In the midst of the ongoing saga that is the transit file at City Hall, amid the deafening din of endless discussion, debate, red-faced outrage, and misinformation, co-founder Louis Mark of the Toronto Relief Line Alliance seeks to give a voice to reason and sound planning, preferring to rely upon facts and figures rather than the current rhetoric of distrust that has sullied much of the conversation over transit in this city for the better part of a decade. In particular, as their name suggests, the Toronto Relief Line Alliance is concerned with the promotion and implementation of the Relief Line, often referred to as the DRL, a project which in their view—as with that of the experts—would see the Relief Line catapulted ahead of all other planned transit projects, making it a number one priority.
Relying upon data from a number of reports and studies conducted by either Metrolinx or the City of Toronto, the Toronto Relief Line Alliance (RLA) has made an effective use of peak ridership figures and travel times to make their case. According to their findings, the two main issues now facing the current downtown subway network—Line 1 and Line 2—are overcrowding and travel times, both of which would be significantly reduced, with the addition of the Relief Line. The RLA reports that the the Yonge Line is currently at 96% capacity (34,700 passengers per hour per direction, or pphpd), leaving little wiggle room for the expected growth in ridership that will see, for example, a 60% increase in crowding at Bloor-Yonge station by 2031. And, while projects such as SmartTrack, and the ongoing Spadina Extension will offer a small amount of relief (numbering at around a 3-4% reduction on Line 1), there can be no substitute for the benefit that the Relief Line would bring to the network.
Making use of the available data, the RLA has calculated that the implementation of the Relief Line, running from DonMills station on the Sheppard line through Pape Station on the Bloor-Danforth Line, and curving towards downtown to terminate along King St (likely at St. Andrew station), will bring 11,600 (or 36% of) daily commuters at peak hours off of Line 1, for a total of 19,200 pphpd on the new Relief Line. The benefits of the DRL would be felt on the Bloor-Danforth Line as well, its implementation calculated to speed up travel time significantly for westbound downtown commuters travelling from the east, who must routinely fight for space at Yonge-Bloor station.
Visitors to the RLA website are encouraged to make use of an interactive map, equipped with various points of departure, in order to see exactly how much time one could save with the addition of the Relief Line. A downtown-bound commuter going from Pape to St. Andrew station could reduce their trip from 17 to 9 minutes, while a trip from the Fairview Mall in North York to St. Andrew, would be reduced from 45 minutes to 24.
Speaking with Louis Mark, co-founder of the Toronto Relief Line Alliance, it is clear that this has been a project born of passion and of a strong desire to get accurate information to the public about transit in our city. Frustrated with the lack of clear data, Louis took it upon himself to begin the website—which has been up and running for all of 24 hours as of today—and has since amassed over 20 volunteers and new recruits, including fellow transit enthusiasts and interested citizens alike.
At the beginning of what will likely be a long road ahead, the RLA is looking for support, either through donations, letter-writing campaigns to local politicians, or through volunteer efforts—having already accumulated five new volunteers within their first day of operations. Spurned to action after crunching the numbers provided by the most recent Metrolinx report on the Relief Line, Louis was "blown away" by the vast time savings that could be had with its implementation.
It was not long before Louis came to the realization that "somebody had to do something" in order to bring much-needed facts and solid information to the public, and to thus lift the tenor and quality of the conversation about transit now well underway. "The most important transit project in Toronto since the construction of the Bloor-Danforth Line of the 1960s," the completion of the Relief Line would be truly transformative, an opportunity for this city like no other.
UrbanToronto encourages anyone interested in the fate of transit in Toronto to check out the RLA site here, to read through the facts and figures, and to give the time savings map a try. You just might be amazed! The bottom of the page has all of the information needed in order to donate, order a lawn sign, write a letter to your local councillor, or offer your volunteer services. For any additional information, one can drop them a line at firstname.lastname@example.org, or check them out on Facebook (facebook.com/TOReliefLineAlliance) or Twitter (@reliefline).