You may be surprised to learn that Metrolinx supports extending the TTC's Sheppard subway.

In fact, it supports building more than 100 rapid transit projects to improve connectivity and mobility throughout the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area and nearby parts of Southern Ontario.

The agency's board of directors approved its 2041 regional transportation plan (or RTP for short) during its quarterly meeting this week. The plan outlines an ambitious agenda that, when complete, will offer residents, business people and visitors multiple options to get around the region.

"This is a very important day," Metrolinx chief executive officer Phil Verster told the board before the organization's Chief Planning Officer, Policy and Planning, Leslie Woo, presented the final version of the plan. "It shows what good looks like."

Metrolinx CEO during the board directors meeting, image, Metrolinx

In introducing the plan, CEO Verster further extolled its virtues. "This plan... is a call to move forward by further putting people’s needs at the core of transportation planning and operations. We need to increase our capacity to move people around the GTHA. Transit infrastructure alone will not be sufficient to meet the needs of a growing region. We must transform our organizations and our teams to consistently deliver quality transit solutions that are frequent, reliable, safe, comfortable and convenient.

"Ours is a unique opportunity to plan, build, operate and connect transportation in the region. We cannot do this alone. The transportation system of the future will require new approaches to financing and more collaborative decision-making. By working with our federal, provincial and municipal partners, the private sector and other stakeholders, we can create an integrated transportation system for 2041 that supports a high quality of life, a prosperous economy and a healthy environment," he said.

The Metrolinx visions, goals and strategies for the regional transportation plan, image, Metrolinx

With this plan, Metrolinx outlines five strategies for developing an even more extensive rapid transit network for the region and bringing this plan to reality. First, it intends to complete current rapid transit projects, including those it terms "in delivery" and "in development" (more on those later).

Second, Metrolinx wants to connect more of the region with frequent rapid transit. With GO RER and subways acting as its spine, this frequent rapid transit network would connect urban centres, employment nodes and regional destinations with light rail transit (LRT) and bus rapid transit (BRT) lines, plus priority bus and frequent regional express bus services. (That Sheppard subway extension we mentioned fits in here.)

Third, it hopes to "optimize" the transportation system. That means providing passengers with multiple transit options with the same cost by integrating fares. Metrolinx also wants to improve the "first and last-mile experience" by enhancing stations and terminals. In this way, the agency believes it can achieve higher shares of station access by walking, cycling, transit, automobile pick-up and drop-off and carpooling.

Fourth, the plan encourages Metrolinx and municipalities to work together so that they can integrate land-use and transportation. Metrolinx will plan transportation links to areas where municipalities have revised their official plans to encourage major employment areas or residential developments.

Finally, the plan looks at ways that the region and its transportation agencies can prepare for what it deems an "uncertain future".

According to Metrolinx, it developed the 2041 RTP to build on the success of its first such plan, "The Big Move", which it released in 2008. The Big Move was the springboard for an historic $30 billion investment in rapid transit. It led the regional agency and its local partners to completing nine major transit projects:

  • the UP Express (between Union Station and Toronto Pearson International Airport);
  • the Highway 7 bus rapid transit (BRT) line (between Yonge Street and Unionville GO Station);
  • the Davis Drive BRT (between Yonge Street and Newmarket GO Station);
  • the Mississauga Transitway (between Winston Churchill Boulevard and Renforth Drive);
  • the Toronto York Spadina Subway Extension (between Vaughan and Sheppard West Stations; and
  • four extensions to GO rail corridors (on the Kitchener, Barrie, Richmond Hill and Lakeshore West lines).

The new plan acknowledges that the biggest current project resulting from The Big Move is building regional express services (RER) along five GO Transit rail corridors. This project, now under construction, would deliver frequent, two-way, all-day, every-day service along large parts of the Barrie, Kitchener, Lakeshore East, Lakeshore West and Stouffville lines by 2025.

