06/11/2012 06:07 EDT | Updated 08/11/2012 05:12 EDT

Downtown relief line 'next priority': TTC Chair

A new subway line through downtown to relieve the pressure on the crowded Yonge-University-Spadina line is urgently needed and should be the TTC's next priority for building new transit, say the two people leading Toronto's transit agency.

TTC Chair Karen Stintz and TTC CEO Andy Byford were on hand at a Monday morning news conference and photo opportunity to commemorate the completion of the first segment of the two tunnels that will comprise the Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension, which will extend the University line into Vaughan.

But the talk with reporters at the event soon turned to the issue of the construction of a new subway line — the so-called Downtown Relief Line (DRL) along a King or Queen corridor.

"I think there's no question we need to think about the Downtown Relief Line as our next priority project because we know the Yonge University Spadina line is at capacity," said Stintz.

The DRL was originally conceived in the 1980s by the TTC as an east-west subway line through the downtown to relieve the pressure on the increasingly busy Yonge University Spadina line. Various conceptions over the years have envisioned the line connecting northwards to Bloor on the west and the Danforth on the east, and in some cases, parts beyond.

But the line never got off the ground, although enthusiasm for it has picked up of late.

Provincial transit planning agency Metrolinx said last November that it may recommend starting work on a DRL sooner than the 25-year deadline it set for itself in its Big Move policy blueprint for the Greater Toronto Area.

Byford has also talked about the need to build a DRL since he was named to lead the TTC earlier this year. He reiterated that position on Monday, adding the Yonge line will "sooner or later" not be able to cope with the passengers at peak hours.

"Obviously these things have a long lead time, so the sooner we get planning on a Downtown Relief Line, the better," said Byford.

"My priority, really, is to keep that debate going. I'm going keep making that point. I want to see additional subway capacity downtown. It's desperately needed in Toronto."

Ford 'not one to implement new taxes'

But building a new subway line will cost billions of dollars, and there is currently no such funding. Stintz said she recognized that there is a need to fund transit expansion, and echoed the recent call by Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion for a regional tax to fund transit expansion.

The $8.4 billion in funding from the provincial government just provided to build light rail transit lines in the city is "just the beginning" of transit expansion, said Stintz.

"I think generally speaking across the region, we know we need to find ways to raise this investment money to continue to build this needed infrastructure. The next question is how we do it," said Stintz.

Stintz said she didn't want to rule any revenue source out, although she added she feels are "a lot of inherent problems with tolls."

Meanwhile Mayor Rob Ford, who was at the event on Keele Street just south of Finch Avenue West, saw things differently.

"We can find efficiencies. I'm not one to implement new taxes," Ford said.

The 8.6-kilometre extension of the Yonge-University-Spadina line moves it northward from its current endpoint at Downsview station past Toronto's city limits into the Vaughan Metropolitan Centre at Highway 7.

The extension, which comes with a $2.6-billion price tag, is expected to be completed by late 2015.The funding for the project comes from governments at all levels, including:

- $870 million from the Ontario government.

- Up to $697 million from the federal government.

- $526 million from the City of Toronto.

- $352 million from York Region.