Thursday, April 10, 2008

Mississauga Transitway: hopefully not a boondoggle in the making

A friend and I went to the Mississauga Transit BRT project open house tonight, taking one of the first 12-coach GO transit runs ever pulled by a single locomotive. We had a chat afterwards, and I think I speak for both of us when I say this:

The City of Mississauga has managed to take an idea which had some good points, crippled it, and finally, just for good measure, ensured it will only serve one type of customer making one type of trip.

Before the criticism, I will offer some background information. The BRT project is to build a transitway (bus only road - I use the term Mississauga BRT and Mississauga Transitway interchangeably) between Winston Churchill Blvd and Renforth Drive along the Highway 403/Eastgate Parkway/Eglinton Avenue corridor. At the Renforth Gateway station, buses could travel north to the airport, south to the subway, or east towards Toronto. GO will also be using the busway to get its vehicles out of the 403 traffic. Major destinations include Square One and the Airport Corporate Centre.

After listening to a presentation on the project in general, we broke into small focus groups. This is where things began to unravel.

It doesn't look like they will be using special buses, because they want neighbourhood buses to use the transitway to get to Square One. As a result, it seems that they don't see the need for premium vehicles with this type of operation. This is a letdown, as I doubt VIVA would have been as successful if it used ordinary YRT buses.

It doesn't look like they are even talking to the TTC, because when my friend asked about integration to the Eglinton-Crosstown line, he kept talking about Presto. I pressed the gentleman, and couldn't get a straight answer from him. All we wanted to know was if it would be a cross-platform transfer or something more complex.

Another women expressed the same concerns, wanting to know if schedule integration with TTC services was being explored. She didn't want to get to Renforth and have to wait 35 minutes to go further. Her answer was just a reiteration of the fact that the BRT services will operate every 7 minutes.

These are just two examples, but I think it shows that the "Mississauga In a Bubble" sentiment has taken hold of city hall.

Many people would argue that Transit City is not an effective transit plan. What you must remember is that Transit City is not only designed to move people - it is also designed to encourage the type of development that the official plan calls for (which is mid-rise, evenly spaced across the street - not extreme high density nodes with nothing in between). If you evaluate Transit City by its intentions, then you begin to see why it was proposed the way it was proposed.

Similarly, you can evaluate the Transitway by its intentions. It is intended to move people from the west end of Mississauga and Square One to the Airport Corporate Centre and to the TTC with 35 minutes end-to-end running time. It will be great for getting people to the subway, but unless the ambiguity around the Renforth Gateway isn't solved, it will be an epic fail in getting people to all the TTC services it touches.

But, all is not lost. They haven't entered into the detailed design phase, so there's still time to correct the flaws. They are doing a great job, but I fear that the toolbox they are using doesn't have all the tools they'll need.

...And Mavis needs a stop. I don't see the rationale for eliminating it.

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At 4/10/2008 8:01 a.m. , Blogger David Harrison said...

Andrae, I may be mistaken, but isn't the intent that MT buses will take the 427 and Dundas to the new regional terminal at Kipling Subway after exiting the BRT route at Renforth?

The odd thing here is that Hazel McCallion made a motion before the Metrolinx board to explore ways to improve integration between services at the borders, and Metrolinx staff will be reporting back on it. It seems to be an idea that they are seriously exploring.

At 4/10/2008 10:03 a.m. , Blogger Andrae Griffith said...

Yes, the intent is to head to Kipling, but I think that more can be done to improve connections to the services along Eglinton. When Transit City is complete, the eglinton route will make travel along that corridor much more competitive, possibly diverting people with uptown destinations away from the Bloor-Danforth subway. I just find it very odd that the first rapid transit connection the line comes across seems to have been ignored.

Now, a friend in another focus group had a totally different experience and impression - almost opposite. But, the person I spoke to was the senior project manager. Hopefully we this will get sorted out in the coming months.


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