost. Even a reduction to 50 per cent recovery through fares would have required an added $300 million in annual operating subsidy. If we have that kind of money to redirect as transit subsidy, let alone another $900 million it would take to eliminate fares, might it be better spent on programs directed to those who need them?
Free transit benefits all riders, but only those who choose to shift to transit represent a net “green” saving if they were previously auto users.
It’s All About Service
In all of this, the focus has been to convert existing systems, not to expand the level of service. It is not enough to say “we will help you buy electric buses”. What is needed is a commitment to increasing transit fleets (and building the garages needed to house them), and vitally to the ongoing operation of these vehicles to provide more service, more capacity to draw auto trips onto transit.
We are coming out of the pandemic era with a hope to attract riders from only two years ago back to the system, let alone gaining net new demand. Current TTC bus and streetcar service sits well below the level possible with existing fleets, let alone any expansion. The problem is a lack of operating funds, and by extension with staffing levels. You can’t run a bus or streetcar without someone to drive it, and someone else to maintain it.
At no point has the TTC produced an estimate of the operational and financial implications of full utilization of its bus and streetcar fleets. How much service could be on the road if only we would pay to operate it?
What is completely missing from debates on greener transit and its contribution to emission reduction is the importance of service, of transit as a clear, attractive alternative. A bus with a nice green paint job that shows up every 15 minutes, if it’s on time, is no solution.
Fact check on a City of Toronto press release: “To accommodate increased demand in September, the TTC is increasing service system-wide to support the expected increase in ridership, including 25 per cent more subway trains on Line 1 and Line 2 at peak times on weekdays…”
2. The actual change in peak services are: Line 1 peaks were every 3’45”, now every 3’30”. Line 2 changes from every 4′ to 3’45” during peak periods. Count of scheduled trains goes up partly due to more gap trains (spares), longer Line 1 travel time, and more frequent service.
3. Change in capacity is about 7%, not 25%. The number of trains changes from 43 to 50 on Line 1 (+16%), and from 27 to 31 on Line 2 (15%). Capacity is driven by trains/hour past a point, not by total train count.
4. The press release overstates the actual change in subway capacity during peak periods.
5. Early evening service is improving substantially. Line 1 from every 5′ to 3’30” (43%), Line 2 from 7’15” to 6′ (21%). Late evening Line 1 from 7′ to 5′ (40%), same change as early evening on Line 2.
6/6 Why are the City and TTC overstating the peak improvements?
TTC’s Stuart Green replied somewhat later in the day:
Oh, Steve. Looks like I have to interrupt my vacation to correct you. Ten trains more. 43 in August 53 in Sept. (some additional trains added last minute based on demand expectations). 23.25 per cent. We rounded to 25 based on commonly accepted rounding practices.
The problem is that available TTC information, on which I based my claims, says nothing about those extra trains, but matches what I have published here and written on Twitter.
Another source of scheduled service information is the electronic version of schedules that are published on the City of Toronto’s Open Data site by the TTC. Without going into the mechanics of reading these, they clearly show the 3’30” and 3’45” headways advertised above for Lines 1 and 2 respectively.
This information also corresponds to what is stated in the Board Period Memo issued by Service Planning on August 13 (this memo is the basis for my regular previews of service changes).
Service will be restored on Line 1 in anticipation of ridership returning to the transit system. On Monday-Friday, service on Line 1 will be restored to January 2021 service levels, with two additional gap trains for demand responsive service (increasing to four gap trains).
Service will be restored on Line 2 in anticipation of ridership returning to the transit system. On Monday-Friday, service on Line 2 will be restored to January 2021 service levels, with two additional gap trains for demand responsive service (increasing to four gap trains).
TTC Board Period Memo issued August 13, 2021
Note that restoration is to January 2021, not 2020 or pre-pandemic levels.
Below are excerpts from the TTC’s Scheduled Service Summaries for August and January 2021. Note that the round trip time for Line 1 is 161 minutes in January, but only 154 minutes in August. Some of the “restored” trains simply go to extending the trip time, not to providing more capacity. On Line 2, the round trip times are almost identical (101 vs 100 minutes).
Every source I have for info on how much service is running says that there is a smaller percentage increase than the press release claims.
Moreover, the press release uses the change in train count as an implication of a capacity increase greater than is actually provided.
This distortion arises from various factors:
Of the seven trains added to the Line 1 schedule, 2 are gap trains that are inserted where needed on the line. They may or may not add to the total service provided depending on where and when they are used.
