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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

The case for a Downtown Relief Line

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photo by Wylie Poon

In the last 100 years, there have been many subway proposals that have come and gone. One of the first serious proposals, in 1911, would have seen streetcar subways built under Yonge, Queen and Bloor streets to feed city and interurban cars downtown. Later proposals called for a Queen Street subway for streetcars or heavy rail, which remained on the books until about 1980. The Eglinton West subway even started construction, until filled in by order of the Harris Conservatives in 1995. Another serious subway proposal that never got anywhere was something called the Downtown Relief Line.

The Downtown Rapid Transit project, or Downtown Relief Line (DRL), was a proposed TTC rapid transit route, first studied in 1985 as part of the Network 2011 rapid transit expansion plan for the City of Toronto. When originally proposed, its primary purpose was to provide relief for the Yonge subway south of Bloor Station and the congested Bloor-Yonge interchange point. Both were becoming severely overcrowded in the lead up to the all-time ridership record in 1988 of 463 million riders.

The first phase of the DRL would have been built to relieve the Yonge line south of Bloor and at Bloor-Yonge Station, by encouraging downtown-bound passengers from the Danforth line to transfer at a point further east to avoid Yonge. Following the study of different route options, the alignment chosen would have met the Danforth subway at Pape Station, running under Pape to Eastern Avenue and across following the railway and Front Street to Union Station and on to Spadina Avenue on the west. A second phase would complete a ‘U’-shaped line by continuing along the waterfront to the west of downtown and connecting with the Bloor line at Dundas West Station — running under Roncesvalles — providing further relief to both the Lower Yonge and University subway segments. In 1985 the expected cost of the first phase, Pape to Spadina, was $565 million. Early on, the route was intended to be serviced by UTDC (now Bombardier) ICTS trains (similar to those used on the Scarborough RT or Vancouver’s SkyTrain), but was later changed to conventional subway trains.

But the DRL was not to be, and the plan died for several reasons. There was no Mel Lastman-type political personality that pushed to see the subway built, and suburban politicians sought to see their subway projects built instead. In fact, there were no plans for high-density development along the route at the time. Also, after 1988, TTC ridership began to drop, and along with renovations to Bloor-Yonge Station on the Yonge line, this mitigated the overcrowding.

Today, however, we see ourselves back to where we were while the DRL was a serious plan. TTC ridership has climbed significantly in the last decade since the Rae and Harris era cutbacks to service (that also saw the trolley coaches and all but two PCC streetcars leave the streets). Transit City could strain the system more — particularly the Don Mills route dumping passengers at Pape, and to a lesser extent, the Eglinton-Crosstown route unloading more passengers at Yonge. As well, three new major office towers are being built downtown, which will increase the demand for both TTC and GO Transit service to the financial district.

Finally, since the 1980s, there have been considerable changes to the development scene in Toronto. The Distillery District, once a derelict industrial site, has been transformed into a centre for the arts and new bars and restaurants have moved in. Furthermore, new condos are being built in the middle of the historic district that will add more people. A similar process is happening in the Liberty Village area, where former industry is being replaced by medium and high density development. The DRL’s proposed alignment now appears to be even more attractive and, as such, a Downtown Relief Line today would follow a very similar path to the one proposed in the 1980s. Stations at Gerrard, Queen East, Cherry Street, near St. Lawrence Market, Union, Spadina (and on to Fort York, Exhibition, Dufferin/Queen, Dundas/Lansdowne and Dundas West) would be very useful today.

At Queen Street East, the new subway line would intercept the Queen streetcar, providing an opportunity for passengers to the east to complete their trip by subway if they desired. On the west end, a station at Queen and Dufferin would open up Parkdale to rapid transit and intercept the Queen car on the west side. The DRL would also address one of the gaps in the Transit City plan – where no new rapid transit routes are planned for central Toronto – while complementing its suburban network. Best of all, the plan would not put at risk any part of our existing legacy streetcar network, while providing an alternative for crosstown trips across the bottom of the city.

Map by C. Livett and adapted from Network 2011 DRL plan.  Larger version can be found here.

While the DRL is currently off the TTC’s radar, it has been included in Metrolinx’s Transit Green Paper as part of a “bold” plan for regional transportation. It still has a place in the imagination of many, including a new Facebook group. With Transit City and subway extensions into York Region committed, should a DRL be the next priority for Toronto transit?



  1. Sounds pretty good, though it would be nice if it went further south to the waterfront. Part of the reason it is a pain to get to the waterfront is that the subway turns its back to the waterfront by turning away at front street, that extra transfer to the streetcar, makes it that little bit more annoying. If there was one more stop on the Yonge/Spadina line at the waterfront, and the Union station stop was just fed from both ends it would make the waterfront infinitely more appealing. Oh well, I am sure we can all list a thousand pipe dream Toronto transit projects.

    All I really want is a card based entry system, is that too 21st century to ask?

  2. West of bay the waterfront is already served by the Spadina and Exhibition streetcars, and soon there will be a streetcar right-of-way on Queens Quay East as well. The Cherry Street ROW is already in a pretty advanced stage, and is looking VERY nice, with both streetcar lanes on one side of the street. Let’s face it, the harbourfront has had enough transit expansion recently. Sure, start the line at Pape, but run it down Queen instead. There’s no room for a streetcar ROW there, and the congestion there is a lot worse.

  3. Great article.

    Such a route makes sense for so many reasons.

    Transit City is great for bringing transit to every corner of the city, but it doesn’t provide any improvements to where things are most crowded. The DRL could help ensure Transit City’s success by essentially completing the Don Mills and Jane lines to downtown. It could also help provide relief to Yonge – the Eglinton, Finch, and Sheppard TC lines will only make Yonge more crowded.

    I’ve been frightened by the level of crowding in the lower Yonge line. Train after train pass through Dundas leaving people behind on the platform, and Bloor is downright dangerous. I’ve even seen people left behind on the platform at St. Clair station during the afternoon rush. And this is an everyday occurrence, not during a delay! If any sort of relieving line gets built, it needs to be speedy to convince people to change from the Yonge line.

    When I think about it, I can’t think of any other single route that actually serves destinations and where development is occurring in this city. The Beaches, the Distillery, West Queen West all are places that can be a pain to get to by transit, and I know I’m not the only person who thinks this. It serves the big destinations, like the financial district, SkyDome, the Convention Centre, the Ex and as such could provide a real improvement to congestion downtown.

    I recently heard someone say that development in Toronto is taking the form of “an upside-down T” – up Yonge and across the lakeshore. The DRL relieves Yonge and brings service to the lakeshore. Queen might be a better route for me and where I want to go, but that would only encourage the condofication of Queen, and it would be terrible to lose the 501. Since much of the new developments being built south of Bloor are on former industrial lands, and since former industrial lands hug the route of the railways, this route serves those people as well.

    Thanks for writing about this proposal that could really improve the state of transit in this city.

  4. A DRL is a logical southerly extension of the proposed Don Mills Transit City line. There has been much hand-wringing that we cannot possibly run the capacity needed with “streetcars”, and that would be true if all of the service tried to run up the middle of Don Mills to, say, Steeles.

