In 2021, the Federal government announced major investments in transit infrastructure designed to keep communities connected and move Canada closer to its climate goals. Ontario is also working hard towards these goals with major investments planned for the GO Transit network. But how do we bring all of these promises together to give communities the transit solutions they need?
Presented in partnership with Deloitte, we heard from Councillor Jaye Robinson, Michael Lindsay and Simon Dixon, about what has worked in other countries and the importance of operational planning to long-term transit solutions.
- Jan De Silva, President and CEO, Toronto Region Board of Trade
- Jaye Robinson, City Councillor, Ward 15 – Don Valley West; and Chair, TTC
- Michael Lindsay, President and CEO, Infrastructure Ontario
- Simon Dixon, Global Transportation Leader, Deloitte LLP
Jan De Silva: Hello, everyone. I'm Jan De Silva, President and CEO of the Toronto Region Board of Trade. Welcome to today's event, debuting our latest policy report, getting on the right track, connecting communities with regional rail. Before we get started, I'd like to begin by acknowledging that Toronto is home to many diverse indigenous peoples. Though you could be watching from anywhere, the board's offices are located on the traditional territory of many indigenous nations. As we talk today about the region's growing population, it's important to remember who first called this land home. I'll also take this time to make a few opening notes. The report and today's webcast are presented in partnership with Deloitte, and we greatly appreciate the insights they've shared.
All the board's webcasts are supported by our principal sponsors, The Globe and Mail, Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University, and Scotia Bank. Today's event will be available On Demand with video content posted at supportbusiness.bot.com under webinars and videos. Select "Click here" to switch stream if your video is lagging, or request help for any other technical issues. And finally, use the Q&A feature to the right to ask the panel questions. There, you'll also see an option to download the report, which I encourage you to do. Before we hear from the reports author and board policy director, Dr. Jonathan English, I'd like to speak about how rail fits into our regional identity, because it really is unique.
Toronto subway is much smaller than places like Paris, London, and Seoul, but when it comes to regional rail tracks across the city center, we have them all beat. In fact, after decades of construction and billions of dollars spent, Paris is close to completing its eighth track across city rail. Toronto, well, we've been at 10 since the 1920s. So when talk about regional rail, we're speaking from a position of strength. Much of the infrastructure already exists, and we've built on that history with smart investments, going back to 1967, when GO's Lake Shortline first opened. Since then, GO Transit has been North America's greatest commuter rail success story. That emphasis, however, on commuter is the problem.
Our regional rail system is mostly focused on bringing commuters downtown in the morning and back again in the afternoon. Over 90% of GO Train riders start or end their trip at Union Station in our downtown business district. Returning to the Paris example, they may have fewer cross city tracks than us, but they use their infrastructure at around 95% of their ultimate potential capacity. In our region, that number is more like 5% since much of our infrastructure sits idles for most of the day and on weekends. This is an issue that's only bound to get worse. Because of the pandemic and new hybrid work models, many downtown commuters may not return. Deloitte's expert have told us that almost 70% of jobs in the downtown core could be performed remotely. But even aside from the pandemic, a transit system tailored to one kind of trip was never going to be future proof.
For starters, it ignores other employment hotspots in the region. Downtown Toronto may be Canada's largest employment zone, but its second largest around Pearson Airport is touched by only one under serviced GO line. This means that pre-pandemic, nearly 300,000 people drove to and from work in the Airport Employment Zone every day. And focusing on a 9:00 to 5:00 commute, also ignores changing workforce demographics. Employment is strongest right now in healthcare, logistics, and many essential worker roles. These job schedules differ from the traditional desk role and are spread across the region. In other words, people need a new kind of regional transit network. One of is two-way all day and integrated with local transit. Anything less will just put people back behind a wheel and in a region that already loses $6 billion every year due to congestion. We can't let that happen. Fortunately, all parties at the table agree that transit is important to our economic and environmental future.
Metrolinx has had an eye on expansion for years. The City of Toronto has important plans for improving transit, and that provincial government continues to make transit investment a priority. What we need then is a plan to make it happen in efficient, coordinated way. Today's report is our contribution to that plan. And here to introduce its author is Sima Gupta, Deloitte's transportation sector partner. As the report [00:07:30] sponsor, Deloitte provided valuable insights on the specifics of regional rail from their global network of experts. And Sima is just one of their bright minds with decades of experience in manufacturing and engineering. Welcome, Sima, and over to you.
