As reported last week, Toronto commuters may get relief as much as two years earlier than they may have thought. The TTC and City of Toronto are proposing a way for the first phase of the Relief Line subway to open as early as 2029. In a budget report (pdf) to this week's meeting of the Toronto Transit Commission—the TTC's board—staff have recommended shortening the timeline for opening the line by completing certain stages of the project at the same time, instead of one after the other.

Last Thursday, Mayor John Tory visited busy Pape Station to announce that the City would fund the plan. A CP24 post quotes the mayor. “Instead of taking the approach that has been taken in the past where you did everything in sequence, we will be doing things in parallel now,” Tory said. “Normally until you reach the 30 per cent design stage you wouldn’t be proceeding with land acquisition, getting boring machines and utility relocates, but we are going to move ahead with that work now on the theory that we know we have to build the Relief Line.” TTC chair, councillor Jaye Robinson, City budget chief, councillor Gary Crawford, and local councillors Brad Bradford and Paula Fletcher, joined the mayor at the event.

Tory at Pape Station with Robinson, Crawford, Bradford and Fletcher, image @johntory

The TTC staff report requests $135 million in 2019 and $250 million in 2020 to advance planning and designing the project, which includes $325 million in extra funding "to implement a schedule improvement strategy including early work opportunities". According to the report, the City has identified $162.5 million to support this extra funding. The City and TTC intend to ask for the remaining 50 per cent "from our funding partners", meaning the federal and provincial governments. (Ontario also continues to examine the possibility of uploading responsibility for subway infrastructure.)

For more than 100 years, the City and its transit agencies have identified a need for a rapid-transit link between the Danforth area and downtown. Planners outlined a version of such a line as early as 1910. The current plan connects Pape on Line 2 with Queen and Osgoode stations on Line 1. In between, the new subway would include stops on Carlaw Avenue at Gerrard and Queen Streets East, on Eastern Avenue at Broadview Avenue, on King Street East at Sumach Street, and on Queen Street East at Sherbourne Street.

This undated map reviews a 1910 subway proposal for Toronto, including a version of the relief line, image Transit Toronto

The TTC and City planners argue that new subway would help relieve overcrowding of the Yonge branch of Line 1, which is further compounded by the large number of riders transferring between Lines 1 and 2 at Bloor-Yonge Station. The goal of the relief line is to siphon off large numbers of passengers travelling between Scarborough and downtown.

City Council has approved this alignment and these stations for the new subway, image City of Toronto

In June, 2016, the Government of Ontario announced that regional transit agency Metrolinx would receive more than $150 million to work with the City and the TTC for "advancing the planning and design work that will ensure the proposed line is shovel-ready." Then, at its meeting of July 2016, City Council approved an alignment for the future subway roughly along Pape and Eastern Avenues and Queen Street. In May 2017, Council okayed a revised route under Carlaw, instead of the residential area on Pape south of Gerrard. Last August, the City and its partners completed "an Environmental Project Report (EPR) for the Relief Line South in accordance with the Transit Project Assessment Process (TPAP) under Ontario Regulation 231/08." That document finalized the location of the line and its stations. Finally, in October 2018, Rod Phillips, Ontario's Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks, signed of on the EPR, meaning he was giving the go-ahead for the City to proceed to completing as much as 30 per cent of the final design.

Metrolinx, the City and TTC are examining how to extend the relief line subway further north, image, City of Toronto

Meanwhile, Metrolinx is leading another team also including the City and TTC to extend the Relief Line north from Pape—possibly as far north as Sheppard Avenue to link with Line 5 (the Crosstown LRT line) and Line 4 (the Sheppard subway).

The TTC board approved the staff report. The City's Budget committee will have an opportunity to review the plan next month and City Council will finalize the budget in March.

We will continue to update you as the project proceeds. Meanwhile, you can tell us what you think of the plan by leaving your comment in the form below or joining the conversation in our dedicated Forum thread.