June 29, 2011
To Hon. Dalton McGuinty, Premier of Ontario, Hon. Kathleen Wynne, The Minister of Transportation, Hon. Greg Sorbara, MPP for Vaughan and Mr. Neil Ahmed, P. Eng., Consultant Project Manager.
Re: GTA West Corridor
As residents of Vaughan, Sustainable Vaughan’s executive is writing to express its opposition to the GTA west corridor. Vaughan does not require more highways to deal with increased growth and existing traffic congestion. If highways were considered anathema to the problems related to growth and congestion, highway construction would be an ongoing consideration in the City of Toronto. Toronto’s growth also increases each year and far more goods and people flow in and out of Toronto than Vaughan. We understand that this type of solution is out-dated and detrimental to the city’s vitality. Far more is lost when we propose drastic solutions such as an expressway through the city.
Sustainable Vaughan believes the proposal of creating a highway through Vaughan’s Greenbelt is equally out-dated. Guelph, Milton, Peel and Vaughan all suffer from traffic congestion related to car dependency. This dependency is born out of urban sprawl and segregated land use pattern of development that is typical of GTA suburbs. This problem is a result of previous political decisions. It seems counter-productive to reward these suburbs with a new highway and further feed resident’s addiction to their cars. This vicious cycle needs to be broken if the province ever hopes to alleviate the region’s traffic congestion woes.
The cost of traffic congestion within the GTA is well documented by The Toronto Board of Trade in its report, “Toronto as a Global City: Scorecard on Prosperity 2010”. The report suggests the reasons for the GTA’s traffic issues are urban sprawl and decades of under-investment in public transit (not the lack of highways). The report also found that 70 per cent of Torontonians drive to work. The city came in last compared to other major cities such as New York where 60 per cent drive to work, 40 per cent in London, and 25 per cent in Paris. The average round trip in the region is 80 minutes, 24 minutes more than Los Angeles, a city legendary for its long commute times. Building new highways will not change this culture of congestion.
It’s unfortunate your government continues to pursue this highway as it has delayed funding to public transit infrastructure. Your government has delayed York Region’s funding to expand the Viva system, along with $4 billion dollars in other public transit infrastructure projects in the GTA. The new subway extension to Vaughan will go a long way to reduce traffic congestion, but without an efficient and extensive network of public transit spreading throughout the city, traffic congestion will only get worse. A new highway will not reduce this. It will simply funnel more cars into Vaughan from other growth centres.
Vaughan will potentially be the regional epicenter of automobile traffic due to its existing highway infrastructure and central location. Connecting the car dependent growth centres of Guelph, Milton, Brampton and Vaughan will only result in another congested highway in the region.
This “Greenbelt Expressway” will represent another form of sprawl: infrastructure sprawl. It would result in the slow and incremental erosion of our natural heritage in favour of increased automobile-oriented infrastructure in what the province itself has designated as significant, protected lands.
The most basic type of cost benefit analysis for this highway is missing. Will the loss of the natural heritage in Vaughan be more detrimental in the long term then the gains received by building a highway? The David Suzuki Foundation estimates the ecological services and benefits provided by the Greenbelt are valued at $2.6 billion per year. How will the natural economy be impacted?
Sustainable Vaughan asks the Ministry of Transportation to reconsider its pursuit of the GTA West Corridor at this time and consider instead focusing on studying alternatives through two reports; first, a cost benefit analysis to determine the true, long term costs of the loss of Greenbelt lands versus the economic gains of the highway and second, a study to determine the alternatives of increased investment in public transportation as a means of alleviating the traffic congestion and as a preferred means of stimulating the economy, job growth and building compact communities within existing urban boundaries.
We hope you will reconsider the pursuit of this Highway.