How much change can be achieved in 30 years?

It's likely most of the buildings and transport infrastructure that is now in place will be here 30 years from now, just as most of what was here in 1973 is still in place. But, if population of the Central Ontario Zone continues to increase at its recent rate, it will grow by more than 3.5 million by 2033, rising from the present just under 8 million to about 11.5 million, an increase by almost 50%.

Such high rates of population growth offer huge opportunities for intensification of existing development and for creating intensively arranged new development. Growth can be directed. For example, the transformation of Toronto's core into a major population centre over the last 25 years is largely the result of deliberate decisions made in the mid-1970s, notably adoption in 1976 of the former City of Toronto's Central Area Plan.

Rapid population growth also offers major opportunities for refashioning the Zone's transportation arrangements, particularly if decisions about land use and transportation facilities are carefully coordinated. For example, the proposed extension of the Spadina subway line to Vaughan City Centre could become entirely feasible if the corridor from Downsview station to Vaughan, through York University, were to become intensively developed. Currently, the projected 2025 employment for the corridor is 125,000, including post-secondary students, and the projected residential population is 28,000, of whom respectively 55,000 employees/ students and 15,000 residents will be within 500 metres of the proposed subway stations. These levels are unlikely to provide sufficient ridership to justify the $1.4 billion cost.49 However, if the corridor's residential population were to rise to around 200,000 by the time the extension opens, ridership on the extension could well be above the 150,000 or so passengers per day a day that may be required to justify the extension.50

The downside of rapid population growth is that without early appropriate action the additional residents could well be accommodated in the kinds of energy-intensive greenfield development prevalent in the GTA during the last 30 years.51 Such continued sprawl could dramatically compound the challenges resulting from the high energy prices to come.

49. The projections of employment, post-secondary students, residential population, and construction cost are all from Spadina-York Subway Extension--Business Case: A Solution for Gridlock in the Northwestern GTA, Prepared for the Spadina-York Subway Extension Committee by PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (June 2001).
50. The ridership requirement 150,000 daily trips on the extension is a 'back-of-the-envelope' estimate by the author that requires substantiation. It may be compared with a reported anticipated peak ridership of about 5,000, equivalent to about 60,000 per day (Globe & Mail, November 15, 2000). The capital subsidy for 60,000 trips per day is in the order of three dollars per trip (assuming current interest rates throughout a 35-year amortization period).
51. For accounts and critiques of recent development patterns see Blais P, Inching Towards Sustainability: The Evolving Structure of the GTA. Neptis Foundation, Toronto, 2000. See also, Gilbert R, Integrity of land-use and transportation planning in the GTA. In Lee E, Perl A (eds.), The Integrity Gap: Canada's Environmental Policy and Institutions. University of British Columbia Press, pp. 192-217, 2003.