Monday, October 26, 2015

The End of the Track: Hurontario-Main LRT

Since the controversial marathon meeting in July Bramptonians have been impatiently watching City Council for a final decision on the Hurontario-Main LRT. After months of debate the council appears poised to make a final decision on the question of the LRT. Despite facilitation talks with experts council remains divided.

At the last vote the council took on this question there were five members opposed, five members in favour and one, Michael Palleschi, who seemed undecided but comments at the July meeting suggested he was opposed if a delay was not allowed to allow a facilitator to come in. Or if council could not come to consensus.

Since the July meeting a number of community groups have stepped forward to advocate for the Hurontario-Main LRT, such as One Brampton have popped up. The principle form of opposition in the community has come from members of Citizens for a Better Brampton and local notables such as former councillor John Sanderson and members of council. I won't bother revisiting the arguments between both sides in detail as a) they can speak for themselves and b) I have spoken in favour of the LRT previously. Any search on Twitter under the #HMLRT hastag will reveal an active debate.

The conflict between pro- and anti-LRT groups/individuals seems largely cultural. Watching deputations at council in July it was very easy to say that age played a significant role in people's perspectives. Younger speakers were generally pro-LRT and older ones tended to argue against. There is division among the downtown businesspeople, though this is harder to gauge. I think it's safe to say that many are concerned about the potential short-term impact, but young professionals, or those more involved in the new economy were inclined to support the LRT.

The real divide is about where your preferences lay. If you like cities, if you like transit, if you want Brampton to resemble more of an urban environment then you support the LRT. If you have lived in Brampton for decades and remember its days as a more sleepy suburb where auto-dependency still remains your preference then you see the LRT as an impediment to your personal travels.

One of the positives of the LRT debate has been a tremendous invigoration of local citizen advocacy/activism. New organizations and networks have developed to respond to these issues. Hopefully once the LRT debate is over they will not simply dissolve. Brampton has a budget coming up, and land-use planning has just as much with transit as anything else.

Even if council votes down the downtown route for the LRT it will be built to Hurontario and Steeles. The transformative impact on Brampton will be far more limited, but might acclimatize Bramptonians to the idea and make it less controversial when the time comes. Council, sadly, seems ready to reject the downtown section of the Hurontario-Main LRT, despite public pressure. There is no doubt to my mind that downtown is a difficult space and skepticism is natural. In my opinion Metrolinx made a mistake by trying to appeal to both sides. the Hurontario-Main LRT would be far more effective if they went with one of their proposals for a LRT-bike-pedestrian only area on a stretch of Main Street. It would simply planning significantly, but in auto-oriented Brampton it is a mental leap too far.

On October 27th council will hopefully hold the final vote, and not delay, then we'll see what our leaders intend for the future of Brampton and we can continue to the next city-building debate.

Tomorrow I will be posting my regular Tuesday post on the aftermath of the federal election. 


Jake said...

I definitely agree the approach is flawed. A bike/transit section only would have some nice benefits and actually speed up transit. The idea of a longer bus travelling through the exact same traffic and exact same routes served by Brampton Transit and Zum does not seem like it would justify millions of dollars.

Its a shame alternatives were not seriously pursued. Itd be a lot better than a vote on a route that has so many issues in its execution and current/projected use.

SJL said...

Now that the LRT has been defeated I hope transit planners at Metrolinx, Peel and Brampton take the time to put together a more comprehensive transit proposal. Having a model running down Hurontario should be helpful. I should write something about the overlapping problems in redeveloping downtown.