By BEN SPURR
Wednesday January 17, 2018
Mayor John Tory is pushing the province to build a new GO Transit station in south Etobicoke, despite an analysis from the provincial transit agency that rejected the project as costly and redundant.
At a press conference in Mimico Wednesday to discuss an update to the city’s waterfront transit plans, the mayor said he planned to “lean on” local candidates and party leaders in the run-up to the June provincial election to win their support for a new GO station on the Lakeshore West line at Park Lawn.
“This would be an important transit investment in Toronto. A waterfront that isn’t connected to reliable higher-level transit and with the appropriate kind of transit hub including a Park Lawn GO station is not going to fill the need that we have because of the development that’s taken place,” he said.
The $177.9-million Park Lawn project is not one of 12 new stations that the board of Metrolinx, the arm’s-length regional transit agency of the provincial government, approved in 2016.
But the proposal has strong support from local politicians including Councillor Mark Grimes and Liberal MPP Peter Milczyn, who argue the rapid residential development that’s taken place in the Humber Bay Shores area necessitates a new stop.
A business case analysis commissioned by Metrolinx determined Park Lawn would meet planning objectives, but rejected the project because the proposed station site at the northwest corner of the former Mr. Christie lands is just 1.3 kilometres east of the existing Mimico GO station. The minimum spacing requirement between GO stops is 1.5 kilometres.
The report determined that having two stops so close together was “not an option” and that if Park Lawn were built, Mimico would have to be closed. Because Mimico is in the midst of a $55-million modernization, the analysis recommended against Park Lawn and a subsequent report screened it out of further consideration.
The business case also noted that while Park Lawn would attract more riders than Mimico, the “associated benefits are not nearly enough to offset the capital costs” of building the new stop, which could necessitate rebuilding the Gardiner Expressway overpass and realigning track.
“Provincial policies support the optimization of existing infrastructure and discourage the uneconomical expansion or construction of new public facilities,” determined the report.
Tory disagreed with that analysis, and suggested Wednesday that once GO lines are electrified, trains could bypass either of the stations and eliminate the delay associated with having two stops so close together.
“We need both (Mimico and Park Lawn), and that’s just a reality in a fast-growing city and one of the fastest growing areas of the city,” he said.
Despite the Metrolinx analysis initially rejecting the station, a spokesperson for the agency said it has “continued to work with the City of Toronto to improve the potential Park Lawn station site’s strategic, economic, financial, and operations cases.”
A review of new stations under consideration as part of Metrolinx’s planned GO Regional Express Rail expansion is expected to go before the agency’s board in March.
Regardless of whether the Park Lawn GO stop goes ahead, the city intends to bring more transit to the lake shore. The update going before the mayor’s executive committee next week recommends proceeding with upgrades to existing streetcar lines in the west of the city between Long Branch and Bay St., and building a new line along Queens Quay East connecting Union Station to the Port Lands.
The cost of the entire network has risen from an earlier estimate of $1.5 billion, and is now projected to cost between $1.98 billion and $2.3 billion. The city is seeking federal and provincial money for the project but it is currently unfunded.
The plans call for bridging gaps in the current waterfront streetcar network, most significantly by building a new continuous streetcar right-of-way from Humber Bay Shores to the streetcar loop at Exhibition Place.
Parts of the $575-million right-of-way could be built within the next 10 years, but a complicated section that would pass beneath the Gardiner Expressway couldn’t be done until at least 2028.
The report makes no final recommendation about what to do with the crucial 540-metre underground tunnel that links the Queens Quay West streetcar to Union Station.
The existing streetcar loop beneath Union is already not large enough for current transit service. The loop “would not function effectively or safely” if the second streetcar line on Queens Quay East is added.
Increasing the capacity of the loop to make room for more streetcars is an option, but would be expensive and logistically complex. City staff had previously proposed replacing the streetcar tracks with either a moving pedestrian walkway or an underground funicular.
The new report advises not proceeding with the moving walkway idea, but to continue studying the funicular and loop expansion options. Staff expect to reach a final recommendation by the spring of 2019.