Mayor John Tory touts east end GO station as 'major hub' for jobs

Toronto Mayor John Tory said one of four new GO Transit stations officially announced Wednesday for the east end will function as a transit and economic hub.

East Harbour station 1 of 4 GO locations announced on Wednesday

Toronto Mayor John Tory and Ontario Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca announce four new GO Transit stations in the east end on Wednesday. (CBC)

One of the four new GO Transit stations officially announced Wednesday for Toronto's east end will be a hub for transit and employment in the area, Mayor John Tory said.

Tory said the East Harbour station, to be located at the Don Yard and Unilever area between Cherry Street and Eastern Avenue, near the Don Valley Parkway and Lake Shore Boulevard, will be important because it will connect to the proposed Downtown Relief Line, and provide transit for employees who will work at new businesses expected to locate at the site in the future. 

"Here at this site, East Harbour Unilever, a SmartTrack station will help transform this site into a major hub of jobs and employment where people can get to work here without stepping off a streetcar or out of a subway station," Tory said.

When Tory was running for the mayor's chair In 2014, he promised to partner with private businesses to carry out a massive mixed-use redevelopment at the former Unilever site. 

Tory and Ontario Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca officially announced the four new GO Transit stations for the east end on Wednesday, while standing on the proposed site of the East Harbour station. The new stations were revealed in a report made public on Tuesday.

The other three GO Transit stations in the east end would be located at:

  • Gerrard Street East near Carlaw Avenue.
  • Lawrence Avenue East between Kennedy Road and Midland Avenue.
  • Finch Avenue between Kennedy and Midland.

Toronto's SmartTrack, the proposed rail transit plan that will run on GO train tracks, will share stops at the four new east- end GO stations.

Tory said the "stars are aligned" and the city is moving ahead with transit projects because Toronto is growing.

"To the North, a SmartTrack station at Gerrard will in future years let people transfer from the relief line onto the SmartTrack train and back again, as part of a much-needed, higher speed network expansion," the mayor said. 

"At Lawrence East and Finch East, Scarborough commuters will be able to end their bus rides much sooner and much earlier. They'll get onto a faster train instead of continuing the long journey to Yonge Street, only to find overcrowded subway trains there.

"SmartTrack is about the people of Toronto taking the train in the city. It's a concept as simple as it is transformative - people in Toronto taking the train inside the city."

Tory said a levy is in place to pay for the city's share of Scarborough subway extension, tax increment financing will help to pay for the city's share of SmartTrack costs, and he is setting up a fund that is meant to provide financial support to transit and housing projects. 

"I can only say that I've taken the first step to set up a city building fund which is expressly meant to exist to provide financial support to transit and housing projects, including the list that we've been discussing in recent days and weeks that are part of this 15-year plan," he said.

The City Building Fund, announced in December 2015, is expected to cost taxpayers an additional 0.5 per cent per year on their property tax for five years beginning in 2017.

"We don't have a choice not to do these projects, in my view. We didn't do projects because we thought we couldn't afford it or we couldn't decide on it or couldn't finish the studies. By having all these reasons we couldn't do things, we've fallen into a hole. We've got a big transportation deficit and that has affected jobs and employment," he said,.

Toronto undergoing 'transit renaissance'

Del Duca said the new four GO Transit stops are all part of the larger transit vision that the province shares with the city and signals a "transit renaissance" for Toronto.

"These stations are proof of our Liberal government's plan to provide transit relief across the GO network in many communities that have long seen GO service as only an option for commuters outside of the 416,"  Del Duca said.

"Our regional express rail plan will enable Toronto's SmartTrack vision. And these new GO train stations will help us achieve what we all want: effective and efficient transit options that make choosing transit a realistic option."

Coun. Paula Fletcher said the East Harbour station will be important economically to the east end.

"It could have been somewhere else, but it's here. It will be a jobs hub, it will be a growth hub, it will be a transit hub because the relief line will also meet this station. It will be the hub that's just north of a renewed waterfront. It will be the place that sparks redevelopment all across the east side of Toronto," Fletcher said.

"Transit is crossing the river to the east side," she said.

City to use existing rail corridors

On Tuesday, Tory and Del Duca unveiled plans for four new GO Transit stations in the west end of Toronto, with the release of a staff report detailing the city's plans for developing Toronto's transit network.

The four GO stops in the west end would be at Bloor Street West and Lansdowne Avenue, Spadina Avenue and Front Street West, Liberty Village, and at St. Clair West and Keele Street – all along the Barrie and Kitchener GO Transit lines. All are supposed to be open within a 10-year time period.

"We have and have ... for decades, under-utilized rail corridors that run through the city," Tory said Wednesday morning at the 2016 Toronto Region Vision Summit held downtown.

"Because those rail corridors are already there, it represents an opportunity for us to add some stations and we began the process of announcing some of those decisions yesterday."

Tory was at the event with Del Duca primarily to discuss the city's transit goals. 

"This is an extraordinary time for Toronto as it relates to transit," Del Duca said at the summit.

"We have this once-in-a-generation, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make sure that we get it right."