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).
Several 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.
Steve, you should have posted this under fantasy.
Steve: But the swans will get tired paddling all the way up river to Richmond Hill!
“Conversion of a streetcar subway to a full high-platform rapid transit line was considered to be difficult.”
Maybe they should talk to Boston, who did the conversion and then converted it back.
Steve: Which chunk of Boston had the double conversion? I know some tunnels began as streetcar and then became rapid transit, but which one(s) changed back again?
I googled the Boston Subway and found a Wikipedia site that has a history pf the Green Line’s development and it has several references to conversion between high and low level platform.
Steve: I beg to differ. The only references about changes to platforms in this article are regarding accessibility, not conversion from “subway” type rapid transit to “streetcar/LRT” or vice versa. The Green line has always been a streetcar subway.
I think the question that has to be answered with the DRL is its function in the downtown. Is it to serve as a local distributor along a significant portion of Queen (or King) or is it a quick entry into the downtown that uses the existing surface and subway network for local distribution. Both have benefits and drawbacks. If, and it is a big IF, a way can be found to get the passenger transfer to work at Union, then I prefer to see the line use the CN right of way, if room can be found on I, as it will be cheaper and it does make some decent transfer connection.
Steve, good point on the turn at Pape and CN Kingston. I took a closer look at that area a while back and the disruption/underpinning can probably be confined to what I believe is a loading/receiving area for the Riverdale plaza. However, I think it is worth noting that getting on/off CN Kingston at Pape is the easy part compared to getting on/off CN Kingston at Queen, where it is quite close to a 90 degree turn. One of the reasons I prefer the Richmond-Adelaide scheme is that it addresses that very problem, and maintains curves at more gentle radii (the tightest curve radius I was permitting when looking at this was the same as TYSSE’s; 300m).
Let’s also not forget that a Richmond-Adelaide alignment wouldn’t cause anywhere near the same degree of disruption to the existing services along Queen or King (although they would not be disruption-free, still a big improvement).
One alignment that I was looking at more recently was a Mill-Esplanade alignment coming in off CN Kingston, which has some unique advantages from construction and traffic management standpoint, but given the character and historic qualities at certain points in this part of town, may be considered rather inappropriate. It is also so close to the rail corridor that maybe this should left to GO.
Steve: Yes, I tend to prefer the Richmond/Adelaide option too although it poses problems if one tries to through-route it with something in the Weston corridor. No matter how you do it, crossing the Don River and getting to Parliament Street is tricky given the road system in the area.
To clarify, are we talking about a routing under the CN or at grade in the rail corridor?
Steve: Under, and yes this brings all manner of issues about construction. My point is not to explain how things might be done, but to show what was considered in the past as a reference for current discussions.
The problems of queen to the east (IE east of the Don River) and to the west are different, as west of the Don river you can squeeze the line more easily under streets like Richmond which, although set back from Queen street, are close enough that you could get away with calling it a “Queen line”
The problem is that from Osgoode east, the demand is Queen, but from King station west, the demand is under King. Call me crazy (I know you guys want to :P) but I dont see why we cant do both, but I’ll save my comments for King for another time.
One problem is how the heck do you get under the Don river – Is say do not bother, try to find a way to get the line over it. This, obviously, will not be easy, but it’s worth a shot.
Steve: None of the proposals I have seen in the past, nor any of my own, ever had a Queen/DRL line going under the Don.
Sorry, gents, but you’re all incorrect on the Boston issue, and, from the sound of it, so is the notoriously unreliable Wikipedia.
The Tremont St Subway opened in 1897 as a straight streetcar operation. On June 10 1901 the elevated now known as the Orange line opened and SHARED the Tremont St subway with streetcars from Bolyston Station right through to North Station. This arrangement continued until the Washington St Tunnel opened on November 30 1908 and the Tremont St tunnel once again became a streetcar only operation. This from my fellow historian and good friend Bradley H Clarke in his 1978 publication “The Boston Transit Album”. Brad is the eminent authority on all things transit in Boston.
So, it was not converted from low to high level but shared by both for that period. How this was accomplished I cannot say as I have not seen a written history that explains it fully, nor photos IN the tunnel. The photo of the operation in the book only shows the ramp from North Station towards Haymarket, with El trans on the two outside tracks and streetcars on the inner pair (after 1908 streetcars use the westerly pair of tracks and El trains the easterly pair which then connected to the Washington St tunnel rather than the Tremont St tunnel.