    However, the major demand on this line will be south of Eglinton and particularly south of Danforth. This portion of the line can be built as an LRT subway and extra service can supplement the trains coming down Don Mills from the north.

    Why isn’t it in Transit City? Because that plan concentrated on getting new LRT services into the suburbs, not on additional service to the core area.

    I will write more about this in my current series on Transit City at when I come to discussion of optional alignments, extensions and route interlining.

  5. Oh yes – I forgot to mention the west branch which logically is the south end of the Jane LRT also with direct service to the airport via Eglinton.

    Whether the two routes run as a single operation initially, or as two separate lines, both deserve detailed study.

    Now if only we could formally kill off Blue 22 and concentrate on useful services in the Weston rail corridor.

  6. While it’s just “conceptual” at this point, it’s worth noting that the Metrolinx Transit green paper suggests a DRL would run east-west along the Queen/King corridor, which is further north than shown on the old map.

    As for James’ desire for a card-based entry system, one is coming in the next few years in the form of Presto, at least for *every* other transit system in the GTA. We need to get the TTC onside.

  7. Great idea. Not only would this alleviate the congestion at Bloor station but it would also help with crowding on the King and Queen Street cars.


  8. No, no! Subways are now verboten. DRL would have to be a streetcar line, accompanied with the promise that, you know, we can always rip it out and rebuild it with subway at some vague date in the future.

  9. Couldn’t this be done with a TransitCity-like plan instead of all the expense of digging subway tunnels?

    It would mean taking space away from cars, but stick to the same route only make it a Streetcar ROW with stops where subway stations would be.

    This would then accomplish the dual goals of expanding (and getting more people on) transit while discouraging people from driving cars downtown when an acceptable transit alternative is available.

  10. “Couldn’t this be done with a TransitCity-like plan instead of all the expense of digging subway tunnels?

    It would mean taking space away from cars, but stick to the same route only make it a Streetcar ROW with stops where subway stations would be.”

    The big reason for the DRL is the relief part. The Yonge line is dangerously crowded so we need to provide an alternative. No one is going to change to an LRT/streetcar line if it takes longer than the subway.

    Plus, one of the great things about the DRL is that most of it runs on the surface in existing corridors. There’s good reason to believe that it would be no more expensive than a streecar line.

    Steve Munro brings up a good option of building the line as proposed above, but running LRT vehicles on it allowing for through trips. That would be good too, though I would still be concerned about whether the capacity of articulated streetcars running every couple minutes would still be sufficient.

  11. Running the DRL through Union is likely to be a non-starter, given the substantial work simply adding a second platform is taking on the existing Yonge-University line.

    Also, it reinforces Union as a single point of failure in the GO/TTC system such as when the station was closed because of that guy with the gun about two years ago. It also adds to pedestrian traffic flow in the same tidal directions on street and PATH as GO – something else we don’t need.

    A more northerly street, preferably Queen although there are significant challenges there, would mitigate these issues. However, the nature of Queen’s catchment and its status as a backbone to the downtown streetcar network should mandate preservation of parallel surface service, as on Yonge.

    While a combination of surface and subsurface stop-at-subway-interval streetcars would be overkill now, the increasing density of downtown and the urgent need to increase transit’s modal share means we have to build ahead of need and then do stuff like tax parking spaces and/or close City Hall Car Park.

  12. I think a Queen/King car, given all of the residential development down there and the poor transit options, would be for the best.

    I’m not sure how much need there is for a waterfront car, or a stop on Sorauren and Dundas West. That are is all ready fairly well served by the Bloor line and the College and Dundas line which converge at the end of Lansdowne.

    But with the poor and unreliable quality of service on King and Queen, I’d say a line going through there and perhaps cutting directly north on Dufferin – another busy route – would be better.

  13. joe: If it’s not a six-lane street, we are not likely to see a new LRT line on it.

    And if the goal is divert half the Yonge/University traffic, we do need full subway capacity on the line. Underground LRT won’t do.

    We should build Transit City as planned, and start working on the DRL during or afterwards. We shouldn’t start it until Transit City LRT is fully paid for.

  14. When on earth was that photo taken? I’ve never seen that kind of crowding at Yonge-Bloor before.

  15. What a concept! Bringing decent transit to the parts of the city where people actually take transit! It’s a sad reflection on the state of transit planning in Toronto that this seems so novel. These areas should have had subway service decades ago; given the massive development underway along the proposed alignment a DRL makes even more sense now than ever before.

    I don’t mind Steve Munro’s LRT subway idea; as long as whatever is built south of Bloor and Danforth is grade-separated, I don’t think anyone will care if it’s LRT vs. subway technology. What would be a disaster is middle-of-the-street ROW operation, though there isn’t really anywhere in the central city with enough space for that anyway. Additionally the Jane and Don Mills LRTs are just crying out to be connected.

    Mark D: Who said it would have to come into Union underground? The beauty of sticking rapid transit on an existing rail corridor that passes through Union is…the rail corridor passes through Union! No reason you couldn’t just stick an extra platform at the level of the mainline trains there, provided any regulatory issues about urban rail and long distance vehicles sharing track are cleared up. The elegance of the DRL is really how simple it *could* be–the total antithesis of the normal TTC habit of costing every subway project in platinum-plated terms, and then saying subways are too expensive to consider.

    Other cities would kill for the kind of rail corridors we have running through areas of intensive development and huge existing and latent demand for transit.

  16. ‘Presto’ is the name of the card system, yikes. Can’t they just got with an animal that starts with ‘O’ Like Oyster in London and Octopus in Hong Kong. How about Oriole, they’re local.

    Anyone ever been dropped off at Kipling with a pocket full of credit cards and bank cards only to find out it’s cash only.

    But wait they now take debit card, but only to purchase monthly passes? and oh there is an ATM, but it is in the fair paid zone of the station?

  17. I haven’t seen this point made yet, so I thought I’d raise it just as a discussion point.

    As Sean alludes to in this post there is a perception that there will be more people dumped onto the subway lines. But I tend to think that some of the capacity issues will not be as big of a concern. For instance, a lot of people use the B-D line to get across town. Those that live on St Clair and Elginton will now have an option to use either the B-D line or the new Eglinton Crosstown. People will use the Don Mills LRT instead of going onto the Yonge line.

    I think Transit City has the potential to spread out the riders more than clog and stress the subway system. Ridership will go up but I’m not entirely convinced that it will stress the subway as many people allude to here. This does not mean the DRL is not worth doing. Currently it is needed and will be needed in the future. But we have to recognize that if Transit City is to work as planned — with stops spread out like subway station distances — the desire to be on the speedy subway will be mitigated by speedy LRT.

    I’m happy to hear why I could be wrong on this. But I believe not everyone taking the TTC is going downtown and the LRT lines should ease, instead or burden, the system.

  18. “This does not mean the DRL is not worth doing. Currently it is needed and will be needed in the future. But we have to recognize that if Transit City is to work as planned — with stops spread out like subway station distances — the desire to be on the speedy subway will be mitigated by speedy LRT.”

    Transit City will do a great job of making transit more attractive all over the city. It will provide a great improvement to crosstown trips, but it will make trips from the burbs to downtown more attractive as well. No, not everyone is headed downtown, but the Yonge line south of Bloor is the most crowded section of the system because more people are headed downtown than anywhere else.

