Executive Summary

This Policy Brief defines and describes the Tor-York East megazone (TYE), one of three regionally, provincially, and nationally significant employment zones identified in the Neptis Foundation report Planning for Prosperity.

The TYE megazone surrounds the interchange of Highways 404 and 407, including parts of the cities of Markham, Richmond Hill and Toronto. It contains approximately 106,000 jobs, many of them in tradeable goods and services.

TYE represents a significant regional concentration of finance and business services, which account for 46,000 jobs. There are also major concentrations of wholesaling employment (18,000 jobs), manufacturing (more than 14,000 jobs), and a significant information and communications technology cluster (about 18,000 jobs, spanning computer manufacturing, services and wholesaling).

Between 2001 and 2011, TYE added close to 10,000 jobs, of which about 7,500 were in "core" or tradeable industries - while the Greater Golden Horseshoe as a whole experienced a net loss of jobs. Although 5,000 manufacturing jobs were lost across the megazone, they were more than offset by the addition of 9,500 jobs in finance and business services and 2,600 jobs in warehousing.

The TYE megazone includes one of five regional "Suburban Knowledge-Intensive Districts" (SKIDs) surrounding the intersection of Highways 7 and 404. SKIDs were identified in Planning for Prosperity as concentrations of highly skilled, knowledge-intensive occupations. Much of the employment growth between 2001 and 2011 has occurred within the SKID. The megazone also includes Markham Centre, an emerging Urban Growth Centre identified in the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe. As of 2011, Markham Centre contained only 7,600 jobs.

The growth of knowledge-intensive and other office-based jobs represents potential for the development of higher-density, more transit-supportive urban forms in TYE. This transition is critical to address the high level of auto dependency: on a typical day, 94% or 92,000 work trips to the megazone are made by automobile. The redevelopment of surface parking lots, as well as of some vacant sites in business parks near Highway 7, could provide for an additional 32,000 to 42,000 office workers. At the same time, areas within the megazone that are already at transit-supportive densities could be intensified to attract more users to the Highway 7 bus rapid transit line.

REALIZING THE POTENTIAL OF TYE BEGINS WITH ACKNOWLEDGING THE TYE MEGAZONE IN THE GROWTH PLAN AND REGIONAL TRANSPORTATION PLAN.

Two-way, all-day service on the GO Stouffville line should increase travel to the Unionville GO Station in Markham Centre, improving access for 28,000 workers who travel daily to TYE from the south. But providing improved transit access to almost 100,000 jobs located elsewhere in the megazone is key. The largest share of TYE workers - 33,000 a day - come from the east, which is not well served by transit. The extension of the Highway 7 BRT east of Unionville GO station is still only in the planning stages.

TYE represents significant potential for fostering economic development, reducing regional congestion, and achieving Growth Plan objectives and provincial greenhouse gas reduction targets. Yet along with the two other megazones identified in Planning for Prosperity, it is not currently identified in the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe. This omission makes it difficult to ensure the alignment of land use and transit planning, as the Regional Transportation Plan uses the Growth Plan as its starting point.

Realizing the potential of TYE will require:

* Acknowledging the TYE megazone in the Growth Plan and Regional Transportation Plan, by prioritizing transit to existing employment concentrations.

* Prioritizing transit investments that shift drivers to transit, such as two-way service to Unionville GO station.

* Focusing on reurbanization, by leveraging the megazone's existing employment base and economic assets (particularly the existing ICT cluster), and integrating proactive planning, placemaking, economic development and access by transit, walking, and cycling.

* Directing new office uses to transit-accessible locations and restricting or prohibiting them in auto- dependent areas.