The Downtown Relief Line Gets On The Map

In what has to be record time for a transit proposal to get from a blog discussion to publicly debated policy, the Downtown Relief Line (DRL) is now barely a decade away.

Yesterday, Sean Marshall’s post at spacing generated a blizzard of comments, and today, the National Post reports comments by Adam Giambrone and Rob MacIsaac.  Giambrone will start looking at the line in 2018.  That is far too late, and the TTC needs to start looking at it today if it’s going to be open, as he suggests, by 2020.

A few comments raised my eyebrows, however:

As the city core becomes more dense, passengers are choking the Bloor-Yonge and St. George transfer points, as well as the King and Queen streetcars. The Bloor-Danforth line will soon be congested, too, Mr. Giambrone said.

Rob MacIsaac said:

“There’s so much demand that you’re exceeding what a streetcar line can carry. I had a discussion with [former TTC general manager] David Gunn once and he said, ‘Don’t build a subway until you can jump from the top of one streetcar to the next,’ which is probably a circumstance that you’re getting close to on Queen Street.”

I don’t know who has the idea that streetcar service on King and Queen are anywhere near capacity, and the only streetcars someone can jump roofs on are in Russell and Roncesvalles Carhouses.  Service on both streets has operated at twice the current capacity, and there’s lots of room for more streetcars if only the TTC had a large enough fleet.

What’s fascinating to me is that, finally, it is acceptable to talk about adding transit capacity into the core of the city.  For years the focus has been on the suburbs going  back to the deal-with-the-devil struck by then Councillor Jack Layton and Mayor Lastman.  Layton supported suburban subway expansion as a means of diverting intensification from downtown.  The DRL fell off the map because it did not fit with the goal of strangling core area development to benefit the suburbs. 

We all know how successful this was.  A good chunk of the office and commercial space in North York Centre is empty, while downtown fills up with condos and resurgent office development.

As for the DRL, the original proposal was simply for a line from Flemingdon/Thorncliffe to downtown.  Subway fitted with existing technology in the area, and nobody was taking LRT seriously as a “light subway”.  We have more options today including a through connection to a line in the Weston Subdivision (as described in the Post article) up to at least Dundas West Station.  It doesn’t take a genius to see how this fits into Transit City and a service to the airport.

Very frequent service can operate on the southerly parts of the Don Mills and Weston lines where they are completely on their own right-of-way, with less frequent trains continuing up Don Mills in the street median, up Jane and out Eglinton West.

When we look at the possibilities of both an Eglinton and a “DRL” built with LRT, but spanning almost the complete range of LRT implementations from street median up to near-subway, we see the real possibilities of this mode for our growing transit network.

(And yes, Hamish, the Waterfront West service can hop onto the same corridor at Queen and Dufferin.)

While we’re at it, as I mentioned in a previous comment, we must keep sight of the role for regional services on existing and future GO lines.  One source of subway overloading is long-haul riders for whom GO service (if any) is too infrequent.  Better GO service with a fare structure integrated with the TTC will give riders a fast, alternative way into downtown, at a much lower cost than expanding subways everywhere.

35 thoughts on “The Downtown Relief Line Gets On The Map

  1. My fear is, some bozo on City Council is going to say the magic swear-word Subway, and they will all be beside themselves talking about putting one under Queen (or King) and swing up to the B/D line at Keele and Greenwood, just like in the bad-old-days.


  2. In fairness, got it from the Metrolinx paper, which I’d argue means that it was a public policy discussion *before* the bloggers got hold of it.

    Steve: Ah yes, but the bloggers have been talking about it here for some time, and until spacing wrote up the issue there were approximately 5 people in the entire city who knew about the Metrolinx info in detail.

    The problem with Metrolinx proposals is that a lot of them are lines someone drew on a map, but they have not been subjected to detailed alternatives analysis — just the sort of thing everyone claims Transit City is missing — and assumptions about technologies and routes are premature.

    Metrolinx made the jump from “here are all the things we think are good principles” to “here’s the map” without bothering to go through the sort of analysis plans on this scale require. To be fair, I know that’s not what the Metrolinx staff meant to do, but the moment someone draws a map, the concrete starts to harden and people treat proposals as done deals.


  3. As far as the DRL line goes, building the LRT along as much of the railway right of way as possible would probably bring the most benefits in terms of saving money. So for instance from Pape station, having the line run down along the street to the CNR Kingston sub line and along that ROW to Union could easily save on the hassle of building more tunnels further down Pape. And as for further west the Weston sub could easily be used as well.


  4. I’ve never understood why GO isn’t figured into the plans more. There’s already a stop at Bloor/Keele for the (infrequent) Georgetown GO which can get someone into downtown in 10 mins. Heck, make this an all-day-train service line, add a proper transfer station stop at the Bloor subway line, add a proper stop to the airport (which it already goes right past) and you have a downtown airport link at a fraction of the cost of the other options they’re considering… And you’re left with a service that will benefit all existing people who live along that corridor

    Even the Milton GO (which I take everyday) could figure into the plans…it already stops at Kipling, so with some good fare integration and maybe a stop or 2 between Kipling and Union you could have rush-hour subway relief that can get someone from Kipling to downtown in 20 mins.

    Heck, during the last TTC strike/lockout they actually canceled/skipped the stop at Kipling on the Milton GO! GO Transit should have stepped up by: encouraging stranded TTC passengers to get on there, adding a temporary stop at Bloor/Keele, both of which would have at least provided some relief. I am sure the other lines could have been used in a similar way.

    Transit HAS to become more regionally-planned. Just like the Paris metro/RER system, GO Transit and TTC could be used to provide complementary service in both the city and suburbs.


  5. If Queen ALONE had 90 foot streetcars lined up so as to be able to jump from rook to roof, there would be $5 billion or so tied up in the cost of the equipment (which would likely be moving at a snail’s pace.)

    This $5 billion could fund two new subway lines.