    We have the figures from the TTS survey to show that there are still thousands of people who live along routes like Eglinton and Finch and work downtown but still drive. Transit City will make it more likely then ever that those people will choose transit. The point is, Transit City will likely make the whole TTC system more attractive, including the currently crowded parts.

    That’s why the DRL is such an important part of making Transit City a success. No one is going to change off of a Eglinton, Lawrence, or York Mills vehicle to change to the Don Mills route, only to have to change twice more onto the Bloor and Yonge lines. They’re going to continue to Yonge the same as before. But with the DRL connecting (or through-running) with a Don Mills line, real time savings and a real alternative could be realised.

  19. If anybody is interested, there are number of DIY options if you want to travel the route of the DRL on the existing rails:

    These are nifty human-powered rail vehicles that would presumably fit on CN rails, but he will adjust the gauge for you on request (to fit on streetcar and subway tracks.) Approximately $2,000 for a four seater. You can also add an electric motor, which could theoretically be solar powered.

    Before service trucks were given rail wheels, “Speeders” were used to check rails for track defects. They seat 2 – 4 people, generally, and could probably pull a bit of weight behind them for passenger cars. I don’t see why these couldn’t be modified to run of vegetable oil, which would make operating them essentially free.

    There is always the railbike, another human powered rail vehicle made from a bicycle.

    You can always modify your car to run on rails. This is for people who really, really hate traffic 😉

  20. A complete no-brainer, a thousand times yes. Thank you for bringing this back to the fore. All of the other TTC projects currently kicking around are fine and dandy but you need to get people to the core for work and play, and Toronto’s core has outgrown the Y-U-S in terms of geography and capacity. If you can no longer do that, why build an office tower or Apple Store or stadium downtown instead of at 407 and 400?

    If you took a class of fifth graders and showed them subway maps of the world’s cities and then showed them a map of Toronto, a good number of them would probably draw a radial plan based on Union, which is what DRL represents. Tack on some extensions to the underserved NW and NE corners of the city and you are really talking about 21st century transit infrastructure.

    After all, can the patterns in this map really be wrong?

  21. “Oh yes – I forgot to mention the west branch which logically is the south end of the Jane LRT also with direct service to the airport via Eglinton….
    Now if only we could formally kill off Blue 22 and concentrate on useful services in the Weston rail corridor.”

    Steve – I agree with you. The Weston Sub is such a wasted opportunity right now, where LRT, regional rail (or the GTTA’s SuperMetro or REX, or whatever they want to call it) and even dedicated bikeways can co-exist, but not until the Blue22 proposal is finally euthanized. LRT via that corridor would be an inexpensive and effective way to serve the Airport and places like Weston and Mount Dennis.

    If we could get coupled articulated light rail vehicles through a DRL line, there’s a number of options that open up. I’m not convinced that LRT vehicles would provide the same capacity as heavy rail subways for such an important route, but I know that given full grade separation, LRVs can provide a high degree of service.

    The other advantage is that letting LRVs run from Don Mills, Jane, or the Weston sub, is that you mitigate the transfers required. (This is why my biggest issue with Transit City is Sheppard East, but that’s a post for another day).

    Gloria: I’ve seen Bloor Station look like that during rush hours, and the same at Queen and Dundas in the afternoon peak. But that particuar shot looks like it was taken during a summer weekend during a delay.

  22. An LRT based non-tunnel streetcar DRL is not so far-fetched:

    A) keep the stops spread out so that Pape and Union are only 6 stops apart, as per the map above – then an LRT DRL will be just as fast as a subway. It’s the same argument Miller, etc. used in pushing TransitCity instead of expensive tunnel-based systems.

    B) Yes, currently it’s politically unrealistic to put streetcar ROWs on “downtown” streets such as Pape and Front and Dundas – but if gas prices keep going up (and there’s nothing to say they won’t) and more people give up their cars and move downtown – that political reality will change.

  23. I see no reason why there can’t be LRT running down the rail corridor from Bloor and Dundas and running into the downtown along centre reservation on Front St. or Wellington. Streetcars (LRT)can run as fast as subway trains and with a good signalling system can run very frequently indeed. As for size, they can be about as big as you want to make them. They should have low floors for low platform stations so that they can run cross country e.g. therail corridor as well as city streeets. For the same reason they should receive their power from overhead wire rather than third rail. On city streets there is no reason they should not be able to share trackage with city streetcars where this proves to be desirable.

    Would this bother Toronto Tranportaion, the sucessor to Metro Roads.

    Yep! It likely would but sooner or later we have to get over this notion that public transit improvements are fine as long as they don’t disturb the free flow of auto traffic e.g. Spadina.

    Subway tunnels are costly and take forever to build. Third track means they must be carefully separated from anything else eliminating, for example, grade crossings where expensive underpasses are not really necesary. Subways don’t integrate with the street above, thus stealing local patrons from stores along the route.

    There is no doubt that subways carry a lot of people fast and efficiently but a well designed LRT system can accomplish much the same, often with greater convenience. The people who really love subways are the auto mobile folks who want the street for themselves.

  24. “Mark D: Who said it would have to come into Union underground? The beauty of sticking rapid transit on an existing rail corridor that passes through Union is…the rail corridor passes through Union! No reason you couldn’t just stick an extra platform at the level of the mainline trains there, provided any regulatory issues about urban rail and long distance vehicles sharing track are cleared up”

    Actually – there is a reason. Taking from the heavy rail alignment for LRT could mean sacrificing future inter-urban GO and VIA rail services – and that applies to the Weston corridor too, i.e.

    -GO Airport
    -more VIA+GO Kitchener
    -GO Bolton
    -more GO Barrie/Bradford

    Driving a new surface heavy rail route through Toronto would be virtually impossible so we need to ensure that any conversion to other modes only takes space that won’t be needed under the most optimistic “railnut” scenario.

  25. Thank you for this piece, but it really depressed me to think that such a wonderful line doesn’t exist. All the same, it’s so exciting to think about.

  26. Mark D: how constrained a rail corridor are we talking about? And how much could whatever capacity there is be better utilized through things like signal improvements? I see your argument, but it seems to me that if the main east-west S-Bahn in Berlin can handle the ICE, normal DB intercity trains, S-Bahn, RegionalBahn and RegionalExpress (and I think freight too), the latter three running at subway-like frequencies, surely the Weston sub and the TTR corridor can handle two tracks for LRT/subway. I’m pretty sure what Toronto has is no narrower, if not wider.

    The Kingston sub may be a different story however.

    Incidentally, in Berlin you have at the big stations a set-up similar to what I could see working at Union: the S-Bahn is just another one or two platforms in a large regional and intercity train station, though in Toronto w/o honour system ticketing the DRL subway or LRT would need its own fare paid access points.

  27. Oops, meant to say “main east-west rail corridor,” which obviously includes the S-Bahn.

  28. Alexander> I’m generally optimistic about all things Toronto, but one sure-fire I get depressed is to think about the lack of real discussion about building subways downtown, for whatever reasons (reasons that were there in the 70s during Spadina, the 50s during the Yonge line — but they built them then). It is like the city has given up.

