Where Would a Queen Subway Go?

This post is intended to continue the thread of historical background to the problem of threading a Downtown Relief Line from the Danforth Subway into downtown Toronto.  It is not intended to endorse a specific alignment, but to show the sort of problems that existed 40 years ago and which remain today.

Back in June 1968, the TTC considered a report about an interim Queen Street streetcar subway and a later subway line.  (The linked version of this report has been scanned as text and formatted by me rather than leaving it as page images, but the content is identical.) This contains a number of observations of interest.

  • At this point, the alignment from Queen north was designed to connect with Greenwood Yard as a full subway.  This would be changed many years later to a Pape alignment south to Eastern for a possible ICTS/RT yard.
  • An interim arrangement with a streetcar subway from roughly Sherbourne to Spadina was examined, but it was thought that in the long term, the demand in the Queen and King Street corridors would exceed the capability of streetcar operations.  In hindsight, this is a rather large case of overestimation of future demand.
  • Construction of the Sherbourne Portal would be possible because the buildings on the north side of Queen had recently been demolished to make way for Moss Park.
  • Conversion of a streetcar subway to a full high-platform rapid transit line was considered to be difficult.
  • An alignment south of Queen Street was considered impractical because of the buildings that would have to be underpinned or demolished.
  • An alignment directly under Queen Street would probably require cut-and-cover construction with associated disruption due to soil conditions.  The possibility of more advanced tunneling methods is mentioned.
  • Widening Queen Street is considered an option because, in the good old days, tearing down buildings was the thing to do.  This would not play out quite so favourably as an option today.  The buildings are part of a vital streetscape.
  • An alignment behind the north side properties was considered, although it would still involve considerable building acquisition and demolition.
  • A study by the Metro Planning Department suggested that in the west, the line might travel northwest via the CN corridor to the vicinity of Islington Avenue.
  • The projected cost of the line is in the range of $25-million per mile, or $16-million per km.
  • The report confirms that structural provision exists at Osgoode Station for an east-west subway line.

I have also included here a scan of a drawing showing a possible alignment from Donlands Station south and west to the Broadview (this is labelled “north alignment”, but this portion is substantially the same for all variants).

donlandslegcSeveral points are worth noting from this drawing.

  • The tunnel would pass under Eastern High School and through an existing residential neighbourhood.
  • The alignment would require the demolition of a large number of vintage buildings along Queen Street.
  • The curve south to west begins at Dundas and Alton and ends at Queen and Jones.  This gives an indication of the swath that any subway curve will cut through a neighbourhood, and I commend this to those readers who propose lines with hairpin turns.
  • A curve from Pape onto the rail corridor would be less severe, although not without impacts, because it would not be a full 90 degree turn.  (Pape is the north-south street just to the right of the obscured part of the street grid at the top of the page.)

As I said at the outset, I am publishing this to provide context for the discussion on this site.  The planned construction of the Richmond Hill subway extension and the demand it will add to the Yonge line has side-effects that must be addressed.  None of the options is simple, but we need to understand what they all are and how elements of them might be chosen or omitted from the solution.