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Will Newmarket have to wait 24 years for an all-day two-way 15 minute train service to Toronto?

Back Story: In 2008 Metrolinx published "The Big Move" - a visionary transportation plan designed to get the Region moving. It looked forward to 2031.

Metrolinx is now consulting the public on its update, the 2041 Regional Transportation Plan. Despite its length, it is packed full of graphics and colourful photos and makes for easy reading. However, it leaves answers to simple questions up in the air, unaddressed.  

A Place to Grow

Newmarket, a designated Place to Grow, may have to wait a quarter of a century before getting a 15 minute Go Rail service which our neighbour to the south, Aurora, will enjoy within the decade. The 15 minute all-day, two-way service from Toronto to Aurora will be up and running by 2025 at the latest.

We learn that the "15 minute GO Rail service extension" on the Barrie line from Aurora GO to East Gwillimbury GO Rail Station is "proposed" - but that's all we are told.

Projects in delivery, in development and proposed

The appendices (see below) list projects in delivery, in development or simply proposed but there is nothing in the body of the Draft Plan to indicate when the proposed projects will actually materialise. There are caveats and health warnings about future funding and future uncertainty but nothing is pencilled in to indicate the year or even the decade when Newmarket might get its 15 minute all-day two way-service.

This is hugely significant. If we have to wait until 2041 development along Davis Drive will undoubtedly be affected. A 15 minute service is impossible without grade separation at Davis Drive. If the road cannot go over the rail track (because of ground conditions) can the rail track go over the road? This astute question was posed by Ward 4 councillor, Tom Hempen, at the Town's Committee of the Whole last month but he didn't get an answer.

Grade Separation is key

The Town already has its Urban Centres Secondary Plan in place forecasting the future arrival of 32,000 people in the Yonge-Davis corridors at "build-out". Is this remotely realistic if we haven't sorted out the grade separation issue? And, by the way, when is build-out expected?

When the 2041 Draft Plan was considered by York Region's Committee of the Whole on 2 November 2017, the absence of a timeline was immediately spotted by Markham's Regional Councillor, the diligent Jack Heath. He was concerned about the absence of a date for completing the Yonge Subway Extension and says he wants it opened on a specified date, say 2031.

He calls for - and gets -  the support of his colleagues. He says they should tell Metrolinx:

"This is the kind of time-frame York Region is thinking of. You (Metrolinx) come back and show us how it can be done."

Straight talking

This is an example of the kind of no-nonsense straight-talking that should have been employed with Newmarket's 15 minute service. In a debate where a number of members speak (Jones, Heath, Taylor, Spatafora, Rosati and Dawe) Van Trappist's lips are zipped.

John Taylor outlines his concerns. He tells us he hasn't seen a lot of thought or interplay go into the relationship between GO Bus and GO Rail in Newmarket. He goes further and says it seems very little thought has been given to Mulock (the proposed new GO Rail Station).

Mary Frances, the President of York Region Rapid Transit Corporation, tells him work is underway and

"You will be involved."

Oh dear!

The problem here is that Taylor is supposedly already centrally involved. He is a member of Metrolinx Barrie Regional Express Corridor Committee so if he doesn't know what is going on, then what hope for the rest of us?

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Correction on 7 November 2017: John Taylor has been in touch to say I may have misquoted him. He writes:

"My memory of what I said was that there seems to be very little thought given to the interplay between the existing Newmarket Station, the proposed Mulock Station and the existing GO Bus Station. I do not believe I said (and certainly did not intend to say) that no thought had been given to the Mulock Station (period). I am satisfied at this point that the planning for the Mulock Station is appropriately advanced for where it currently is in the planning process and the timeline ahead. However, I would like to see more detail or thought given to the interplay between the three stations."

Taylor is correct. I've checked my notes. As he spoke to the Regional Committee of the Whole I wrote: "Taylor wants more thought on interplay between the 3."


Draft Transportation Plan - appendices

Appendix 3B of the Draft Plan lists the "projects in delivery". These include:

* the Barrie line 15 minute GO Rail service from Union Station to Aurora GO

* the Barrie line all-day GO Rail service from Aurora GO to Barrie's Allandale Waterfront GO (half hour service in peak periods then hourly in the evenings and at weekends).

* Yonge Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) from Mulock Drive to Davis Drive. (With BRT buses have their own exclusive right of way, fully separated from other traffic.)

Appendix 3C shows projects in development including the Yonge Bus Rapid Transit (Richmond Hill, Aurora, Newmarket - 19th Ave to Mulock Drive.

Appendix 3D lists other projects proposed in the Draft 2041 Plan including

* the Barrie line 15 minute GO Rail service extension from Aurora GO to East Gwillimbury GO Rail Station.

* the Green Lane Priority Bus (Davis Drive to East Gwillimbury GO). (Priority bus services run fully or partially in a semi-exclusive right of way - a lower order than BRT.)

Consultation meeting

Metrolinx is hosting a public consultation session on the Draft 2041 Regional Transportation Plan from 6.30pm - 9pm on Wednesday 8 November 2017 at the Newmarket Community Centre, Doug Duncan Drive.


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