    Transit city’s goodstuff, notwithstanding.

  29. Dave: I hope you’re kidding with your sweeping generalization regarding subway proponents. Really, the trick is to advocate the optimal technology or capacity for each route. For most Transit City lines, light rail will suit the routes quite well. The Eglinton-Crosstown line, likely the most popular and busy (and my personal favourite of all the TC lines), will run underground much of the way because the route is congested, and will be practically a subway without heavy rail trains. Was that planned to appease the CAA? Or is it more likely to address the needs of that particular route?

    Subway advocates are often rightly criticised for fantasy subway schemes that are not rooted in reality, or for making subway expansion schemes reliant on politics, and not need. Here, we’re talking about a very serious proposal that now deserves to be resurrected with crowding and development issues.

    For the DRL, if it were to provide relief to the lower Yonge line, as well as the Bloor-Yonge station and meet the needs of a growing city, should be a subway, as originally planned, or at the very least an underground LRT as an extension of the Don Mills and Jane lines, with additional trips just as far as the B-D subway. It’s about matching the capacity to the need. It’s not LRT vs. subway, it’s where is LRT appropriate and where is a subway appropriate?

    The Weston corridor between Weston and the Union Station approach tracks are certainly wide enough to accomodate commuter, intercity, regional and light rail. With proper signalling, you wouldn’t need more than three tracks to handle VIA and GO, even with vastly improved frequencies – you’d be amazed what the Europeans can do with two tracks, or even single track lines.

  30. Matthew said: “…the desire to be on the speedy subway will be mitigated by speedy LRT. I’m happy to hear why I could be wrong on this. But I believe not everyone taking the TTC is going downtown and the LRT lines should ease, instead or burden, the system.”

    I don’t entirely agree. Anytime I’m up on Sheppard, almost everyone tranfers from the bus down to the subway at Don Mills, and then again down to the Yonge subway at Yonge. This will only increase in the years to come, more so if the LRT attracts more riders.

    The various routes on Eglinton E also dump thousands of riders onto the Yonge subway as well, most of which are heading south.

    A DRL is definately required, and should be built such that it will have both the capacity and speed to compete with the Yonge subway.

  31. I did a study for university with four other students a while back. We determined that a Queen line made substantially less sense than a King line. The entire study is available online at along with all of the maps and a “Subway Servicing Quality Map’. If you’re interested I suggest you take a look. A Downtown line has been needed for ages and thank goodness the ‘Bold’ option of Metrolinx’s recent transit paper includes a recommendation for a king or queen subway line — it actually looks like they too consider King to be a better option although I’d imagine Queen is a more politically acceptable choice.


  32. I think that the Downtown Relief Line should be an express line below Bloor and Danforth with express stops at Queen West (Parkdale), Bathurst, Osgoode (McCaul), City Hall (Yonge), and Queen East (Degrassi). As express, it would not displace the current local streetcar lines.
    In addition, the Downtown Relief Line should be extensions of the Jane and Don Mills LRT, using tube tunnels and the railroad right-of-way on the surface.

  33. WK Lis,

    The great thing about the DRL is that it uses the existing rail corridor to serve growing communities with overloaded transit service. Although Queen seems like the natural corridor for rapid transit in the core, remember that it requires the construction of an expensive tunnel and that the neighbourhoods around Queen are not developing in as dramatic a fashion as many of those that are flanked by the rail corridor. Also, I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to walk the four or five blocks north to Queen, and the line does curve north in Parkdale and Leslieville to serve that stretch of Queen directly.

    Furthermore, the DRL serves Union Station – which should be the transportation hub of the city, if it isn’t already. While Union station seems to sit at the southern end of the financial district today, there are mammoth office tower proposals (and some already well into construction) to the immediate south that will extend the financial district to the south, hemming Union station into a very central position, sort of like Grand Central in New York.

    The DRL will be fast, but for suburban riders, there will still be the REX/S-bahn style electric regional rail service that could replace the Lakeshore GO line. That line will offer real speed and real frequency. The brilliant thing about the DRL is that it ties in with all modes of transit – both existing and future – in Toronto. It’s a natural transfer for Jane and Don Mills Transit City riders; it links up with the existing subway and streetcar networks; REX riders from far flung suburbia will have the option of transfering at Exhibition, Union and hopefully another station to the east and the whole DRL will centre around Union station, with future intercity rail and bus links. This is big.

  34. I’d like to address a pattern of comments that I’ve seen here from a bit of an ‘inside’ transit planning perspective. From what I can see, a number of people are (understandably) upset about the lack of new downtown services in the Transit City plan. Additionally, there are many who seem to be sceptical of the capacity of LRT vis. heavy subway (also quite understandable). I’ll first say that I readily agree with the need for some sort of DRL similar to earlier proposals. I also agree that street-level operation is not reasonable for this proposal. That said, a few points to consider:

    -Having the proposed Don Mills LRT end at Pape is NOT coincidental. Aside from topography, the Pape terminus is logical because it will allow for a very easy extension of the line IN A TUNNEL UNDER PAPE towards the waterfront and, eventually, Union
    -The same could be said for Jane. The only reason that these extensions don’t exist in the Transit City plan is due to the large cost and construction time that they would add. By building Transit City (and particularly Jane and Don Mills) we are ensuring that an extension of these, underground, as a DRL will be the next step (easier to extend a current line than to build a new one from scratch).
    -Speaking to capacity, I’d refer you to other examples of underground LRT subways (as Pape/Jane would be south of Bloor). This video of the Porto Metro is a good, modern example ( ). First off, the vehicles to be used will be far larger, and able to couple into trains (like Porto). Second, there would be turnbacks, so service south of Bloor/Danforth would be a combination of Don Mills/Pape runs as well as extra downtown service. Third, south of Bloor/Danforth, the lines would be signalled since they would operate in a tunnel; for all intents and purposes it would be a subway, but with trains of LRT vehicles and the flexibility of having half of the service go north beyond Bloor/Danforth without having to build expensive subway up there.
    Tip of the hat to Steve Munro for bringing these points up, just though I’d re-iterate.

  35. Too bad that Canada does not care to put Toronto on the world map once and for all. We’ve had so many chances, most recently with the ROM.. and of course they had to cut that one short too. When is someone in the administration going to realize that developing our transit system is just essential, period!

  36. Anon.: I am very, very glad to hear that all is not lost on the subject of new central-city rapid transit at the City (or whichever agency you are associated with). I agree that with some tweaks underground LRT would be perfectly adequate to link the Jane and Don Mills termini…all I can say is, tell your bosses to get this on the books ASAP! Given that Metrolinx are currently designing the regional transportation plan by which future provincial funding appropriations are (by many accounts, for eg on Steve’s blog) to be allocated, I think it behooves the city to move this crucially needed piece of infrastructure up from “vague future concept” to “solid line on the official Transit City map.”

    From a regional economic health perspective, I don’t think there’s any question that some iteration of the DRL would do *much* more as a piece of strategic infrastructure than the bulk of Transit City, and that should be reflected in decisions about what constitutes a “large cost.”

  37. Anon.@3:17 PM: I can accept the logic of Transit City connections at Jane and Pape. What seems backwards to me is building Transit City first. Transit City has sucked up all the political oxygen while addressing none of the existing capacity or service problems.

