Relief Line (Toronto)
|Operator(s)||Toronto Transit Commission|
The Relief Line (formerly the Downtown Relief Line) is a proposed rapid transit line for the Toronto subway system, intended to provide capacity relief to the Yonge segment of Line 1 and Bloor–Yonge station and extend subway service coverage. Several routes are being considered. Several plans for an east–west downtown subway date back to the early 20th century, most of which ran along Queen Street. Since the early 21st century, studies propose a line that would run south from Line 2 Bloor–Danforth, before bending westward along Queen Street into Downtown Toronto. Potential extensions could be made northward from its Line 2 connection in the east, as well as westward and northward from downtown to form a U-shape.
The cost of the Relief Line is estimated at C$6.2 billion to 8.3 billion depending on alignment and phasing. The DRL is included in the regional transportation plan The Big Move, and is one of Metrolinx's top 15 transit priorities.
The purpose of the Relief Line is to help reduce current and projected congestion in downtown Toronto. In 2012, it was becoming apparent to the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) and Metrolinx that even with proposed improvements, the Yonge line was facing significant capacity constraints. As of 2015, the Yonge line operates 11% over its capacity south of Line 2 during the morning rush hour. The new Toronto Rocket trains operating on the line, and the future implementation of Automatic Train Control will help increase the capacity of the Yonge line. Other factors are expected to reduce demand such as the extension of the University-Spadina portion of Line 1 into Vaughan, and other local transit improvements. But after factoring in population and employment growth and extending the Yonge line into Richmond Hill, the Yonge line is projected to be at 96% of its capacity by 2031.
Population and employment in Toronto's downtown core is projected to increase by 83% and 28%, respectively, by 2031. Significant growth is also planned adjacent to the downtown core and throughout the Greater Toronto Area. This is expected to increase future transit demand into the downtown core is expected to increase by 55%. On top of the projected congestion on the Yonge line and at Bloor–Yonge Station (the main interchange with Line 2 Bloor–Danforth), this is expected to put pressure on the 504 King and 501 Queen streetcars (two of the TTC's busiest surface transit routes). Metrolinx also projects overcrowding of Union Station from current and future improvements to GO Transit services.
Route and stations
While the Relief Line is still under study, Toronto city staff are proposing that it runs south from Pape station on Line 2 Bloor–Danforth, before bending westward along Queen Street to Toronto City Hall. Intermediate stations would be located on Queen Street around Sherbourne Street, Sumach Street and Broadview Avenue, as well as near Gerrard Street at Pape Avenue. This provide subway access to the Regent Park and Moss Park neighbourhoods, and a connection to GO Transit's Stouffville line.
1910–1944: The underground streetcar
On August 25, 1910, the first serious proposal for the Relief Line was made by Jacobs & Davies, a New York City‐based firm of consulting engineers, with The Report on Transit to the Mayor and Council of the City of Toronto. An underground streetcar formed a rough U-shape from today's Broadview station, along the waterfront to Spadina Avenue, and then following Spadina, College Street, Dovercourt, Bloor Street and Dundas Street to the West Toronto Diamond.
Plans from 1911 and 1944 also called for the Queen streetcar to be underground. When the Yonge line was built in 1954, Queen station was built with a spot for the proposed underground streetcar platform.
In June 1968, one month after Bloor–Danforth extensions to Warden and Islington opened and a few months before construction the Eglinton to Finch portion of the system was started, TTC made clear that a Queen subway from Roncesvalles to Donlands station should be the next priority. The Toronto Star reported on June 12, 1968, that the 17-station, 12.5-km line would cost between $150-million and $200-million. The TTC even acquired land for the corridor on the west side of Greenwood Yards, and still holds the Oakvale Greenspace. By the summer of 1969, the line was considered shovel-ready, but was soon considered a lower priority than the Spadina line at the suburban-dominated Metro Council.
1980s: A new subway line
In the 1980s, the TTC, Metropolitan Toronto and the Government of Ontario did multiple analyses of forecasted urban growth and alternative transportation scenarios for the downtown to Bloor area. In 1982, the Accelerated Rapid Transit Study considered multiple options for a “radial line”, connecting Dundas West and Donlands stations with a “U”-shape through downtown. This planning continued into 1985, with downtown alignments interchangingly following King Street, Queen Street, Front Street and the railways to and from Union Station.
The TTC released the Network 2011 plan in 1985, and a Relief Line was one of the three routes proposed. As part of the 2011 Network plan, the Relief Line was proposed to run between Pape station on the Bloor–Danforth line, south to Eastern Avenue, and then west to Union Station, the Rogers Centre (then known as the SkyDome) and Spadina Avenue.
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.
The 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. There have been no serious plans for the Relief line for the next two decades.
