What is the Downtown Relief Line?

The Downtown Relief Line is a term used on this site to define a subway that runs in a primarily east-west direction through Toronto’s downtown, and curves north on both ends to connect with the Bloor-Danforth line. The term derives from a 1985 plan dubbed Network 2011, which was a plan for subway expansion in what was then Metropolitan Toronto. The Downtown Relief Line would have gone from Donlands station, south and then west to Front and Spadina, but due to funding constraints and a drop in system ridership, it was never constructed.

In the 1980’s, the reasoning behind construction of the line was primarily due to capacity issues at Bloor/Yonge station, as well as to provide development support for the railway lands development. Ridership was continuing to grow throughout the 1980’s to a peak of 463.5 million passengers in 198883. Because of this growth, the Yonge Subway was quickly reaching its capacity, with 30,000 passengers per hour using the line south of Bloor in the mid 1980’s.  Ridership dropped over the next decade to a low of 20,400 in 1996-1997 due to overall system decline, and thus Downtown Relief Line was no longer needed172. Since then, ridership on the TTC has rebounded and reached record levels, bringing the Yonge subway once again to capacity.

Though capacity can be improved through signal improvements and new trains, the additional ridership brought by the Yonge North subway extension and Transit City will likely push ridership up to fill the extra capacity created. In fact, in Metrolinx (2008) report “The Big Move”, ridership on Yonge is estimated to be at 42,000 passengers per hour (pph) by 203117, with Yonge having a theoretical capacity after improvements of 45,000 pph172. It is clear that simple capacity improvements alone will not be sufficient to relieve congestion on the Yonge Subway.

More information can be found on the history of the Downtown Relief Line, why it is needed, how much it will cost, and how many riders will use it among other facts by navigating through the website.

© 2010 Phil Orr & Andrew Perry