  38. Thanks for a great post, Sean. Long before I got involved in Spacing and got to know a lot about the history of transit plans, I had already thought that a subway line running along this route was a really obvious solution to a pressing need (literally – I had experienced the press of people transferring lines at St. George and Yonge stations).

    Presumably the cost-per-kilometre (the biggest objection to new subways) would be reduced because a reasonable chunk of it could be run on the surface along existing railway rights-of-way. And I think it would actually strengthen the streetcar routes it intersects with by providing additional subway connections.

    Also, it would strengthen the argument for tolls on the Gardiner by providing additional alternative capacity for commuters travelling from the west end of the city, and also for tolls on the DVP if a Don Mills rapid transit line linking to a quick and convenient subway at Pape provided an alternative.

    I also think that the new developments in east waterfront would be more successful with full subway connections, rather than just streetcar connections – especially the port lands, which could have short and rapid streetcar route through the entire new community linking up to the subway.

  39. Toronto needs more than a Downtown Relief Line. It needs a Yonge Relief Line. Even North of Bloor, the Yonge subway still makes sardine cans look roomy. The proposed extension of the Yonge line north to Highway #7 in Richmond Hill will make things worse. That northern extension plus the east-west TC lines will push Yonge so over capacity that we will see extensive demand destruction. IE, people will want to use the Yonge line, but will be simply unable to do so and will give up trying.

    What we really need is a parallel express subway line, like in New York City. Of course, this is financially impossible; it would be simply too expensive to build.

    Fortunately, we already have an express line parallel to Yonge Street. Its called the Richmond Hill Go Transit Line. The problem is that it currently only has nine trains per day. The opportunity is that the infrastructure is in place for expansion to be a true Yonge Express Relief Line.

    The northern terminal of the planned Yonge subway expansion at Highway #7 is coterminous with the existing Langstaff GO station on GO’s Richmond Hill line.

    What I have in mind as an ultimate goal is a GO train running every five minutes each way with four stops at four subway stations. When the Yonge line reaches its planned expansion to the Langstaff station, this would be the first of the four stops on the Yonge Express Relief Line. The second stop would be at the Leslie/Oriel subway station. The third stop would be a connection to the BD subway line, and the final stop would be at Union Station.

    This would provide a high-speed express alternative to the Yonge subway line with four convenient connections to four subway stations. And it would be relatively cheap. It is possible to start right away by adding more trains to the existing Richmond Hill line, up to the capacity of the existing rail infrastructure.

    In order to get five minute headways each way it would be necessary to lay more rail. But it is much, much cheaper to lay more track in an existing rail corridor and right-of-way than to dig a subway tunnel.

  40. Perhaps this was mentioned before, but I’ve always thought it was clever and promising. I read it in a piece about pedestrian railway overpasses (in NOW??).

    There is a minimum height restriction on any structure the passes over rail lines in the GTA (perhaps Ontario) that was implemented to allow for the addition of electrically-powered railway infrastructure.

    Someone thought that it might be the way of the future to power some or all forms of rail with electricity, as is the norm in most of Europe. I don’t know when I’ll ever see the first power line go up along the Lakeshore corridor (at the bottom of my street in Parkdale) but I’m glad we can do it.

    Neat bit of transit trivia…

  41. Is there a higher-resolution version of that map anywhere?

  42. How attractive would the DRL be to people who aren’t going to Union? If I’m coming from east of Pape (on the B/D line) and I want to go to Dundas/Queen/King, I would have to get off at Pape and wait for another train, then go to Union where I have to wait again before completing the third leg of my journey. Going to Yonge instead, I may have to let a train pass by before getting on, but that could still be faster.

  43. A DRL stop at shouldn’t be put at Sorauren, but rather a little farther south at Lansdowne. This is the spot where the GO Barrie line meets the GO Georgetown and GO Milton lines (and will meet a GO Bolton line when it gets built). At this spot we could build a large GO station (maybe named Brockton), where 3 (later 4) lines would meet the DRL, and we’d reduce the number of passengers to Union station.

  44. Parts 2A and 2B of my commentary on Transit City and LRT are now online at I have linked back to this article for obvious reasons.

  45. Um.. why build expensive tunnels? There are already 4 CP/CN lines following this exact same route. They are mostly empty all day save a few Go trains durring rush hour.

    Upgrade the signalling. Install overhead wires. Presto! New TTC line from Dundas to union. Tracks can easily be shared between Go and TTC just like local and express trains do all the time in Japan.

    Nice, cheap, perfect solution.

  46. Jamie: Unless you are commenting on what somebody else wrote, yes, that is the plan – largely to be built on existing rail right of way.

  47. Having ridden the Yonge subway over the years I feel that more needs to be done than a downtown relief line. More specifically I think that consideration should be made for the possibility of lengthening the subway platforms, and I honestly cannot understand why nobody ever talks about that idea. Of course by ordering the new subway trains (Toronto Rocket) it makes it harder to be flexible with say adding an extra married pair unit or two, unlike the T-1s or earlier models (H series) as the Toronto Rockets will be fixed at six cars. If the platforms on at least the Yonge subway could be lengthened to allow for eight or even ten car trains that could easily solve the problem right there (and the stations wouldn’t necessarily have to be totally redone, just add the extra platform length). And if work could somehow be done to add two more tracks so that you could have express and local trains running, again that would help as well. I am probably talking about ideas that are too unrealistic for the near future but still I think that it is an idea worth considering, especially for a subway line that is begging for capacity expansion. I know that the TTC is considering automatic train control on the Yonge University Spadina line, but should the computers malfunction like they have on the SRT, then there could be serious risks for dangerous overcrowding on subway platforms due to service interruptions (since more people would be theoretically running through the line without physical station expansion). I also do not understand why certain individuals are so obsessed with putting down subways over light rail. Both are manually operated rail vehicles, usually with two four wheel bogies per car. I agree that with corridors with lower demand that it would make more sense to use manually operated lower capacity vehicles since it seems like a waste of money to run the University Ave subway on a late subway night; but still there are places for subway service too.

    On an added note I would sincerely like to see the city stop being a chicken with the business owners on downtown throughfares and just get on with at least converting part of King St. with the 504 King line in the inner city to a transit only route (as was proposed not too long ago). Those who drive an Escalade can go move to Mississauga if they don’t like living in a city that gives a damn about proper urban planning!

  48. What I have in mind as an ultimate goal is a GO train running every five minutes each way with four stops at four subway stations. When the Yonge line reaches its planned expansion to the Langstaff station, this would be the first of the four stops on the Yonge Express Relief Line. The second stop would be at the Leslie/Oriel subway station. The third stop would be a connection to the BD subway line, and the final stop would be at Union Station.

    Well, you can have 3 out of 4. Sadly, the Bloor-Danforth connection won’t work so well.

    That northern extension plus the east-west TC lines will push Yonge so over capacity that we will see extensive demand destruction. IE, people will want to use the Yonge line, but will be simply unable to do so and will give up trying. What we really need is a parallel express subway line….

    We also need better east-west movement to take traffic off the Yonge line and put it, for instance, onto Spadina-Allen.

