At the November 7th-9th meeting of Toronto City Council, a motion was put forward by Etobicoke Lakeshore Ward 6 Councillor Mark Grimes which stated that "a new Park Lawn GO Station is a priority for the City of Toronto". The motion was carried 28-3.
A future Park Lawn GO Station would be at the centre of the booming community of Humber Bay Shores, which is located south of the Gardiner Expressway between the Humber River in the east and Luisa Street in the west. Within just a few years, this area could be home to over 28,000 people. The new GO station would be located on the former Mr. Christie's site (the demolition of which can be seen in this time-lapse video), now owned by First Capital Realty, through a motion adopted in 2015 by the Etobicoke York Community Council. This motion states that any site plan presented to the City for this site must include a provision for a GO station. The City is currently awaiting a site plan proposal for this 27-acre property, and as the Council Report states, "First Capital has expressed interest in working with Metrolinx, the community and the City to support transit on the property"
A new GO station at Park Lawn would represent an almost ideal situation with respect to transit-oriented development (TOD). If a GO station were to be placed on this site, with strategically placed entrance points, the entire Humber Bay Shores community would be within an approximately 5 minute walk to this station. And with a potential minor re-routing of the 501 Queen streetcar route, could also act as a transfer point between local transit and higher order transit.
Despite the community's relative proximity to Downtown Toronto as compared to other areas of the City, this increasingly dense community currently has a lack of appealing transit options. The closest GO station, Mimico, is located just over 1km away from this cluster of residential density, but access to it is convoluted and inconvenient from this area. As such, Mimico GO is of little practical use as a transit option for most Humber Bay Shores residents. The 501 Queen streetcar does run directly through the neighbourhood, but accessing downtown via this option requires crawling along the entirety of Queen Street West, a painfully slow experience (which at several points, getting out and walking would be faster). The community does have an infrequent express bus to downtown, but it operates only in peak periods, requires a double fare, and is subject to traffic jams.
The possibility of a Park Lawn GO Station was included in Metrolinx's New Station Analysis, completed in 2015. This analysis compiled a list of over 50 potential station locations, broken down by corridor. However, when the list of 12 new stations to be built over the next 10 years was released in 2016, Park Lawn was not included.
Some have pointed out that the rationales that Metrolinx used to not include Park Lawn on the short list contained several flaws. The first is that Park Lawn was evaluated "in comparison to existing neighbouring stations", the implication being that this new station would replace the existing station, not be included in addition to it. One of the reasons for this is the fact that Park Lawn and Mimico stations would be between 1.3 and 1.5km apart, depending on where the Park Lawn GO platform was located.
While it is true that this spacing would be close by GO's standards, Metrolinx has approved a new GO station at Spadina Ave, which is barely more than 1km away from Union Station (and less than 2km from Exhibition Station). Metrolinx has also approved a new station at the future East Harbour development, which is barely over 2km away from Union Station. In fact, 8 of the 12 stations proposed (Lawrence East, Finch East, Gerrard, East Harbour, St Clair, Liberty Village, Spadina, Mulock) are approximately 2km away from the nearest existing or proposed station, which would lead one to believe that Metrolinx is not opposed to closely-spaced stations when there is a solid planning rationale for them.
Another factor to consider is that Metrolinx will be adopting Regional Express Rail (RER) within that same 10 year timeframe, which will see these inner stations served primarily by smaller Electric Multiple Units (EMUs), instead of the hulking 12-car diesel bi-levels. EMUs generally have faster acceleration capabilities, allowing stations to be placed closer together without compromising performance.
The second flaw in Metrolinx's analysis was that, according to the City, Metrolinx "did not take account for possible rezoning of the Christie site (subject to Ontario Municipal Board appeal) as well as First Capital's willingness to contribute to being a funding partner for transit". Given that First Capital's proposal is likely to contain residential and/or commercial density in line with other extremely dense developments in the immediate vicinity, a significant number of potential trips will be added to the immediate surrounding area within the 10-year planning horizon. It is also in First Capital's financial interest to see a GO station at this location, as any commercial uses, particularly office uses, would be rendered significantly more feasible (and valuable) if they were located in immediate proximity to a GO station.
Councillor Grimes also put forward a second motion, somewhat related to the first, which stated that "City Council request the Chief Planner and Executive Director, City Planning, to ensure any new residential development applications (Official Plan and Zoning By-law amendments) proposed in the area referred to as Humber Bay Shores...is considered in the context of the provision of existing and planned soft and hard infrastructure in order to ensure that new residential development does not proceed in the absence of planned soft and hard infrastructure required to support new residential population." The motion was adopted.
In essence, the Councillor is proposing that the City give serious consideration to 'pumping the brakes' on new development in the Humber Bay Shores area until there is the required transit infrastructure to properly support that development. This wouldn't be the only area of the city where the City has 'put the cart before the transit horse', so to speak. The East Bayfront was approved and built with the expectation that the East Bayfront LRT would be built in tandem with the development, if not preceding it. As anyone who has been there lately can attest to, the development is there, but the transit is M.I.A. It appears that the City is quick to approve new density when it arrises, but is often slow to create the transit required to effectively service that density.
You can join the discussion on the future Park Lawn GO Station by visiting our forum thread, or by leaving a comment below.