Map courtesy of C. Livett; adapted and based upon 1980s Network 2011 DRL plan.
Yesterday at the meeting of city council, the Yonge North subway extension to Richmond Hill Centre (Highway 7 and Yonge Street) was approved in principle. The extension has been received with only lukewarm support from the TTC and city staff for several reasons – that it would take priority over funding local transit projects, such as the Transit City light rail plan; that it would further exasperate the crowding that is already commonplace on the Yonge Subway by adding more riders; and that the TTC is mainly concerned with moving people within Toronto.
The Commission approved the Yonge Subway proposal last week, but only with several caveats – that it not divert money from Transit City and that funding also be allocated for Yonge Subway capacity improvements, such as upgrades to the signal system to allow for automatic train operation, and a $450 million reconstruction of Bloor-Yonge Station to manage loads through that station. In addition, as presented at a public meeting for the Yonge extension last week in North Toronto, the TTC was also going to look at expanding the new “Toronto Rocket” articulated trains to include a seventh car (technically possible with ATO operation). However, the merits of a Downtown Relief Line (DRL) Subway (which would cost, by Metrolinx’s estimates about $2 Billion for a route from Pape to downtown via Queen Street) was downplayed and seen as only a “last resort” option by TTC staffers, even though its relief potential is significant (Metrolinx estimating a line as far as Pape would divert about 40% of riders from the Yonge subway south of Bloor).
In an earlier post on Spacing, I briefly described the DRL’s planning history and the case for such a subway today. Since then, transit critic Steve Munro wrote several interesting posts on his blog about the utility of such a line in context of the proposed Yonge extension. He also suggested that it should go as far northeast as Don Mills and Eglinton to meet with the proposed Eglinton-Crosstown and Don Mills LRT lines. Not only would this divert more riders to the relief subway, it would make sense as a Don Mills LRT route would likely need to be tunneled down Pape anyway. Metrolinx has proposed a DRL alignment in its “Big Move” document for the 25-year timeline, following Queen Street (as in the older Queen Street Subway plans from the 1950s and 1960s) instead of the railway corridor (as per the 1980s plans).
But at council, not only was the Yonge North extension approved in principle with the previous conditions attached, but it also moved to study the DRL in detail and was to ask Metrolinx to move the DRL forward from The Big Move 25 year plan to the 15 year plan. As well,
Scarborough North York Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong moved to replace the technical name”Downtown Relief Line” with something more imaginative and marketable (much like the successful “Transit City” marketing name).
Surely Spacing readers could think of something more imaginative.
Fortunately, the Downtown Relief Subway plan continues to gain momentum from being a dormant proposal even just a year ago. This new subway need not compete with other transit priorities, but it will complement Transit City and relieve pressure on the overburdened Yonge Subway. It would also negate the need for a long, costly and headache-inducing second renovation of Bloor-Yonge station, the worst pinch-point in the transit system. Finally it would attract brand new riders in areas newly served by rapid transit, and relieving crowded streetcars on the Queen and King routes.
There’s more information and discussion at the DRL Facebook group.