(I use the map provided to the CBC below. Other variants on the Downtown Relief Line have gone further south, intersecting at Union Station for instance, or even gone to make a complete loop reaching down from the Bloor-Danforth corridor.)
The TTC says that without a downtown relief line — a subway line to take some of the pressure off the Yonge and Bloor-Danforth lines — overcrowding on Toronto's subways will become the new normal.
A report to be presented at the TTC board meeting next week says that ridership in the downtown will grow by more than 50 per cent between now and 2031 and that the city and the province have to make a downtown relief line a priority.
Right now Metrolinx has a plan to address the problem — but not for 25 years.
The report, which was paid for by City Council and the TTC, says the Metrolinx timetable needs to be moved ahead by at least a decade.
The relief line would, according to the report, initially run from St. Andrew station on King Street West, along King and then swing north to connect with the Bloor-Danforth line at Pape station.
The estimated cost for the first section of line: $3.2 billion.
Currently there is no money set aside for a downtown relief line.
Steve Munro and Torontoist's Steve Kupferman both analyze the analyses. Munro makes the point that this is much needed, given decades of sustained underinvestment in fixed mass transit routes. Kupferman, though, fears that cost could kill the project.
The reason the DRL continues to be discussed is that it’s badly needed. The Yonge-University subway line can’t carry enough passengers to deal with Toronto’s ever-increasing demand for public transit. The TTC expects the line to be beyond capacity by 2031. Bloor-Yonge and Union stations are both having similar capacity problems. As things stand, your crowded morning commute is only going to get worse.
A downtown relief line would, in theory, siphon off some Yonge-University passengers, making things more pleasant for everybody and reducing wait times.
The problem, of course, is that subways are unbelievably expensive, as this latest report from the TTC reminds us.
The commission’s analysts think just building the first half of a DRL, between Pape and Union stations, would cost a staggering $3.2 billion. By any city’s standards, that’s an enormous amount of money.
The TTC report also presents a number of better, but more expensive, downtown-relief options. Want a west-end segment to go with that Pape-to-Union line? That’s an extra $3 billion. Want all that, plus a leg that goes all the way up to Eglinton? That’ll be a total of $8.3 billion.
How much is $8.3 billion, relatively speaking? Well, if you had that much on hand, you could afford to pay for every single one of the light-rail projects Toronto has on the go right now. An $8.3 billion project would effectively double what’s currently being spent on transit expansion in this city.