Chapter 4: Alternative Approaches and Transportation Benefits

4.1 Transportation Benefits: Past, Present and Future

Traditionally, Ontario’s transportation planning has focused on delivering transportation-related services and benefits, which have normally been measured in terms of shorter travel times and reduced highway congestion. Not surprisingly, then, the forecasting processes used to plan Ontario’s highway system have generally sought to achieve these readily measurable transportation objectives.

In recent years, however, Ontario’s policy landscape has evolved to embrace some new directions, with significant implications for the transportation planning and decision-making process. Today, we expect transportation infrastructure investments and service improvements to do more than move people and goods between different points (see Figure 4-1). We now expect our transportation investments to help support a range of broader economic, social, and environmental goals ‒ such as achieving more compact and complete communities, protecting the environment by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, protecting our natural and heritage resources for future generations ‒ in addition to providing efficient movement of goods and people. Transportation planning has also expanded its scope to address new impacts, including induced travel demand, changes in travel behavior and changes in the real estate market.

For several decades, transportation planning in Ontario has also included the province’s environmental assessment process. Through the careful examination of alternatives, EA proponents have been able to identify the best possible option. However, while many EAs choose to narrow the scope of their projects in their terms of reference, the scope of the GTAW EA was broad. The EA's stated approach was to engage in a comprehensive exploration of a broad range of multi-modal options.

A more complete description of the background, issues and process of the GTAW EA is provided in Chapters 5 and 6 of this report. This chapter outlines the Panel’s assessment of the GTAW EA’s Recommended Actions with respect to their likely robustness, the potential of other alternatives to deliver similar benefits and the overall consistency of the Recommended Actions with provincial policy.

In its re-assessment, the Panel chose to focus primarily on transportation benefits (economic, social and environmental) and to include relatively little discussion of costs. This focus reflects the inherent challenges in generating reasonable cost estimates for specific actions, many of which have both public and private monetary and non-monetary costs, as well as benefits. At the same time, this report does offer some discussion of a number of secondary benefits or impacts that could result from a range of transportation actions.

growth plan for ggh

Figure 4-1: Schedule 2 Places to Grow Concept, Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe (2006)

The image presents the conceptual future transportation corridors identified in the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe (2006). Three future corridors are identified: one stemming from the region of Niagara (border crossing to the U.S.) towards the regions of Waterloo and Guelph; another stemming from the southern region of York towards Guelph; and another within the region of Durham.



4.1.1 Considerations for Assessing Transportation Benefits

To assess the GTAW Recommended Actions for their expected travel demand benefits, the Panel applied new travel demand forecasts to a number of alternative scenarios and approaches. Such forecasts rely on computer models that start with a defined set of variables and assumptions related to how individuals travel, based on data. In the context of this report, based on variables related to population and job growth and transportation service levels, the modeling forecasts outcomes that include both behavioural changes and transportation performance measures.

Travel demand forecasting is one of the traditional tools used in transportation planning. While it is not necessarily definitive, transportation planners use it as a guide that suggests probable outcomes of a given set of circumstances and actions. Travel demand forecasting plays several important roles in transportation planning, including:

  • providing credible documentation to improve accountability;
  • providing a reliable estimate of specific transportation benefits;
  • exploring the reasonableness of alternative actions; and
  • evaluating and selecting from a number of alternative actions.

4.1.2 Why Re-Assess GTAW EA Transportation Benefits?

The GTAW EA used transportation demand forecasts to evaluate a number of alternatives for their transportation benefits. These forecasts prompted the Panel to commission its own forecasts. There were three main reasons for commissioning this supplementary forecasting work:

  • to re-examine the benefits anticipated by the GTAW Recommended Actions in light of new sources of future uncertainty (e.g., the emergence of self-driving vehicles);
  • to assess the reasonableness of alternatives that were not explored by the EA; and
  • to evaluate the consistency of the GTAW Recommended Actions and unexplored alternatives in the context of evolving provincial policy objectives.