Changing the scheduled headway from 3’45” (225 seconds) to 3’30” (210 seconds) would require 3 additional trains if the travel time were not changed. Providing extra travel time requires two more trains.
The TTC says that they have added three more trains above the scheduled level (49 versus 46 regular trains). If these are integrated into the schedule, the headway would fall to 3’17” rather than 3’30”. This is still only a 14% increase in capacity versus the August schedule of 3’45”.
The rounding used by the TTC from 23.25 to 25% is equivalent to almost an entire train. This is not a trivial rounding error.
A 25% increase in the number of trains does not translate to a 25% increase in service capacity because four of the additional trains are added as gap fillers or to stretch the scheduled travel time.
The press release states that this is applicable to both Lines 1 and 2. If extra trains above the scheduled level on Line 2 were also added, the TTC has been silent on the details as I write this.
Between extra trains the TTC has added and counting trains in service rather than trains/hour past a point, the press release claim of 25% more trains is correct on its own terms. However, it gives the impression of a greater increase in service capacity than what is actually provided.
This is a subtle but important difference. Tempered by accepting that the TTC has added three more trains to Line 1 service than shown in previously published information, I stand by my statement that the City’s press release exaggerates the degree of service improvement.
In a recent Metrolinx Blog article (Phil Verster explains the network effect and how it will create new transit possibilities for generations of customers), the CEO discusses how the presence of a frequent, well-connected network of transit will change the way people move around the Toronto area.
This is little surprise to those who long advocated for a view of transit that addresses not just core area commuter traffic, but the wider need for travel around the region without using a private vehicle. GO Transit was conceived as an alternative to highway building in the 1960s, but expansion beyond relief for core-bound highway traffic is minimal. One need only look at traffic on Highway 401 (among others) to see the scale of travel markets that have not been addressed by transit in the past half-century.
Verster’s focus is the GO Expansion program. Important though that is, GO is hobbled by the geography of Toronto’s historical, radial railway network. There is only one cross-city line within Toronto (CPR) and one crossing the southern part of York Region (CNR). Both of these are busy freight routes where insertion of passenger services would be challenging, assuming that the railways even agreed to such a scheme, and their locations do not coincide with major population and job centres.
The railway network was created primarily to serve freight, and the early industrial districts of the region lie along rail corridors. The node at Union served not just passenger traffic, but also as an interchange with the harbour. That was very much the case until trucks took over much of the shipping market and highways became the focus for development. GO Transit inherited railway corridors whose locations fit a century-old industrial pattern. Modal interchange shifted to rail and truck terminals in the suburbs, and railways shifted much more to a line-haul role with trucks handling local distribution.
GO’s first half-century was a comparatively easy one taking the low-hanging fruit of existing rail corridors, building massive parking facilities along these lines, and basking in the arrival of thousands of commuters. That model does not work any more because the web of travel demands is much more complex than the legacy railway network. Parking garages are expensive and they occupy valuable real estate at stations.
Parking lots are a quick and relatively cheap way to address the “last mile problem” of linking stations to their customers, and GO is one of the largest operators of parking facilities in North America. As of April 2019, GO transit had 85,055 parking spaces while the rail network carried 219,000 daily boardings (the equivalent of 109,500 round trips). That is almost four parking spaces for every five commuters. (I have ignored the GO bus network here because it is much less dependent on park-and-ride demand.)
That model simply does not scale up, nor does it provide a “network effect” because it is highly dependent on personal vehicles. The system is capacity-constrained by would-be riders’ ability to get to the trains.
About 50 years ago, there was a housecleaning at TTC’s head office at 1900 Yonge Street. A room in what was then the Advertising Department stuffed with archival material was to be cleared out because they needed the space. A call went to the transit fans interested in preservating things that would otherwise be lost. This included a set of water colours by Sigmund Augustus Serafin who produced images of what subway station designs would look like long before the days of computer graphics.
These date mainly from 1957 when the Bloor-Danforth-University subway was still in the design stage. Few of the stations were built exactly as shown here. The quaint presence of the red “G” trains that ran on BD for only six months is a wonderful touch. Other vehicles include PCC streetcars and GM buses that predate the “New Look” era. Many buildings in the backgrounds no longer exist.
