Transit planners have been talking about it for years.
Now it looks like the so-called “Downtown Relief Line” or DRL, is finally getting on track, as the Toronto Transit Commission prioritized the line as its next major transit project, during its meeting last Wednesday, October 24.
The TTC proposes building a new subway line southward from Pape Station beneath Pape Avenue, then westward beneath Queen and King Streets to St. Andrew Station. The goal is to provide an alternative rapid transit route for passengers traveling downtown from Scarborough and east-end Toronto. More important, perhaps, the line would reduce pressure on Toronto’s main subway junction at Bloor - Yonge Station, and, as a result, increase the capacity of the 1 Yonge - University - Spadina subway to carry passengers from North York and other points further north.
The TTC staff report recommending that the commissioner prioritize the DRT was (rightly) full of gloom and doom about the future or rapid transit in Toronto, if the City and the TTC do not build such a line. Since Metrolinx and York Region hope to extend the Yonge branch of the subway line northward to Richmond Hill, the line will have reached and exceeded its capacity before 2031.
Although the actual route of the proposal line may differ widely when it finally opens, the authors of the TTC staff report envision stations at Pape Avenue and Gerrard Street East, Pape and Queen Street East, Queen and River Street / Bayview Avenue, King and Sherbourne Street, at the present King Station at King and Yonge Streets and at St. Andrew Station at King and University Avenue in the first phase of the line. Later phases of the line extend the subway under King West and Roncesvalles Avenues to Dundas West Station and under Pape Avenue, Overlea Boulevard and Don Mills Road to Eglinton Avenue, where passengers could connect with the future Eglinton - Scarborough Crosstown light rail transit line.
If the City and TTC build all three phases, the project could cost as much as $8.3 billion. Building the line only between Pape and St. Andrew Stations would cost $3.2 billion. Extending to Dundas West would cost $6.2 billion. Extending north to Eglinton and Don Mills would cost $5.5 billion.
Apparently, a lot of Torontonians approve of the idea of building the line. According to an article in the Toronto Star, last Thursday, October 25, Forum Research conducted an interactive voice-response phone survey of 614 Toronto residents on the subway plans. Transportation writer Tess Kalinowski reports that 61 per cent of respondents agreed that a downtown subway, running from the east end of the 2 Bloor - Danforth subway to downtown Toronto was “a more pressing need for transit in Toronto” than a Scarborough subway.
The Downtown Relief Line plan was also more popular than a high-speed rail link to the airport, which Metrolinx is already building. When the automated pollsters asked which project Metrolinx or the city should build first, half of respondents chose the relief line, while 42 per cent favored the Air-Rail Link. In Scarborough alone, a third of respondents favoured the DRL over a Scarborough subway.
The poll showed that respondents were split on whether they agreed with the city charging a fee or tax to pay for transit, Kalinowski writes in the article. “Forty-four per cent agreed and 46 per cent disagreed. Ten per cent didn’t know. The highest support for taxes, 53 per cent, was in Toronto and East York. Only 35 per cent of Scarborough respondents agreed with them.”
The Commission has forwarded the staff report and its recommendations to Toronto City Council to consider during its meeting this week.
From the Transit Toronto archives, read: