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How the pandemic has changed our thinking on transit

BY SHELLEY CARROLL During our meeting this week, I had to remind my colleagues on the TTC Board of something they voted on back in February of this year. I don’t know how well it was received; during virtual meetings, one gets no feedback by way of expression. We say our piece while staring at our laptops which display tiny tile-sized pictures of our fellow board members. They, in turn, stare back at the tiny tile-sized pictures in their home offices.

One thing is for sure: bringing up something that happened in the "before times" pre-lockdown always feels like asking to hearken back to a simpler time in the late Fifties. But pre-COVID life wasn’t that long ago and we shouldn’t lose track of what seemed important then. Remember DVN Connects? At the February TTC meeting, I presented the transportation and transit requests of DVN Connects, our local residents’ working group on mobility needs in Don Valley North. For months in 2019, DVN Connects examined the growing density in our Ward — particularly along Sheppard Avenue — and proposed solutions that would be professionally studied and reported on by the end of 2020. Chief among their proposals was to study and consult on the possibility of priority bus lanes on Sheppard Avenue between Don Mills Station and the Agincourt GO Station.

It’s nowhere near the end of the year yet, but COVID-19 has confused our long term plans for the TTC. The pandemic has made it very clear that our bus system is the true "GOAT" of the TTC. This is the system that overwhelmingly carries our city's front-line workers to their jobs: our buses are now back up to 40 per cent of last year’s ridership while subways are only at 22 per cent. As a result of these findings, Staff have proposed expediting the installation of priority bus-only lanes on a number of high-ridership routes. Commissioners and TTC Staff are talking buses much more than subways these days. Buses, buses, buses TTC Staff have proposed that the existing High Occupancy Vehicle lanes on Eglinton Avenue East be converted to priority bus-only lanes. The 10.9-kilometre Eglinton East corridor runs from Kennedy Station to the University of Toronto Scarborough Campus. This service is urgently needed to carry students safely and quickly to campus.

Their next priority, six months later, will be in the west end along Jane Street. All Commissioners agree with this — these routes are some of the TTC's most heavily-used, and are crucial to much more than the universities at each of their end points. They also travel through priority neighbourhoods in need of improvement, social housing communities and employment zones. Then, staff want us to turn our minds to Dufferin Street, Finch Avenue East, Steeles Avenue West and even Lawrence Avenue East. That's when I raised a few questions about Sheppard Avenue East. Don't forget the before-times As I've discussed before in this column, the Ontario government says there will be a subway extension east along the Sheppard line — but it's not a priority. In fact, Doug Ford's latest map shows it coming up in 2041.

In the meantime, more density is being built along the Sheppard Avenue East corridor than any of the streets TTC Staff identified for bus-only priority lanes. That's why I insisted that Staff add the study of bus-only lanes for Sheppard Avenue East to their list. After all, DVN Connects already asked for this months ago. We need an “until-the-subway” plan. We had some ideas of great merit in the "before times" and we should not throw them out in favour of post-pandemic thinking. When residents commit several nights to big thinking on transit, cars, pedestrian realms and cycling, they deserve to have their work followed up on. In my experience, ideas developed from the ground-up are far more useful and adaptable than any other. That's why I'll continue to advocate for DVN Connects' hard work — because we need to consider the "after times" too.


In the upcoming City Council meetings on July 28 and 29, it is very likely that two major development applications in Don Valley North will be discussed and voted on by Shelley and other City Councillors. These applications are Bayview Village Shopping Centre and 2450 Victoria Park Avenue. As mentioned in Shelley's previous e-blasts, both applications are currently under appeal before the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT), but the developers in both cases are working with City Planning and other parties involved to reach a settlement. These parties are local community organizations in the ward, including the Bayview Village Association, Bayview-Sheppard Neighbourhood Alliance, and the Armenian Community Centre. We are happy to see that through this LPAT process, City Planning staff have been able to negotiate for more reasonable densities and built form, accessible public spaces for the community, and in the case of Bayview Village mall, a better connection to the TTC station. Since Bayview Village Association is a party to the hearing, they have created a great explainer for the mall redevelopment that they are able to share. This process, however, is not without its flaws. Since it is a legal process, City Council is required to review the City Solicitor's report and vote to provide direction in private. While this means we will not be able to share every detail of these applications at this moment, we will work to share the information with you after the Council meetings through the e-blast, community meetings, and other means of communication. If you have any questions about these applications or other matters related to planning and development, please feel free to contact me at



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