TTC Contemplates the Future of Streetcars: 1952, 1971, 1972

From time to time, I am asked about the TTC streetcar replacement policy and some of the history. To flesh out some of this, I have scanned three reports of interest.

1952: Buying Used Streetcars

In 1952, the TTC was still acquiring second-hand PCCs from other cities, but planned eventually to replace all of their streetcar lines by 1980 when subways downtown would make the streetcar lines obsolete.

This is a scan of a photocopy of a carbon copy of a typewritten report. [26MB PDF]

This report shows the TTC’s thoughts on the future of its streetcar system from just before the Yonge subway opened, and how it would be an important part of the network until about 1980.

The importance of the Bloor-Danforth corridor can be seen in the following text:

The Service Change Committee estimates that after the subway is in operation the Bloor service will require 138 cars for through service over the whole route, plus 36 cars for short-turn service between Yonge and Coxwell, or a total of 174 cars.

No present-day route comes close to requiring this much equipment to handle passenger demand.

A longer extract is worth highlighting:

At the present time … there are available good, used, P.C.C. cars of recent manufacture which are suitable for operation in Toronto. This situation will obviously only continue for a limited time. It is believed that the Commission should seize the opportunity to protect its future by the purchase of some of these cars.

It might be asked why Toronto should consider buying additional street cars when so many of the transit properties on this continent are giving them up and turning to trolley coaches, buses or rapid transit operation. It is, therefore, necessary and useful to examine the practice as to vehicular service, past and present, of other transit properties to determine what course should be followed in this city.

It is more or less true that there has been a gradual abandonment of street cars in a substantial number of large American cities and some smaller Canadian cities.

There is obvious justification for the abandonment of street cars in smaller communities but the policy of abandonment of the use of this form of transportation in the larger communities is decidedly open to question. In fact it is hardly to much to say that the results which have occurred in a good many of these larger cities leaves open to serious question the wisdom of the decisions made.

It may be not wholly accurate to attribute the transit situation in most large American cities to the abandonment of the street cars. Nevertheless the position in which these utilities have now found themselves is a far from happy one. Fares have steadily and substantially increased, the quality of the service given, on the whole, has not been maintained, and the fare increases have not brought a satisfactory financial result. Short-haul riding, which is the lifeblood of practically all transit properties, has dropped to a minimum and the Companies are left with the unprofitable long-hauls. Deterioration of service has also lessened the public demand for public passenger transportation. The result is that the gross revenues of the properties considered, if they have increased to any substantial degree, have not increased in anything like the ratio of fare increases, and in most cases have barely served to keep pace with the rising cost of labour and material. It is difficult to see any future for most large American properties unless public financial aid comes to their support.

These facts being as they are, Toronto should consider carefully whether policies which have brought these unfortunate results are policies which should be copied in this city. Unquestionably a large part of the responsibility for the plight in which these companies find themselves is due to the fact that the labour cost on small vehicles is too high to make the service self-sustaining at practically any conceivable fare.

Why then did these properties adopt this policy? It is not unfair to suggest that this policy was adopted in large part by public pressure upon management exerted by the very articulate group of citizens who own and use motor cars and who claim street cars interfere with the movement of free-wheel vehicles and who assert that the modern generation has no use for vehicles operating on fixed tracks but insists on “riding on rubber”. If there is any truth in the above suggestion it is an extraordinary abdication of responsibility by those in charge of transit interests. They have tailored their service in accordance with the demands of their bitter competitors rather than in accordance with the needs of their patrons.

The report goes on to talk about both the deterioration of physical plant and equipment in many cities, but not in Toronto, as well as the very high demands found on our street car routes.

Even if the Queen subway were to open “in the next decade”, the initial operation of this line would be with streetcars and the TTC would continue to need a fleet. This statement was made at a time when the Queen route, rather than Bloor, was seen as the next rapid transit corridor after Yonge Street.

The report recommends purchase of 75 used cars from Cleveland, 25 of which had been built for Louisville but barely operated there before that system was abandoned. The TTC already had second-hand cars from Cincinnati, and would go on to buy cars from Birmingham and Kansas City.

1971 and 1972: The Beginning of the End?

In 1971 and 1972, the TTC was still discussing their plan for a Queen Street subway, although it was looking rather uncertain as a project. As we all know, it did not open in 1980.

