Providing additional rapid transit capacity into and within the downtown Toronto area has long been an objective for the City of Toronto. Existing transit services are reaching or exceeding their practical capacity during peak periods. Significant inbound transit capacity deficiencies exist during the morning peak period, particularly on Line 1 (Yonge) south of Bloor and at the Bloor-Yonge interchange, and several GO rail lines, but also on streetcar routes east and west of downtown. With continued growth projected for the City of Toronto and the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA), there is an urgent need for improvements. A number of potential infrastructure, operational, and policy improvements to provide additional transit capacity into and within downtown Toronto have been considered; however, these measures will not on their own be sufficient to address capacity issues during peak periods into the future. As such, there exists a need to examine additional opportunities to enhance rapid transit, particularly into the downtown area.
In 2009 Toronto City Council approved a series of motions requesting that Metrolinx prioritize a Relief Line within its 15-year plan; that Metrolinx prioritize the Relief Line in advance of the YNSE; and that the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) commence studies to evaluate the merits of the Relief Line.
The Downtown Rapid Transit Expansion Study (DRTES), completed and adopted in October 2012, found that while policy actions could aid in improving downtown transportation issues, it was clear that a Relief Line was required to address Downtown Toronto’s transit needs in the future. Four Relief Line options, all of which helped alleviate transit capacity issues from the north and east, were evaluated, with one carried forward for further refinement.
Launched in 2014, Relief Line Project Assessment (RLPA) – built on the work completed as part of DRTES and included the technical analysis of potential stations and alignments, evaluation of options, and conceptual design and functional planning studies for the recommended Relief Line. This process was complemented through extensive public engagement which sought feedback at multiple points throughout the RLPA. The Relief Line project is governed by a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the City, TTC and Metrolinx. Link to MOU.
The RLPA consisted of four major phases of work, each of which included technical analysis and regular public consultation and engagement, as illustrated and described below:
Next, Phase 2 established an evaluation framework to define the assessment approach for all stages of the project. The output of this process was a list of criteria for the station, corridor, and alignment evaluation phases organized based on the evaluation framework developed as part of the Review of the City’s Official Plan Transportation Policies (Feeling Congested?).
The Prupose of phase 3 was to develop a short list of corridor options. As a start to this process, the long list of station options identified in the previous phase was reviewed using the project evaluation framework. Criteria included overall engineering feasibility (physical constraints presenting insurmountable challenges, e.g., presence of major utilities, ability to maintain existing subway operations), as well as the ability to access the TTC’s subway maintenance and storage facility at Greenwood Yard.
Once the critical items were addressed and screened, the remaining station options were evaluated. Following the determination of the emerging preferred interchange station options, corridors were developed to encompass the well-performing inline stations with the preferred interchange stations used as “anchors.”
The objective of Phase 4 was to determine the preferred alignment and station locations, advance the preferred option through conceptual design, and undertake the required environmental studies for the EPR. Leading to this, the corridor options identified in Phase 3 were evaluated using the corridor-level evaluation criteria developed in Phase 2. The corridor evaluation criteria considered the characteristics of both the stations and alignments that fall within the corridor boundaries. A list of alignment options within the preferred corridor was developed. These alignments were put through an evaluation process. The evaluation considered characteristics of both the stations and the alignment itself. The outcome of this process was a preferred alignment with station locations.
In July 2016, Toronto City Council approved the RLPA preferred alignment for the Relief Line from Pape to Downtown via Queen/Richmond, subject to further assessment of a local segment of the alignment between Queen Street and the area north of the GO tracks on Pape Avenue. In May 2017, City Council approved the Carlaw alignment within the local segment and authorized commencing the Transit Project Assessment Process (TPAP) and advancing planning and design for the Relief Line South.
On October 17, 2018 the Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks signed a Notice to Proceed for the Relief Line South transit project in accordance with the Environmental Project Report (EPR). Following this, the City of Toronto, TTC and Metrolinx issued the Statement of Completion of the TPAP on October 24, 2018. The completion of the TPAP allows the project to proceed to construction.