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The Ontario Line - Your Feedback and Frequently Asked Questions

We know that good transit planning involves the community, and that better decisions are made when different views are considered. We’ve encouraged you to ask questions and share your feedback and these are some of the top questions we’ve received.

What is the project budget and who is responsible for funding?

The capital costs of the Ontario Line are estimated at $10.9 billion, and the project is expected to generate $9.9 to $11.3 billion in economic benefits for the City of Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area as a whole, with an expected benefit cost ratio (BCR) of 1.05 – meaning for every dollar spent in the region could result in a benefit of $1.05.

In April 2019, the provincial government announced a $28.5-billion subway expansion program, of which $11.2 billion has been committed by the province. In addition, the province is calling on the federal government to commit at least 40 per cent.

The projects are being procured and delivered by Infrastructure Ontario and Metrolinx.

When will construction begin?

Construction will begin this year, when teams break ground on early works for the project. This work will include rail corridor expansion and other modifications at Exhibition Station, and utility relocations. The overall schedule and completion dates will be determined through the procurement process for the project.

Find out more: Procurement

How is my feedback considered?

One of the main reasons we seek feedback is to uncover insights we might not have anticipated. We are continuously looking at how we might be able to modify parts of our plan based on what we hear from communities – whether we get that feedback through formal public meetings or one-on-one conversations.

During consultations on environmental assessments, we document feedback and any actions we take as a result of that feedback in consultation summaries that are part of finalized environmental assessment reports.

Which properties will be required or impacted?

We only acquire properties that are absolutely necessary for projects; we certainly don’t want to take more than is needed, because we know that doesn’t make our neighbourhoods better. We take every effort to minimize the footprint of land required through careful planning and design work. As we refine our plans for the project, we’re getting a clearer picture of the properties we’ll need to make this project a reality. Outreach to property owners in some areas has already begun.

We understand that this is an emotional process for people. Whether we have to use a sliver of a backyard for a period of construction or take some land permanently, we sit down with every property owner to work through it together. We want to give as much time as possible to help them understand what we need and why, and to learn about what we can do to support them. Our preference is to work with property owners as early as possible to reach amicable agreements and compensate them with fair market value for any land that is required.

When will I find out if my property is required or impacted?

When we confirm that certain properties are needed, either permanently or temporarily, we begin working directly with every single property owner to reach amicable agreements that makes sense for everyone involved, through a process that’s as simple and stress-free as possible. Outreach to property owners in some areas has already begun and conversations with affected property owners will continue to help us understand how we can support them – whether they’re homeowners, business owners, or municipalities.

What supports will you provide me if my property is needed?

When we confirm that certain properties are needed, either permanently or temporarily, we begin working directly with every single property owner to reach amicable agreements that makes sense for everyone involved, through a process that’s as simple and stress-free as possible. We will cover reasonable administrative costs like legal, appraisal and consulting fees and compensates owners at a price they could expect through a ---- at fair market value. We will also work with property owners and tenants to cover relocation costs, whenever possible.

We may only need part of a property, and in those cases where we can hand the property back to the owner, we ensure it’s restored to its pre-construction state or better.

Won’t the plans for the rail corridor in Riverside and Leslieville result in a permanent loss of trees?

For any one tree we need to remove from a park here in the city, we will work with city partners to ensure that three new ones are planted in the community. We will also improve the look of any sound barriers we build with newly planted trees and other greenery.

Is Metrolinx doing environmental assessments for this project? How can we be sure the health of our communities and our green spaces are being respected?

Metrolinx is doing several environmental assessments for the Ontario Line.

The revised environmental assessment process for the Ontario Line is designed to ensure we can build this priority transit project faster while upholding strict environmental commitments.

The new process largely follows the existing Environmental Assessment Transit Project Assessment Process, except that it has added flexibility. This allows for more certainty in project planning, reduces the risk of delays, and still provides for environmental oversight and consultation with the public and Indigenous communities.

We’ve already consulted on and finalized two environmental reports, and several more detailed reports will follow to support sound planning, design and construction work for this critical transit project.

We take our responsibility to consult very seriously because we understand how connected people feel to the places they live, work, and play. Stay tuned for more consultation opportunities throughout the assessment process to gather important feedback from the communities we will serve.

How will community impacts be dealt with?

An important part of the planning and design work for a major project like this involves hearing from communities about the plans. Metrolinx has held numerous in-person and online open houses across the alignment this year to gather feedback. Drawing from this, Metrolinx has made refinements to the alignment in places like Leslieville. With the station situated mostly to the south of Queen Street and spanning over the existing rail bridge, the popular Jimmie Simpson Community Centre will be able to continue operating throughout construction and beyond.

Also, Metrolinx will add effective, well-designed sound barriers, landscaping, and new trees and greenery to significantly reduce the sound and visibility of the rail corridor in Riverside and Leslieville, and the trains that will operate within it, including GO and VIA trains.