Sima Gupta: Great. Thank you so much, Jan. I appreciate it. So good afternoon, everyone. My name is Sima Gupta, and I'm a partner in Deloitte's transportation practice. I'm an engineer by training and I've had the pleasure of working on some of Toronto's landmark transit projects. I am personally very interested in today's topic and I'm honored to be here with you today. Deloitte as been an active and long time member of the Toronto Region Board of Trade, and we've had a closer working relationship over this past year on our COVID 19 recovery efforts. Reflecting on the last year, extraordinary feels like understatement, but I think it gave a lot of us time to reflect on what mattered the most and our family and friends and how we connect. As we start to see a light at the end of the tunnel, [00:08:30] how we move people remains critical with the public transit system at the heart of what connects our communities. And the work we do to make transit and easy choice now and long term is more important than ever.
Transportation is a priority sector for Deloitte and we are pleased to continue our partnership with the board through our sponsorship and active engagement in the development of the board's four-part report series that will collectively outline a strategy for an integrated transportation system for the Toronto region. In this second report, staying connected with regional rail, we worked with our colleagues in our global transportation network to share their perspectives on the way that regional rail expansion has helped their regions accelerate mobility, their economy, and of course, better connect their communities, especially during this pandemic. Stay tuned for parts three and four that will be released later this year, and that will focus on the last mile and building infrastructure. We look forward to continuing our strong partnership with the board on the development of this series. Now I would like to hand it over to Jonathan English, prime author of the transit best practices report series. Jonathan, over to you.
Jonathan E.: Hi. Thanks very much for the introduction and we really appreciate your support and the support of everybody that's helped out on this report. It was certainly invaluable. So I think one of the things that's incredibly important to highlight, as Sima has said, is that work patterns are [00:10:00] changing post COVID, and the board has done a lot around recovery work. Like the playbook that was released last year, that looks at ways to build a more unified and integrated region. This is a unified region, an integrated economic unit, and we need a transit system that is as integrated as the region as a whole. So GO Transit right now has been planning some very important expansion plans, and this report is about building on that and highlighting proven international practices that can be applied here to maximize the impact while minimizing the cost.
There are a lot of other interesting proposal around this as well, like the City of Toronto SmartTrack proposal. I also want to draw your attention to the first report in the series that kind of does the big picture on this whole thing. Raising the invisible line is about fare and service integration. And as you'll see in this report, integration of local transit and regional transit is essential if we're going to maximize the value of the infrastructure investments we're making. So one of the first things the report talks about is the contrast between regional rail and commuter rail. That's something that we really want to tease out. The report goes into a lot more detail, but commuter rail is, as Jan said, very focused on that peak period downtown commuter market, a lot of people park and ride at the station.
The flip side is regional rail. Regional rail is about using the same rail corridors we use for commuter rail, but making them into real transit services by making the fares integrated with local transit, and by expanding service so that people can use it all day, every day in both directions. So in this report, we came up with what we called the trillion plan. It's a bit of a play on GO Transit being government of Ontario transit, and this is kind of the next level. We really wanted to highlight a slightly different branding because sort of like Viva in York region transit. It highlights that regional rail will be fundamentally very different from existing GO service, and GO has such a strong and positive brand. We want to emphasize that this is all about anywhere to anywhere travel, that this is just as useful for your trip within the City of Toronto or within the City of Brampton or Durham region, as it is for a long distance commute into downtown Toronto.
So as we've heard, Paris spent years, decades building eight tracks of cross city regional rail. We're blessed with 10 already. There are 450 kilometers of rail corridors that traverse the entire region. Right now, we have fewer than 100 kilometers of subway. To replace those 450 kilometers, at current rapid transit costs, would be $337.5 billion expenditure, but we have them already there sitting in the ground, but in too many cases, underused. Now, one thing that we really want to make sure that we emphasize here at the board because moving goods is as important to our economy as moving people, freight is absolutely important, but most of these rail quarters are already owned by Metrolinx and have very light freight service. On other tracks, where mostly the Milton Line and the segment of the Kitchener Corridor, it's really important than any regional rail plan we've designed to facilitate full freight capacity and not to come the expense of freight transportation, but we argue that that should and has demonstrably been possible.