2008—present: Planning revival
In 2008, Metrolinx published The Big Move, the regional transportation plan for the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area. The plan called for a Relief Line extending in a U-shape from Pape, through Queen and Osgoode stations to Dundas West within 25 years. Metrolinx Chair Rob MacIsaac stated in 2008 that the line is unlikely to be brought forward from its projected 2020 start date but deemed it of "regional significance". In 2009, Toronto council expressed support for this plan. By late 2011, there was renewed interest in the proposal among mainstream media and the general populace.
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 stated that capacity issues may allow the DRL to be given higher priority in the regional transportation plan, The Big Move. Metrolinx CEO 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. In February 2013, The Metrolinx Board approved changes to The Big Move that re-prioritized the eastern segment of the Relief Line to the 15-year plan, and made it one of the 15 top priority projects in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area.
The Downtown Rapid Transit Expansion Study (DRTES) was completed by the TTC in 2012, which examined four alternative Relief Line configurations between Pape and St. Andrew, with varying extensions north to Don Mills at Eglinton, and west to Dundas West station. In he TTC's 2015 DRL study identified four potential corridors, which involved combinations of originating on Line 2 at Broadview or Pape, and going through downtown via King or Queen Streets. On March 31, 2016, Toronto City Council approved a Relief Line corridor between Pape station and Toronto City Hall, via Pape Avenue and Queen Street. The study is ongoing, and examining potential alignments.
On June 1, 2016, the provincial government announced $150 million funding for Metrolinx to plan and design the Relief Line. Metrolinx would collaborate with the TTC and the City in the design. Mayor John Tory estimated the line could be operational within 12 to 15 years (2028–2031). In late June, a Toronto Star article reported the estimated cost of phase 1 with eight stops to be $6.8 billion; the project was unfunded.
While Metrolinx, the TTC and the City have historically considered the Relief Line exist south of Bloor Street and Danforth Avenue, Metrolinx, the City of Toronto, York Region and the TTC also partnered on the Yonge Relief Network Study (YRNS) in 2015. This was a more detailed benefits case analysis that examined three different options for providing relief on the Yonge line:
- Option 1: RER Plus Network, providing enhanced service on GO Transit's Richmond Hill and Stouffville lines.
- Option 2: Relief Line, a fully grade separated subway line
- Option 2A: Relief Line Short, between Danforth and Downtown
- Option 2B: Relief Line Long, between Sheppard and Downtown
- Option 2C: Relief Line U, between Danforth and Bloor, via Downtown
- Option 3: Surface LRT, between Sheppard and Downtown
The YRNS found that Option 2B (Relief Line Long) would provide the most effective relief on the Yonge line.
|Relief Line North|
Originally, The Big Move had called for the DRL to terminate at Danforth Avenue, and for the Don Mills LRT to continue north to Sheppard Avenue and Highway 7. However, planning studies have examined potential extension of the Relief Line northward, serving the former borough of East York as well as an eastern portion of North York. From Danforth Avenue, the extension would proceed north on Pape Avenue through Pape Village, across the Don Valley to Leaside; east on Overlea Boulevard through Thorncliffe Park; and north again on Don Mills Road to Sheppard Avenue and Don Mills station.
|Relief Line West|
The Big Move has called for the DRL to continue west of City Hall and connect with Line 2 in the west. From downtown, this extension would proceed west on Queen Street West, and north on Roncesvalles Avenue and Dundas Street to Dundas West station.
Although the name Downtown Relief Line was used in planning discussions since at least 1985, there was debate about use of the name. While it will be geographically located to serve downtown, local transit observers have pointed out the line will have benefits for transit riders located in the outer suburbs of Toronto. Given political sensitivity over transit planning in Scarborough during the tenure of former mayor Rob Ford, using the word “downtown” in a future subway line’s name was perceived to be negative. In early 2013, TTC Chair Karen Stintz said, "There is a general view that that line needs to get renamed".
Planning being undertaken by the City of Toronto referred to the proposed line simply as the "Relief Line".
- 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.
- Queen Street route proposed for new Toronto subway
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- 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.
- 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.
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- Potential Alignments
- Ben Spurr, Transportation Reporter (1 June 2016). "Preferred route of Downtown Relief Line revealed". Toronto Star. Retrieved 2016-06-01.
- Ben Spurr & Jennifer Pagliaro (26 June 2016). "Mayor John Tory's transit priorities face financial, political challenge: analysis". Toronto Star. Retrieved 2016-07-20.
- "Yonge Relief Network Study (YRNS) - Report for June 25th Metrolinx Board Meeting" (PDF). Metrolinx. Retrieved 2015-07-28.
- Should it be called the “downtown relief” subway line?
- 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.
- Relief Line Official Site
- Edward J. Levy (2013-03-19). "Rapid Transit in Toronto: A Century of Plans, Progress, Politics and Paralysis". Retrieved 2015-07-24.