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After years of waiting, the new Toronto Rocket subway cars will enter service in just a few weeks, and they’re stuffed with new features designed to make riders’ lives easier. The Rockets only have driver’s cabs at the front and back of the train, instead of one on every car.
While that may not sound like nearly enough, the Rockets are just the first step toward major capacity improvements on the Yonge-University-Spadina line.
The TTC’s desire to run trains closer together on the 47 year-old line has opened up a pandora’s box of expensive projects. Once the TTC has fixed all three of these limitations they can reduce headways on the line and make the trains longer so that they take up the whole platform. Meanwhile, condo construction is booming, the downtown office market is thriving, and the Eglinton LRT is a go. But with clean, bright and new Rockets motoring through the tunnels it’s hard to be negative. If Washington’s Metro system is proof of anything, it is that American cities have the capability to build massive, expensive transit systems that work. Though none of the existing Washington transit network suffers from the extreme crowding common in cities like New York or Tokyo, the growth of the city core and of areas around stations in inner ring neighborhoods like Bethesda, Silver Spring, and Rosslyn have begun to strain the system’s capacity. The Silver Line, currently under construction, will spur out from the Orange Line just before West Falls Church, heading through Fairfax and Loudoun Counties.
The excellent blog Greater Greater Washington has proposed several major Metro expansion projects, including a separated Yellow Line between downtown D.C. That’s why the proposed separated Blue Line, which is being seriously considered by WMATA planners, is so important.
In addition, though the new Blue Line would expose new areas of the District to redevelopment, there are significant limits to what changes it could produce.
To complement the new Silver and Blue Lines, then, the Pink Line proposed here would offer the region a major new transit investment that would have the potential both to maximize the use of those two aforementioned lines and to spur major infill development. The ten miles of underground construction required for the Pink Line’s implementation would come at a very high cost, but its benefits may well be worthwhile. This corridor, with densities already approaching those along the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor and likely to increase with more development, is simply too populated for the implementation of other modes of transit.
Of course, transit isn’t productive unless the districts surrounding stations have been planned appropriately.
With development along Columbia Pike increasing rapidly, Arlington County is taking serious steps to prepare the strip for revitalization and upzoning. If the Pink Line Metro were built, however, Fairfax and Arlington must take their planning activities to the next level.
As shown below, however, a network of new streets and right-of-way improvements in the area roughly within a quarter-mile from the new Metro entrances could be the stage for a vibrant, livable district. The one-story retail strips along the corridor, as well as some one-story office buildings, would be demolished to make way for new buildings between 2 and 20 stories, ringing a tight network of blocks and parks. Such district-level planning would have to be a standard component of the planning process for the Pink Line stations. Though I am adamant that the transportation demands of the Pink Line corridor are too large for any transit service other than heavy rail, there should be a role for new light rail lines in the Washington region along less dense routes. Transit is all about building cities, and indeed, the Pink Line would stretch the Washington region’s dense, walkable core beyond the boundaries currently imposed on it by the limits of the Metro system. With no funding to build this massive project, because of the recession, Virginia’s new anti-infrastructure investment Governor Bob McDonnell, and the political fear of raising taxes, Arlington and Fairfax Counties are not likely to push ahead with this project any time soon. All that being said, the density in DC may not be high enough to support the lines and investment.
Putting aside arguments that the region has much higher transit priorities than a subway under Route 7, and that there are less expensive ways of dealing with the Orange Crush, the operational characteristics of your Pink line are weird.
If we’re going to go to the trouble of building a new Blue line subway under M Street, we may as well just route the Silver line along it and let the Orange run freely (or vice versa). Anyway, Here are three more transit expansion visions for the DC region, by GGW, BeyondDC (me), and Track Twenty-Nine. In its final incarnation, the Downtown Relief Line would have operated in the first phase from Pape station on the Bloor Danforth line, south on Pape Avenue to Eastern Avenue, where it would turn west and operate along the railway right of way until it dove under the rail lines north to Front at Union Station. The Downtown Relief Line disappeared from the transit radar soon after the province delayed approving Metro's Network 2011 plan.
In the first phase, the line would travel south from Pape Station underground to an optional station at Gerrard. A yard was proposed at the southern end of Pape at Eastern Avenue, bordered by the Gardiner Expressway, Heward Avenue, Winnifred Avenue and Eastern Avenue.