Travel demand forecasts can help identify the relative transportation benefits delivered by alternative policy actions, but their focus on benefits means that they represent a narrow evaluation of alternatives. For example, they are not designed to balance costs and benefits. Equally, they do not encompass two key secondary impacts of transportation infrastructure: induced travel demand and transportation-induced land use changes.

Building new transportation infrastructure, including highways, arterials and public transit, induces additional travel. Thus, the immediate social benefits of faster or more convenient travel are followed by the secondary consequence of more travel. Depending on context, constructing additional highway capacity can lead to similar increases in overall vehicular travel by encouraging commuters to live in more distant locations, to travel by car instead of by transit or to make more trips (Duranton & Turner, 2011). In fact, it is now recognized that induced demand represents an individual user benefit but a collective disbenefit due to congestion and more vehicle emissions. Over the last 20 years, the issue of induced demand and other secondary impacts has challenged the traditional limited focus on congestion and transportation benefits and resulted in transportation policy reform in jurisdictions such as the United Kingdom (see SACTRA, 1994 or Jones, 2010) and California (see Brown, 2008 or State Smart Transportation Initiative, 2014).

With respect to transportation-induced land use changes, it is well documented that transportation investment shapes where growth occurs (Banister & Berechman, 2003). Notably, additional highways can induce significant suburban expansion (Baum-Snow, 2006). Since compact and complete communities are a policy objective in Ontario’s Growth Plan (2006), understanding the relationship between transportation infrastructure investment, urban growth and suburban sprawl is critically important. In the Greater Golden Horseshoe, population and job forecasts are currently mandated by the Growth Plan (2006) and are independent of alternate transportation infrastructure investment strategies.

4.2 The Panel’s Approach and Alternate Scenarios

The Panel sought to focus on the extent to which the transportation benefits ascribed by the GTAW EA to its Recommended Actions were established robustly, and the extent to which these proposed actions would be consistent with provincial policy, in the context of a range of possible futures. Accordingly, the Panel designed additional analyses to assess alternative scenarios and approaches that it felt might have an important bearing on the effectiveness of the GTAW Recommended Actions.

4.2.1. Alternate Scenarios

The alternate scenarios were developed based on the Panel’s review of relevant provincial policy, municipal and regional policy, relevant trends in travel behavior and transportation planning and the Panel’s terms of reference. It should be noted that MTO also conducted numerous travel demand forecasts on behalf of the Panel that are not reviewed in this report. The summary presented here includes only those scenarios that the Panel considered to be of greatest interest in its assessment of alternate approaches. That assessment focuses on transportation benefits relevant to the GTAW EA. Each scenario offers only a brief discussion of the related costs.

All told, seven types of scenarios merit attention:

  1. The GTAW Recommended Actions – This scenario included a new highway corridor and other highway extensions and expansions, as recommended by the GTAW EA. None of the scenarios assessed by the Panel included the assumption that TDM, TSM, or transit improvements (several additional components of the GTAW EA’s recommendation referred to as Group #1 and Group #2) would reduce vehicular travel demand, because the Panel felt that such assumptions needed to be tested more rigorously.
  2. The GTAW Recommended Actions without the new highway – This scenario included other highway extensions and expansions (many of which were already being planned, permitted, or under way) but not the proposed GTAW highway.viii
  3. Alternate Land Use Scenarios – Several alternate job and population forecasts were developed and tested, with and without the GTAW Recommended Actions, including:
    1. GTAW EA Forecasts;
    2. Updated Provincial Forecasts; and
    3. A slower-growth, “compact” forecast based on an assumption mirroring the existing distribution of jobs and population and therefore leading to relatively more growth in urban areas.