The 1971 report sets out a plan to discontinue all but the core routes of King, Queen (including Kingston Road) and Bathurst, with even these up for grabs should a Queen subway open in 1980, rather far-fetched idea for late 1971 and an era when all rapid transit planning focused on the suburbs.

This is a scan of an nth-generation photocopy and it is faint in places because that’s what my copy looks like. [6 MB PDF]

The 1972 report set in motion the political debate about the future of streetcars, and led to the formation of the Streetcars for Toronto Committee. Had its recommendations been adopted, the removal of streetcars from St. Clair would begun the gradual dismantling of the system.

It is amusing to see the sort of creative accounting by the TTC that we in the activist community associate with more recent proposals. There is an amazing co-incidence that the number of spare trolley coaches exactly matches the needs of the streetcar retirement plan for St. Clair even though this would have actually meant a cut in line capacity. Moreover, the planned Spadina subway would lead to an increase in demand as St. Clair would be a feeder route.

There is also the wonderful dodge that if the TTC abandoned the streetcars and claimed it was for the Yonge subway extension, they hoped to get Metro Council to pay for some of the conversion cost out of the subway budget.

In this report (as well as in the 1971 report above) we learn that the Dundas car just had to go because its continued operation would interfere with the planned parking garage for the then-proposed Eaton Centre.

Note: My copy of this report was in good enough shape to scan with OCR and convert to text rather than as page images. The format is slightly changed from the original, but all of the text is “as written”.

The Streetcars Survived, But the Network Did Not Grow

In November 1972, the TTC Board, at the urging of Toronto Council, voted to retain the streetcar system except for the Mt. Pleasant and Rogers Road lines. The former would be removed for a bridge project at the Belt Line, and the latter was in the Borough of York who wanted rid of their one remaining streetcar route.

The TTC had a plan for suburban LRT lines in the 1960s, but this was not to be. While Edmonton, Calgary and San Diego built new LRT, Toronto’s transit future was mired in technology pipe-dreams from Queen’s Park that bore little fruit and blunted the chance for a suburban network while the city was still growing. It is ironic that growth in the streetcar network, if it comes at all, will be downtown thanks to a renaissance of the waterfront when it could have happened decades ago while much of suburbia was still farmland.

Infrastructure Ontario October 2021 Update

Infrastructure Ontario (IO) has issued its project status update for fall 2021 together with an overview letter from their CEO, Michael Lindsay.

Little has changed in the transit projects, but IO and Metrolinx are shifting away from their original, much-ballyhooed model where public contract risk was minimized by a transfer to the private sector. Instead there is more talk about collaboration and mechanisms to make contracts more palatable to would-be bidders. It is no secret that a few years ago a major firm refused to bid on Metrolinx work on the proposed terms.

Building on the experience of the collaborative Alliance model in use for the Union Station Enhancement Project, IO’s partnership with Metrolinx to expand the GTHA’s network of public transit continues to advance and evolve. Last month, Metrolinx and IO launched the RFQ for the Scarborough Subway Extension – Stations, Rail, and Systems project, introducing a Progressive Design-Build approach. Like the Progressive P3 procurement strategy being introduced on hospital projects, the subway extension procurement includes the benefits of working with a partner on design work, addressing and avoiding considerable contract risk prior to signing a final contract to deliver the project. Following considerable discussion and consultation with industry, this complex, multi-billion-dollar project will be contracted as a targeted price versus the fixed price of our P3 models.

Like our contract packaging strategy for both Scarborough Subway Extension and Eglinton Crosstown West Extension, we expect to take a multi-package staged approach of delivering the Yonge North Subway Extension. That work would begin with an advance tunnels package that we expect to be procured using a classic DBF contract. Pending government approval, our hope is to have the RFQ for that procurement in market early next year.

Letter from Michael Lindsay, CEO of IO, October 14, 2021

The update contains projects from multiple ministries and agencies, and I have extracted the transit projects in the table linked below. This table shows the status of each project as it appears in the quarterly IO updates with the current changes highlighted in yellow.

Changes in this interation are:

  • The structure of the Scarborough Subway Extension has been changed from “TBD” to “Progressive Design Build” where first a partner is chosen with a Development Phase Agreement, and then a Project Agreement once design reaches the point of locking in the construction phase. Note that “Design Build” does not include operation and maintenance as the SSE will be part of the TTC’s subway system.
  • The Yonge North Subway Extension to Richmond Hill has slipped slightly for issuance of the Request for Qualifications and of the Request for Proposals, but this is offset by moving the contract award up from Fall to Summer 2023.

