City moving forward on Relief Line
linking Pape Station with City Hall



This is another in a series of “look ahead” posts, describing some of the multitude of transit proposals that are currently on the political agenda. These posts will form a starting point for future posts to detail the various stages of each proposal — from public consultation, through construction to operation.


At its meeting this week, the City of Toronto’s Executive Committee approved a staff report recommending that the City move forward on a number of transit initiatives and formally integrate the City’s SmartTrack plan with the Metrolinx program of introducing regional express rail (RER) service along GO Transit’s rail corridors.

The committee also gave the go-ahead for staff to fine-tune and further review their recommended corridor for building a Relief Line subway to link the east end of the TTC’s 2 Bloor - Danforth subway line with downtown Toronto. The new subway would, ideally, divert passengers heading downtown from East York, east-end Toronto and Scarborough and reduce congestion at Bloor - Yonge Station, where two TTC subway lines connect.

Relief Line - All Corridors cropped (web).jpg

Last June, staff had identified four potential corridors for the future line, by:

  • considering the results of evaluating potential station areas - they originally proposed 45 sites as possible station sites downtown, east of downtown and along Danforth Avenue;
  • determining the best connecting stations to other lines;
  • identifying the best opportunities for expanding the line to the west and north; and
  • linking areas for potential growth.

Relief Line - Station_Ranking_Map.jpg

After consulting with members of the public and various stakeholders City staff extensively evaluated the four corridors:

  • identifying potential alignments within the preferred corridor
  • using public rights-of-way as much as possible to decrease impacts to private property
  • identifying property that building a line in each corridor might require;
  • taking into account the mechanics of subway operation - for example, curves, grades, trackwork and vehicle speed;
  • developing station concepts - for example where to build the station “box”, entrances, connections to other transit, ventilation, emergency exits, electrical substations;
  • resolving geotechnical issues resulting from tunnelling under the Don River; and
  • identify strategies for reducing the impact on nearby residences and businesses.

City staff are now recommending a line stretching from Pape Station to the area near Nathan Phillips Square and City Hall, with pedestrian connections to both Queen and Osgoode stations. Trains would likely operate under Pape Avenue and Queen or Richmond Streets to the City Hall area.

They’ve identified several variations of the alignment - the route - of the future subway, some diverting away from the residential area on Pape Avenue south of Gerrard by following the GO rail corridor, some using Eastern Avenue in the east end to reduce the necessity for sharp curves that might slow down trains operating along the line.

Relief Line - Alignments (web).jpg

The new line could include possible new stations in the area of Carlaw or Pape Avenues / Gerrard Street East (this station could potentially include connections to GO Transit and SmartTrack), Carlaw or Pape / Queen Street East with possible stops under Queen or Richmond at Sumach / Cherry, Sherbourne and Bay.

Eventually, the City and TTC could extend the line on either end:

  • in the east - northward under Pape and Don Mills Road to Don Mills Station on the 4 Sheppard subway line; or
  • in the west - under Queen westward to the area of Roncesvalles Avenue, then northward to connect again with the 2 Bloor - Danforth line, probably at Dundas West Station.

Before recommending “Corridor B” as the corridor they prefer, City staff analyzed four different corridors for the future line starting in June, 2015:

  • in the east end, they looked at options under Broadview or Pape Avenues; and
  • in downtown Toronto, they examined options using King and Wellington Streets or Queen and Richmond Streets.
Corridor A - Broadview and Queen / Richmond