    The GTAW EA used job and population growth forecasts that are set out in the Growth Plan (2006) (GTAW EA Forecasts). The Province has since updated these forecasts through Amendment 2 to the Growth Plan, which was issued in 2013 (Updated Provincial Forecasts). The Panel was provided with alternative, slower-growth forecasts based on observed growth (Slower Growth Forecast)ix. Of these three, the GTAW EA only had the GTAW EA forecasts from 2006 available. The Panel felt that re-examining travel demand model results in light of these additional forecasts was important because it would enable testing of the robustness of the proposed project’s benefits. It should be noted that the independent effects of slower-growth or more compact land uses on transportation performance cannot be determined from these results.

  4. Public Transit Scenarios – Alternative public transit scenarios were tested, including:
    1. The Regional Express Rail (2017) System (with and without the GTAW Recommended Actions);
    2. GTAW Corridor Rapid Transit, which explored transit feasibility between the study area’s population and job centres; and
    3. High Speed Rail, a scenario which explored the implications of the proposed High Speed Rail corridor between Toronto and Windsor, focusing on Toronto to Kitchener (where most of the ridership is expected).
  5. Self-driving Vehicle Scenarios – The Panel reviewed several stylistic scenarios in which self-driving vehicles become a reality, both with and without the GTAW EA’s Recommended Actions. Self-driving vehicles may both increase travel demand (people could travel more because it is more convenient) and may also increase road capacity (capacity could increase due to more efficient driving). Scenarios included:
    1. Rapid Self-driving Vehicle Adoption Scenario: an assumed 20-per-cent increase in trips with no capacity increase;
    2. Very Rapid Self-driving Vehicle Adoption Scenario: an assumed 40-per-cent increase in trips and a 50-per-cent capacity increase on all roads; and
    3. Very Rapid Self-driving Vehicle Adoption Scenario: an assumed 40-per-cent increase in trips, and a 100-per-cent capacity increase, only on highways.
  6. Congestion Pricing Scenarios – Several forecasts were tested where congestion pricing was used as an explicit travel demand management tool, as follows:
    1. Congestion pricing on one lane on all highways in the GGH;
    2. Congestion pricing on all highway lanes in the GGH;
    3. Congestion pricing on Hwy 401 Express lanes in the GGH;
    4. Congestion pricing on all of Hwy 401 in the GGH; and
    5. Congestion pricing for passenger vehicles on the new GTAW corridor, but free travel for trucks.
  7. Hwy 407 Truck Lane Scenarios – Forecasts that gave priority to trucks on Hwy 407 were also tested, based on the proximity of goods movement trip generators along Hwy 407, as follows:
    1. Two new, tolled lanes on all of Hwy 407 that are dedicated for trucks (one in each direction);
    2. Two new, unpriced lanes on all of Hwy 407 that are dedicated for use by trucks; and
    3. Two new, unpriced lanes on Hwy 407 that are dedicated for use by trucks, from Hwy 401 to HWY 400 only.

    These Hwy 407 Truck Lane Scenarios were designed to explore opportunities to use Hwy 407 differently, rather than undertake a comprehensive assessment of benefits, costs and engineering feasibility. The Panel also notes that are currently limits in the Hwy 407 legislation and agreement that would affect options (such as the scenarios examined here) to use Hwy 407 in different ways, due to current legislation limits on widening Hwy 407 up to 10-lanes.

4.2.2 Assessment Framework

More details on each of the modeling scenarios outlined above are provided in Appendix 4. All the scenarios and approaches were developed using a combination of travel demand modeling, sketch planning, and discussions. To evaluate the recommendations in the GTAW EA, the Panel used a framework that involved three fundamental questions. These questions acted as a kind of filter on the modeling results, and the Panel applied them to each relevant scenario. The three questions were as follows:

  • Question 1 — Based on transportation performance measures, does an alternative scenario deliver benefits that are similar to the GTAW Recommended Actions?
  • Question 2 — Does an alternative scenario change the benefits from the GTAW EA’s Recommended Actions?
  • Question 3 — What provincial policy goals are advanced (or undermined) by the GTAW EA’s Recommended Actions?

