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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