    I’ve never understood the rationale behind pushing commercial growth from the core (some post Spadina psychosis perhaps?). Cities thrive on commercial density in the core. Businesses in a given sector like to be clustered – be they financial, technology, pharmaceutical.

    Steve: The Queen line runs today on roughly a 5 minute headway with 31 ALRVs (that’s what the schedule says anyhow). We could double the service to 2’30” and still be well within reasonable surface operating constraints with ALRVs, or go to 3 minutes with 90-foot cars. The capacity and service quality would both go up, the fleet requirement (roughly) would be 50 or so cars plus spares. At $4-million each that’s $200-million worth of equipment. That will build two subway stations on a good day, or not quite 1 km of subway tunnel.


  6. The idea of a downtown relief line is long overdue. But, I think the TTC should concentrate on finishing the York, VCC extension, the Yonge extension and the Scarborough RT extension to Malvern TC (? I hope) before they start throwing out all these plans and in the end nothing gets built. Like the old saying goes “One Step at a Time”. TTC could use this motto and maybe we would see some of these projects actually get built, or, at least started.


  7. “I don’t know who has the idea that streetcar service on King and Queen are anywhere near capacity, and the only streetcars someone can jump roofs on are in Russell and Roncesvalles Carhouses. Service on both streets has operated at twice the current capacity, and there’s lots of room for more streetcars if only the TTC had a large enough fleet.”

    If they are not at capacity, they certainly are not desirable. The rush hour Queen and King cars move at a glacial pace, often bunched up one behind another, filled with passengers. We find from projects such as the Spadina LRT that even a private ROW will not fix this and the streetcars go trundling along even more packed and slower than the [profitable] buses that they replaced.

    Simply throwing more streetcars on the line will not solve this, as the commissioners found in the 1940s when frequency was one streetcar a minute down Yonge, but the trip was still a packed and grueling 45 minutes to Eglinton. Why must a surface line reach absolute straining point before alternatives are considered?

    Steve: I am not saying we should get to Yonge Street 1953 levels, but that there is vastly more capacity for on street operation. Yes, much better transit priority is needed and better line management. It is physically impossible for us to have nose-to-tail service and the huge gaps people experience today unless someone let those cars get nose-to-tail in the first place. I have already documented how this happens NOT because of congestion, but through operational practices that actually create bunches of cars. Congestion is an issue, but not the only one.

    Your note about Spadina speaks to this, and my own review of the line shows that service is not as regularly spaced as it might be (although nowhere near as bad as on Queen).

    “We all know how successful this was. A good chunk of the office and commercial space in North York Centre is empty, while downtown fills up with condos and resurgent office development.”

    I think it’s a bit disingenuous to say that North York Centre’s development has been lagging. The 2km stretch of Yonge street has witnessed the construction of thousands of new condominiums and even office space in the last ten years.

    Steve: But the office space is still not as full as it was in the 1990s. After the initial rush of tenants lured by cheap rents for startup leases, many decamped.

    “Better GO service with a fare structure integrated with the TTC will give riders a fast, alternative way into downtown, at a much lower cost than expanding subways everywhere.”

    This is true, but it will not be achievable with the technology that GO uses right now. To do this, GO will have to phase out its ten car double decker monster trains to something more like a European S-bahn system (or countless other examples worldwide). I would like to see this, too, but it won’t happen quick, especially because it involves a massive reconstruction of our rails and signals, electrification, extensive double-tracking and bringing stations up to capacity.

    Steve: I agree. That’s a lot of work for the railways, but much cheaper than building subways to Peterborough.


  8. I like the idea of commissioning the DRL as a light metro companion to the Jane and Don Mills Transit City lines. This arrangement would doubtlessly improve the overall Toronto-wide connectivity Transit City could provide, and at the same time would leverage the scalability of light rail design to accommodate heavier traffic through Exhibition, Union, and the Distillery District. The question is how much tolerance Torontonians would still extend to the short turns at Jane and Pape that this arrangement would entail–after all, any mention of C-Train short turns in Calgary would lead to mobs at City Hall armed with pitchforks and molten lead–but in the context of what Transit City aims to provide across Toronto, I would foresee people being more prepared to accept interlining between a Jane-to-Pape DRL on the one hand and Jane and Don Mills Transit City lines on the other.

    Steve: Don’t forget that anyone who wants to go from Don Mills and Eglinton to Jane Street can do so via the Eglinton line which will be almost entirely underground for that stretch (and even if above ground, the traffic conflicts from Don Mills to west of Leslie are non-existent). Scheduled short turns and branches are a fact of life in Toronto including on the planned York U subway extension.


  9. > Leonard M: GO is presenting phasing in 12-car trains on Milton line… and will introduce them to other lines as they upgrade platforms to handle 12-car trains.

    > I agree with Steve about the need for better GO service and a fare structure integrated with TTC…

    N.B. I’ve updated Metronauts1 GTA Fare Integration wiki Comments with links to Wikipedia $martcards: Hong Kong’s Octopus, London’s Oyster, New York’s MTA, Tokyo’s PASMO, Seoul’s T-Money and Washington DC’s SmarTrip transit $mart cards along with articles of interest:


  10. David Cavlovic : My fear is, some bozo on City Council is going to say the magic swear-word Subway, and they will all be beside themselves talking about putting one under Queen (or King) and swing up to the B/D line at Keele and Greenwood, just like in the bad-old-days.

    Wouldn’t that just be horrible???


  11. “The idea of a downtown relief line is long overdue. But, I think the TTC should concentrate on finishing the York, VCC extension, the Yonge extension and the Scarborough RT extension to Malvern TC (? I hope) before they start throwing out all these plans and in the end nothing gets built. Like the old saying goes “One Step at a Time”. TTC could use this motto and maybe we would see some of these projects actually get built, or, at least started.”

    Let me deconstruct this one line at a time:

    York and VCC: While York would definitely be appreciated, most of us here do not want to see any hint of subway going to a field in the middle of nowhere.

