LRT is Good for Brampton, let’s get the final route alignment RIGHT!
We at the CFBB (Citizens for a Better Brampton) believe our City and its Council is on the cusp of making an historical, transformational decision that will impact our growth patterns and directions for years into the future. It is essential to treat this decision with the deep respect and analysis it deserves, having reviewed all appropriate options and alternatives in a way that satisfies a questioning public to the greatest extent possible.
So that there is complete understanding of the CFBB position, let us be clear.
1) We are totally supportive of the regeneration and sensitive development of the inner core of downtown Brampton.
2) We accept unconditionally the LRT concept and its route up Hurontario/Main to Nanwood Dr.
3) We believe the inner core of downtown Brampton should have only one LRT station at the present GO transfer location.
4) We welcome and are grateful for the Province and the Metrolinx capital funding commitment for the LRT in Brampton, an announcement made only 2 months ago and a complete surprise to many.
5) We appreciate the work that has been done by City staff and consultants for Metrolinx, although many of them do not reside in Brampton and are perhaps lacking the passion of those who do live and work here and know the City well.
However, the most important issue for the CFBB and the community is this – what is the most appropriate and optimal routing for the LRT north of Nanwood Dr.?
We are unalterably opposed to the current proposed route north of Nanwood Dr. through the small, Heritage and Business district on Main Street to arrive at the Downtown GO Station just north of the Rail overpass.
1) Congestion -The inner core through the Four Corners, especially at Nelson and Main is already unacceptably congested. To introduce (cram) into this congestion a three car LRT train crossing Main St N as the entry / exit point for the LRT , dividing two lighted intersections less than 100 m apart is sheer madness. This will cause traffic chaos, will cause delays for the trains and the problem will only get worse, not better. With a projected population of 850,000 + residents in the next 25 years, this already congested area will become a bottleneck for vehicular and transit traffic.
2) Traffic Conflict – For the LRT to access the GO station just beyond the CN rail overpass, it will have to tie up vehicular traffic both from the south and from the north while it negotiates the constricted access point. There is plenty of opportunity for train/vehicle collisions. For example, just one small stretch from Main St. S from Clarence St. to Woodbrook Dr. (approx. 200 m) has seen over 113 police “reported” collisions in the last 5 years and 2 pedestrian injuries. There have been many more unreported minor collisions as well. Having a shared LRT/vehicle route will undoubtedly cause LRT / vehicle collisions resulting in major delays for transit commuters and drivers.
3) Parking – Routing along Main Street both sides with tracks at curbside adjacent to the sidewalks will remove all street parking throughout the day and early evening. Many Downtown merchants rely on their customers being able to park in close proximity to their business.
4) Safety – It is hard to imagine travelling curbside train traffic so close to the narrowed sidewalks being safe for the walking public. As stated, the responsibility will fall entirely onto the LRT train technician to avoid any pedestrian, bicycle or vehicle collisions.
5) Ambiance – We take great and understandable pride in the Hurontario Street entrance to our City and its downtown. How easily will that largely residential route be despoiled by adding overhead wiring, poles and transformer substations along the route north of Nanwood.
6) Construction – To tear up Main Street through the heritage area for up to two years will be the death knell of the downtown single proprietor retailers in the Downtown core. It will greatly impact traffic flow and as in most projects like this impede efficient construction of the transit line. These projects are never delivered on-time and on budget.
7) Brampton Traditions – Quaint as it may sound, Brampton has many established festivals, parades and the very popular Farmer’s Market during the summer Saturdays. To accommodate these traditions, we understand, the LRT northbound trains would simply stop and reverse at Wellington Street for those periods of alternative use of the downtown. Inconvenience for the ridership to access the GO facility during those times seems not to have been considered, and at best is “mickey mouse”.
8) St. Paul’s United Church – It is one of the oldest Churches in downtown and is a superb heritage structure dating from 1886. How will it be able to handle funerals and weddings with appropriate vehicles standing by at the foot of their entrance stairs and sidewalk, obstructing curbside trains from using the tracks?
9) Difficult expansion for future LRT routes– Last but not least, we oppose the proposed location of the Terminus station on the west side of Main St. just north of the CN rail overpass with trains having to cross Main St. N for entry/exit privileges. How has Metrolinx planned to expand the LRT to reach the Peel Memorial Centre campus or for the possibility of a northern expansion route on Main St.? We believe it will be impossible for any future expansion from this site. It will require a complete re-design of the system, an unlikely financial reality.
