Council Delegation on High Speed Rail/Advocating for Brampton – June 7, 2017

Good morning Madam Mayor , Councillors and staff, 

I am here today to add my voice to the growing  frustration and anger on the Provincial government’s snub of Brampton for the proposed High Speed Rail project , a crucial transit infrastructure investment and perhaps the largest in Ontario’s history!

I’m also frustrated with our Brampton  MPP’s and Mayor who all too often just accept what is offered by this government, never challenging publically , while watching billions of funding pour into adjacent municipalities  like Mississauga, Vaughan and Toronto for Healthcare, Transit and Infrastructure.

The recent by-pass of Brampton to be part of the High Speed Rail project connecting Windsor to Toronto demonstrates once again the disrespect  that Queen’s Park has towards Canadas ninth largest and third  largest GTA municipality. This is not the only time, as we have seen  the same pattern repeat itself over the past decade.  Let’s look at a few recent examples.  

Instead of a second full service hospital, we get an experiment, not since duplicated  elsewhere in the country. A healthcare facility that’s not addressing the critical overcrowding that has become the norm at Brampton Civic.  Overcrowding that is putting lives at risk at what is now Canada’s busiest ER.  Why hasn’t the Premier on her many recent visits to Brampton taken even 15 minutes to stop by Brampton Civic’s ER department to meet with the front line staff that are frustrated and overwhelmed by the overcrowded conditions and lack of beds?    

Instead of following through on what was to be one new western GTA university campus, we will now have two, with scarcely enough funds pledged for developing one.  In our opinion, The Town of Milton should not receive funding for a University campus at the expense of the City of Brampton’s long term university ambitions!  A city with six times the population, growing exponentially and Canada’s ONLY Top 10 city without one. 

Instead of negotiating and offering Brampton more funding to properly build a LRT that would actually have a chance to meet ridership,revenue, operational cost expectations and assessment intensification potential, we have been the only  municipality to get a threatening “take it or leave it” option that would see our Downtown forever altered and traffic gridlock created through our core with 5 signalized intersections from Wellington to Church, elimination of all street parking, elimination of 2 car lanes and even narrower sidewalks.

Instead of helping resolve our Downtown floodplain issues and the creation of a Riverwalk,  we have discussions and  studies that simply collect dust on the shelf.  Everyone  knows what needs to be done. Everyone knows that this project has the potential to  revitalize  our  Downtown , a designated Urban Growth Centre under the Provinces own Places to Grow Act. 

And once again with the recent announcement to bypass Brampton in favour of other municipalities  for the planned  HSR, our Mayor has stated that Brampton will benefit due to its “close proximity” to the Malton GO station to access the Innovation corridor. 

 Madam Mayor, for two years now we have been hearing that Brampton is to be “PART” of the Innovation Technology Corridor, not just in “CLOSE PROXIMITY” to it.  Will you be satisfied for Brampton residents to board GO stations in our city, head east to Malton or Pearson, (both within Mississauga’s border), transfer and then backtrack west again? Will this close proximity to the HSR be able to attract investment and jobs way from those cities that actually have a HSR station stop?  

When will our  Brampton  MPP’s and Mayor begin calling out this provincial government for not providing the required funding that our city so desperately deserves on major investments that can truly transform our city?   Other municipalities like Mississauga, Vaughan, Toronto, and Hamilton continue to receive a disproportionate amount of funding for their major initiatives and are gaining an unfair competitive advantage over our city.   

What we need is a joint effort of this Council, all of our Provincial MPP’s and even our Federal MP’s to unite with one voice  and present our demands to Premier Wynne and Prime Minister Trudeau.   We don’t need more photo opps and press conferences that all they seem to do is offer slogans and promises. 

Madam Mayor, it’s long past time for you to be totally transparent about the results of your many meetings with other levels of governments, and your persuasive successes at bringing new, “game changing” infrastructure investments by the provincial and federal governments to Brampton. Announced promises just don’t cut it anymore!

Thank  you.

