The Ontario government has released a discussion paper that it says will form the basis for public feedback on its transportation plans for Toronto and the rest of the Greater Golden Horseshoe Area over the coming decades.
The 34-page discussion paper was released Tuesday night and lays out the government’s rough 30-year vision for transit in the region through 2051.
“Our regional transportation network needs to be ready to meet the demands that will come with the forecasted population and employment growth,” Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney said in an introduction to the paper. “Our government understands that we need a transportation plan that will help us build a better system to keep goods and people moving for decades to come.”
The province says it is releasing the paper in order to get feedback on the plans, though some parts are already underway or are set to begin soon.
The document lists major transit projects, but also explores possible ways to tackle road congestion and to move goods through the region more easily.
Congestion already costs the economy up to $11 billion a year in lost productivity in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area and the situation is likely to get worse in the coming years without intervention, the paper says.
The population of the Greater Golden Horseshoe Area is expected to grow by nearly 50 per cent over the next 30 years from 10 million people in 2019 to 14.9 million people by 2051.
To relieve congestion, the paper envisions delivering major highway projects, including in the GTA West Corridor, as well as widening highways at strategic locations across the region, including highways 401, 400, 403 and the QEW.
Congestion could further be eased by managing passenger travel demands, particularly at peak hours, through pricing, parking charges, telecommuting and flexible work hours.
The province also says the plan will consider new technologies such as automated and connected vehicles, real-time traffic management for moving goods, as well as shifting demographics that will change how people choose to get around.
“Some of these changes have the potential to fundamentally disrupt the transportation industry,” the discussion paper notes.
While most trips in the region are taken by road – whether by car, bus or bicycle – the paper acknowledges that “roads alone cannot keep up with growth.”
The plan includes some mass transportation projects that are already underway or are in the planning stages, such as the Ontario Line, Eglinton Crosstown West Extension, Yonge North and Scarborough Subway Extensions and Finch West, Hurontario and Hamilton LRTs.
But it also contemplates a possible “transit loop” that would connect the Ontario Line with new major transit hubs, including Pearson International Airport and Richmond Hill Centre, that would then link to other regional services.
The paper also contemplates exploring new east-west, cross-regional connections between Burlington and Oshawa on existing GO rail lines that would not have to pass through Union Station.
It also lists the Sheppard East subway extension and an extension of the Eglinton Crosstown to Pearson as being on the table as part of “Phase 2” of Ontario’s GTA transit plan.
The province is also looking to establish a provincial-municipal table that would examine how to better integrate fares and services across the region, as has been done to some extent through the Presto payment system.
The province says its plan will take into account the different needs of both urban areas and rapidly growing suburban municipalities, as well as rural areas and Indigenous communities.
The paper acknowledges that the COVID-19 pandemic has “led to re-thinking how we use transportation infrastructure.”
It cites the closure of streets or lanes to motor vehicles to make more space for safe walking and cycling, as with Toronto’s ActiveTO program, and says the transportation system going forward should be “resilient in the face of unexpected events” including those that may arise from climate change.
The discussion paper does not include detailed cost estimates for the 30-year-vision.
The government has set up a survey page where people can provide input on the plan.
The province says it will be accepting feedback for the next two months until August 28 and will release its final plan sometime later this year.