Ontario's transportation minister and the mayors of Toronto, Mississauga, Brampton and Kitchener looked at plans on Tuesday morning for a regional transit hub at Pearson International Airport.
The proposed hub, which would serve a growing demand for transit in the western end of the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, has been dubbed "Union Station West."
Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca said the presentation by the Greater Toronto Airports Authority was "clear" that such a hub would help to reduce road congestion in the area, which is experiencing "explosive" growth.
"What we have today is the GTAA stepping forward, bringing information and data to the discussion so we can look at it, and frankly being strong champions. There are significant needs in this area," Del Duca told reporters.
"What we see today is tangible evidence that the GTAA is a real partner. They are planning to bring not only their advocacy, but I suspect their resources to the table for part of this discussion. And I think that's critically important."
The GTAA said the hub could be similar to Toronto's Union Station, which serves as a downtown hub for the Toronto Transit Commission subway, GO Transit and Via Rail. It said it could help to shorten commuting times to the airport and make the area more business friendly.
Del Duca and Toronto Mayor John Tory, Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie, Brampton Mayor Linda Jeffrey and Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic gathered at Pearson's Viscount Station, which overlooks the site that could be developed into the hub.
Tory says plans look at actual traffic patterns
Tory said the proposed hub is "very exciting" and "very much necessary" because the region, although a desirable place to live, is lacking in transit.
"The reality is that we have far too many people in this region that are spending far too long in cars, that are in cars to begin with as opposed to other forms of transportation, that are polluting the environment by doing that and that are taking time away from their families. It's just not healthy for the economy and for productivity either," he said.
Tory said the city is supportive of the plans presented on Tuesday because they consider the actual traffic patterns in the Toronto region. For example, he said not all traffic comes from west to east or heads downtown.
He said the challenge will be making the project happen, given that it will involve the public and private sectors and the airport authority. Proposed costs of the project were not provided on Tuesday.
Crombie said the hub would improve access to Pearson, Canada's largest airport, and the private sector wants to see public transit to the airport built.
"We all agree that we need to think differently about Pearson airport," she told reporters. "Pearson is more than just an airport. It's a regional and a national asset that must be utilized."
"Put simply, transportation policy is good economic development policy," she said.
Jeffrey said "Union Station West" would be a "game-changer" for Brampton because it would mean more jobs for its residents. She said the Pearson area is the second largest employment zone in Canada after Toronto.
An estimated 300,000 people work in the Pearson employment zone and the GTAA says 93 per cent of those workers drive to their jobs.
"A regional transit hub at Toronto Pearson would allow my residents and our businesses to have better and faster access to most regional and global markets, thus creating high paying jobs in our region," she said.
Vrbanovic, for his part, said more "strong public transit" is needed in the region to connect the Kitchener-Waterloo region with the rest of the Greater Toronto Area and it would support government efforts to grow its "innovation corridor."
A hub would be "strategically positioned" to help grow the economy, would help to connect talent with resources, and would help to alleviate gridlock on highways, he said.
Hub would ease travel from suburb to suburb
The GTAA told the mayors and the minister that a "major ground transportation" hub would make the region more business-friendly.
The agency said it would benefit the Northern Arc, an area that extends across the top of the GTA to North Toronto and York Region. It said the hub would allow commuters to move from suburb to suburb without going through downtown Toronto.
Last year, the GTAA announced plans to build a regional transit centre on airport property. It has indicated it will fund the development and construction of the transit hub.
If built, the centre would connect a number of transit lines, including the Eglinton Crosstown LRT, Mississauga's bus rapid transit plan and potentially a high-speed rail line to the Kitchener-Waterloo area.