g) The Highway 407 Transitway Station and Alignment
One of the issues of continuing importance to the community is the presence and effect of the Transitway Station on such matters as the availability of and access to the open space and the valley system and on the traffic it would generate. Through the EA process, the community provided alternative configurations to the Ministry of Transportation for its consideration, which identified solutions that would generally, relocate the station elsewhere and/or make adjustments to the alignment of the transitway. Ultimately, these were analyzed and rejected through the EA process and the preferred station location and configuration was approved. On November 26, 2013, an alternative community vision was presented at the Public Hearing for the Secondary Plan in support of a plan that relocated the station to the east, moved the transitway alignment to the south side of Highway 407 and included the construction of a walkway or “skywalk” from the Transitway station to the north side of Highway 7, where pedestrians could access the potential GO Rail Station.
The approach taken to the Transitway Station in the draft Secondary Plan was to look for opportunities to review the role or function of the station at the EA approved location and/or reduce its impact on the immediate area. This approach involved examining a reduction in the station and parking area footprint, to provide for more open space. This approach also recognized that the City could not compel change in the Provincial position but could attempt to persuade it to undertake an alternative approach. Also, given that the provincial approval of the Transitway Station took place recently, it would be unlikely that the Province would reopen or reverse its decision. As such, the policies were directed to identifying and responding to opportunities to investigate alternatives or improvements to the current Transitway Station Plan and identifying the criteria that would need to be considered in the future planning and design processes.
The draft Secondary Plan was circulated to the Ministry of Transportation and other agencies for comment after the November 26, 2013 Public Hearing. A number of responses were provided, which have been addressed in the matrix forming Attachment 2 to this report. Many of the responses from the Ministry speak to the need to recognize the fact that the Highway 407 Station is approved in its current location and the Secondary Plan will need to provide additional guidance on how it would be integrated with the other potential transit services (VivaNext and GO Rail).
Of particular concern to the Ministry was Policy 22.214.171.124 of the Implementation section, which provides “City Guidance on Future Transit Studies and Planned Investments”. As set out in the November 26, 2013 draft, the policy states:
8.2.3. It is expected that a number of transit related studies will be forthcoming to take full advantage of the transit opportunities in the future. This will include feasibility studies, Environmental Assessments, detailed design studies and possibly periodic reviews of previously approved EAs. This will give the City an opportunity to provide comment and make the proponent(s) aware of the City’s objectives as set out in this Plan or as stated in any other document. Therefore, the affected agencies are advised that the City supports:
6. When the Highway 407 Transitway enters detailed design or the approved EA is subject to a further review, it is requested that the Ministry of Transportation:
a) Review the ridership and mode transfer numbers to ensure that the Transitway Station continues to be warranted at the location identified in the approved Environmental Assessment;
b) Consider an alternative route alignment south of Highway 7 and a potential station relocation to Centre Street and Highway 7 to mitigate environmental impacts and provide for a more direct connection to the Viva System and more accessible commuter parking;
c) Take into account the findings of the City’s Natural Heritage Network Study;
d) Take the policies of this Secondary Plan into consideration, with a view to reducing the footprint of the transit facilities in favour of more urban forms of development;
e) Explore opportunities for connecting the Bartley Smith Greenway Trail to the surrounding community; and
f) Explore with the City, the opportunity for acquiring tableland community amenity space contiguous to the valley system within the Parkway Belt West Plan Area, should any such lands be deemed surplus by the Province.
The Ministry of Transportation provided the following comments.
The Secondary Plan policies imply that at the Transitway Detail Design stage, the location of the Transitway alignment and supporting facilities will be reopened for change. The approved EA examined all possible alignment and station locations at this location and completed additional analysis of options proposed by the Concord West Senior Club. The EA confirmed the final design and MTO does not anticipate any reason to re-open and reexamine the design. The purpose of the Detail Design phase is to finalize details such as internal station layout, building materials, signing etc. The Secondary Plan needs to acknowledge these facts to ensure public understanding of the Transitway and its status.
Policies 6a), b) and c) (cited above) discuss MTO in future reviewing the justification for the station location, moving the Transitway into the 407 right of way and relocation of the station. MTO through the EA process has finalized the plans for the Transitway at this location and does not plan further review of the matters identified in this policy.
The Ministry’s position is stated clearly in the comments above. However, City staff recommend that Policy 126.96.36.199 be maintained with minor modifications. They are phrased as a request to the Ministry and pertain to both detail design and any future review of the approved EA. It is recognized that the scale of analysis at the detail design stage is more confined than what would be undertaken during a review of the EA. To provide clarity, as requested by the Ministry, it is recommended that the Ministry’s commitment in the EA, to actions to be undertaken at the Detail Design stage, be replicated in the policy. Therefore the introductory paragraph of Policy 188.8.131.52 should be modified to read as follows:
6. When the Highway 407 Transitway enters detailed design or the approved EA is subject to a further review, it is requested that the Ministry of Transportation: During the Detail Design Stage of the 407 Transitway the Ministry of Transportation has committed to: “Review and adjust, where necessary, the conceptual and preliminary design of all facilities that form part of this undertaking, following any new municipal development plan, transit operational changes and new infrastructure development occurring after the conduct of this TPAP (Transit Project Assessment Process)” In addition, the approved EA may also be subject to further review at some point in the future. In consideration of either process, it is requested that the Ministry of Transportation review:
Based on the comments of the Ministry, it is unlikely to be open to change at this point in the project’s evolution. Staff is of the opinion that the approach set out in the Secondary Plan is most appropriate to this situation. Circumstances change over time and there will be opportunities to review various components of the transportation network as time passes. In addition it is possible that work by Metrolinx and other agencies will prompt a need for design changes to match with implementation priorities. The ultimate objectives should be to optimize the rapid transit services available to the City, while working to improve the living and working environment of the residents. City staff will continue to advocate for design changes at every opportunity to reflect the policy.
h) Extent of the Parkway Belt West Plan and Area’s 3 in 6.
The City of Vaughan has been informed by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing that subject to appropriate approvals, the Parkway Belt West Plan (PBWP) is proposed to be amended in the coming year. The amendment will bring additional lands, which are now in the Concord GO Centre Secondary Plan area under the jurisdiction of the Parkway Belt West Plan, to reflect the outcome of the Transitway Environmental Assessment. This amendment, if approved, will change the land-use designation of said lands in the secondary plan. One response has been identified in paragraph e) above in respect of the “Future Use of Area 3”. The secondary plan has also been updated to include a more general policy that allows for the approved PBWP amendment to be incorporated into the secondary plan, beyond Area 3, without a further Official Plan Amendment. It is added as policy 3.1.16 as follows:
3.1.16 The Ministry of Transportation intends to submit a comprehensive Parkway Belt West Plan amendment in the near future. The purpose of this amendment is to align the Inter-Urban Transit designation in the Parkway Belt West Plan with the approved Route Planning and Preliminary Design for the 407 Transitway EA. Any areas subject to this amendment will be brought under the jurisdiction of the Parkway Belt West Plan, providing for their re-designation to Inter-Urban Transit or other Parkway Belt West designation. Upon approval of the Parkway Belt West Plan amendment, this Plan will be modified accordingly without further amendment.