Dundas Connects is one of the latest initiatives launched by the City of Mississauga working with consultants who specialize in land use development and urban strategy, as I mentioned in a previous post. I attended one of the initial brainstorming sessions this past Thursday. What was being sought from residents, stakeholders, businesses and others was a visioning process for the Dundas Street corridor for the next couple of decades or so. From my own observations travelling along Dundas west and east, there is a lot of potential along the corridor for something different.

There were a number of staff from different departments of the City present, including those from MiWay. I had a chance to ask one about the 101 route westbound near Oakville and inquired why it didn’t actually go into Oakville, not that I was really complaining about the loop that allows buses to go back eastbound via Ridgeway then to Dundas St E. The idea that that express route should go all the way to Sheridan Campus (Trafalgar) emerged, but it seems with the existence of the South Common Mall route to the Trafalgar campus in Oakville, the demand wasn’t enough to extend the 101 into Oakville.

To be honest, unlike the sessions I went to for Vision Cooksville, I did not find anything really wrong with what is going on on Dundas right now, except perhaps some desired improved transit/land use issues. The street does have a decent mix of large box stores, small and medium sized businesses, links to major north south arteries via buses, and entrances to two main parks, Erindale and Huron Park. I think what did bother me was that one of the councillors present, Ron Starr from Ward 6, mentioned that previous councils had discussed doing something with Dundas decades ago. Well, why did it take so long to finally launch public consultations? Sometimes trying to understand the pace local government runs is mind boggling.

One of the constants when it comes to living in an edge city like Mississauga, with its proximity to Toronto, are people who want a subway extension from Kipling into Mississauga. I will level with everyone; I would like a subway too. That’s the dreamer in me talking. But I’m a realist, and I know that a subway within my lifetime even though I’m a young man would be next to almost impossible. The funding isn’t there, but I digress and I don’t want this post to be strictly focused on an imaginary subway.

We then heard from the consultants. At this point, I’m actually okay with the city bringing in outside consultants. It shows we are giving some serious professional heft to these endeavours and that we’re not wasting energies. I do appreciate the consultants’ focusing on land use and urban design. Vision Cooksville had a focus on the cultural, and branding component, which made sense for that specific community. Redesigning Dundas is more than just about one community, whereby some areas don’t need to re-brand as much as the others. Although, calling it the “Travel Spine of South Mississauga” is in a way a kind of branding of the street. Opportunities and constraints were defined clearly.

Opportunities:

  • Improved public realm (this term came up from one of the participants), pretty much means more park land. I do see some areas that could use more public realm.
  • There is space to improve the transit modes that move along the corridor. I would prefer BRT, since it seems it’s the only mode that could fit into the character of the street.

Constraints:

  • Flood mitigation. The same mitigation method may vary along the corridor.
  • The land is limited, hence my opinion that only BRT would be the only viable option in terms of transit mode.
  • Where is the money going to come from for new infrastructure?
  • Scared private and business properties. Most of the existing ones probably wouldn’t be too keen on any ‘new’ changes along their street, no matter how small.

The consultants then presented a case study for something that happened elsewhere as the template for what they envision for Dundas: No. 3 Road in Richmond, BC. It was similar to Dundas years ago in terms of land use, then the city decided to extend transit service into Richmond by first putting down a temporary median bus lane, which later became the Canada Line Skytrain that ran into Vancouver. I’ve personally been on No. 3 Road when I was on vacation in Vancouver. It’s not bad, I mean since the transit is on an elevated rail it doesn’t affect street traffic at all. But I wasn’t sure why they brought it up as something unique, when my recollection was that in BC it didn’t look that much different than any other street I would see in a suburban landscape, except for the trees.

I think the meeting was neatly summed up in the conclusion by a gentleman named Don who made a statement and asked a question. One, to protect static neighbourhoods, which are aplenty along Dundas, you have to intensify corridors. Two, how is transit going to add to the vitality of the street? If these public consultations and the subsequent brainstorming can address these two concerns, there may be something worthwhile from all of it.