For decades these paintings lived in our family house, but in 2016 with what appeared to be a “friendlier” crew with Andy Byford in charge, I decided that it was time for them to go back to the TTC and the City Archives where they now reside. The TTC had thoughts of publishing them as posters, but that idea never bore fruit. The original mats around the paintings were in less than perfect condition when I received them, but the watercolours were and are almost like new.
Reproductions are on display at Bay Station, but they do not do justice to the originals. In anticipation of the TTC’s 100th birthday on September 1, 2021, here is a gallery of the paintings with photos I took while they were in my hands.
Click on any photo to open a gallery of larger versions.
Construction of a new lower level station at Queen and Yonge will close roads in the area for an extended period according to a new blog article from Metrolinx. Between early 2023 for about four and a half years, Queen street will be completely closed from Victoria to James Street.
James Street will also be closed as well as a portion of the west side of Victoria Street.
Streetcars will divert both ways around the construction site via Church, the Richmond/Adelaide pair, and York. This will require York to become two-way at least south to Adelaide Street (it is two-way only from Queen to Richmond), and new track will have to be installed. Although the map above shows partial occupancy of Victoria Street, it is not clear whether the tracks, long out of use thanks to construction at St. Michael’s Hospital and at Massey Hall, will finally be reactivated.
Reconstruction of Adelaide Street is already in the City’s plans for 2022. Originally, when I asked about the scope of work, the feedback I received from the TTC was that this would only involve track removal from Charlotte Street (east of Spadina) to Victoria. However, with these diversion plans it is clear that new track will be required at least to York Street.
An obvious question here is what plans Metrolinx has for Osgoode Station, and whether a Queen diversion west of York will be required. It is conceivable that the Adelaide trackage may yet live again further west. There will also be construction effects at Queen/Spadina and King/Bathurst. I have written to Metrolinx asking when details of these projects will be available so that the entire plan for downtown construction will be clear.
A further issue is that there is a major reconstruction of King Street planned in 2023. This would have to be well out of the way before Queen Street could be closed. If there will be track on Adelaide to which a connection could be provided at York, a new east-to-north curve would be an obvious addition at King.
More generally, there should be a plan for the future use of downtown streetcar track to support the various diversions needed for construction and to restore some of the flexibility in streetcar operations that has been lost over the years as less-used bits of track fall victim to various construction projects. A list of potential locations includes:
Adelaide Street from Charlotte eastward, not just from York, including connecting curves at York.
An east-to-north curve at King and York.
Reactivation of track on Victoria between Queen and Dundas.
Addition of curves in the SE quadrant at Church and Carlton (reconstruction is planned there in 2022).
I have written to the TTC asking what their plans are.
Too often, chances to improve the network have been missed when track is rebuilt “as is”. This is an excellent chance to rectify past oversights.
A further issue in all of this will be the effect of redirected streetcar (and other) traffic on the cycling network downtown. I will seek info about this from the City of Toronto.
I will update this article when I receive additional information from Metrolinx and the TTC.
Metrolinx has an unerring ability, in the name of progress, to propose infrastructure that will not be friendly to its neighbours. Coupled with an organizational arrogance and the pressure to deliver on Ford’s transit dreams, this can produce unhappy relations with areas where they plan to build. It is convenient to portray those objecting to Metrolinx works as misinformed Nimbys, or to gaslight them by suggesting that nobody else in the known universe objects to their plans and to “progress”.
They are so confident that their copious output of publicity includes unintended double entendres such as:
Transit runs both ways. The conversation should too.
Once the progress train gets moving, there’s no stopping it.
The first is advice they could well take themselves, while the second implies that any “conversation” will slam into a brick wall of we-can-do-what-we-want enabled by provincial legislation.
Neighbourhoods along the eastern side of the Ontario Line have received most of the publicity regarding pushback on Metrolinx plans, but one appalling proposal, in the heart of the city, has gone unnoticed: Osgoode Station.
The proposed Osgoode Station on the Ontario line will be an interchange point with the University Subway. To bring the combined station up to current fire code as required when any major change like this occurs, more entrance capacity is required. Metrolinx proposes to put a new entrance (sitting on top of an access shaft) right on that corner.
Here is another view looking south on University.
Here is a view from inside the park.
This is not the only park that Metrolinx has in its sights (the grove of trees at Moss Park Station west of Sherbourne will vanish), but this particular forest is part of an historic site going back to the City’s origins. It stands in front of Osgoode Hall dating from 1829.
