Executive Summary

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

TYW covers a large area in the City of Vaughan and the City of Toronto. Of the megazone's approximately 140,000 jobs, 45,000 are in manufacturing, and more than 11,000 in construction, making this the region's workshop. More than 20,000 jobs are in wholesale trade and transportation - not surprising, given the presence of a CN multimodal facility. There are also almost 20,000 jobs in finance and business services.

Between 2001 and 2011, the TYW megazone lost almost 13,000 manufacturing jobs, but compensated for the loss with employment growth in construction, business services, higher education (mainly at York University), and population-related work (jobs in retail, schools, and personal services). However, the northern part of the megazone in the City of Vaughan fared better than the southern part in the City of Toronto. The latter attracted little new growth to offset manufacturing job losses.

The area is changing with the development of the Vaughan Metropolitan Centre (VMC) and the replanning of the Downsview Airport site, as well as major transit investments in the extension of the Spadina subway line to Vaughan, the addition of bus rapid transit on the Highway 7 corridor, and improvements to GO train service on the Barrie line. These initiatives may help address the megazone's current high level of auto dependence: at present, more than 230,000 daily work trips are made by automobile to jobs in the megazone. There is also potential to add jobs along the Highway 7 corridor by developing what are now surface parking lots into office uses. Redevelopment could add 11,000 to 15,000 workers (west of Highway 400 and in addition to the VMC), in areas within walking distance of bus rapid transit.

The TYW megazone 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, TYW 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.

THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE VAUGHAN METROPOLITAN CENTRE AND DOWNSVIEW AIRPORT SITE, AS WELL AS MAJOR TRANSIT INVESTMENTS AND IMPROVEMENTS TO GO TRAIN SERVICE, MAY HELP ADDRESS THE MEGAZONE'S CURRENT HIGH LEVEL OF AUTO DEPENDENCE.

Realizing the potential of TYW will require:

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

* Focusing on reurbanization, and taking a comprehensive planning approach to the megazone as a whole, by leveraging its existing employment base and economic assets, and integrating proactive planning, placemaking, economic development, and improved access by transit, walking, and cycling.

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

* In the megazone's industrial areas, building upon the existing manufacturing cluster to strengthen and diversify the area's role as the region's workshop.