The Ontario Ministry of Transportation is hosting a Community Engagement Webinar on September 29th about the proposed Highway 413. You don’t need to go. Let me explain.

The invitation says that it will provide the same overview of the project as the webinar they hosted in July. I went to that webinar in July. It was unsatisfactory, to say the least. You can go if you want, but I’ll give you the Coles Notes version here, so that you don’t need to be patronized like I and 600 other people were earlier in the summer.

The future the Ministry sees has a car in every driveway

The Ministry of Transportation (MTO) insists that Highway 413 is needed, even with more vehicles on the underused 407, with more public transit, with road widenings and any other upgrades to existing routes – because there’s going to be more cars in the future. Lots of them.

As evidence for this, they took a poll during the webinar. 94 per cent of the people in attendance said that their primary means of transport through the region now is by car. MTO asserts that since that’s so today, it will be so tomorrow.

Here’s the thing, though. People have little choice but to get around by car – because there are no other options. I just tried to get directions from Google maps for how to get from one end of the highway to the other end by public transit. Google said “Sorry, we could not calculate transit directions [along that route].” To be clear, it’s not that the public transit route is circuitous. It’s that no route exists. 

And if people are car-dependent in the future, that will be because of planning decisions made today and in the years to come. Design communities around the car, and lo and behold, people will be dependent on cars. Fail to provide a public transit option, and, well, you know.

The crucial point is that if we design more transit friendly neighbourhoods, with better walkability, and higher densities, then people won’t be dependent on cars, and we won’t need a new highway for people to get stuck on. If we are dependent on cars, we’ll have the government to blame.

413 Billboard30 minutes versus 30 seconds

MTO asserted that contrary to claims that the highway will only save commuters 30 seconds, it will actually save people 30 minutes. They gave no evidence to support this assertion.

The estimate that the new highway would only save commuters 30 seconds is drawn from a report produced by an expert panel convened by the previous government. To be fair, what they were saying isn’t that from end to end you would only save 30 seconds, but that on average trips through the area would only be shortened by 30 seconds. Of course, there could be instances where the savings are greater than that, but 30 minutes would be a stretch, especially given that according to Google maps, it only takes 25 minutes to travel from one end of the route to the other today.

Yes, it’s longer if you want to avoid the tolls along the 407 (more on that in a minute), and longer in heavy traffic, but 30 minutes is a stretch. I’ll put my money with the expert panel, thanks.

Highway 413 won't save 30 minutes

Tolls? Who knows? 

MTO was asked if their project would be a toll road. They could not answer the question. They said it was out of scope.

When Highways 412 and 418 were being planned, the government insisted they wouldn’t be tolled. Guess what? They are tolled. There has been a long battle to have those tolls removed, but the government insists they can’t do it.

In April of this year, Minister of Transportation Caroline Mulroney said “removing the tolls wholesale would be unaffordable.” The community said it was “a slap in the face.” Ouch.

So you want to avoid those tolls on the 407? Well the 413 won’t be a good alternative.

The Ministry doesn’t really want to hear from you

The most infuriating thing about the webinar is that participants couldn’t participate. There was no opportunity to chat with others on the webinar, and we couldn’t see questions from other people. Questions went into a void, and the government selected which ones to answer. It was very frustrating.

Want to get informed about the highway? Great. Check out Don’t bother with the webinar. It’s an insult to you and a waste of your time.