A round table meeting was held on January 22, 2012 at Erin Meadows Community Centre hosted by Metrolinx who is the authority in charge of major infrastructure projects across GTA and Hamilton (GTHA) over the next 25 years. Residents from all over Mississauga and surrounding cities joined various tables to discuss various aspects of infrastructure in Mississauga and the GTHA. Each table focused on a different topic; conversations were lead about infrastructure today, future infrastructure plans, benefits that infrastructure improvements will bring to GTHA, and financing infrastructure projects. There was much heated debate at each table, with each person voicing their own perspective. Key issues were taken note of by facilitators from each group. The ideas gathered at each table will be taken into consideration by Metrolinx to create a stronger infrastructure plan and create a sustainable financial plan.
Infrastructure Underway in Mississauga
Current projects in Mississauga were discussed as well as projects in surrounding areas. At the moment only one major project is underway in Mississauga; it is quite noticeable from the 403. It is termed as the Mississauga Bus Rapid Transit that is to travel thought the Eastgate Corridor. Currently four Stations are being put in place: Square One City Centre, Central Parkway, Cawthra, and Dixe. Another 6 stations will follow to Pearson Airport at Renforth Drive. The corridor is to stretch west up to Winston Churchill creating an 18-kilometre corridor with key connection points to other lines on the Mississauga MiWay and GO Transit networks. It will create key connection points to other lines. The corridor will also help connect residents to Pearson Airport, Kipling Subway Station, and York University. The project is to cost $259 million and is fully funded by all three levels of government. Phase 1, Eastgate Corridor, is to be completed in 2013. Other projects such as the Union Pearson Express and Georgetown South Project were also brought up. They will connect Georgetown, Kitchener and the Airport to Downtown Toronto through Union Station. These projects will cost $456 million and $1.2 million respectively and will be ready for the Parapan-American Championships and Pan-Am Games in 2015. The Union Station – Train Shed Revitalization Project with a price tag of $250 million is also underway and will make commuting more comfortable and convenient by 2016.
Future Next Wave Infrastructure Projects
In the future Mississauga is expected to introduce the Dundas Street Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) much like the Eastgate Corridor. It will span 40-kilometres from Brant Street in Burligton to Kipling Station. The Hurontario-Main Light Rail Transit (LRT) will service 29 million riders and will run from Brampton’s Main Street to Mississauga’s Port Credit. There will also be a GO Rail Service Expansion: more two-way all-day and rush hour service out of Downtown Toronto. Electrification of GO Kitchener Line, Union Pearson Express, and GO Lakeshore Express Rail will allow for higher service capacity. Trains on these lines will be converted from diesel to electric equipment allowing for shorter travel times and more frequent service. These three GO Transit projects will total $7.5 billion.
The Big Picture: Infrastructure and Effect on Mississauga’s Future
The main goal is an integrated transportation system that enhances prosperity, sustainability, and quality of life. Future benefits for Mississauga and the GTHA were discussed and these improvements will foster new growth and developments around Mississauga’s City Centre. Mississauga’s Downtown Core has been designated by the Province of Ontario as an Urban Growth Centre. These projects will provide faster and more direct transportation options for residents while accommodating current ridership demands and future growth. Ridership will increase on public transportation and the number of trips by cars on our roads will be reduced. Commuting experience will also be more comfortable and convenient for passengers .This will integrate transit service across municipal borders and provide access to new developments outside of Mississauga. 25 per cent of these funds will be dedicated to improve roads and highways reducing travel-time and increasing reliability on 400-series highways. Metrolinx’s projects also aim at developing pleasant and attractive corridors for cyclists and pedestrians. By 2031 over 6 million GTHA residents will live within 2 kilometres of Rapid Transit. The infrastructure projects called The Big Move are the blueprint for a more sustainable future. Residents will be able to travel across the entire GTHA faster with a single swipe of the Presto Card on frequent buses or trains. By 2033 the following results are to be attained:
· 60% of children will walk or cycle to school
· 30% less emissions from passenger transportation compared to today
· 1/3rd of trips will be taken by transit and 1/5th of trips will use a bike or walk
· 1 integrated multi-city fare card will be used for all transit trips across the GTHA
Funding The Big Move
The estimated amount to fund projects delegated to Metrolinx is $50 billion dollars. $16 billion has already been allocated to the first wave of infrastructure improvements; all three levels of government have contributed, making it the largest financial commitment to transit in Canadian history. However all of the Next Wave projects remain unfunded. Government and citizens agree that these projects are necessary for the prosperity and wellbeing of the region and its residents. Congestion costs GTHA citizens nearly $6 billion per year of which additional travel costs and time account for $3 billion and $2.7 in lost GDP. This amount is expected to double in the next 30 years if we do not invest adequately in infrastructure.
The greatest debate at each table was about the sources to fund the infrastructure projects. Funding The Big Move will cost the region $2 billion every year. Currently, Metrolinx is the only large metropolitan Regional Transportation Authority that does not have access to dedicated transportation funding tools. In order to fund projects, money will need to come from different sources. Different tools used by different metropolitan areas were mentioned:
· sales tax
· parking fees
· fuel tax
· road tolls
· odometer tax
· vehicle registration tax
· payroll tax
· property tax
· land transfer tax
[Read about the negative effects of a Municipal Mississauga Land Transfer Tax]
Metrolinx emphasized that in order to fund projects and to choose revenue tools four factors needed to be taken into consideration: equality, fairness, transparency, and sustainability. Equality of contributions by each community and their respective benefits to residents in the short and long term was a primary issue. The distribution of costs needs to be spread fairly and equitably amongst residents, users, and beneficiaries. Administration, decision making, and the reporting process surrounding funds must be transparent. Finally, the implemented revenue tools need to be dedicated to Metrolinx’ infrastructure projects so that they receive sustainable long term funding. Metrolinx is to select revenue sources and present a proposed investment plan by June 2013.