GO Transit’s Relief Line: The 1986 Study

This post continues a series looking at old proposals for ways to get commuters into downtown Toronto.  This isn’t a new problem, and as we have already seen, the TTC and Metro Planning were contemplating various alternatives four decades ago.

In response to the proposed Downtown Relief Line and other subway schemes, GO Transit commissioned a study of the possibilities for GO Rail service.  This study recommended frequent, all-day service between Halwest (the point where the York Subdivision, CN’s Toronto bypass, meets the line to Brampton) to Doncaster (the point where the CN Bala Subdivision, used by the Richmond Hill train, crosses the York Sub).

As is quite evident from any GO timetable, this didn’t get built.  One reason was that interest in the DRL waned as the political dynamic and planning focus turned away from downtown to the so-called “centres” that would grow within Toronto’s suburbs.  Travel into downtown continued to grow, and the GO Lake Shore service handled much of the transit-based increase.

A few points worth noting:

  • The option of using the connecting track from the CN to the CP between Oriole and Leaside was considered to be the superior route, although it had its problems including a potential conflict with the proposed Leslie Street extension.
  • For reasons that are not explained, the equipment cost for the most limited of services is higher than for all-day service.  In general, I would treat the cost estimates with some suspicion because (a) they are two decades old and (b) ancilliary costs such as connections to the TTC at Dundas West don’t appear to be included.
  • The inclusion of a cost comparison between subway and GO construction was clearly intended to plump for GO as the much cheaper alternative.  However, the study does not address the variation in origins and destinations that requires both local and express services in any corridor as discussed here previously.
  • There are no demand projections, only a feasibility study of what service could be operated.

Richmond Hill Georgetown Study June 1986

Figure II: Richmond Hill Line

Figure III: Georgetown Line

6 thoughts on “GO Transit’s Relief Line: The 1986 Study

  1. After reading this post plus the two companion ones on subway routing the issue of “Institutional Memory” comes to mind.
    These reports date back over 20 years but who is around (other than Steve Munro) to bring them to light?

    As a follow up was anything ever done to preserve possible rights of way for a DRL/ Queen subway? (On occasion I take the King Car to the downtown area. As I go by the area that was the former home of Massey-Ferguson I think why didn’t someone have these new buildings set further back to possibly allow for a ROW for the streetcar.)

    Steve: Quite to the contrary. When the Sheraton Centre was under construction, the TTC had the opportunity to dig up Queen Street and pre-build part of a subway tunnel. Because the political winds were blowing to the suburbs, this opportunity was lost.

    As for King, so much of the street is built out to the lot line, widening to six lanes is unlikely. Frankly, I rather like it four lanes wide. A great deal of the “congestion” is caused by the fact that it is functionally only two lanes wide because of parking, taxis and tour buses.


  2. I notice part of this plan calls for the use of the rail line that has been turned into a bicycle path.

    I for one say that people can bicycle elsewhere – there are tens of thousands of people who would benefit from this becoming a rail line once more – so lets do it and get people moving.


  3. Didn’t City Council vote, for some stupid reason, to block the sale of land for stations for the Richmond Hill GO line back in the 1970s when that line was in the implementation stages? The reason I ask this is because it seems to me that if those stations were there now or could be brought to implementation now, they could help to bring at least a little relief to the yonge subway.


  4. The reason why the equipment cost seems so skewed is because additional equipment would have to be purchased to augment the current rush-hour service. There is more than enough equipment currently sitting around during the off-peak periods that incremental costs would be solely fuel, crewing and track time. This hasn’t changed since then.

    As for the former CN Leaside Spur, it was purchased by the City to prevent CN from selling it to developers. While it is to become a multi-use trail (eventually), the City hopes (or at least used to hope) to be able to rebuild the tracks upon it in the future.

    Toronto, Ont.


  5. It is note-worthy that all the construction required to bring 20 minute service to Brampton: the West Toronto grade separation, the additional track in downtown Brampton and between downtown Brampton and Halwest, and a proposed new yard near Mount Pleasant station, that most of the work required for all-day 20 minute service is finished or underway. Of course, the only hold up is additional track(s) on the Weston Sub, and that is thanks to our favourite ‘transit’ plan, Blue 22.


  6. Kevin Reidy said:

    “After reading this post plus the two companion ones on subway routing the issue of “Institutional Memory” comes to mind. These reports date back over 20 years but who is around (other than Steve Munro) to bring them to light?”

    I couldn’t agree more. So many times and so many people have looked (really looked) at lines and routes and thought, “this really ought to be”.

    Then someone like Steve (and others) digs through old files and reports and explains that:

    a) it’s been thought of
    b) it didn’t work out then for a variety of reasons
    c) the time for the project may come.

    Cheers, Moaz


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