TTC weighs options for relief in east

How will East Enders get downtown in the 2030s?

Never mind hyperloops or driverless cars, Toronto transit planners are drawing up something far more familiar – an East End relief line to ease the commuter crush on the Yonge subway downtown.

A slide from a recent presentation by City of Toronto planners and the TTC shows the three areas for possible station locations on a proposed downtown relief line. Planners are asking the public for input on the station locations at www.reliefline.ca. Image by City of Toronto/Toronto Transit   Commission
A slide from a recent presentation by City of Toronto planners and the TTC shows three areas for possible station locations on a proposed downtown relief line. Planners are asking the public for input on the locations at reliefline.ca.
Image by City of Toronto/Toronto Transit Commission

Speaking at a public planning session held on March 5 at Riverdale Collegiate, Tim Lapsa, the city’s director of transportation planning said, “If you use the subway, you know it’s crowded. In fact, we’re over capacity.”

During the morning rush, the Yonge subway south of Bloor station moves about 28,000 people per hour – 2,000 more than capacity.

Given the projected growth of downtown offices and homes, by 2031 that peak-hour ridership is expected to hit 36,000.

It will rise even higher, up to 40,000, if the Yonge line is extended north to Richmond Hill as planned.

Even with its new trains, which carry an extra 100 riders each, and an upcoming signals upgrade that will allow it to run more trains per hour, the TTC expects that by 2031, the Yonge line will be just as over-crowded as it is today.

Two years ago, a study found the likeliest fix is one that has been talked about for decades – digging a relief line running from the Danforth to downtown. It would give East Enders a way to bypass the extremely busy Bloor-Yonge interchange, just as West Enders can do now by using St. George station and the University line.

The relief line could later be extended from downtown to one of the West End stations on Bloor, and north to a station near Don Mills and Eglinton.

Lapsa said the East End stage of the relief line would divert up to 30 per cent of riders away from Bloor-Yonge station, and free up about 12 per cent more capacity on the rest of the Yonge line downtown.

He also said planners expect the new line would ease crowding on the Queen and King streetcars, diverting up to 35 per cent of their peak-hour ridership.

City councillor Paula Fletcher (Ward 30 Toronto-Danforth) told the few dozen residents at the meeting that she knows how transit projects seem to stall at City Hall.

“I know a lot of you feel like, ‘Can’t we just figure this out?’” said Fletcher.

But in council’s defence, Fletcher said before she and other councillors made the case to the province, the downtown relief line had slipped to number 15 or so on the priority list of 25 projects for Metrolinx, the provincial transit agency.

Although it still has no funding from either the province or the federal government, Fletcher said it has been bumped up into Metrolinx’s top five projects waiting for funding, and the current planning effort will make sure the project is “shovel ready” when the money comes.

“I also think it’s very important to get it right,” said Fletcher, noting that the Smart Track plan Mayor John Tory ran on in the fall election will have to be considered in tandem with the relief line, as will Metrolinx’s region-wide plan for Rapid Express Rail. The plans call for much more rapid service and some new stations on the existing GO Train lines.

“If there are stations for Smart Track and the downtown relief line, we need to make sure that they’re connected,” she said.

After the meeting in the Riverdale auditorium, residents moved to the foyer, where planners had large maps showing the three areas that downtown relief stations could go – along the Danforth from Broadview to Coxwell; east of the downtown core along Queen, Dundas, Gerrard or Eastern; and downtown along Yonge or Bay.

Residents were asked to submit written comments on where they think the stations should go and why. For those who missed the meeting, the website www.reliefline.ca has a section where people can do the same thing online.

Transportation planners for the TTC and the city will host another relief line meeting on Thursday, March 12 at Christ Church Deer Park, 1570 Yonge St., from 7 to 9 p.m.


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