For the third question, rather than focusing strictly on transportation benefits from the twin perspectives of travel time savings and congestion alleviation, the Panel opted to explore two broader types of transportation-related benefits:

  • Economic Objectives: those that involve creating economic value by saving time or money and reducing traffic congestion; and
  • Complete Community Objectivesx: those that involve policy priorities such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions (e.g., by reducing auto travel and encouraging mode-switching to public transit and carpooling) and supporting complete communities (e.g., by promoting more local travel and shorter trips).

4.3 Results of the Panel’s Assessment

The results of the Panel’s assessment are discussed below, first by focusing on scenario-specific conclusions, and second by highlighting general conclusions on transportation benefits and alternate scenarios and approaches. The Panel reached two types of conclusions — conclusions that were specifically related to the scenario discussions, and more general conclusions about alternate approaches. The Panel’s scenario-specific conclusions are presented here first.

4.3.1 Scenario-specific Conclusions

  1. GTAW Recommended Actions
  2. The Panel found that the GTAW Recommended Actions would, as Stage 1 of the EA suggested, deliver significant economic-oriented transportation benefits, but that they would not likely deliver benefits related to the provincial policy objective of complete communities.

    The Panel’s scenario results supported travel time savings in a magnitude similar to those suggested in the GTAW EA. This is an economic-oriented transportation benefit. The GTAW EA suggests that transportation benefits from the GTAW Recommended Actions are expected to be $2.2-billion in annual benefits and that the cost would be approximately $5-billion. However, this economic value includes highway widenings and expansions that were already planned (many of which are currently under way). Moreover, the suggested economic value is based on an aggregate economic model in the EA (the TREDIS model), which does not account for the study area opportunities (e.g., many goods movement facilities are located in the study area) or constraints (e.g., land availability in the Greenbelt).

    The precise economic value delivered by the project would need to be further refined using a detailed benefit-cost analysis. Moreover, given that the GTAW EA recommends a suite of actions rather than an individual action, exploring the cost-benefit value delivered through alternative phasing methodologies would be important (e.g., when would costs be incurred to provide different components of the system, and how quickly would the project-related benefits accrue?).

    These findings led the Panel to reach different conclusions than the GTAW EA assumptions regarding complete community-oriented performance measures. While the GTAW EA assumptions led to an assumption that transit mode shares would increase by 2.5 per cent and active travel mode shares would increase by 1.5 per cent, the Panel could find no rationale for these assumptions. Instead, the Panel’s assessment suggested that the GTAW Recommended Actions would either have a negligible impact on mode share (based on model results) or be likely to induce more auto travel (when considering long-term potential for induced demand).

  3. The GTAW Recommended Actions With/Without the New Highway
  4. The Panel’s modeling results suggested that half of the GTAW Recommended Actions’ travel time savings would be delivered by the expansions and extensions of existing highways. Although those actions were proposed as part of the GTAW Recommended Actions, many of these were already permitted by other EAs or Class EAs at the time of the TDS. Since then, they have been added to MTO’s Capital Plan and in some cases have been completed or are under way. In any case, the Panel concluded that these actions should not have been rolled into the anticipated benefits of the proposed new highway in the GTAW Recommended Actions. Rather, the actions and their anticipated benefits should have been included as part of the base case scenario at the start of the EA.

  5. Land Use Forecasts
  6. Since the GTAW EA used population and job forecasts that were provincially mandated, the benefits of the GTAW Recommended Actions are closely tied to the land uses assumed in those forecasts. However, the Panel’s forecasts based on alternative land uses and growth patterns showed significant changes to the benefits that would be delivered by the GTAW project — changes that could warrant either accelerating, postponing or offsetting the need for building new highway capacity. Recent data suggest that provincial growth has slowed (Ministry of Finance, 2017; Mathew, 2017). Moreover, travel times in the slower-growth, compact scenario and in the GTAW Recommended Actions are similar.

