In 2015, the Province of Ontario initiated a coordinated review of four key land use plans, including the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe (GGH) and the Greenbelt Plan. In December, the Crombie Advisory Panel released its recommendations on how to amend and improve these Plans. The November/December issue of Ontario Report discussed the Crombie Report in more detail.
In early May, the Province released its proposed changes to these four plans. While changes are proposed in many areas, the ones of greatest interest to sustainable transportation advocates are:
There are major implications to these proposals. For example, York Region, a rapidly growing edge municipality, has been working on an update to its Official Plan to 2041. Different Region-wide intensification scenarios have been analyzed by staff planners. Staff is clearly pro-intensification and acknowledge the lower capital and operating costs from higher intensification. However, they have misgivings about intensification targets beyond 50%, as it would force virtually all new home construction to be apartments or condos. They believe a significant fraction of new-home buyers still want single family detached homes, and hence believe that > 50% is unrealistic from a market perspective.
What will be the effect if the province implements these higher intensification targets, the higher designated greenfield targets and the new transit station targets? Will the suburban regions rebel, especially as money from the province to construct rapid transit is inadequate? Will developers step up lobbying and/or appeal to the OMB? Will the prices for detached homes continue to skyrocket? Will the home construction market crater? Will the anticipated growth not materialize?
The combined review also contains various climate change policies, including requiring municipalities to incorporate climate change policies in their Official Plans and to develop greenhouse gas (GHG) inventories, reduction strategies and performance measures. The largest contributor to GHG emissions in the province is transportation. Will these policies by enough to slow down the growth in Vehicle Kilometers Travelled? Will the policies be a factor in the upcoming decision whether to restart the Environmental Assessment for the GTA-West expressway (Highway 413)? Should more be done in the outer ring of the GGH by encouraging interurban passenger rail and bus? Should the province become more active in supporting intermodal goods movement?
In conclusion, just as the original 2006 plans changed the face of land use planning in the GGH, the proposed 2016 changes also appear to be very significant, although many questions remain. Public consultation is planned by the Province until September 30, 2016.
Transport Action Ontario is a member of the Stakeholder Advisory Committee (SAC) for the Gardiner East Environmental Assessment. Although our preference was for the “Remove” option, where the elevated structure would be replaced by an urban boulevard, Toronto City Council opted in June, 2015 for the “Hybrid” option, where the elevated expressway function is maintained.
Since that time, the SAC has been involved in evaluating several different options for the Hybrid approach. All involve the same vertical alignments as today’s situation, with the Gardiner elevated and Lakeshore Boulevard at grade. However, at the SAC meeting on October 20, 2015, we proposed an innovative option where Lakeshore Blvd is actually at higher elevation than the expressway near the Don River. We were requested to submit a written description.
The description was submitted as an email on October 25.
It can be viewed here: TAO-GardinerEastVerticals2015-10-25
The Move the GTHA collaborative, which includes Transport Action Ontario, has issued the following statement in support of the “Remove/Boulevard” option being considered in the Gardiner East Expressway Environmental Assessment.
The statement can be viewed here: MTGTHA Gardiner Statement2015-06-02
Transport Action Ontario (TAO) has been participating as a member of the Stakeholder Advisory Committee (SAC) in the consultations for the Gardiner East EA since its inception in 2009. Our last position paper was published in March, 2014, where we supported the “Remove” option. Subsequently, Council directed staff to undertake several additional studies – primarily to evaluate a new “Hybrid” option, and to study traffic mitigation steps for the “Remove” option.
During the past year, the SAC continued to meet to review the new findings. A public meeting on the new results was held in April, 2015. The matter came before Toronto’s Public Works and Infrastructure Committee on May 13, and will go to Council in June. As input to these deliberations, TAO issued an updated public paper.
The paper concluded that the “Hybrid” option is not appreciably different than the “Maintain” option, other than relocated access ramps. It also noted that a small reconfiguration of the urban boulevard in “Remove” has reduced the auto and truck travel time penalty to only 3 to 5 minutes, as verified in two independent studies. Therefore TAO continues to urge Council to advance the “Remove” option as the preferred alternative for completing the Gardiner East EA.
Our updated position paper can be viewed here: TAO-GardinerEast2015-05-11