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Board of Trade Poll Supports Cross-Regional Agency for Transit





Seventy-four per cent of Torontonians who responded to a survey support the idea of a developing a super regional transit agency to oversee planning, building and operating both regional and local transit services across a wide swath of central Ontario.

That’s according to the Toronto Region Board of Trade (BofT), which has just released the results of its recent survey (.pdf) of residents of the Greater Toronto and Hamilton area, Waterloo Region, and Guelph about its proposal for a super transit agency to operate all transit services in the area.

As Urban Toronto reported last November, the BofT has developed a concept paper that encourages the Government of Ontario to expand the mandate of Metrolinx by uploading all transit services in the area to new entity, which it’s calling “Superlinx”. The new cross-regional agency would be similar to those in other large conurbations, such as Transport for London and Vancouver’s Translink. The goal, the BofT says, is to finance and build transit lines more quickly, offering commuters a modern, seamless transit system.

The board commissioned Environics Research to conduct the survey. Environics worked with an on-line sample-panel provider to reach out to what it calls “a representative group of Ontarians, according to census population distribution”. BofT officials explained to Urban Toronto that “Because it is an online sample, it is not ‘random’ in the same sense that a telephone sample is considered, but respondents were drawn randomly from a larger pool of residents.”

Results of the Board of Trade poll on the Superlinx plan, image, Board of Trade

The team polled 1,000 adults across the area; 27 percent of them from the 18-34 age group, 35 percent from the 35 to 54 group and 38 percent 55 years of age or older. Of this total, 43 percent own a car; 35 percent have two cars; ten percent have three or more cars; and just 13 percent have no car. But, even more important, 50 percent of the survey participants regularly ride public transit.

While the poll determined a moderate level of satisfaction for local transit services, respondents also indicated an equally moderate enthusiasm for the Superlinx plan. People in Peel Region had the highest opinion of local transit at 79 per cent of respondents, while people in Toronto and York Region had the lowest opinion–59 and 55 percent respectively. Perhaps not surprisingly, York residents demonstrated the highest level of support for the Superlinx concept—89 per cent of York respondents agreed with the proposal, while Hamiltonians were the least interested in it—just 65 percent of them approved. However, in fact, 79 per cent of regional respondents supported the concept of a single regional transit agency funded by the provincial government.

According to the BofT, “Toronto is one of the fastest growing metropolitan areas in North America, a vibrant, global city, consistently ranking among the world’s top cities for quality of life. However, once deemed an enviable strength, the region’s transit system has become a significant weakness. Congestion is getting worse as more residents commute regionally across multiple lines. We require a regional transit agency with the authority to integrate the one million residents who have moved into the region over the past 10 years, and the millions more arriving in the coming decade.”

Profile of the who participated in the Board of Trade’s poll, image, Board of Trade

That’s the rationale that inspired the Bof T to develop its Superlinx plan. Its concept paper, Superlinx: An Uploading Strategy for a Modern Provincial Transit Agency (.pdf) states that the “Superlinx agency will have authority over transit planning, operations, expansion and asset management. Consolidation will allow the agency to improve services, find efficiencies and maximize the value of its assets.” The report’s authors declare that this “proposal also has the virtue of simplicity, avoiding the co-ordination problems created by partial uploads of only planning authority or rapid transit lines.”

The survey comes at a time when the Government of Ontario is exploring options to do just that—upload Toronto’s subway system, but only the subways—as it promised during the 2018 provincial election. The Board supports a subway upload only as a first step leading developing a more regional model over time.

“We’ve spent twenty years urging the province to move growth revenues, financing capacity and planning authority down to cities to get transit built faster, and it hasn’t worked,” said Jan De Silva, President and chief executive officer of the board. “It’s time to try to upload transit responsibility to the province instead, since that’s where growth revenues, planning authority, and financing capacity already exist.”

The BofT claims that Superlinx would transform transit in our region, leading to numerous benefits for riders, taxpayers and governments, integrating fares and schedules. However, municipal politicians and transit activists worry about losing local control over where transit services go and how frequently service is available.

In an article by transportation writer Ben Spurr, the Toronto Star quoted Toronto Councillor Gord Perks who exclaimed when the BofT originally revealed its plan last year, “I don’t see for the life of me why someone appointed by the province of Ontario should be deciding on the frequency of the Dufferin bus.”