Until recently high and low level cars co-existed in the subways in Stuttgart Germany, and on two different gauges to boot.
The Canal Street Portal (also Haymarket Portal, North Station Portal or Causeway Street Portal, often referred to in revenue service as the Canal Street Loop) was part of the transition between subway and elevated railway on the Green Line, as it transitioned from the Tremont Street Subway to the Causeway Street Elevated towards the Lechmere Viaduct until 2004, when the Green Line north of North Station was closed for building of a new tunnel and portal. Certain trains turned at Canal Street, while others emerged from the subway to a viaduct to Lechmere. It was, however, possible for a passenger to alight from a train at Canal Street and proceed up a series of stairways to the Lechmere Viaduct. However most passengers desiring to continue to Science Park or Lechmere would have changed to a Lechmere signed car from a North Station signed car prior to the emergence from the central subway.
The original four-track portal opened in 1898 at the north end of the first subway; cars could turn east or west on Causeway Street. In 1901 the Charlestown Elevated was connected to the outer tracks, and streetcars only operated via the inner tracks. The Washington Street Tunnel opened in 1908, connecting to the Elevated via a new portal just east of the streetcar one, and all four tracks were once again open for streetcar use until 1975. In 1912 the Lechmere Viaduct opened, again using the two outer tracks for an elevated line. The inner tracks continued to serve the surface, including a surface station at North Station, until 1997, when they were closed for construction of the new tunnel and the Green Line was shifted to the old Orange Line (Charlestown Elevated) portal along the way. The 93 was the last service to continue onto surface streets from the portal, last running in 1949.
Steve: Thanks to John and Robert for all of this detail. The important thing is that in no case was there an actual line in Boston that has undergone a full conversion from low platform streetcar to high platform subway and back again as a modern, working example of how we would accomplish this here.
An important thing to remember about the early 20th century, or even more recent “pre-metros” in Europe, is that stairs between levels of platforms are no longer sufficient in an age of mobility for all. Any conversion between low and high floor, in either direction, needs to take this into account. That includes such things as schemes to run LRT through the Sheppard Subway where all of the elevators and escalators land on the existing high platform.
Happy New Year! I guess you’re not superstitious, kicking off the new year with a discussion of subway routes.
It seems to me that the hardest thing about planning a DRL will be to keep focused on the goal of diverting people off the Yonge line. The instinct will be to host local meetings showing neighbourhood maps with 500 metre-radius circles for walking distance and outlines marking potential intensification sites. But we’re talking about a route through low-density neighbourhoods protected as such by the Official Plan: the conditions above-ground don’t even come close to justifying the cost of a subway.
To get value out of this project, riders from east of Donlands have to see the DRL as an obviously better way downtown. What if getting off at Queen or Osgoode means a longer walk than the Yonge line station they’ve been using? Sure, a few will switch to avoid the crowds, but I bet most would be willing to squeeze onto the crowded, old route if it means a faster trip. (Just look at the Gardiner Expressway.)
Today’s subway trip is 13 minutes, not counting the transfer at Bloor-Yonge, since I’m assuming the transfer and Donlands-Danforth would take about the same time. Following the 1967 route you’ve posted, Donlands & Danforth to Queen & Yonge is almost exactly 6 km. To cut five minutes off the travel time — which seems like fair compensation for a longer walk — the new line needs to run at 45 km/h, which allows for very few stops. Ironically, since stations are so expensive, a faster line is cheaper. But compromise for better local service and I think there’s a real risk that the line fails to offload much traffic from Yonge.
The DRL could run a little slower with a faster transfer at Donlands. It’s the one Toronto location where a cross-platform transfer (like Montreal’s Lionel-Groulx) would make sense, since most traffic will be either “inbound” (westbound and southbound) or “outbound” (eastbound and northbound). But that doesn’t mean it’s feasible to build things that way.
Steve: One big reason for taking the line through to Eglinton is to “encourage” riders who have the option to travel south via a direct route without either changing from a bus (such as the existing 25 Don Mills) to the BD subway, or by transferring from the Eglinton LRT at Don Mills and heading south to downtown from there.
With respect to circles of development, I have always had problems with those. If you look at the Danforth subway, very few stops have intensive development nearby, and much of the demand is the accumulation of transfer traffic from surface feeders. There are exceptions like Vic Park, but even there, frequent bus routes funnel traffic into the subway.
