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GO service expansion emphasized in report

Plan also calls for the creation of suburban transit corridors

By Joseph Hall Toronto Star Transportation Reporter

The GTA needs to greatly expand its GO Transit services, forge new public transportation corridors and add rail routes if it hopes to ease congestion, a major new transportation plan says.

Offering specific proposals for transportation relief over the next quarter century, the plan by the Greater Toronto Services Board will be unveiled today to a special board committee. The plan, written by board staff, is not a final blueprint and will be subject to public and political consultations.

Titled Removing Roadblocks, the document, obtained by The Star yesterday, focuses on the GTA’s growing 905 regions, recommending the expansion of GO Transit services leading out of Toronto and the creation of transit routes connecting suburban centres.

The plan also calls for the creation of suburban transit corridors and the construction of key “gateway” centres, where drivers from 905 areas could park their cars and catch transit services. By expanding these corridors into rural areas marked for development, the GTSB hopes to encourage developers in the sprawling 905 regions to shift from car-dependent, single-family neighbourhoods to more-compact townhouse or condominium projects.

“The GTA is at a crossroads - a congested crossroads in imminent danger of gridlock,” the document says.

“We have been blessed with one of North America’s finest transportation networks and strongest transit systems, but in recent years our transportation system has failed to keep pace with demands and today is woefully unprepared to meet our present and future needs.”

The GTSB was set up by the province last year to co-ordinate services between Toronto and surrounding regions. The board’s only real job is to run GO Transit, and the amount of acceptance the plan garners from bickering GTA politicians will largely define how much authority the board will be able to wield in the future.

All the initiatives set out in the plan would be contingent on support from the federal and provincial governments, board chair Alan Tonks has said.

The plan makes improvements to GO Transit’s Union Station hub its first priority. These improvements would include expanded platforms, more track space, easier connections to the subway and a bus station.

The plan also calls for the immediate upgrade of all GO train services across the GTA.

GO Transit would:

  • Begin all-day service on its Lakeshore line from Burlington through to Whitby and increase rush-hour services.
  • Add all-day service to its Milton line via Mississauga and increase rush-hour service to Milton.
  • Add all-day service to the Georgetown line between Toronto and Brampton, with expanded service to Georgetown and a new connection to Pearson International Airport.
  • Add all-day service on the Richmond Hill and Stouffville lines.

The plan encourages the board to consider extending the Richmond Hill GO line to Vandorf, the Stouffville line to Uxbridge and the Lakeshore East line to Bowmanville. It also suggests a new, two-forked line in the east serving a potential Pickering airport, Pickering’s planned Seaton community, east Markham, Scarborough-Malvern and Don MIlls.

The plan also calls for the creation of seven new suburban corridors where transit service could be increased in stages as 905 ridership grows. Using GO or regional buses, the corridors would offer high-occupancy vehicle lanes or dedicated bus lanes.

These seven corridors are:

  • A connection from the Lakeshore West GO station through Brampton, Vaughan, Richmond Hill, Markham and Pickering, using either Highway 407, Highway 7 or the Steeles Ave.-Taunton Rd. system.
  • A GTA west route from Burlington through downtown Mississauga to the TTC’s Spadina or Bloor subway lines.
  • Hurontario St. through Brampton and Mississauga to the Port Credit GO station.
  • A York University corridor connecting the school with the Vaughan city centre in the north and the Downsview subway station to the south.
  • A Yonge St. corridor north to Newmarket.
  • A Highway 48 corridor from Markham to the Scarborough RT line.
  • A GTA east corridor from Bowmanville through Oshawa, Whitby, Ajax, and Pickering to the new Sheppard subway line.

The plan also calls for the development of transit gateways at the end of each TTC subway line and at points where those lines intersect with GO rail transit.

These gateways would allow passengers easy transfers from cars to transit, or between two transit systems.