Also, I think it's also important to note that this will still be a fairly radial system. You still need things like GO bus services for circumferential trips, but this type of transit network will provide the backbone for regional transit right across the Toronto region from Hamilton or Kitchener to Barrie to Bowmanville, and even to places like Niagara, and other communities potentially. But it's also for those local trips that are just as important. That's why this plan calls for frequent service on all lines. Every 10 minutes, ideally, express service on some, for longer distance trips, by using the most modern trains that are available right off the shelf. We can speed trips so much that we could add additional stations and still provide faster travel times than today. Those additional stations can link regional rail to local transit and also spur on critical development that, as we know and as some of the board's reports have shown, can address our affordable housing crisis.
So one of the things that this report also highlights is the need to prioritize investment in new technology, [00:15:00] new rail equipment, new signaling technology before designing infrastructure, because so many of the gains that we need to maximize capacity on the system can be achieved through technology without even having to build additional infrastructure, flyovers, overpasses, et cetera, great separations. And that's a great way to save money, but also speed implementation. So that's why tying it all together, there's so much that that we went into detail on in this report on Union Station, on rail corridor, track work design, on rolling stock selection, on things like level boarding, which are so important, both for accessibility and for maximizing capacity. But I encourage you to take a look at the report and I really hope that this can spark a discussion on the importance and value of regional rail investment in the Toronto region. Thank you very much.
Jan De Silva: Thank you, John, for your remarks and for the work you've done with Deloitte to put this terrific report together. Now, just as you said, we want to spark some discussion. These ideas don't exist in a vacuum. So we've gathered a panel today representing different size, different perspectives to address not only our plan for regional rail, but also our collected need for transit-oriented infrastructure planning. And again, I invite you to submit your questions to the right, as I introduce our panelists. A very warm welcome to our good friend, Councillor Jaye Robinson, Chair of the Toronto Transit Commission. Councillor Robinson represents Don Valley West, and before being elected in 2010, she worked on economic development files at the city for over two decades. Welcome, Councillor.
Also, with us is Michael Lindsay, the President and CEO of Infrastructure, Ontario, the procurement and commercial lead for all major public infrastructure projects in the province. No stranger to the board's events. Michael spoke at our transportation summit last fall about the high cost of building infrastructure. Good news, Michael, today's all about low cost solutions. So we're looking forward to hearing your perspectives. And finally, rounding out our discussion is Simon Dixon, Deloitte's Global Transportation Leader. He specializes in the delivery of complex business transformation and capital programs within the sector, and he's also responsible for the firm's engagements with transport in the UK. Thank you all for joining us. Councillor, let's start with you. A key recommendation in this report is integrating regional rail with local transit services like the TTC. How can the TTC and agencies like it better integrate with regional transit, both in terms of fares and service?
Jaye Robinson: Well, thank you very much, Jan, and thank you to the Board of Trade for really highlighting these vital transit issues. I have to say that this is a very important topic and it needs more focus. The GO network relies on connectivity with local transit and that's the TTC. So we've supported, as the CTC and city hall, supported regional rail integration for many years, it's really a priority for us. And the GO rail system in Toronto really should be used for frequent electric trained services, serving a large range of trip purposes with more stations [00:18:30] which are closely located together. That would be ideal. And then of course, fares, a big topic integrated with the TTCs, would be again the best scenario. So using the gold rail network to move people within Toronto over longer distances makes sense, and it's better for customers.
And again, Jan, the TTC is very well positioned to integrate with regional rail network. We offer 10-minute service on our busiest transit corridors, surface transit corridors, [00:19:00] and the subway service every five minutes or less throughout the day. So all of the existing GO stations in Toronto are already fairly well served by the TTC network, and regional rail integration would have many benefits for our system, for our city, and beyond. So crowding is an issue as I'm sure you're all aware for those of you who ride it because I do pre COVID every day, and regional rail integration could really help address our capacity issues on some of the most 12 traveled TTC corridors. Taking that pressure off would really be a huge help to our system overall. And as you may know, pre-pandemic, the Line 1 Yonge-University Subway was already operating at capacity. And again, that's my line, my daily route, so I know this intimately.