At Church Street, the line would have returned underground, passing underneath the railway tracks at Yonge Street, and stopping at Union Station directly south of the existing station. To the west, an extension to Roncesvalles and Queen was recommended, as it would have allowed passengers coming in from the Queensway bus and Long Branch streetcars to transfer to the subway for a quick ride downtown. Another alternative would push west of Strachan along the Oakville Sub to Roncesvalles, where it would turn north to connect to the Bloor line at Dundas West.
Finally, consideration was made to run the line along an elevated guideway on Parkside Drive at the edge of High Park to the Keele Station. The Borough of East York was a strong backer of the Downtown Relief Line plan, and this is why. At the east end, the line could have extended the route north of Pape station, crossing the Don Valley either beneath Leaside Bridge, or via a new structure. The Port Lands: Considering the prominence of the Port Lands in the Olympic Bid and the Waterfront Task Force Report, it would seem reasonable that it should be served by a subway. Union Station: Union station obviously would be the main station, serving the Financial District through the PATH underground walkway system, the GO and VIA station, as well as the Air Canada Centre and developments on the eastern side of the Railway Lands.
Convention Centre Station: This station would be located at John street and would therefore be able to serve the SkyDome, CN Tower, and the Convention Centre itself.
Spadina: The station at Spadina would serve the massive railway lands residential development, as well as the Spadina Streetcar. Roncesvalles: Subway service here would dramatically improve service along one of the busiest streetcar corridors in the city.

In the Network 2011 report, the cost of the Downtown Relief Line, including a new yard, is listed as $565 million. The Downtown Relief Line proposal languished since the early 1990s, as ridership fell and congestion at the Bloor-Yonge transfer station diminished. In 2001, the TTC was commissioned by Toronto city council to draft a Rapid Transit Expansion Study, to identify which subway extensions should have priority should funds become available from the provincial or federal governments. While the Yonge Subway options rank higher than most options, a northerly extension of the Yonge Subway line has the potential to overload the Yonge line. Activists and politicians noticed the reluctance to extend the Yonge subway, and further plans to increase the capacity of the Yonge subway, and speculated on whether or not the Downtown Relief Line proposal might return. Speculation increased as Metrolinx, the transit planning agency mandated by the province to draft a long term plan to improve public transit throughout the Greater Toronto region placed the Downtown Relief Line (or a Queen subway) in its most optimistic proposals, with construction to take place in 25 years. The TTC and the City of Toronto worried that this extension would significantly increase congestion problems on the southern part of the Yonge line.
Political manoeuvres over the next few months will determine whether the Downtown Relief Line rises from the dead, or languishes yet again.
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That’s why rush hour riders on the overcrowded Yonge side of the line should be especially excited about one of the Rocket’s less touted benefits: increased capacity. Combined with the additional room provided by the articulations, a packed Rocket train will hold about 10 per cent more people. The trackside signalling system keeps trains too far apart, so it must be replaced with a computerized system. However, none of these projects are fully funded and for now any capacity improvement is hypothetical. The line would eliminate the need for additional capacity on Yonge by diverting huge volumes of traffic, especially from passengers coming from the east.
Since the network opened in 1976, it has expanded to 106 miles of two-way track, five lines, and 86 stations.
As the city and its surrounding region grow, opportunities for dense, transit-friendly development need to be made available.
With a stop at Dulles Airport and four stations planned for Tysons Corner, a major office and retail center, the line will likely attract a large number of riders — exasperating exacerbating the existing capacity issues with the Orange Line, which cannot support more trains because of the fact that it shares track with the Blue Line between Rosslyn and Stadium-Armory Stations. Seven miles long, the corridor would delink the interconnection between Orange and Blue Lines at Rosslyn, include a new station in Georgetown, and run under M Street NW and H Street NE. Running between Tysons Corner and River Terrace, the line would double capacity on the tracks to be created by both the Silver and Blue Lines by including a newly built, 10 mile-long underground connection between West Falls Church and Arlington National Cemetery. The line would run south under Route 7 from West Falls Church Metro, through downtown Falls Church and Seven Corners to Bailey’s Crossroads, where it would turn back east along Columbia Pike into Arlington County, linking up to a new station on the west side of the Pentagon to avoid disrupting Yellow Line traffic flow (a new station would have to be constructed there), and joining up with the Blue Line before Arlington Cemetery station. Despite the fact that residents are now only provided substandard bus service, they already use transit at levels exceeding those found in most of the surrounding neighborhoods, with the exception of in the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor and at Crystal City, where Metro has stations.
If Metro has been successful elsewhere in the Washington region, it will be a roaring achievement here.