In Thorncliffe Park, plans were updated to move much of the line off Overlea Boulevard. Instead of the original plan to proceed along Overlea after reaching the neighbourhood station, the Ontario Line will instead turn to the north to run next to the nearby hydro corridor, reducing community impacts and creating a better fit for the neighbourhood.

Metrolinx will continue to work with communities to ensure a comprehensive array of measures are in place to address any noise or vibration impacts and to ensure designs are sensitive and respectful of communities.

Community consultation will be launched this spring to seek feedback on noise wall design and landscaping.

What are you doing to protect park spaces?

Providing ongoing access to beloved community park space will be a top priority for us as we deliver this important project.

We know that spaces where we can relax and unwind and children can play are vital in communities, and we are committed to working with our community partners to ensure there is continued access to park and playground space as we deliver better, faster and easier transit. We are still finalizing property needs, striving to minimize the footprint of our work wherever possible. If we do need to temporarily occupy some park space to support construction and avoid impacts to nearby homes and businesses, we will work with the city to ensure that it is thoughtfully restored once the project is finished.

While there may be some impacts to parks during construction so that we can avoid having to acquire private property, we are committed to only using the space that is absolutely necessary.

During construction, the safety of park spaces will be a top priority and regular communication and safety measures will be in place to keep the community and park visitors safe.

We will work with contractors to preserve surrounding vegetation in areas where we are working.  Metrolinx’s Vegetation Guideline protocol reflects a landscape science-based approach to restoring greenspace that meets or exceeds bylaws and regulations. We will strive to keep tree removal to a bare minimum and will also take the opportunity to remove invasive foliage.

If a tree does need to be removed from a park to ensure safety during construction and operations, our policy is to work with the City to plant three new ones in its place.

Won’t running the Ontario Line above ground through Riverside and Leslieville negatively affect the quality of life in the community?

Finally bringing a rapid transit station to rail corridor in Riverside and Leslieville will provide much-needed relief to the 501 streetcar and make it better, faster and easier for people who live and work in this vibrant area to move around the city and the region.

We also expect to improve background air quality levels by allowing people to leave their cars at home and take transit instead.

Operating electric-powered trains will ensure that no additional emissions are introduced to the local community due to the Ontario Line. The planned electrification of numerous GO trains that run through the rail corridor in the Leslieville and Riverside area will also have a similarly positive impact. Lower levels of noise and vibration can also be expected from quieter electric-powered trains compared to the diesel-powered GO trains that are operating in the corridor today.

We will mitigate noise and vibration by installing seamless sound barriers in the community, but we will also be pursuing a wide array of other proven solutions for reducing noise and vibration at the source such as continuously welded rail, ballast mats, rail isolation systems and more. Metrolinx is working closely with the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks to ensure we meet or exceed all applicable guidelines and regulations.

Find out more: Environment

What vehicle/train will be used for the Ontario Line?

The Ontario Line is expected to feature modern, automated trains like the ones used in Vancouver, London, Paris and Singapore. This technology could allow for a higher frequency of service (up to 40 trains per hour) with as little as 90 seconds in between trains.

Find out more: Trains & Technology

Why is the Ontario Line above ground in certain places? Why is this good for communities?

Running the Ontario Line above ground in certain areas will cut down on construction impacts and reduce journey times for people connecting to and from bus, streetcar and GO train services.

Fewer community impacts

In Leslieville and Riverside, running the Ontario Line on a Metrolinx-owned railway corridor that already exists means we can avoid at least five major excavations and dozens of utility disruptions elsewhere in the community, which would have had major impacts on homes and businesses. We are also able to limit the properties we need and protect important community destinations like the Jimmie Simpson Recreation Centre throughout construction and beyond.

We will also use this as an opportunity to shield this corridor from the local neighbourhoods by significantly reducing the sounds from and visibility of the railway, which already accommodates GO and VIA rail services. We will do this by adding well-designed and effective sound barriers, plantings and new trees.

Faster commutes

Customers on the Ontario Line will also save journey time with more convenient transfers to other surface transit routes. For instance, at the proposed location of the new East Harbour station, the Ontario Line would have to be buried nearly 40 metres underground to be safely below the Don River, as well the large sewer mains under the proposed station at Gerrard Street and Carlaw Avenue. That’s as deep as a nine-storey building is tall.

With tunnels so deep at these stations, it means that customers would need to take three separate escalators to get to and from street level to the Ontario Line platforms below. All together, customers would have spent 4.5 minutes longer getting to and from the platform level at every station in the area.

At Thorncliffe Park and Flemingdon Park, digging deep enough to reach under the Don Valley would have meant that those stations would to be as much as 70 metres underground – deeper than any station in Toronto’s transit network.

Building these stations above ground avoids long connection times while providing customers with a fully accessible experience that is shielded from the elements and encourages more transfers to the Ontario Line from GO services and the crowded streetcar network.