    Yonge: I don’t know if you have kept up on current events, but there’s that thing called VIVA?

    Scarborough RT: We’re talking about expanding an outdated technological white elephant, right?

    The Downtown Relief line appears to have more justification than any of the above lines mentioned. And why omit the Sheppard Line in your comment?


  12. “Steve: Ah yes, but the bloggers have been talking about it here for some time, and until spacing wrote up the issue there were approximately 5 people in the entire city who knew about the Metrolinx info in detail.”

    Steve, are you forgetting Transit City, your idea, also came out of this very blog? You’re a blogger too! The LRT plan out of your report that you posted here basically became Transit City!

    Steve: Sigh. Yes, sometimes I forget how much work I put into that original “Grand Plan”. I commend it to everyone.

    “Steve: I agree. That’s a lot of work for the railways, but much cheaper than building subways to Peterborough.”

    I’m curious as to where anyone suggested building a subway to Peterborough? I hope that was a joke!

    Steve: Of course, but if we have to kiss the Finance Minister’s ass to get transit funding, then maybe a subway to Peterborough is the answer. After all, it worked at Queen’s Park.

    I share a fustration about all the crazy various subway proposals that ranged from serious to pure fantasy. But I think the DRL, like the Yonge line extension to Langstaff, is one of the few logical routes. It’s been studied before, an alignment was chosen in that process and given long consideration.

    I’m also concerned that the Don Mills and Jane LRTs will be built before we have anything ready to take the overflow. Regional rail will take years to implement, but can be done incrementally. Regional rail is better suited to longer trips, but can do intermediate-length trips quite well. And with ridership looking like it will exceed the 1988 record this year (barring a major strike), the Yonge Line will get worse. I really believe the DRL is the answer here, especially as it will meet the downtown demands, without even sacrificing any existing streetcar.

    I’m glad I helped to put this line back on the radar. I think the DRL, with (most) of Transit City (where I feel in some places, the lines do look like they were just put on a map without enough study, but I expect you’ll get to this in your series), with regional rail, the North Yonge subway extension and plain old proper bus service, will come closer to addressing the transit needs of Toronto and area.

    Steve: One important thing to remember about Transit City is that it was a proposal, one that was reasonably thought out, but not carved in stone. As I have said about the Metrolinx plans, there is a big problem that the moment you draw a map, people assume it cannot be changed. There are already some alternatives under study for Transit City based on feedback that has been coming in through various routes. However, the TTC cannot entertain the sort of detailed level public debate that I can on a blog, and you learn about changes from time to time as they issue updates.

    I noticed, for example, that some of the text in the FAQ for the Sheppard LRT has been updated specifically with the inclusion of the Consumer’s Road subway extension and a few other options. This has been under discussion for a while, but finally was unwrapped for the public info sessions.


  13. The priority should logically be:

    -Buy buses and streetcars for the existing lines.
    -Build Transit City LRT plan / Replace SRT with LRT to integrate it into the network / Buy streetcars as needed while the network rolls out.
    -Replace York BRT with LRT.
    -Build the Downtown Relief Line.

    There’s no need to keep the SRT given its refurbishing costs versus replacing it with LRT. There’s no need to build a subway line to York.

    But of course finance ministers must have their subway line, and politicians care about votes—not actually keeping Toronto in good health.


  14. A few more things:

    I agree that the Queen Car line could be beefed up, and you made it clear in your great streetcar analyses that service cuts and mismanagement have hurt the Queen Car, and other surface routes, more than auto congestion. I think though that the DRL serves a larger market. Liberty Village, the Distillery towers, etc, are not that well served currently, and the surface streetcars are slow. The DRL will bring intervening opportunities to passengers of the 501/2/3, 504, 506, etc, and the streetcars can continue their purpose of acting as a local service, without being threatened by a Queen Street Subway.

    Your idea of using LRT for the DRL is interesting as has gained traction (mind the pun) and I don’t entirely disagree with it, as it has its advantages. But in the case of the DRL, there should be the debate on the appropriate technology – neither LRT nor Heavy Rail Subway should be dismissed off-hand.

    Bob Brent: “GO is presenting phasing in 12-car trains on Milton line… and will introduce them to other lines as they upgrade platforms to handle 12-car trains.”

    This won’t help the Toronto situation at all, and is actually the opposite of what GO should be doing, in my opinion. Ideally, trains should be smaller, run more often, and provide a metro-like service, not the current model of bigger trains, bigger parking lots, less local stops, and bigger parking lots. That takes time, money and a good negotiating team with the railways, or a federal government willing to step in and fix the railways’ wagon.


  15. I think it is really exciting to see so many major transit projects being taken seriously.

    I personally live at Coxwell and Queen, I work at Yonge and Bloor, frequenting the Yorkdale area. Depending on the time of day, and whether or not I’m running late I have two options to get to work. Both give me enough exposure to make a good judgement on what is needed to make travel on the system better.

    The 501 line I have to admit is pretty good, and improved after the service changes. I know during peak times I will almost always get a streetcar within 4 to 6 min. and the trip to Yonge takes about 25 min from Coxwell. As the 501 moves further and further west I soon have to take my backpack off the seat next to me. And by Jarvis it’s crush load. When we hit Yonge about 40% of passengers exit and I would guess a good 20% flood the subway. As this is taking place the exact same thing is happening but backwards. And sure enough that same car I just got off is not packed and 1 block away is another packed ALRV.

    This is commonplace 5 days a week every morning and every night. There is no way in hell buses could support Queen during peak times. And everyone who has to use the Yonge line at any point whether it be Queen Stn. or Lawrence Knows damn well they will not get a seat. Heck they may not get the train! The U/S line is pretty busy but not even close to what we see on Yonge.

    The DTR line is desperately needed, but is it appropriate to make a whole new line when expanding the Sheppard line west to connect to the Spadina line like it was suppose to before cuts were made. I see all the Sheppard line haters glowing red as I type this. But hear me out!

