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.