Saturday, December 13, 2008

2020 - A fine year for wine and GO Transit

Yesterday, GO Transit unveiled their service targets for 2020, giving us an indication oh how service will evolve to meet the regional transportation plan. While there are some differences between the GO vision and the Metrolinx vision, this document shows us in a practical way how the lofty targets we've set will be achieved.

According to GO Transit:

By 2010, off-peak service on the Lakeshore line will increase to two trains per hour, and off peak service on portions of the Stouffville and Barrie lines will be introduced at one train per hour.

By 2016, all rail and bus services will be accessible - while many train stations and bus stops still need to be made accessible, the bus and train fleet is already accessible.

By 2020, off-peak service will come to all corridors in GO's core network (more or less the network we have now) at two trains per hour, and peak hour service on the core network running at four trains per hour in the commuter direction. If high ridership requires more trains than this, then an express/local service profile will be introduced. The bus network will run just as frequently, and service on the 407 corridor will run as frequent as many of the local bus routes in Toronto. The proposed lines, like the Bolton, Seaton and Midtown corridors will offer peak service only with off-peak train buses. Electrification will be considered for high-frequency lines, and new service to the long mentioned expansion areas (Niagara, Guelph/Kitchener/Waterloo and Peterborough) will be introduced. To facilitate these service levels, GO will purchase railway corridors from the freight railways and lease them back if necessary.

When you look at the Metrolinx Regional Transportation Plan, the only real differences are that the Lakeshore and portions of the Georgetown corridor will see four trains per hour or better by 2023. There are budgetary differences, but capital expansion for GO and Metrolinx are currently coming from two different provincial funds (Metrolinx from the MoveOntario 2020 commitment, GO from the general budget) and it may be too soon to guess at what will happen when Metrolinx and GO are merged in the future. The way I see it (and yes I do have a pro-Metrolinx bias), this document is a statement of how GO plans to work towards the RTP's vision. I think that it's a bit of a stretch to call it an alternative plan (sorry Steve).

GO has always been the arms that tie the different municipalities of this region together, and it's very refreshing to see them planning for a future of high-quality regional travel. Not everyone can live in the 416, so we'll need a strong regional network to move people long distances quickly and in comfort. In addition, these trains will have a transformative effect on the suburbs, making it more likely for the areas around stations to redevelop into the types of destinations only found around a TTC subway station.

Now that the TTC and GO have plans in place to meet the regional goals, I can't wait to see how the other transit agencies plan to improve service to support the rapid transit network just over the horizon.

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

It's utterly ridiculous/shameful/absurd...

I'm going to try a social experiment here....

Many times while cruising the internet I come across statements like "It's utterly ridiculous/shameful/absurd that the TTC doesn't offer ______."

It's a bit of a pet peeve of mine, as there's usually a good reason why the ____ isn't offered. Perhaps it's far easier to label something as ridiculous/shameful/absurd than to actually take a close look at the reasons why ____ isn't offered and what it will take to make _____ a reality, but don't those with the ability to do the research have an obligation to answer those questions in a forward-looking and informative way?

In order to better inform GTHAers about the state of public transportation, I'm going to start a series of posts called "It's utterly ridiculous/shameful/absurd..." where I'll answer these sort of questions. I'll talk about why that item hasn't been considered yet, what it would take to get it in place, any potential drawbacks and the likelihood of it being considered by policy makers.

Post any of these sort of questions as a comment to this post or send me an email and I'll start hacking away at them in order to demystify transportation issues and hopefully lead to a better tomorrow!


Sunday, December 07, 2008

Rapid transit is coming to Caledon

Since I'm in the middle of finals I haven't really had a chance to celebrate the final approval of the Regional Transportation Plan with in-depth analysis, but this story did come across my desk (sofa?).

An editorial in the Caledon Enterprise by Mayor Marolyn Morrison outlines what benefits the town will receive under the RTP, and while some of her comments are more progressive than I've ever heard from a Caledon politician (like acknowledging the plight of Michael Chrobok and pushing for better GO Transit service), the political culture of Town Hall has plenty to still be ashamed of.

Under the regional transportation plan, the Hurontario rapid transit line will run from Port Credit to the Mayfield West neighbourhood at the Caledon / Brampton border. This is a big win for a community that is about to explode development wise, but the fact that none of the currently proposed development will support the rapid transit. In fact, the terminus of the line will likely be a Wal-Mart. Brampton has been talking about higher-order transit on Hurontario for years, so the fact that transit oriented development was left out of the area's secondary plan is, in my opinion, inexcusable.

In addition to the Hurontario line, Caledon will also see GO train service on the CP line to at least Bolton. GO tends to better attract the demographic of people who live in Caledon than more locally-oriented transit would, but the densities and residential-employment mix of the town don't give the line the numbers to warrant much more than peak-hour service. I'm a big fan of improving service to attract ridership but ultimately we have to have the numbers to support the service. If service in Caledon is to improve, densities have to increase - something the Town has been reluctant to support.

The RTP will bring some good to Caledon, but it's a shame that the Mayor is still talking about highways as a solution for commuter when we all know that they fill up instantly and only encourage further urban sprawl. It's a shame that density targets and urban design guidelines are so low that they don't support rapid transit use. It's a shame that the town doesn't support local rapid transit to extend the range of these rapid transit lines beyond the walking distance of the stops. 

Don't get me wrong - I'm very happy that Caledon is getting improved transit service. I think it's a common sense solution to the congestion problems we're facing today. But, it's also a shame that certain common sense measures, like the provision of sidewalks in neighbourhoods, seemingly have to be forced upon town policy makers.

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