With 2.6 million people expected to move to the GTA over the next two decades, a massive increase in transportation infrastructure is going to be needed to avoid gridlock.
On Monday, March 5th the Durham Economic Prosperity Committee of the Greater Oshawa Chamber of Commerce, in co-operation with the Greater Toronto Marketing Alliance (GTMA), hosted an International Leaders Breakfast with Bruce McCuaig, President and CEO of Metrolinx as the keynote speaker.
Metrolinx was created in 2006 to improve the coordination and integration of all modes of transportation in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA). GO Transit was merged with Metrolinx in 2009.
Along with the Greater Oshawa Chamber of Commerce, 12 other Chambers from Hamilton, Burlington, Richmond Hill, Vaughan, Mississauga, Markham, Oakville, Halton Hills, Toronto, Ajax/Pickering, Markham and Dufferin signed on to the Ontario Chamber of Commerce letter sent to Metrolinx on January 11, 2012 stating the GTHA Chambers strongly believe transportation infrastructure investments are vital to economic growth and productivity, particularly in light of the uncertainty facing the Ontario economy.
“The Greater Oshawa Chamber of Commerce has always been proactive on the transportation file and supports Metrolinx as it moves forward with developing and building political good will and public support for an investment strategy,” stated Bob Malcolmson, Chamber CEO.
Addressing over 120 Durham Region business leaders, Mr. McCuaig noted congestion cost the economy of the GTHA about $6 billion and will double if current trends continue. GO Transit currently carries about 59 million passengers a year and operates at 110 per cent capacity. Mr. McCuaig, stated “without an investment in public transit, the average commute time would increase by 27 minutes by 2031.”
To deal with the impending crush, Metrolinx is proposing ‘The Big Move’, a 25-year plan to increase public transit in the GTHA. One of the aims of the plan is to “bring 75 per cent of our region’s population within two kilometres of rapid transit and reduce commuting times and greenhouse gas emissions,” he noted.
In Durham, $82.3 million has been set aside for a light bus rapid transit lane along Hwy. 2 from Oshawa to the Scarborough campus of the University of Toronto. It’s expected to begin within the next year, with dedicated bus lanes and intersection improvements.
GO has been building parking garages in Durham, including one completed in Whitby in 2010 and another in Pickering last year. One garage is under construction in Ajax, and is expected to open early next year, with construction on a second garage in Pickering to start soon and open in late 2013.
Mr. McCuaig commented on currently unfunded plans to enhance GO rail service with major increases in frequency and capacity of existing GO service on Lakeshore East, and extending the GO Lakeshore East line to Bowmanville.
After the breakfast, a round table discussion was held with over 30 key business leaders from many of the most influential companies in the Region, government leaders, university and college presidents and forward-thinking entrepreneurs.
Mr. McCuaig; John Howe, VP, Investment Strategy and Project Evaluation and Dina Graser, Director, Community & Stakeholder Relations of Metrolinx addressed key issues on the role of Metrolinx in Durham Region’s prosperity.
Some of the key issues that were raised with Metrolinx were the number of unfunded projects set for the Durham Region – what is the time line for those projects, what can Durham Region do to help start or sustain the conversation about the need for investment and how do we leverage the investment to create economic opportunities? How do we engage the business community at a broader, deeper level? How do we ensure a diverse range of business voices participate in this conversation? How do we ensure sufficient public endorsement to support government implementation of recommendations?
One of the key priority projects identified for this region includes the Durham-Scarborough Bus Rapid Transit and enhanced GO service. How would implementing these projects affect Durham Region business’ economic competitiveness, locally, regionally and beyond?
Transit is a growth industry, and one of the few growing industry in Canada. Everyone agreed that transit is essential to competing in the world stage. “Metrolinx does not want one conversation, but an ongoing discussion,” stated Mr. McCuaig. “We need to be in lock-step with the municipalities. It should not be a 25 year plan. It should be accomplished in 5 year increments.”