March 22, 2016 - Highlights Report

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Toronto Transit Consultation Meetings

March 22, 2016

Highlights Report

This concise Highlights Report has been prepared to provide the City of Toronto, TTC and Metrolinx with a snapshot of the feedback captured at the public meeting held on March 22, 2016. A more detailed report of the feedback during this phase of consultations will be prepared in the coming days.

Introduction

On Tuesday, March 22, 2016, the City of Toronto, City Planning Division (Transportation Planning), the TTC and Metrolinx, hosted a public meeting on seven key transit projects currently being planned. The meeting was held at Nelson Mandela Park Public School, 440 Shuter Street, Toronto. 

The public meeting focused on the various transit projects being studied as part of a network approach to transit planning undertaken by the City, TTC and Metrolinx, including:

Six and Fifteen Year Transit Planning: Show the potential development of Toronto's rapid transit system over the next 6 and 15 years

Scarborough Transit Extension: Present a proposed approach to optimizing the transit network in Scarborough, including the development of an express subway to Scarborough Centre, SmartTrack and the extension of the Crosstown LRT eastward to the University of Toronto Scarborough Campus.

Relief Line: Present the results of the corridor evaluation and the preferred corridor.

Waterfront Transit Reset: Introduce a new initiative to improve transit options along the waterfront.

SmartTrack / GO Regional Express Rail (RER): Present current work to develop GO RER and to integrate it with SmartTrack on the Stouffville and Kitchener corridors.

SmartTrack Western Corridor Feasibility Study: Present the results of a study considering feasibility of SmartTrack heavy rail western corridor options connecting Mount Dennis and the Mississauga Airport Corporate Centre. A heavy rail option will not be recommended due to significant community impact, higher cost and lower projected ridership compared to the LRT.

GO Electrification: Present recent work on plans to electrify Metrolinx-owned rail corridors.

 

The meeting featured a series of panels and interactive feedback activities on each project. Participants could freely move between display panels and activities at their own pace, and speak with project staff from the City, TTC and Metrolinx.

Following an introductory presentation on Coordinated Network Transit Planning given by Stella Gustavson (Program Manager, Transit Implementation Unit, City of Toronto) and Hans Riekko (Senior Planner, Transit Initiatives, City of Toronto) at 7:00 PM, participants had the opportunity to ask questions of clarification as well as provide feedback.

Approximately 70 individuals attended the public meeting, including Mayor John Tory, Deputy Mayor Pam McConnell (Ward 28) and Councillor Janet Davis (Ward 31).

Highlights of Participant Feedback

Questions of Clarification

The discussion captured during the question and answer period following the overview presentation is summarized below. Questions are noted with a “Q”, comments with “C” and answers with “A”. Answers were provided by Stella Gustavson, Hans Riekko, and Paul Millet (Transportation and Operations Specialist, TTC). 

Q. Why does the Relief Line end at the Bloor Danforth line instead of continuing north to provide more north-south relief? Metrolinx has not prioritized the Richmond Hill GO corridor for upgrades. Why are Metrolinx and the TTC continuing to plan in silos?

A. Toronto City Planning, TTC and Metrolinx are working very closely together on these transit projects. Metrolinx staff are on site and can answer questions specific to the GO RER program. We are working together to develop integrated GO/RER SmartTrack solutions. We will also be working with Metrolinx in the coming weeks to discuss the initiation of a planning study for a northern extension of the Relief Line north of the Bloor Danforth corridor.

Q. How is the Unilever site being factored in the evaluation of corridor and alignment options for the Relief Line? How will employees access the Unilever site? Is this being prioritized? In addition to the Unilever site, the whole South of Eastern area is intended to be an employment district. I am frustrated that the City and Metrolinx are using lower employment projections than what First Gulf is proposing for the Unilever site. If we are considering the future of the City, we should be using a more ambitious number. We want to make it easy for 50,000 to 60,000 employees to take transit.

A. Connecting future and existing development nodes is extremely important part of our work on transit network planning. We are not ignoring the Unilever site. A very important factor that could unlock the development potential of the area and provide access to the Unilever site is SmartTrack. We are working closely with Metrolinx through the SmartTrack GO/RER integration scenarios to determine how a station on the corridor can serve the Unilever site. We have also been working to identify how the Relief Line station can serve the site. We did explore a SmartTrack/Relief Line interchange station on the site, but concluded it would have significant technical challenges. The alignment options being considered include a potential station on Eastern Avenue, on the north side of the Unilever site, or a potential station at Queen Street and Broadview Avenue, which is about a five minute walk to the site. We will continue to refine and evaluate the alignment and station options to identify a recommended solution.

Q. What I am hearing is that the Unilever site is important, but is not the priority. If the most important thing is to get to from A (Bloor Danforth line) to B (Downtown), that should be made explicit. What are the opportunities along the route to improve connectivity across the City?