    Hey, I know! We could take the Sheppard stubway and make it a convenient way to get across from the Yonge to the Spadina line. Like from, say, Scarborough, land of a thousand rapid transit lines. Let’s see: LRT to Don Mills, transfer to Sheppard subway, transfer at Sheppard station to the Yonge line, northbound to Finch, transfer from there to the Finch LRT, now check if they’ve tunnelled up from the already-existing Sheppard/Allen stop up to Finch … presto!

    (Kidding. Instead of transferring to the Finch LRT, notwithstanding its likely way-fastness, you’d want to take the Sheppard bus for the third westbound leg of your route.)

  49. *note: I made a typo about the University Ave Subway on a late night. I meant a late *Sunday* night, not subway. :/

  50. Okay, I wasn’t too clear on that. In that case, I’m all for it. I’m guessing getting CN/CP on board is the biggest hurdle.

  51. Regarding LRT capacity: if we had a fully grade-separated line from Pape to Union, running two-car streetcar trains every two minutes, such a service would be almost indistinguishable from a subway. I think people would be happy to switch, especially if they were looking to go to places where the subway currently doesn’t serve (the St. Lawrence neighbourhood, the Don Lands, et cetera). Two car trains using current ALRV standards every two minutes would have a normal service capacity of 10,000 passengers per direction per hour. And that assumes the TTC doesn’t try to schedule service more frequently (they’ve done it before) or use three-car trains. Adding at least one quarter to the Pape-to-Downtown rapid transit capacity isn’t too shabby.

    Looking at the route on Google Maps, I believe there is room enough for two tracks along the south-east side of the railway tracks from Pape to roughly the DVP. That would help lower the cost of the line (especially with LRTs). New bridges would be required, and LRT bridges would be cheaper than subway bridges.

    Crossing the Don River, the line would likely have to climb under or over the railway tracks to approach Union from the north side of the tracks. Such a flyover would be cheaper if built for LRTs.

    I think we’ll see a DRL built eventually, but for my money it would be more likely to happen if it was an extension of the Don Mills and Jane/Waterfront West LRT lines.

  52. The DRL would be a great addition to the subway system! A rapid transit line south of Bloor/Danforth that uses LRT trains connecting the TC routes going north on Pape/Don Mills and Jane makes a lot of sense. I was recently in San Francisco which uses a similar system and was quite impressed with its efficiency.

    In addition, I would love to see the TC Lakeshore West LRT line connected to the DRL. This would give rapid transit service to the new developments along the western waterfront.

  53. A Front Street alignment serves the “relief” need perfectly. It would get people from Pape and potentially Dundas West to Union very quickly and at probably a lower development cost. However, it doesn’t go to particularly interesting places. I worry that the old DRL proposal would be more a commuter line than a constant-use line like the Yonge subway. A Queen or King alignment would go to so many interesting places.

  54. Great to see that there is agreement that the DRL route is a necessary addition to Toronto’s transit network. As long as it’s speedy and grade separated, I don’t see any reason why the choice of technology matters. If we can get officials moving on this corridor, a proper study could determine the most appropriate technology. LRT allowing for through trips onto Don Mills would be great, but if it’s determined that demand would be too high for LRT, so be it!

    The important thing is that we serve downtown’s highest growth areas (Liberty Village, Fort York neighbourhood, CityPlace, Harbourfront, Financial Core, East Bayfront, Distillery, West Donlands, Portlands, and other former industrial lands along the Lakeshore GO line and Weston Sub) and bring relief to the overcrowded subway network. No matter what the technology, this would be one of the greatest improvements to public transit in the history of Toronto!

  55. What about a Wellington-Front-Eastern alignment through downtown?

    We could take cars off of Wellington completely and replace it with at-grade LRTs. These would then connect with to the closest subways (St. Andrew, Union, King)through PATH expansions. From Church onwards, we would have to take away some of the car-lanes on Front and Eastern.

    Either way, the LRT would pass through Liberty Village, create an LRT and pedestrian mall through the financial district, pass the flatiron building and St. Lawrence market, stop near Distillery, and serve the new West Don Lands Community and connect with a Cherry St. streetcar.

    It would also help us “revitalize” the area around the DVP by reconfiguring the on-ramps from Eastern Ave. Just think about the possibilities at adding to the West Don Lands and Don River Park.

    While difficult in terms of engineering and perhaps politically unfeasible, a boy can dream can’t he?

  56. Dave O’Rourke wrote:

    “Streetcars (LRT)can run as fast as subway trains and with a good signalling system can run very frequently indeed.”

    The point of having a DRL is not so much the speed, but building extra *capacity* through better distribution of passengers, and adding more popular destinations like SkyDome.

  57. Within the “process” of the Front St. Extension EA, any transit option was ignored, as well as the harms to our two transit systems. One of the dozen or so other ways of relieving congestion did involve putting transit on Front St. with the Downtown Relief Line.
    There are other ways of starting to get something done by thinking of using some of the rail ROW for a shorter route to the core for King and Queen cars via Front.
    Immediate obstacles are possibly arising with the WQW OMB-driven devilopments that may well preclude extra space for transit; the OMB is also in sync with the City for always approving more buildings without a thought to the transit.
    One key may be the remnant strip of the lands and Gardens trust south of Front St. between Bathurst and Spadina that rises from railgrade to streetlevel and I’ve always seen that as a great way of getting some transit up to Front St. and avoiding the hassles of Union Station while providing a clean transfer with Spadina, something the rail level can’t really do.
    We also need to stake out a diagonal cutthrough the NE corner block to Wellington from this corner just to make sure we have flexibility with putting a ROW on Front St. one way and the other way, maybe Wbnd, on Wellington.
    There is also a small conflict with the Railpath bike trail near Bloor to College – which is starting up this year apparently. The higher and best use of this corridor is for transit; it likely should be on the N side of the tracks I think vs. south, and maybe we can have both transit and bikepath.
    The TTC folks and politicians are NOT wanting to hear about new and different and better ideas, including those that might actually serve the core, which the Transit City doesn’t do. The WWLRT is actually bad value – it’s even in that 1993 EA!
    While a DRL might ease Bloor, I think the greater amount of relief could come from effective transit instead of the WWLRT via Front St. – as that keeps the transit options open.
    And a road tunnel would mess them up in the critical real estate near Fort York.

  58. Given Transit City’s goal of increasing ridership through higher-order transit, it’s essential that we beef-up service south of Danforth to handle the new riders. The system won’t have a chance at success if our subways are packed to the gills.

    The Downtown Relief line needs to be pushed forward on the agenda. In a perfect world, there’d be enough funding for both, but as you can see, the city’s having a hard enough time bankrolling streetcars in the suburbs.

    I’m in favour of the DRL in it’s proposed alignment along Front. It will serve new residential + office development, GO riders, and historic landmarks while still being close enough to Queen/King to serve as an alternate to those crowded, unrelaible routes.

    The Harbourfront should continue to be served by streetcars, west and east, but with better signalling and track upgrades for faster service.

  59. For those of you advocating alignments south of King, please remember the peak flow pedestrian issue I mentioned earlier.

    The City is going to build a new PATH tunnel northwest from Union at significant expense just to handle GO riders, Queens Quay West/East streetcars and Bremner streetcars in addition to sidewalk enhancements – this assumes no DRL!