Current and "in delivery" rapid-transit projects in the region, image, Metrolinx

Metrolinx says that 13 more Big Move transit projects are also "in delivery", which means that they are either in the engineering design stage or under construction." This includes:

  • the Crosstown light rail transit line (LRT) (between Mount Dennis and Kennedy Stations);
  • the Finch West LRT (between Humber College and the TTC's Finch West Station);
  • the "Scarborough Subway" — extending the TTC's Line 2 Bloor – Danforth;
  • the Sheppard East LRT (between the TTC's Don Mills Station and Meadowvale Road);
  • the Hurontario LRT (between south Brampton and Port Credit);
  • the Yonge South BRT (between 19th Avenue / Gamble Road and Highway 7 in Richmond Hill);
  • the Yonge North BRT (between Davis Drive and Savage Road in Newmarket);
  • the Highway 7 West BRT (between Helen Avenue in Vaughan and Yonge Street in Richmond Hill);
  • extending the Richmond Hill GO line (between Bloomington and Gormley GO Stations);
  • extending the Lakeshore West GO line (between West Harbour and Confederation GO stations in Hamilton);
  • the Hamilton LRT;
  • extending GO-train service to Niagara Region; and
  • extending GO-train service to Bowmanville.

The plan identifies 13 more projects that are "In Development"—in advanced stages of planning and design. According to the 2041 RTP, these proposals meet the needs of the region in the near term and have received significant commitments for planning and design from federal, provincial and municipal governments. They are:

  • the Relief Line subway (between Sheppard Avenue and Osgoode Station);
  • the Yonge North subway extension (between Highway 7 and Finch Station);
  • the Eglinton East LRT (between U of T Scarborough and Kennedy Station);
  • the Eglinton West LRT (between Pearson and Mount Dennis Station);
  • the Waterfront East LRT (between Coxwell Avenue and Union Station);
  • the Waterfront West LRT (between Port Credit GO Station and Union Station);
  • the Brampton Queen Street BRT or LRT (between downtown Brampton and Highway 50);
  • the Dundas BRT (between Bronte Road in Oakville and Kipling Station in Toronto);
  • the Dundas West Priority Bus (between Brant Street in Burlington and Bronte Road in Oakville);
  • the Durham-Scarborough BRT (extending the current Durham Region Transit PULSE service along Ellesmere Road between the University of Toronto's Scarborough campus to the TTC's Scarborough Centre Station);
  • Highway 7 East BRT (between Cornell Terminal near Ninth Line in Markham and Unionville GO Station); and
  • Highway 7 West BRT (between Highway 50 and Helen Avenue in Vaughan).

"In development" rapid transit projects, image, Metrolinx

Priority bus projects would allow buses to run quickly and reliably by protecting them from mixed traffic. These buses might operate along high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes on arterial roads, offer wider spacing between stops and using other transit-priority measures such as queue jump lanes and signal priority at intersections.

In addition to all of these projects by 2041, Metrolinx and its local partner, the TTC intend to extend the Sheppard subway—not eastward, as many may have thought, but westward, to connect the Yonge and University branches of the TTC, Line 1 subway. They're also planning to extend the Finch West LRT southward to Pearson Airport and eastward to Yonge Street, the Eglinton East LRT north and westward through the Malvern neighbourhood and the Sheppard East LRT eastward to Meadowvale Road.

This map illustrates the new rapid-transit projects Metrolinx proposes to build by 2041. image, Metrolinx

Metrolinx also hopes to build LRT / BRT or priority bus projects on a number of other Toronto streets, including Highway 27, Jane Street, Dufferin Street, McCowan Road, Steeles Avenues East and West, Finch Avenue East, Sheppard Avenue West and Kingston Road / Danforth Avenue. The plan also lists "enhanced streetcar service" on St Clair and Spadina Avenues, but doesn't detail this idea.

A similar raft of projects are planned for Durham, Halton, Peel and York regions and Hamilton.

The 2041 rapid-transit network, including current, "in delivery", "in development" and future projects, image, Metrolinx

In addition to all of this, frequent regional express buses would serve core areas of the region not receiving GO RER rail service. Picking up or dropping off passengers at stops every 15 minutes or better, these longer-distance buses would require different types of investments than for priority buses. This includes taking advantage of a larger HOV-lanes network on freeways and other major highways, dedicated bus access ramps to minimize delay for buses entering and exiting highways, and convenient, high-quality stations directly on or beside highways that reduce delays for through-service passengers while providing good connections to other frequent rapid transit and local transit routes.

The board approved the plan, so it's now final. Metrolinx intends to further consult with stakeholders—including the provincial government, municipalities and passengers—as it starts each of the projects and to improve the timelines for delivering them.

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