Momentum building for 'Union Station West', a new transit hub at Pearson
A proposal for a multi-billion dollar transit hub at Pearson International Airport is getting serious consideration by the federal and provincial governments.
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OTTAWA—A proposal for a multi-billion dollar transit hub at Pearson International Airport is getting serious consideration by the federal and provincial governments, the Star has learned.
A high-level meeting involving stakeholders from all three levels of government was held at Queen’s Park Tuesday to provide an update on the proposal and map out next steps.
That meeting — which also involved the operators of Pearson airport and Metrolinx, the regional transit agency — brought together both transportation planners as well as the infrastructure officials who can provide the public funding needed to make the project a reality.
“There’s definitely serious interest,” said one source familiar with the meeting who spoke on background because of the sensitivity of the discussions.
The Greater Toronto Airports Authority has pitched its proposal for a transit hub as part of its strategy to help fuel further passenger growth at Pearson.
That transit centre, located on airport lands, would be served by the Eglinton Crosstown LRT, Finch West LRT, Mississauga Bus Rapid Transit, GO Transit rail lines, UP Airport Express and perhaps even high speed rail in the future.
The hub has been dubbed “Union Station West.”
The afternoon meeting, held in a boardroom in an Ontario government building adjacent to Queen’s Park, was organized by the federal government.
The goal of the meeting was to hear updates related to the regional transit centre. Listed as outcomes were the “identification of next steps, to advance studies and discussions on potential working groups to facilitate integrated planning.”
Those invited to the meeting included the deputy minister of Transport Canada and three other senior department officials; senior bureaucrats from Infrastructure Canada, the finance department and the Canadian Infrastructure Bank Transition office.
The province was represented by officials from the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure Ontario. Officials from the cities of Toronto, Mississauga and Brampton were also present.
Gianni Ciufo, who heads Deloitte’s public private partnership team, provided an overview of transit funding and financing options.
The heavyweight presence at the meeting is a signal that it’s getting serious attention, the source said. “You don’t get those people out unless there is significant momentum coming behind a project,” the source said.
Metrolinx — represented at the session by Phil Verster, its new chief executive officer, and senior planning staff — has made improved transit to Pearson one of its priorities.
The agency’s draft regional transportation plan notes that the airport area has the second-highest concentration of jobs in the Greater Toronto Area and says that cutting down on auto use will require “more attractive and integrated transit services.”
The draft document says that support for Pearson’s regional transportation centre should be a priority to improve transit access to the airport and better enable the airport region to support economic growth.
The Greater Toronto Airports Authority declined to comment on Tuesday’s meeting. But it has been an advocate of its plan, presenting it to political decision-makers. It has issued a request for proposals for the design and phasing of the transit centre.
According to the authority’s website more than 44 million people traveled through Pearson airport in 2016.
A report done for the airports authority in 2016 described the need for a transit hub as “urgent” but said it would be “potentially one of the most effective, efficient and productive of transit investments in the region.”
Both the federal and provincial governments are said to be interested in the proposal because of the opportunities to improve access to Pearson — Canada’s busiest airport — and improve access to transit to reduce congestion in the airport region.
One next step will be to set in motion planning for the multiple transit lines planned to serve the centre — and how they would be funded.