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.
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.
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.
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.
The following questions to Metrolinx await answers.
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?
Was there any reason for the change in the OL elevation other than the geometric constraint at Yonge caused by shifting the station eastward?
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?
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.
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.
On a related note, how do you plan to construct the segment between Corktown and the portal west of the Don River?
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?
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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).
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.
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.