    While the effects of slower growth and more compact land uses cannot be separated in these results, these alternative land use and growth scenarios raise important questions. Some questions relate to which land use scenario is most likely (particularly under different transportation infrastructure investment strategies) and which scenario is most desirable. Another important question is whether land use patterns can be sufficiently aligned to postpone or offset the need to build new transportation system capacity.

  7. Public Transit
  8. The Panel’s modeling results suggested that various public transit scenarios would have no impact on level of benefits expected from the GTAW Recommended Actions. This is largely because the GTAW Recommended Actions and public transit actions serve different travel markets. Without significant changes to land use forecasts beyond those assumed in the Growth Plan, our models indicated that public transit is not a viable alternative for linking urban growth centres in the study area, essentially because the travel demand is so low. However, the Panel found that Regional Express Rail, which was assumed to occur under the EA’s 2031 base case scenario, will deliver travel time savings for trips through the GTAW study area and from the study area to Toronto. These travel time savings are approximately three times as high as those of the proposed GTAW highway alone.

  9. Self-driving Vehicle Technology
  10. While there is still much uncertainty about self-driving vehicles and the whole new range of transportation-related, internet-based technologies, the Panel’s modeling suggested that self-driving vehicles could have a significant impact on average travel times. Importantly, the widespread adoption of such vehicles could either reduce or increase average travel times. While self-driving vehicles are likely to increase road capacity and thus travel speeds, they are also likely to increase the total number of vehicles on the road and the total number of trips taken. The Panel’s modeling results also suggested that with the self-driving scenarios, the GTAW Recommended Actions would be expected to generate more travel time savings.

  11. Congestion Pricing
  12. In all the scenarios, congestion pricing delivered significant travel time savings and reduced vehicular travel. Travel time savings from congestion pricing accrued right across the GGH, but in some congestion pricing scenarios even the savings within the GTAW study area approached or exceeded those expected from the GTAW Recommended Actions. The results from the Panel’s congestion pricing scenarios suggested that this alternative may well have the greatest policy consistency with both economic-oriented and complete community-oriented transportation performance measures. However, while the potential travel time savings of these scenarios could be high, these scenarios could lead to issues around public acceptance and equity that would need to be explored using a system-wide approach.

  13. Hwy 407 Goods Priority
  14. The Panel’s modeling suggested that there could be significant potential travel time savings from providing freight priority to the existing highway network. These scenarios assessed adding truck-only lanes on Hwy 407 and subsidizing these lanes for the use of goods-moving vehicles. However, while economic-oriented transportation benefits are potentially significant, the costs of such an alternative action would also likely be high, as this action would exceed the 10-lane limit that exists in the Hwy 407 legislation and operating agreement.

4.3.2 Panel’s General Conclusions

The goal of the work outlined in this chapter was to test the robustness of the GTAW Recommended Actions, using travel demand modeling and sketch planning, to discuss a number of approaches and scenarios devised by the Panel. The findings of this work—which are suggestive, but not necessarily definitive—resulted in five general conclusions.

  1. Transportation Benefits from the Recommended Actions
  2. The Panel’s modeling results suggested that travel time savings delivered by the GTAW Recommended Actions would be broadly stable across a range of future scenarios. But some scenarios, such as the self-driving vehicle scenarios, suggested greater travel time savings, while others, such as the slower-growth, “compact” land use scenarios, suggested lower travel time savings from the GTAW Recommended Actions. Translating these model results into practical findings, all of the GTAW Recommended Actions would deliver approximately a minute of travel time savings per vehicular trip across the Greater Golden Horseshoe. On its own, the proposed new highway corridor would deliver approximately half of those savings, or about 30 seconds per vehicle trip.

