Last week (17 April), Ontario Premier, Kathleen Wynne, gave details of the improved service we can expect to see on the Barrie line.
We are promised an all-day two-way service every 15 minutes from Union Station to Aurora and a “new two-way hourly service to Barrie during the midday, evenings and weekends”.
This is impressive – but, of course, it is not what was promised at the outset.
Newmarket – a designated growth centre slated for a 33,000 plus population increase in the Yonge/Davis corridors - now, unbelievably, lies outside the “core area” which qualifies for the 15 minute service.
I've long worried that the original commitment was morphing into something else.
Still, for all that, I see a glass half full, not half empty. It is terrific news for the Town and will bring huge positive benefits, providing, always, that it is delivered.
Local MPP, Chris Ballard, tweeted
@lynngr Enhanced service coming to Newmarket. Need time to build a number of crossings in Newmarket before 15 min. service possible, though.
2.41PM – 17 Apr 2015
Grade separations at Davis Drive and Green Lane would have cost an arm and a leg – and may be pushed back indefinitely - so who knows when we are going to get a 15 minute service? How much time does Chris Ballard need?
In the meantime, the level crossing, with its bells and flashing red lights, will remain in the heart of the growth corridor at Davis Drive, quaintly stopping traffic, including the buses on the new rapidway, every time a train rumbles by.
Last week we were told that the current 70 weekly trips on the Barrie line will grow to more than 200 over the next five years. This enhanced service from Newmarket north to Barrie requires a second track and we wait to see how this will be fitted into the programme. Land will have to be acquired for the wider rail corridor and, perhaps, there will be changes to the current alignment, straightening out the track where it snakes.
Newmarket’s Committee of the Whole has been promised a report by the end of June “reviewing the implications of all-day GO Transit service from a municipal perspective" which will address parking issues and the like. Another report – outstanding since 29 September 2014 but again expected by June – asks staff “to review GO Train operations including east-west road connections, grade separations, speed within the downtown core…” Maybe these reports will start to fill in some of the blanks.
With gridlock looming, all political parties have an obligation to spell out how they would pay for the transit improvements that are so desperately needed. Personally, I would keep Hydro One in the public sector and find the cash from elsewhere. I'd look at fuel duties, congestion charges, road tolls and more besides.
But we are where we are. And the Liberal Government is at last doing what needs to be done.
The Province can tax more, borrow more or sell or lease its assets. But it can’t print money. Another quest for “greater efficiencies” within Government will not come up with the barrow loads of cash that is required.
If politicians spend their time loudly criticising what is on the table, fearful of offering their own alternative, I tune them out.