Among the many reports (scroll down to the bottom of this document for links) coming to Toronto’s Executive Committee on March 9 is a short paper on Transit Network Analysis, three detailed demand projections and a paper about Growth Assumptions. Although this has the neutral title Population and Employment Projections, it is in fact a review of the effect of SmartTrack on development in the Greater Toronto Area. The main report is titled Commercial & Multi-Residential Forecasts For The Review Of SmartTrack.
The paper is authored by the Strategic Regional Research Alliance, or SRRA, whose primary focus is real estate market tracking and projection. This organization (or its principals) were involved in the reports leading to the original SmartTrack plan in now-Mayor Tory’s campaign, specifically:
A fundamental premise running through all three papers, and perpetuated in the SmartTrack proposal, was that downtown Toronto was more or less fully built-out, and that future commercial growth would occur primarily in two major centres outside of the city, the large area around Pearson Airport and an equally large area around Markham. The potential for additional growth within Toronto itself was regarded as low, and therefore major expansion of the rapid transit network would focus on the two big suburban nodes.
At the Mayor’s direction, SRRA was retained as a consultant to the planning work now underway by the City of Toronto. This raised eyebrows both at Council for the crossover from a campaign support role to consultant, and also at Metrolinx where SRRA’s principal, Iain Dobson, had been appointed to the Board during the latter days of Glen Murray’s term as Ontario Minister of Transportation.
Although there is reason to take the new SRRA report with a grain of salt, the document makes interesting reading including a shift in some of SRRA’s outlook compared to their earlier work.
Which Land Use Model is Toronto Actually Using?
This report is supposed to be background to the overall planning study coming to Executive, but its focus is exclusively on the effects of SmartTrack. There is little mention of the development effects of other initiatives including the Scarborough Subway Extension (SSE), the Eglinton Crosstown LRT. Also, in part because ST and the GO/RER proposal cover the same territory and share stations, it is unclear how much change to development patterns occurs specifically due to SmartTrack and how much to the two services operating in one corridor.
Other background studies examine ridership effects of various combinations of SmartTrack, the SSE and the Relief Line, and these clearly must have an underlying land use, population and job location model. How this was developed or relates to the SRRA study is not clear.
That said, for the remainder of this article, I will concentrate on the SRRA text and its underlying assumptions.