The Pink Line’s corridor today is hardly the model of an urban zone, but the successful transformation of the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor in Arlington from a series of auto-oriented strips to a livable, dense office and housing district suggests that similar changes could be experienced elsewhere in the region. It is a peculiar place, with high-rise residential and office towers just blocks from single-family homes and retail strips.
There would be a mix of uses, with housing, office, and hotel offerings within walking distance of the Metro station. The sheer degree to which the neighborhood around the Bailey’s South station could change demonstrates the extent to which urban-scale development could become standard in neighborhoods around these stops.
The maps above show potential alignments for further extensions of the Purple Line, with a corridor running north from Alexandria to Ballston along Mt. By constructing a new heavy rail trunk line, Northern Virginia would not only benefit from new service to people who desperately need better transit, but it would also expand offerings to Tysons Corner and the District of Columbia, whose new lines will have capacity limitations according to current plans. Those densities seem pretty high, so there is low likelihood of them tearing down the condos and office buildings. It doesn’t make much sense to take a line down Columbia Pike and send it along a lightly-used segment like the cemetery rather than directly downtown via the Yellow line bridge.
Also, it might be worth considering route 50 over Columbia Pike as the pike is supposedly getting a streetcar, leading to too much duplicated service.
Its main purpose was to relieve the forecasted overcrowding on the Yonge line, particularly at Bloor-Yonge station. As the Liberal and then the NDP governments in Queen's Park hemmed and hawed over the price tag, political support vanished. After turning west, the line would join the Kingston Sub right of way where it would travel on an elevated structure akin to the Scarborough RT. To the west, a stop was planned at the Convention Centre, and finally at Spadina, both underground along Front Street. The line would have curved north and connected with the Bloor-Danforth subway at either Dundas West or Keele, providing a relief-structure for western subway commuters as Phase 1 would do for eastern subway commuters. The cheapest would follow the railway right-of-way past the Exhibition and up to the Galt-Weston railway corridor which it would take to Dundas West station. This alignment would have been unpopular because of its effect on the park and the surrounding residential neighbourhood, but it remained attractive because of the costs saved from not tunnelling beneath Roncesvalles.
The line would then travel elevated in the median of Overlea Boulevard and Don Mills Road, terminating at Eglinton, giving Thorncliffe Park, Flemingdon Park, and the Ontario Science Centre subway stations. The Downtown Relief Line passes quite close to the lands, and would provide satisfactory service to the massive crowds. Lawrence Neighbourhood: A subway station at Sherbourne would introduce rapid transit service to the popular neighbourhood along the Esplanade, as well as being a reasonable walking distance from the St. This would serve a multitude of special events, such as the CNE, Symphony of Fire, and the Molson Indy, as well as Ontario Place and the National Trade Centre year round. Considering that the cost of the Sheppard Line to Victoria Park was reported as $500 million dollars, and the current cost is roughly double, it is reasonable to assume that the cost of a full Downtown Rapid Transit would be $1.1 billion.

The situation started to reverse itself in the late 1990s, however, and by 2001, the TTC began to notice that stations on the southern section of the Yonge line were becoming congested. The people who drafted the report recommended a two-station extension of the Sheppard subway east from Don Mills to Victoria Park, and a northerwesterly extension of the Spadina subway to York University and Steeles Avenue. In 2007, as the TTC and the City of Toronto embarked on its Transit City proposal to build LRT lines to the northern, eastern and western ends of the city, it was noted that there was little increase in the capacity of transit services downtown. Further, they pressed ahead with a proposal to extend subway service on the Yonge line north from Finch station to Richmond Hill at a cost of $2.4 billion. Even with automatic train control, new trainsets and a seventh car added to trains, even Metrolinx estimated that the Yonge subway would be 40% over capacity by 2031.
This section of the web site features articles relating to Toronto's subway operations, past, present and future.
The TTC seems intent upon squeezing more and more downtown-bound passengers onto a single line, but they’re running up against fundamental design constraints at every turn. In addition, the DRL would bring rapid transit access to new areas of the city and provide an alternate route to downtown during service disruptions. Despite ever-increasing sprawl, huge increases in car use, and relocation of business and government facilities from downtown to the suburbs, Metro now handles 800,000 daily trips and it has redefined life in the center of the region and around stations.
It is time, then, to plan for the next twenty years of investment in the region’s heavy rail network.
