Ontario Line Sept/21 Consultations: Western and Northern Segments

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.

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TTC Major Projects Overview: September 2021

The agenda for the TTC Board’s meeting on September 15, 2021, contains three related reports about the status of capital projects:

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.

A Long Project List

  • Bloor-Yonge Capacity Improvements
  • Line 5
    • Eglinton Crosstown LRT
    • Eglinton Crosstown West Extension
    • Eglinton Crosstown East East Extension
  • Line 6 Finch LRT
  • Line 1 Extension to Richmond Hill
  • Line 2 Extension to Sheppard/McCowan
  • Line 3 Ontario
  • Waterfront Transit Network
    • East LRT and station expansions
    • West LRT from Exhibition to Dufferin
  • BRT Projects
    • Durham-Scarborough
    • Dundas West
  • Line 4 Sheppard Extension
  • Transit Control Integration
  • Subway Fleet Replacement (T1) and Expansion
  • Fleet Storage
  • Automatic Train Control
  • Platform Doors
  • Easier Access Plan
  • Purchase of New Buses and Electrification
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Ontario Line Consultation: September 2021 Round

Metrolinx has announced the dates of its next round of consultations on the Ontario Line. The presentation decks for these are not yet published, but when they are, I will comment on them here.

The links from the dates below will take you to the registration page for each session.

  • September 9: West Segment (Exhibition to Queen/Spadina Station)
  • September 16: North Segment (Pape to Science Centre Station, plus the Maintenance and Storage Facility)
  • September 23: East Segment (East Harbour to Gerrard Station)
  • October 7: Downtown Segment (Osgoode to Corktown Station) [The original meeting date was September 30, but this has been changed by Metrolinx.]

These pages have provision for submitting questions in advance, but nothing specific yet to which participants might react.

Metrolinx Announces Construction Plans for Queen Station

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.

Source: Metrolinx

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.

Source: Metrolinx

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.

Source: City of Toronto, TOInview

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.

Ontario Line v Osgoode Hall

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.

Queen & University, NE Corner, Aug 5/21, Photo by Steve Munro

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.

University Ave E Side Looking SE to Queen, Aug 5/21, Photo by Steve Munro

Here is a view from inside the park.

Looking SW Toward Queen & University, Aug 5/21, Photo by Steve Munro

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.

Looking West Across Osgoode Hall Courtyard, Aug. 5/21, Photo by Steve Munro

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.

Osgoode Station Street Level Plan from Relief Line Design Documents, 2018.

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:

Source: Google Earth

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.

Source: Metrolinx

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

Metrolinx replied:

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.

Ontario Line 2041 Ridership Projections

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.

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Ontario Line North Segment Update

On June 30, Metrolinx held an online consultation for the North Segment of the Ontario Line between Gerrard and Science Centre Stations. Much of the discussion focused on plans for the Maintenance and Storage Facility at Thorncliffe Park.

The presentation deck and video of the session are available for those who want to review the whole thing.

The agenda for the meeting called for a half-hour presentation from Metrolinx, but they ran over by almost double. To their credit they kept the meeting going until they had run out of questions from the online audience.

Since the previous update, there has been a minor change in the alignment near Millwood and Overlea. The Don Valley crossing has been shifted slightly and the entrance to Thorncliffe Park moved to the north side of Overlea Boulevard. This is simpler to build because only Millwood must be crossed, and it moves the structure further away from residences on Leaside Park Drive.

The alignment east of there including the MSF layout is unchanged.

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Metrolinx Gives Toronto the Finger, Twice

On the Toronto Executive Committee agenda for July 6, there is a report updating Council on the status of various rapid transit projects in Toronto. Notable by their absence are the Waterfront East LRT (study in progress as previously reported) and the Eglinton East LRT extension.

The truly galling part is found in two letters from Metrolinx, compounded by the abject parroting by City staff of Metrolinx creative writing in the City’s own report.

The documents are linked here:

  • Update on Metrolinx Transit Expansion Projects –Second Quarter 2021
  • Letter from Karla Avis Birch, Chief Planning Officer, Metrolinx, to Derrick Toigo, Executive Director, Transit Expansion Division, City of Toronto re the Ontario Line alignment
  • Letter from Phil Verster, CEO of Metrolinx to Derrick Toigo re the Ontario Line Maintenance and Storage Facility in Thorncliffe Park

The fundamental problem is that Council asked Metrolinx to consider alternatives to their design for the Ontario Line in Riverside (East Harbour to Gerrard Station) and in Thorncliffe Park (the location of the line’s storage yard).

Metrolinx chose to reply with analyses of options that were not those of concern to Council that addressed proposals from the affected communities. What Metrolinx did do was to trot out analyses of previously rejected options as if this somehow validated their position.

To give the impression that Metrolinx has “responded” to the city is a misrepresentation of what has happened, and it suggests that City staff in the Transit Expansion Division are more interested in buttressing Metrolinx’ case than answering Council’s request.

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Ontario Line East Segment Update

On June 24, 2021, Metrolinx held an online consultation session for the Ontario Line segment between the Don River and Gerrard Station.

In a distinct change from a previous round, Metrolinx did not begin by insulting the audience with claims that the session would deal with “myths and misinformation”. This is refreshing and long overdue. Metrolinx appears to be going out of its way to fine-tune the design through Riverside to produce the least side-effects as possible while preserving their preferred alignment. Although they are looking at underground alternatives, much of their work focuses on their planned scheme with a shared GO+OL corridor.

Since the previous articles I have written on this project, the East Segment Neighbourhood Update page has been substantially revised.

Readers should also refer to:

Metrolinx has revised maps of this segment to show the Ontario Line on the north side of the rail corridor rather than the “straddle” configuration previously shown.

Continue reading

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.