Ridership is projected to increase significantly, and even with the new ATC, automatic train control, the signaling system we've been working on for years, we are facing major challenges to keep up with demand in the next few years. So we're really, really hoping to encourage and incentivize transit riders to take the most efficient route. The outcome of this would be better and faster transit. There are some barriers, Jan, to this, and that is service frequency and transfer points. And that's something we've talked about many times at the TTC. In most cases, the TTC service is more frequent than the GO service, which makes it difficult and inconvenient to transfer from local service to regional rail. So that's challenging because most when they're off peak, they're about 30 minutes schedule, whereas ours is much tighter.
Also, the transfer points are challenging, and we hear a lot from transit riders. They find this area of the point very stressful in their daily commutes. So a station design also very important for good passenger connections between the training platform and the TTC service, so way finding and signage improvements. All of those things are so important. So there's many things we need to do, but what I will tell you is I've never seen a time like this where all levels of government are lined up to play a role and very focused on this. It's actually a very exciting time, Jan. I think we're achieving rare political consensus across all the party lines, and people are really saying, "This is a major economic driver for our region, province, and country." And we're right now, we're working with C.D. Howe to establish exactly what role the TTC plays in economic activity each year.
So we'll look forward to that report, but those are some highlights that I wanted to share with you today. We may be small, but we're mighty and we do move 1.7 million people every weekday pre COVID, and we're celebrating our 100th birthday this year. So we're working on modernizing and working with you to make this happen.
Jan De Silva: Thanks so much, Councillor. I really look forward to seeing the economic impact study that we've got with C.D. Howe.That sounds really exciting. Now, I've got a question from Michael, a question for Simon, and I just want to say, I've already got questions that come in from our audience. So there's a lot of interest in our topic today. But Michael, let's start with a place setting discussion with you. First of all, welcome back. Infrastructure Ontario has been given a mandate from the province to undertake regional rail procurements. Can you tell us more about the approach you're taking with this and the strength of that approach?
Michael Lindsay: Well, thank you very much, Jan. Good afternoon, everyone. My compliments to Jonathan and the whole team on the report, it's exceptionally well done. Given a mandate boy, are you right? No doubt about it, right? Not only in respect of a dramatic generational expansion of commuter rail and GO expansion, but also as the Councillor rightly points at a historic investment in expanding the subways network of the region and the City of Toronto. And just to amplify everything that the Councillor was saying, how wonderful it is that that integrated plan really does double down on some of the intermodal switching, which ultimately I think will be to the benefit of users from across the region. Just take the Ontario line itself, right? With which in its Northern latitudes will connect with the Eglinton Crosstown, alleviate the crowding on line one, but then has intentional points of at grade switching at East Harbor at exhibition, so that people who are getting off the go system can access the subway system much faster.
So it is an exciting time, for sure. And as the delivery agent, we need to be ready associated with this mandate that we've been given. And there's a few things that I would highlight, Jan, that we and our partners at Metrolinx are doing as we think about bringing these projects to market and ultimately getting them done. Let me put them into a couple of categories. First, I know that the Toronto Regional Board of Trade and indeed the team at C.D. Howe and elsewhere has researched and talked eloquently and accurately about some of the challenges associated with delivering transit projects in every jurisdiction around the world. And one of the things that many jurisdictions have done is take a close look at the things that they can do from a regulatory perspective, from a legislative perspective, to ultimately de-risk some of these projects, particularly in connection to things like permits, licenses, and approvals.
It doesn't obviate the need for the province to be working in close partnership with City of Toronto,Region of York, other regions, and municipalities, but I think it's a great thing that the building transit fast drag takes specific aim at some of the vexing sort of topics and issues that have really plagued transit projects, not only in this region, but in every region around the world. The other thing that we're doing with Metrolinx is we're being very thoughtful about the contract strategy that we use when it comes to bringing these projects to market. In many places and spaces, it's going to continue to be exactly the right thing to think about delivering these projects on a P3 basis, but in certain places where we need a certain amount of operational flexibility, because we're building in a brownfield corridor or because of the sheer size of these types of projects.