The market for walk-in trade on a DRL would be at the north end from Thorncliffe and Flemingdon Park as well as from relatively short feeder buses in the area. The fewer stops south of Danforth, the better, and it’s certainly no replacement for the fine-grained surface network.
Steve: my reference for this is Cudahy’s Change at Park Street Under.
Looking at the diagrams and re-reading the book, it seems that there were still some trolleys operating in the subway, but only on the 4-track section where the outer tracks were converted to high platform trains.
(Sorry if I’ve digressed, but Boston is the one non-Canadian system I’ve really studied.)
Steve: David left a second comment mentioning that he posted this text before he saw the info from John and Robert. BTW, the Main Line El is the Orange Line. The Blue line is the East Boston Tunnel line, and that was run initially with streetcars, later converted to rapid transit, between Bowdoin Square in downtown to Maverick Square in East Boston.
In Boston the Pleasant St entrance was the southerly of two streetcar entrances to the Tremont St Subway. The other was Boylston St by the Boston Common (of Swan Boat fame) which remained wholly streetcar operated for all the heavy lines from the west which continued through the Tremont Tunnel to both Park St Loop AND points north and exited at Canal St portal by North Station bbetween 1901 and 1908. Pleasant St was the entrance for cars from City Point and Tremont St.
I falsely remembered the track situation at Canal as I reported it above – it was in fact six tracks after 1908 with the El on the new easterly pair. Cars for Canal St Loop and for Charlestown via Brattle St used the center pair of the remaining four tracks used by streetcars. I apologize for my brain cramp.
First let me set out my conflict of interest: I live on Pape Avenue between Gerrard and and Dundas, so at least one of the alignments south of Danforth for a Downtown Relief Line has direct impact on where I live.
Nevertheless, I still think the whole problem with the DRT is the fact that it serves suburban interests at the expense of those of us who prefer to live closer to downtown. The route south of Danforth has only minor benefits and major disruption to us.
Many of the routes that I’ve seen rigourously stick, more or less, to the City’s grid of surface streets. Often that means proposing to build high-capacity transit lines down streets that are mostly residential in character.
The other problem is that Queen Street itself works quite well as a retail strip and, despite the countless problems with the 501 car, works well with streetcars on it. Intruding a subway below Queen will require removing certain buildings along the roadway, and, eventually, intensifying the strip due to the proximity to rapid transit.
Following the railway right-of-way seems like the best alternative — little need to intrude on successful residential communities or retail strips because the railway has already provided the intrusion…
I agree that between the Danforth and the Don River there would probably be only two stations, but west of the Don, stations should be closely spaced to actually take those using the line where they want to go within downtown, not just Yonge Street. If it just goes to Yonge non-stop, we are hurting the value of the line. If it’s going to be built, it must be built right to get the best bang for buck.
I am much more in favour of the later DRL plans (when it was called that, not a Queen Street subway) which pass under Pape and continue south of Queen to follow Eastern. Eastern/Front is not a bad alignment either (I already feel Mark Dowling coming on to argue that it is a bad idea at Union), but it is interesting to see how the plans change over time. Later plans call for tunnel bores and cut-and-covers instead of the really disruptive trench (whose visible legacy is the Moss Park set-back from Queen).
Queen, with streetcars, ought to be left as is, though 502 cars could be turned from a potential Pape/Queen station instead of heading downtown, and improve reliability. The later Pape alignment also makes a station on or near the Gerrard Square lands possibly attractive as well.
A side note – Leslieville residents may not be happy with a subway and any proposed development, but it would certainly make the planned Wal-Mart site at Leslie and Eastern much too precious to be wasted with a Wal-Mart.
I’ll stop saying Union is a bad place for a DRL stop when you explain how the peak pedestrian flows of 7-car Yonge trains, 12-car electric GO trains, WWLRT/QQEast, Maple Leaf Square etc. AND the DRL can work. Hell I’m not sure it can all work even without the DRL. Trying to walk against peak flow is difficult now and is only going to get worse even factoring in the new North West PATH.
My question is, what part of this proposal is of greater significance — the Queen Street section or how it connects to the Bloor-Danforth Line and beyond? I feel it’s Queen Street. Looking at the combined pphpd figures of the major downtown streetcars~ 504 King, 501 Queen and 505 Dundas~ it’s apparent that a bare daily usage for a Queen subway would exceed 160, 000 riders on opening day.