A. The primary objective of the Relief Line is to reduce crowding and congestion at the Yonge Bloor interchange station, however we are also approaching this from a City building perspective.

Q. The Downtown station at City Hall is a nice idea but involves long transfers to the Yonge and University lines. Has anyone factored travel times between the lines?

A. The station locations have not yet been confirmed; that is something we want your input on. The location of the actual underground station box is less important than how well the station is connected at the street level and underground, including connectivity to the Yonge-University subway. There are several factors and trade-offs that have to be considered (e.g., appropriate number of entrances, number of stations, travel times, ridership, etc.).

Q. My understanding is that the Relief Line comprises east and west alignments. Can you explain why current planning for the Relief Line focuses on an alignment only in the east end? It also appears that the preferred corridor seems to travel north of key neighbourhoods in the City (e.g., Canary District, St. Lawrence, and the Distillery District), can you speak to that?

A. The Downtown Rapid Transit Expansion Study completed by the TTC in 2012 concluded that the eastern alignment of the Relief Line would provide the greatest amount of relief to the Bloor-Yonge interchange station. This is in part due to the fact that the University line provides riders coming from the west with the option to transfer south at St. George Station rather than transferring at Bloor-Yonge. The segment from Danforth to downtown is phase one of the study; future phases will focus on extending the Relief Line west and north (a northern extension will likely be studied next). The evaluation criteria (e.g., Shaping the City, Supporting Growth) did factor in future population and employment projections for the study area.

Q. Many residents in this area are concerned about how the Relief Line will impact and/or connect to existing services (e.g., streetcar connections). The main advantages cited for the recommended corridor are not exclusive to that corridor and apply to all the options.

A. We are working together with the TTC; it has always been our assumption that the Queen and King streetcars are important pieces of the network and will continue to operate to complement the Relief Line.

Q. I was at an event recently where someone commented that if you were looking for an example for why democracy doesn’t work, it would be watching Toronto plan transit. Do you feel that you are hamstrung by the process, and feel like “let’s just do this”?

A. We are hearing “let’s just do this” from a lot of people. We are playing catch up on transit investment, which is why we are being optimistic and aggressive with our suggested transit improvements. We are also working collaboratively with the TTC and Metrolinx to make integrated decisions. This is a very interesting time where transit planning is at the forefront.

Q. It is encouraging to hear that neighbourhood improvement areas (e.g., Regent Park) will be served by the Relief Line. How have neighbourhood improvement areas influenced the proposed corridors for the Relief Line?

A. Social equity is a key consideration in our evaluation framework. City Planning and the Social Development, Finance and Administration Division are also looking at fare equity as something that needs to be considered.

Q. What is the funding situation for the Relief Line? Has the environmental assessment (EA) been funded?

A. Construction of the Relief Line has not been funded, but the EA process, called a Transit Project Assessment Process (TPAP) has been. We are currently working through the planning and preliminary engineering work that will lead to the TPAP. With Council direction, we will be moving to TPAP approval over the coming year.

Q. There is neighbourhood support for the Relief Line; however there seems to be some confusion between the proposed B1 and B2 corridor options. What are the differences between the two?

A. The corridors A-D are conceptual. We split the B corridor into two to allow for more refined analysis. B2 allowed consideration to serve the Unilever site further south.

Q. Did you look at other cities in North America to identify best practices for transit planning? How are you going to maintain transparency and accountability, while keeping citizens engaged, throughout the project?

A. In terms of potential transit network planning; we have some catch-up to do if we are looking to other cities with more rapid transit as best practices examples. We are at an early stage in the planning process. Once funding is in place, there are processes and protocols required to identify how the project will be delivered, including requirements for public engagement and transparency.

Q. While I do love the Relief Line concept, I am concerned about the impact of its construction on heritage buildings in the neighbourhood. Some of the houses in this neighbourhood are over 150 years old.

A. Consideration of potential impacts to cultural and heritage features is one of the criteria that we are using as part of our evaluation process to determine the preferred route and station locations. The construction technology has not been confirmed at this point in the process, but will likely be similar to the technology used on the Eglinton Crosstown (e.g., twin-bore tunnels). Tunnels will be located significantly below the ground and mainly along public rights of way. If we have to tunnel under private property we would investigate mitigation measures to manage potential impacts.

Q. Is there something that distinguishes the Relief Line from SmartTrack? How can we compel Council to prioritize the Relief Line over SmartTrack?

A. We are preparing business cases to help Council make an informed decision on priorities. If you read through our most recent report, projected 2031 ridership demand indicates we will need both the Relief Line and SmartTrack. They are both priorities but have different phasing for implementation.

 

Next Steps

A more detailed report of all consultation activities will be made available after this phase of consultation.


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