Before the Ontario Line was proposed, Osgoode Station would have been the western terminus of the Relief Line and it would have shared the entrance facilities of the existing station. The stairways on the southwest corner of Queen & University would have been replaced by a new entrance through the former Bank of Canada building on that corner.
The secondary entrance, required to provide an alternate exit from the new Relief Line station, would have been at York Street.
The Ontario Line’s Osgoode Station is sited further to the west. This is the high level view showing the two proposed new entrances to the station at University Avenue (NE) and Simcoe (SW).
The station area, as seen in the satellite view:
Metrolinx shows their property requirements in the drawing below, but this does not include lands required as a “lay down area” for materials for the station project. Note also that their tunnel appears to run under Campbell House (northwest corner, south of the Canada Life Building) when it fact it is supposed to be directly under Queen Street. This is at least partly an error in perspective, but it misrepresents the tunnel’s location.
A further entrance will be required on University Avenue somewhere north of Queen to provide a second exit from the existing Osgoode Station which does not meet fire code (it has only one path from platform to street level).
A related consideration in the station design is a proposed reconfiguration of University Avenue so that what are now its northbound lanes would shift to the median, and the east side of the street would be an expanded sidewalk and park land. If this scheme proceeds, then both the new entrance and any lay down area needed for the station should be co-ordinated with the reconfiguration of the area around Osgoode Hall. Tearing out part of the park is a quick-and-dirty approach to station design that is totally out of place on this site.
I asked Metrolinx about their planned design.
One of the outstanding issues about Osgoode Station is why or if it is actually necessary to locate an entrance building on the Osgoode Hall lands.
The original Relief Line Station lay between York Street and the west side of University Avenue. It had two entrances: one was at York Street, SE corner, and the other was through a new joint entrance to both stations on the southwest corner through the old Bank of Canada building.
With the shift of the Ontario Line station box westward, the west entrance of the OL station will be through the old bank on the SW corner at Simcoe. The new east entrance is proposed for the Osgoode Hall lands. Why, by analogy to the original design, is this entrance not simply consolidated with the existing station entrance on the NE corner rather than taking a bite out of the historic lands of the Hall?
I know that there is a need for two exit paths under fire code but must they be completely separate from the existing structure? Why would this not have applied equally to the original Relief Line design?
Any significant change in the use of an existing station requires that it be brought to current code. The existing Osgoode Station only has one exit path. Does the additional load the OL interchange represents trigger a need for a second exit from that station too (ie something surfacing in the median of University Avenue from the north end of the station)? There has never been any discussion of this as part of the OL project. Is the OL providing two completely separate entrances to its station to avoid triggering the need for a second exit from the existing Osgoode Station?
Email to Metrolinx July 28, 2021
Thank you for your email. We also know that transit is sorely needed in Toronto and the broader region. Building a subway through the heart of the largest city in Canada in some of the areas of greatest density was never going to be easy. We know it will have impacts for some, but the necessity of the Ontario Line requires us to make these difficult decisions to build the transit network needed for this region.
Osgoode Station is one of the four interchange stations the Ontario Line has with the TTC subway network, providing a direct connection to Line 1 Yonge-University. As you know, it will serve an estimated 12,000 riders arriving and departing Ontario Line trains during the AM peak hour alone in 2041, making it the third busiest station on Ontario Line.
The station will be located directly below the existing Line 1 station with a connection to the existing TTC concourse within the same ‘fare paid’ zone below ground. The existing Line 1 concourse level will also need to be expanded to meet fire code requirements as an interchange station. The major challenges involve constructing under, and connecting to, the existing station with minimal disruption to daily operations and minimizing any risk of damaging the structural integrity of the station itself. Within such a highly urbanized area, the work is further constrained by the limited availability of undeveloped land to construct a vertical shaft to access the deep below-grade construction site and for a suitably sized site to accommodate necessary laydown and staging activities on the surface.
In the case of Osgoode station, we know the passenger demand at this station necessitates the need for crowd management provisions and efficient surface network transfers. Two entrances, one at the west and one at the east end, of the new station are required to accommodate the anticipated passenger volumes and to meet safety and fire code requirements.
The TTC’s entrance for the existing Line 1 Osgoode Station does not provide sufficient capacity for the ridership expected when the Ontario Line is in operation. We also looked at various other location options for the Ontario Line Osgoode Station entrance buildings in this area. The proposed locations are the only ones where we can construct the station entrances and meet the necessary safety and code requirements.