    By connecting the two lines we solve many many problems we got stuck with. The Sheppard line would become very useful for a lot more people. More people would be encouraged to use the University Spadina line because if you live at Bayview Stn. and work next to St. Patrick you can now get home with complete avoidance of the Yonge line. Furthermore details on a Sheppard expansion are far more recent then a DRL.


  16. I read MacIsaac’s comment on being able to jump from car to car on Queen and assumed (:->) he meant that this was possible now because of the strange herd-instinct displayed by TTC streetcars.


  17. Sorry – that was an attempt at dry humour – I was taking the jumping from car to car to mean literally.


  18. Perhaps the Jane LRT could be built as planned, and then have a branch that follows the Weston sub to, say, Black Creek. GO service would stop there, as would Eglinton Subway/LRT. A cross-platform interchange from the Jane LRT to the DRL could conceivably be built, and then the DRL will continue southwards as planned. Obviously, the section around the Junction would run on elevated viaduct.

    On the other side, the DRL Subway could run on elevated viaduct on Overlea (Don Mills LRT is planned to run this way since the median is very wide), and continue via elevated viaduct to Eglinton (crossing the Don River will be a challenge). On the NE corner of Eglinton/Don Mills there could be another terminal where Eglinton LRT/Subway and Don Mills LRT would meet.

    This could create a massive U that would rival the BD Subway in length, with most of the tracks either on the surface or on viaducts.

    It goes without saying that GO will have to change its mentality from being a purely suburb-to-downtown-at-rush-hour service to being a regional service. But this won’t change without massive changes in the mainline railways.

    Steve: I’m not wild about a viaduct in Don Mills, and there is a perfectly good strip on the west side of Don Mills in front of the Science Centre where a shallow tunnel could easily be constructed. There are good arguments for an underground junction at Eglinton with the Don Mills line surfacing somewhere to the north. To the west, the land falls away and the Eglinton line would naturally emerge from the hillside. Side of road running would probably be best until west of Leslie where the line would re-enter a tunnel and swing under the road.

    Just one of several possible configurations.


  19. Paulo said about GO Transit, “add a proper stop to the airport (which it already goes right past) and you have a downtown airport link at a fraction of the cost of the other options they’re considering…”

    After using both the Underground from and the Heathrow Express to Heathrow Airport about a month ago, I can say that a walk from the Malton GO station to either terminal 3 or terminal 1 is a shorter walk – all we have to do is enclose it! 😉

    Steve wrote, “Scheduled short turns and branches are a fact of life in Toronto including on the planned York U subway extension.”

    Not only here, but I have experienced some very useful implementations in other cities. Both Melbourne and Oslo have routes that interline in the central downtown area to provide more frequent service with higher capacity for those parts of town where it is required. With a U-shaped Jane/Relief/Don Mills combination, we could easily steal from some of Melbourne’s routes by having a Don Mills run that goes from Finch or Sheppard down the line and around the Relief section to end at Jane station (or wherever the Jane LRT line will meet the BD subway), and a Jane line that runs from Finch down the line and around the Relief section to end at Pape. Additional Relief-only runs from Jane to Pape (or even up to Eglinton, if that portion were underground) could also be provided.

    Sean Marshall said, “But I think the DRL, like the Yonge line extension to Langstaff, is one of the few logical routes.”

    I have to pipe up my opposition to the Yonge extension to Langstaff/407/Highway 7 comment, as this is almost as foolish as the Spadina/VCC extension. I am in favour of an extension to Steeles, but beyond that VIVA Phase 3 should be implemented from now with an LRT line instead of the proposed extension. For the same money, such an LRT line can be built underground to Highway 7, then come to the surface and go all the way to Major Mac, plus a Highway 7 line could be built on the surface from Dufferin to the 404. Oh yea, that same money will purchase vehicles for an LRT line, while the proposed subway cost won’t. Oops, I forgot that we all want to see mega-parking lots around stations on a 4 km subway extension instead of smaller parking lots and an increased use of connector bus routes on 16-18 km of LRT.


  20. A thought.
    If we did build this “big U” of Jane-DRL-Don Mills, and if we have good connectons with Eglinton, we could run a “belt line” service, while also offering normal service on each of those lines.


  21. The DRL is a great idea but I’m reading mixed views on the west connection to the Bloor-Danforth subway. I think the obvious connection is Dundas West but will the TTC plan the Jane LRT to connect to the same point? What about a Blue 22, Milton GO, Bloor-Danforth, Jane LRT and DRL mega junction at the Dundas West station?

    Steve: Jane makes sense coming down the Weston corridor. Blue 22 would be replaced by the LRT service. The subway and rail services are there already. Yes, quite a junction, but I think that the transfer traffic will mainly be between the LRT and subway services.


  22. John Norton said, “…expanding the Sheppard line west to connect to the Spadina line like it was suppose to before cuts were made…” and “By connecting the two lines we solve many many problems we got stuck with. The Sheppard line would become very useful for a lot more people.”

    I would go one step further… Despite my “official” position that the entire Spadina extension should be built with LRT technology, if it has to be built as a subway extension (at least to Steeles, I don’t see myself being convinced of building subway beyond that point), it strikes me that for the cost of building just under two extra kilometres of line, it should be the Sheppard line that should be extended, not the Spadina line. This would not only provide the convenience that John mentions, but also an added convenience for those heading to/from York U coming from the east, and also will make better use of the under-used Sheppard line.

    Steve: One important note. Downsview Station is at Dufferin Street which is 4 km west of Yonge, not 2. That’s $1-billion worth of construction.


  23. I’d like to say that I agree about the Sheppard Line extension to the west to York University or at least Downsview, not for anything but network connectivity and quick crosstown transit in the north. It would also add some ridership to Sheppard which is unlikely to be downgraded. Currently, there is no quick way to get from east of Yonge to anywhere on the Spadina line. The Eglinton LRT would be too far south, and Finch West in that section would most likely be rather slow. Actually, if the Sheppard line is extended to Downsview, the Finch West LRT can be brought to end there, offering a quicker journey downtown or to the east, and avoiding the problems with the narrow stretch of Finch. Then, a trip from Sheppard East LRT to Finch West would only involve a quick ride on Sheppard.