Several GO Transit projects are listed for award in 2021, but they have not yet been announced.

Beyond the works already in progress, no transit projects are up for award before Fall 2022. This means that if the Ford government is re-elected, they will have batch of ready-to-go announcements, but if not, there would be a last ditch chance to review some contracts either as to content (project details) or future operating principles (private vs public). Whether a Liberal or NDP government (or a coalition) would do this remains to be seen.

Ontario Line Downtown Segment: Consultation Follow-Up

Updated October 14, 2021 at 12:50 am: Metrolinx’ responses to the absence of material on Osgoode Station, and of the suggestion of “ballot stuffing” have been added.

After the recent online consultation session for the Downtown Segment of the Ontario Line (Osgoode to Corktown), several issues came to mind and I wrote to Metrolinx for clarification. They have not yet answered most of them.

The Depth and Complexity of Queen Station

The cross-section for Queen Station included in the presentation shows an Ontario Line deep underground. This station is deeper than the City Hall Station on the Relief Line which was located immediately west of Yonge Street.

Ontario Line

Queen Yonge Cross Section Looking North, Ontario Line. Source: Metrolinx

Relief Line

City Hall Station Cross Section Looking North, Relief Line. Source: Relief Line South Detailed Design

These two drawings are not at the same scale. The illustration below clips portions of each with scales adjusted to match. In both designs, the new structure leaves a gap below the existing station for structural support. However, with the Ontario Line directly under the Yonge Line, the concourse level (one above platform level) cannot share the same vertical “slice” that the Relief Line, offset from the Yonge Line, uses. This forces a deeper station than would otherwise be needed.

Metrolinx claims that transfer times between the two stations are actually shorter for the Ontario Line than the Relief Line, but this is hard to believe considering that OL riders must walk east or west at the concourse level just to reach an escalator upward from what would have been platform level on the Relief Line.

Note that in both cases, the level of the passageway under Queen Station (the remains of a never-used Yonge Station on a Queen line) connect to the circulation system of the new station. It is not clear, however, that the capacity of the existing passage, stairs and escalators is up to the potential level of transfer traffic. That problem is common to either design.

What Is Happening at Osgoode Station?

The meeting announcement clearly states that Osgoode Station would be up for discussion. This is a controversial site where Metrolinx plans to build a new entrance and access shaft where there is now a grove of trees on the northeast corner of Queen Street and University Avenue at Osgoode Hall. See: Ontario Line v Osgoode Hall. Trees on main streets downtown, let alone on an historic site, are not exactly common, and the Metrolinx plan verges on civic vandalism.

In particular, there is a proposal floating around at City Hall to substantially reconfigure University Avenue by extending the east sidewalk (shown below) into the northbound roadway. The trees at Osgoode Hall are an integral part of the new design.

This locations of station entrances for the Ontario Line are different than in the original Relief Line plans because the OL station box is shifted west. (See the article linked above for detailed layouts.) The Relief Line station ran from just west of University to York, with a new expanded entrance on the southwest corner at University and a completely new entrance at York and Queen. The Ontario Line station runs from west of Simcoe to University with new entrances through the Osgoode Hall lands and through an old bank on the southwest corner of Queen and Simcoe.

This is a controversial subject, and Osgoode Station was included in the announced meeting agenda. This agenda is still online on the meeting page. Clearly when this meeting was announced Metrolinx intended to include Osgoode Station.

That page now claims:

The presentation focused on timely updates for Queen, Moss Park and Corktown Stations. While this presentation did not feature an update on Osgoode Station, the panel welcomed and responded to questions about all four stations within the segment.

That is flatly not true. A few people asked about Osgoode Station’s absence from the presentation, but there was no substantive discussion because no material was presented.

Metrolinx has not yet posted any replies to the questions submitted online, but there is an added wrinkle in that regard. There had been a popular question about Osgoode Hall that ranked third on the list on September 28.

By October 12, this question had gained more support, but also a large number of down-votes pushing it well down the list. One might speculate that this is a question Metrolinx would prefer not to answer. In this age of challenged votes, we cannot tell whether any ballot-stuffing was involved. (See Metrolinx’ reply at the end of this section.)

