Text by Sean Marshall
Revised by James Bow
When it opened in 1989, Brampton's Downtown Transit Centre became one of the few truly intermodal public transit terminals in the Greater Toronto Area. In addition to serving local Brampton Transit buses, it is an important GO Transit terminal serving local and express buses to North York, Guelph and Orangeville. Greyhound buses also stop at the terminal, serving both Toronto and Owen Sound and, since 2009, it has also been the western terminus of Brampton Transit's first Zum route. The terminal is also adjacent to Brampton's GO/VIA station, including a refurbished historic building located on the north side of the railway tracks, granting Brampton passengers access to GO Trains bound to Union Station and Georgetown (and, after December 2011, Kitchener) as well as VIA Rail trains to points farther afield.
The area the Downtown Transit Centre and Brampton GO Station serves has been the site of a railway station for almost 150 years. The first building (a simple brick design) was built in 1865 by the Grand Trunk Railway. This building was replaced in 1907 by a much more elaborate one-and-a-half story design, with a graceful Chateau-style roof. This building remains in place to this day.
Brampton Transit was established in 1976 in the wake of a series of municipal amalgamations that merged the Town of Brampton with much of Chingcousy Township, Toronto Gore Township and part of the Town of Mississauga. The new bus system inherited the services provided by the Town of Brampton's bus system (which had been operated by Travelways), and the former Chingcousy Township's dial-a-bus system. Fixed routes were established in Bramalea, major reroutings of the Town's systems were made and a new downtown terminal was built. The first terminal was between Main and George Streets, north of Wellington Street. A retail unit in a neighbouring retail/apartment building was used for ticket sales and as a waiting room, operated by GO Transit.
The downtown terminal was closed and cleared in 1989 for construction of the new City Hall, and all buses were forced to terminate on George Street. That same year, Brampton city council approved the construction of a new terminal at Main and Nelson Streets. An agreement was made with a developer, and a combination bus terminal/office building began construction on March 2, 1989. A tunnel between the train station and the corner of George and Railroad Streets was begun that year, connecting the two facilities.
This arrangement continued until 2009 when GO Transit built a second platform on the south side of the tracks, including covered platforms, stairs and an accessible elevator. The expansion was required to handle additional service that was going into the Georgetown GO Train route, including an extension to Kitchener which went into place on December 19, 2011. At the time of this writing, GO Transit expects to have trains operating between Mount Pleasant and Union Station at intervals of one hour or better before the decade is out. Also in 2009, the Downtown Transit Centre became the western terminus of Brampton's first Zum route, a limited stop express service along Queen Street and Highway 7 into York Region and York University. This was Brampton's first step towards the launch of a bus rapid transit network through the city.
Today the bus terminal is very busy, serving Brampton Transit, Zum, GO Transit and Greyhound buses. The facility is especially busy when the GO trains arrive during the afternoon rush period. The Downtown Transit Centre is a very important piece of transportation infrastructure of importance not only to Bramptonians but to passengers throughout the region. It functions extremely well because it is in a prime location, taking advantage of the existing GO Station and a downtown locale.
The terminal's importance will only increase as GO Transit continues to experience high patronage of its rail and bus routes out of Brampton, and as Brampton Transit's ridership continues to grow. If all day rail service is provided to Brampton, the number of buses using the terminal will continue to increase. Before 2009, the bus terminal had more than enough space to fit the buses serving it, but now there are hardly enough bus bays for the rush hour crowds. The transit facility here has truly been a success.