As the sixth-largest regional municipality in Canada, York Region has extensive experience tackling traffic problems. The region’s population, which reached 830,000 last year, is estimated to grow by as much as 57% in 2026. To ease the ever-growing traffic congestion, comprehensive plans have been drawn up to present a rapid transit network to the community by next year.
“York Region is one of the fastest-growing municipalities in Canada, and while this has been good for the local economy, it has led to some daunting challenges, such as increased traffic congestion, lost productivity and deteriorating air quality,“ said Dan Miles, spokesman for the York Region Rapid Transit Plan. “We see that it has been getting progressively worse, and rapid transit is one of a number of options to try to address that problem.”
An estimated $150 million dollars was presented to help fund the first phase of the rapid transit plan, called Quick Start, which focuses on four major corridors in the area. Quick Start’s designs include having buses operate every 10 minutes during rush hours up to 20 hours a day total. Providing off-board fare collections and real-time arrival information for passengers, this phase of the plan also aims to shift 7,000 commuter trips toward public transit modes.
The second phase will involve an even more bus rapid transit-like express bus service. “By 2005, there will be rapid transit vehicles quickly moving passengers throughout the York Region and beyond, getting thousands of cars off our roads,” Miles said. “But it’s not really going to be until the second phase that we have dedicated bus lanes and dedicated transit lanes then we’ll see the real acceleration of speed and efficiency.”
The third phase will include an entire system review in 2009. There is no estimated projected worth of the entire plan, but the second phase will probably be around $1.5 billion to $2 billion, Miles said.
A unique aspect of this plan was York’s entrance into a public-private partnership with eight companies from both Canada and the United States. Companies in the partnership include American AECOM Enterprises, ATC/National Express and Siemens Transportation Systems.
“It’s the first [public-private partnership] for a transportation project of this magnitude in Canada, and so from that perspective it’s unique,” Miles said. “In a matter of 18 months we will have gone from planning and design to construction, and for a lot of projects with this type of magnitude, it has taken a matter of years to get to that point.”
Miles said he believes many are excited about what improvements the York Region Rapid Transit Plan will bring. “It’s something that is absolutely necessary in this area. Something has to be done to help control that growth and help promote sustainable development and also reduce gridlock and improve the environment. In response, the region is taking steps, not only to reduce gridlock, but to influence where people live, work and play in an attempt to improve and protect the quality of life.”