I asked Metrolinx about Osgoode Station’s absence from the actual agenda, and here is their reply:

The Ontario Line virtual open house on October 7 did focus on the Downtown segment, which includes Osgoode, Queen, Moss Park and Corktown Stations. However, similar to other open houses we have hosted across the alignment, we did not feature an update on all stations in the segment.

As you noted, we did not include new information about Osgoode Station in the October 7 presentation. There are a few reasons we did not cover Osgoode in the presentation. First and foremost, we did not have significant updates to share about the station. Additionally, we aim to keep the presentations to 30-minutes to allow ample time for questions. Given that we had substantial updates to cover for all of the three other stations but not for Osgoode, we did not explicitly highlight this station during the presentation. Nonetheless, we welcomed questions related to all Downtown stations and will post responses for any questions we did not get to answer during the live event in the coming weeks. 

We look forward to bringing new updates and more information to the community about all stations across the Ontario Line as they are available. We also always welcome questions and feedback via email, phone, and social media. Anyone interested in learning more about any station can also visit our website or book a meeting with a community relations team member.

Email from Caitlin Docherty, Community Relations & Issues Specialist – Ontario Line, October 12, 2021

To have no update on a controversial station site, if only to say “we have some ideas and we’re working on it”, suggests avoidance, not merely a desire for brevity. Moreover, there was no suggestion during the meeting of an alternate date when that site could be discussed.

This is not a trivial issue both in its own right, and because Metrolinx operates to a clock ticking quickly and inexorably on a compressed approval timetable. Delaying discussion makes real debate, let alone the possibility of modification, more difficult.

It is all very well to suggest that people can contact Metrolinx one-on-one, but this is not the same as a published community meeting where whatever claims Metrolinx makes are public and can be challenged. Even in public meetings, Metrolinx makes statements that can be charitably described as misinformed. They can claim to have “consulted”, ticking off a box in the legislated process, but without a public check on their accuracy.

Updated October 14, 2021 at 12:50 am:

Metrolinx has replied further:

Consultation is absolutely planned once we have new significant updates to share for Osgoode. During the virtual open house, we welcomed questions related to all Downtown stations and will post responses for any questions we did not get to answer during the live event in the coming weeks. 

I want to be very direct with the second half of your email. Metrolinx does not manipulate the votes in any way on Metrolinx Engage. We use the votes to gauge community interest and determine which questions we will have time to answer.

Email from Daryl Gonsalves, Community Relations & Issues Specialist – Ontario Line, October 14, 2021

I will take this at face value, but it is clear that somebody really didn’t want to have a discussion about the trees at Osgoode Hall.

More Questions

The following questions to Metrolinx await answers.

Queen Station

  1. At Queen Station, you stated that the transfer with Line 1, although obviously deep vertically, is shorter than from the originally proposed City Hall station on the Relief Line South. This is hard to believe. Can you explain further?
  2. Was there any reason for the change in the OL elevation other than the geometric constraint at Yonge caused by shifting the station eastward?
  3. From a construction point of view at Queen Station do you plan to dig two shafts down east and west of Yonge, and then mine inward from the sides?
  4. With the station at Yonge now being an entire level below the RL plan, what does this do to elevations at Osgoode and Moss Park compared to the original RL designs?

Moss Park Station

  • At Moss Park Station, you talked about meeting the fire code while only having one exit building. I have been trying to figure out the plan in the presentation deck. Am I right in thinking that there are two separate sets of vertical access from the common lobby area leading to different parts of the station? How do you achieve compliance with only a single exit point? This was a known advance question and simply including a station plan would have answered this.

Corktown Station Construction Effects

  • There was a passing reference re the construction disruption at Corktown where you talked about the possibility that the tunnel will be one straight bore from Corktown to Exhibition rather than two separate ones east and west of Yonge Street.
    1. Is this a decision being left to the south tunnels bidders? It obviously has significant effects on construction staging and the length of disruption at Corktown.
    2. On a related note, how do you plan to construct the segment between Corktown and the portal west of the Don River?

Station Finishes

  • There was a question about station finishes where the answer quickly pivoted to the joys of above-ground stations and sunlight. This has nothing to do with downtown, underground stations. Do you plan simple bare concrete stations for the Ontario Line or not?

Line 3 SRT Replacement Options

Updated October 27, 2021 at 12:15pm: The link to the TTC’s Line 3 Replacement page has been updated to point to their new website.

