Yesterday, UrbanToronto asked a number of questions resulting from leaked documents about the Ontario Line, the Government of Ontario's proposed rapid-transit replacement for the City of Toronto's proposal for a Relief Line subway.

Now, Metrolinx and Infrastructure Ontario (IO) have released an "initial business case" for the Ontario Line, to try to answer some of those questions and more.

This map compares the original City plan for the Relief Line and the Ontario Line, image, Metrolinx

Phil Verster, Metrolinx president and chief executive officer, declared in a release issued with publication that "Toronto needs more than a subway, it needs a better transit network, and this is precisely what the new Ontario Line will deliver.”

In its weblog, Metrolinx states, "The Ontario Line is an approximately 16km free-standing subway, connecting Ontario Place / Exhibition through downtown Toronto to the Ontario Science Centre... The line will better connect people to where they want to go, and reduce travel times across Toronto."

Vancouver's SkyTrain, image, TransLink

The blog post explains that the new line would feature fully automated, driverless trains with modern signalling that enables high-frequency service and that transit systems in Paris, London, and Singapore use similar technology. The trains would be shorter, about 100 metres long. Metrolinx is assuming a three-metre car width. "This compares with 80 metre stations being built for the Montréal Express Metro, and 90 metre stations and trains with 2.4-metre car widths on the Grand Paris Express" and Vancouver's SkyTrain. As many as 40 trains per hour would operate along the line every 90 seconds, shortening commuter wait times. (TTC subways operate about every two minutes during rush hours, and serve stations that are 152.4 m long. Trains are 3.124 m wide.)

As we learned yesterday, Ontario Line trains would travel for as much as six kilometres on the surface or over elevated structures in rail corridors. The structures would isolate the trains from traffic, significantly lowering the cost of the project. Metrolinx claims that commuters would also save travel times. “If you live in Thorncliffe Park, your commute to the heart of downtown will become 26 minutes — not 42 — freeing up more time for what is important to you," Verster said.

Travel times between Thorncliffe Park and downtown, currently, by Relief Line South and by Ontario Line, image, Metrolinx

In the initial business case document, Metrolinx more fully describes the route for the line.

"The Ontario Line starts at Exhibition Station with platforms at grade to allow for a cross-platform interchange with GO. It goes underground just west of Strachan Avenue and continues east, turning north under Bathurst Street to a station at King Street. It continues north, turning east under Queen Street West with stations at Spadina Avenue, University Avenue, Yonge Street and Sherbourne Street. At Berkeley Street/Parliament Street, the line turns south, with a station at the intersection of King Street, then turning east under the GO Corridor. The line rises within the rail corridor, with a portal east of Cherry Street.

"The Ontario Line crosses over the Don River and continues along the GO Rail corridor, along a widened embankment or elevated structure. There is a station with cross-platform interchange to GO at the proposed East Harbour, with stations along the rail embankment also at Queen and Gerrard. North of Gerrard, the Ontario Line drops into tunnel, with an interchange station with Line 2 Bloor-Danforth at Pape Avenue and Danforth. It continues north under Pape Avenue with a station at Cosburn Avenue.

The proposed cross-platform transfers at East Harbour reflect the plan for Exhibition, image courtesy of Metrolinx

"The line emerges in a portal on the cliff side above the Don Valley Parkway, west of the existing Leaside (Millwood) Bridge, approximately under Minton Place. The line crosses the Don Valley on a new bridge, and then continues on elevated guideway along Overlea Boulevard, to a station at Thorncliffe Park Drive. The line continues along Overlea Boulevard, turning north at Don Mills Road with an additional station at Flemingdon Park.

"An alternative route would follow the CP Rail corridor and then run along the south side of Eglinton Avenue and would serve the Flemingdon Park neighbourhood through the station at Ontario Science Centre/Eglinton Avenue.

"A train Maintenance and Storage Facility is assumed to be located alongside the CP Rail corridor, in the area of Wicksteed Avenue and Beth Nealson Drive. If the line is routed via Flemingdon Park, a connecting track would be required to the line at Overlea Boulevard."

Metrolinx says the Ontario Line would attract more riders than the Relief Line, image, Metrolinx

Metrolinx expects as many as 389,000 people would board the trains every day and that it would provide 154,000 more people with walking-distance access to rapid transit. It also says that the Ontario Line would make 53,000 jobs accessible in 45 minutes or less for Toronto residents.

