There has been a lot of talk and news this week about the Metrolinx Plan to invest in transportation across the Greater Toronto-Hamilton Area and the Investment Strategy Report released on Monday.
It is clear that the challenges of gridlock and congestion are critical to our economic prosperity and quality of life across the GTHA. The Metrolinx Plan is a strategy to improve traffic congestion across the whole GTHA, from Hamilton to Oshawa.
It is proposed that 41% of funds will be raised in the “416” (City of Toronto) and 42% of investment will take place within the 416. 59% of funds will be raised in the “905”, including Burlington, and 58% of funds will be invested in the same area.
How does “The Big Move” impact Burlington?
Traffic congestion is a major impediment to economic development in Burlington. Burlington companies trade in a wide area and do business across the GTHA. Congestion is a major problem.
We have set a target to create 29,000 new jobs overall in Burlington, with 6-7,000 in the Prosperity Corridor along the QEW. To do that we need a mobile workforce and we need to address the problems of gridlock.
What’s in it for us? From the “Next Wave” of projects planned by Metrolinx, Burlington residents and commuters will most directly benefit from:
- Investing in local roads and transit: Up to 25% of dedicated funding for the Next Wave of projects would be dedicated to local roads and transit, improvements to the highway system through a Big Move Partnership Initiative
- GO Lakeshore Express Rail Service, including Electrification: The electrification of the Lakeshore line will provide faster and more frequent service along the corridor and through Burlington. Expanded rail service on the Lakeshore Line to 30 minutes, 7 days a week will start this June.
- Dundas Bus Rapid Transit Line: Burlington will also benefit from the BRT, linking a major East-West corridor through Halton to Mississauga and Toronto.
- For more information on these projects, here’s a link to the Metrolinx Halton Fact Sheet
- Hamilton Light Rail Transit: Burlington will also benefit from transportation improvements made in Hamilton and from the LRT line through Hamilton. The proposed LRT is part of a long term vision to connect destinations across Hamilton including McMaster University and will help to provide faster and more efficient service. The Hamilton LRT will help commuters travelling to and from Hamilton and Burlington each day, and connect with one very valuable local resource – McMaster University. The proposed LRT Line through Hamilton will bring economic development to Hamilton and what is good for Hamilton’s economy is also good for Burlington.
Burlington may be considered the “West” of the “Western GTA”, and we have a close relationship with the City of Hamilton, as we do with the rest of the Western GTA.
That being said, I firmly believe that the Greater Toronto-Hamilton Area is one economic region, and that we need to embrace transportation improvements for the region as a whole. A stronger Toronto is good for Burlington and Hamilton and the whole GTHA. A stronger Halton Region is also good for Toronto and the greater GTHA. We will all benefit from improvements in transportation across the GTHA.
Better transportation is not just about better business opportunities; it is also about social inclusivity, economic opportunities, and creating more quality time for family, friends, and community life.
The Metrolinx Funding Strategy Report contains some thoughtful recommendations worthy of consideration. I believe that a combination of revenue tools is necessary to pay for these projects. The report includes three of the four funding tools that Burlington City Council supported in a Council Resolution.
The plan also includes a recommendation to consider restructuring Metrolinx to include more local representation with up to six citizen appointees to the Board. I welcome that opportunity to allow municipalities to have some involvement in directly the investment and plans locally. This is important to ensure public trust, transparency and local accountability.
The Report also addresses a role for the Federal Government to play in transportation. I have noted throughout these discussions that Canada is the only country in the G8 without a National Transit Strategy. The federal government should also have a role in funding and supporting urban transportation systems, that is more than the Gas Tax Fund. As the report states; “Sustained federal investment in Canada’s largest urban transportation systems is also an investment in Canada’s future…” (p.45)
At the City of Burlington we are also discussing transportation issues at the city level. We are looking at the potential for more Transit-Oriented Development along the Plains Road and Fairview corridor that could result in more high order transit. While these discussions are only preliminary, we will continue to flush out these ideas. The timing is excellent as we are also reviewing our Official Plan and Transportation Master Plan.
The proposed investments offer some meaningful benefits to Burlington to help improve traffic and congestion in our city and help to move people and goods across the GTHA, particularly with the electrification of the Lakeshore GO line. This will get more cars off the road and will help minimize cut through traffic in Burlington. More efficient regional transit will allow us to improve local transit. I believe that the plans and funding strategy recommendations are very reasonable.
This will be a challenging and political discussion. I urge our regional partners and provincial leaders to be open to discussing the options presented. We cannot be parochial in our views. This cannot be politics as usual. Improving our regional transportation systems is critical to our potential for economic growth and to improve our quality of life – for everyone in the GTHA.