In February, City Council asked Sheppard East Village BIA (SEV BIA) to appoint someone as a member of its Expert Panel on Transit. The Executive Director represented the SEV BIA Board
of Management and members, as one of 7 individuals who served on this Panel.
The Panel heard expert presentations on February 17, 24 and March 2 and also met on March 8, 9 and 15 - all lengthy sessions. A large number of reference materials, emails and handouts were reviewed by Panel members. The Panel's comprehensive report was presented to City Council members on March 16. A non-disclosure arrangement was in effect during most of this time.
1. Panel members were asked to consider the presentations made by planning experts - and were not expected to be transit experts.
2. Panel members were not asked to vote for or against subways or LRTs - that is the role of the elected members of City Council.
3. Panel's terms of reference: "advise the most effective means of delivering rapid transit to the greatest number of riders - with funds currently allocated and with projected funds".
4. Panel members evaluated transit options relative to nine criteria. At SEV's suggestion, economic and development criteria were more heavily weighted than the other criteria.
5. Panel recommendations are in a 65 page report - and hundreds of other pages of related source materials are available, as electronic attachments.
6. The Panel's report includes a detailed outline of what would be required to finance a Sheppard subway - if this was Council's choice. The budget to build a subway from Don Mills to Scarborough Centre, turning south near Kennedy Road, would be approximately $3 billion.
7. The Panel's report also outlined how the City could repay any public-private partnership arranged to fund and construct transit - as had been recommended in Gordon Chong's report to the City about a Sheppard subway extension.
8. A majority of Panel members concluded that a Sheppard LRT from Don Mills to Conlins Road is the prudent option - in part, because it is fully funded in the approved 2010 Metrolinx plan and a plan to finance a Sheppard East subway extension was not presented.
Sheppard Transit Options
Since 1986, the City's Official Plan called for a subway on Sheppard East, to link North York and Scarborough - based on projections of 95,000 jobs being created in North York centre and 65,000 jobs being created in Scarborough centre. [By 2010, actual jobs were 39,000 and 14,700.] Many of these projected jobs may now be located in Markham, Mississauga and other suburbs.
City Planners said a Sheppard subway extension could still be an option - if development that creates jobs (not just residences) was likely to follow the subway construction and â€¦ / there was a plan by which the City would finance a subway. The TTC agreed that subways are the highest form of transit - if ridership warrants and they can be financed. The Panel was aware that many SEV BIA members and nearby residents favour the subway option - especially if the required funding was in place.
City and transit planners agree on the order of priority of Toronto's modes of transit - subways; LRTs; dedicated bus lanes; buses; and streetcars. Where subways are not built, experts agree that LRTs are the next best transit option. At least 115 other large cities now have LRTs. The Metrolinx plan would provide the first LRTs in Toronto.
The position of SEV BIA is that a comprehensive plan and required funding should be in place before any form of transit construction in our area is approved by Council. SEV has advocated this position, since it started working on transit issues and plans in January of 2008.
Funding a Subway Option
Gordon Chong's report pointed out that the City would have to introduce new taxes, road tolls or other funding tools - many of which could require Provincial approval - to develop a public-private partnership to finance and construct a subway. P-3 has great promise; but the partners' investment of over $3 billion would have to be paid back out of City revenues. This is why new City funding tools would be critical. The City's CFO noted that a 1% residential tax increase - if dedicated to funding transit construction - could pay off a Sheppard subway extension in 7 years.
City Council Decisions
Councillor Del Grande's motion proposed a $100 million annual dedicated non-residential parking levy - to initiate the funding for a Sheppard subway that would have run down McCowan Road to the Scarborough Centre. Council did not support this motion.
Councillor Kelly's motion called for Sheppard LRT funding to be used to add two stations to the existing Sheppard subway, so it would end at Victoria Park, and requested a report on costs and requirements to establish rapid bus service on Sheppard, from Victoria Park to Conlins Road. Council did not support this motion.
