On February, 3, 2016, Yvan Baker, MPP for Etobicoke Centre and Peter Milczyn, MPP for Etobicoke Lakeshore hosted Hon. Steven Del Duca, Minister of Transportation for a consultation on local Etobicoke transit. The consultation was organized to hear from residents on their transportation needs as well as to allow local constituents the opportunity to ask questions and learn more about Ontario’s plans for public transit in Etobicoke.
The New Pathway spoke to MPP Yvan Baker to find what was discussed at the consultation and how the transit in Etobicoke could develop going forward. According to Yvan Baker, the issue of potential LRT (light rail) to be built along Eglinton Ave from the Mount Denis Go Station to the Pearson International Airport (the Mississauga Airport Corporate Centre located at the north side of Eglinton Ave) received the most attention at the meeting.
Smart Track, which was part of Mayor John Tory’s election campaign and had the same planned route, was envisioned as a heavy rail, something similar to GO-Trains, explained Yvan Baker. The City of Toronto had a study done that looked at a number of routes to the Airport in two main categories. One route had the Smart Track heavy rail, running along Eglinton. The second route would run on the existing GO-Train corridor north from Mt Denis GO station to the northern part of Etobicoke to Kitchener GO line and come to the airport where the Union Pearson Express does. The study concluded that those two options would be quite costly and thus not viable.
The Mayor recently announced that he wasn’t prepared to go ahead with those options, and that the best option was the LRT along Eglinton Ave. as a less costly option. The LRT option was first proposed when Mayor Miller was in office. However, this option was not studied in the Smart Track report and its specifics, like the number of stops, schedule, fares, and sources of financing, are not known at the moment. It is not known what Mayor Tory’s current plan is but MPP Baker thinks that many people expect that the Eglinton Crosstown line, which is an LRT, would continue from the Mount Denis Go Station west along the way to the Airport.
According to Yvan Baker, the members of the community expressed a range of concerns about this option during the consultation. In particular, they had concerns about how the construction of a dedicated LRT line and the line itself would impact the car traffic on Eglinton Ave. which is already a very busy route. Apart from congesting the route, a dedicated track creates problems for vehicles trying to make right or left turns. Increased congestion along Eglinton could also increase traffic along adjacent streets and decrease the quality of life of the people in the community. In view of all these concerns, the Smart Track study suggests that the city consider putting at least certain parts of the route underground. There were also questions about whether enough work has been done to analyse potential ridership of the LRT line – the residents would like to make sure that if the city were invest a lot of money into building the LRT, the line would be highly utilized.
Yvan Baker says that he shares all those concerns and that he needed to consult with the community and ensure that the issues above are addressed before he could take a position on the future of any proposed rail transit in Etobicoke.
During the meeting, the Government of Ontario’s commitment to a 15-minute two-way GO service along the GO lines was also discussed. The province is looking at potentially building new stations along those lines so that people in the city of Toronto can make use of GO Trains as a form of transit. Electrification is a big part of that plan and the province is currently in a process of electrifying all the lines. According to MPP Baker, the people were positive about these plans during the consultation.