Toronto should build a downtown relief line (DRL) to alleviate congestion on the Yonge-University subway line and provide greater access to the dense areas of the downtown core currently underserved by rapid transit.
Pros: Essential for the long-term growth of the city, capable of moving the highest number of riders, required to ameliorate over crowding on Yonge-Spadina and Bloor-Danforth lines.
Cons: Direct costs in the tens of billions – indirect costs due to road closures, business failures, and construction delays will also be significant, not the most financially viable option. Should include surface LRTs or Transit Plan instead to reach more riders, especially in areas not adequately serviced by public transit, particular the inner suburbs.
Although signal upgrades and track modernization are essential to the TTC’s operations, without major expansion of existing capacity and the number of subway lines, transit congestion and frustration will only grow. Providing greater access to rapid transit will encourage commuters currently driving to use transit and keep their cars off the road, leaving more space for those who have no other choice.
This relief line will not only help those who live downtown, but also commuters from the inner suburbs and neighbouring municipalities, especially those who do not work downtown, but still have to travel to the most congested parts of the city to transfer trains or streetcars. Congestion is inherently linked to the downtown relief line. Poor TTC service inhibits the ability of drivers to take public transit. For many residents, public transit simply isn’t an option due where their homes and offices are located and the inordinate travel times associated with the TTC.
If Toronto wants to be the metropolitan city is hopes to be, major investments in rapid transit infrastructure are required. While the costs are high and construction disruptions and timelines are long, building a downtown relief line is the most important transit policy for the City and region. Toronto’s rapid transit system is embarrassingly small and outdated. Building a downtown relief line would act as a statement that transit is a serious priority and Toronto a progressive city.
Image credit: Garrett Morgan, Flickr creative commons