In July, I wrote about the first round of consultations and option evaluations in What Bus Service Will Replace the SRT? Please refer to that article for information about the original long list of options. Many variations were scored, but only a few made it through to the final selection.

In January 2022, staff will take their recommendation to the TTC Board. There are three options still on the table, but option 1 will be recommended to the Board. Still at issue is the question of which of option(s) would be used for the interim period between the SRT shutdown and conversion of the right-of-way for BRT operation.

  1. A hybrid option running on street from STC (Scarborough Town Centre) to Ellesmere Station and then south on a new BRT corridor in a repurposed SRT right-of-way to Kennedy Station. (Recommended)
  2. On street operation from STC to Kennedy Station using Brimley and Midland as a one-way pair with buses running southbound on one and northbound on the other.
  3. On street operation from STC to Kennedy Station using a mixture of Brimley, Midland and Kennedy (see map below).

In the TTC’s words:

Why this option performed well in our evaluation: This option performs the best under the criteria of customer experience, neighbourhood and community impact, and equity. Customers will have the fastest and most reliable journey with this option.

Although conversion of the right-of-way for BRT is more expensive, this option will provide superior service reliability and travel time by getting buses out of traffic for most of their route.

Regardless of the routing option chosen, there are two options for route configurations:

  • Extend major routes from STC to Kennedy Station to eliminate the need for riders to transfer enroute.
  • Continue to terminate all routes at STC and operate a separate bus shuttle from there to Kennedy Station.

There are advantages, depending on your outlook, in each model.

With route extensions:

  • Riders will not transfer at STC and this will recoup some of the travel time that would otherwise be lost enroute. For option 1 with buses having a dedicated access into Kennedy Station from the north, the TTC estimates that travel time from STC to Kennedy would be similar to that now provided by the SRT including the elimination of transfer time.
  • The vehicles on these routes would be drawn from the fleet as a whole, not a dedicated subset.
  • The shuttle itself might operate less reliably with a mix of longer routes, but this would not really be a problem for riders destined for points on the extended bus routes who would have to wait for a specific bus anyhow at Kennedy rather than at STC (for outbound trips).

With a dedicated shuttle:

  • Riders would have to transfer at STC in both directions adding both to their journey times and to pedestrian congestion at that station.
  • A dedicated fleet of buses could be used for the shuttle, such as vehicles from the eBus fleet.
  • As a short route, reliability might be better.

None of the configurations with a dedicated shuttle made the cut primarily because of the transfer penalty this would impose at STC.

The TTC has launched a rider survey to obtain feedback from staff recommendations about the alternatives to Line 3 SRT service when it shuts down in Fall 2023. The survey is open to October 29, 2021. For those who cannot access the survey online, a hard copy is available by mail on request.

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Ontario Line Oct/21 Consultations: Lakeshore East Joint Corridor

This meeting mainly dealt with the Early Works portion of the Ontario Line and GO Expansion projects between the Don River and Gerrard Street including construction effects and post-completion conditions.

A separate EA looking at the Ontario Line overall including future operations and mitigation of noise and vibration issues will be available in early 2022.

Metrolinx assured everyone that no construction work will begin until the Minister approves the Early Works Environmental Assessment, but that statement is true only as far as it applies to things in the EA.

Other work such as vegetation clearing was approved in the GO Expansion and Electrification EAs, and could start any time. Clearing is already in progress elsewhere in corridor and on the GO network. In the Joint Corridor it will begin later this fall, but specific dates have not been announced. A strange statement by Metrolinx claimed that any removals for the Ontario Line will not take place until the EA is approved by the Minister. This is potentially misleading given that approvals already exist by way of the approved GO Expansion.

Metrolinx appears to be less then forthright about their actual timeline. Meanwhile, they claim that consultation will continue as the project goes into detailed design. That will not occur until well into 2022.

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Ontario Line Oct/21 Consultations: Downtown Segment

On October 7, a meeting date deferred from September 30, Metrolinx conducted a public consultation session on the downtown segment of the Ontario Line. This was (and still is) advertised as including “Osgoode, Queen, Moss Park and Corktown Stations”, but Osgoode was nowhere to be found.

Osgoode will be a complex station including an interchange with the University Subway (Line 1), and as originally proposed it includes a new entrance on the lands of Osgoode Hall. There was no information about this station in the presentation, and only a vague confirmation that there would be a future meeting to deal with this site.