To date, these negatives to the route through downtown and its heritage district have not been answered. Nor has there been any explanation as to how this route alone will lead to appropriate intensification, preserve the heritage district, and make downtown a friendly pedestrian enclave that would seal its economic success.
Fortunately, CFBB believes that the following alternative has significant benefit and merits deep and not superficial analysis.
CFBB Alternate Route Alignment: (3 Stations- Nanwood, Peel Memorial Centre, Downtown GO)
Our preferred routing is an elevated double track LRT beginning just north of Nanwood Dr, running through the Etobicoke creek ravine, over Clarence St. to the Peel Memorial Centre site. The PMC station would be built and planned with an option to extend the LRT to Queen St. E when financially feasible. It would then continue elevated over the Centre/Queen intersection, pass to the north side of the CN rail overpass, continue in a NW direction parallel to the YMCA parking lot, over Union and along Nelson St. E, elevated over Main St. N and enter at the second level of a new 1000 car GO parking garage structure located at the west end of the existing GO parking lot. Provisions would be designed into the garage to allow for the LRT train to exit the garage from the west side and merge with the existing Orangeville/ Brampton rail corridor and head north to Williams Parkway or even Bovaird Dr. W. It could also be designed for further westward extension should an educational or research node be developed in the future at the Flower City campus lands. With the proposed All-Day GO service planned along the Kitchener line, this parking garage will only help solidify our chances for this much needed service. It will also deliver desperately need parking sooner than later to many GO train commuters.
Our alternate and preferred route involves a station at the west side of the Peel Memorial Centre, a major hospital node presently abuilding in which the province ($478M) and the municipal taxpayers of Brampton ($60M) have made significant funding commitments. Peel Memorial is an ambulatory hospital reflecting the very latest in health and wellness care. It will provide employment for over 5000 people and will attract in excess of 200,000 patient/visitor visits. Significant parking at a cost will be provided, but not everyone will access the facility by car. A convenient and accessible LRT to this intense node is, in our opinion, a must for patient and visitor alike. It will help leverage the city’s and province’s investments.
Clearly, this routing avoids all the negatives of the proposed route, and in no way compromises the appropriate redevelopment of the tight inner core, where the entire area is within a 5-7 minute walk of the GO downtown transportation hub. Heritage aspects of the core are not sacrificed. All parades, festivals and the very popular Farmers market can continue to function without any conflicts. Expansion of these popular events can even occur to attract more visitors into the Downtown core.
As part of a second and future phase, a station at the Peel Memorial Centre has the distinct advantage of becoming a convenient transfer point to extend the system to merge with Queen St. E. From there it’s an easily planned route that would include stops at Kennedy, Hansen, Rutherford, West, Dixie and end at the Bramalea City Centre’s ZUM bus terminal located on Team Canada Dr. Future phases of an expanded LRT system to the north can be easily accommodated at the Downtown Transit hub with appropriate and anticipatory pre-planning and design.
The Meadow Land Park is used on occasion by cyclists and walkers, but the intensity of use is low. Running a low level quiet LRT train through the land and up to the Peel Memorial Centre would allow many travellers to enjoy the vistas and greenery, and it would not need to conflict with existing pedestrian traffic and recreational usage. There are precedent examples in Toronto where the greater good has been accommodated, and ravine systems have been used as transportation corridors. As well, having an elevated track through this area will most certainly prevent any fears of flooding the train or putting lives at risk. The train would be quiet, pollution free, and impact to parkland or ravine lands would be very minimal. According to SNC Lavelin this route would also be 0.4 minutes faster than what has been proposed. TRCA has briefly stated on preliminary analysis that this option may negate the majority of options to reduce flooding in Downtown Brampton. How exactly would this route impact any plans? It is our opinion that our preferred route will have negligible impact on any proposed Etobicoke Creek Revitalization / Flood mitigation proposals already reviewed.
We are in agreement with the Metrolinx proposal from Mississauga north to Nanwood. All we are asking is that the cost of the LRT north from Nanwood be separated out to allow Brampton to know the available funding allocation for the last section in Brampton. We would then be able to determine through costing analysis whether this allocation would be sufficient for the final leg or whether our preferred route would need additional funding from the province, the federal government, and/or from the Brampton taxpayer. By eliminating the need to tear up Main St, we can save considerable construction time and costs. By incorporating a station within a desperately needed parking garage facility also will save millions of dollars building these two projects separately. SNC Lavelin’s report stated that it will cost an additional $172 million for this option. Have they factored in the savings in construction costs that would occur by building this route and combining a Downtown GO station with a parking garage structure?