    Adding DRL to the mix on Wellington or Front would be adding a significant increase to that number, since many of those riders would previously have exited the subway at Queen or King and walked east/west.

  60. Also, the Westoncommunitycoalition has been suggesting their own version of the DRL.
    There is apparently a newer diagonal line in Copenhagen that has done quite well in gaining service above the expectations/forecasts as this would be a new line.

  61. gee, maybe SmartCentres’ proposal wouldn’t be such an issue with good transit right at the door.

    oh wait, I forgot…..Paula Fletcher the Communist is pissed off about it because it might have a Wal-Mart.

    hmmm…but nobody seemed to complain too much about the Loblaws, or the Price Chopper or the Canadian Tire….Paula even appeared to cut the ribbon for the opening last fall. Nice, eh.

  62. Great article Sean. The DRL is something I think is long overdue. As a resident of the St Lawrence Market area its certainly something I would use. I hate the fact that half the time I go to Parkdale I take a cab rather than endure the King or Queen Streetcar.

    And I hope that Anon’s post is the real deal. That the planners are already thinking DRL is wonderful news if true.

  63. Ed, you’re off-topic, and your name-calling harms the credibility of your argument. I agree that good transit could make for a much more palatable “smart centre,” as it wouldn’t require the acres of parking and corresponding traffic.

  64. “Couldn’t this be done with a TransitCity-like plan instead of all the expense of digging subway tunnels?”

    Subways (HRT/metro lines) are not expensive simply because they are usually in tunnels. In fact, the cost of building LRT in tunnels is in the same ballpark or slightly less expensive than building an HRT/metro line ON THE SURFACE. Check out my analysis of the costs of construction on the Toronto LRT Information Page at – just click on LRT/HRT Construction Costs.

    As for capacity, if the Don Mills line were built underground up to Eglinton with stations long enough for a 4 or 5 car LRT train, additional trains could provide increased capacity for DLR operations with the other trains continuing north of Eglinton with shorter consists (2 or 3 cars maximum). An underground line makes running service at higher frequencies more feasable.

    As a bonus, the differing train lengths would make it easier for users to know if they were boarding a through train or not.

  65. Ben, yes sometimes I do get that way.

    What acres of parking? Seems to me that 1800 or 1900 parking spaces on 700k sq ft is below the City standard for retail….and it’s structured parking hidden from view it seems. Looks transit oriented to me.

  66. ???

    Correct me if I’m wrong but the proposal calls for something like 700k sq ft of space….parking ratios are calculated on building space. So, 1900/700 is a ratio of, say 2.75. City standard would be 3.3 for a site like this. Soooooo…….they seem to be coming in well under the City standard. That would encourage walk-in traffic in my mind.

  67. “I’m generally optimistic about all things Toronto, but one sure-fire I get depressed is to think about the lack of real discussion about building subways downtown, for whatever reasons (reasons that were there in the 70s during Spadina, the 50s during the Yonge line — but they built them then). It is like the city has given up.”

    During the post WWII era, the federal government was (generally) more involved in capital works projects, for various reasons (i.e. national identity, employment).

    This changed in the 1990s when the feds “eliminated” the deficit and left the provinces, and shortly afterwards the cities, to reroute funds to pay for federal downloading.

    Big projects like subways need large investments – something the city is currently not in a position to do and the federal/provincial government is not willing to do.

    Steve Munro stated on his website, “If Toronto and the GTA want to emulate the success of Madrid, then all parties and governments must commit to sustained, reliable funding and ongoing expansion of the transit network.” Unfortunately, I don’t see that ever happening.

  68. I’m wondering why there’s still a reaction that “we can’t afford it” when it comes to big-scale transit funding in this city. It looks like the right-wing governments or leaders have succeeded in lowering expectations in the name of eliminating the deficit (right after a big recession) and tax cuts that have disproportionately benefited the wealthier in this country. So the “we don’t have the money” argument becomes a crutch to some extent.

    Maybe it’s time to redefine what government can do, especially with the clear and present need for more and better transport infrastructure (and I’m not talking roads). The province still has huge freeway plans as well, like the 413 outer by-pass, the Mid-Peninsula freeway, Highway 424, and 410, 427 and 404 extensions. It’s a matter of political will and priorities.

    But the provincial Liberals have proved there’s lots of will and funding there with 2007’s MoveOntario 2020, so I wonder if it is the same issue it used to be. Vaughan’s getting a subway extension, and, IMO, has much less merit than a DRL (but goes into the former Finance Minister’s front yard). Richmond Hill’s also getting a subway extension. To build all of Transit City will cost billions. Any GTA city that had a current plan on paper got money to build it, from BRT in Hamilton or Durham, to LRT in Peel Region, to big GO Transit expansions.

    Toronto needs to think about what’s next after Transit City – I believe the DRL, as a heavy rail subway, has a lot of merit here, though I understand (and see the advantages of) the alternative of a fully grade-separated (which doesn’t necessarily mean subway) LRT line as well.

    Certainly LRT has a place that’s been neglected, and has the biggest bang for the buck along most of the Transit City corridors, so both funding and matching infrastructure to demand is important. The DRL, though, is one place where the high capacity makes a lot of sense.

  69. National Post’s Toronto blog takes on DRL, references this discussion.

    The article has Giambrone saying it’s next up after Transit City/Sorbara Line/Yonge extension.

  70. There’s still a reaction that “we can’t afford it” because we aren’t getting support.
    Has everyone forgotten Mayor Miller was on the verge of closing down the Sheppard subway less than a year ago?

    What has changed since then?

    This is a great plan, but I want to see basic restructuring done for operating costs first.

  71. I’d also like to see more right of way lanes for buses and streetcars, they are increasingly held up by single occupancy cars. The main arterial roads should be completely clear of parked cars, what a waste of space that are a hindrance to all moving vehicles including bicycles.

  72. This proposal is much more critical to the economic health of the city than the Transit City proposals – which I see as of dubious benefit. The subways downtown are already close to capacity – whereas, most of the transit city bus routes (other than Eglinton) have room for growth.

    Scrap the Sheppard East, Malvern, Kingtson Rd and Jane proposed streetcar lines and turn the WWLRT and Don Mills into the new subway.

  73. as for the ‘unbelievaBLE’ crowding on the picture, that is a regular occurrence every morning during rush hour. around 7:30-8:30 am

    its insane. its rediculous. its sometimes 6 ppl deep.

  74. The DRL concept sounds doable and usable, it also sets the bases for future further enhancements west of the Dundas West Station by following the Weston Rail Line north-west to : The Junction, Eglington Flats, Weston Village, Woodbine, (and a big 401 commuter parking lot?) and the Airport (and a side link to York University?) Maybe you could fund the whole thing between the Airport, Woodbine Race Track and the commuter parking lot?

  75. oh hell yes. how amazing would a line like this be? how do we make this happen?

  76. Make it happen by a: joining the Facebook group at

    b: sending a letter to a local newspaper indicating your support for DRL

    c: sending a letter to your city councillor, MPP and MP. A form letter will shortly be available on the above-linked Facebook group.