Queen Station and its construction was covered in some detail, followed by Moss Park with rather less and Corktown with almost nothing. A major problem for Metrolinx is that they expect, nay demand, that the public comment on their plans with a short timeline because moving projects forward is so important. However, their procurement strategy leaves unveiling of many details well beyond the point where anything could actually be changed.

As in past articles of this series, I have reordered the presentation and Q&A session to group topics together for clarity.

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The Don Valley Layover: Metrolinx Replies

Recently, I wrote a piece to tie off the loose ends of the Don Valley Layover project in response to an article in the Globe & Mail. See: The Don Valley Layover: History and Options

Metrolinx sent a response to this article on October 7, 2021, which is presented in its entirety below. I have added headings and my own responses.

I thank Metrolinx and their Media & Issues Specialist, Fannie Sunshine, for their commentary on my proposal.

Electrification of the Richmond Hill Corridor (Bala Sub)

I wrote:

On the west side of the valley, the Bala Subdivision (Richmond Hill Corridor) would be upgraded with electrified double track from the Union Station Rail Corridor (USRC) to Pottery Road (a level crossing north of Bloor Street).

This explanation makes sense operationally, but the amount of electrified track is much greater than needed to act as a reversing area for trains from Union. This begs the question of whether there are other intended or possible uses.

Metrolinx responded:

Broader electrification of the Richmond Hill corridor to Richmond Hill and Bloomington is not in the GO Expansion Program. The future track requirements are a change from what is there now, but that is for currently planned and funded service, not broader expansion of the Richmond Hill Line.

This does not explain why Metrolinx requires electrification so far north of the Union Station Rail Corridor (USRC).

Midday vs Overnight Operation

I wrote:

The Environmental Assessment covering this facility is clear that the intent was for 7×24 operation with three shifts of workers and overnight train servicing. Metrolinx claims that this is not their intent and that the track would only be used to store three trains mid-day between the two peak periods. However, they have also pressed for early completion of this storage yard to replace capacity that will be temporarily lost from the Don Yard at the east end of the USRC due to construction (possibly the Ontario Line and other reconfiguration of tracks just west of the Don River). The Don Yard stores trains overnight.

Metrolinx responded:

This location will only be used for midday storage. We do not regularly store trains in the Don Yard overnight (trains may stage there on emergent purposes, but they are not stored), so the premise that Don Valley will be used to replace overnight storage at Don Yard is not accurate.

I wrote:

The original proposal included overnight servicing of trains (cleaning and fuelling). If trains will only be stored during the mid-day period, the work that would occur, and the supporting facilities, would disappear. Another mid-day storage area, on the Lake Shore East corridor near Midland, has none of the facilities planned for the Don Valley Layover. If the Layover does not require service buildings, then there is more flexibility in its possible location, and much less land is required.

Metrolinx responded:

We are currently reviewing the building requirements for midday storage, and will share the updated design as it is developed in 2022.

The traffic impact study for the Don Valley Layover was quite clear in stating that there would be three shifts of workers and that the site was for 7×24 use. This subsequently changed, but the support buildings needed for the originally-planned operation remained in the design. Metrolinx is now reviewing the need for these buildings.

The need for early provision of the Layover well in advance of service growth that would trigger it, but as a side-effect of the loss of storage in the Don Yard, was raised as a justification for proceeding soon with the project by Metrolinx in a community meeting.

This is independent from whether Metrolinx does or does not use the Don Yard overnight today.

Storing Trains West of the Don River

I wrote:

The Bala Sub and the Don Branch both run north from the USRC on the west side of the Don River. Originally there were two tracks (one used for switching freight) on the Bala Sub and one on the Don Branch. Today, there is only one Bala Sub track as far north as River Street where a second track splits off and provides a siding to south of Pottery Road. The eastern Don Branch track is overgrown but would be reconditioned under Metrolinx’ plans.

The distance from Eastern Avenue to the point north of River Street where the Don Branch crosses the river is about 1.5km. This is slightly longer than the planned layover on the east side of the river. Metrolinx currently does not plan to triple track this section, but there is definitely room as past usage shows.