Steve: You are assuming all of the demand for the three routes would go onto the Queen subway. This is not valid due to walking distances, and especially so now that there is considerable residential development south of King. The TTC made the same mistake when they opened the Bloor Subway and assumed that the demand on the King car (!!) would vanish. They cut the streetcar service in half. That lasted exactly one month.
A more important question about Queen (and other routes) is what the demand would be if there were reliable service. This leads into your next comment.
To guarantee this however, we should ensure that the downtown(Queen) section of the line is built with BD-standard spacing gaps between stops. I feel the east-west alignment of the DRL will suffer if planners concentrate too narrowly on how to link up Queen/downtown core with the BD Line and worse yet Don Mills.
To take a page out the history books, the 1st phase of the line should be built from Parkside (Keele) to Kew Gardens (just east of Woodbine). Then, I see no reason why the connection to the BD line couldn’t be via Victoria Park rather than up Pape-Overlea-Don Mills. Kingston/Vic Pk is already a major transfer point and Gerrard/Vic Pk could be too if the Danforth GO Stn is relocated less than a km to the east (the existing property could be redeveloped into a new residential-commercial complex). At Victoria Park Stn the Queen and B-D lines could interline up to Kennedy (or by this timeframe up to Scarborough Ctr?).
But what about Don Mills? BRT lanes north of Leaside Bridge, limited stopping tunnel (O’Connor, Cosburn, Mortimer ONLY) underneath Pape to a cross-platform connection inside the subway (WB platform direct, portal to EB platform). The Mortimer stop would have a direct walkway to Centennial College’s Bell Campus as well.
The usefulness of a Queen alignment of a DRL has nothing to do with where the streetcar services are. They will continue to provide a needed service and relatively few of their passengers will switch.
It all boils down to how many eastern BD subway users will find it to their advantage over just taking/staying on the BD line to Bloor/Yonge and changing their. A DRL is supposed to be looking at lowering the load on the Yonge line in general and in reducing the flows through B/Y. With a Union connection, anyone destined for Wellesley and College will not use it, and those destined for Dundas could use it or not. With a Queen connection, there will be more people who will find it an advantage.
While there are a number of less costly reasons for heading to Union, the benefits of better distributing the flow of passengers plus the added network enhancement of having two connections (one at Yonge and one at University) will outweigh the cost savings of connecting only at Union.
J Johnson Says:
January 3rd, 2009 at 2:22 pm
“My question is, what part of this proposal is of greater significance — the Queen Street section or how it connects to the Bloor-Danforth Line and beyond? I feel it’s Queen Street. Looking at the combined pphpd figures of the major downtown streetcars~ 504 King, 501 Queen and 505 Dundas~ it’s apparent that a bare daily usage for a Queen subway would exceed 160, 000 riders on opening day.”
This subway would do nothing to bring relief to the overloading of the Bloor Yonge interchange which is I believe a major function of a downtown relief line. In the twenties the TTC had “Dipper” lines such as Harbord, Dovercourt, Dundas, Bay, Danforth, Bathurst etc. which ran from the outer upper edges of the City of Toronto and followed a more or less meandering rout to take the passengers to the downtown. These routes were superimposed upon a grid system of line so Toronto had both a grid and a radial network of car lines. I believe that what is needed for any new rapid transit lines is a new high speed dipper service to compliment the grid system of bus and LRT lines. The existing street car network has the ability to carry a lot more passengers than it does. Look at what Bloor St. carried before the subway opened.
I believe that few people would “switch”, since the option isn’t available for most of the Queen residents east of the Don River assuming the rail corridor is used between Gerrard and Queen, but I believe that a siginificant number of users, although a minority but still significant, would use both 501/2/3 and the DRL. The 506 would also function as a potential feeder at Gerrard.
In response to Robert Wightman’s post:
My whole rationale for this alignment, is to maintain local accesibility along the entirity of Queen Street from its beginnings near St Joseph’s Hosiptal to Beech Ave at the end of the commercial strip in the Beaches. That would be Phase One with stop spacings not exceeding 750m between stations.
It not to be a limited stopping express commuter line by any means. That’s GO’s jurisdiction and a S-Bahn/U-Bahn type set up could be up and running far sooner than the time it’d take to complete a brand new subway line from scratch. However B-D customers would still benefit immensely from an alignment following Victoria Park/Queen vs. Don Mills/Pape/Kingston Sub. If interlined, every second train westbound from Kennedy would head southwest via Vic Park which would seriously alleviate the Bloor-Yonge interchange. This set up is of far more convenience to most downtown-bound riders than forcing an arbitrary transfer point at Pape.