Model of proposed Superlinx board of directors, image Board of Trade

Brian Kelcy, the board’s vice-president of public affairs and one of the authors of the Superlinx concept paper, countered concerns about the loss of local control. He said that when he spoke with people around the region about the proposal, they reacted in opposite ways, depending on where they lived. While Torontonians were concerned about losing control of transit to other areas of the province, people outside Toronto worried about losing control to Toronto.

In terms of the structure of the Superlinx board, the BoT proposes that “at least half of all of its members will be independent, non‐executive directors (INEDs). These directors would include business leaders and transit experts, as well as representatives of private capital who invest in the agency’s commercialization efforts.” The remaining positions would be appointees from the provincial and municipal governments, with most being from the province.

Superlinx would be responsible for all public transportation in the large geographical area combining the “census metropolitan areas” (CMAs) of Guelph, Hamilton, Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge, Oshawa and Toronto. (Statistics Canada defines a CMA as an “area consisting of one or more neighbouring municipalities situated around a core. A census metropolitan area must have a total population of at least 100,000 of which 50,000 or more live in the core.”)

Urban Toronto asked Kelcey why the Superlinx realm wouldn’t include other nearby areas, for example, the rest of Niagara Region, Barrie and northern Durham Region. He said that the Board of Trade had defined the Superlinx area due to its many years of observing vehicle and goods movements throughout the zone. He did admit that some early models of the Superlinx zone contained these adjacent areas, which, in most cases, are already receiving GO Transit train service or will be welcoming GO trains in a few years.

The Superlinx zone would include a large area in Central Ontario, image, Board of Trade

A final point about polls. In September, 2017, TTC staff reported (.pdf) the results of the agency’s latest customer satisfaction survey. They declared that the “high perceptions of overall customer satisfaction with the TTC” (82 percent) continued and were in line with previous results.” (BofT pegs the Toronto satisfaction level with local transit at only 59 percent.) On the other hand, earlier this year, the City of Hamilton surveyed more than 22,000 residents by telephone and on-line to help the city better understand the needs and perceptions of its clients. Just 39 percent rated their local transit service as “good” or better—this is a lot lower than the 66 percent satisfaction rate that the BoT survey determined for Hamilton.

What do you think of the Superlinx plan? Leave your comments in the form below, or join the discussion on our forum.


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Real Estate

Couple from Toronto buys dream home in Mushaboom





MUSHABOOM – A couple who lived and raised a family in downtown Toronto developed a five-year plan in 2015 to purchase their dream home.

In September they moved into the home – located on Malagash Island in Mushaboom on Nova Scotia’s stunning Eastern Shore – that met and exceeded their best dreams for their retirement.

The Camerons, Bruce and Tanya, decided in 2019 they would explore the Maritimes to see what real estate was available to become their potential retirement home. In the spring of 2020, during a global pandemic, the real estate boom hit their city, and they were hearing the same for Nova Scotia. Our province was their first-choice for attaining their desire for an entirely different lifestyle – away from the busyness of the city.

“We had $300,000 to $350,000 as a home value in mind to buy. Our semi-detached located off Danforth in Toronto was priced at $850,000. We wanted to come out ahead, so we would be secure in retirement,” Tanya said.

Their century-old home had prime location near the subway and GO Transit Line for a great 13-minute commute downtown.

“We enjoyed our community,” explains Bruce “… we had great neighbours, young children around and street parties – lots of social activity.”

Bruce says, “Our agent suggested a starting quote of $899,000. We did not do any renovations and only some staging. Fifty couples went through and we received four significant offers. Six days later we sold – with zero conditions – and a price of over a million dollars. We just requested a closing of September 2020 to get the kids off to school – which we got.”

The couple got more than they had anticipated.

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Real Estate

Rabobank Announces Leadership Changes in U.S., Canadian Offices





NEW YORK, Dec. 16, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — Rabobank, the leading global food and agribusiness bank, has appointed two of its top executives, Tamira Treffers-Herrera and Robert Sinescu, to become Co-Heads of North American Client Coverage, positioning the Bank for future growth in the region.

Treffers-Herrera has also assumed the role of Vice Chairperson and Head of the Atlanta office, where she additionally oversees Rabobank Mexico, which is led by Eduardo Palacios. Sinescu is the Head of the Chicago office, and also oversees Rabobank Canada, led by Marc Drouin, who was recently appointed as Canada’s General Manager.

Treffers-Herrera and Sinescu report to David Bassett, Head of Wholesale Banking North America, the Bank’s corporate and investment banking business for the region based in New York.

