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Metrolinx proposes "downtown relief line"
to reduce congestion at Union Station



Over the next 25 years, passenger traffic through Union Station during the Monday-to-Friday rush hour will significantly increase as Metrolinx expands GO Transit’s regional rapid transit network.

To cope with the traffic, Metrolinx must improve tracks, platforms and find better ways for passengers to move through the station.

Unfortunately, Union Station and the Union Station rail corridor have limited capacity to accommodate all of the services that “The Big Move”, the Metrolinx regional transportation plan, identified.

Planning for this growth must extend beyond Union Station. Planners expect the population of downtown Toronto to increase by more than 80 percent, from 71,000 in 2006 to 130,000 in 2031. Similarly, employment will grow by more than 25 percent from 315,000 in 2006 to 400,000 in 2031. Not surprisingly, the demand for transit services in, to and from the core likely will increase by more than 50 percent from 156,000 peak period trips in 2006 to 236,000 peak period trips in 2031.

The Yonge subway line and much of the downtown TTC network will be at capacity by 2031 and Union Station will likely reach capacity after the coming 10-year program of expanding GO Transit. Passenger traffic in Union Station itself will likely increase dramatically, in the range of two to three times the levels of 2006 by 2031.

Metrolinx is studying various alternatives to reduce the future strain on the station, primarily looking at options for off-loading some service from Union to another station. It has not undertaken engineering feasibility studies and some ideas that this plan proposes may not be physically possible. It reviewed a number of schemes and presented two proposals to its board of directors during its meeting last Wednesday, November 23, both of which it intends to study further:

  • working with the TTC to build a downtown rapid transit line southward from Woodbine Station and then eastward below Kingston Road and Queen Street. The line would then veer southwestward to a new GO station near Bathurst Street and Front Street West, the current site of GO’s Bathurst North Yard. GO would divert some or all of its train service along the 31 Georgetown and 65 Barrie lines to this station; passengers could then transfer to the new rapid transit line to get downtown.
  • diverting trains operating along the 01 Lakeshore West and 09 **Lakeshore East lines into an tunnel below Lake Shore Boulevard. Passengers would board and exit trains at a new GO Station near Yonge Street.

Downtown rapid transit line proposal

The TTC has discussed building such a line for many years, primarily to reduce congestion along the east end of the 2 Bloor - Danforth subway and to offer passengers from the east end an alternative route downtown, without having to transfer onto the 1 Yonge - University - Spadina subway.

Under the Metrolinx plan, the line would start at Woodbine Station, not Pape, the usual starting point. Passengers would ride the line downtown under Woodbine Avenue, Kingston Road and Queen Street. They could transfer to and from the 61 Richmond Hill line at a new GO / subway station near Queen Street East and the Don River, and they could connect with the TTC’s 1 Yonge - University - Spadina subway at Queen and Osgoode Station.

West of University Avenue, the line would head southwest, to a new station at the present site of GO’s Bathurst North rail yards (near Bathurst Street and Front Street West), then continue westward to the Exhibition.

GO would divert most or all of the trains serving the 31 Georgetown (soon to be the 31 **Kitchener!) line and the 65 Barrie line to this new station.

Metrolinx estimates that, in 2031, this plan would shift more than 35 percent of GO passengers from Union Station to new Bathurst North Yard station.

Passengers would have to use the underground PATH walkway system to walk to Union Station or ride the downtown rapid transit line downtown.

GO would have to relocate its train storage facility to another location, if it builds a new station on the site of its Bathurst North Yard.


Lake Shore tunnel proposal

Under this plan, GO trains operating along the 01 Lakeshore West and 09 **Lakeshore East trains would operate underground through a tunnel beneath Lake Shore Boulevard.

Passengers would board and exit trains at a new station near Yonge Street, close enough to the current Union Station for passengers to walk to the station and the subway, to travel further downtown.

Metrolinx estimates that, in 2031, this plan would shift more than 40 percent of GO passengers from Union Station to a new second underground level.

Since trains would operate underground through central Toronto, the plan assumes the electricity would power the trains along the two Lakeshore lines.


Other proposals

Metrolinx considered a number of other interesting proposals to relieve congestion. While it may very well consider these proposal to solve other transit issues in the future, it’s rejecting these schemes in the context of this study, because they do not solve the problem of future capacity issues at Union Station.

The other plans include:

  • improving connections between the TTC and GO at three key points: Dundas West subway / Bloor GO Stations; Main Street subway / Danforth GO Stations; and a future connection in the Mount Dennis community between the Crosstown light rail line and GO trains.
  • building satellite GO stations in Liberty Village, at the Bathurst North rail yards and at Cherry Street in the Distillery District.
  • operating GO trains along the Canadian Pacific Railway’s North Toronto subdivision in midtown Toronto. Passengers would connect with the 1 Yonge - University - Spadina subway at Dupont and Summerhill Stations, and would connect with other GO lines at new GO stations at the West Toronto and Davenport junctions.
  • operating 09 Lakeshore East and 31 Georgetown GO trains through a tunnel under Queen Street through downtown Toronto. Passengers would connect with other GO lines at Queen Street West and Dufferin Street, Queen East and the Don River and Queen East and Logan Avenue / DeGrassi Street. They could connect with TTC subways at Dundas West subway / Bloor GO stations and at Osgoode and Queen Stations.
  • building a full downtown relief line from both the west and east ends of the 2 Bloor - Danforth line, running between Dundas West and Woodbine Stations and connecting with the 1 Yonge - University - Spadina subway at Osgoode and Queen Stations. Passengers could also connect with GO at Queen Street West / The Queensway and Roncesvalles Avenue, Queen West and Dufferin Street, Queen East and the Don River and Queen East and Logan Avenue / DeGrassi Street.

You can view the Metrolinx presentation to its board of directors here. (.pdf)


You can learn more about the TTC’s study of a downtown rapid transit line here.


From the Transit Toronto archives, read:

  • Jonathan English’s history of the “Downtown relief line” proposal, here.
  • James Bow’s history of the “Network 2011” plan, which would have seen a number of rapid transit lines — including the downtown relief line — operating this year, here.

Also, off our site, you can also check out the DRL Now! website here.