For the first time, Toronto has begun seriously talking about a new downtown subway relief line. Not in Scarborough. Not in North York, but down in Toronto where it’s really needed. Why is it a relief?
As many of you may know, there are certain parts of our current subway line that is working well beyond capacity. With ridership numbers expected to grow, there will be more people using the subway, and not enough room on many key subway stations like the Yonge-Bloor subway stop. So another line is need to relieve the busy ones.
I’m sure there is a lot of skepticism about whether any new subway line could ever get the green light in Toronto when so many subway plans are trashed after there is a change in local government. We’ve certainly seen this happen a few times over the past ten to twenty years. Still, John Tory and governments at all levels are surprisingly moving things along, putting funding in place and doing the right studies.
What I find interesting is that the east and west sides of downtown Toronto will benefit, but from very different projects.
Originally, the downtown relief line was going to be in the east and west end. For starters, though, it looks like the east end is going to benefit first. As you can tell from above graphic, there will be eight subway stops running south down Pape then heading west around Queen Street to go all the way to the University stop.
I’m not feeling confident that this will be done quickly, but it is looking more and more likely that it will be done. It has to be. Toronto is often not a city that does something unless a crisis happens, but this may be an example where it is building something in anticipation of an overcrowding crisis to come. This subway makes sense. It’s not a promise to a certain area of town that feels neglected or represents a large portion of a given mayor’s voters. Are you listing North York along the Sheppard Line? No, this is something that is needed.
Whether you build your subway in North York or Scarborough or downtown, it is a commonly held belief that improved transit will improve your property values. Why? It’s simple. It just makes it easier to get around. And if you could catch a subway instead of a streetcar, your life will be much easier. Except for a few street car only lines like Spadina, St. Clair, and soon to be completed Eglinton, most streetcar lines are subject to traffic. So, they don’t move people around as well. Subways are traffic proof. Yes, they have their breakdowns and maintenance days, but they still move more people quicker with stops that are more spread out. It’s much easier to move across town.
So, which neighbourhoods are the big winners? Well, it appears that it is the neighbourhoods that are already winners in the east. And by that I mean, there are emerging neighbourhoods that are performing very well already. And now they are poised to do even better. Here the are:
- Leslieville: A subway at Gerrard and Pape (near the mall) to get folks downtown even faster than the overcrowded Queen car would be a godsend.
- Riverside: You could be downtown two or three times faster with a subway at Eastern and Broadview. This may also spur on more development nearby. Bye bye car dealerships. Where there are subway stops, the developers will come.
- Corktown and the Distillery District: This subway stop will be at King and Sumach. I rave on about how well this whole area has been developed. Amazing, new parks, the right sized buildings. I pass this on to my clients, but some have passed on Corktown because they would rather be near a subway instead of a slower King streetcar. And we all know that getting on the King Car during rush hour can be a competitive sport. So, a subway here would be welcome. And really, it would be a cherry on the top of a pretty great sundae already.
- Sherbourne and Queen: This part of town is almost walkable to the Yonge Line, but for those cold winter days, I think this stop will even make life easier for nearby residents. I don’t think a subway here will improve property values the same way as Leslieville, Riverside and Corktown, but it will help!
I’m not sure the subways will effect property values on the subway stops that already have subways going through, particularly the stops along Queen between University and Yonge. The Pape subway on the Danforth will certainly become more of a hub for transit users, but really, they can get around by subway already.
If you’re in the west end of the city, you may not be at the top of the relief line list right now, but there is one transit nightmare that could soon be your dream come true. The Union Pearson or UP Express is changing its mandate. Originally, it was set up as a quick way for visitors to get to the airport but too expensive for commuters. The airport express idea failed miserably, and the provincially-run Metrolinx decided to cut fares in half earlier this year. Since then, it has been reported by Metrolinx that the commuter traffic is increasing by the week. There’s only standing room on some rush hour times. Even though prices were cut in half, ridership is up almost four fold since prices became more reasonable.
Now that the focus has been commuters, there is talk in Metrolinx to add two new stops. One at Mount Dennis to link up to the Eglinton Crossway, and one in Liberty Village. On top of it all, there are talks to electrify the line, which means cleaner and quieter transit.
I do have to wonder if Metrolinx or those in power provincially had the plan to make the airport express line a commuter line all along.
They were able to get funding to build the airport express for the PanAm Games by claiming it was for those going to and from the airport for the Games. Since it was for the Games and the people coming down from the airport, they could use PanAm money to build it. Would they have received the funding if they said they wanted a commuter train that will likely lose money and need government subsidizing? Probably not.
On top of the UP Express Line, there is also talk that the Relief Line could continue west too with stops along Dufferin, Jamieson and then up Roncesvalles to Dundas West Station. The Relief Line would also be a relief north of Pape where there are early plans to expand. I may be dead and gone by the time that all of this is built, but it’s clear that transit is becoming more and more of a priority to all Torontonians. And who can blame us? No one likes to be stuck in traffic whether they’re in a car or a bus or a subway or a streetcar.
It’s all about quality of living, and more transit lines will make everyone happier. There is one big downside. We have to pay for them, and we could have a taxpayer revolt again, a la Rob Ford style, that grinds transit plans to a messy halt. For now, I have to give our current mayer, John Tory some credit for pushing his Smart Track idea. It may not be cheap or fast and it may not come in on budget, but I think better transit has moved from the wish list to the priority list.