“Both Tamira and Robert have a demonstrated history of strong leadership, operational excellence and passion for our clients,” Bassett said. “Their broad experience and deep sector expertise will be invaluable in delivering dynamic results for clients while accelerating our growth trajectory in North America.”

Each office will have an even greater focus on key Food & Agribusiness sectors and clients: The Chicago office will drive growth in sectors including Dairy, Farm Inputs and Grains & Oilseeds, which are also key areas of focus for the Canada office. The Atlanta office will focus heavily on sectors such as Animal Protein, Beverages, Sugar, and Supply Chains, which are important sectors in Mexico as well.

“Rabobank is fully committed to our clients throughout North America, and we believe our new sector-focused coverage will improve our ability to provide knowledge-based, value-added solutions that benefit our clients,” Bassett said.

Treffers-Herrera was most recently based in London as CEO of Rabobank’s European Region from 2016-2020, where she took the organization through Brexit. Prior to that, she worked in the Atlanta office from 2002-2016. During her tenure in Atlanta, Treffers-Herrera served as Global Sector Head – Consumer Food & Beverages, and prior to that she was a senior banker for a portfolio of large beverage and consumer foods clients. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Kentucky, a Master of Arts from the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce and has studied at The University of Chicago Booth School of Business and Harvard Business School.

Sinescu has been with Rabobank for over 21 years and was previously General Manager of Rabobank Canada, where he oversaw all operations, business development, commercial strategy and relationships with regulators. In addition, he continues to serve as CEO of Rabo Securities Canada Inc. Prior to Canada, he was a senior banker, Head of Corporate Banking, European Sector Head for Sugar, and a member of the Management Team for Rabobank France. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Business from the Bucharest School of Business, a Master of Business Administration & Management and a Master of Science in Banking and Corporate Finance from Sorbonne University in Paris, and has studied at Brown University.

Drouin has worked with Rabobank’s Canadian team for more than nine years and most recently served as a senior banker, Head of Rabobank Canada’s AgVendor Program and a member of Rabobank Canada’s Management Team. He brings extensive wholesale banking experience within the Dairy, G&O, CPG and Supply Chain sectors. Drouin holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from McGill University and a Master of Business Administration in International Finance, Marketing and Management from the Schulich School of Business at York University.

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Real Estate

Greybrook Realty Partners & Marlin Spring Brand Jointly Owned Asset Manager – Greyspring Apartments





TORONTO, Dec. 14, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Greybrook Realty Partners and Marlin Spring are pleased to announce the new branding of their jointly owned investment and asset management firm, Greyspring Apartments. With a portfolio of more than 2,000 units and CAD$375 million in assets under management, Greyspring Apartments is focused on the acquisition and repositioning of multi-family assets throughout Canada.

The new name and branding is an important step in Greyspring’s evolution as an independent operating business. Formed in 2018 by long standing-partners Marlin Spring and Greybrook Realty Partners, Greyspring Apartments was established with the goal of building a leading asset management firm with a robust portfolio of residential rental real estate assets in primary and secondary markets across Canada.

Greyspring’s talented team of real estate, asset management and finance professionals is overseen and guided by the Management Board, whose members include Benjamin Bakst, CEO, Marlin Spring; Elliot Kazarnovksy, CFO, Marlin Spring; Sasha Cucuz, CEO, Greybrook Securities Inc.; Peter Politis, CEO, Greybrook Realty Partners; Chris Salapoutis, President & COO, Greybrook Realty Partners; Ashi Mathur, President, Marlin Spring; and Karl Brady. In addition to his role on the Management Board, Karl Brady leads Greyspring Apartments as its President. 

“We are pleased to announce the official name and branding of a business we formed with our partners at Marlin Spring a few years ago,” said Peter Politis, CEO, Greybrook Realty Partners. “Greyspring has been diligently focused on the execution of strategic value-add programs across its portfolio that are improving the quality of housing for tenants and overall asset values. For Greybrook investors, expanding from our core business in real estate development to the value-add space through Greyspring, has allowed us to provide our clients with investment opportunities that diversify their real estate investment portfolios.”

“Marlin Spring and Greybrook have partnered on many residential real estate projects in recent years,” said Benjamin Bakst, CEO and Cofounder, Marlin Spring. “To a great extent, Greyspring illustrates our approach to partnerships. We believe in, and strive for, responsible growth through deepening our relationships with our trusted partners. With Greyspring, we’ve formalized our focus on providing better and more affordable living experiences for Canadians. This vision aligns with our mission to deliver exceptional real estate value to all our stakeholders with an uncompromising adherence to our core values.”

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