Don Mills Subway

Part of the Don Mills LRT line should be built as full subway. No, you haven’t entered a parallel universe where everything is backwards. I still believe that the entire Spadina Subway Extension and a proposed Yonge Extension north of Steeles would better serve our transit needs if built as LRT, but this is not the case for the portion of the proposed Don Mils LRT line that will be south of Eglinton. Eglinton and Don Mills should be the north-eastern end of a Downtown Relief Line (DRL), built as a full Subway.

A DRL will eventually be needed and it is likely that it will meet the Bloor-Danforth Subway at Pape station, the same location where the proposed Don Mills LRT line will meet it. This will create a fairly busy transfer point, with people coming from the north on the Don Mills line and people coming from the east on the Bloor-Danforth line needing to change to a downtown train on the DRL. Extending a DRL up to Eglinton will move a significant amount of these transfers to this northern location, making the crowding issues at Pape more manageable.

Furthermore, having a full subway terminate at Eglinton means that a very significant number of downtown-bound people on or near Eglinton will take this line for its faster and less crowded way to get downtown. This would attract more people who would otherwise ride the Eglinton LRT over to Yonge, partly due to one less transfer, and partly due to a slightly faster choice. I would even suspect that some people between Don Mills and Bayview would even find taking the Eglinton line east to Don Mills and a subway from there to downtown a better option than going west to Yonge. This would have a additional relief effect on the Yonge line beyond simply diverting people coming from the east on the Bloor-Danforth line.

Though subway construction is more expensive, this is one situation where it will not likely be as great an increase over LRT compared to many situations. South of the Don Valley, the LRT line will likely have to be in a tunnel as there are no streets in this area wide enough to support a median right of way. This will make its cost substantially higher than a surface LRT line. To build this part of the line as a full subway will add to the cost, but not in the way that change would increase the cost over a surface LRT line.

Plans for the line from here north to Eglinton have suggested that it cross the valley on the Confederation Bridge (more commonly known as the Leaside Bridge- the one that Millwood Road crosses on). This will be problematic. This bridge was designed with the possibility of streetcar tracks being added to four lanes of automobile traffic. The road was later upgraded to six lanes, using the capacity designed for streetcars to take the load of the additional automobile traffic. Placing an LRT line over this bridge will either require eliminating two lanes of traffic or substantial upgrading of the bridge. Added to this, the tunnel portal south of the bridge will be rather difficult to shoehorn into the space available.

Possible Don Mills Route at Don ValleyA better approach, whether for LRT or for full subway, would be to have the tunnel emerge out of the side of the valley at a lower level, just north of Donlands Avenue, further east of the existing bridge. Building a lower level bridge would be less costly than a separate higher level bridge, though it would still be more costly than upgrades to the existing bridge. This extra cost could be partly offset by a slightly less costly right of way north of here. Another advantage to a lower level bridge through the valley is that it makes it possible to implement a station in the valley that would enable a convenient connection with the GO Transit line to Richmond Hill.

Instead of a concrete encased median right of way on Overlea and Don Mills for LRT or a tunnel for subway, the line could stay above ground and follow the valley up to just south of the Ontario Science Centre where it could shift closer to Don Mills. This alignment would slightly lower the cost for either LRT or subway. As a subway line,  it would have to go underground for the last portion before reaching Eglinton.

A DRL subway makes sense because it enhances the subway network, and is not simply a radial extension. While extending such a line up to Eglinton is a type of radial extension, its terminus would be at a point where it would meet up with two lines of the Transit City LRT network capable of feeding this extension with passengers from three directions.

4 Responses to “Don Mills Subway”

  1. Michael Forest Says:

    Can’t agree more. Let’s hope that the next funding announcement will cover the DRL subway from downtown to Eglinton / Don Mills.

    Btw, it is surprising that the first Metrolinx’s plan included DRL subway with legs to both Danforth and Bloor West, yet no subway from Danforth to Eglinton. It should be all but obvious that the eastern leg of DRL is needed ASAP, and that extending it from Danforth to Eglinton brings many advantages.

    At the same time, I think that the western leg of DRL is not that urgent. It might be useful at some point, but there are higher priority transit projects in GTA.

    Cal’s comment: I agree that the western leg of a DRL is lower priority. The Spadina/University line is a significant reason for this. I believe the DRL priority 1 is downtown to Danforth, 2 is Danforth to Eglinton, and 3 is downtown to Bloor West.

  2. zb Says:

    Then what will serve the east york town centre, and overlea blvd? Your subway diagram seems to ignore it.

    Cal’s comment: An ‘Overlea’ station is possible, but it would be an escalator or elevator ride down to the platform level from the street level. Though, it may be less of a drop than either York Mills or Lawrence stations are - just that they would be exposed rather than totally underground.

  3. zb Says:

    The Don River is prone to flooding. Anything built too close to it will flood and corrode quickly. Just look at the condition of the bike trail there if you want proof.

