MetroLinx: Laying New Paths to Tracks
Go Transit is a name that’s been synonymous with ‘commuting’ since it was first established by the Government of Ontario in 1967. Most Commuters in Southern Ontario are already quite familiar with the essential services provided through GO Transit to nearly 55 million passengers a year via a transport network that spans over 10,000 square kilometers. Yet many might still be surprised to learn just how progressively expansive the reach of the entire organization really is, just by peering behind the scenes to see what’s being projected (and already underway!) within Metrolinx – The overseeing and organizing agency for GO Transit, which provisions us all with an enormous operating network of trusted GO trains and buses!
GO Transit is a very well known brand here in Southern Ontario, and is actually the operational division of Metrolinx (a provincial crown agency) which is tasked by the Ontario Government to champion, develop and implement an integrated transportation system for the entire region that surrounds and includes the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area. Although this enormous mandate would be impressive enough on its own, what the Public will be seeing more of from Metrolinx is their innovative and multi-modal approach to hybridized transportation systems, and their plans for community-level access which Metrolinx is planning and already delivering…Through a wide variety of projects that will actually enhance economic prosperity, ecological sustainability, and augment the quality of life for all Ontarians.
Unlike so many of the similarly boastful statements from organizations that wish to “greenwash” their Public Image, Metrolinx is one of those rare institutions that not only offers a realistic vision for such lofty promises, but which is also perfectly positioned, at the center of our modern commuting and travel needs, to actually deliver on such a claim! The enormous vision that underpins this claim stretches from large scale projects such as the rail links to Pearson International airport and other outlying regions, right down to the street level plans that enable Cyclists and Pedestrians to better access their transit systems right in their local communities. The scope and range of Metrolinx projects are enormous and widespread, so as Cyclists let’s just begin exploring at the neighborhood level and then see how far we can pedal out into the rest of Southern Ontario…
The name Metrolinx captures the spirit of an expansive transit mandate: which is to provide an integrated multi-modal transportation network that will improve your travel experience across the metropolitan regions that stretche from York and Durham, through Toronto, Peel, Halton and onward towards, and even past Hamilton and down into the Niagara Peninsula as of this year!
The Big Move !
Under the auspiciously grand umbrella project called “The Big Move”, http://www.metrolinx.com/thebigmove/index.html Metrolinx shows us a 25-year regional transportation plan that proposes the development of more “compact and complete communities”. The Big Move includes plans for over 7,000 km of new lanes, trails and pathways for pedestrians and cyclists takes, and offers a more holistic approach to travel where amenities are planned from the ground up to eliminate the barriers that have arisen due to historical planning based around “Car Culture”. Instead, we can look forward to a more seamlessly integrated facility for walking, cycling and making transit a regular part of our everyday lives through many new programs including the following initiatives:
The BikeLinx Program is a good point of entry to examining the many expansive projects that are underway at Metrolinx. As a relatively modest $5 million program, BikeLinx will serve to bridge the “first and last mile” between people and mass transit. This initiative will serve to expand the catchment area for new and existing transit routes by allowing more cyclists to easily reach and integrate with transit systems in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area through the provisioning of bus bike racks on all routes, and the purchase and installation of over 2300 new permanent and secure bicycle storage facilities in strategic locations throughout the region.
Station Access Strategy
For those who are already within biking/walking distance of major transit hubs and stations, the Station Access Strategy will draw in transit ridership at the neighborhood level by creating the paths and overpasses necessary to reach the next mode of public transport, rather than forcing people to use cars to bridge the gap around large scale travel obstacles. The cost benefit of this strategy is to reduce the proportion of passengers parking at stations from the current 65 cars per 100 passengers, to 50 cars per 100 passengers by 2020. Since it’s much more economical to optimize travel routes, than it is to purchase more land for parking lots around the centrally located stations, this plan yields benefits on many levels, which include alleviating the delays caused by congestion around the limited access points to station parking lots.
A great example of this is the Pickering pedestrian bridge, where the governments of Canada and Ontario announced they will each invest up to $5 million to build a fully enclosed bridge for Pedestrians and Cyclists to get across the 16 lanes of Highway 401 between the Pickering GO Station and a new transit hub.
Essentially, by enabling people to just leave their cars at home during their workday commute, Metrolinx is laying the foundations for a more car-free Society, where we can spend more time living and exercising when traveling, rather than staring at rear bumpers, and belching car exhaust fumes. This multi-modal approach to city and transit planning is clearly the wave of the Future taking shape today, and we look forward to more developments in this area…
Here are some of the most exciting possibilities that are already available right now, with more to come!
The Railpath is being built on abandoned railway beds which have been out of use for over 40 years. There will be a hard-surface path, extensive landscaping, lighting and numerous well-marked access points. A full feature article on this project will soon be available HERE.
Have you considered joys of discovering the sights and scenery of Southern Ontario through the first-hand freedom of your bicycle? You could start your journey, by exploring the many splendors and sights around Niagara Falls…How would that be for for a weekend bike ride ?!? Start Zipping Here