Specific comments and concerns:
1) The position of Mayor Jeffrey in support of the Main Street alignment reflects, we believe, her difficulty in transitioning from her previous provincial cabinet position to that of Mayor of a growing City. As a Cabinet Minister, decisions made were province wide with overall impact broad and general. But at the municipal level, where democracy is keenest and where the “rubber meets the road”, specific issues require quite detailed analysis and understanding of impact and sensitivity. Opposition builds at a moment’s notice, organized and emotional by an engaged citizenry. It deserves an honest hearing and specific responses are necessary which usually require time for adequate debate and discussion. For whatever reason, the Mayor appears to be in step with the Province and Metrolinx and accepting, or fearing consequences of not accepting, positions being taken by government bodies which have shown no interest or sensitivity to the outcry of local concerns and disagreements. That has to change, and there is some small evidence that Mayor Jeffrey has listened to her electorate, and moved debate and discussion on the LRT routing alone into July. That is still a tight timeframe, and it is occurring in the summer, not ideal for the many that are away for summer holidays.
2) The threats coming out of Metrolinx that relate to delays for changes in routing, are simply not appreciated, not realistic, and quite frankly, futile. Brampton only learned 2 months ago that the Mississauga-Brampton LRT would be fully funded by the Province, a surprise announcement that now has turned into a requirement to accept a routing through the Main Street of downtown Brampton and its heritage district – a routing that was turned down by last year’s previous Council in a 10-1 vote for valid reasons. To have this unpopular routing up Main Street “imposed” upon Bramptonians without serious debate, and especially because of the freshness of the funding commitment, is simply unacceptable. Hackles are raised, and Metrolinx needs to step back and listen to local concerns and alternatives. It would be folly to proceed without local population backing and a near unanimous decision by Council. To date, the City Council is split down the middle, and the Mayor may find that her legacy will be ruined if she is the deciding vote in favour of proceeding with a flawed plan. Mayor Jeffrey needs to reflect on the demise of Brampton’s former Mayor regarding the City Hall expansion. Staff’s presentation at the Planning and Infrastructure meeting of June 22, 2015 clearly stated that a decision had to be reached by the fall of 2015. So what’s the rush to make a decision at the July 8th meeting? History tells us that timelines and signed contracts can be easily broken for other projects yet asking for a proper evaluation of what’s best for Brampton’s future is being ignored.
3) It probably is not altogether lost on the Province and Metrolinx that they are dealing with taxpayer money, in this case coming from the sale of a long held cherished asset of the Province. They must be prudent stewards of this potential windfall, and sensitive that it be used in a positive and optimal way. To expedite this decision unreasonably suggests that prudency has gone missing.
4) Mississauga and other GTA communities were afforded sufficient time to determine best and most favoured LRT routing. Why does Brampton not deserve the same courtesy? We are the 3rd largest and fastest growing municipality in the GTHA, only behind Toronto and Mississauga. Don’t we have the right to determine what will benefit Brampton the most?
5) Brampton City staff have as yet not made the case that the Main Street routing will be the reason for the rebirth of downtown Brampton. From the GO transit hub station, all of Downtown Brampton inner core can reached within 5-7 minutes walking time, well within acceptable time limits!
6) It is hard to see how a Main Street two track system through downtown will benefit Bramptonians. The intensity of ridership along the route with few stops north of Steeles would appear to be light because it is simply not convenient enough to take people out of their cars. It will, however be used by some to travel from Brampton to Mississauga for work or shopping, perhaps to the detriment of Bramalea City Centre. It is not difficult to see that Mississauga is the real beneficiary to the Main Street route from the Brampton Go Station transit hub.
7) The use of pictures of the LRT operating in a number of European cities has confirmed that twisted cobblestone, narrow and meandering streets there in no way reflect the Brampton Main Street condition, clogged with car traffic. Let’s not forget that Main St. is one of the busiest arterial roadways in Peel Region.
To Mayor Jeffrey and Council:
Please ‘make haste slowly’, and continue to take time to listen to the community. The most appropriate routing is their decision.
Please do not threaten loss of funding in order to rush a decision of major import. Staff has clearly stated we have until the fall of 2015 to finalize the Brampton route alignment.
Ensure that there is close to unanimity on Council to back the decision reached, or folly is sure to follow.
Let’s make sure we get it right!
What Metrolinx has proposed is the most “cost effective” route, not the “best” route for Brampton’s long term growth and prosperity.