I know that Phil and I are taking a very close look at how we think about ensuring that the market has the capacity and the interest to show up and bid these projects. So to give you a couple of examples, we took an intentional decision to break the Ontario line into intentionally designed work packages. We need all three of them in order for the thing to ultimately work coherently and cohesively, and it's new for the government to be taking back a little bit of the integration risk associated with that. But what we think it has done is it's ultimately made our counterparties responsible for bundles of risk, scopes of work that fit together intentionally. And it creates projects of a certain size that curate a wide competition in our market to bid on those projects.
I think we're also looking at risk transfer in our actual procurement approach and in our project agreements. One example, for anybody who can hear my voice who's been through the confidential commercial meetings on the subways tunnels knows we a different approach to geotechnical risk. Another one of these challenging risks for transit projects and thinking about how we as the contracting authority, provide better baseline information, cap exposure to this kind of risk, et cetera. And then we're providing some incentives within our procurement processes to get things happening and moving. We are delighted that we've recently identifiedtwo first negotiations proponents on the Scarborough and Eglinton west subways tunnels, a little bit of an innovation for us.
We've actually allowed those first negotiations proponents, even as we finalized the contract with them to start to do the things that are required to order long lead items like tunnel boring machines in order to bring forward some of the work and some of the progress associated with those projects. So in a variety of ways, we are attempting to change importantly the basis of the way in which we partner with our counterparties in respect to delivering these projects. But let me just say how prideful we are as an organization to be asked to play such a consequential role in what I think the Councillor rightly describes as something that is genuinely historic for this region in particular. So that's just some of what we're up to right now.
Jan De Silva: Keeping you a little busy, Michael, just a little.
Michael Lindsay: A little, a little bit.
Jan De Silva: Simon, over to you. Deloitte's done a tremendous amount of research into the future of work and how will that future impact commuter routines? And are there examples of global transit systems that have anticipated and successfully pivoted these changes in passenger needs?
Simon Dixon: Thanks, Jan. Yes, I mean, thanks for inviting me to have a chat. I mean, one of the things about working my job is the future of work, but also the future mobility and the two things go together. And I think it was either yourself or Sima mentioned at the start, we've done some work and a lot of the jobs in the city center can be done remotely. It doesn't mean this should be done remotely. And I think one of the things is this future work is evolving. Don't forget, with the COVID, it's a very short time span. Cities have been around for hundreds of years, humans have been around for tens of thousands years, and human nature, we do like to get together. And what I've noticed in talking to people is there's a real desire to, yes, we can work more agilely, we can work remotely, but there's a desire [00:28:30] to get together.
So what I think in the future work and how it impacts transportation is that there will still be the desire of not only those key workers, which you mentioned who have to take transit. They can't work agilely. The train operator building the Eglinton west tunnel can't say, "Oh, I want to work from home on a Friday," because the whole project stops. So you've got to have that. But I think with the more commuting side, I think it's going to be spread. And I don't think we're going to have the morningeaks and the evening peaks that we have before. So what does that mean for the transport networks? I think it's going to more choice, and I love the fact that other panelists were talking about, it's not commuters, it's about transport.
And I think what's in a name? You called it, it's not commuter rail, it's regional rail, but is it just public transport? Because one of the things I talk about and when I talking to clients in Helsinki or Singapore or London or Sydney, what they all talk about now is this future mobility, which is seamless, integrated multimodal mobility, how you get people in goods the most efficient way? And it's a network. And I think if people stop thinking about it is it's rail or it's a bus or I'm cycling, I'm walking, I'm just going from place to place in the most efficient manner. And I think that's where the future is. So I think the rail networks are really important. I liken them to be the arches in the body. They take the mass, the really important blood around, but they don't get everywhere. So you need the capillaris and the smaller arches to get in to do the first mile, last mile.
And that's a combination. That's what Councillor Robinson's saying, and that's where TTC comes in. But it's not just the tube in using a London phrase. It's the buses, it's the micro mobility, it's the on-demand shuttles, which Sydney have used to get people from the homes to get them into the network. So I think that's some of the future. And the last thing that I would say, and someone referred to it, I can't... So apologies, I think it might have been Michael about the shape of the networks and the radial, or it could have been Jonathan. The network is often radial, having spoke like a bicycle wheel, everything comes into the center. What I think transport planners and transportation network designers are thinking of is more a mesh, maybe a spider's web. Helsinki has moved to having not the radial into the center than transfer and go out, but have that mesh network.
