Downtown Relief Line

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The Downtown Relief Line (DRL) is a proposed subway line in Toronto, Canada. Fully built, the line would form a shallow U-shape, running east-west through downtown (parallel to but south of the Bloor–Danforth subway line) and bending north on either side of downtown to meet stations on the Bloor–Danforth line (with possible extensions northward).

The outer ring of this 1910 subway plan has been described as an early precursor to the current plans for a Downtown Relief Line.[1]

The DRL is the latest of several plans for an east-west downtown subway dating to the early 20th century. Most of these proposed routes were along Queen Street, but current proposals favour a more southerly route through the Railway Lands and Union Station.[1]

The main immediate rationale for the DRL is to reduce congestion on the Toronto Transit Commission's (TTC) Yonge Line, particularly at Bloor-Yonge Station, the main interchange with the Bloor–Danforth line. Planners see this as urgent because of the proposed extension of the Yonge Line to Richmond Hill, north of the city.[2] In addition, the growth of the downtown population and connecting high-density "shoulder areas" of downtown such as Liberty Village, CityPlace, the Entertainment District, Distillery District, and West Don Lands lack good higher order transit options and are experiencing an influx of high-rise transit-oriented development.[3] Metrolinx has supported a version of the proposal to alleviate the projected overcrowding of Union Station.[4] The cost is estimated at C$6.2 billion[5] to 8.3 billion[6] depending on alignment and phasing.

Although the name Downtown Relief Line has been used in planning discussions since at least 1985, the line is likely to have a different name if built. In early 2013, TTC Chair Karen Stintz said, "There is a general view that that line needs to get renamed".[7]


The Downtown Relief Line was one of the three routes proposed in the Network 2011 plan, released by the TTC in 1985.[8] Its main purpose was to relieve the forecast overcrowding on the Yonge line, particularly at Bloor-Yonge station. The Downtown Relief Line disappeared from transit plans soon after the province delayed approving Metropolitan Toronto's Network 2011 plan. The provincial government was alarmed over the construction cost and withdrew political support for the new line.[citation needed]

Metrolinx Chair Rob MacIsaac stated in 2008 that the line is unlikely to be brought forward from its projected 2020 start date[9] but deems it of "regional significance".[2] In 2009, Toronto council expressed support for this plan.[2] By late 2011, there was renewed interest in the proposal among mainstream media and the general populace.[10] In March 2012, TTC CEO Andy Byford stated there is great need for additional subway capacity with the increasing population of Toronto, and capacity issues along the Yonge-University-Spadina subway line. "The downtown relief line has got to be looked at and has got to be talked about right now." Metrolinx officials have stated that capacity issues may allow the DRL to be given higher priority in the regional transportation plan, The Big Move.[11] In late 2012, the TTC stated that there is a significant need for additional rapid transit capacity in downtown Toronto in the next 30 years.[3] Chief executive of Metrolinx, Bruce McCuaig, stressed that the Downtown Relief Line should be prioritized and completed in 15 years, as part of Metrolinx's "next wave" of projects in The Big Move transit expansion plan.[12] In 2013, the TTC and Metrolinx concluded that even after the signalling system is upgraded and the new trains are put into service, the line will still be overcrowded. They recommend that the Toronto Official Plan to be updated to protect the DRL.[13]

Network 2011 proposal[edit]


The following routing alignments were proposed as part of the 2011 Network plan.[14]

Westward extension[edit]

Three possible alignments were considered for the westward extension. The least expensive would follow the railway right-of-way past the Exhibition and up to the Galt-Weston railway corridor, taking it to Dundas West station. Another alternative would go west of Strachan along the Oakville Subdivision rail lines to Roncesvalles, where it would turn north to connect to the Bloor line at Dundas West. The third alignment considered ran along an elevated guideway on Parkside Drive at the edge of High Park to Keele Station.[14]

2012 studies[edit]

The Downtown Rapid Transit Expansion Study (DTRES) was completed by the TTC in 2012 to address existing capacity constraints on the existing Yonge subway and GO Transit lines. The study projected that significant capacity issues would remain by 2031, even with planned improvements on both networks. The report identified four alternative Downtown Relief Line configurations.[15]

