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TTC to seriously consider relief line by 2018, Giambrone says

Posted: April 15, 2008, 9:48 PM by Barry Hertz
TTC, Politics

By Zosia Bielski, National Post

TTC chairman Adam Giambrone says a new subway line cutting through the bottom of the city is a “good idea,” one the TTC will start looking at seriously by 2018. The Downtown Rapid Transit project, or Downtown Relief Line (DRL), would relieve congestion at the Bloor-Yonge interchange and the line’s busiest stretch between Yonge and Union stations.

It would also increase access to such emerging urban neighbourhoods as Liberty Village, West Donlands, the Distillery District and the waterfront.

First studied in 1985, the route would cost more than $3-billion today.

“As the city continues to grow, you will deal with capacity constraints. In the 2020 window, you will need to consider a downtown relief line,” Mr. Giambrone said. “There will come a time when it’s essential.”

The TTC is currently focusing on its Transit City plan, which will build a $6-billion network of above-ground streetcar-type light-rail lines in the city by 2021. Aside from two suburban subway extensions, the Downtown Relief Line would likely come next, Mr. Giambrone said.

As the city core becomes more dense, passengers are choking the Bloor-Yonge and St. George transfer points, as well as the King and Queen streetcars. The Bloor-Danforth line will soon be congested, too, Mr. Giambrone said.

The proposed subway line would let passengers travelling downtown avoid the Yonge transfer point at Pape station where the busy Don Mills bus empties onto the Danforth line. The route would dip south to Eastern Avenue, follow the railway line and then Front Street past Union Station to Fort York before turning north along the railway through Liberty Village and Parkdale, ending at Dundas West station.

Riders would be able to cross town along the bottom of the city, with stations at Gerrard, Queen East and Cherry streets, Jarvis Street near the St. Lawrence Market, the Exhibition and the corner of Dufferin and Queen West in Parkdale.

But the current focus until 2020 is three other extensions, Mr. Giambrone said. They are a Yonge line extension from Finch to Highway 7; a five-stop extension north from Downsview to the Vaughan Corporate Centre (a 50-hectare downtown development planned for east of Highway 400) and an addition to the Scarborough rapid transit line north to Sheppard Avenue.

Metrolinx identified the line as a priority in its Green Paper on transit. The province created Metrolinx to plan a seamless transportation network for the Greater Toronto Area and Hamilton.

Although some bloggers such as Transit Toronto founder James Bow note that a new subway tunnel would be prohibitively expensive and that much of the line would likely be a surface route on GO tracks, Metrolinx chairman Rob MacIsaac said the plan is for subways.

“We’re studying it. Our concept is that it’s a subway but that’s subject to change because we’re really just doing the modelling now for the proposed network,” Mr. MacIsaac said.

“There’s so much demand that you’re exceeding what a streetcar line can carry. I had a discussion with [former TTC general manager] David Gunn once and he said, ‘Don’t build a subway until you can jump from the top of one streetcar to the next,’ which is probably a circumstance that you’re getting close to on Queen Street.”

Between 2004 and 2006, the TTC’s annual ridership grew by 27 million riders to 445 million passengers. Last year, it jumped to nearly 460 million.

The Downtown Relief Line has also captured the imagination of transit activists, who have formed a Facebook group.

Urban magazine Spacing was buzzing with at least 70 comments after a story about the Downtown Relief Line appeared on its site on Monday. Some argued that the new route is a logical southerly extension of Transit City’s Don Mills line, to run light-rail service from Steeles Avenue to the Bloor-Danforth subway.

While most were ecstatic about the downtown relief line, some were less optimistic, such as James, who commented: “I am sure we can all list a thousand pipe-dream Toronto transit projects. All I really want is a card-based entry system. Is that too 21st century to ask?”