Metrolinx replied:

The width of the corridor is narrower in some locations than what is shown, as it follows the shoreline of the Don River. The buildings would need to be on the east side of the tracks to access the stored trains. There is not enough room to put the support buildings and wayside power next to the Don River, and allow for safe train operations on the Bala Subdivision.

The Don Branch track, though overgrown, is still there and is the one adjacent to the river. It is retained and improved in the Metrolinx plans.

The buildings might not be required, per Metrolinx’ earlier reply. As I mentioned in an earlier article, a new layover facility on the Lake Shore East corridor at Midland does not have support buildings.

Nothing prevents a third track (present in the photos, but not there today) on the west side of the corridor, adjacent to Bayview Avenue, from being used as a storage area. This would avoid the need to cross the “live” Richmond Hill tracks to reach the stored trains.

If an access point and small parking area were required, they could be located east of Bayview at River between the north end of a possible storage track and the beginning of the existing siding on the Bala sub which occupies a corresponding part of the Metrolinx right-of-way.

Over to you, Metrolinx.

The Don Valley Layover: History and Options

In Opponents voice concerns about new GO train facility in the Don Valley, the Globe & Mail’s Oliver Moore writes about the ongoing controversy of Metrolinx’ proposed train storage facility in the Don Valley at Bloor Street.

In two previous articles, I have examined this scheme in detail.

As this debate unfolded, it became obvious that some design choices Metrolinx defends are leftovers of earlier versions, and that the actual purpose of the facility has evolved. This tangle of history and garbled explanations is a common situation for Metrolinx.

This article consolidates the main points including an additional alternative that I have not covered before.

Metrolinx’ Original Proposal

Metrolinx’ original plans for the lower Don Valley include two separate changes:

  • On the west side of the valley, the Bala Subdivision (Richmond Hill Corridor) would be upgraded with electrified double track from the Union Station Rail Corridor (USRC) to Pottery Road (a level crossing north of Bloor Street).
  • On the east side of the valley, the single-track Don Branch (a former CPR link to its mainline at Leaside) would be expanded with a three track yard south of Bloor Street. Support buildings would be located south of the Viaduct.

According to Metrolinx, the track on the Bala Subdivision would be used as a turnaround facility for eastbound GO Transit trips ending at Union Station. Instead of staying on the platform during the reversal, trains would continue east and north onto the Bala Sub, set up for westbound operation, and lay over until their return journey. Their stops both ways at Union would be like those of through trains with only a brief stay on the platform and hence a lower consumption of station capacity.

This explanation makes sense operationally, but the amount of electrified track is much greater than needed to act as a reversing area for trains from Union. This begs the question of whether there are other intended or possible uses.

The scheme for the Don Branch ran aground, so to speak, because it would occupy part of the flood plain of the Don River. The original proposal was changed to use the existing single track between the point where the line crosses to the east side of the river north to the high bridge near the Brick Works. This would provide storage for three trains nose-to-tail.

The support buildings have migrated as the plans evolved from south of the Viaduct, to underneath it, and now to a location just north of the bridge. That location requires the facility to be built on a platform several metres above the valley floor so that it is level with the existing rail line.

The Environmental Assessment covering this facility is clear that the intent was for 7×24 operation with three shifts of workers and overnight train servicing. Metrolinx claims that this is not their intent and that the track would only be used to store three trains mid-day between the two peak periods. However, they have also pressed for early completion of this storage yard to replace capacity that will be temporarily lost from the Don Yard at the east end of the USRC due to construction (possibly the Ontario Line and other reconfiguration of tracks just west of the Don River). The Don Yard stores trains overnight.

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Ontario Line Sept/21 Consultations: Eastern Segment

This article continues a series begun with Ontario Line Sept/21 Consultations: Western and Northern Segments to summarize Metrolinx open houses for the Ontario Line.

The fourth session on the downtown segment, originally scheduled for September 30, has been deferred to October 7. A new consultation to deal with the just-released Draft Early Works EAs for East Harbour and the Joint GO/Ontario Line Corridor has been scheduled for October 5.

Updated Sept. 28 at 6:30 pm: A small section of text that was still in rough draft form when this article was published has been updated to “fair copy”.

Updated Sept. 28 at 11:30 pm: Minor revisions and sundry typos corrected.

Scope

This meeting was complicated by having two major reports land only a few hours before it started, and that skewed a lot of attention to material that community attendees were not able to read and digest in time, not to mention some confusion by Metrolinx itself about some of the fine details. Metrolinx keeps scoring “own goals” like this by claiming to want debate and discussion, but acting in a way that precludes this happening.