And I think if you can link up the rail that you are building, there's really great connections. And if you build it, they will come. And I think you've got a new network if you have the integrated ticketing, so people don't need to worry about whether I've got what sort of ticket, the right ticket, I just turn up and go. Often you don't even need to buy a ticket, that's on your phone. That encourages people to use it for leisure travel, you get the capacity up. You just don't think about, I'm going to take the regional rail or I'm going to take TTC, I'm going to go somewhere. It could be sports events, it could be work, it could be visiting people.
And the last thing is that then, or maybe we can touch on the questions, that means thinking about our passengers and our customers differently was too often. Everyone's just thought about the commuter, who knows where she or he needs to get to and how they do it? You think about the outer town as the young, the old, the infirm, the non- English speaking, non-French speaking, how do you deal with them? So hopefully that's teed up some good stuff for the questions.
Jan De Silva: No, that's excellent. Thanks so much for that, Simon. We're going to have more questions than we're going to have time for our panelists to answer. So let me just shape kind of the key themes that these questions have been directed in. Clearly, transit-oriented development is a key top of mind, so I'm going to try and merge some of those questions to get at the key sentiments that our audience is asking for. First mile, last mile is of interest, technology and innovation, and finally, a more distant root access. So let me dive right in to see if we can get through as much of what the audience is interested in having us cover. Councillor, let me start with you. I mean, in light of this transformation to a regional rail service and in light of TTC's important role as the first, last mile connection, what do you see needing to happen to improve that first mile, last mile connection to GO stations rather than our current reliance on cars? Any thinking that you can share that's coming from the TTC.
Jaye Robinson: Well, it's something we're definitely talking about and we're coming forward with reports related to this shortly, but we are looking at micro transit and smaller options for those pieces. These Uber and like-minded transit options or transportation options have certainly come hard and fast into Toronto controversial, but certainly, they're playing a role, whether we like it or not, and there's those that don't and those that love it. So we are looking at these options, Jan, but it's we have a challenging budget situation with lots of fiscal pressures, particularly since COVID. We even had it before COVID. Now with COVID,things are even more challenging. And I have to say the other orders of government have been very supportive, thankfully, but this is a top of mind issue and we're still flushing out these concepts.
Jan De Silva: Yeah, that's great. And Simon, let's focus on technology for a second. I mean, we're leading several pilot zones across the greater Toronto area to look at the reopening of business districts, because our business districts have different activities going on.The downtown crowd has been the commuter crowd, professional financial services. We've got the Airport Employment Zone where it's heavy, logistics and distribution hub for us. So as it pertains to technology, couple of things that come to mind. Love to hear your thoughts on mobility as a service. You touched on the fact, the ability to integrate all forms of transit to create a very seamless regional connection. And secondly, COVID, and how some of these mobility as a service technologies are enabling us to prebook seats, so we don't have to congregate on platforms, those types of things, which might be easier fixes than some of the expensive dollars that would be required to rebuild platforms and access points, those types of things. So what can you share on that heading of technology, both for mobility as a service, but also to deal with the conditions that COVID has created?
Simon Dixon: Thanks, Jan. I mean, I think technology can do many things, but human nature needs to go hand in hand. I think what the technology and the mobility as a service gives more choice, I think travelers can choose when to travel and to suit their patterns. That might be nothing to do with COVID, but they just might not want to go on a crowded train, but I think there's the capacity there because we are spreading it out. I do think actually with COVID, it's more perception. There was a test done on the London underground. You're not going to get anything there. So I think there'll be a perception aspect as more and more people have got the vaccinations and everything gets back to normal and we'll put COVID in perspective. It's a really serious disease, which kills unfortunately, loads of people, but we deal with it and we are dealing with it.
So keep that in mind. How do you get Michael or Sima, they want to go somewhere, how do they plan it? How do they book it to suit them? And I think that's where technology does. It allows tailoring to individuals as opposed to transport traditionally has been run, and apologies, it's run by folks who like playing with trains and buses and I think that's gone. It should be run for the benefit of the passengers and it's how they get around and breaking down the silos. So that's where technology does. I think one of the best to give you an example of mobility as a service I've heard talking to colleagues in the Brussels region, SmartMove that the Brussels region are pioneering, which builds on their lower emission zone, which use simple camera technology. You've now got app-based mobility as a service integrating congestion pricing, but also multimodal trip booking. And I think that's the future. So if someone wants to look at somewhere good, I would the Brussels region smartmove.
