Transportation minister Steven Del Duca hears from Etobicoke residents about transit needs
Residents urge for Humber Bay Shores GO station, call for caution on Eglinton LRT
Feb. 9, 2016
By Cynthia Reason
Minister of Transportation Steven Del Duca heard the transit wish lists of Etobicoke residents loud and clear at a town hall last week.
The establishment of a Park Lawn GO station emerged as the top priority for Humber Bay Shores area residents during the Wednesday, Feb. 3 meeting, while Etobicoke Centre natives living along Eglinton Avenue West lobbied for an LRT configuration that won’t drive traffic into their neighbourhoods.
Del Duca, who grew up in Etobicoke, called the standing-room-only turnout to the meeting a testament to the passion of his hometown community “for making sure all levels of government work together to get this right.”
“Because of many, many years of chronic under-investment in crucial infrastructure, we find ourselves in a very fascinating, very interesting time ... ,” Del Duca told more than 150 people in attendance at the meeting, which was co-hosted by Etobicoke Centre MPP Yvan Baker and Etobicoke-Lakeshore MPP Peter Milczyn.
“We find ourselves in an era simultaneously trying to catch up and keep up, because for too long... governments at all levels and of all stripes didn’t make the difficult decisions to make sure that we continue to build the road, highway and bridge infrastructure, and continue to expand our public transit to give people options with respect to leaving their cars at home,” Del Duca said.
One of the results of that indecision, Etobicoke-Lakeshore residents argued, is the “terrible” gridlock around Humber Bay Shores - a 2.5-km strip of “crunching roadway” that one resident estimated will house up to 35 condominiums and 30,000 people before its development boom is over.
“Knowing the tax base of 2.5 km of vertical living, I just wonder if we have a GO station in mind?” the resident asked Del Duca. “We’re terribly under-serviced there, and we really sorely need a better transit system in the area to get people out of their cars. I know every jurisdiction has their own wish list, but I’m hopeful that a serious look is given to Humber Bay Shores area.”
That sentiment was echoed by both Michael Olivier, head of the transit subcommittee with Our Place Initiative, and Craig White, managing editor of urbantoronto.ca
“I know there can be enough speakers lined up here tonight to underline how important a Humber Bay station is for GO,” White said. “There is no potential site along the Lake Shore West GO line that has more density already added to it, with more still coming, than that one spot.”
In response, Del Duca said he’s well aware of the dramatic changes that have taken place in that pocket of Etobicoke in recent years, and noted that Park Lawn is on an “immediate shortlist” of 50 sites Metrolinx is currently analyzing as potential new GO stations.
“The commitment that we gave publicly was that we would be back out following further analysis in the spring of 2016 with a final announcement of the short-shortlist,” he said, noting that the number of sites on that final list is yet to be determined.
“But I know on that list of 50, there’s a potential station at Park Lawn. We haven’t completed our analysis, but I will say, virtually from the first day I became minister of transportation, Peter (Milczyn) has talked to me about this fairly consistently and very directly conveyed the challenge you and others in your neighbourhood are facing with this.”
Up in Etobicoke Centre, meanwhile, Baker’s constituents expressed their misgivings with the potential impact an Eglinton LRT would have on their local streets.
Richview Gardens resident Mark de Domenico noted the “tremendous” residential development the area around Eglinton west of Kipling has undergone in recent years - development that has squeezed out the corridor’s potential for roadway expansion.
“I, like many of the residents in my area, am frightened that someone’s now going to get the brilliant idea to build (the LRT) right down the middle of Eglinton, and it’s going to be disastrous,” he said.
“Traffic is going to end up coming into our neighbourhoods to avoid Eglinton, through areas where children play, where there are schools, and where’s it’s not safe. Those little residential streets are not designed for people trying to cut through.”
One representative of Richview Ratepayers Association agreed with that assessment, calling Eglinton not just an artery, but a “jugular” for Toronto.
“By introducing an LRT, that jugular will be blocked further, choking the city with traffic,” the person said, noting the need for solutions now, rather than 10 years from now when the LRT arrives.
“Eglinton was always meant to be a bigger street - it was meant to be three to four lanes on each side. Why can’t we do that now?” While Del Duca noted he’s been kept well informed of the challenges the Eglinton corridor presents by Baker, he said the plan for resolving those issues is not yet fully formed.
“I think the only thing worse than us doing nothing would be for us to do something to solve one problem that would inadvertently create a series of others,” he said.
“ ... So I guess that’s a really roundabout, political way of me saying I can’t confirm for you tonight what the plan is...There’s still a ton of discussion and negotiation that has to happen between the province, Metrolinx and the city before we land on exactly what the road map will look like and how we will integrate GO regional express rail with Mayor Tory’s vision around SmartTrack and what that might mean for the Eglinton corridor.
“The most important commitment I can make is we’re going to keep talking. We’re going to keep hearing from the community.”'