As if that is not bad enough, some of the key issues the community expected to hear about such as tree clearing along the corridor are still under study and there is not yet an inventory of what will be affected. With the billions available to Metrolinx, this late delivery suggests that it was a recent add-on to their workload, not something they could have undertaken months ago.

Needless to say, Metrolinx really does not want to talk about the “hybrid” scheme to route the Ontario Line from East Harbour Station to an underground alignment that would travel north on the already-approved Relief Line Carlaw-Pape route. More about this later.

According to the two Early Works documents, the combined scope of work is:

East Harbour

  • reconfiguration of the existing Lakeshore East GO tracks to accommodate station facilities and future Ontario Line tracks;
  • construction of station facilities such as platforms and entrances;
  • replacement and expansion of the existing Eastern Avenue rail bridge to accommodate four Lakeshore East GO tracks and two future Ontario Line tracks; and
  • site preparation activities such as grading, demolition of existing structures where required, and utility relocation or protection.

Joint Corridor: Eastern to Pape

  • Reconfiguration of existing GO tracks to support future Ontario Line infrastructure;
  • Replacement of the existing rail bridges at Queen Street East, Dundas Street East and Logan Avenue;
  • Construction of new bridges at Dundas Street East and Logan Avenue to support future Ontario Line tracks;
  • Construction of the foundations for GO Overhead Catenary System (OCS) poles and supporting infrastructure to accommodate future fourth GO track;
  • Construction of retaining walls; and
  • Construction of noise barriers, including east of Pape Avenue.

Reconfiguration of existing GO tracks involves more than just side-to-side realignment to fit in four where there are now three. Metrolinx plans to change the elevation of the rail corridor so that there will be a consistent 5m clearance under all of the bridges. This requires not just new bridges, but a change to the level of the railway between the bridges. The change is greatest at Eastern Avenue reduces gradually north to Gerrard.

An important note about the “Early Works” reports: With the exception of an Operational Noise and Vibration Study that looks at post-opening conditions for expanded GO and Ontario Line service, the Early Works reports consider only the effect of those specific works, mainly the construction activity, not of the permanent change to the neighbourhood or the effect of future GO or OL construction. That information will not show up until the final Environmental Assessment by which time it will be almost impossible to alter the plans.

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A Very Busy GO Corridor (Sept. 2021 Update)

Updated October 20, 2021: A table has been added as a postscript showing the numbers underlying the charts in the article that consolidate GO and Ontario Line traffic.

Back in May 2021, I wrote about the total number of trains that Metrolinx plans to operate in the corridor between East Harbour and Gerrard Stations. See A Very Busy Go Corridor.

Metrolinx has released a Noise & Vibration Study showing, among other things, a revised table of service levels for the routes that will operate in this corridor. See LSE-JC N&V Operations Report issued as Appendix C to the Ontario Line Lakeshore East Joint Corridor Early Works Report. The detailed breakdown of services by motive power type, express and local, and track assignments begins on page 60 of the Operations Report.

The new numbers differ from those published previously:

  • There is an increase primarily in the number of GO express trains.
  • The new report includes Ontario Line maximum service levels for 2060 and beyond.

During a recent online consultation for the East Segment of the Ontario Line, Metrolinx claimed that the count of trains cited by the community is too high (at about 1,500 per day) and that the number is around 900.

Quite bluntly, Metrolinx staff should read their own reports. Too often they give misinformed answers to communities to blunt criticism while being out of touch with their own proposals. Whether this is deliberate misrepresentation or simple incompetence is a debate for another day.

The tables in the Operations Report show very clearly the projected counts of GO, Ontario Line and other trains. (Note that there is no provision for the addition of a proposed High Frequency Rail service on top of this.) The numbers in the spreadsheet below are copied from the Operations Report. The only change is the addition of totals.

The grand total of trains on the expanded GO corridor will be 691 of which 581 will operate between 7am and 11pm, and 110 will operate between 11pm and 7am. (See LSE OnCorr Tracks, East Harbour to Danforth – Combined Table, p62.)

The number of Ontario Line trains begins at 912 per day in 2030 (per the Preliminary Design Business Case), ramps up to 984 by 2040 (again from the PDBC) and to 1130 by 2060 (Operations Report).

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