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Metrolinx proposes fewer stations, partially above-ground route for Yonge North subway

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Metrolinx is proposing to drop at least two stations from its plans to extend the TTC’s Line 1 Yonge - University subway to Richmond Hill — and to operate part of the future line above-ground.

The regional transit agency has released the initial business case (.pdf) for the subway extension. Although the authors of the document reviewed three possible alignments for the future subway, they’re recommending a route that diverts off Yonge Street near Royal Orchard Boulevard. The line would then extend underground through the nearby residential community, then transition to an elevated structure near the Holy Cross Cemetery.* Trains on the new line would then operate beside GO Transit’s Richmond Hill rail corridor, crossing Highway 407 to a new subway station on the south side of Highway 7. Trains would *continue further north to a terminal station at High Tech Road. Metrolinx plans to build a new storage facility for trains serving the extended subway line near High Tech.


^ Image: Metrolinx. Click to enlarge.

In April, 2009, Ontario’s Minister of the Environment unconditionally approved an environmental project report for the “Yonge Subway Extension”. The project included the construction of twin bored tunnels between Richmond Hill Centre and Finch Stations, including six stations, and an above-grade crossing of the East Don River. Subsequently, Metrolinx and York Region agreed to drop a proposed station at Royal Orchard from the scheme.

Under the new plan, Metrolinx is proposing to keep an underground station at Yonge and Steeles, but reorganizing other stations. It’s renaming the station that the environmental assessment report referred to as Richmond Hill Centre to “High Tech Station”. It’s also relocating that future station slightly southeast of the original site. High Tech Station will stand at surface level, under the bridge that spans the CN / GO rail corridor. High Tech Station will put the subway within walking distance for more than half of the residents living in the Richmond Hill Centre area by 2041.

The new station’s advantage over the former Richmond Hill Centre Station is that the footprint of the new station would be significantly smaller because it doesn’t include a bus terminal, which would, instead, be located beside the next station to the south.

The station that the planners previously dubbed Langstaff in the environmental assessment report is now east and slightly north of the original site, at surface level between Highways 7 and 407. Metrolinx is tentatively calling this station, “Bridge Station”.

A major benefit of Bridge Station, Metrolinx claims, is to provide a convenient connection to the Richmond Hill GO train line and GO and York Region Transit bus services. It will also link the Richmond Hill Centre and Langstaff Gateway urban growth centres, at roughly the midpoint of each.

While the business case reviewed the six stations that environmental assessment report studied, its authors have also determined that the $5.6 billion funding envelope for the project can accommodate just four stations, if the extension follows the new alignment.

The business case suggests that Metrolinx build just one of three “neighbourhood” stations; Royal Orchard, Clark, or Drewry / Cummer stations. While each of these stations would attract fewer riders than the other stations along the future line, each of them would also serve business areas on Yonge Street and nearby residential communities. Some of these stations already have development proposals for nearby areas.

This subway extension won’t come online until the Ontario Line begins operating. According to Metrolinx, the Ontario Line, when in service, could reduce crowding by about 14 per cent on the busiest stretch of Line 1. Transfer stations like Bloor - Yonge could see crowding relief by as much as 17 percent.

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