 

Chris Bejnar & Doug Bryden

Co-Chairs CFBB

The following is a letter that was sent to all Ministers and MPPs on February 14th, 2017

 

Good afternoon everyone,

Tomorrow, Brampton City Council will be debating the next phase for our LRT project.  A project that has seen its share of controversy and spirited debate over the past 2 years.   Brampton City Council will be considering two alternate routes (McLaughlin & Kennedy) with both routes having the potential to connect the Hurontario LRT to the Downtown Brampton GO Station.  City Council will be debating and voting on a staff recommendation report that commits funding to begin an expensive EA process for these alternate routes.

Our belief is that neither route has the potential to combine several projects like the alignment we are proposing, an underground Valley Land route.  A route that was never given the opportunity to be properly studied and debated by Council.

It is not our goal to point fingers or blame anyone at this point. All we are asking is that you spend 5 minutes from your busy day to have a look at our proposal.  

It is our hope that some of you might see what we see in this proposal.  A proposal that creates an exciting opportunity to plan and combine several infrastructure projects into one, potentially saving all levels of government tens of millions of tax dollars. (Riverwalk, Flood Plain, LRT, removal of Centennial Park garbage dump)

With the recent announcement of a University for Brampton, we feel that the underground valley land route deserves a second look.  As Joe Pitushka, Commissioner, Public Works & Engineering stated at a Brampton Council meeting last year, the alternate LRT routes for Brampton only received a “cursory review” as the Province and Metrolinx were primarily focused on getting a seriously flawed Main Street alignment approved through our Downtown.  A Main Street route alignment that was rejected by a vote of 10 -1 by our previous Council and 7-4 by our current Council.

We don’t want to see another missed opportunity for our City.  A city that we believe has tremendous  potential if we can get the cooperation from all levels of government and the understanding that Brampton has not received its fair share of infrastructure funding over the past decade to cope with our explosive growth.  Brampton is Canada’s 9th largest city, Ontario’s 4th largest city and has seen the highest % growth of any major Canadian city since the last census.  Our Downtown has the potential to become one of the most vibrant pedestrian and transit focused city centres in the 905 region.

It is our belief that an Underground Valley Land route has the potential to help achieve this goal.

We hope that you’ll agree!

Below are some images to help visualize the proposed route alignment.

Yours truly,

Doug Bryden and Chris Bejnar

Co-Chairs

Citizen For a Better Brampton

www.cfbb.ca

 

Notes:

Drawings are not to scale.  Broken line represents tunnel portion.  Solid line represents surface/elevated portion.

(4 LRT station stops at Brampton Mall, Peel Memorial, University, Downtown GO Mobility Hub)

 

CFBB Preferred LRT Route for Brampton (Pros & Cons)

City Council is about to debate the Terms of Reference for Environmental Assessments of two possible routes to move the LRT from Steeles to the GO Station in downtown Brampton. Those routes to be studied over the next three years are up Kennedy or up McLaughlin. New Brampton wants the discussion to include a McMurchy route. CFBB want to have an underground Valley Route considered as well, since it wasn’t properly debated and could very well be a compromise that all stakeholders can unite on.

Why?

The route involving Etobicoke Valley, one of the route options considered by the City earlier, was not thoroughly analysed on its own merits, but they focused their opinion on an at grade or above grade rail line, the outcry by neighbours, and the rather flippant response from the TRCA. Serious attention was not given to a below grade route under the park.

At the outset, we believe that of all the factors that need to be considered in route selection, ridership and increased assessment, particularly commercial, must be close or at the top of the list.

1) Earlier studies have revealed that LRT equipment, its maintenance, and its operation are not inexpensive, and shortfalls in fare generation will have to be covered by the taxpayer for a considerable time into the future.

2) To assist the City in covering operational and capital costs related to the LRT, new commercial assessment is absolutely essential, so route selection must be able to forecast potential new development opportunities that will be attractive to the development and risk community.

It is important to understand that LRT works best as a fast, efficient method of transportation from one point destination to another. It is not focused on rider convenience as a street car line would with multiple stops on route. Therefore, station locations for the LRT take on real significance and attraction for density concentration nodes, and these locations are fed by bus transit or adjacent parking areas. As well, locating stops at existing concentrations makes obvious sense not only for increased assessment possibilities, but to take advantage of ridership potential already in place.