    About the DRL, I really like the idea of having the Jane St-Pape via downtown and Don Mills-Dundas West via downtown services, because it provides increased frequencies in the core and allows for a transfer-free ride to more places from either Jane or Don Mills.


  24. Everyone here seems so excited about new things like the downtown relief line. While I agree it would be good to build a DRL, what about the TTC’s version, the Downtown Express buses (143,144, 142 etc). I have several questions:

    – Do these routes lack ridership?
    – Would increasing service on these routes help with reducing the load on the Yonge line?
    – Is the downtown express an idea that is obsolete?

    I ask these questions as most of these routes serve the financial sector.
    If a little tweak is just needed for these lines, it would be much cheaper than building a LRT/Subway and it could be implemented within 6 months.

    Steve: The express bus routes into downtown come from specific areas where it is possible to design a reasonably fast route. The Beach. Don Mills via DVP. North Toronto via Mt. Pleasant. This is a very small percentage of the catchment area of the subway system.

    Those buses have to end up somewhere downtown and it’s not realistic to schedule anything above 60/hour even allowing for semi-express operation and staggered stops on their common downtown loop. That’s about 3,000 riders per hour, tops. It would shave a bit off of the subway, but we need more and from a larger area.

    Today, these are premium fare services. We really cannot expect people to pay a double fare as the solution for subway capacity problems, and those fares do not pay off the capital cost of the vehicles (or the garage space to store them) which are used only for rush hour service.


  25. Hello Steve,

    Using your numbers from “Why Transit City is an LRT Plan (Part 3)”, I estimated the capacity limit of an LRT line running fully grade-separate (Eglinton central tunnel; light rail DRL):

    Let’s assume the headways are 1.5 min. Half of trains are 3-car sets that travel the grade-separate part only (525 ppl/train, 20 trains/hour). The other half is 2-car sets that travel to/from the on-street sections (350 ppl/train, 20 trains/hour). That gives a capacity of 17,500 ppl per hour for the Eglinton LRT tunnel. For DRL, both the eastern and the western wing will serve same prevailing direction, southbound in AM / northbound in PM. Hence, the effective capacity comes to 35,000 ppl per hour.

    Let’s look how much capacity is needed. The Eglinton route uses mixed-traffic buses now. Assuming 2-min headways and 55 ppl per bus, we get just 1,650 ppl per hour. Even if the patronage quadruples once LRT is in service, it will be just about 7,000 ppl per hour. It will need to more than double from that level before the capacity limit is approached. And if that ever happens, some demand can be diverted to another light rail line on Lawrence. Hardly a case for HRT on Eglinton, or even an HRT-convertible light rail tunnel.

    For DRL though, we aim at relieving the Yonge and US subways. Both are pretty much packed south of Bloor in the peak hours, so we can assume they carry (together) about 60,000 ppl per hour per direction. If one third of those are diverted, that’s 20,000. Add 25% for people switching from cars, streetcars, plus those traveling to new offices built while the line is under construction. This is 25,000 already. We are still within the limit (35,000) technically, but just 29% is left for further growth, and there is no good route for yet another LRT. The light rail implementation of DRL might fall victim to its own success.

    Run longer trains … but that means longer stations and higher costs.

    Interlining … that should speak in favor of light rail DRL, but there is a catch. Interlining 4 or 5 branches (western wing: large trains short-turning at Dundas W; Jane branch; Eglinton / Pearson; WWLRT; potentially Weston corridor north) is not only hard to manage, but means low frequencies on each branch (1.5 combined headways, 5 branches – 7.5 min headways on each branch). It’s not that difficult to interline just two branches, however that means transfers from other would-be branches, just as if that was LRT to subway.

    To conclude: light rail wins on Eglinton, while heavy rail seems to have the upper hand on DRL. Am I missing anything?

    Steve: There will be some capacity improvements on YUS with the new trains, a potential 7th car and the shorter headways permitted by automatic operation. That gives more headroom on the line than your figures allow for.

    Also, some subway traffic can be diverted to GO rail if service is improved, although this benefit will be partly undone if the subway gets pushed way into the 905 and makes GO uncompetitive. The need to integrate GO and TTC fares becomes obvious when they are serving the same market.

    Oddly enough, given the way that planning in Toronto is dominated by what politicians think we need rather than rational analysis, we may get a subway on Eglinton and an LRT on the DRL, exactly the opposite of what your analysis suggests.

    The question of interlining was not intended to take things to extreme, but it would be quite reasonable to expect the Weston corridor to operate with a mix of “Jane” and “Airport” trains. Eglinton would run a mix of “Airport” and “Eglinton” trains in the west end. I don’t foresee more than two separate services operating on one link.


  26. Personally I would rather see modular vehicle extensions than MU operation. MU means you lose capacity through the cabs and add additional points of failure such as couplers, while modular vehicles mean capacity can be more closely matched to demand.

    Dublin’s Citadis 301 vehicles have already grown from 30m to 40m by customer-installed extensions and an ultimate extension to 50m is in active planning for both the 301s and 401s.

    If a long Transit City car was involved in a collision or other damage which demanded a lengthy repair, a short car could possibly receive its modules, if unaffected, to assume its duties. While the streetcar replacement LRVs will be tied to the parking length available in Hillcrest/Russell/Roncesvalles this should not be a deciding issues for DRL cars parked in Transit City yards.


  27. Thanks Steve – and with a DRL, ideally a medium capacity LRT eg. 3 cars, I’d suggest using Front St. itself from Bathurst St. in and keeping on the surface.

