Toronto

Business case for Ford's proposed Ontario Line released; transportation engineer gives it a nod

‘The current plan for what’s called the Ontario Line is really a very intriguing one,’ Ed Levy says

Posted: July 25, 2019
Last Updated: July 25, 2019

In April this year, Doug Ford's government unveiled its nearly $30-billion Toronto-area transit expansion plan — including a new 15-kilometre Ontario Line stretching from Ontario Place to the Ontario Science Centre in Toronto. (Tariq Fancy/Twitter)

Metrolinx and Infrastructure Ontario on Thursday released the initial business case for Premier Doug Ford's proposed Ontario Line, which has also gotten the nod from transportation engineer Ed Levy.

The initial business case shows the creation of a new transit route through heart of the city, connecting to GO as well as TTC subways and streetcars.

"Toronto needs more than a subway, it needs a better transit network, and this is precisely what the new Ontario Line will deliver," said Metrolinx president and CEO Phil Verster.

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"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.

"This is just one example of how our plan will provide stronger connections, a better travel experience, and make a real difference in people's lives."

For his part, Infrastructure Ontario president and CEO Ehren Cory said the Ontario Line will use a public private partnership contractual structure.

"The Ontario Line and the other subway projects will also include many transit-oriented development opportunities," Cory said.

"We will be actively engaging industry to share more details and gather input on how best to deliver this ambitious project." 

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Speaking Thursday on CBC Radio's Metro Morning, Levy said the length and general configuration of the proposed line "is excellent as a first phase, because the first phase of the current relief line only went from Danforth to the heart of downtown." 

"The current plan for what's called the Ontario Line is really a very intriguing one. It goes between the terminals that it needs to go to."

The proposed Ontario Line could include 15 potential stations, including six interchange stations, adding 17 new connections to GO Transit, existing subways and streetcars. (Metrolinx)

In April this year, Ford's government unveiled its nearly $30-billion Toronto-area transit expansion plan — including a new 15-kilometre Ontario Line stretching from Ontario Place to the Ontario Science Centre in Toronto.

Meant to replace the proposed downtown relief subway line to ease what Ford calls "dangerous congestion," the proposed, $11-billion "game changer" will be double the length of what the City of Toronto envisioned.

And while transit plans seems to change whenever there is a change of government, Levy believes Ford's plan will materialize.

"There seems to be a groundswell of support for something like a relief line finally after all these years," he said.

"I think something is going to happen this time, and the configuration of the line that the current government is talking about, whether they understand it or not, is a much more favourable situation for us all."

Transportation engineer Ed Levy says there seems to be 'a groundswell of support' for transit relief after years of planning. (CBC)

But Levy — who is also the author of Rapid Transit in Toronto: A Century of Plans, Projects, Politics and Paralysis — says the current approach to a long history of planning and failing to build a downtown relief line needs to change.

"Every time the government changes, the previous government's plans get trashed and belittled and a new set of magic markers is given out and a new plan appears," Levy said.

"The length of every government mandate is not sufficient to get anything really worthwhile built, so the whole thing starts again in four or at the most eight years in the future and this is what's happening now."

Coun. Brad Bradford agrees that the city needs to get beyond making plans and start building.

"Time and time again we're finding out through press conferences, or maps or leaked documents that the province is changing our transit plans," Bradford said earlier this week.

"We need to stop making more plans and start building more transit."

Genesis of the relief line

According to Levy, while Toronto has changed incredibly in the last 10 to 30 years, back in 1910, a plan emerged with a Yonge Street underground streetcar and a circular line that covered most of the then built-up city.

"It wasn't called [a relief line] then because there was nothing to relieve, but that really was the genesis of it," Levy explained.

"Then in 1969 was the next major step forward where a real relief line, then called the Queen Street subway, which had a northern section that ended up near Don Mills was put on the table, and that would have completed the base central network.

"That would have been the best thing we could have possibly done, and that was a full scale subway," Levy added.

'We are making the biggest and largest investment in new subways in Canadian history,' Doug Ford said in April. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

With files from Lorenda Reddekopp and CBC Radio's Metro Morning