  3. Overstating Benefits
  4. The scenarios developed in the GTAW EA contained unspecific actions (e.g., TDM, TSM, and transit) and actions that were already permitted and in some cases under way (e.g., highway widenings and extensions), in addition to the new highway corridor. In effect, this overstated the benefits that would flow from the Recommended Actions. Benefits that did not relate to the proposed new highway corridor should either have been assumed in the base case scenario or enumerated separately, to allow for a clear evaluation of the proposed corridor on its own merits. This issue is particularly important because some of these additional actions were or are being assessed in independent EAs (i.e., benefits that are being counted in multiple environmental review processes) and because different benefits from the GTAW Recommended Actions were subject to different policy requirements (discussed further in Chapter 5), and therefore should have been assessed independently. More specifically:

    • The GTAW EA included already programmed highway expansions and extensions (some of which are now already completed or under way) as benefits that were specific to the GTAW Recommended Actions. In fact, those expansions and extensions are separate infrastructure improvements and represented approximately half of the travel time savings that would result from the EA’s proposed actions.
    • Assumptions in the GTAW EA about TDM, TSM and transit-related vehicular demand reductions were unsupported, and these EA recommendations were sufficiently vague that there is no apparent mechanism to ensure that such measures are followed in the event that the EA is approved.
  5. Unexplored Alternatives
  6. The Panel was asked to examine potential alternative approaches to meeting future transportation demand beyond those set out in the EA. This work resulted in the Panel identifying scenarios that would appear to deliver travel time savings in the same order of magnitude as the GTAW Recommended Actions. That said, the travel time savings of many of these alternatives appear to apply more widely across the Greater Golden Horseshoe, rather than primarily within the GTAW study area. The Panel also observes that, although these scenarios are consistent with provincial policy to optimize the use of existing infrastructure before developing new infrastructure, these scenarios raise a number of other policy issues.

    • Congestion pricing: A range of congestion pricing scenarios indicated that this TDM tool could deliver travel time savings ranging from savings that are equal to the proposed new GTAW highway to savings that are more than 10 times greater than those delivered by the new highway (altogether, more than five times greater than all of the GTAW Recommended Actions). The impacts and benefits of these scenarios would also extend beyond the GTAW area. Notably, some congestion pricing scenarios delivered higher travel time savings for the study area (but a lower share of the Greater Golden Horseshoe total) than the GTAW Recommended Actions. However, these travel time savings need to be interpreted carefully, since they represent a trade-off between higher travel times and a policy that requires users to pay a toll for the use of congestion-free highways.
    • Hwy 407 Truck Lanes: The Panel’s modeling forecasts indicated that adding dedicated truck lanes to Hwy 407 would deliver significant travel time savings, especially for the goods movement sector. It is notable that the Panel’s Hwy 407 scenarios are similar to Alternative 3-1 in the GTAW EA, which was rejected on the basis of cost and constructabilityxi, in that the Panel’s Hwy 407 scenarios propose additional lanes on Hwy 407. But while Alternative 3-1 in the EA proposed up to six additional lanes on Hwy 407, the Panel’s scenarios added only one lane in each direction, extending them along a much longer stretch in two of the three scenarios.
    • Land Use Management: The difference between the provincially-mandated planned growth targets and a slower-growth, compact land use scenario exceeds the travel time savings delivered by the full suite of GTAW Recommended Actions (including all widenings and extensions). In the slower-growth, compact scenario, growth is forecasted based on the recent past, rather than the higher target forecasts mandated in the Growth Plan (2006). In short, how land uses are managed appears to impact travel conditions. However, the desirability and likelihood of slower growth or more compact land uses remain unknown.
  7. Policy Congruence and Performance Objectives
  8. Provincial transportation policy is moving toward accommodating a wider range of social, economic and environmental policy objectives than in the past, including making the optimization of existing infrastructure a priority. This evolution is evident in documents such as the Growth Plan (2006), the Big Move (2008), the Greenbelt Plan (2005), Climate Change Action Plan (2016), and other key policy initiatives. The Panel’s review focused on several provincial policy objectives relating to transportation (i.e., economic objectives, including travel time savings and reduced congestion, and complete community objectives, including greater transit use, more ride-sharing, and shorter trips per vehicle).