    Going to rail level makes any connection with Spadina tricky to impossible yet accessing Spadina LRT for northbound travel is a way to link to UofT and maybe take some pressures off of both Union and St. George St.

    And I also see an Etobicoke line of 3 cars coming in via Front St. onto the same tracks, and I don’t see why the GO buses couldn’t join in a ROW.

    It is high time the core riders got some consideration of better services, and these two lines would do a Lot for the west end core transit, even to the point of allowing for bike lanes on some of the major carterials eh?!

    Steve: A 3-car train would be somewhere from 80-90m long depending on what we buy, and that’s an awfully large vehicle to run on streets like Spadina where, for starters, the platforms are only about 30m long. Indeed, a 3 car train of the new vehicles would not fit on the platform at Spadina Station that can barely hold 4 CLRVs (and that’s hanging off the “official” platform at the west end).

    As for bike lanes, you know perfectly well we can’t have any of those without widening the Gardiner to absorb all of the displaced traffic!


  28. Everybody’s talking about doing a U-ey from Don Mills to Jane LRTs… can we please step back and take a look at the reason the DRL proposal exists in the first place?

    What are the problems we need to address?
    -Overcrowding at Bloor-Yonge Station
    -Overcrowding on the Yonge Line between Bloor and Union
    -Overcrowding at St.George Station
    -Increasing crowding concerns on the central portion of the Bloor-Danforth Line
    -Providing attractive relief to King and Queen streetcars in the core, especially King

    What are the causes of these problems?

    -Bloor-Yonge Station, it is the first subway-subway transfer from the east
    -Yonge south of Bloor, except for Wellesley, all these stations have sky-high ridership, with the only rapid access other than GO Transit coming from the north of these stations, and takes 2.5 subway lines on this stretch (North Yonge, Danforth-Bloor East, and some of Bloor West)
    -St.George, it is the first attractive subway-subway transfer from the west (because Spadina’s is anything but attractive, although there is the 510), and the wye is discontinued, with reinstating it for service not a practical option due to the Spadina Subway Line.
    -Central Bloor-Danforth is seeing increasing crowds since the trains are already packed to the gills when they are not even half-way to the core. A look at the ridership figures by stations reveals that on the Danforth side, the heaviest stations are Sherbourne, Broadview, Pape, Main Street, Victoria Park, Warden, and Kennedy.

    Lets crunch some numbers here; The whole stretch from Sherbourne to Kennedy sees about 294,600 ridership daily. Of that, about 149,275 is from between Main Street and Kennedy, with Kennedy alone taking up half of that, that is more than half of the entire ridership of the Danforth-Bloor East Line coming from Main Street and further east, no wonder the central Bloor-Danforth is so crowded.

    Kipling and Islington are disproportionately higher in use than the other stations on the Bloor West Line for obvious reasons given the bus activity at those stations, but the same pattern, not quite as severe, exists there too. Pape, Broadview, and Sherbourne in the east, Dufferin, Ossington, and Bathurst in the west, all busy stations sporting 25,000 or higher daily boardings, these riders always have a hard time getting on in the morning peak because so many people keep packing the sardine can from the far ends.

    -King car, at 2-minute headways, although there is poor management at play (thank you and bravo sleuth Steve), struggles, and there is no political will to push through viable solutions like a transit mall, despite King carrying over 66% of all people on the road at peak (that’s arguably a failure in politics, since politicians should be going with the will of the people, a clear majority of whom choose the streetcar over the auto). Better management alone will not solve Kings problems, although it would improve the situation. Most of King’s problems do not come from Broadview and Roncesvalles, but on King itself.

    So, how do Don Mills and Jane tie into the DRL? The short answer is it shouldn’t, because if you want to alleviate St. George and Bloor-Yonge, especially Bloor-Yonge, the best strategy, the sure-fire solution, is not to replace one transfer with another, but to instead provide a high-capacity one-seat that by-passes the bottleneck. If we can take half of the Main Street to Kennedy portion to King and Yonge area in a one-seat, that could provide massive relief at Bloor-Yonge for a long time. It can be done via Greenwood Yard, Kingston Sub, and Richmond/Adelaide like a 1942 TTC proposal (I have already discussed there is a previous back-and-forth with Steve, not repeating it unless for some reason necessary).

    Such a DRL would be attractive to anybody from the east (or west) using Union, King, Queen, Dundas, or possibly even College (the latter two travelling in the non-peak direction on Yonge), as well as St. Andrew, Osgoode, St. Patrick, or Queen’s Park, although they are not in as much need of releif, except for St.Andrew, that one’s pretty high in demand.

    The DRL alignment from the 1980s was flawed, including too few stations to make it worth the cost. Toronto has fortunately changed since and there is more potential along different alignments in the built form today. Such a DRL however, should seriously be combined with other improvements to the legacy network to maximize the benefits of investing in an expesive subway line (i.e. more north/south streetcars in the core, they don’t have to ROW either, although that’s ideal). Semi-easy and attractive options are available on Parilament, Church, and Shaw/Ossignton.

    The suggesting of running a 3-car LRT as a DRL is not a long-term solution. We need to remember that Yonge is both being extended and seeing more rapid transit connections added to it north of Bloor, including Summerhill, Eglinton, more stress at Sheppard, Finch, and possibly at St.Clair depending on how the dynamics of that ROW play out when it is finished. Yonge needs room, lots of room, it cannot afford to share its southern end with other full-blown subway lines.

    The idea that we need to only skim a little off the top is misguided because it fails to take into account future long-term growth. The system will not be attractive if it is too crowded too often, us transit advocates are competing with a mode that offers excessive personal space (the auto). We have an opportunity to put the core on a footing that is full of attractive transit options, but running an LRT as a DRL shoots the core in the foot.

