“Regionally integrated transit is necessary,” Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie tells me. “We all have different zone rates and that should be unified.” On the verge of commuting through these zones for the CityAge conference, Crombie is ready to discuss how various governments can work together to produce a more cohesive transit system.
Elected as the successor to long-serving mayor Hazel McCallion in 2014, Crombie previously served as a Member of Parliament and City Councillor in Mississauga. “It gives me a broader perspective having been in the federal government,” she says. The challenge of expanding the GTHA’s infrastructure requires that multiple governments and level of governments work together, and Crombie references her experience working in multiple positions when discussing transit issues.
At October's CityAge conference, Crombie will speak on the theme of ‘Building the Corridor: Our Infrastructure Opportunity’. In many respects, Mississauga is at the centre of the region’s next phase of infrastructural developments. The majority of transit projects in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area currently being considered would not be based in Toronto’s centre, and Mississauga is a major locus of activity in these developments.
“There has to be a recognition that Mississauga is a net importer of jobs,” Crombie says. The GO train, however, focuses on one-way traffic into Toronto, which she says is of little use in getting people to their jobs. To rectify this situation, Crombie has been actively promoting The Missing Link, a plan that would move CP freight traffic to a northern line and allow for two-way GO Rail through Mississauga.
Crombie cites work on the Missing Link plan as proof of the potential for cooperation between municipalities. Its feasibility study, for instance, was paid for by five municipalities. Conversely, Crombie has supported Toronto Mayor John Tory’s SmartTrack proposal: “Our BRT will end at the beginning or end of SmartTrack.”
The area around Pearson Airport, which would be served by SmartTrack and a Mississauga BRT is a major focus in Crombie’s plans. The airport itself is a major employer, but there are also 250,000 jobs around the airport. “Many of the employees don’t come in from the City of Toronto,” she says, but “the top half of the City.” Future transit plans should acknowledge this reality.
This situation, Crombie says, “also speaks to the need for a regional transport body.” Although she says the GTHA municipalities have successfully collaborated on infrastructure projects, taking the politics out of planning would expedite matters.
“Some municipalities will experience higher costs; not everyone will win,” Crombie says. “That’s one of the pains of becoming a regionalized transit authority.”
Creating mechanisms for adjudicating these costs, however, would minimize the friction faced by passengers moving across the region and allow the focus of planning to be on the business case for each project. Crombie also notes that such terms would favour Mississauga’s desired projects. “We have the strongest business case,” she says. “Our buses carry 60,000 people on Hurontario.”
Bonnie Crombie will be speaking at the CityAge Conference on Thursday, October 6th. More information about the event—which runs October 6th and 7th—is available in our preview editorial, as well as the CityAge website, which includes a full itinerary of speakers and discussions. This year, UrbanToronto is CityAge's official media partner, so keep an eye out for our reporting from the conference.