Using the GO System to Relieve the Subway

Metrolinx has recently appointed consultants for a “Relief Line Study.” The scope of the study apparently includes looking at ways to use the GO rail corridors to complement, or as alternatives to, TTC’s  Downtown Relief Line (DRL), which is included in the Big Move program. While the GO electrification program described above would greatly increase capacity for longer trips across the rail network, it would take several years to implement. We look here at how new services could be introduced over the GO Rail system, quickly and at low cost, to relieve the subway.

There seems a very good case for using the GO system to relieve congestion on the subway into downtown Toronto from Scarborough, as several transit commentators have already pointed out. Currently there are 41,000 transit trips in the a.m. peak, by subway, from east and northeast Toronto into the downtown core.[1] Mostly these passengers use the Danforth subway and change onto the Yonge line at Bloor-Yonge station. The Bloor-Yonge station does not have the capacity to handle the passengers comfortably, and adding new platforms would cost hundreds of millions of dollars and cause massive disruption. In any case, the Yonge subway is approaching capacity. Although capacity can be increased with new signalling and longer trains, lengthening the line, including a planned extension to Richmond Hill, will also add substantially to demand.

GO has, until now, concentrated mostly on moving large numbers of commuters, at premium fares, from the outer suburbs into downtown Toronto. Although GO Trains serve stations within the inner suburbs, GO has done little to encourage traffic from these areas, or to encourage transfers from the TTC subway at Kipling, Kennedy, Bloor/Dundas West, and Danforth/Main to nearby GO routes. There is limited fare integration, and signage is poor or non-existent. Station names are not coordinated and most GO and TTC passengers are probably not even aware of the proximity of the other line.

Our analysis indicates that, at least at Main and Danforth, improving the interchange and providing operation of additional shuttle services to Union Station would be very beneficial, relieving congestion at Bloor-Yonge at a tiny fraction of the cost of a DRL. Similar GO-TTC interchanges at Dundas West/Bloor, Kennedy, and Kipling may have potential but the case is less clear for these interchanges.

[1] See DRTES Final Report Exhibit 1-8.