    We do not need subways to VCC, we do not need ICTS to Malvern, we do not need subways on Sheppard either (we’re stuck with it though), but we do need a subway swinging east-west through the core, and it should be designed to handle an 8-car T1 train, because although certain central Bloor-Danforth Line stations are impossible to extend (most notably including both Yonge and St.George among a few others like Broadview and Castle Frank), Keele through Kipling and Greenwood through Kennedy seem to be physically posslbe to lengthen platforms on. Yonge can’t lengthen platforms (and Uni-Spadina isn’t worth the investment), but the TTC sure wish it could extend Yonge platforms (David Gunn recommended it be looked into at one point). The opportunity is there to allow 8-car T1 trains servicing the core, and this is needed for the future of the city’s vitality if it truly wishes to become a transit city.

    LRT is certainly needed in the suburbs and peripheral core, and streetcars do serve an important purpose in the core, but let’s not kid ourselves here, LRT in the core would be underground anyway (i.e. tunnelling), so there are only negligible cost savings between the two for the DRL, negating the key argument of money in choosing LRT over subway.

    Steve: A few key observations:

    First, An integrated subway operation branching to downtown at Greenwood would require supplementary service to maintain the headway on the west end of the line. Greenwood Yard and Wye as they are currently set up could not sustain both two branches of the Danforth subway plus a service continuing to the west. Also, since at best half of the service westbound at Greenwood would go downtown, the maximum capacity of this service (and hence diverted ridership) is somewhere around 16,000/hour.

    Second, you have already made the point that the BD line is filled up by people originating further out. They don’t walk into those stations, they arrive by bus. If they have an alternative way to get downtown, they may not get on the subway in the first place. Think of riders arriving at Pape and Broadview from routes that are in the Don Mills catchment area. Think of riders arriving at Jane and Keele that are in the Jane/Weston catchment area. Some of these can be diverted, and possibly some who now come south into Islington or Kipling who would have the Eglinton line as an alternative.

    Third, longer platforms. I have seen a model for Bloor-Yonge station with new additional platform space, and the Yonge Station cannot be physically extended. At the east end is the curve where the tunnel turns out from under the Bay into the middle of Bloor Street. At the west end, you would be under Yonge Street in an area difficult for construction (due to an underground stream and probably foul of utilities. The TTC’s best bet for longer trains is the proposed 7th car on the TR series, but they would only be running on YUS. On BD, the real issue will be closer headways once they get around to installing ATC on that line, and that will serve the whole line, not just selected stations.

    Finally King Street. The 2 minute headway runs ONLY during the AM peak, and only for a “wave” that lasts roughly half a trip. At that time, there is zero traffic congestion on the route. My examination of TTC data showed that erratic service was entirely due to poor dispatching of cars and the fact that the wave that builds up the peak headway tends to come out of the carhouse at unpredictable times.

    The peak service on Queen, and the PM peak service on King, are nowhere near maximum capacity for the streets in question, although better transit priority would certainly help at specific times and locations. The City could start by moving the cabstand off of King between the office towers as this is a major source of congestion precisely at a point where the centre lane is supposed to be streetcar only.


  29. re: current flow of riders at Eglinton

    I’d guess the current peak passengers per hr delivered by bus is close to 3,000 per hour (from each direction).

    The TTC says ridership getting on tbe subway at that station is 73,000 per day. If even half that is in peak via bus – if we assume peak is 6 hours (3 in am and 3 in pm), you get 3041 per hour. This is about 82 per bus (I count about 37 buses from each direction counting all branches – 32, 34, 100, 61 etc.)

    I was at the Sheppard dog-and-pony show on Thursday. The TTC or city guy I talked to said that the LRT with 2 cars and 5 minute headway would have 3000 per hr peak capacity (not crush). They don’t want to go below 5 minutes headway on the ‘semi private right of way’ because that’s when reliability would start to degrade (i.e. bunching).

    Based on this, the Eglinton line would need to be 4 LRV’s long if the idea of increasing ridership from 19.0 to 52.8 million (more than double) – to give a doubling of peak flow capacity.

    [The tunnel portion of the line would be fully private – but most would be similar to Sheppard.]

    Steve: Eglinton does have a lot of walk-in trade by the way due to high-rise apartments and offices at that location. It’s not in the middle of a field the way some of our suburban stations are.

    The peak services, stated as buses/hour, are:

    5 Avenue Road – 5, not full
    61 Avenue Road North – 5.5
    32 Eglinton West – 23

    34 Eglinton East – 15
    54 Lawrence East – 11
    100 Flemingdon Park – 4
    56 Leaside – 2.5
    51 Leslie – 4

    However, passengers on the Avenue Road Services are unlikely to use the Eglinton LRT and these routes would continue in their present form. This leaves 23 buses/hour from the west.

    From the east, there’s a good chance most of the services, except perhaps Leaside (as an Eglinton local service), would now feed the LRT and this gives us 34 buses per hour.

    For service planning purpose, one bus equals 55 passengers at average peak load, and so we now have 1,275/hour from Eglinton West and 1,870/hour from Eglinton East. Neither of these is anywhere near the 3,000/hour you surmise as the starting point.

    The projected peak demand on the Eglinton line is 4,700. For two-car trains with a capacity of 300/train, this 16 trains/hour.

    Looked at another way, the projected demand is about 2.5 times the current riding on Eglinton as a corridor.

    The comment about bunching applies to surface operations where traffic signals have an effect, and frankly I think that the 5 minute headway is intended more to avoid offending the road engineers who will object to loss of green time for transit priority. Anyhow, that peak will occur where the line is underground, and a 5 minute headway of trains (3,600 capacity) can easily merge with a 5-minute headway of short turns between Weston and Don Mills for a capacity of 7,200 on a 2’30” headway. From Leaside to Don Mills, even if the line is on the surface, it is running through parkland and could be designed to avoid conflicts with traffic simply by putting it along the south side of the current roadway.


  30. It still sounds like a lot of walk-in trade – but certailnly, the underground section allows surface service to remain in place. (I had assumed ALL bus service would be shut down.)