Jan De Silva: Perfect. Thanks so much for that. Okay. Michael, transit-oriented development, this has been a key, key theme through a number of the questions.And here in lies the challenge, with transit-oriented development, there's so many different ways we can think about what we actually develop at our transit. I mean, some of our questions are saying, "Are we thinking about the potential for localized infrastructure, like battery storage or water management or gray water filtration?" Others are asking about affordable housing or community spaces, high schools, those types of things. So what comments would you have for the audience around the importance of transit-oriented development, the priority we're going to place on it, and how do we filter through best choices for various locations?
Michael Lindsay: Yeah, thoughtful question, Jan. So it's a simple premise, isn't it? At the end of the day, let's bring more housing and more jobs closer to transit systems with a whole bunch of product to benefits that that would ultimately give off. And look, I think the province has made a choice, even in respect of the way that it talks about what is traditionally TOD, but is transit-oriented communities for the province of Ontario. Signaling, I think, something very important that is encoded in, for instance, the memorandum of understanding that was signed by province of Ontario and City of Toronto and equally with York region. And that is that some of the lifting has been done already to think about the alignment of some of the interests that both levels of government ultimately have. And you've already pointed at a couple of them.
We all obviously have a housing affordability issue in the region and in the City of Toronto. Well, we would be remiss if we didn't take this opportunity to try to get real torque through TOC on that particular problem. I think we're definitely thinking about what are the requisite community investments that could be catalyzed by the redevelopment that happens when open heart heart surgery happens on the city, right? And we do four transit lines and a huge expansion of our GO system at the same time. And equally, I think we're collectively as levels of government thinking about ways in which you can achieve reasonable density in ways that might ultimately drive value into the pockets of province of Ontario, city of Toronto, other regions, to ultimately help us continue to get traction on the sort of investments that are required over time in the network, right? I mean, not for nothing, but in addition to the huge expansion program that has been announced in which we're delivering.
We know in the Toronto Regional Board of Trade has researched quite accurately on the state good repair backlog that the TTC and other transit agencies are facing. So you're right. It's not easy per se to think on a site by site basis of how we'll make some of these trade offs, but I take great heart in the notion that we are, as a region and multiple levels of government, emphasizing transit-oriented communities. And that we at least have the framework that we're going to use to talk to each other about opportunities at these various sites with a little bit of clarity around some of our shared objectives as to what we'd like to catalyze on a side by side basis.
Jan De Silva: Okay. And last question, and I'm going to start with you, Michael. Councillor, I'd like you to give some comments as well, and I'll position it accordingly. And then Simon, love to get your international perspective on this as well. The question, and I'm going to be paraphrasing a little bit, there were challenges pre COVID because Toronto region is where we think and how we operate as a border trade. The economic zone that matters to the majority of our members is the Toronto-Waterloo Corridor. And the discussion here was all about, we had everything calibrated in towards Union Station, where in effect, we do need to get workers connecting through to Waterloo and Milton and Airport Employment Zone, and other pieces. How feasible is it to gain track access? Because a lot of that track is also needed for movement of goods, which is also critically important.
So Michael, that'll be what I'd like you to try to tackle and any other directions around that. And then Councillor, as we're looking at two-way services, the airport's a key example. We've got Toronto, Brampton, and Mississauga that are housing many of the workforce that have to get to the airport. How do we start thinking across city boundaries in terms of connecting our transit networks that historically have been purpose built to focus within city boundaries? And then finally, Simon, I'll let you take it home with, is there a golden egg somewhere that would solve all of that? But Michael, let's start with you.
Michael Lindsay: Yeah, sure. Big, big question, Jan. Look, two answers for me. I think the first of which is, I don't think we've let a crisis go to waste if I can put it that way. I think Metrolinx, and we've been fortunate to help them out a little bit, are to be committed as for the record, I think too, is the TTC, for taking advantage of this period of relatively lower ridership to enable greater track access to get critical work done, both in respect of setting the platform for expansion, but also a state of good repair. I think that I I've seen a lot of thoughtfulness on behalf of transit agencies in respect to that. The second answer to me, I would hearken back to one of the things I was talking about at the center of our sort of commercial strategy or even decisions that we make about contract form that we're ultimately going to use in connection to delivering these projects.