The Ontario Line's 15 potential stations include six interchange stations, adding 17 new connections to GO Transit and the TTC. Ontario Line passengers could link to GO's Lakeshore East and Stouffville lines at the future East Harbour station and to Lakeshore West trains at Exhibition. They could transfer to TTC Line 1 (Yonge – University) subway trains at Queen and Osgoode and to Line 2 (Bloor – Danforth) at Pape. Passengers could also connect with TTC streetcars on Bathurst, Gerrard, King and Queen Streets and Spadina Avenue and to many TTC buses.

Metrolinx says the Ontario Line would indeed continue to serve as a "relief line", diverting passengers from the overcrowded Yonge branch of Line 1. According to the authors of the initial business case, once the Ontario Line is active, it would reduce crowding on "the busiest stretch of Line 1" by an average of 14 per cent. Specifically, the report explains that would mean:

  • 15 per cent less crowding at Eglinton Station;
  • 17 per cent less crowding at Bloor/Yonge Station; and
  • 13 per cent less crowding at Union Station.

The Ontario Line would reduce crowding on TTC Line 1, Metrolinx says, image, Metrolinx

Last April, the Province of Ontario announced that it would build this new rapid-transit project through central and east-end Toronto. The proposal was the keystone of a $28.5 billion plan to expand "Ontario's" transit network for which the province is committing $11.2 billion.

IO and Metrolinx plan to deliver the project using IO's alternative financing and procurement model (AFP). According to IO, the "AFP model is an innovative way of financing and procuring large public infrastructure projects". AFP uses private-sector resources and expertise, and transfers project risks to those private-sector teams, which are accountable for delivering the project on time and on budget.

Comparing walking distances to rapid transit for the two proposals, image, Metrolinx

IO President and CEO Ehren Cory confirmed that the Ontario Line will use a Public Private Partnership (P3) contractual structure. “This is an incredible opportunity for local companies and those around the world to support a historic transit project leveraging our homegrown P3 delivery model,” he said.

“The Ontario Line and the other subway projects will also include many transit-oriented development opportunities. We will be actively engaging industry to share more details and gather input on how best to deliver this ambitious project,” Cory added.

Walking distances for low-income residents for the two proposals, image, Metrolinx

Metrolinx states that "The initial business case is the first stage of the evidence-based decision-making process. Our team will continue to refine their work to the next stage through the Business Case life cycle."

According to the document, "This initial business case evaluates the performance of the Ontario Line and Relief Line South compared to a Business as Usual (BAU) scenario as the basis for an investment decision. The BAU assumes that “In Delivery” projects from the 2041 Regional Transportation Plan are in service, as modified by Ontario’s Transit Plan, and that reasonable improvements to existing surface transit as well as signalling improvements to Line 1 are delivered."

The authors of the initial business case further explain that "A Business Case is a comprehensive collection of evidence and analysis that sets out the rationale for why an investment should be implemented to solve a problem or address an opportunity. Business cases are required by Metrolinx’s Capital Projects Approval Policy for all capital infrastructure investments. "

Access to employment for the two proposals, image, Metrolinx

The Metrolinx blog post adds, "The Ontario Line initial business case was developed with the intent to accelerate delivery of the new transit line, serve additional markets and reduce costs per kilometre while staying true to the plans developed by the City of Toronto, TTC and Metrolinx."

Metrolinx also says that "The team of experts behind the project are drawing on lessons learned from other projects internationally, using proven best practices and technologies, and from local projects, like the Crosstown LRT… The team has also been sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with the City of Toronto and TTC, meeting more than 40 times already, learning from the work done on the Relief Line, and helping us move forward together at the pace required."

Population density near the proposed Ontario line, image, Metrolinx

"Shoulder to shoulder?" As yesterday's post explained, members of Toronto City Council aren't entirely happy with the sudden scrapping of the City's previously approved plans for the relief line subway. For example, Councillor Brad Bradford (@BradMBradford), a former City planner, tweeted, "What a sh*t show. If true, @Fordnation essentially throws out half the work Toronto has done to date and delays transit once again #ONpoli #Topoli". Even former mayor David Miller (@iamdavidmiller) got in on the Twitter action (and reaction): "Metrolinx does not have the capacity or knowledge to effectively build this (or anything). If they did, we wouldn’t still be waiting for the UPX-Bloor line tunnel at Dundas W. It’s about ten meters and it’s been ten years. And counting."

You can review the entire initial business case here (.pdf).

Let us know what you think of the plan by commenting in the space provided on this page, or, join the conversation in our dedicated Forum thread.

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