Relief Line Corridor A - small.jpg

  • Potential stations:
  • Broadview / Gerrard (Bridgepoint Health);
  • Regent Park; and
  • Queen / Sherbourne (Moss Park).
  • Connections:
  • to 1 Yonge - University line at Queen and Osgoode stations
  • to 2 Bloor - Danforth line at Broadview Station.
  • Advantages:
  • Opportunity to better distribute pedestrian flows downtown by connecting north of the Financial District and away from Union Station and King Station;
  • Provides access to key destinations along Queen Street near downtown, (such as Eaton Centre, City Hall, St. Michael’s Hospital);
  • Improves access to Regent Park Neighbourhood Improvement Area and to other community facilities, including Bridgepoint Health;
  • Least expensive corridor to build in Phase 1 with the shortest length. Shallowest bedrock profile in the Don River Valley (20 to 25 metres deep), allowing for shallowest alignment and associated stations.
  • Disadvantages:
  • Fewer stations than other corridors, resulting in less local neighborhood access No connections to SmartTrack or regional express rail and no connections to future Eastern Waterfront streetcar network;
  • Future western extension along Queen Street would provide less access to high density areas such as Liberty Village;
  • Does not provide access to key destinations east of downtown, such as George Brown College, St. Lawrence Market or the Distillery District;
  • Does not provide access to neighbourhoods east of Broadview, such as Queen/Carlaw and Gerrard Square;
  • Does not support ongoing and future residential development around the West Don Lands, Distillery District, East Bayfront, the Keating Channel Precinct or the Portlands;
  • May require most underground property easements for tunnel through Regent Park area, depending on alignment;
  • Constrained right-of-way around Gerrard and Broadview may increase complexity of station construction and may result in the potential for temporary and permanent impacts on the surrounding neighbourhood;
  • Does not serve planned employment growth at the Unilever lands;
  • Does not connect to the centre of the Financial District where employment density is highest;
  • Future northern extension may be more expensive, depending on alignment and approach to crossing the Don Valley; and
  • No opportunity to connect directly to Greenwood Yard; need new wye connection at Danforth.

Corridor B - Pape and Queen / Richmond

Relief Line - Corridor B - small.jpg

  • Potential stations:
  • Gerrard Square (potential connection to RER / SmartTrack Health);
  • Queen / Broadview;
  • Unilever lands;
  • Queen / Sumach; and
  • Queen / Sherbourne (Moss Park).
  • Connections:
  • to 1 Yonge - University line at Queen and Osgoode stations
  • to 2 Bloor - Danforth line at Pape Station.
  • Advantages:
  • Depending on alignment, opportunity to connect to future Eastern Waterfront streetcar network;
  • Will relieve crowding on the subway and some streetcar routes;
  • Opportunity to better distribute pedestrian flows downtown by connecting north of the Financial District and away from Union Station and King Station;
  • Provides access to key destinations along Queen Street near downtown, (such as Eaton Centre, City Hall, St. Michael’s Hospital);
  • Improves access to Regent Park Neighbourhood Improvement Area;
  • Improves access to communities such as Corktown, Regent Park, Riverdale and Leslieville;
  • Supports redevelopment around Queen and Broadview, the Queen/Carlaw District and Gerrard Square;
  • Potential for four or five stations provides more access for local neighbourhoods;
  • Potential opportunity for connection to SmartTrack / regional express rail at Gerrard Square and at the Unilever lands;
  • Opportunity to situate alignment below parks or rail corridor may reduce underground property easement requirements;
  • Potential station around Pape / Gerrard can serve as a catalyst for city-building opportunities and improvements to nearby public lands and streetscape;
  • Depending on alignment and feasibility of other transit modes, may support proposed employment growth at the Unilever lands; and
  • Potential to connect directly to Greenwood Yard](/subway/5302.shtml).
  • Disadvantages:
  • Future western extension along Queen Street would provide less access to high density areas such as Liberty Village;
  • Does not provide access to key destinations east of downtown, such as George Brown College, St. Lawrence Market or the Distillery District;
  • Does not support ongoing and future residential development around the West Don Lands, Distillery District, East Bayfront, the Keating Channel Precinct or the Portlands;
  • Constrained right-of-way along Queen Street may increase complexity of station construction and may result in the potential for temporary and permanent impacts on the surrounding neighbourhood;
  • Depending on alignment, a significant portion of the corridor may cross the flood protection area and interfere with the sanitary sewer in the West Don Lands;
  • Depending on alignment, potential stations east of the Don River may lie within the floodplain on the east side of the river;
  • Depending on alignment, substantial redevelopment must occur on the Unilever lands to generate passenger volumes that justify building a subway station there;
  • Does not connect to the centre of the Financial District where employment density is highest;
  • Longer corridor with more stations; expected to be more expensive to build.
  • Possible buried bedrock in the Don River Valley (30 to 35 metres deep) may require deeper alignment and stations to enable tunnelling through bedrock; and
  • Potential risk to tunnelling under Queen Street bridge abutments at the Don River.

