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Metrolinx Chief Says His Agency Aims to Build the Downtown Relief Line in 15 Years

Metrolinx says its next wave of projects will include a bevy of new LRTs, BRTs, and subway extensions.

A mockup of one of Toronto's new LRT vehicles. Photo by {a href=””}dtstuff9{/a} from the {a href=””}Torontoist Flickr Pool{/a}.

Today at the Toronto Board of Trade, Metrolinx president and CEO Bruce McCuaig unveiled his organization’s plans for the next phase of transit improvements in the Greater Toronto Area, and some proposed infrastructure investments are now further up on the agency’s priority list than they were before. Torontonians might be pleased to hear that the Downtown Relief Line, something that’s been in the works for far too long, is now among a list of projects the agency hopes to complete within 15 years. (Previously, the DRL had been slated for completion at some point in the next 16 to 25 years.) A Yonge Subway extension should also be forthcoming in that same period of time, if all goes according to plan.

“We brought forth the Downtown Relief Line because we think it’s really important from a regional perspective to deal with the crunch of getting people into downtown Toronto, especially south of Bloor Street,” McCuaig explained to reporters. The DRL, which would run more-or-less parallel to the Bloor-Danforth subway line for much of its anticipated length, is thought of as a way of easing commuter congestion.

Metrolinx’s decision on the DRL is bound to make local politicians happy. City council and the TTC have both expressed support for this outcome.

The next wave of Metrolinx projects also includes light rail transit, bus rapid transit, and enhanced GO service stretching out far across the region. Metrolinx believes this new push will add 713 kilometres’ worth of transit lines and put over 6 million people within reach of rapid transit by the anticipated 2031 completion date.

The diesel trains on the forthcoming Union-Pearson Air Rail Link—or Union-Pearson Express, as it’s now known—will be replaced by electric vehicles, McCuaig said, within the next 15 years. “Electrification is a priority for our organization and we’ve already started the environmental assessment for the first phase of that, which is the air-rail link from Union Station to Pearson International Airport.”

Metrolinx is still working on a funding formula for all of this. McCuaig pointed to methods used by other cities. Los Angeles has instituted three new sales taxes since 1980. London instituted a congestion charge, which significantly altered how people use transit in that area. New York has levied a variety of new taxes and fees.

But McCuaig insists there is no silver bullet solution, and that all these examples only point in the right direction. “We have found some common themes that we may want to consider as we think about the development of an investment strategy for this region,” he said during a prepared speech.

These common themes include fairness and transparency: fairness in allocating funds to projects that benefit the region as a whole, and transparency in where the money goes, and how Metrolinx spends it.

Provincial investment drives The Big Move, Metrolinx’s master plan for regional transit, which includes the DRL, among other projects. But provincial money alone isn’t enough to meet all of the plan’s targets. McCuaig spoke of using public-private partnerships where possible, among other tactics, to find the $34 billion needed to build the next wave of transit expansions. Fare increases, which make most transit riders cringe, aren’t off the table.

In June 2013, Metrolinx will have to present its investment strategy to the province—essentially a report on how they plan to pay for all of this. It could include a wide range of things, but at the very least, it will be an attempt at moving Ontario’s insufficient transit system beyond the Stone Age.

The next wave of transit projects announced by McCuaig today includes the following:

  • Brampton Queen Street RT
  • Downtown Relief Line
  • Dundas Street BRT
  • Durham-Scarborough BRT
  • GO Rail expansion, with more two-way all-day and rush-hour service
  • Electrification of the GO Kitchener Line, and the Union Pearson Express
  • Go Lakeshore Express Rail Service, Phase 1 (including electrification)
  • Hamilton LRT
  • Hurontario-Main LRT
  • Yonge North Subway extension


  • wefgw

    as soon as that great oaf ford gets out of the way they release plans… love it.

    • Neville Ross

      Let’s face it, he was the one that was blocking everything from going ahead. Now, the city and the TTC can.

      Here’s my wish list of lines to be built:

      An LRT line for Victoria Park and also for Pharmacy

      An LRT line for Jane Avenue that goes all the way up to Jane and Finch, revitalizing that part of the city

      An LRT line for Finch Avenue that would go all of the way to Old Finch and Morningside, if possible

      An LRT line for Don Mills Avenue

      • Anonymous

        Would your Jane LRT stop at Eglinton? If not, how would you proceed through the relatively narrow section to Bloor? Cut and cover?

        • Anonymous

          Or tunnelling, either way that portion should be underground, mind you it wouldn’t be so horrible if part of an LRT line ran in mixed traffic either.

        • Neville Ross

          Pretty much, just as Miller had (probably) planned it when he made Jane avenue one of the places that got an LRT.

  • Anonymous

    “Metrolinx is still working on a funding formula for all of this.”

    And there it is.

    • Anonymous

      Let’s ask the premier what he thinks … wait, rats. Okay, how about the mayor … aw nuts.

      • Anonymous

        The premier thinks: “I see no reason to… um, what was the question?”

        The mayor thinks: “SUBWAYS SUBWAYS SUBWAYS!”

      • Paul Kishimoto

        The prime minister? I guess no point even mentioning him…

        • Anonymous

          “jets-israel-jails, jets-israel-jails, jets-israel-jails, jets-israel-jails, jets-israel-jails, jets-israel-jails, jets-israel-jails, jets-israel-jails, jets-israel-jails [etc]“

    • Paul Kishimoto

      It’s not on them to decide; it’s on the public to decide, and them to report.