As for Steve’s comment about the density south of Queen Street, yes I agree that developments are heading southwards, but nonetheless the innercity core is along Queen Street and the corridor easily bisects the downtown into 2 equal halves, up to College/Gerrard and south to Front. As such the catchment for this subway could be huge. Why would it matter to most commuters to walk it up 5 minutes from Dundas or King Streets to get to this metro when before they’d be standing idle for 10 minutes, maybe longer waiting for a 505/504 streetcar that’d never show up on time? This would also be good justification for the expansion of the PATH network east-west so walk-ins from those corridors would have even greater accessibility.
Steve: For all the complaints, the 504 and 505 show up reasonably regularly a lot of the time. It’s the unpredictability that’s annoying. Also, it’s not just a five minute walk TO the subway, but another five minute walk (or more) FROM the subway back to Dundas, King or wherever.
I really have a big problem with assumptions that folks can just hike across the city to reach subway lines, and that we should spend billions to make this possible. We do not need a full-blown U to deal with problems on the Bloor-Yonge interchange, and a route that continues up Don Mills to Eglinton provides a much better interceptor function as well as good service to dense neighbourhoods.
J Johnson Says:
January 6th, 2009 at 7:08 pm
“In response to Robert Wightman’s post:
“My whole rationale for this alignment, is to maintain local accesibility along the entirity of Queen Street from its beginnings near St Joseph’s Hosiptal to Beech Ave at the end of the commercial strip in the Beaches. That would be Phase One with stop spacings not exceeding 750m between stations. “
A line with 750 m stop spacing does not maintain accessibility but changes the entire character of the street and its neighbourhood; just look at what happened to Bloor and Danforth after the subway opened. My other problem is that it is a waste of valuable resources, namely money, that could be put to better use building a line that would serve more people. The existing King, Queen, Dundas and Carlton lines can serve the people in this area much better than your new subway as the service would be spread out over four streets. A Queen St Subway would disservice anyone not near a subway stop not to mention the disruption that the construction would cause. The Bloor Danforth Line customers west of Main Station or east of Dundas Roncessvalles would not benefit because use of this line would be out of their way. Most people who ride Bloor Danforth over to Yonge or University come from North of it, not south of it. Look at a map and calculate the travel times. If you are with in walking distance of Carlton or south it is usually faster to take the street car in than ride north to Bloor Danforth, transfer to the subway and then transfer again at Yonge or University, AND you would not alleviate the transfers at Bloor Yonge.
My line would have limited stops to make it more attractive to suburbanites to make it worth their while to take it instead of going over to Yonge. If the Line were to go from Lawrence and the Weston Sub to Don mills and Lawrence My stop spacing would be Lawrence, Eglinton, St. Clair, Bloor, College/Dundas, King OR Queen, Exhibition, Bathurst, Spadina, Union, Parliament, Queen, Pape/Gerrard, Danforth, O’Connor, Eglinton, and Lawrence. Ninety five % of riders would be transfer traffic, not walk ins. It has to be fast to entice them to make the extra transfer. It is not to solve the OVERLOADING on the 6 minute service on Queen but it is to get people off Yonge Street Subway. I would like to extend it North at both ends. The first priority would be the east end as there are more people east of Yonge and the area is under serviced compared to the west which has Spadina. Using the railway rights of way as much as possible would decrease construction costs and time. I admit that Union Station is a big stumbling block but maybe it would be cheaper to put in a beltline LRT line on Spadina, Adelaide/Richmond and Parliament to act as a downtown distributor than to tunnel under King or Queen and build massive underground transfers. That is my $0.02 worth anyways.
You, know my fantasy of the DRL is simple. Stations are as follows: Pape, Gerrard, Queen East (90 degree turn), Broadview South or Don Valley, Parliament, Queen, Osgoode, Spadina South, Bathurst South, Shaw, Dufferin South or Dunn, Roncesvalles (90 degree turn), Dundas West.
All construction will be tunnel bore, even stations (London Tube).
Steve: Well, no. For starters there is no such thing as a 90 degree turn on a subway, at least not in the context of an intersection. Both your Pape and Roncesvalles stops would be a big challenge to build because a curve to/from Queen Street would not actually pass under the intersections.