I think we know that a certain set of transit projects they abut, if I can put it that way, some of the imperatives we have around operational flexibility. So one example, we're presently doing a project down at Union Stations. It's expanded platforms. It's all about getting Union Station ready for the kind of bidirectional traffic, which we know is going to be coming through there consistent with the encore procurement. And look, that's a dense, very crowded, even in lean times or COVID times space Union Station, and the risk coefficients and profiles associated with doing those works was such that it's almost impossible for anybody to effectively quantify what the possible risks you would be facing to be in connection to a project like that, which is what made it such an obvious candidate for an alliance type of contract model, where there's a far greater collaboration in respect of developing budget, identifying risks, and mitigating risks.
And I would assume that in places and spaces, we'll continue to find that these transit projects have some of those same challenges, and we'll act accordingly when we discover them. So I think those are the two most prominent answers I can give you to track access issues and regimes.
Jan De Silva: Okay. Thanks for that, Michael. Councillor, I'm sensing we've got about two minutes left. So maybe just some quick thoughts about examples like the Airport Employment Zone and how do we think about TTC being part of our solution there.
Jaye Robinson: Thank you for the question. It's a great one. And I think, Jan, going forward, we have to have this crossboundary lens [00:44:30] on all the time. We're at the table with the other levels of government, this is the way forward. And so there are barriers now that we can think of as opportunities, fare integration is critical, increasing frequency of service, very important. I mentioned transfer points earlier today. And aligning schedules, very important. But I think initiatives like the discounted double fare were excellent, and we have to revisit those opportunities to really move beyond true [00:45:00] integration by fully making sure service and fares are integrated fully.
Jan De Silva: Thanks so much. Simon, closing thoughts as we're getting a wrap up sign from our team.
Simon Dixon: Yeah. So is there a golden egg? Not sure, but I think the future is, as I said, integrated multimodal mobility. How we get there, we get there incrementally. We don't need to wait until we got the great design. I think a thing, something like bus rapid transit, something [00:45:30] that a lot of cities around the world are looking at, because it's a sort of halfway house between the really heavy infrastructure that Michael's doing and the flexibility in normal bus, and certainly South America doing there lots of others, great flexibilities that in between link. And the other thing, and Councillor Robinson said, is about timetabling simulation. I think simulation is the thing that's going to make it better, because we now got the ability to try things out and see how it works integrated timetables before we try and make people's lives a misery when we get it wrong. So I think those things will make the future really bright. And I can't wait to come back to Toronto and try it all out.
Jan De Silva: Brilliant. Thanks for that. I want to say, thank you, Michael, Simon, Councillor for your insights. Councillor, Michael, both of you were very, very positive about we're at a historic point in time. And let me reflect as a board of trade, we were there before the pandemic. There was unprecedented level of investment attention and cooperation happening. Since the pandemic, we know firsthand that we've got city managers across the corridor at the table and trying to solve for this fare integration and how do we integrate to create a scale technology service for our riders? So I think stay tuned, there's a tremendous amount of tremendous progress that's going to be delivered over the coming days, months, and years.
So before people log off, I'll again remind you to download and share today's report. There's so much more that we weren't able to cover, but we're hoping it can help bring into focus ongoing planning around regional rail. And as we said, today's panel was to spark discussion. Please keep that discussion going. Before you sign off, and speaking of downtown commuters, I think you'll definitely be interested in some of our recent efforts about reopening business zones, like Toronto's Financial District, the Airport Employment Zone, and Scarborough Center. In a couple of days, we'll be sharing some reports, insights, and other materials around mitigations and the working groups we've stood up to look at, not just safely opening a shop or reopening our office space, but how do you open an entire business district, integrating transit, and food courts, and elevators to get up into your building or what Simon would say the lifts to get you up?
So take a look, get prepared, and visit bot.com\ getready, because we are getting ready for reopening. Thank you, everyone. And to all of our speakers today, great, great discussion. Wish we had more time. Have a wonderful afternoon. Be well, everyone.