    Steve: I had also forgotten to mention two other major sources of traffic. There is strong reverse-peak demand at Eglinton (outbound am, inbound pm) and so the total count of users per hour is not simply the peak direction vehicle capacity. Also, there is strong offpeak demand, obviously not at peak levels, but there are more offpeak hours in the day.


  31. Steve, I specifically state that Yonge among others are impossible to extend platforms on…. and then you go into great detail about how Yonge cannot have platforms extended… I get the impression you thought I suggested otherwise?

    Steve: Sorry, I misread you and thought you claimed that Yonge could actually be expanded.

    Anyway, about diverting ridership on other routes… there’s a an extremely important point that I haven’t seen you address. If riders from, as one example, STC area, start using the Sheppard LRT/Subway instead of the SRT and BD to get downtown, or Eglinton instead of B-D after using the SRT, the problem is still not resolved on southern Yonge, in fact the problem will simply migrate north of Bloor. This is not a solution to the problem at all, it only shifts the location, and that accomplishes nothing except alleviation on the central B-D. Alleviation of the central B-D is certainly welcome and prudent, but alleviation of Yonge south of Bloor is unquestionably the higher priority.

    Without another subway to swing people directly into the core from the east and to a lesser extent the west, the problem on Yonge south of Bloor will never be solved in any long-term fashion, and the best results with any new subway will be had through a one-seat from known high concentrations of riders today (basically using existing high ridership). Plus with more stations than the original DRL proposal, and more connections to legacy network, ridership at the new stations could be reasonably healthy, and ridership on the legacy network may go up too since it goes to a subway connection where previously it didn’t.

    The end destination of these riders on Yonge should not be expected to change, we know the core continues to grow, and from the east, only one subway line goes south of Bloor, and from St.Clair and further northward, when the Spadina and Yonge lines get far apart (so we can’t expect them to use Spadina instead of Yonge). All the TC lines except WW are north of Bloor, and is going to result in increased demand on southern Yonge that it cannot handle (damaging ridership growth elsewhere in the city).

    Steve: Actually, this was a big issue with the original Sheppard Subway proposal. The projected increase in demand on the Yonge line pushed it well above capacity and spawned a mad scheme by TTC engineering to completely redesign Bloor-Yonge Station with additional platforms. Some of my info about ground conditions there comes from the detailed report on that idea, and I have seen the model they built to show the station configuration.

    The Sheppard line would have done a terrible job of handling any demand other than commuters going to downtown because there was little else added in the network in the suburbs to attract other types of rides, and the demand model totally ignored alternatives for getting people from Agincourt to downtown such as GO on the CPR or better service on the Stouffville line.

    Amazingly, nobody considered this a detriment of the Sheppard line at the time because the politics of the thing demanded we all bow meekly and build for North York’s manifest destiny as the centre of the universe.

    Also, as I have mentioned before, there was a bizarre alliance between the left on Council and the Sheppard boosters to block construction of more capacity into downtown. Hence no proposals for alternate services such as the DRL or GO.

    As for Greenwood Yard, the problem you mention is of course real, but resolvable by incorporating a 3-track/2-platform with 2 trail tracks to the south-west for turn-back operations at the first station south of the Yard, plus running some trains that come from the southwest heading southeast to turn west to Donlands after crossing Greenwood Yard, as the wye allows such, and it is advantageous for operations to use that (minimizes turn-back ops).

    This allows headways to be maintained at current levels on all branches. There’s the concern about level crossings with opposite directions connecting with the westbound track, but if B-D were to get the new signal system (it’s a given the new DRL would have this from the start), this is manageable.

    Steve: A big problem at Greenwood is that the wye is not grade separated where the west to south curve crosses the north to west. This would be a major point of conflict. Also, the amount of service running through to that first station south of Danforth (at least at Gerrard if not Queen) would require very frequent headways over the joint section.

    This strikes me as an extremely complex and expensive “solution” in the same vein as the proposed reconstruction of Bloor/Yonge station — we can make anything work with enough money. How much else could we build for the same investment elsewhere in the system?


  32. Steve

    Now that Metrolinx and the government have started talking about the DRL, things are getting quite exciting.

    The idea of using the combination of Jane, Don Mills, and the railway corridor is a good one. It could be implemented far sooner than the proposed subway version of the DRL, by using the existing railway corridor.

    Having the “u” would be great for Toronto, but where would we go from there?

    One such idea came to me about a month ago. If we are going to have an LRT version of the DRL that goes up Don Mills and Jane, could it be possible to create a loop via Sheppard?

    After all, there is a proposed Sheppard East LRT from Don Mills to Scarborough. An extension of the Sheppard Subway from Sheppard station to Downsview has been discussed.

    So what if that westwards extension were built as an LRT line, from Yonge st. all the way to Jane? We could even complete the loop by building an LRT along Sheppard. It could be designed for slower, more local travel, with the Subway underneath as the “express” option.

    As demand increased, the Downtown Relief Loop (or whatever they might call it) could be converted, step by step, into full subway operation. Once the subway is in place, surface rail could be cut back, more stops could be built and we have express and local service along the same route.

    I know that the presence of the Sheppard subway makes it tough to run this as a real “loop” service. I also know that the construction cost would be huge at Sheppard/Don Mills and Sheppard/Yonge and Sheppard/Jane (especially when extending the Sheppard Line west and converting the LRT technology to Subway).

    But it would be interesting if Toronto had two loop lines (Yonge-University-Spadina-Vaughan and DRL-Jane-Sheppard-Don Mills) and radial lines (Eglinton, Queen, King, St. Clair) making up a more complete network.

    Thanks in advance for your feedback (and everyone else’s).

    Cheers, m

    Steve: I think the important thing we remember is that all of this will not be built overnight. The huge advantage of LRT (here comes Steve’s regular commercial) is that is much more flexible than subway construction for incremental implementation.


  33. Hi Steve.

    Do you mind if I quote you on “the moment somone draws a line on a map”…it reflects alot of the issues I am facing over here in Malaysia.

    Steve: Please do!


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