There has been a lot of discussion about the “Downtown Relief Line” lately, and it is sure to intensify as the municipal election draws nearer. What is it, and how would it affect Riverdale and Leslieville?
What is it?
The Downtown Relief line is a proposed subway line designed to take pressure off Yonge subway line and Yonge-Bloor station, both of which are near maximum capacity. The exact route has not been determined yet, but this line would likely run south from Danforth, probably around Pape station, then veer westward toward downtown. It could possibly be extended to continue further West and North to connect up with the Bloor subway somewhere near Dundas West station, creating an outer U shaped subway line. Some maps also show the East section of the line continuing north of Danforth and connecting up to the Eglinton LRT that is currently under construction.
Why build it?
Leslieville and Riverdale are already well connected by transit, with multiple streetcar lines, buses and the Bloor-Danforth subway line. However, Toronto continues to grow and planners expect that the existing transit infrastructure will not be enough to meet demand. The Metrolinx analysis from 2012 shows that southbound Yonge trains are already 9% over capacity during the morning rush hour. More spacious trains and improved automated train control systems will help, but it’s predicted that transit ridership in Toronto will grow more than 50% by 2031. York Region would also like to have the Yonge subway line extended into Richmond Hill, but that can not be completed until demand is reduced on the existing Yonge subway line.
How would it affect our neighbourhood?
Fast and reliable transit to downtown: The Downtown relief line would provide residents of Riverdale and Leslieville a very fast trip downtown. The travel time from Pape and Danforth to the financial district is predicted to be only 10 minutes. Since the subway is underground the trip would not be subject to traffic, road construction, and traffic light delays so it would provide a consistent and reliable trip downtown.
Rising property values: fast and reliable transit access usually brings higher property values to nearby real estate. This is a good thing if you are a home owner, but will make it more difficult for younger or less affluent people to make Leslieville and Riverdale their homes. Pricing out groups of people can change the makeup and character of the neighbourhood.
Short term construction inconveniences: It is likely that the Downtown Relief line would be constructed using Tunnel Boring Machines (TBM), that tunnel away while the people above are oblivious. However, the subway stations, and the TBM entrance and exit shafts will likely require large excavation projects. This will cause construction noise, road closures and traffic problems likely for 5-10 years. This could also be a strain on local businesses in the construction zones, as access to their business could be limited. You can see what this would look like by visiting Eglinton Avenue where they are constructing the crosstown LRT tunnel.
Other effects: It’s hard to predict all the changes such a large transit project would bring to our neighbourhood. There may be increased pressure from developers to rezone areas near the subway for large construction projects. There is a chance that some surface streetcars may be called obsolete and be removed once the subway line is completed.
The Downtown Relief line is a very large, and expensive project with many benefits for Leslieville, Riverdale and the city as a whole. However, there are some drawbacks and there is the potential for it to change the character of our neighbourhoods.
Even if our politicians agree to build it and can come up with a way to fund the construction of the line, this project is at least a few years away from having shovels in the ground. An Environmental assessment would need to be completed as well as a lot of engineering and design work before the massive project could begin