Study: Why the Downtown Relief Line is unneeded (and not even a relief line for downtown)

The City of Toronto’s proposals to build the Downtown Relief Line (DRL) are costly and counterproductive. Consumer Policy Institute offers a better plan. 

The City of Toronto is considering proposals to build a subway line – referred to as the Downtown Relief Line (DRL) – to address various traffic congestion problems in the city. These proposals are all costly and counterproductive. They are also based on misconception that the need for the line stems from a greater concentration of downtown residents when it is instead more long-distance riders from the edge of the city and suburbs

According to the TTC’s own analysis, better software and longer subway cars would solve current overcrowding on the Yonge subway line and the Bloor-Yonge station to at least 2030. Beyond 2030, or even before, congestion could be dealt with through a modernized fare system that would spread the peak morning commute over a longer time period.

According to an analysis by the Consumer Policy Institute (CPI), if the TTC implemented discounted – or even free – fares in the off-peak travel periods, it would solve the capacity constraints facing the Yonge subway line while saving billions of dollars in not having to build an expensive subway.

One estimate by CPI, which offers residents and TTC riders a free ride to the downtown core in the hours prior to the peak morning commute, would save the agency and other levels of government at least $1.7 billion over the next two decades compared to building
any of the proposed DRL lines.

“Building a multi-billion dollar subway line to deal with crowding issues during just one to two hours a day is akin to killing a mosquito with a howitzer. The TTC would be wiser to use prices in order to spread demand for the TTC during the morning commute,” says Brady Yauch, Executive Director and Economist at the Consumer Policy Institute. “It would also offer many riders a cheaper ride into the downtown core.”

“Building a subway line that would always operate under capacity will result in a further drain on the TTC’s finances and will likely push fares up for all riders. It would also leave riders and residents exposed to the high risk of cost overruns and delays.”

With the TTC and Metrolinx close to launching an electronic fare system (Presto), now is the time to consider changing the fare structure to better align with transit demand.

Read the full report here.

Contact Details:

Brady Yauch
Executive Director and Economist of Consumer Policy Institute
(416) 964-9223 ext 236



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