    With this focus, the Panel sought to explore the consistency of the GTAW EA’s Recommended Actions with respect to broader, and in some cases, more recent provincial policy goals. A broad set of performance measures has recently been developed by the province for the Growth Plan (2006), and these support the performance measures used by the Panel in its scenario modeling. On their own, some of the scenarios modeled by the Panel appeared to be more robust with respect to accommodating a broader range of provincial policy objectives than the GTAW Recommended Actions.

    The range of congestion pricing scenarios and the slower-growth, compact land use scenarios appear to be most consistent with both economic and complete community-oriented performance measures. These scenarios are also more consistent with the emphasis in the PPS (2005) and Growth Plan (2006) on optimizing existing infrastructure.

    The GTAW EA Recommended Actions appear certain to provide economic and travel time-related benefits, many of which would apply to the study area. But the Panel also found that the EA’s consideration of complete community objectives was secondary. While induced demand was not directly estimated by models, alternatives that provide additional highway capacity could be expected to induce more traffic. As noted earlier in the report, the need to understand induced demand as one of several secondary impacts of transportation investment has led to transportation policy reform in the U.K. If objectives such as curbing congestion, supporting complete communities or reducing greenhouse gas emissions are important in the GGH, the potential for induced demand to undermine these objectives needs to be better understood.

    The GTAW EA’s policy alignment could have been further clarified by understanding how the project—in concert with other provincial projects, policies, programs, and initiatives—would play its individual role. This assumes the existence of a provincial vision for transportation investment and an overarching regional transportation plan that would shape the directions and help define the role of individual projects.

    Without a long-term transportation vision and a multi-modal plan designed to realize it, the Panel concluded that it will continue to be a major challenge to assess the relative merit and effectiveness of single projects, or even groups of infrastructure investments, in advancing Ontario’s progress toward its broader policy objectives. This conclusion was echoed in comments received during the Panel’s consultations (see Chapter 2), in which the lack of an integrated transportation plan was noted by many participants.

  9. Implications of Land Use Forecasts
  10. On May 18, 2017, the province released the updated Greenbelt Plan (2017) and Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe (2017). The Panel found that one policy of particular relevance to its work is the direction in the Growth Plan (2017) that planning for new or expanded infrastructure “will occur in an integrated manner, including evaluation of long-range scenario-based land use planning ...” (3.2.1.2). This new guidance adds support to the approach used by the Panel in Chapter 4 of exploring possible future scenarios as a strategy for considering the robustness of the GTAW EA transportation benefits.

    Models using job and population forecasts that are different from those in the EA were commissioned by MTO and used by the Panel, one of which was consistent with the Updated Provincial Forecast prepared for the Growth Plan (2017) and one of which relied on observed trends (a slower-growth, compact scenario).

    Over time, if the current observed trends are more accurate, this will have implications for the GTAW EA’s project-related benefits. First, differences between the Updated Provincial Forecast and slower-growth, compact land use scenarios deliver travel time savings that are similar to those of the GTAW Recommended Actions. Second, the GTAW Recommended Actions deliver fewer benefits under a slower-growth compact scenario. The Panel’s results did not independently assess the role of compactness from slower growth in this scenario. While the Panel looked at a scenario with slower growth, its evaluation of this scenario should not be construed as an endorsement of slower growth.

    As outlined above, the Panel’s consideration of alternative land use patterns suggested that exploring the interaction between these scenarios and different transportation outcomes could lead to a different long-term travel demand management strategy. Accordingly, developing a better understanding of whether transportation infrastructure investment promotes or undermines more travel-efficient land use arrangements could be significant in helping support more effective transportation planning.

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