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A Greyhound bus sits at the downtown Barrie terminal yesterday. The city is examining a proposal by the company to build a new terminal.

Bus terminal would have room for 1,000 cars

Greyhound plan would create rivalry with GO

Jun. 28, 2006. 01:00 AM

Greyhound Canada has come up with an $8 million mega park-n-ride proposal designed to make travelling between Toronto and Barrie faster by bus and cheaper than taking GO Transit.

The City of Barrie is considering a proposal from Greyhound to build a terminal on the south side of town with a lot large enough to provide free parking for 1,000 cars. The service would have easy access to Highway 400 and wouldn’t require annual government subsidies.

“The park-n-ride is a piece of infrastructure we think is critical to growing the commuter business and getting cars off the highway,” said Dave Leach, senior vice-president of Greyhound Canada. “Access to parking is a big barrier to using commuter service.”

Greyhound formally made the proposal to Barrie’s council Monday night. Staff are now examining details of the plan and will report back in August.

“It’s definitely an idea worth investigating,” said Councillor Barry Ward, who chairs the city’s community services committee. “It sounds like Greyhound is very eager, the federal government is very eager and city hall sounds interested.

“I think it gives the commuter more choices. Anything that can get traffic off the 400 would certainly help.”

Greyhound is asking the federal government to buy the land and construct the terminal, which would be owned by the City of Barrie. Greyhound would lease the land and operate the facility. Any bus operator, including GO, could offer services from the facility.

Leach said the $8 million figure is only an estimate, with such factors as location, amenities, environmental impact and acreage still to be considered.

Leach said he doesn’t view publicly funded GO as a competitor but as a “complementary” commuter service. GO makes frequent stops and takes about a half hour longer to get to Toronto. Greyhound runs an express commuter service and also carries parcels, he said.

At the same time, Leach said, Greyhound’s Barrie to Toronto business would expand to 1,000 customers a day, up from about 380, given growth and employment projections for the region.

“And we can go farther. We believe the Greater Toronto Area is a significant growth opportunity for intercity bus.”

Greyhound is a chief backer of projects like this in and around Toronto. One is in the planning stages for Guelph, while long-term plans are being examined for Peterborough and St. Catharines, Leach said.

The company is also working with Toronto on a new bus terminal near Union Station. The Toronto Economic Development Corp. got word this week it will receive up to $150,000 from Ottawa for a study on a “multi-modal” bus terminal near the Front St. station.

Greyhound says its Barrie to Toronto bus service, with a monthly pass costing $337.05, is $10 cheaper than GO’s and about a half-hour faster. It runs an express service to Yorkdale Shopping Centre, then to two stops in downtown Toronto. GO makes many stops between Barrie and Newmarket, where passengers disembark to get on a train to Union Station.

GO plans to resurrect train service to Barrie, perhaps as early as next spring, but the Greyhound proposal comes at a time of intense negotiations between the province and the city. The two have not agreed on how much Barrie taxpayers should contribute toward the $25 million cost of refurbishing the rail line from Barrie. Councillor Ward said the two sides are “millions” of dollars apart.

A provincial environmental assessment is complete, federal approval is expected in August for rail service resumption, and all that remains is for the province and Barrie to agree on financial terms, said Patricia Tomasi, spokeswoman for Ontario’s transportation ministry.

GO Transit referred all questions to the ministry.

In its proposal to Barrie council, Greyhound officials point out that all costs and profits would be covered through fares, while government-owned GO recovers only about 82 per cent of its costs through fares, with the rest coming in the form of a taxpayer subsidy.

Barrie is Canada’s sixth-fastest growing municipality, with 103,701 residents recorded in the 2001 census. About 30 per cent of Barrie’s workforce has jobs outside the city, with about 7,000 working in the Greater Toronto Area. Most of them head south on a clogged, and often dangerous, Highway 400.

“I’d want to see us get as many cars as we can possibly get off the highway,” said Joe Tascona, the Progressive Conservative MPP for Barrie-Simcoe-Bradford. “If this brings jobs to Barrie and helps take cars off the road too, that will prove to be beneficial.”

Tascona is among those Highway 400 commuters. “It can get very congested,” he said. “All it takes is one fender-bender and the whole highway is jammed.”