Downtown Relief Line (part 2)
For this part of my DRL Thought, I’m going to explain possible east-west alignments for the downtown section of the line.
The line was originally planned to use the rail corridor south of Front Street, so that it could be above ground in order to save money on construction (and maintenance?). The line would cross the Don River at or south of Eastern Avenue, and follow the GO/Via rail path to a connection at Union Station, and continue west from there.
I don’t think the system would do best to have the DRL run through Union Station, for several reasons:
As Yonge/Bloor shows us every day, single connection points can quickly become overloaded. TTC’s Union Station, currently with the smallest platform in the subway system, would struggle to accommodate yet another connection, on top of its surface rail routes, and streetcar and bus lines. There are plans to build a second platform for Union, making one for each northbound direction, but there is already a lot being squeezed into one node.
What about the rail corridor in general? There are plans to build a large development in the west Don lands (south of Eastern Ave and east of Parliament St), so a subway serving that area would improve the accessibility in that area. In fact, the development is going to be the Athletes’ Village for the recently-awarded Pan-Am Games.
Other high-density or high-importance spots near the rail corridor: the Skydome and ACC, the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, the CN Tower, and the St. Lawrence and CityPlace neighbourhoods.
But many of those things are already well-served by transit. Union itself is a short walk from all but one of those six locations. And since Union might not be the best choice for a connection node, we should consider other options.
Look up Lower Queen station. There was a plan to build another east-west route across Queen Street. Downtown, Queen seems ideal for a subway line. There is a lot of high-density development and places of interest, and the Queen streetcar is known for being a nightmare. Two connections to the YUS line, at Yonge and University, mean there would be less pressure on one single station. However, outside the downtown area, Queen has an excellent shopping strip that is well-served by streetcar. Being able to see the stores you pass is an excellent reason to have a streetcar line. Older Torontonians have told me that parts of Yonge and Danforth suffered when shoppers were moved underground. Also, outside the downtown area, Queen has far less density than other east-west routes.
Which brings me to King Street. Downtown, King goes through the centre of the financial district, with the tallest office buildings. To me this means more commuters who could be served by subway. It also covers a greater scope of the Entertainment District. East of downtown, King is nearer to higher-density neighbourhoods, George Brown College, and even the west Don lands. West of downtown, King has a much higher density than Queen; the difference is notable just west of Spadina.
I had also considered Wellington Street for a section of downtown (possibly King west of Spadina, down to Wellington, and then continue when Wellington becomes Front Street), but though this places the line closer to some extremely important downtown spots, it also may create problems when creating transfer points at King and St. Andrew stations, simply for distance reasons. I consider this option to be nearly equivalent to King, the deciding factors being connecting to the YUS line, and where skyscrapers prevent tunnels from being built.
Stations in the downtown area, west to east:
Niagara (King at Bathurst)
Spadina South (at King)
St. Andrew (possible 2nd entrance on Simcoe Street)
Jarvis (at King, 2nd entrance on George Street)
Parliament (at King)
Athletes Village (around Eastern at St. Lawrence)
In future parts, I’ll talk about my thoughts of the east and west ends of the line.