Corridor C - Broadview and King / Wellington

Relief Line Corridor C - small.jpg

  • Potential stations:
  • Broadview / Gerrard (Bridgepoint Health);
  • Broadview / Queen;
  • Front / Cherry;
  • King / Sherbourne.
  • Connections:
  • to 1 Yonge - University line at King and St Andrew stations
  • to 2 Bloor - Danforth line at Broadview Station.
  • Advantages:
  • Connections to future Eastern Waterfront streetcar network at Cherry Street;
  • Potential for four stations increases access for local neighbourhoods;
  • Future western extension along King Street would provide direct access to high density areas such as Liberty Village;
  • Will relieve subway crowding;
  • Will directly relieve crowded streetcars on King and Queen Streets by connecting similar neighbourhoods and destinations;
  • Provides access to key destinations east of downtown, such as George Brown College, St. Lawrence Market or the Distillery District;
  • Supports ongoing and future residential development around the West Don Lands, Distillery District, East Bayfront, the Keating Channel Precinct or the Portlands;
  • Serves areas of higher population density;
  • Opportunity to integrate station on Cherry Street into new development at West Don Lands / Distillery District;
  • May be able to support planned employment growth at the Unilever lands with potential for connections to station at Queen / Broadview via a Broadview streetcar extension;
  • Shorter length (compared to other corridors) may reduce total cost;
  • Disadvantages:
  • No potential connections to SmartTrack or RER;
  • May increase passenger crowding at King Station
  • May increase pedestrian crowding in the Financial District where pedestrian volumes on the street network and in the underground PATH walkway are typically higher;
  • Does not provide access to key destinations along Queen Street near downtown, (such as Eaton Centre, City Hall, St. Michael’s Hospital);
  • Don River may serve as a barrier and limit the number of people and jobs within comfortable walking distance of stations along Broadview;
  • May require underground property easements for tunnel between Parliament Street and the Don River, depending on alignment;
  • Constrained right-of-way and potential for impact to heritage properties along King Street;
  • Constrained right-of-way along Broadview may increase complexity of station construction and may result in the potential for temporary and permanent impacts on the surrounding neighbourhood;
  • Depending on alignment, a significant portion of the corridor may cross the flood protection area and interfere with the sanitary sewer in the West Don Lands;
  • Corridor crosses the former Consumers Gas coal-gasification works that are heavily impacted by coal tar;
  • No direct access to the Unilever lands;
  • Future northern extension may be more expensive, depending on alignment and approach to crossing the Don Valley; and
  • No opportunity to connect directly to Greenwood Yard](/subway/5302.shtml); need new wye connection at Danforth.
  • Possible buried bedrock in the Don River Valley (30 to 35 metres deep) may require deeper alignment and stations to enable tunnelling through bedrock; and
  • Long distance between stations will require deep emergency exit building in a location that may be difficult to fit.

