Toronto spends years debating subway versus light rail transit in Scarborough—and even more years waiting for contractors to finish building a subway to York University and Vaughan. Brampton rejects an LRT down its main street and fails to find an alternate route. Hamilton dithers whether to accept a Provincial Government gift to fully fund LRT construction.

Meanwhile, almost under the radar, the City of Mississauga has been quietly building its own transit project—an 18-kilometre east-west bus rapid transit line stretching from Winston Churchill in the west to Renforth Gateway in the east—the Mississauga Transitway.

The project has not been without criticism, though. If you visit our UrbanToronto Forum thread about the project, you'll discover lively discussion about the plan. Some observers suggest that the number of riders that will benefit from the line won't justify the amount of money the City and Metrolinx have spent to build it. Others say that they're building it in the wrong location.

Regardless, this line and the future Hurontario light rail transit line may transform Mississauga, providing commuters with many more options for traveling through the city and throughout the GTA. Let's look at some of the background for the line and then some recent progress in the project.

Mississauga Transitway and stations. Image: Metrolinx


The City originally proposed a bus-only transit line in the 1970s.

According to Transit Toronto,

"There is something to be said for persistence. For almost forty years, the Mississauga Transitway was the rapid transit line that would not be built. At least eighteen studies were commissioned between 1970 and 1992 proposing a bus-only corridor parallel to Highway 403 through Central Mississauga and, until 2010, nothing came of them.

"But during this time, the population of Mississauga grew and grew. Development filled out the city, and a dense downtown built up around the Square One mall and Mississauga civic centre. The need for rapid transit in the city became clear. Finally, in 2010, construction began on the first phase of the bus-only roadway that would eventually connect the end of the Bloor-Danforth subway line to the western edge of Mississauga."

A map of the 1992 Mississauga Transitway proposal. Image: Transit Toronto

However, the City has revised the original plan considerably since it first proposed it -- mostly to save money.

Under the current plan, Metrolinx is building two stations—Winston Churchill and Erin Mills—on the west end of the line along a new bus roadway parallel to, and north, of Highway 403. Even though the bus roadway isn't finished, it opened Erin Mills to GO Transit buses in September, 2015. Some MiWay buses joined them at the station in May 2016. Metrolinx plans to open the transitway west of Erin Mills and the new Winston Churchill Station in February, 2017.

Ontario's Minister of the Environment approved several environmental assessment plans for the project. In the 1990s, the minister approved a plan that would have resulted in another station west of Winston Churchill at Ridgeway Drive. With that plan, the transitway would have continued along the north side of the 403, with two more stations at Creditview and Mavis Roads. It then would have crossed under the highway through a tunnel to reach the Mississauga city centre area. The current, less expensive, plan has buses operate between Erin Mills and the city centre along the shoulders of Highway 403.

Rendering of an aerial view of Winston Churchill Station. Image: Metrolinx

The City of Mississauga is building the central and largest part of the line. This section includes a station at the City Centre Transit Terminal (beside Square One mall) and eight more stations on a bus-only roadway beside the south side of the 403 and Eastgate Parkway and along the north side of Eglinton Avenue at the east end. The City opened Central Parkway, Cawthra, Tomken and Dixie stations in November 2014 and Tahoe and Etobicoke Creek in May 2016. It intends to open its final two stations, Spectrum and Orbitor, in February, 2017.

Finally, Metrolinx is building the eastern terminal of the line—Renforth Gateway—to serve GO, MiWay and TTC buses. From there, GO and MiWay buses can access Highway 427 to travel into Toronto to connect with the TTC subway, or head north to Toronto Pearson International Airport. Eventually, passengers can also connect with an extension of the Crosstown LRT at Renforth.


Since UrbanToronto last looked at the project, construction has progressed considerably on the three remaining stations in the east end of the line—Spectrum, Orbitor and Renforth Gateway—and on the remaining station to the west, Winston Churchill. And, Metrolinx has agreed to renovate the Erin Mills Station to satisfy the concerns of nearby residents.

UrbanToronto forum member, "drum118", has been busy recently taking photos of the work.

Crews have nearly completed the right-of-way between Erin Mills and Winston Churchill, although they still have a few sections to pave, and install the guard rail. In a few locations, a concrete barrier wall has replaced the guardrail.

Transitway under construction between Winston Churchill and Erin Mills. Image: drum118

Residents on nearby Idlewilde and Radisson Crescents have been upset with Metrolinx ever since it opened Erin Mills Station last year. The station facility is too close to the backyards of some of these houses, the residents say, and they're bothered by the washroom exhaust system blowing directly onto their property.

This Metrolinx building at Erin Mills Station is too close to homes, residents say. Image: drum118

As the Mississauga News reported earlier this year, in an article by Rachel Williams:

"Metrolinx has acted above the law and stripped Mississauga residents of the most sensitive and meaningful place in their lives – their homes. This was the sentiment shared around council chambers on Wednesday after Ward 8 Coun. Matt Mahoney presented photographs of an operations building that Metrolinx has constructed on the site of the Erin Mills Transitway station.

"Measuring 30 feet by 72 feet, the building is located 6 metres from... [backyards], contrary to the 7.5-metre setback mandated by the City. And it houses washroom facilities, with the exhaust system blowing directly onto [the residents'] property."

The News article continues:

"The... transitway station, monitored by cameras that overlook the properties of 29 homes, is lit up like a baseball field all hours of the night. Double- decker buses and vehicles enter and exit the station from 5 AM to 1 AM every day and during the recent snowstorm, snow plows kept the neighbours up for hours."

"Give us back our privacy", Erin Mills' neighbours say. Image: drum118

Now Metrolinx is spending $3.5 million to improve the station.

It plans to build three-metre (ten-foot) high cedar fences and plant four-metre (14-foot) trees between the homes and the station. It's relocating the operations building that was blowing ventilation from the washroom into residents’ backyards five metres (16 feet) further from the homes and removing the washrooms and reducing lighting significantly.

Similar problems may lie ahead between Metrolinx and residents near Winston Churchill Station, where an operations building with washrooms is also located at about the same distance from homes as the building at Erin Mills.

Winston Churchill Station has an operations building similar to the one at Erin Mills. Image: drum118

Another view of Winston Churchill Station under construction. Image: drum118

In the east end of the line, crews are getting Spectrum and Orbitor stations ready for service this spring, with Spectrum a bit closer to completion.

Spectrum Station. Image: drum118

Orbitor Station. Image: drum118

Crews are still erecting steel for the Renforth Gateway Terminal. Like most of the stations near Eglinton, the transitway will be below ground-level station at Renforth. The station will have stairs and elevators between the station and the streets. A bus loop with multiple platforms will also be a feature of this station.

Steel girders mark the future Renforth Gateway Station. Image: drum118

Just to the east, crews are busy finishing new bridges to carry Renforth Drive across the transitway and to carry the eastbound transitway under Eglinton Avenue. Beyond Renforth, the transitway will operate along two separate roadways--on the south side for eastbound buses and on the north for westbound. Both roadways allow buses to connect with Highway 427.

We'll continue to update you on the progress of the project as it unfolds. In the meantime, you can join in the conversation by visiting the project's Forum thread or by leaving a comment using the space provided at the bottom of this page.

Related Companies:  City of Mississauga, IBI Group, Metrolinx