Also in 2012 Metrolinx completed the Relief Line Preliminary Benefits Case Analysis, a study of alternatives to relieve congestion on the Yonge-University-Spadina subway line and on the Lakeshore and Barrie GO lines. [16] This study recognized the 2012 TTC study and was oriented at options to relieve overcrowding for commuter corridors from Barrie, Stouffville and Richmond Hill, Lakeshore east-west, and the King streetcar. The study examined options including:

  • various configurations of a new subway line along a corridor Eglinton and Don Mills - Pape and Bloor - King Street - Dundas West,
  • a new subway line along a Pape - King Street - to Exhibition GO Station corridor, connecting to a second commuter rail station at Exhibition (Option 4B of the Union 2031 study [17]),
  • GO expansion via new tunnels that would take the Lakeshore GO service below Union Station (Option 6B of the Union 2031 study), and
  • incremental improvements such as a better pedestrian connection between the Main Street subway Station and the Danforth GO Station to facilitate transfers between these lines and improved service speeds on the GO Lakeshore line

The Metrolinx study proposed a timeline of completing the network analysis of the different options by end of 2013, completing the benefits case analysis (BCA) by the end of 2014 and potentially starting planning, design and engineering (PDE) work by the end of 2014.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Royson James (2015-02-27). "Toronto Downtown Relief Line: 105 years of wishing and waiting". Toronto Star. Archived from the original on 2015-02-28. The concept of a rapid transit line looping down from Bloor through downtown has been around a lot longer than the politicians debating it. 
  2. ^ a b c Donovan Vincent (2009-01-29). "City favours relief line over subway". Toronto Star. Retrieved 2009-01-29. 
  3. ^ a b
  4. ^ "Union Station 2031 and Related Planning Studies" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-11-13. 
  5. ^ Tess Kalinowski (2012-10-18). "TTC makes the case for downtown relief line". Toronto Star. Retrieved 2012-10-20. 
  6. ^ Natalie Alcoba (2012-10-18). "Downtown Toronto needs a relief line to ease transit traffic: Study". National Post. Retrieved 2013-10-21. 
  7. ^ Ben Spurr (2013-03-05). "Let’s rename the Downtown Relief Line". Now Magazine. Retrieved 2013-03-25. In an interview Friday, Stintz said she expects that by the time an environmental assessment of the project is concluded in 12 to 14 months, commission staff will come forward with a new name. By that time there could be a tentative alignment for the route, so we’ll know what streets it will run under, which is typically the main consideration in naming TTC lines. 
  8. ^ "Network 2011 -- To think of what could have been". Transit Toronto. 2006-11-10. Retrieved 2008-09-16. 
  9. ^ Barry Hertz (2008-09-04). "New subway line still a way's off, Metrolinx head says". National Post. Retrieved 2008-09-16. 
  10. ^ Tess Kalinowski (2011-11-24). "Metrolinx confirms downtown relief line is still on the map". Toronto Star. Retrieved 2012-04-09. 
  11. ^ Natalie Alcoba (2012-03-23). "TTC chief: Subway expansion for downtown relief line has to be discussed ‘right now’". National Post. Retrieved 2012-03-26. 
  12. ^ Megan O'Toole and Natalie Alcoba (2012-11-30). "Downtown and North York Relief lines need to be bumped up, completed in 15 years: Metrolinx". National Post. Retrieved 2013-10-21. 
  13. ^ Tess Kalinowski (2013-09-06). "Metrolinx studies relief line to ease TTC crowding". Toronto Star. Retrieved 2013-09-10. 
  14. ^ a b Jonathan English (2006-11-10). "The Downtown Relief Line Proposal". Transit Toronto. Retrieved 2008-09-16. 
  15. ^ "Downtown Rapid Transit Expansion Study" (PDF). Toronto Transit Commission. September 2012. Retrieved 2012-11-13. 
  16. ^ "Relief Line Preliminary Benefits Case Analysis" (PDF). Metrolinx. November 2012. Retrieved 2013-10-27. 
  17. ^ "Union Station 2031 Demand and Opportunities Study". Metrolinx. Retrieved 2013-10-27. 

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