Get the facts about Ontario Line plans in Riverside and Leslieville

There’s a lot of anticipation about how the Ontario Line will make it faster and easier to move around the city, but there’s also a lot of speculation and inaccurate information floating around – particularly when it comes to the vibrant communities of Riverside and Leslieville. All of this conflicting information can be confusing, so let’s take some time to sort the myths from the facts.

As plans for any new transit project take shape, there’s bound to be vigorous discussion about what it all means for the communities it will serve. With 15 new stations along a route stretching 15.6 kilometres, the Ontario Line will be a big leap forward for Toronto’s transit network, reducing travel times across the city by as much as 40 minutes and connecting dozens of unique neighbourhoods and attractions.

Community discussions are critical to helping Metrolinx refine and deliver the best possible project, but they need to spring from a solid foundation of facts. For the east-end communities of Riverside and Leslieville, there are a few specific myths out there that have understandably heightened residents’ concerns. Here, we help set the record straight.

Myth: Running the Ontario Line above ground means widening the rail corridor and extending far into parks and other important neighbourhood spaces.

Fact: It won’t. The green line someone painted in the community to represent the new corridor boundary is incorrect.

The Ontario Line, and planned upgrades to expand and improve GO train service, will fit almost entirely within the property boundaries of the existing rail corridor where trains run today, which Metrolinx already owns. In fact, the boundaries that are there today will stay largely unchanged.

This is one of the unique benefits of running above-ground in this area. The transit corridor already exists, so if there is a need to use space outside of the rail corridor either permanently or temporarily – like in the areas around future stations – it will be minimal.

This also means we can protect park space and playgrounds in the long term and ensure neighbouring buildings, community centres and businesses can continue operating during construction and beyond.

Image shows a cross section of how the tracks will look.

Myth: The Ontario Line will destroy neighbourhood parks.

Fact: This is not true – by keeping almost all of our work within the existing Metrolinx property, Metrolinx will ensure no parks are lost.

It’s true that we will extend somewhat past our boundaries in park areas around the new stations at Queen and Gerrard, but we will keep this to a minimum and see how we can give space back to the community in other areas.

Our guiding principle is to avoid using park space during construction, but if we do need space on a short-term basis, we’ll keep it to an absolute minimum. We’ll also make safety our top priority and work with the community to restore it to a better state after we’re done.

Myth: Important community spaces like the hockey rink and basketball court at Jimmie Simpson Park will be wiped out to make room for the Ontario Line.

Fact: These spaces will stay open. The hockey rink and basketball court are not going anywhere.

You’ll be able to shoot hoops and hit the ice while the Ontario Line is being built and after it goes into service. The basketball court and hockey rink are far away from the boundary of the railway corridor, and they won’t be affected.

Image shows a cross-section of the route.

Myth: Noise and vibration from passing trains and new noise walls along the rail corridor will ruin the quality of life in surrounding neighbourhoods.

Fact: New noise walls and quieter electrified train service will result in noise levels that will actually be lower in most areas in the community.

Early results of noise studies show the sound of passing trains at most locations around Leslieville and Riverside will be reduced compared to today’s levels, primarily because Metrolinx will install noise walls that will shield the community from the sounds of Ontario Line, GO, VIA and freight trains. Also, Ontario Line trains will be quieter, electric-powered trains and many GO trains will also be electric-powered.

To keep community spaces inviting and beautiful as we make them quieter, we will seek community feedback on the designs of the noise walls and work with city partners to add landscaping and new greenery around them.

Image shows a graphic of a noise wall.

Myth: Ontario Line work will eliminate all tree cover in neighbouring green spaces

Fact: Some trees within the rail corridor will need to come down to accommodate new infrastructure, but Metrolinx intends to maintain and improve tree cover in neighbouring green spaces.

First, Metrolinx will protect as many mature trees as possible. Second, Metrolinx will plant new ones to replace any that need to be removed.

When trees are removed from city-owned or private property, Metrolinx follows the City of Toronto’s requirements for compensation, which includes planting three new trees for every one removed. Metrolinx works with owners to develop compensation plans that meet the City’s requirements.

If trees must be removed on property Metrolinx owns, such as the existing railway corridor, Metrolinx will replace those trees as close as possible so there is no net loss to the city’s tree cover. Metrolinx teams up with experts at the Toronto Region Conservation Authority to make sure the job is done right.

How to check the facts

If you hear something about the Ontario Line that doesn’t sound right, you can find a source of truth about the project at Metrolinx.com/OntarioLine.

There, you can branch off into FAQs, neighbourhood profiles, recent updates, past virtual open house recordings, news articles, and more. The information comes directly from Metrolinx experts and is updated regularly.

“I want people to know they can come to us at any time to get the facts about the project and what it means for them,” says Malcolm MacKay, Program Sponsor for the Ontario Line.

“There is definitely some speculation and inaccurate information going around, and we want people to base their opinions and feedback on the most up-to-date plans.”

You can also sign up to have Ontario Line updates delivered to your inbox, including details on upcoming live interactive events where you can learn more about the project and ask questions to project leaders and the Community Relations team.

Story by James Moore, Metrolinx senior communications advisor