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Want a Downtown Relief Line? That’ll Be $3.2 Billion, Minimum

A DRL could reduce crowding on the Yonge line. But will we ever be able to pay for it?

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The TTC released a report earlier today that goes into quite a bit of detail on the topic of what a downtown relief subway line would look like, and what it would cost. The long and the short of it is that such a project probably isn’t going to happen for less than $3.2 billion.

The idea of building a downtown relief line, or DRL, is one has that has been under consideration for years. In 2009, council voted to ask Metrolinx to prioritize the DRL, so that it might be built as part of the agency’s 15-year transit-expansion plan.

The DRL would be a completely new subway line. It would connect to the Bloor-Danforth line in two places—probably Pape Station and Dundas West Station—and then swoop down along King Street to Union Station or thereabouts.

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 St. Andrew 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.

Metrolinx is supposed to be figuring out a way to raise money for this and other big projects in the GTA, but so far they haven’t said how they’re planning on doing that. They’re supposed to be releasing a report on the topic next summer.

Until then, take a look at some of the maps linked at the top and bottom of this post, screencapped directly from the TTC report. Wouldn’t it be nice if Toronto could have nice things, like almost any of that?

Read the full report here: [PDF]

CORRECTION: October 19, 2012, 10:00 AM This post originally said, incorrectly, that the TTC’s report proposes an initial phase of construction that would connect a DRL with Union Station. In fact, the report suggests a new subway line that would connect with St. Andrew station.

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