Sabre Rattling in Halton?

Earlier this week, Tess Kalinowski reported in The Star that Halton Region, a fast-growing region west of Toronto, would simply stop approving new developments without more provincial support for transit and other services.  Chair Gary Carr wants to see funding for transit – including two-way, all-day GO rail service – not to mention schools, roads and public health.

Halton’s population of half a million is planned to grow by 50% in the coming two decades as new residents pour into the Greater Toronto region, but the infrastructure to support them does not exist.  This problem is shared by other municipalities either because they face growth of their own, or because they lie between newer neighbourhoods and downtown and absorb increases in travel through older parts of the GTHA.

Metrolinx had originally slated all-day service for Halton on the Kitchener and Milton GO lines in the first 15 years of its 25-year Big Move transportation plan. But the plan’s updated version pushes the GO expansion to the list of projects in a 16- to 25-year window.

Besides more GO trains to Milton and Georgetown, Carr said the region wants Metrolinx to reinstate plans for another GO station on Trafalgar Rd. and it wants the Lakeshore West GO line electrified so it can deliver 15-minute express service.

Municipalities in the 905 now have (or are planned for) populations and the transportation demands they will create that exceed the capacity of road-oriented development.  Even if transit in the 905 (and commuting capacity for 905-to-416 travel) were much better, the land use patterns work against effective transit service.  This is not just a question of dispersed work and home locations, but of neighbourhood designs generally where stops to run errands as part of larger trips demand the use of a car.  These problems will not be wished away with better bus routes or all-day GO service.

Halton, like many regions, is reacting to proposed new region-wide “revenue tools” with the question “what’s in it for us”, but this is a natural result of the “Big Gap” between the original promise of Metrolinx (and of provincial plans for managing GTHA growth) and what is actually happening on the ground.

Various plans exist for the expansion of GO Transit service, and these have changed from time to time leaving some confusion about what, exactly, will be provided and when service expansions will occur.

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