Updated plans for the Ontario Line’s North segment: A better fit for the community

The northern portion of the Ontario Line will offer connections to both the Line 2 subway and the Eglinton Crosstown LRT, bringing rapid transit to under-served neighbourhoods like Thorncliffe Park and Flemingdon Park along the way. Refined plans show a realigned route that will result in fewer impacts on its surroundings.

Extending from a Line 2 connection at Danforth and Pape, the Ontario Line’s North segment will connect more neighbourhoods to the subway system. New plans released today (Oct. 6) show how the route has been refined to reduce construction impacts in the communities it will serve – most notably along Overlea Boulevard.

Image shows a church.
The updated Ontario Line alignment preserves access to the Macedonian Orthodox Cathedral and other important community facilities. (Mike Winterburn photo)

This story begins where our last post left off – at the TTC’s existing Pape Station, where the Ontario Line will connect with the Line 2 (Bloor-Danforth) subway. Our northbound trip will conclude at Don Mills and Eglinton Avenue, where the Eglinton Crosstown LRT will provide another east-west connection via its Science Centre Station. 

Additional transfer points are a very important benefit of the Ontario Line.

Across the whole route, this subway line will create 17 new links to higher-order transit – at three current TTC subway stations, the Eglinton Crosstown, three GO lines and 10 stations with streetcar connections – helping people get where they need to go, faster and easier.

A man gets on a bus.
There is already an enormous demand for transit along Overlea Boulevard. On a typical weekday, 28,900 TTC riders take the 25 Don Mills bus – the seventh-most used regular bus route in the city. (Mike Winterburn photo)

The connection at Line 2’s Pape Station will intercept westbound riders bound for the busy Bloor-Yonge interchange, where many of them currently connect with Line 1 to get to and from the downtown core. This, in turn, will result in a 22 per cent reduction in crowding on Line 2’s busiest stretch.

“We know that one subway line cannot solve congestion by itself,” said Devin Horne, Metrolinx Manager of Project Planning. “That’s why the Ontario Line is designed to be part of a network solution with interchange stations to existing and future rapid transit lines and to the network of streetcar and bus routes, reaching into more neighbourhoods, and shortening trip times.”

As the route travels below Pape, the next stop will be at Cosburn Avenue, serving residents of Old East York and Broadview North, plus the Pape Village Business Improvement Area.

With the updated plan, the station will be located slightly west of Pape Avenue, minimizing traffic disruptions during construction.

Building the station away from the street means that the tracks can be shallower – reducing the time people need to get in and out of the station – and the construction impacts on traffic and underground utilities will be reduced.

Heading north, this underground section will emerge from the southern embankment of the Don Valley, west of the Leaside Bridge, on an elevated structure that will connect it to Thorncliffe Park and points north.

Image shows cars on the street.
A station in the Thorncliffe Park neighbourhood will serve multiple highrises. (Mike Winterburn photo)

The station serving Thorncliffe Park will connect a densely populated and culturally diverse community to the subway system. It will serve residents at the western intersection of Thorncliffe Park Drive and Overlea Boulevard.

Metrolinx will work to make sure this, and other above-ground stations, fit their surroundings with attractive designs.

“We are sensitive to the communities we will be serving and we’re working on making the elevated guideways slim and with as few visual impacts as possible,” said John Potter, from the Metrolinx Design Division.

The updated plans now have a significant change in the route that will reduce community impacts. Instead of proceeding along Overlea Boulevard after the station in Thorncliffe Park, tracks will run adjacent to the nearby hydro corridor, a little to the north, as the line moves toward Flemingdon Park.

“Making this adjustment is part of our ongoing work to factor in residents’ feedback wherever we can and make sure the new transit line is built in a way that not only serves local transit riders but also fits into the communities they call home,” said Malcolm MacKay, Metrolinx Program Sponsor for the Ontario Line.

This realignment has the added benefits of avoiding impacts to Valley Park Middle School and the adjoining cricket pitch. It will also reduce the construction inconveniences around several houses of worship that front onto Overlea Boulevard east of Thorncliffe Park Drive.

While the new plans have removed some property needs, other properties will need to be acquired. Metrolinx will work with property owners and tenants to help with relocation and transition efforts.

Metrolinx is also exploring sites in the area to determine where it could situate a maintenance and storage facility for the line, which needs to accommodate 200 trains at opening and up to 250 trains to support future growth. As teams finalize plans for where this important facility will be located, they will engage with property owners from different areas to help select a site that minimizes community impacts while fulfilling the technical requirements for much-needed Ontario Line service.

Image shows a highrise.
Flemingdon Park is a densely populated neighbourhood with many high rise apartment buildings. (Mike Winterburn photo)

Following the line further north, the station serving Flemingdon Park – another dense neighbourhood – will now be built on Don Mills Road between Gateway Boulevard and St. Dennis Drive. This location minimizes community impacts as it is currently the site of a parking lot.

These two stations will bring subway service to an area where there is already a huge demand for transit. On weekdays, 28,900 TTC riders take the 25 Don Mills bus – the seventh-most used regular bus route in the city – and another 15,800 take the 100 Flemingdon Park bus.

The Ontario Line will speed up commutes by giving these riders an opportunity to enter the subway system sooner. For example, travel times from Thorncliffe Park to King and Bay will be reduced from approximately 42 to 26 minutes.

Image shows the station being built.
The Eglinton Crosstown LRT will meet the Ontario Line and bus routes at a new transit hub by the Ontario Science Centre. (Mike Winterburn photo)

Finally, the terminal station at the Ontario Science Centre will give people from Don Mills and Victoria Village a new rapid transit option that takes them all the way downtown without having to transfer.

This station will be a hub for people transferring to the Ontario Line from the Eglinton Crosstown LRT.

You don’t even have to ride the Ontario Line to benefit from this connection to the Crosstown. Line 1 will be less crowded as it will give people living on and near Eglinton Avenue a new subway alternative. Metrolinx projects that the nearly 16 kilometre line will reduce crowding at Eglinton Station by 17 per cent, compared to only three per cent for the previous, shorter Relief Line South proposal.

Just as the Ontario Line will create new transit connections, Metrolinx is making more connections with people who want to learn about the project and share their feedback.

As new details become available, you can always visit the Ontario Line Metrolinx Engage website. Metrolinx will continue to post updated project information there. As well, you can share your views, comments and suggestions on this two-way engagement spot.

Editor’s note – This story was updated with a new graphic on Oct. 7, 2020.

Story by Mike Winterburn, Metrolinx Senior Advisor