  77. Disparishun wrote:

    “Sadly, the Bloor-Danforth connection won’t work so well.”

    Kevin’s comment:

    It would, perhaps, be better to write “so cheaply” rather than “so well.” The vertical distances pose a non-trivial engineering problem. However, these problems are solvable, and similar problems have been solved in other places. For example, in the London, England, Underground system, the Hampstead station on the Northern line is 58.5 metres underground.

    Overall, however, upgrading the existing Richmond Hill GO line to be an express paralleling the Yonge subway is far, far cheaper than doubling the current Yonge subway.

    Many people here have written about a LRT line that would provide local service south of the BD line. Such a proposal is entirely compatible with a four-station express GO service from Richmond Hill to Toronto Union. Indeed, it makes sense for heavy rail to provide express service and LRT to provide local service.

  78. Great post. I too am amazed at how many people believe that we can’t afford this, or that we can’t afford this to be a subway. We truly have been beaten down, and it’s a shame.

    A Downtown Relief Line is truly the missing link in transit plans as currently proposed; I’m very glad to see that it is on Metrolinx’s radar. It would be a mistake though for it not to run down either King or Queen through the central core. The trip generators are on those two streets, as well as the other subway stations as transfer points.

    The pro-LRTers should realize that this will be a heavy line from the beginning, and given latent demand, probably will top riding predictions very quickly. This thing will be fast, and it will be convenient if it’s in the King/Queen corridor, and it will be very busy.

    Here’s a cool thought: subway trains from the east and west could cut down onto the DRL for one-seat rides into downtown.

  79. Vaughan’s getting a subway extension, and, IMO, has much less merit than a DRL (but goes into the former Finance Minister’s front yard). Richmond Hill’s also getting a subway extension.

    One extension goes partly into Vaughan (the Spadina line).

    The other extension goes up the border between Vaughan and Markham to terminate at the point where Vaughan, Markham, and Richmond Hill border.

    Richmond Hill’s not “getting” any extension, unless 500m into the town limits is a “get”. The problem is the idiotically-named “Richmond Hill Centre” YRT stop which is colocated, and no longer fenced off from, the properly-named Langstaff GO stop. (Well, it’s still fenced, but a gold-plated bridge now gets you over it.)

  80. If somehow we could wrestle track space from CN/CP how about running frequent express trains from Kipling to Kennedy through Union? Throw in the stops at Bloor and Danforth and you’ve got an end-to-end trip of about 30 minutes. Tied in with increased service on the Richmond Hill line and you’ve got express alternatives to both the Bloor-Danforth and Yonge subway lines. Geting the fares to be competitive/compatible with the TTC is the next big hurdle. This’d be a nice stop-gap measure until an actual DRL can be built.

  81. I forgot to say, there are two other things to do to help make DRL a reality, over and above joining the Facebook group ( and contacting media and politicians.

    1. Comment on Metrolinx’s Regional Transportation Plan’s network planning section. Metrolinx are eagerly soliciting public input at the following link:

    2. Tell all your friends to do the same, and tell their friends!

  82. Gil wrote about a Kennedy to Kipling GO service, “Geting the fares to be competitive/compatible with the TTC is the next big hurdle.”

    In Dallas and Fort Worth, Trinity Rail Express (TRE, their “GO Transit” that actually uses some former GO locomotives and coaches) is operated jointly by DART (Dallas) the The T (Fort Worth). Your fare on either transit system gets you FREE transfer privileges to a TRE train – though if you cross between the two cities’ zones, you must pay a 2-zone fare (not double fares, as one must pay between GTA agencies, but that is another discussion).

    It may never be possible to transfer for free to a GO service within the 416, but perhaps a 50 cent supplement might be acceptable.

    As it is, the only fare integration between the TTC and GO is that if you take the TTC to a GO station, your transfer from that first leg of the journey is valid to board another TTC vehicle when you exit GO (for example, take a bus to Kennedy, board one of the Stouffville trains, then use your transfer to board the subway at Union).

  83. this makes a lot of sense versus spending billions on street cars that will never work as well.

    There is already an existing GO corridor for most of it so it shouldn’t really cost very much at all, if designers are smart about it (i’m not holding my breath). This line can easily be run up to airport too, which should have been done 20 years ago. To make a quick run to subway and hold costs down, there should be a mininum of stops a firsts. Ex, Dufferin, Bloor, Egg, Lawrence and Airport.

    Also its high time they had a card-based system, where riders pay per km, and more at peak times: this would do wonders for the budget.

    Unfortunately as we are finding out this week, TTC is run by the unions for the unions.

  84. This isn’t the best idea. It causes an inconvenient transfer between from and to the Don Mills LRT. Instead, they should extend the Don Mills LRT to Union Stn. They could also operate the Harbourfront car along the western portion. It would be less expensive than a subway. People won’t do it because it’s not a subway, like they originally wanted.

  85. As an express service, GO within the 416 should be priced like the 140 series buses – as either 2 x fare or metropass+express sticker.

  86. personally i am very fond of this idea of the drl. but i have to wonder if the best option here is to make the most effective use of our existing surface rail lines. after reviewing the metrolinx page, i see that the rex service is being proposed. provided metrolinx and the province can secure the rail corridors from the rail companies for public transit use, electrification of the GO georgetown and GO stoufville lines (on the latter to kennedy station at least) would allow trains to have more regular stops in highly urbanized areas. Coupled with the addition of more regular stations within the city proper that integrated with existing surface and metro routes, toronto might be able to move quite efficiently and cost-effectively, in relative terms to the other proposals, to a system similar to the s-bahn in major german cities. most of you will know this system’s features i’m sure, but it is hybrid in nature, combining both metro-type services with suburban trains. integration with existing transit services, subway and streetcar, is essential. and it could nicely replace this awful proposal for the blue 22 to the airport, providing transit services to the underservice northwest sector of the city — weston, rexdale etc. transit city lrt services on donmills could join in to the system south of pape station on the rail line (lots of space around gerard square for a station , and intensification) just a thought!!!!

  87. About time the TTC got the common sence to slove the problems they already have than going to vaughan to slove the problems they are going to have in 30 years. At least theres 1 person at the TTC who has common sense to do this. I would say the only way today to get money for this project is to make the young extention to Highway 7 a lower priority than this one. But 2 thumbs up to Mr. Giambronne to making this project one step furthur to reality. Lets just hope it doesnt crash and burn just like the proposal in the 70’s

  88. Re: New Light Rail Vehicle (LRV) Maintenance & Storage Facility

    We attended the Public Open House at Jimmie Simpson last evening. Great job, very impressive and very informative, thank you!

    Out of all the sites under consideration, Eastern Avenue and Lake Shore Boulevard East, east of Heward Avenue appears to be most cost effective and provides a unique opportunity for potential future Light Rail Vehicle expansion down Eastern Avenue, Front Street to Bathurst Street.

    1. Cost effective with the least amount of LRV track installation
    2. Less travel time from and to the yard for LRV vehicles to be served
    3. Easy access to Queen Street LRV Lines via either Leslie Street and Carlaw Avenue
    4. Allowance for easy future growth and expansion towards Front Street and connecting with Bathurst Street
    5. Revitalization of an otherwise derelict part of Eastern Avenue