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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?

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.


  • Walter Lis

    The DRL should be an express line. Leave the local service to the streetcars.

    Car? Forget about them, they only serve one point three people per vehicle. Not efficient use of resources to cater to the car.

    • Michael Kolberg

      Looks pretty express-like to me. Stations look about twice as far apart as on Bloor/Danforth. People will need to be able to get on and off.

      • Anonymous

        Michael, what part of “express” don’t you get? You want it to stop at your front door as well? Express should be from downtown to Kennedy Station, non-stop. Otherwise it isn’t really express, is it?

        • Winkee

          Chill out rico, 4 stations as opposed to 2 is hardly to your door service.

          • Anonymous

            The point of Express is to be express. Toronto doesn’t need 6 downtown lines. You obviously miss the point of all this.

          • Anonymous

            We already have GO trains to move people who live in the suburbs to and from downtown during rush hour. That is an express service we don’t need to duplicate (though it could certainly be improved).

            “Express” service as you call it is quite useless for the purpose of moving people who live *near* downtown between key downtown stops, and connecting with existing lines.

          • Anonymous

            And GO has been labelled a complete failure with respect to service areas and frequency. We know that it isn’t doing that job, and the very nature of GO doesn’t even come close to what European cities have to offer. It’s a poor design because of our lovely union mentality, bureaucratic ownership by our silly governments that need some sort of control, and the lack of properly planned routes. While I agree completely that GO could be improved, there is a need for a city-derived downtown shunt to the outer areas. It’s not to duplicate subway services to places like Pape & Queen, but to almost literally bus 905ers in and out. To further complicate things, now the Mayor is considering shoving the TTC onto the province, which is an interesting move, because it removes some of the crap that stands in the way of accomplishing such a task of moving people. Sharing tracks, as an example, is a bureaucratic nightmare, not because it’s not possible, but because it’s too complex for our dumbass “leaders” to get their head around. Models all over Europe demonstrate the solutions, but we are too union driven, too pig-headed, or just too plain stupid as Canadians to demand better management.

            Downtown has a full solution called the current TTC. The problem is that you have commuters destined for (outside) Kennedy, as an example, and they’re on the same train stopping at College & Wellesley, which is turning into the regular milk run that’s serving downtown. It’s a bottleneck.

        • Anonymous

          Let me guess: you want a subway built that caters exclusively to your personal need to commute between downtown and Kennedy?

          • Anonymous

            I don’t take the TTC and I live in Leslieville. You also don’t get what express means?

          • Anonymous

            With regard to operating a subway, “express” has no applicable meaning. On surface routes, such as roads and multi-track railway corridors, it does mean something.

          • Anonymous

            Nobody cares if it’s a “subway” or a high volume donkey cart. The point is that downtown is jammed with a significant amount of dwellers that commute to longer distances. Express is meant to address that, where GO Transit isn’t. Hence the term “Downtown Relief Line”.

        • Brent

          We already have that. It’s called GO Transit.

          • Anonymous

            Hi Brent. Welcome to the party. Please try to read what’s already posted.

          • Anonymous

            Please leave your ideological baggage at the door.

            Many thanks

          • Anonymous

            Please go piss up a rope. Idiot.

          • Anonymous

            Rico, Thanks for exposing your mentality.

          • Anonymous

            We’re discussing transit in Toronto, then you tell me to leave my ideological baggage at the door, then you say I’ve exposed my mentality? Fuck off you moronic troll. Thanks for showing how bloody stupid you are.

          • Anonymous

            Rico_Featherbutt : Any more GO Transit bashing you can do?

          • Anonymous

            LOL typical Canadian. Push aside any real problems and just give everybody a hug.

          • Neville Ross

            Typical neocon moron; can’t let go of Faux Noise or Sun News Channel, and thinks that he knows things when he really doesn’t. Please go back to the Sun board and leave the adults here alone.

          • Anonymous

            Awwww that’s so cute. Hey I know…why not have a candle-lit vigil??? You know, that brought Jacky Boy back, didn’t it? go gO GO Transit!

          • Neville Ross

            Why not suck on my dick and kiss my ass, moron? Better yet, why not try to read about subway construction before you post?

          • Anonymous

            LOL mommy leave you home alone again?

  • Anonymous

    I don’t see the point in Lakeshore LRT when the current signalling system can support trains every five minutes (and could support every 2-3 minutes using the same technology)

  • Paul

    Maybe it’s naive, but it seems like better use could be made of the GO rail lines.

    • tommy

      True. Metrolinx owns the old rail Don Branch from Leaside, past the brickworks, all the way to Cherry Street. There’s a quick and dirty DRL right there. Hook it up to the hypothetical Don Mills LRT via Overlea and you’ve got a nice siphon for North-South travelers coming from Scarborough.

    • Michael Kolberg

      The report suggests the Lakeshore LRT option would not reduce congestion at Yonge-Bloor as effectively as the DRL. Generally scores lower on most other metrics too.

    • Anonymous

      I have to agree they are scandalously under-utilized. Metrolinx wannabe’s need to go back to school and figure this stuff out, before Tim Horton Hudak hands them the TTC on a platter.