Valley Route

Explained simply, the valley route envisages the following:

The proposed double rail LRT line would proceed from the Gateway at Steeles (north side) occupying the centre boulevard of Main Street and running north to Nanwood. At Nanwood, the line would enter a centre tunnel and veer to the east under Main Street to the park. It would proceed northeast through the park underground, not by tunneling, but by the less costly cut and cover process. At the north end of the park, it would tunnel (using a tunnel bore) under Centre Street at the CN Rail line and re-emerge in the centre of Centre Street at grade at a station beside the Peel Memorial Centre and future Health Sciences Hub.

From there, the line would turn to the west, run along the centre of Queen Street at grade and just before the Rail line bridge over Queen, gently rise on pylons veering to the northwest, and then follow the adjacent rail track, past the south side of the YWCA, and running over and above Main Street to the GO Station platform. Please refer to the attached images for clarification.

 

Advantages (PROS) of this route

  • It’s a more direct and efficient route from the Steeles Gateway Terminal and considerably shorter in length than the McLaughlin or Kennedy routes. This could potentially save tens of millions of dollars.
  • It will be 0.4 minutes faster to reach the Downtown GO than the original HMLRT. It will be several minutes faster than either the McLaughlin or Kennedy routes.
  • It continues the centre boulevard right-of-way delineation from Mississauga
  • Adjacent property acquisition to widen Main Street would in all likelihood not be necessary because of Main’s existing width from Steeles to Nanwood.
  • It allows the Steeles LRT station to be located on the north side of Steeles rather than the south side, obviating the need the pedestrian tunnel under Steeles, and places the station adjacent to existing development and the planned redevelopment of Shopper’s World which is slated to include a significant number of residential units and related commercial assessment
  • It could allow for a significant mixed-use re-development of the Brampton Mall, to move ahead at Nanwood.   Crombie REIT, the owners of the Brampton Mall would be very excited to have both an LRT station and the flood risk from the Etobicoke Creek resolved. Both possible with this route alignment.
  • By routing the LRT under the Park, shared use of the Park will not be negatively affected even during construction, and normal use by pedestrians, cyclists and recreation activities will see minimal impact. Enhancements to the existing tree canopy and active transportation infrastructure would be enhanced throughout the parkland after tunnel construction has been completed.
  • The opportunity will be available to finally jump start the Riverwalk project and include potential remediation that will remove the flooding concern downtown and clean out the covered over garbage dump in Centennial Park by doing that work at the same time as the installation of the LRT tunnel.
  • A thorough clean-up of the Etobicoke Creek (litter & debris) from north of Queen St. to south of the Brampton Mall would be initiated by the construction activity.
  • By having a station adjacent to the Peel Memorial Centre, an ambulatory facility for day health activities, it will not only service Peel Memorial visitor and patient needs, but it will spur the development of related medical uses and new business, and increase ridership projections and assessment. This will enhance the chances to fulfill the Mayor’s Health Sciences Hub vision for this area.
  • Should a decision be reached to place the new University in Rosalea Park, the LRT can provide a convenient station for the 4,000-5,000 students that are destined to be schooled there. The station would be located at the abandoned City of Brampton parking lot adjacent to Maple Ave. on the north side of Queen St.
  • By creating the LRT station at the University, a second campus location could be considered for the Brampton Central Library. A simple pedestrian bridge over Queen St. E. could link this site to the main University campus and the Station.
  • Brampton’s contribution for the University could now include the land at Rosalea Park and the Central Library to further strengthen our position for a world class Downtown campus.
  • The LRT tracks will require some sub-standard property acquisition along Nelson St. E, opening up some real opportunities to redevelop commercially and help achieve the New Brampton vision for this part of our Downtown.
  • The station for the LRT at the downtown GO will conveniently be accessed from the GO station and its potential major Hub Station multi-use redevelopment, that could include a hotel, residential condominiums, retail and parking facilities (underground or parking garage).
  • As a second phase, the LRT line could extend along Queen St. E. to the Bramalea City Centre with a connection at Centre St. S. a straight forward proposition. It would resemble the “T” crossover just like the one staff has proposed for the Steeles and Hurontario intersection. Please refer to the Feb. 15, 2017 Recommendation Report – Hurontario LRT , Item 9.2.2-8   “Attachment B”
  • As a third phase, the LRT tracks can be easily merged with the existing Orangeville-Brampton rail line running north, connecting north Brampton and Caledon to the LRT rail corridor and RER network. This corridor is already in place! LRT stations at Williams Pkwy, Bovaird Dr. W, Sandalwood Pkwy W, Mayfield Rd. and just north of the Hwy. 410 & 10 interchange in Caledon would now be possible
  • Potential of combining planning and possibly construction for major infrastructure projects like the Etobicoke Creek Revitalization (Riverwalk) , Centennial Park garbage dump clean-up, eliminate the flood risk that has plagued our Downtown core for half a century, and create a more efficient and direct LRT route connecting the Downtown GO to the RER network. Millions of dollars could be saved with this methodology.
  • The route does not contribute to gridlock and downtown traffic conflict, trying to share the narrow roads with multi vehicle users
  • Nor is there any disastrous shut down of the downtown streets during LRT installation
  • Nor is there any conflict with heritage structures with foundations that could not withstand the constant noise and vibration that adjacent tracks would inflict.
  • Nor are there any safety issues like we would have with the original HMLRT proposal to run parallel with the sidewalks through our Downtown.
  • Nor is there a sharing of the LRT lanes with cars like with the original HMLRT plan.
  • Costly maintenance from salt application and snow plows or potential tree canopy conflicts along Main St. S with the original HMLRT proposal would be avoided with the underground parkland route.
  • There would be no need to eliminate 2 car lanes from Main Street from north of Wellington St. W. to Church St. W. as was planned with the original HMLRT proposal. This would have resulted in traffic chaos throughout the Downtown core and would have created commuter frustration, especially during peak morning and evening rush hours.
  • On-Street parking can remain on Main St. providing the retail merchants much needed access for their customers and delivery of supplies.
  • With the underground parkland route by-passing the Downtown business core, the 2-3 year construction period that would be necessary would no longer be required. This presented a potential of economic hardship for many Downtown merchants.