      Any piece of even a viable, rational formula will receive backlash if Metrolinx proposes it ex-machina, and that backlash would give the province (no matter who’s in office) a great excuse to punt by discarding the report.

      Really this announcement is a plea for public discussion & leadership on funding options.

      • Anonymous

        Yet another plea, you mean. What good are these various transit plans – Transit City, OneCity, Ford’s Subways to Nowhere, DRL variants, etc – when they all come down to “we just need to figure out a way to pay for it (because the federal gov’t won’t and the province would probably prefer we were Manitoba’s problem)”.

        • Paul Kishimoto

          Yet another plea, exactly. My point is Metrolinx can’t do much more.

          And the governments are only politicians, living in a politician’s daily terror of losing the next election. They need to see that if they stand in favour of revenue source X *for transit* it will help more than hurt them, politically; they also need to see dissembling (“I’ll, uh, well, I guess I’ll go ask the province and Ottawa for more money! Yeah!”) as a costly Wrong Answer that shows they are Not Serious.

          I don’t know exactly how that’s accomplished, but a big part of it is probably a loud chorus of “Bullshit!” when vague excuses like “People don’t want a local sales tax” are spoken.

          • Anonymous

            I’d prefer Metrolinx, a government agency, only propose what it can get funding for, and work to sway the government to loosen its purse strings a little, not announce plans it doesn’t have provincial backing for.

            Dangling hopeful transit plans carrot-like does not work to get people marching in support; it failed for Stintz, it failed for Transit City, and it will fail for Metrolinx. As soon as the price pops up on the register as a real thing, support evapourates.

          • Paul Kishimoto

            “work to sway the government to loosen its purse strings” — isn’t this what they’re doing, indirectly? If you mean they should try behind closed doors — how would that have any effect?

            Stinz and others (like Neville Ross in this thread) can draw all the lines they like, but there’s some distance between that and credible, evidence-based planning, which Metrolinx is in a better position to provide. Estimates of the benefits, cost and priority of each project lend concreteness to public discussion, because we can place them next to revenue estimates for various tools (e.g. ) and start to compare what’s required to build the first thing on the list with how badly we want or need it.

            What’s the alternative — to have an argument in a vacuum, with neither plans on the table nor prices attached? That seems like a good recipe for accomplishing nothing.

          • Anonymous

            Having plans – evidence-backed or not – without a funding model has accomplished a lot of nothing so far, so why continue trying that strategy?

            Metrolinx has the government’s ear and access to the premier, so yes I’d expect behind-the-scenes discussions between the two parties to accomplish more. Backed by models, studies, and a funding framework, they could approach the province directly and work out something achievable.

      • Anonymous

        Be interesting to see how hard it will be to drop a cool billion on the Gardiner…

  • Anonymous

    YES!! Another transit plan! It has been almost a month since anyone has announced a new transit plan! Can’t wait to see what the December transit plan will look like!

  • june

    i wont believe anything until i see shovels in the ground.

    • Paul Kishimoto

      You won’t see shovels in the ground until politicians believe things, namely that we’re willing to pay for this. Tell them so!

  • Winkee

    No Don Mills or Jane LRT’s I see…

    • Anonymous

      The Jane LRT was a dodgy piece of the original Transit City plan, since a look at Google Street View would show Jane as a very different street once you cross Eglinton – essentially the LRT would have had to have been cut/covered through that area (remember the yelling about Canada Line when it was cut/covered through Cambie Street?)

      An interconnection between Eglinton LRT and Finch LRT on the other hand… (especially since in addition to being a service route it would allow transfer of LRVs between the Finch and Eglinton West yards)

      • Neville Ross

        The Jane LRT was a dodgy piece of the original Transit City plan, since a look at Google Street View would show Jane as a very different street
        once you cross Eglinton – essentially the LRT would have had to have
        been cut/covered through that area (remember the yelling about Canada
        Line when it was cut/covered through Cambie Street?)

        Of course, there’s always deep tunneling that can be done instead….

  • Anonymous

    Funding: the press release said the plan would bring in $25-34 billion in revenues… surely that’s most of the funding right there?

  • Transit City fan

    Transit City is still alive! For your information, the
    Durham-Scarborough BRT listed here is part of the Transit City plan.
    Just look at the map on the Transit City Wikipedia page.

    • Neville Ross

      Transit City’s supposed to be LRT, not BRT, which to be brutally frank is inferior to LRT, streetcars, and subways (and also what OC Transpo in Ottawa had for a while before the city realized it was shit and got rid of it.) That line you mentioned should be LRT completely.

      • Eric S. Smith

        “BRT…what OC Transpo in Ottawa had for a while before the
        city realized it was shit and got rid of it.”

        “Got rid of it” in the sense that it’s BRT all the way, save a 5-stop rail pilot and only the latest in a long string of LRT project announcements for a line through downtown.

        Ottawa’s transit system has its shortcomings, but it carries a substantial share of commuter traffic. BRT, or rather BRT plus local buses that run on the BRT roadways where convenient, can be an entirely workable strategy.

  • Moses Toronto

    And pigs will fly.

  • Anonymous

    In 15 yrs NASA will build a city on Mars – this must be a cruel joke Metrolinx…..

  • whatever

    15yrs? What’s the point? In 5yrs they’ll have to hire Japanese subway pushers to shove you in the trains at Bloor and Yonge.

  • YF

    I really believe in order to get the DRL financed and on track it should be renamed it the SRL – Suburban Relief Line.