  • Brandon Quigley

    It seems like the first and third maps pretty much go along the Gardener and the DVP – why not take up a couple of lanes and build some stations to put in a BRT (bus rapid transit). If drivers don’t like it, they can keep their lanes if they pay up the $3-5 billion through parking levies, road tolls, gas tax, etc… Both would be options I’d be pretty happy with.

    • Michael Kolberg

      I can’t tell if this is supposed to be tongue in cheek. BRT on Gardiner or DVP would be ridiculous (where would people get on and off?). You’re talking about a completely different kind of service than a subway under King St.

    • Pedro Marques

      How many busses would it take to serve subways full of commuters? They might as well build a train because that’s what the busses would look like lined up behind one another on the Gardiner.

  • george

    Here’s what Toronto’s subway system should look like, had we had some longer-term visioners on council back in the 70s and 80s.

    • Ksenia

      Oh my God, it’s so beautiful :’)

    • Pedro Marques

      Dundas is too close to the existing Bloor line. Transit demand is south of Queen st as demonstrated by the 501 streetcar being over capacity every day of the work week. A new financial core developing south of the rail corridor is re-centering commuter density. Right now there are zero E-W rapid transit options running through this new core. It’s a nightmare in the making. A subway is urgently needed on King or along Lakeshore.

      • PlantinMoretus

        Things like “transit demand” and “re-centering commuter density” would have been strongly influenced by the additional 70s and 80s lines, had they been built. I.e. the city would have developed differently, so the current situation is moot in relation to the wisdom of *those* plans. And the current situation relevant only up to point with the most recent proposal, because the city will continue to change, only partly as a result of whatever gets built now. If anything does.

    • Anonymous

      Nice map, but how would you justify building a transit line where the density for it didn’t exist?

    • Anonymous

      Thank you. A circle line would really capture all of the densest parts of the city. I like your use of Cowell vs Pape as well. That way eastenders would get on the subway quicker.

    • Neville Ross

      I’m sorry George, but seeing into the future is not an exact science; the councilors of the 70′s and 80′s didn’t have crystal balls telling them to build more subways downtown. They build what they had with what knowledge they had, and they didn’t know that Toronto was going to grow the way it has over the past 25 years. What count’s is how we build (and deal with) transit now than how somebody didn’t deal with it yesterday.

  • Anonymous

    Why does this website describes the DRL’s $3.2 billion pricetag as “staggering”, but has never described the $8-10 billion pricetag of LRT in those terms?

    • Pedro Marques

      Because we’re getting a complete E-W Crossrown and 2 more badly needed LRT’s that replace over capacity busses for that price. Half a DRL costs as much as a full Eglinton LRT. All are needed and with the other 3 funded, the DRL is now at the top of the list.

      • Anonymous

        Agreed, all these projects are needed. But describing the expense as “staggering” is something straight out of the Sun. “Staggering cost … where’s the respect for taxpayers?”

    • None

      You forgot to add: Sheppard subway would reduce 401 congestion.

  • sandra

    It took 40 minutes to travel 3 stops on the Yonge line in the evening rush hour today due to “signal problems.” I don’t care how much it costs, I don’t care about the details, I don’t want to listen to the bickering transit geeks or the politicians who have turned public transit into an ideological issue. Just. Fix. It.

    • Anonymous

      The details of billion dollar projects are pretty important to most people.

      • Me Ted

        Yeah well building things costs money, in case you’re wondering.

    • Anonymous

      Just fix what? If you want this, you’ll have to pay more sales tax and other kinds of taxes, so you’d best not be complaining when you finally have to. This is why LRT lines are much better and less expensive.

      BTW, when do you leave for work? That might have some effect on why you were late for work, or wherever you were going to.

  • Vidar Hansen

    A dowtown relief line is not needed if you create jobs in the suburbs. keep things local. etobicoke, north york and scarborough people stay in etobicoke, north york and Scarborough. They won’t need to go downtown.

    Not everything/everyone should go via downtown.

    • Lol

      How do you plan on forcing businesses to locate where they don’t want to?

    • Anonymous

      The DRL is needed right now, for people who need to get to/from downtown already. Creating additional jobs (how?) elsewhere won’t change that.

  • Anonymous

    News item: U.S. Federal Trade Commission offers $50,000 reward to stop Rob Ford.

  • Anonymous

    $3.2 billion!?
    And then we see why. There is not a single mention of operating such a line on the surface at any point. None. It MUST be ENTIRELY underground, so construction can be as drawn-out and expensive a process as possible.
    The Kingston Subdivision (the railway line which handles Lakeshore East and Stouffville GO trains) once carried up to six tracks in some places. There is absolutely no reason that the line can be built from an underground terminal at Pape/Danforth along a surface alignment next to the railway line. It’s even a more direct route than a Pape/King alignment, and of course involves minimal tunneling, cutting costs significantly. Come on people, can we get some reasonable solutions here?

  • Treptower

    Oh goody! Transit plan #4,876. Look at all the pretty colours!

    • Anonymous

      “Continue the beatings until morale improves”