 

Disadvantages (CONS) of the route

  • The TRCA, the owners of the Etobicoke Creek, to date have not felt inclined to be part of the overall growth needs of Brampton and do not see themselves as a planning participant. Given all the urban areas around the world that have been more open to see innovative ways to be active positive participants in environmental planning strategies, the TRCA reluctance hopefully can be overcome with direct open negotiation or with Provincial government decision.
  • Neighbourhood fear that results from lack of understanding, spirited by certain Councillors and their political agenda.

 Summary

It’s hard not to see the merits of the Valley Route proposal in our opinion, and we would hope that it will be reconsidered by the Councillors at City Hall. Given recent changes in funding directives and possibilities coming from the Province, the acceptance of the two routes to be the subject of Environmental Assessments should be delayed and expanded to include the Valley Route.

 

CFBB- Citizens For a Better Brampton

 

Delegation to City Hall – November 21, 2016 – Metrolinx

Planning & Infrastructure Committee

Good Afternoon, Madam Chair, and Councillors

Thank you for the opportunity to delegate.

The report and presentation from Metrolinx are appreciated and lift the shroud of secrecy that has surrounded their significant purchase of land in downtown Brampton earlier this year. However, as one might expect, the information put forward for public consumption raises a series of questions which we hope can be easily, and meaningfully answered.

Why did the original TPAP recommended LRT alignment through downtown, re-recommended by Metrolinx in October last year, rely on an Environmental Assessment that was fundamentally flawed as has now been proven, and which did not include a detailed analysis of the downtown GO Mobility Hub study which would deal with future extensions to the north, west, and east of Brampton?

When Brampton Council turned down the LRT alignment through downtown to the GO station, they did not say no to the LRT north from the Steeles Gateway. Rather they approved carrying out Environmental Assessments for two alternative routes – one up Kennedy, the other McLaughlin, both of which were designed to have the LRT end up at the downtown GO station. Why, then, did Metrolinx, when returning the uncommitted funding back to the Province, not hold back the money set aside for the Mobility Hub study so that that work could be undertaken?

