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What was behind the Metrolinx flip-flop on Park Lawn GO Station?

Metrolinx says community development – and not political pork-barrelling – is what has prompted the transit agency to put plans for a south Etobicoke GO Train station back on the table.

Two years ago, Humber Bay Shore residents saw their dreams of a GO connection to Union Station dashed, when Metrolinx rejected a proposed station on Park Lawn Road south of the Gardiner.

The reversal, announced on Monday, is being celebrated by residents and developers, but critics are saying it’s nothing more than a play for votes ahead of the June provincial election.

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“Ontario’s $21.3-billion GO expansion program has been reduced to little more than a Liberal re-election scheme,” says NDP MPP Peter Tabuns. He pointed to allegations from last year that former minister of transportation Stephen Del Duca intervened to have a proposed transit station approved in his Vaughan riding

“Yesterday, we found out that another rejected station – this time in the riding of minister of housing – is suddenly back on the table,” he adds.

The proposed Park Lawn station would be in the riding of Ontario MPP and Minister of Housing Peter Milczyn.

But Metrolinx says its change of heart on the Park Lawn station is not politically motivated.

“Back in 2016, we did look at that location,” says Leslie Woo, Metrolinx’s chief planning officer. “We’ve also looked at a whole number of pieces to improve the system.”

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That includes service levels, skipping particular stops to create express service, how TTC-GO Train fare integration would affect travel and other factors.

“We also re-examined Park Lawn itself,” she explains. “It became apparent that Park Lawn was performing in a way that the benefits were increasing, and they exceeded the costs. That’s why we recommended to our board that they proceed with taking Park Lawn to the next stage, which is developing a preliminary design business case.”

The Metrolinx board will decide on moving forward on March 8th. Then funding and design details for this and 11 other stations, will need to be finalized.

When Park Lawn was originally considered, one of the main reasons for the rejection was how close it was to Mimico Station, which is only 1.4 kilometres away from the proposed site. Mimico is also one of the least-busy stations on the Lakeshore line, accounting for only 5 per cent of all passengers.

But Jim Reekie, of the Humber Bay Shores Condo Association says Park Lawn will boost those ridership numbers significantly. He says the association been working on the station for a long time with the local city councillor, Mayor John Tory and MPP Peter Milczyn.

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“If we can get this in our community, it’s going to alleviate a lot of traffic congestion, and it’s going to be better for people to live here,” Reekie says.

He estimates that 25,000 people live in the area, a number he says will go up to about 33,000 people as more condos are completed.

“The best way to get them downtown is public transportation,” he says.

Jodi Shpigel of First Capital Realty, which owns the former Christie Factory lands, says a Go stop here would increase the value and opportunities for development.

“What we would like to do in the Humber Bay Shores community with the former Mr. Christie site is to develop a complete community that has residential uses, employment uses, retail shops and services, complete with higher-order transit,” she says.

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“What we’d like to see is a transit hub that integrates the TTC with the GO station, so it really does create connectivity for the entire community.”