Councillor de Baeremaeker's motion to complete an agreement with Metrolinx - the Ontario Government agency that also holds Canadian Government funds to build transit on Sheppard East - was approved. This would enact their approved 2010 plan for LRTs on Sheppard East; Eglinton Crosstown; Finch West; and the conversion to LRT / extension of the Scarborough RT to intersect with the Sheppard LRT between Markham and Neilson Roads. This plan is funded for $8.4 billion, of which $1.1 billion would be dedicated to Sheppard East LRT construction.
SEV BIA Participation
Councillor Thompson publicly thanked the Panel and said its report and recommendations would be of great value in future Council transit deliberations. Gordon Chong said SEV contributions and evaluations were helpful for the subway option.
SEV provided a lot of local area information and contributed to the Panel's review process and detailed report, in accordance with its terms of reference.
As well, SEV's many contributions (from 2008 to 2010) to the Metrolinx LRT construction plan - that should revolutionize how transit is built in Toronto - are much appreciated by City officials.
Further information: please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call SEV BIA at 416-607-5399.
While SEV enjoys many positive attributes, area businesses were not widely-known nor was the area attracting as many customers as some other Toronto shopping districts.
A 2006 City poll determined that a majority of area commercial property and business owners favoured forming a new BIA - an endorsement of the efforts of local business owners and managers who had come together to see how they could better promote the area. At its Annual General Meetings, members are elected as the volunteer Board of Management of SEV BIA. SEV activities are financed almost entirely by fees paid by the businesses and professional offices that are its members. Each year, a budget is passed by BIA members – and submitted for approval by Toronto City Council
In 2007, SEV BIA completed a strategic plan, some branding requirements and a plan outlining streetscape improvements - all designed to guide its activities and expenditures for the next 5 + years, to help SEV reach out to the wider community.
To build awareness, SEV banners went up on area Hydro poles; SEV stickers appeared in local business windows; SEV ads appeared in agenda booklets of every student in nearby schools; and the SEV website was developed, to help it communicate with the public, as well as with BIA members.
In January of 2008, TTC Chair Adam Giambrone told the SEV Board that the first of the new Light Rail Transit (LRT) lines would be built on Sheppard East, through SEV BIA – likely starting in early 2009. Most SEV plans and programs were then put on hold and it changed its focus – to deal with a variety of critical transit issues.
SEV BIA Transit Contributions
Because of the threat to our members’ businesses, SEV BIA determined that the best service it could provide - for its members and nearby residents – was to do whatever it could to ensure that the ‘St. Clair West transit fiasco’ was not repeated in our area.
SEV BIA initially opposed the LRT plan - if it was to be constructed the same way as St. Clair Avenue West. SEV advocated for compensation to offset revenue losses, when LRT construction was in the vicinity of a small business. SEV submitted a series of questions to the Ontario Minister of the Environment, prior to his formal approval of the LRT plan in the spring of 2009.
At the same time, SEV began to meet with TTC and City officials about LRT matters. For 3 years, SEV participated in numerous LRT planning meetings and communicated regularly with TTC, City and Metrolinx officials and consultants.
A new approach and a more comprehensive plan was developed by Metrolinx, so LRT construction would be undertaken with a minimum of disruption and maximum benefits for Sheppard East Village and surrounding residential neighbourhoods. SEV also met regularly with streetscape planners and helped them develop a ‘city-building’ approach that would be used on Sheppard Avenue East and could be adapted for other proposed LRT projects across Toronto.
The positive role and many contributions of SEV were recognized by senior Metrolinx, TTC and City officials, as well as City Councillors and Ontario Cabinet Ministers. SEV was recognized in a January 2010 City report - “Getting It Right” - that supported our view about the St. Clair West transit fiasco and commended the new approach being employed for planning the Sheppard East LRT, with on-going SEV BIA participation.
Throughout this period, SEV Board members were frequently interviewed and quoted in newspaper and other media – helping to build awareness of the SEV area, on behalf of its members and nearby residents.
Our Focus Has Shifted Again
In December of 2010, the City announced that it no longer wanted the proposed Sheppard East LRT service - confirmed in their April 2011 agreement with Metrolinx.Â
SEV’s focus has been returning to plans and activities that will increase awareness of the businesses and professionals in our area – as well as its improving its appeal to shoppers.
Sheppard East Village businesses and professionals look forward to welcoming you to our shopping area – and providing the goods and services that you need.