There was considerable but understandable, secrecy on the significant land acquisition made by Metrolinx in downtown adjacent to the GO Station parking, even to the point of keeping the elected representatives in the dark. Now that the purchase is public knowledge, why is the Metrolinx report not more forthcoming on its potential use? Why did Metrolinx choose not to acquire the entire block, rather than just an odd shaped parcel that will have challenges and inefficiencies to develop, unless it is only going to be used for surface public parking? Why would Metrolinx not want to have the flexibility that the acquisition of the entire block would have given them, and particularly to control or be a part of a major and significant comprehensive mixed-use development as part of the Mobility Hub or at least adjacent to it? Acquiring the balance of the block will likely cost significantly more should it be seen as a necessary or useful addition.

Brampton is seen as the sleeping (sleepy) community for residents working elsewhere. The City is in desperate need to right the imbalance of the residential (77%) and the commercial (23%) assessment base. It is hugely difficult to assemble large development sites in downtown to do a meaningful project that might kick start the downtown renewal we all await. The Metrolinx site is probably one of the best possible for significant-scale development. Was there any vision of City building that was carried out in cooperation with City staff in the acquisition of this strategic site?

We believe it is really important for Metrolinx to see their role as not just a transit provider, but as a significant and cooperative contributor to the well-being of the urban area in a mutually beneficial way.

Speaking extemporaneously, I add the following:

With respect to the odd and irregular shape of the Metrolinx land assembly, the City Hall expansion is instructive. It too, was an irregular site which in retrospect, was too small to accommodate the architect’s planned building. If, and I mean if, the City had acquired the adjacent properties on Queen Street – properties which were offered to the City for purchase and no expropriation would have been necessary, the site would have had more regular boundaries and be more effectively developed without compromise. This would have resulted in the following:

– a more efficient floor plan

– a more efficient parking garage with improved circulation, without access and egress to the parking garage conflicting with servicing traffic

– an ability to use shoring with tie backs that would have obviated the need to use convoluted and complicated construction methodology which was both more costly and time consuming, delaying project delivery

– an ability to set back the building at the corner of George and Queen which would have prevented the damage to the overhanging canopy by trucks trying to turn right onto George from Queen

– an ability to have the west wall at Queen set back from the property line to allow fenestration rather than the solid opaque wall that resulted and which gives the rather uninteresting appearance of the building to those approaching downtown from the west

– with the Queen Street properties added to the site, there would be no legal suit against the City due to potential snow load exposure caused by building right to the property line. As it is now, Queen Street properties are both isolated and have little redevelopment possibility, a loss for the City.

The point I am making is that City building is not just about erecting buildings. It requires visioning – contextual planning, spacial inter-relationships, harmony in uses, workable internal and external traffic patterns, and concerns for pedestrian safety and enjoyment, all within the urban environment.

As a developer of major properties in my working career spanning 50 years, it would be a tragedy if we learned nothing from the mistakes made with the City Hall expansion, all of which need not have happened with a little foresight and understanding of City building.

The land assembly by Metrolinx which has resulted in an irregular site is heading down the same path as the City Hall expansion. It is time for Metrolinx to complete the assembly of the whole block and provide us with their vision of a development which makes a statement to the community, which contributes to our commercial assessment base, and which is seen to be more than a surface parking lot for 200 parking spaces.

Respectfully submitted,

Doug Bryden – Co-Chair – CFBB

CFBB Delegation (Chris Bejnar) Nov. 21st , 2016 – Metrolinx Report Item 6.3

Good afternoon Madam Mayor, Council, and Senior staff,

My name is Chris Bejnar and I’m Co-Chair of CFBB.

My delegation today will consist of a few comments and questions about Item 6.3 on today’s agenda that discusses the Metrolinx Downtown Land acquisition and the future Downtown Brampton GO Mobility Hub.

I will begin by echoing Doug Bryden’s comments.