Corridor D - Pape and King / Wellington

Relief Line Corridor D - small.jpg

  • Potential stations:
  • Gerrard Square (potential connection to RER / SmartTrack);
  • Queen / Broadview;
  • Unilever lands;
  • King / Cherry; and
  • King / Sherbourne.
  • Connections:
  • to 1 Yonge - University line at King and St Andrew stations
  • to 2 Bloor - Danforth line at Pape Station.
  • Advantages:
  • Connections to future Eastern Waterfront streetcar network at Cherry or Sumach Street;
  • Potential for five stations increases access for local neighbourhoods;
  • Potential opportunity for connection to SmartTrack / regional express rail at Gerrard Square and at the Unilever lands;
  • Future western extension along King Street would provide direct access to high density areas such as Liberty Village;
  • May relieve subway and streetcar crowding;
  • Depending on alignment, may support residential development in some of these areas: the West Don Lands, Distillery District, Queen/Broadview, Queen/Carlaw District, [Keating Channel Precinct], the Portlands and Gerrard Square;
  • Opportunity to situate alignment below parks or rail corridor may reduce underground property easement requirements;
  • Potential station around Pape / Gerrard and Unilever lands can serve as a catalyst for improving nearby public lands and streetscape;
  • Depending on alignment, may be opportunity to integrate station on Cherry Street into new development at West Don Lands / Distillery District;
  • Depending on alignment and feasibility of other transit modes, may support proposed employment growth at the Unilever lands; and
  • Potential to connect directly to Greenwood Yard](/subway/5302.shtml).
  • Disadvantages:
  • May increase passenger crowding at King Station
  • May increase pedestrian crowding in the Financial District where pedestrian volumes on the street network and in the underground PATH walkway are typically higher;
  • Does not provide access to key destinations along Queen Street near downtown, (such as Eaton Centre, City Hall, St. Michael’s Hospital);
  • Substantial underground property easements may be required, depending on selection of alignment;
  • Constrained right-of-way along King Street may increase complexity of station construction and result in the potential for temporary and permanent impacts on the surrounding neighbourhood;
  • Depending on alignment, the constrained right-of-way along Queen Street and Pape Ave may increase complexity of station construction and result in the potential for temporary and permanent impacts on the surrounding neighbourhood;
  • Depending on alignment, a significant portion of the corridor may cross the flood protection area and interfere with the sanitary sewer in the West Don Lands;
  • Corridor crosses the former Consumers Gas coal-gasification works that are heavily impacted by coal tar;
  • Depending on alignment, substantial redevelopment must occur on the Unilever lands to generate passenger volumes that justify building a subway station there;
  • Longer corridor with more stations; expected to be more expensive to build.
  • Possible buried bedrock in the Don River Valley (30 to 35 metres deep) may require deeper alignment and stations to enable tunnelling through bedrock; and
  • Potential risk to tunnelling under Queen Street bridge abutments at the Don River.

Relief Line - Summary Pie Table (web).jpg


  • East Bayfront: the waterfront area between Yonge Street and the Keating Channel / Don River.
  • Distillery District: the former Gooderham and Worts Distillery lands, now redeveloped into a commercial and residential district, with both heritage and new builxdings.
  • Financial District: high-density commercial area centred on the intersection of King Street West and Bay Street. The Toronto Stock Exchange is nearby.
  • Gerrard Square: a shopping mall on the northeast corner of Gerrard Street East and Pape Avenue.
  • Keating Channel District: a proposed new commercial and residential area north of the Keating Channel - the outlet of the Don River into Toronto Harbour. The area stretches between Parliament Street and the Don River, south of the GO Transit tracks. The City has proposed shifting the Frederick G. Gardiner Expressway further north to make more lands available for development in the future Keating Channel District.
  • Portlands: the current industrial, commercial and recreational lands south of Lake Shore Boulevard East, roughly between Cherry and Leslie Streets.
  • Regent Park: an urban renewal project, replacing older assisted housing with new residential development. Shuter Street, Parliament Street, Gerrard Street East and River Street enclose the area.
  • Unilever lands: the site of the former Unilever / Lever Brothers plant on the south side of Eastern Avenue, just east of the Don River. The developer has proposed building a corporate business centre there.
  • West Don Lands: a new high-density residential community south of Eastern Avenue and north of the GO Transit Tracks, between Parliament Street and the Don River. It housed the athletes’ village during the recent PanAm / ParaPanAm Games.
  • Wye: a Y-shaped arrangement of tracks to switch trains from one direction to another.
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