To the Ray Twinney Centre for the Open House on the Region’s Transportation Master Plan. There are about 15-20 members of the public there along with Newmarket’s Regional Councillor, John Taylor.
We are probably matched one-to-one by York Region staff who are out in great numbers. You can see the presentation from the Region’s Director of Infrastructure Management, the knowledgeable Stephen Collins, here.
It seems to me the Transportation Master Plan is in danger of being overtaken by events in a very big way. Its timetable is clearly out of synch with Metrolinx whose detailed Regional Express Rail strategy, complete with all its nuts and bolts, is to be unveiled early next year.
Despite an assurance from Metrolinx to members of York Regional Council in September that Regional staff would be closely involved in discussions on new stations and infrastructure, staff are clearly out of the loop.
Metrolinx playing its own game
With disarming candour, Stephen Collins tells me Metrolinx has not shared its thoughts on future infrastructure, new stations, grade separations and so on. York Region is waiting to be told what is going to happen – just like the rest of us. Metrolinx is playing its cards close to its chest.
Collins gives straight answers to straight questions, a trait typical of engineers but scarce amongst politicians. So when I ask him if York Region was consulted on the decision by Metrolinx to terminate the all-day two-way 15 minute GO Train service at Aurora, he says no in a matter of fact way.
Why end the gold-plated GO Rail service at Aurora?
What else did I learn? Regional Councillor John Taylor tells us the Transportation Minister, Steven Del Duca, had made it clear to him and to Newmarket Mayor, Tony Van Bynen, at their meeting earlier this month that the decision to terminate the 15 minute all-day two-way service at Aurora is final and will not be re-opened. But the Minister must have explained the reasoning behind that decision. It is just not being shared with the rest of us.
I also hear it confirmed that the Town is not buying the land at Mulock Drive which is identified as a possible site for a new rail Station. Personally, I think that is a big mistake. It is currently up for sale.
The proposed new station at Mulock Drive will remain in the Transportation Master Plan even if Metrolinx decides not to proceed with it at the moment. And although Mulock Drive is very close to the Aurora GO Station – only a matter of minutes by train – it is further than the minimum two kilometer distance which is required between stations.
I learn that grade separation at Mulock Drive is even more pressing than the traffic-choked Davis Drive because of the sheer volume of traffic.
Given the huge amount of preparation that goes into these Open Houses and the huge army of staff present, the Region needs to do some lateral thinking about how best to get more people engaged. Without getting more members of the public along, these events end up as a tick box exercise rather than a vigorous exchange of ideas between the professionals and the rest of us.