Delivering transit relief faster

Toronto residents have been demanding more transit choices for many years. Time is critical as a new line is needed to reduce crowding on the TTCs’ Line 1 subway. Using the existing corridor and putting the subway next to the GO tracks helps to deliver this new line sooner. Tunneling through this area would delay completion between 15 and 24 months – also adding to the length of time the neighbourhood would be disrupted by construction.

The Ontario Line is more than twice as long at the old Relief Line South proposal and it is forecasted to be completed in a similar timeframe. While the latter had been discussed for years, it was still in the planning phase and the project budget and schedule had not been finalized, leaving it far from shovel ready.

Couldn’t the Ontario Line go underground after East Harbour, before reaching Riverside and Leslieville?

We considered whether it would be possible to bring the Ontario Line underground just east of the proposed surface station at East Harbour, where Ontario Line trains will connect seamlessly with above-ground GO trains. We looked at a number of options and planners have determined an underground alignment in this area would not be practical for a variety of reasons, most of which are related to the disruptions it would cause in the community and the benefits that would be lost with an above-ground alignment.

Firstly, a portal would need to be built between Eastern Avenue and Queen Street to ensure Ontario Line trains remain above ground as planned at East Harbour. Creating a quick and easy interchange here is critical in tackling congestion at Union Station, where crowding could go down by as much as 14 per cent – or 14,000 fewer people – during the busiest hour. Moving the portal would also result in:

  • Extended journey times: If the Ontario Line were tunneled in this area, stations would need to be nearly 40 metres deep to go under the Don River, maintaining a similar depth up until Gerrard where large sewer mains would need to be avoided. That would be as deep as a nine-storey building is tall, requiring three separate escalators to get to the trains and adding 4.5 minutes to customers’ journeys. This would ultimately discourage people from transferring to and from GO trains at East Harbour and result in less crowding relief at Union Station.
  • Longer – and more – construction: Building a portal in this area would prolong construction and cause significant and lengthy community disruption from soil excavation, utility relocation, concrete pouring and many other construction activities. For example, one dump truck going in and out every 20 minutes, 24 hours a day for an entire year plus daily deliveries of building materials like concrete and reinforcing steel would go on for years.
  • Additional property impacts: Moving the portal would require the acquisition of numerous homes along McGee and Saulter Streets and have significant impacts on most of the parks in the area, and other small businesses and community organizations nearby.
  • Permanent street closures, loss of Queen Street station: Trains need to safely move from above ground to below. The maximum track grade, or steepness, of a track that is diving underground is 4.5 per cent. At this grade, a portal would need to be built in the area of Eastern Avenue and extend as far as Queen Street. Significant excavation to lower the levels of land would be needed to build a portal and retaining walls for the shallow tunnel structure. This would result in a permanent closure of Eastern Avenue or Queen Street, disrupting existing traffic and transit services. Worse, there would not be enough room for a station in Riverside.

    To avoid that closure and still build a station, the streets and the existing bridges that run above them would need to be raised by at least two metres. Even then, there would not be sufficient space for a customer concourse in the station at Queen and De Grassi – only platforms.Eliminating the station would greatly reduce customer benefits – especially for people living in the immediate vicinity – and the much-needed relief for the 501 streetcar will be lost. The additional costs of this approach will exceed $800 million.

    To avoid raising the road and the rail bridge would require a track incline steeper than what most subway vehicles in the world can manage.

While there are pros and cons to both underground and above-ground approaches, the analysis shows that an above-ground alignment through Riverside and Leslieville will result in far fewer community impacts and deliver significantly more benefits.

Is it safe to run the Ontario Line within the joint rail corridor through Riverside and Leslieville?

Wherever Ontario Line trains will run on a joint rail corridor – as they will through Riverside and Leslieville – they will do so on their own dedicated tracks that will be completely separate from other rail operations. We will use a dedicated, Ontario Line-only signalling system that will use the latest signalling and monitoring technology. This system will ensure trains are in constant communication with one another, so their precise location is known at all times, meaning vehicles always stay a safe distance from one another. With sensors that can detect objects on the tracks, trains will also automatically stop if there is something blocking the way.

Train doors will also automatically open and close in sync with platform edge doors that will be installed at all stations, keeping both passengers and objects safely separated from moving vehicles.

How will sound barriers and noise walls be designed with the community in mind?

Metrolinx will work with the City of Toronto and local community on landscaping, grading options, streetscaping and street furniture opportunities to animate spaces and minimize the visual impact of any retaining wall. Consultation with the community is planned to begin in March 2021.

How and why were the preferred alignment and station locations chosen?

Communities are at the centre of our decision-making. Any decisions we make on alignment and station location are in the interest of improving the customer experience, increasing access to transit, maximizing ridership, achieving travel time savings, and creating better access to jobs. These criteria are balanced by cost and other important community considerations.

We will continue to keep your community at the heart of our planning process and we advance this important project.

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