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City of Toronto Releases Transit Reports: What are the Effects on Real Estate?

Did you know that Toronto’s City Planning Department released a sizable update on the city’s transit plans back in March 2016? The plan contains details on expanding the transit network after a long period of underinvestment that has seen the city’s population grow faster than its resources. You can read the full report here, but we’ve distilled the most salient points and how they’ll affect urban property development and the red-hot Toronto real estate market in the coming years. Here’s what you need to know:

  • We already know that the Eglinton LRT (the $5.3 billion, 19-kilometre east-west rail line set for completion in 2021) is set to transform housing density along its line, but the City’s report also recommends an optimized Eglinton West LRT extension to Pearson Airport as well as an optimized Eglinton East LRT into the University of Toronto Scarborough Campus. Metrolinx released an update on these Eglinton LRT expansions only a few weeks ago, including details on stop locations and possible grade separation (you can see that report here). One thing’s for sure: the east-west corridor along Eglinton will be unrecognizable in a decade, fostering population density, property development, and an even more “urban” feel than it already has today.
  • Engaging in “demand modelling” (predicting the locations and densities of transit passengers now and into the future) will help the city figure out how and where to beef up transit. For example, the Union Station Railway Corridor (USRC) is the largest and busiest passenger transportation facility in Canada, and will need some relief in the near future. Planners propose a modified Downtown Relief Line that would connect to a new GO station at Bathurst North Yard near Spadina Avenue.  As the Yonge line is the most congested on the transit system, planners will have to find a way to move both supply and demand east and west, diluting future passengers (and therefore future real estate development) eastward/westward.
  • The plan takes a look at the how various transit options contribute to making jobs in Toronto more accessible, as measured by travel time. New stops are intended to be strategically located to serve major workplace concentrations, meaning the city can continue to increasingly attract top talent in a variety of industries from other cities and countries.
  • The capacity of the Bloor-Yonge station is already maxed out (which you’ll know if you’ve ever waited for a train on the platform at rush hour). While expanding this interchange is an option, it’s a costly one. An alternative being considered is diverting traffic, per the suggestions in Metrolinx’s Yonge Relief Network Study. Moving away from a singular locus at Yonge-Bloor means the city will continue to stratify further into “pockets” rather than grow further into a centrally-radiating hub. Both commercial and residential property development will follow. Potential relief line locations being touted include: downtown to Danforth, Danforth north to Eglinton or Sheppard, and downtown west and north to Bloor & Dundas.
  • The report proposes using the GO network, a provincially owned asset, “to provide a more urban transit service than currently contemplated” under the existing infrastructure. This focus on urbanizing access to the inter-city rail line means higher frequency service into and out of the city and possible fare integration with the TTC. The results? Net new ridership and economic growth. Great news for both commercial and residential property investors.
  • Torontoist.com reports that Toronto City Planning and the TTC are “working on a report regarding the implications for Toronto of a new fare structure.” Politicians are aware that there will be significant backlash from residents if newly-built rapid transit lines will require additional fares paid by passengers transferring to and from existing transit modes. If an integrated fare structure can be confirmed, Toronto is set to attract new riders, new residents, and new business very quickly.

Of course, the city’s findings and recommendations are dependent on all levels of funding—municipal, provincial, and federal. With last year’s pre-election pledge by the federal government of $2.6 million towards GTA transit improvement, we’re already off to a good start (those funds are of the Liberal government’s promise to spend about $20 billion more on transit as part of a larger $60 billion infrastructure investment over 10 years). With both public and private funding agencies recognizing the need to continue to attract new residents to Toronto’s vibrant culture and economy, public transit is set to improve vastly in the next decade.