GTHA residents have been clamouring for a more direct subway connection for years, and it looks like one could be coming.
Recently, the Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA) announced that it plans to partner with Metrolinx to extend the Eglinton Crosstown West LRT from Renforth to Toronto Pearson Airport (which is technically located in Mississauga).
While the Eglinton Crosstown West project is a light rail transit (LRT) project, it does appear there are plans to build it (or part of it) underground, hence many are referring to it as a subway.
The GTAA says the $40 million commitment represents another “tangible step forward” to bring important transit connections to Canada’s busiest airport and build a regional transit network. The plan is also part and parcel of a plan to turn Pearson into a major transit hub dubbed Union Station West.
The GTAA says the multi-million dollar commitment follows the Ontario-TTC agreement and the province’s announcement of four priority transit projects, including the Eglinton Crosstown West Extension.
“As part of our plan to build Ontario together, our government is making the single largest capital investment in new subway builds in Canadian history,” said Ontario Premier Doug Ford in a statement.
“We welcome the GTAA’s multi-million-dollar investment to help connect the Eglinton Crosstown West subway extension to Toronto Pearson Airport. Today’s announcement is another clear example of how our government is strengthening partnerships to build more transit, faster—spurring economic growth and creating jobs throughout the region.”
The GTAA says it has already invested $38 million in work on the hub, so the Eglinton Crosstown West subway extension will bring its total investment to about $78 million.
The GTAA says it will pursue the additional works for the Renforth – Pearson portion of the line in partnership with Metrolinx, which will build on the GTAA-Metrolinx joint work program announced in April 2018.
The overall Union Station West project has been picking up steam over the past two years, and the GTAA recently released a regional transit whitepaper.
Back in 2017, the GTAA announced that it was moving forward with plans for the regional transit centre to better connect the Pearson Airport area to “key employment and residential areas throughout the Greater Golden Horseshoe.”
The GTAA says the proposed hub could allow MiWay to make convenient connections to regional transit networks, enabling more seamless travel across municipal boundaries.
“Whether you’re stuck on the 403 commuting to work or in a local traffic jam on Mavis Road, congestion is making life increasingly difficult,” the GTAA wrote in a 2018 news release.
“Toronto Pearson is leading the discussion with business and resident groups, shining a spotlight on the need for a second major transit hub in the West GTHA, located at the airport.”
The GTAA begs an important question: Why is the airport—which is located far away from Toronto’s downtown core in Mississauga’s Malton neighbourhood—the right location for the region’s second major transit hub?
Toronto Pearson touches three of the largest municipalities in Canada (Toronto, Mississauga and Brampton), it’s located in the middle of the GTA and it has a GO Train corridor right next to it, with multiple planned or existing transit lines nearby.
The GTAA also points out that the “Airport Employment Zone” is also the second-largest cluster of employment in all of Canada.
“An airport is never a final destination for arriving tourists, business people, residents and students; building a transit hub at Canada’s largest airport just makes sense,” the GTAA says.
The GTAA says that, ideally, GTA residents would experience the following benefits from a west-end Union Station:
- More convenient transit: A hub at the airport could aggregate riders from other regions that could use MiWay, increasing ridership and allowing for more frequent service
- Cutting congestion: The Airport Employment Zone, which includes portions of Mississauga, is estimated to be the highest generator of generator of trips to work in the entire Greater Golden Horseshoe. It is the second-largest cluster of jobs, yet less than 10 per cent of commuters use transit. A hub at Toronto Pearson could have a major impact on reducing commuter traffic for Mississauga.
- Jobs: Jobs are being kept out of reach of Mississauga’s residents by a lack of convenient transit options. A more seamless network of regional transit that enables travel across municipal boundaries could help Mississauga’s workers take advantage of new employment opportunities.
- The GTA is falling behind: About 90 per cent of American metropolitan areas with 5-7 million people have at least two major hubs.
- Community building: A major transit hub would connect residents in underserviced or low-income communities to new jobs and opportunity, giving them upward income mobility.
The current GTAA-Metrolinx joint program is working to improve rapid transit access to Pearson Airport and is also exploring potential ground connections to the future Union Station West and surrounding Airport Employment Zone, a potential Kitchener GO rail corridor connection, and improved LRT and bus connections.
The recently-released whitepaper documents the value that the future Union Station West could bring to multiple communities across the region, and shares some interesting findings.
The whitepaper points out that municipal borders are meaningless to transit riders such as workers, students, and residents who experience multiple unintegrated fares and uncoordinated transfers.
It also found that the region’s current “radial” transit system no longer supports connections between the Greater Golden Horseshoe’s economic and employment centre and the goods movement sector is straining under intense road congestion, leading to increased consumer prices, lower profits and reduced productivity.
“Significant improvements to our regional transit system are required for our region to be able to compete globally, and that is why we are making this financial investment to advance this work,” said Howard Eng, President and CEO of the Greater Toronto Airports Authority.
“We will continue to push for improved transit that connects to Toronto Pearson and the Airport Employment Zone as well as the creation of Union Station West.”