Downtown relief line gets rolling

Toronto Councillor Michael Thompson is leading the latest charge to encourage the City of Toronto and the TTC to build a downtown relief subway line, connecting the eastern and western parts of the 2 Bloor - Danforth subway with downtown Toronto.

With recent articles in the National Post, a report last night on CTV’s Toronto station and a growing grassroots Downtown Relief Line group, you might think that the line is almost ready to roll — even though it’s years away and no-one really knows what route the line might follow.

One proposal describes a route extending east-to-west through the downtown — possibly along Queen Street or further south — and from the east end of downtown northeast through Thorncliffe Park. This line would meet the Bloor - Danforth subway at Pape Station. West of downtown, a second phase would swing back north to rejoin the east - west subway line at Dundas West Station. Some see the line joining the 1 Yonge - University - Spadina line at Union Station. Others argue that Union is already beyond its capacity to handle more traffic.

Metrolinx has included a rapid transit line along the King or Queen Street corridor in its regional transportation plan, “The Big Move”. Metrolinx predicts that, at its peak in 2031, the proposed line would carry as many as 17,500 riders in the busiest hour at the busiest point.

The proposed line would particularly benefit passengers travelling to and from the east end of Toronto. It would offer a more direct route to downtown and allow them to skip busy Bloor-Yonge Station, the most congested station in the system.

When Toronto City Council approved extending the Yonge subway northward to Richmond Hill, it did so with conditions. One of the conditions that it imposed was that Metrolinx fast-track the downtown relief line proposals so that the TTC, the City of Toronto and other agencies could start to plan for the line.

The City has discussed a subway along Queen Street and then north to Danforth Avenue and beyond for many years. It approved building a Queen subway — which would have followed a similar route as the downtown relief line — as early as 1946, but for a variety of reasons never built it. The TTC and the city continued to ponder a Queen subway, with a northeast terminus as far north as Don Mills Road and Eglinton Avenue East, until as late as 1974. In the 1980s, the TTC’s “Network 2011” proposal included a Downtown Rapid Transit corridor.

The Transit Toronto archives contain several articles outlining the history of the downtown relief line and other, related proposals.

You can read an article on the history of the downtown relief line by Jonathan English here. (James Bow has recently updated this article to discuss recent developments.)

You can read about the Network 2011 plan here.

You can read James Bow’s history of subways along Bloor and Queen Streets here.

You can read James Bow’s speculative article about what public transit might have been like in Toronto if the City and TTC had actually built the Queen subway instead of the Bloor - Danforth line here.

You can read James Bow’s account of some of Toronto’s early subway proposals here.

The Transit Toronto newspaper clipping archives also contain numerous articles on the downtown relief line proposals.

Here are a few of them: