In the Highway 427 expansion article UrbanToronto published last week, we touched briefly on the provision in the design for a future Transitway adjacent to the highway, and how the 407 has a similar provision. Today, we'll take a closer look at plans for the future 407 Transitway, and examine how it will impact transit in the northern GTA.
The future transitway right-of-way paralleling Highway 407 extends from the 403-407-QEW interchange on the Burlington all the way to the 407-35/115 interchange in Clarington. This includes both the privately operated 407 ETR as well as the recently-opened and still under construction publicly-operated 407 East. The transitway provisions are also extended to Highways 412 and 418, which connect the 407 East to the 401.
For the purposes of the 407 Transitway however, there are three connecting segments that are being considered for inclusion into the initial operating segment: Hurontario St to Highway 400, Highway 400 to Kennedy Rd, and Kennedy Rd to Brock Rd. The Environmental Assessments (EA) for the Highway 400 to Kennedy Rd and Kennedy Rd to Brock Rd segments have been completed, while the EA for the furthest west segment is ongoing. The 407 Transitway has been identified in Metrolinx's The Big Move as having a completion date of between 2023 and 2033, though the latter date represents the outer segments of the 407 Transitway, and not the three initial segments detailed here.
So what will the 407 Transitway look like? A likely model is the mostly-completed Mississauga Transitway, in particular the segments adjacent to Highway 403. Due to the nature of freeway interchanges, the entire Transitway is likely to be grade separated, meaning that it will pass under or over crossing streets. Most of the required grade separations are already in place, although as seen with the western segment of the Mississauga Transitway, some modifications to ramps and overpasses may be required.
Like the Mississauga Transitway, the 407 Transitway would serve a combination of local and regional bus routes. Local transit on the 407 Transitway would be a combination of MiWay, Brampton Transit, York Region Transit, and Durham Region Transit, while regional transit would be provided by GO. Currently, there are a limited number of local transit routes that use the 407 ETR (Brampton's Züm 501A for example), and there are many GO bus routes that use the 407 ETR for all or part of their trips.
While the 407 is generally congestion-free, the advantage that a separate 407 Transitway would have over simply running buses on the 407 is accessibility. Freeway interchanges are designed primarily for the movement of vehicular traffic from the freeway to the cross street and vice versa. Their designs, particularly the Parclo A-4—the configuration used for the vast majority of interchanges along the 407—is far from an ideal configuration for a transit station, and even less so from a pedestrian accessibility standpoint. In many cases, the platforms for each direction are on opposite sides of the highway, sometimes separated by several hundred metres. By placing the transitway station immediately to one side of the interchange, not only does it locate all transit services together, but it allows for park 'n ride infrastructure, and it provides a safer pedestrian environment, as transit users aren't dodging freeway on and off-ramp traffic in order to access their bus.
A separate transitway is also advantageous from a transit network connectivity perspective. Most bus operations currently on the 407 are express in nature, meaning that any connections to adjacent or perpendicular transit routes on surface streets aren't made, even at locations where they could be beneficial. By building a transitway, you increase the number of intermediate stations between major nodes, as well as the number of connection points to other transit routes.
For example, GO's 407 East buses run from Richmond Hill Centre to the Oshawa Bus Terminal primarily via the 407. Since it uses the 407, no stops are made between Richmond Hill Centre and Unionville GO Station, despite the relatively high number of employment trip generators along that corridor. Not only would the 407 Transitway allow for a more direct connection to both Richmond Hill Centre and Unionville GO compared to the circuitous route required using today's 407 ETR interchanges, but those buses would have the option to stop at intermediate stations along the transitway, such as at Leslie.
Another benefit to the 407 Transitway is that through York Region it would in essence act as the express alternative to the Highway 7 Rapidway. VIVA's Rapidways operate in the median of the roadway, and have stop spacing that is generally under 1 km apart, with more dense areas sometimes as little as 500 m apart. The stop spacing is generally comparable with much of the Bloor-Danforth line. While this stop spacing is ideal for a moderate length and relatively quick trip, it is not very conducive to long distance, semi-express trips.
The 407 Transitway would offer a semi-express connection between major transit nodes along the 407 corridor, which are (from west to east):
- Hurontario St: Future connection to the Hurontario LRT
- Bramalea Station: Connection to the Kitchener GO line
- Highway 407 Station: Connection to the University subway line
- Richmond Hill Centre Station: Connections to the Richmond Hill GO line and VIVA Highway 7 and Yonge corridors
- Unionville GO: Connection to the Stouffville GO line
While it would be possible to travel between most of these nodes using VIVA's Highway 7 Rapidway, the travel time would be substantially longer, featuring significantly more stops than a semi-express service along the 407 Transitway, with stations generally only at concession roads (every 2 km or so). The 407 Transitway would also reduce demand on the Highway 7 Rapidway, which could potentially get into the range of requiring an upgrade to LRT if the various high density development plans (Vaughan Metropolitan Centre, Richmond Hill Centre, Downtown Markham) along the corridor come to fruition, and transit demand increases beyond what BRT can accommodate. It would do so by removing the longer distance and semi-express trip patterns from the Highway 7 Rapidway onto the 407 Transitway. And because both would operate using BRT, routes could potentially switch back and forth between the two at various locations along the corridor, depending on what the evolving ridership patterns warrant.
While the 407 Transitway lacks the visibility and publicity of VIVA's Rapidway expansions, the project is still advancing through the design and EA process. When more details on this project emerge, we will provide an update article. If you would like to join the conversation about the 407 Transitway, you can do so in our forum thread, or in the comments section below.