  • Why didn’t Metrolinx purchase the entire block of available properties, opting instead for an odd L-shaped block? This will only complicate the future plans for this site and will cost taxpayers dearly by handcuffing future property negotiations, not to mention, having to deal with the rapidly increasing property values of the GTA’s real estate market. Metrolinx should immediately consider purchasing the remaining available properties to create a city block that is ripe for intensification potential before the opportunity is lost.
  • How does Metrolinx actually determine the amount of transit investment dollars that are approved for GTHA’s municipalities? It doesn’t appear that population numbers and growth factor into the decision making process?

      Let’s compare transit infrastructure investment in Vaughan to Brampton    shall we? Metrolinx has committed to invest over $2 billion dollars into the City of Vaughan, a city with about HALF of Brampton’s population? Recent Vaughan projects include approximately $1 billion for its portion of the TTC subway extension that includes two stations, about $750 million to add new VIVA Next BRT and Light BRT lines, a third GO station at Kirby Road as well as last month’s announcement to build not one, but two, brand new 1,200 car parking garages to relieve the overcrowding at the Maple and Rutherford GO stations?

In comparison Metrolinx has committed to funding approximately $200 million of Brampton’s portion for the Hurontario LRT and would have committed another $200 million for the Main Street LRT surface alignment north of Steeles to the Downtown GO. With Brampton commuters scrambling daily to get to the Downtown GO station before 7:00 am for a chance of finding parking and the Bramalea GO station bursting at the seams , why haven’t we seen the same urgency and capital funds allocated to Brampton’s needs?

 Can staff confirm if funding for the Downtown GO Mobility Hub study will be funded 100% by Metrolinx as was promised with the HMLRT. A future LRT will eventually arrive at the station via an alternate route, we will eventually have electrified 2 WAY ALL DAY GO service on the Kitchener line (the innovation corridor), so why not proactively begin exploring the full potential of the Downtown Brampton GO Mobility Hub site? Metrolinx has already outlined some bold and innovative Mobility Hub plans for other sites, as with the Port Credit GO station. Metrolinx is even willing to play the developer role for a mixed use real estate development at the Port Credit site, yet the Downtown Brampton GO Mobility Hub, with its huge potential to revitalize the Downtown of Canada’s 9th largest city will see a surface parking lot for a few hundred vehicles.

When we compare the data from Metrolinx’s own Mobility Hub profiles, we see that the Downtown Brampton GO has more than double the amount of commuters ending their morning commute when compared with Port Credit (5,880 vs. 2,790 commuters respectively) and more than a third of commuters beginning their morning trip at the Downtown Brampton GO vs Port Credit, (4,410 vs. 3,250 commuters respectively).  Your own numbers show a busier hub at the Downtown Brampton GO than Port Credit? Why then scale back or delay Mobility Hub plans for Downtown Brampton?

http://www.metrolinx.com/mobilityhubs/en/map/maps.aspx

 

I would also like to make a few comments about what I observed at last month’s Hurontario LRT open house held at Mississauga City Hall.

 

  • There was some debate by city staff and Metrolinx representatives as to the location of the crossover and future LRT station at Steeles & Hurontario. Since we don’t know the preferred alternate LRT route alignment as of yet, why would Metrolinx consider the crossover north of Steeles?  How will this work if plans for the alternate route go west or east along Steeles? Crossing through one of the busiest intersections in all of Peel Region, only to reverse and re-enter the intersection a second time to travel east or west would really complicate matters and cause traffic congestion.
  • The current plans for Brampton’s portion of the LRT show that 3 car lanes of traffic will be reduced down to two lanes north of the Hurontario/407 interchange in order to accommodate the LRT. Our opinion is that this will cause traffic gridlock along this busy stretch of roadway for motorists exiting or entering this very busy highway interchange. Why not make Hurontario wide enough to accommodate the current 3 lanes of car traffic, active bike lanes and the LRT right from the start? If the Hurontario/407 Bridge needs to be widened, then widen it. If additional land needs to be acquired to widen this stretch, then acquire it. We believe that the space is there, so let’s design and build it properly right from the beginning.

 

Thank you.

Chris Bejnar

Co-Chair CFBB