We are working to minimize the footprint of Osgoode Station to the greatest extent possible. We will work with the Law Society of Ontario, the City of Toronto’s Heritage Preservation Services and the Ministry of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries to make sure we are not impacting more than we need to here.
Email from Caitlin Docherty, Community Relations & Issues Specialist – Ontario Line, August 9, 2021
Metrolinx is not known for “working with” affected communities preferring to bend any opposition to their predetermined plans. It will be interesting to see how they deal with this site and whether a better approach to Osgoode Station’s design and construction can be achieved that leaves the existing landscape intact.
The University Avenue redesign project appears to languish at City Hall while schemes such as the now-defunct Rail Deck Park soak up the political attention. This would be a chance to transform University Avenue from a suburban style arterial born of an era when much of downtown’s streets and built form were treated as expendable. City Council and Mayor Tory should seize this chance to make a grand street in the heart of the City.
Several weeks ago, when Metrolinx began publishing its Neighbourhood Updates and Station Profiles, I asked for a consolidated set of ridership estimates. The material originally presented varied slightly from location to location, depending on each profile’s author. Most importantly, the numbers showed the utilization of each station, but not the projected loads on trains.
The stations might be a nice place to visit, but the real purpose of a transit line is to move people. For that, an important planning question is how many people actually want to ride in the peak period.
Metrolinx has now supplied this info (the have also updated some of their online information), and I present it here for readers’ interest.
The table below combines information from two Metrolinx sources:
The station-by-station projections sent in reply to my request, and
The projected numbers of transfer passengers, population and jobs taken from the station profiles.
To this data I have added a few extra columns to show the degree to which demand originating at each station is in the “inbound” direction heading toward downtown, and the proportion of demand at a station that walks in or out rather than transferring from another route. (Click on the image below for a larger version.)
A few things leap out of this table, notably the variation in usage at each station, and the large variation in whether traffic originates from or transfers to other transit routes, or is “local” to the neighbourhood.
Science Centre Station is particularly striking because 86 per cent of riders boarding or alighting there in the AM peak hour are projected to transfer to or from the Eglinton Crosstown line or from the local bus routes. Considering the scale of development projected for Don Mills and Eglinton, both commercial and residential, 14% for local walking access is a surprisingly low proportion.
Pape Station also has a low proportion of walk-in trade because activity there is dominated by transfers to and from Line 2 Bloor-Danforth.
Transfers to/from GO Transit are projected at 8,600 for East Harbour and 6,300 for Exhibition, and almost all of these are GO-to-Ontario Line given the highly directional nature of GO’s demand. These are the riders that Metrolinx hopes to divert from Union Station.
Metrolinx commonly cites the 14-15k total of GO-OL transfers for the two stations as if this were the benefit for each of them. The Exhibition Station Profile claims:
Giving customers another way to transfer between GO Transit’s regional rail services and the local subway system will take pressure off of Union Station, the country’s busiest transit hub. This new interchange will help reduce crowding at Union by about 14 per cent – or 14,000 fewer people – during rush hour.
Similar text is used for East Harbour Station. Moreover, this claim did not change after the much-vaunted “across the platform” transfer connections and their supposed convenience were dropped from the plans.
Where Are Riders Going?
Published Metrolinx data do not contain cross-tabs of origin-destination pairs and so we cannot see the details of where these riders are going, but one can get an idea of the popular locations by charting the boardings, alightings and accumulated loads on the Ontario Line for each direction of travel.
Westbound demand is the strongest in the AM peak hour accumulating to just over 20k on-train passengers in the peak direction during this hour. The overwhelming sources of riders in this projection are, in declining order:
Line 2 at Pape Station,
Riders boarding at East Harbour, primarily from GO Transit, and
Riders boarding at Science Centre, mainly as transfer traffic from Line 5.
The primary destinations are Queen, Osgoode and Exhibition Stations in that order.
Eastbound traffic will originate mainly at Exhibition Station. This demand is comprised partly of transfers from GO Transit, and partly of walk-in trade from Liberty Village. There is no local transit transfer component.
East Harbour is the principal destination along with the two downtown subway stations.
These charts show how important both the East Harbour development and the anticipated transfer of riders from GO onto the Ontario Line are for counterpeak demand. The inbound traffic is far more oriented to Queen and Osgoode Stations (showing the “relief” function of the corridor) than it is to East Harbour.