Yesterday, I attended a town hall on transportation hosted by local MPP Dipika Damerla (Mississauga East-Cooksville) featuring provincial Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca (MPP for Vaughan) and Fausto Natarelli who oversees the Hurontario LRT project at Metrolinx. The format was simple yet very open, the politicians made some opening statements then just opened the floor for about an hour and a half for questions from the audience. Here are some observations.
Other than Matthew Williams, who works on the LRT project for the City of Mississauga, there was no official representation from the City of Mississauga, even though the venue was Sheridan College’s Hazel McCallion campus, a stone’s throw away from City Hall. That was actually the crux of a number of the questioner’s concerns, that the city was not present to answer questions about recent changes to the bus service, or the city’s role in the string of projects that the province will soon be rolling out in the next decade or so.
Another point of contention was over the prioritization of a North South route (the Hurontario LRT) over an East West linkage to Toronto. I understand that line of thinking, it’s the most immediate need right now to get to Toronto from Mississauga, but the point is we have to start planning and building for the next generation and the generation after that. The LRT’s purpose is to connect the existing GO train lines and future BRT corridors in a seamless system. Existing GO Train lines are being converted to all day two way, so the need for an additional extension of the subway from Kipling seems redundant.
Mobility hubs seem to be another topic of discussion during the meeting, especially around the Meadowvale and Cooksville areas. Alex from Meadowvale asked about the plans to develop the transitway station out by Erin Mills, and another Mississauga resident, Joe, asked how the Cooksville mobility hub is going to be built in a way that would not require another tear down and rebuilding 20 years later.
Some lighter points. A woman preaching she was an ardent supporter of the provincial Liberal government, was quite upset about the lack of Mississauga Transit representation at the meeting. At one point she said, and I’m paraphrasing, “Hazel retired to greener pastures and basically left her daughter in charge!” (I’m assuming she’s not a fan of current Mississauga mayor, Bonnie Crombie). Another gentleman came to talk about issues regarding his driver’s license and how he was recently pulled over by the police. The minister was very polite and gracious and advised the man he should take his issue up with the ministry that would oversee the matter which he raised questions about.
As Minister Del Duca said in the end, the way transit planning is going to go moving forward will be affected by things like disruptive technologies, such as autonomous vehicles (self driving cars). Collectively, the model of how we plan and build transit is broken, and figuring out how to do many things differently going forward is going to challenge us as a society in terms of building the communities and connecting them the way that benefits future generations.