Category Archives for "Highways and Bridges"

Dec 23

Transport Action Ontario featured in article on road tolls

By Transport Action Ontario | Highways and Bridges , Latest News , Urban Transit

Note to Readers:   with the approval of expressway tolls in Toronto, interest in road tolling has spiked all across the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area.  Transport Action Ontario was featured in an article by York Region Media Group on this topic.  The article summarizes our position and reasons why we support such tolls.  The article can be viewed below. 

 

Dec 20, 2016  |  Vote 0    0

Transportation group advocates for toll roads in York Region

Markham Economist & Sun

If you’re a commuter who thinks toll roads coming to Toronto are highway robbery, brace yourself.

While the issue doesn’t have the same traction as it does in Toronto where council agreed in December to pursue the idea, it is slowly percolating, mainly out of the public eye, in York Region.

“We’ve been working behind the scenes (to make it happen here),” said Markham resident Peter Miasek, past-president of Transport Action Ontario, an organization advocating for rail-based public transportation.

The organization supports tolls on highways 400 and 404, with revenues being earmarked for transit and transportation projects in the region.

The organization has talked about toll roads with regional transportation staff and some councillors, including Newmarket Coun. John Taylor and Richmond Hill Coun. Vito Spatafora, who chairs the region’s transportation committee, Miasek said.

Meanwhile, he pointed out the region’s new transportation master plan supports pursuing the possibility of toll roads.

“Support and participate in a constructive dialogue on road pricing among governments, the business sector and general public across the GTHA (Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area) and support education, research and demonstration that are essential to effective, efficient and equitable road pricing in the long term,” the plan said.

Miasek, who made a presentation to Toronto’s executive committee on Dec. 1 in favour of the city’s plan to impose tolls on the Gardiner Expressway and Don Valley Parkway, said it doesn’t make sense to bring toll roads to York Region until the transit system is at a point where it can offer a reliable alternative to driving.

But with significantly expanded GO train service now being implemented, it makes sense to start discussing the issue, he said.

Toll roads have many benefits, Miasek said.

“It does a number of things. It boosts revenue, it will cut travel time for those people who want to pay, it does wean us off the car,” he said, adding a program to help low-income commuters could be considered.

“I do think our automobiles, and I’m an auto driver like everyone else up here, is past its best before date with all the accidents and the health issues, climate change, congestion and all of that. So, it’s a step in the right direction.”

While Toronto is eyeing a $2 flat toll, Miasek said a fee by distance is fairer and would also help prevent drivers from bailing from the highway onto local roads just before tolls begin.

Ideally, the province would be leading the discussion but likely won’t embrace the political hot potato in advance of the 2018 election, Miasek said.

He acknowledged the issue is controversial.

“I may not want to run for most beloved citizen,” he laughed, adding he’s surprised at the support he’s heard among his friends for toll roads as long as rates are reasonable and the revenues are used to improve transit and transportation infrastructure.

Spatafora, who agreed the region is looking at the concept of road pricing, said he has mixed feelings about toll roads.

Implementing tolls on highways 404 and 400 would be difficult because they are provincial highways but the region could consider them for future regional roads, specifically much-needed and expensive east-west streets needed to ease the region’s serious traffic congestion problems, Spatafora said.

Tolls are worth considering if the revenues are used for the construction of transit and transportation infrastructure, not to fund ongoing operating expenses, Spatafora said.

It’s also crucial they not be run like Highway 407, he said.

“I take a look at what’s happened with Highway 407 and it’s become a money-maker for foreign investors. It kind of defeats the purpose because a lot of people who’d want to use this east-west connection avoid it because of the heavy cost,” he said.

“If it’s a reasonable cost, in terms of the operating expense, then it’s one thing. But when it becomes a gouge, like it has been with the 407, that’s where I’m hesitant and have concerns.”

Tolls shouldn’t be implemented until the region’s transit system is more developed, Spatafora said.

Tolls can cause drivers to migrate to surrounding non-toll roads, meaning traffic patterns are just shifted rather than alleviated, Elliott Silverstein, manager of government relations in the Canadian Automobile Association’s Thornhill office, said.

The CAA and Conference Board of Canada produced a report in 2010 which showed motorists in Ontario pay for 70 to 80 per cent of road infrastructure costs through fuel taxes and vehicle registration fees.

That jumps to “well over 100 per cent” in the GTHA, showing motorists already shoulder more than their fair share of transportation costs, Silverstein said.

On Jan. 1, drivers will begin paying 4.3 cents more in gas taxes as part of the carbon tax, putting more of a burden on motorists, he said.

Governments need to look at other options other than tolls to manage traffic congestion, Silverstein said.

Aug 08

Panel Struck to look at Alternatives to GTA-West Expressway (Highway 413)

By Transport Action Ontario | Highways and Bridges

 
Ontario has been conducting an Environmental Assessment on this $4B proposed new 6 lane expressway, running from Vaughan to Milton, since 2007.  Transport Action Ontario (TAO) has been participating in the public discourse.  Our position has been to emphasize that existing infrastructure (highways, rail) must be fully expanded first, and that an expressway only be considered after a broad range of other alternatives were studied.  For further details, see the TAO website.
In December, 2015, the province suddenly announced the suspension of the EA process.  The reasons cited were emerging technologies and the sharing economy, a commitment to public transit, the need for natural heritage protection (including Greenbelt) and the need to live up to climate change commitments.  We viewed this announcement as promising.  (see Ontario Report, November-December 2015, From the President, for more details).
This July, the province established a new advisory panel tasked with looking at alternatives to meeting the future transportation demand in this high-growth area.  According to the Toronto Star, the panel includes experts in the fields of urban, regional and transportation planning, environment assessment and protection and resource management.  The panel is expected to provide an update in the fall.  To be continued……..
May 29

Proposed New Ontario Land Use Policies in Greater Golden Horseshoe are Significant

By Transport Action Ontario | Highways and Bridges , Intercity Rail and Bus , Latest News , Urban Transit

 

 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:

  • Increasing the intensification target in the Growth Plan to a minimum of 60% of all new residential development to occur in the existing defined built up area, versus 40% today.
  • Increasing designated greenfield area density targets (ie new developments outside the built up area) to a minimum of 80 residents + jobs per hectare, versus 50 today.
  • Requiring municipalities to plan for density targets of 150 – 200 residents + jobs per hectare within 500 m around existing and planned major transit stations.  This is a new requirement not found in the previous Growth Plan.  The definition of “major transit station” is that it covers all subway, LRT, BRT and GO RER stations.
  • Requiring identification of transit priority corridors in Official Plans where municipalities would focus transit-related development
  • Supporting the development of community hubs by encouraging public services to be located near strategic growth areas, accessible by active transportation and public transit.
  • Improving transit to employment areas.
  • Protecting infrastructure corridors for goods movement.
  • Requiring mapping of major and potential rapid transit lines and good movement corridors.

 

 

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. 

 

 

Oct 25

Gardiner East Environmental Assessment – Vertical Alternative

By Transport Action Ontario | Highways and Bridges

 

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