The project would increase Orange (and Silver) Line capacity by 4o%, provide better transit access to underserved areas of inner-city Washington, and relieve the Red Line between Union Station and the new downtown.
The Orange Line’s service to the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor will continue making it the hub of new urban growth in Northern Virginia. With nine new stations, it would greatly expand access to southern Arlington, eastern Fairfax County, and the city of Falls Church and trigger massive new development opportunities unavailable elsewhere in the region. People along the Pink Line, probably as a result of their high-density lifestyles and higher rates of poverty, are as likely not to have a car in their households as their peers anywhere else in the region, with rates reaching up to 30%. These efforts are well intentioned but may actually increase the problems described above; namely, residents of the areas along Columbia Pike and Route 7 suffer and will continue to suffer from inadequate transit that does not meet the needs of a heavily populated neighborhood. The highest buildings would be located adjacent to Metro, with lower buildings along the zone’s periphery, closer to the single-family homes that would remain unchanged in the surroundings.
However despite these 40 level condos looking urban, they are actually spaced out on an automobile scale. At the time (1985) Bloor-Yonge station was already operating above design capacity, but opening day was scheduled for 1998. Future extensions would have taken the line west via the railway tracks to either King and Roncesvalles, or possibly up the CN Weston sub to a connection with Dundas West station. A drop in ridership, the use of premium express buses and renovations to Bloor-Yonge station reduced the immediate need for the line. Further south, a station at Queen Street was planned, to reduce the very heavy traffic on the streetcars into Downtown, particularly the bottleneck between Broadview and King. It was planned to descend to grade level roughly at Cherry Street, and the next station would be at Sherbourne Street, and would likely have been named St.
These stops would have served the western railway lands developments, especially the Skydome, and would have prevented a bottleneck of terminating trains at Union Station. Although the least useful of the three alternatives, it still provided a quick trip from the Bloor-Danforth subway downtown, and offered up the possibility of a quick extension to Eglinton Avenue and possibly Pearson Airport via the Weston Sub. It is doubtful the residents and businesses along Roncesvalles would have favoured this extension, however. Although no station was planned near the Don River in the original DRL plans, one would not be difficult to add. While a large sum, it is a small fraction of the $12 billion earmarked for Waterfront reconstruction. Finally, in 2008, TTC Chairman Adam Giambrone speculated that a Downtown Relief Line might become a necessity, although he didn't foresee it being built until after 2018. In late January 2009, Toronto city council approved the extension of the Yonge subway, with preconditions, including expansion of the Bloor-Yonge transfer station, that could inflate the total cost of the Yonge subway extension to over $5 billion.
You may link to any page on this website, and you may quote text from this web site (citing sources), but before using any material found on this site beyond fair use, you must first obtain permission from the copyright holder. The track layout at terminals causes delays when trains have to turn back; the Spadina extension will add a new, better-designed terminal while the Yonge side will need new tunnel past Finch just to improve turnaround times. It’s more expensive, but it’s a solution that will provide Toronto with enough subway capacity for decades.
A 2002 study by WMATA, the local transit agency, suggests that the Orange Line will reach its carrying limits in 2020, with the other lines following in 2025, even with the implementation of all 8-car trainsets. It would do so while servicing some of Northern Virginia’s densest communities, containing some of its most poverty ridden and car-dependent families. Walkability would be the quarter’s focus, with pedestrian-scaled retail and restaurants at the ground level. This line could play an important secondary role in redefining mobility in Northern Virginia towards the increased use of public transportation by reinforcing existing low-scaled neighborhood districts without encouraging the massive development around them that would follow heavy rail. It was Network 2011's second priority, to be built after the Sheppard subway opened from Yonge Street to Victoria Park in 1994. The next priorities after the shortened Sheppard line is completed is to extend the Sheppard line east to the Scarborough Town Centre, and the Spadina line north to York University.
The Downtown Relief Line would have pushed west from Spadina underground along Front to Bathurst (where a station would be placed) and then elevated in the median of a Front Street extension to Strachan and a station near the Exhibition grounds.
The relief line could conceivably have continued farther north as far as Sheppard, making a connection with the Sheppard subway, although whether or not it could have done this above the median of Don Mills Road is open to question. At the same meeting, city councillors approved a motion to encourage Metrolinx to give a higher priority for the Downtown Relief Line, which could solve much of the capacity problems caused by the Yonge extension, while expanding rapid transit service to a wider portion of the Toronto core.
The corridor, then, would be unable to reach its full potential — a major problem considering it would be a downtown trunk route.

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