Text by Peter Drost.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about the Mississauga Transitway is that it has never been built. Despite 30 years of planning, comprised of at least 18 studies from 1970 to 1992, Mississauga Transit buses are not at this moment whisking passengers along a transit-only corridor parallel to highway 403.
Although Mississauga is a much younger city than Ottawa (which boasts the largest busway system in the world) it has some of the same transit needs as the Ottawa area in terms of intra-city travel. Mississauga's planners recognized that subway (heavy rail) and light rail systems are big-ticket items that did not make sense in a largely suburban city. In addition, bus-based systems can offer greater staging and operation flexibility than rail systems.
The last big push for the Transitway came in 1992 when an environmental assessment was completed by the City of Mississauga and the Ministry of Transportation under the Let's Move program. The final price for the project, which would have seen buses running from Ninth Line to Renforth Drive, was over $500 million dollars (1992). It's probably safe to say that the downturn in the economy, the cancellation of the Eglinton West subway project and just plain old politics destroyed any incentive to forge ahead.
History of the (many) Studies
In 1970 the Town of Mississauga commissioned a planning study which recommended a reserved right-of-way on highway 403, Hurontario and Dixie transit corridors and express buses on the Erin Mills corridor. Since then, many other studies have come and gone. Points of interest along the way include:
A 1975 study recommended the development of light rail on Burnhamthorpe Road in order to connect to Toronto's transit network.
The 1980 City of Mississauga Office Plan recommended an intermediate capacity system for the Burnhamthorpe Road corridor.
A 1985 Mississauga Transportation study recommended a grade separated transit facility in the vicinity of the Parkway Belt. This "station" would be the hub of a system that would connect to the Bloor subway line, the proposed Eglinton West Rapid Transit line and Mississauga's own busway along highway 403.
As part of a 1985 GO-ALRT (Advanced Light Rail Transit) study four underground alignments were analyzed in the City Centre area. The recommended route along Rathburn Road lead to its protection for use as a Transitway corridor.
Let's Move initiatives from 1990-1992 include a Mississauga Busway to Eglinton West subway.
As proposed in the 1992 Mississauga Transitway Environment Assessment Report, the route would stretch from the Ninth Line to Renforth Drive where buses would cross over into Toronto and drop passengers off at the most westerly station of the Eglinton West subway. Inexplicably, there were no plans to extend, integrate, or make Pearson International Airport part of the Transitway route.
Starting at Ninth Line, the alignment would follow the north side of highway 403 until Mavis Road where it would cross the highway and head towards Mississauga City Centre. From there it would follow the south side of highway 403 to Cawthra Road where it would then continue east along the north side of East Gate Parkway then north to the north side of Eglinton Avenue West and finally to the Toronto/Mississauga border.
In total there would be 16 busway stations along the 16 km route (see map) starting with Ridgeway station (Ninth Line) in the west and concluding with Renforth station in the east. A GO Transit connection is suggested for the Creditview station
According to the plans much of the Transitway would have been built at grade, ducking under major roads such as Mavis and Hurontario along the route. The exception to this would have been at Rathburn Road where it would have tunneled under the road between Duke of York Blvd and Hurontario.
Diagrams of this underground section show cars traveling on top of the road, buses below and a third level with an underground pedestrian walkway connecting the eastbound and westbound stations. The section was designed to be either a totally closed tunnel or as "open concept" with the centre median left open to let in light and air below. If constructed, it would have been Mississauga's first "subway" (albeit for buses only).
In total 16 stations would have been built for the Transitway. The stations themselves are all fairly complex in design - they weren't going to be simple bus stops. Features include platforms on all stations, pedestrian walkways over and under the platforms, Kiss & Ride areas and Park & Ride lots. Interior design is not known, but would likely have mimicked the utilitarian-style of Ottawa's Transitway stations.
No new or specialized buses would be required to run on the Transitway. According to the Mississauga Transitway Environmental Assessment Report (Volume One, pg. 282) the fact that the City's bus fleet could operate on the Transitway would actually reduce the overall number of buses in the entire fleet. The prediction at the time was that there would be a fleet reduction of 15 to 20 percent that would translate to 25 standard buses and 25 articulated buses.
Maximum speed of buses on the Transitway would be 80 km/h.
Mississauga Transitway Today
Thirty years of planning has wrought... well nothing, yet. Transitway (busway) proposals are not glamorous. I imagine they are hard for politicians to get behind, until they get built.
Cities that have opted for busways such as Brisbane, Australia, Sao Paulo, Brazil and our very own Ottawa have surprised everyone with their remarkable effectiveness and efficiency. According to Ottawa-Carleton Transpo their Transitway is rated at peak-times at 10,000 people per direction per hour. Daily, an average of 200,000 trips takes place on it alone.
The Mississauga Transitway is currently mentioned in the media in relation to a larger Transitway scheme that would parallel a large part of highway 407. Even the 1992 plans called for eventual links between the Mississauga Transitway and the highway 407 transit line.
In fact, the route shown in the environmental report would "shadow" part of the route originally proposed by GO-ALRT program. Carried through to the end the whole route would arc around the top of Toronto from Oakville as follows: From Oakville GO station north on Trafalgar Road to Hwy 5, then east to the first Mississauga Transitway station at the Ninth Line. From there, a passenger could either take the Mississauga Transitway east, or head north following highway 407 (the eastern portion of the map is not shown).
In a broader sense, the Mississauga Transitway proposal is (maybe always was) more a regional carrier than one for intra-city travel. If built today it would be useful for Mississauga residents, but without an integrated connection to the airport, Toronto, Brampton and York Region it's a body without arms and legs.
However, if these connections eventually get built the Mississauga Transitway (if also built) would undoubtedly become the hub of massive inter-city transit system.