If there is such a thing as a consensus in Toronto's fractious transit debate, the Downtown Relief Line has it.
Few people at City Hall disagree that the line, which would link the south end of downtown to the Bloor-Danforth subway, needs to be built soon.
The TTC has declared it a priority project, and regional transit agency Metrolinx recently signaled it will try to complete the first, eastern portion of the line within 15 years (a second leg, extending west from downtown, could come later). Even Rob Ford, who has made a habit of promising to derail transit plans that didn't originate in his office, has shown little indication he intends to stand in its way.
But there is a problem with the line.
Last Thursday, TTC Chair Karen Stintz told commission staff that the DRL should be called something else.
"There is a general view that that line needs to get renamed," she said at a meeting of the planning and growth management committee.
Stintz isn't the first to suggest that the DRL should get a new label, and with good reason.
For one thing, its name isn't particularly accurate. The transit riders it will provide "relief" to are those who are currently forced to cram themselves onto the at-capacity Yonge line at rush hour. Many of those people live in north of Bloor, not downtown.
And unfortunately for its advocates, the DRL's name fits nicely into the divisive narrative, often peddled by Ford and his supporters, that downtown dwellers get subways while suburban folks have to make do with second-rate transit like LRTs. In fact, depending on its eventual alignment, the DRL could stretch deep into North York, all the way to Don Mills, on the Scarborough border.
So, both for the sake of accuracy and political expediency, the DRL needs rebranding.
According to TTC spokesperson Brad Ross, the commission has no short list of alternatives at the moment.
"We don't have any names on whiteboards somewhere, nothing that we're considering to toss out there," Ross says. "[TTC CEO] Andy [Byford] doesn't have any preferences. As staff, what we're saying is that we need the line."
In an interview Friday, Stintz said she expects that by the time an environmental assessment of the project is concluded in 12 to 14 months, commission staff will come forward with a new name. By that time there could be a tentative alignment for the route, so we'll know what streets it will run under, which is typically the main consideration in naming TTC lines.
But being an impatient bunch, we at NOW aren't willing to wait that long. So we asked several TTC commissioners and transit experts to tell us what they want the DRL to be rechristened, and why.
Karen Stintz, TTC chair
Stintz told NOW that she'd like to wait until the alignment was set before choosing a name, although she offered that the Don River Line made a certain degree of sense. She also weighed in on one suggestion from Twitter that was inspired by Ford's famous catchphrase: ‘the Subways Subways Subways Folks Line.'
"That's funny," she said, when she had stopped laughing.
Councillor John Parker, TTC commissioner
"I kind of like the idea of the Queen Elizabeth II Line," which was first suggested by Stintz's policy advisor, J.P. Boutros.
"Let's hope [Queen Elizabeth] is still with us when the time comes, but it'll be in all likelihood the last major project that we'll undertake during her reign. So I like that."
Steve Munro, transit expert and blogger
"I prefer the Don Mills Line because that's where it will go (and the name is an encouragement not to stop construction at Danforth). If and when a western leg is built, it can get its own name much as the University and Spadina names were added to the original Yonge line."
Cameron MacLeod, co-founder of Code Red TO
"I like the Don River Line. It uses a part of our city that was here before us and will be here long after we're gone too. Since phase one would likely be east only, the Don is our natural landmark. Once we add the western side, then the Humber River Line joins, or it becomes the Don-Humber Line."
Councillor Maria Augimeri, TTC commissioner
Augimeri said she prefers the simple route of naming it after the street it runs under.
"If it's King St., I think we should call it the King Subway. If it's Wellington, it's the Wellington Subway. If it's Queen, the Queen Subway. Those are really good names."
Councillor Glenn de Baeremaeker, TTC commissioner
De Baeremaeker prefers the Don Mills Express, which was the name he gave the line as part of the now-defunct OneCity plan.
"Those geographic tags are really helpful for people... If you're in Scarborough or in North York, or even if you live along the Danforth, most people will know where Don Mills is. So if you call something the Don Mills Express line, people will go... ‘Oh this line will help me.'"
Councillor Josh Colle, TTC commissioner
"I've said the Commuter Line, just because that's more reflective of what we're trying to do... Because it's bringing, typically, those commuters into the core of the city."
He also had this advice, presumably to appease those pushing for a suburban subway: "Maybe throw the word ‘Scarborough' in there somehow?"
POLL: RENAME THE DOWNTOWN RELIEF LINE
The TTC can't seem to make up their mind on what to call the Downtown Relief Line.
So why don't you make the call? (Disclaimer: results not binding.)