As York Region continues to grow and become popular for new residents and businesses, many have noticed significant changes occurring regularly to accommodate the growth. Which adjustments are being made by the area towns and cities compared to those undertaken by the regional government is unclear. York Regional chairman Wayne Emmerson reflected on the accomplishments of this past year and shared what’s in store for 2018.

“2017 was a very busy year and I’m very pleased with the amount work and accomplishments York Region Council has done with our staff,” he said. Most of the region’s work has focused on complimentary goals for transportation, infrastructure, and economic development.

The region contributed financially to the long-awaited construction of the TTC Spadina subway line, extending out of Toronto into York Region for the first time, and had numerous new rapid transit shelters completed. Looking ahead to 2018, the region has identified five new transit initiatives. They include: aligning York Region Transit (YRT) services with the Toronto-York Spadina subway extension; increasing capacity on select, high-ridership routes with 60-foot articulated buses; aligning transit services at the Cornell Terminal; expanding the Dial-a-Ride service; as well as harmonizing Mobility Plus policies and practices with neighbouring services.

“These new transit initiatives are the result of the commitment made during this term by regional council, to ensure transit service continues to meet the needs of everyone across the region,” said Emmerson. “As council continues to invest in moving people effectively, our transit system will continue to attract even more residents, businesses and visitors to York Region.”

Emerson is also excited about the new mobile phone fare payment service announced in 2017 for YRT riders.

“We’re the first transit service in Ontario to do this,” he said. Riders can simply tap their smartphone with the app and show it as a proof of purchase. Acknowledging that some residents have been asking about implementing integrated fares, Emmerson said that task hasn’t been easy but they’re working on it. Financially, not all partnering municipalities come out even and it’s a matter of trying to find solutions to fit all budgets.

Looking ahead to 2018, Emmerson was optimistic about the possibility of extending the TTC Yonge line into York Region, calling it “one of the biggest issues that regional council has supported.”

“We’re hoping that the province and the federal government will make an announcement on the Yonge subway,” he said. “Even if they were going to commit the funding in 2018, we know it’s about a ten-year venture. We want to make sure that subway is open by 2031. So we’re going to continue to work on that.”

The region’s economic development effort in 2017 also included a presentation to the American online retailer Amazon, which has been seeking presentations from municipalities who desire the company’s soon-to-be-announced second headquarters in North America. The York Region presentation included a site in Markham and another in Vaughan. Amazon received 237 other presentations and is expected to announce the outcome this spring.

“We’re hoping to hear in the new year if we’re short-listed and then they’ll be coming out to meet with us again,” said Emmerson. “Whichever one they pick, we’ll meet with the Mayor of Markham or the Mayor of Vaughan and do whatever we can to convince Amazon to locate at one of those sites.”

Judging from what’s in store, the behind the scenes effort by Emmerson and the 20 other council members to manage the growth in York Region will be even busier in 2018.

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