    Cal’s comment: I don’t expect a flood to be of such great proportion to get up to the level I am speaking of! I am talking of a bridge that takes the line over the DVP and CN’s Bala subdivision, but isn’t as high as the Leaside Bridge. If flood waters get up to this height, we will be more worried with Lake Ontario’s coastline being a kilometre or two further inland!

  4. JJ Says:

    If you’re going to skip Thorncliffe Park anyway then you may as well choose a more easternly alignment for the whole line. Going up Pape Avenue ignores all the existing and up-and-coming developments that’ll occur along Queen East and southwards east of Carlaw/Pape. Leslieville, the Beaches and Upper Beach (Kingston Road) already have conditions favorable to subway traffic (transit-oriented curbside residential & commercial developments, concentrated dense population). In light of this, were the DRL to reach Queen and Coxwell, a major intraregional terminal could exist here whereby all routes along Kingston Road (including the planned BRT express) as well Beaches bound buses and streetcars (501, 92, 64, 143) plus a new Dundas East bus could converge here; giving many thousands of customers a brand new and credible rapid transit alternative to the out-of-the-way Bloor-Danforth Line, the go-slow 501/2/3/6 cars or the infrequent and overpriced GO Transit for getting downtown.

    Going up Coxwell Avenue as well would connect to three emerging BIAs (Gerrard India Bazaar, Danforth Mosaic and Olde Town East York between Cosburn and O’Connor) plus the civic services block @Coxwell/Mortimer. And because Coxwell lies in the same geographic coordinates as Don Mills proper, the bridge across the Don Valley/DVP can simply be in a straight north-south configuration (only curved slightly at the southernly end to avoid disrupting the Coxwell Blvd estates).

    But what about Pape? The daily usage for the entire lengths of both routes 72 and 81 is roughly in the same ballpark as Coxwell’s routes (22 and 70) but without the additional catchment of Queen East and eastern East York riders of the 62, 87, 8 (and 92 via transfer) buses tipping the balance in Coxwell’s favor. Not to mention the rerouting of several routes (20, 23, 113, 135) such that they directly interface with the DRL Coxwell Line. So with all that in mind, the loss of any potential Pape/Cosburn riders to the B-D Line can handedly be cancelled out by the fact that most Pape/Gerrard transferees would likely feed into a station at Queen/Carlaw; and reduced bus traffic along Pape regardless (due to the absence of 25 Don Mills) could translate into a quick 5 minute feeder link from Pape Village to Pape Stn.

    But how to connect to Thorncliffe Park? Simple! Since the subway will likely terminate at Eglinton Ave with LRT progressing north from there, why not simply have the two modes interlap between Overlea and Eglinton, whereby the LRT loops clockwise directly down Thorncliffe Park Drive(s) then back across Overlea and up Don Mills Rd. This alternative to the taking the 81 bus all the way south to Pape Stn would be to bring residents within 90 seconds of a subway stop at Don Mills/Overlea. And while the subway would skip a stop at Gateway/Don Mills, the LRT would stop there providing better accessibility to Flemingdon Pk Shopping Ctr and the Science Ctr.

    Based on the TTC’s own data, such an alignment could attract upto 90,000 more passengers (not even accounting for added first-time transit users) than a Pape-Overlea alignment would simply because it’d provide new alternatives to transferring onto the B-D Line, which like the Yonge Subway is nearing overcapacity itself. Conditioning east-end riders to endure a streetcar commute all the way over to Pape in order to access the DRL will dissuade many customers from switching their normal travel habits. A Coxwell alignment meanwhile lessens the overall time one has to spend commuting after departing the metro making this DRL far more appealing to East York, East End and southwest Scarbrough residents.

    Well that’s it. I hope to hear your thoughts on my suggestion. :)

    Cal’s comment: I have always preferred a DRL alignment a little further east than Pape. Recent discussions have been framed by a Don Mills LRT that would likely go to Pape. I have heard suggestions that a DRL should go even further east, perhaps to Victoria Park, but like Pape, I believe that this is too far off centre where it has the best ability to balance passenger flow. Likewise, for a similar reason I feel the downtown end should be at Queen, as opposed to Union as some have suggested.

    Of the Danforth stations, I agree that Coxwell is probably the first choice, though Donlands would be my second. The alignment of a lower level bridge coming out of the side of the valley extended from Coxwell places it in good alignment with Don Mills Road. A station located to serve a connection with the Richmond Hill GO line would serve the park located there as well.

    The idea of a southern end of the Don Mills LRT that would serve Thorncliffe Park and points between Overlea and Eglinton on Don Mills is a pretty good idea, though I suspect it would be lower priority and would be pushed back about a decade or so. Buses could provide the needed feeder service initially, but the track construction at Don Mills and Eglinton could protect for this extension later.