2.3. A comparison of the proposed plans
The lack of merit of the OMT-proposed Concept Design is multiple and extensive. Not only does it profoundly and adversely affect the social environment of the Concord West community, but it transforms the community into a traffic-hub environment. Crime statistics for areas surrounding train and bus stations are beyond dispute (see Figure 9): all crimes increase, ranging from petty crimes, theft, car theft to rape and murder. It is unconscionable that this fate has been undemocratically and nonsensically slated for the Concord West community.
Further, the OMT-proposed Concept Design needlessly destroys the ecological niche of the ORC greenland, and its continuity with the Bartley Smith Greenway/Langstaff Ecopark. It blocks the natural circulation of Concord West residents, and further severs the communication between the Concord West and Glen Shields communities. Even though the policy of the ORC is to sell public land to pay for the Provincial deficit, this cannot justify a senseless plan that, on top of everything else, involves public purchase (not sale!) of lands presently owned privately by Concord West residents and businesses. Moreover, it seems absurd that, for the sake of supporting the high-density re-zoning of the Concord Floral lands, the infrastructures that will be of direct benefit to its owner(s) have been moved to the south side of Highway #7.
The overall emplacement of a complex traffic hub along a curve – on the section of Highway 7 that curves north from the east-west axis of the highway’s western portion – is also a poor urbanistic choice, a classical error in fact, since it will always have a tendency to create a bottleneck. This error is further magnified by the fact that this very section of the Highway is already one of the most congested. The result can only aggravate the existing bottleneck, which will be further compounded by the vehicular outflow from the north and south branches of the new wide road projected to intersect Highway 7 (as per Figure 3 & Figure 4).
If these considerations alone should not have been sufficient for rejection of the existing Design Concept, there are others just as pertinent and egregious.
First off, there are the adverse health effects arising from the constant noise and pollution (vehicular and dust) that will assault the Concord West residents over the course of such a prolonged, massive construction project as that proposed by the Design Concept to be undertaken meters from their homes and concentrated at the confluence of four streets (Rockview Gardens, Gemma Court, Hartley Court and Baldwin Avenue).
Next, there is the fact that train and vehicular noise and pollution will continue in the Concord West community long after the construction may be over, with:
(1) the operation of trains at the adjoining GO station;
(2) the bus traffic in and out of the parking zone area and through the Metrolinx lanes and station;
(3) car traffic into and out of the parking lot;
(4) unending idling cars and taxis at the pick-up bay in the same parking lot area: (5) increased vehicular circulation through Hillside Avenue, Rockview Gardens, Southview Drive and Baldwin Avenue, the four larger streets of the community.
(6) perhaps worst of all, the turning of our streets into another permanent parking lot, this being not just a problem of noise and pollution, but also the effective destruction of our streets and the end of their safety.
Another negative feature that, this time, concerns the overall Metrolinx plan, is the fact that the rapid buses being contemplated are diesel powered, and not electrical. So are the existing GO trains. Replacing car traffic with worse-polluting diesel powered trains and buses in the age of the electric train and electric buses seems nearsighted, to say the least. For the Concord West community this poor choice of diesel powered vehicles simply emphasizes the conclusion that the Metrolinx route and station must be placed as far from the community as possible. Well documented studies have cited the negative impact of high-usage diesel powered rail corridors (such as will be created by the proposed line’s F59PH locomotives) upon the respiratory and cardiovascular health of individuals living in proximity to such installations. The entire concept of locating such a major diesel powered train and bus hub effectively within our community is not only alarming, but completely unacceptable to all residents of Concord West.
Then there is the fact that the projected GO Station, Metrolinx station and elevator complex all converge to the east and south of the small community park (Southview Park), which is currently predominantly used by toddlers and those seeking an outdoor exercise area for sports or gymnastics. The pollution, as well as the potential for catastrophic accidents – such as a train derailment – in such close proximity to family residences and children’s play areas (see Picture B, which shows a view of the small local parkette, Southview Park, from the rail line, and Picture C, which shows a view of the rail line from inside the Southview parkette) are evident risks that are vigorously refused by all members of the community. In fact, it has led the community to question the entire rationale behind the utilization of this segment of the Snyder Junction rail line for the main GO route, with its presently existing path passing so close to two residential communities. We should further note that it is bad enough that, in a constructive spirit, the community accepted in principle the existence of two GO railway lines if its alternative plan is to be accepted by the OMT. For the fact is that if these two lines are contemplated to be in operation every half-hour, such a schedule may well not be acceptable to the community, in particular, to the households located on Gemma Court and Hartley Court, immediately adjacent to the railway track. In this context, the community would appreciate if the contemplated estimates for train frequency be made available. Given reported noise level outputs of more than 10dB for such diesel powered locomotives, even the best acoustic-absorbent walls may not be sufficient to abate it. Likewise, the pilon-driving that would be necessary in the construction of the two-line GO railway may also be unacceptable to the community. Because of these considerations, the community feels that a study of a possible partial detour of the GO line further to the east of its existing path may well be in order. Perhaps the detour could coexist and be integrated with part of the rapid-bus path where it curves northward parallel to the 407, with one running above the other, rather than side by side. Such a solution could well be accommodated in the context of the alternative plan proposed herein.
Another troubling aspect of the OMT-proposed Design Concept concerns the question of the Don River flood plain. It is still unclear whether or not this Design Concept alters the existing flood plain, since the plan has no elevation markings. At the meeting on September 14, Senior Planner Ivanoff assured the community that this flood plain would remain as is, and that the ORC greenland in question is not really a part of the flood plain. To the community this does not seem to be correct. Parts of the said ORC greenland are graded into the flood plain, and must therefore be part of the natural flood plain and contribute substantial run-off. Be that as it may be ascertained by the current environmental assessment and the TRCA, one aspect of this problem has been of great concern to the community: the fact that the existing flood plain is already stressed and hardly able to handle water run-off, as was made apparent by the catastrophic August 19, 2005 flood. This only underlines the potential danger of the additional stress that would be put on the existing flood plain by the run-off from the projected parking lot and paved roads in the proposed traffic hub, not to mention the amount of pavement contemplated by the City of Vaughan to be laid down on the south side of Highway 7 in order to “beautify” that highway. These considerations alone would oblige the existing flood plain to have to be entirely remodeled, were the proposed Design Concept to be implemented.
In conclusion, taken in conjunction with the increased danger to our residents and their children from the massive influx of transit users who would daily be finding their way through our currently quiet residential streets – there is no aspect of this project, in its current location, that does not represent a clear and present danger to the Concord West residents, their social and natural environment, and the ecology of the Bartley-Smith Greenway. A comparison of most, but not all, features just discussed that contrast the OMT-proposed Concept Design with the alternative plan proposed by the community is shown in Figure 10. The alternative plan may have different possible resolutions, or even possibly be replaced by a better one with greater merit; but what the community has little doubt about is that the OMT-proposed Concept Design has no merit whatsoever, and should be scrapped. Thus, part of the aim of the present submission is to call on the OMT to rethink entirely the plan for the traffic hub, and to do so on the basis of its location away from the Concord West community and on the north side of Highway 7. Only this directive can ensure that the ORC greenland under petition for transfer to the TRCA will cease being hostage to a Metro and Provincial fast transitway plan that, in effect, in what concerns its Concord location, was poorly conceived and must be urgently corrected.