Like most fair-minded people, I find John Taylor genial and approachable even though he likes to hoard information, trading it with others when it suits his purpose.

So Taylor deserves a pat on the back for reporting back to Council earlier this week (14 December 2015) on his recent meeting with the Minister of Transportation, Steven Del Duca, on how Regional Express Rail would impact Newmarket.

What he didn’t say was as significant as what he did say. It is now perfectly obvious that the Town has thrown in the towel on a 15 minute Newmarket to Toronto service. In his report-back Taylor did not mention this once (see below). More astonishingly, there were no questions whatsoever from his incurious councillor colleagues on the details of one of the Province’s biggest civil engineering projects in decades.

No Grade Separation

Let’s be clear. A 15 minute service would automatically mean grade separation at Mulock Drive and Davis Drive. There would be chaos in Davis Drive were this not so. Taylor assured us we would know the outcome of grade separation studies “over the next year”. I can tell him now. Grade separation isn’t going to happen.

After Taylor concludes his report-back, a million questions cry out to be asked but all I hear is silence.

Is the Town continuing to press for a 15 minute service and if not, why not?

Has the Town taken any steps to acquire land at Mulock Drive for the GO Rail Station it says it wants to see there? If not, why not?

(When Metrolinx Chief Planning Officer, Leslie Woo gave her presentation to York Region's Committee of the Whole on 10 September 2015 she told Taylor new GO stations are not funded beyond those already planned – Gormley and Bloomington in York Region – and that there are no provisions for safeguarding land that might be needed for a new station. She said Metrolinx will recommend the new stations for consideration in Spring 2016.)

Taylor talks about the proposed new station at Mulock having sufficient parking to take the pressure off the Tannery (which he says is “stressed”) and Aurora. How big would the footprint of this station be? Would it affect in any way the proposed adjacent development of townhouses on protected meadowland at Silken Laumann Drive which he voted for and which was conditionally approved by the OMB in September 2015?

Transportation Master Plan Open House

Fortunately, some of these questions can be posed to York region planners who are holding an open house at the Ray Twinney Centre tomorrow night (17 December) from 6pm – 9pm to discuss the updating of the Region’s 2009 Transportation Master Plan which is rapidly being overtaken by events.

The old Transportation Master Plan talks about partnering with “GO Transit, Metrolinx and local municipalities to assess the feasibility of new park-and-ride stations along several existing rail lines”.  It wants to develop further promotion of walking, cycling and transit connections to and from GO Rail Stations (page 141). It also points to the advantages of purchasing properties around stations “to assist in the development and value capture opportunities” citing the Greater Vancouver Transportation Authority as an example (page 146).

So there’s lots to talk about – new stations, grade separations, the impact of the proposed new developments along Green Lane.

What plans are there to co-locate the Town’s GO Bus and GO rail stations?

What is happening to the GO Rail Station Mobility Hub Study at the Tannery? (The Town’s recently adopted Secondary Plan proposes limited park-and-ride.)

Leslie Woo tells us Metrolinx is working very closely with York Region staff on a range of issues thrown up by the RER program – including the new station program - so tomorrow’s open house could be very informative.

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What Tayor said

In his Regional Report to Newmarket Council on 14 October 2015, John Taylor said:

"Last week, the Mayor (Tony Van Bynen) and myself, Mayor Dawe (of Aurora) and the Member of the Provincial Parliament for Newmarket-Aurora, Chris Ballard, met with Steven Del Duca, the Minister of Transportation (with) regards to Regional Express Rail, the all-day GO train service that is being slowly rolled out throughout the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).

"This is not the first time that we’ve had an opportunity to raise questions. They’ve been in front of Council, in front of the Regional Council. Both the Mayor and myself have attended the quarter Committee meetings with elected representatives along the corridors and in all of these instances we have raised concerns or areas of concern. Obviously we begin by expressing support for RER and the all-day GO in general and we know a lot of our residents will benefit from that enhanced service but we still regardless have to raise those areas of concern and one of those is parking.

"We know the Tannery is extremely stressed and so we raised that. Also at-grade crossings and how that causes train whistles and we’ve been having numerous discussions about that. There are studies that are being undertaken by Metrolinx to examine both issues - parking and at-grade crossings. Those studies over the next year will be released and will show the various issues and levels of need at different areas and where they will be addressing them or where they will not be addressing them.

"The other area that they are going to be coming out with next year is a study into the need for new stations. There are several areas within the GTA that are being looked at for potential new stations and, as a Council, we have sent our own motion forward and we have highlighted this at the Region and in the various meetings. In fact, we’ve been highlighting this as a Town going back decades. And it has been recognized by GO themselves – prior to being Metrolinx - that there is the potential for a new station at Mulock and the train tracks which, of course, is very close to where we are sitting right now.

"There was a primary purpose to this meeting. We had a very good discussion with the Minister. There is a study that’s going on into various locations for new stations. They’ve reduced the study down to 50 locations and we are on that shortlist, if you can call it a shortlist.

"We highlighted again the advantage of not necessarily needing an expansion of parking in Aurora and Newmarket at the Tannery if a new station (at Mulock) were implemented with parking there so there would be costs saved in other locations were this moved forward.

"So it was a good discussion. Obviously the Minister can’t pre-judge the outcome of the study but, you know, we are just making sure there is a great level of awareness on this.  We put forward the strongest case we possibly can (at) every opportunity we possibly can and I think that was accomplished. And we really thank Mayor Dawe and MPP Ballard for participating in that discussion.

(This is at 1hr 14 mins on video)

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