Will Newmarket get a new GO Rail station at Mulock Drive? 

Mulock GO Rail Station. The early concept.

At the moment I’d say it is probably touch and go. 

Last November, the Chief Executive of Metrolinx, Phil Verster, told York Region that work on all the proposed new GO Rail stations in the Greater Toronto Hamiliton Area – including Kirby and Mulock - was to be “paused”.

Metrolinx had been ordered by the Ford Government to put everything on hold while the agency pursued:

“a market-driven approach to delivering new GO stations”.

No-one really knows what this means in practice – including Newmarket Mayor John Taylor. He is as much in the dark as the rest of us. At last week’s York Region Council meeting he tells his colleagues:

“We don’t know what the market-driven approach is.”

Ford's approach

But he is obviously right when he says the Provincial Government wants to slow down public spending: 

“They are not looking for new spends.”

If Ford shelves Mulock Station the implications for Newmarket (and Aurora) will be huge. There is, of course, the unconscionable waste of money. The Town has been forced to spend $250,000 on a new Secondary Plan for the Mulock area to show it is serious about promoting future development around the new station site.

And without a new station at Mulock pressure on Aurora will intensify. There will be more commuters driving to Aurora to catch the train – and more pressure on parking.

Markham’s Mayor, the velvet-voiced Frank Scarpitti, uses the re-evaluation to re-open the case for including new GO Rail stations in and around his patch that had previously been rejected by Metrolinx. 

Taylor tells the Regional Council:

“It is unfettered optimism to believe that by adding several more stations to be analysed and considered through this process it is going to increase our chances… This is going to decrease the chances of Mulock Station moving ahead…”

He says he understands the point Scarpitti is making. He says we’ve been through the process and the stations Scarpitti mentions didn’t advance and Kirby and Mulock did.

Taylor needs back-up

Taylor is fighting his corner and that’s good. But he should have gotten some support and back-up from the two Toms - Vegh and Mrakas – who were silent.

The Markham contingent often reinforce points made by Scarpitti. 

Markham’s visionary rail enthusiast, Jim Jones, wants to see new stations on the Stouffville and Richmond Hill lines with two and three car trains arriving every three or four minutes in peak times and maybe 8-10 minutes off-peak. He says this is the way to get the economy growing. Phew!

He wonders aloud if we are going to see shorter trains and increased frequency on the Barrie line.

The critical flaw in Jones’ line of thinking is that he hasn’t considered the zillions of level crossings across the system and what to do about them. Sadly, neither has Metrolinx.

Almost a year ago (in March 2018) I was sitting next to the Director of Stakeholder Relations at a Metrolinx Board meeting (as one does) and asked him how it was possible to have both level crossings and, at the same time, a fast and frequent train service. He couldn’t tell me. Then last October I learned:

“The Level Crossing study is being led by our Corridor Planning team. They have been working on setting the policy framework and initial municipal engagement. Next steps will include a risk assessment tool and recommendations on safe and appropriate solutions.”

Obviously they don’t have clue. If grade separation is ruled out on grounds of cost then the continued presence of level crossings in great numbers will inevitably stop Jim Jones’ rapid transit plan in its tracks.

Olive Branch

Now the wily Scarpitti offers an olive branch. He tells Taylor that even if Mulock fails the new ill-defined market-driven development test it should still go ahead. 

Just so long as his shopping list of new stations goes to the Provincial Government as well. 

After much huffing and puffing the Regional Council agrees to tell the Province it supports Kirby and Mulock GO Rail stations but also sees the potential for adding other new stations “going forward”. 

They are all listed in the Region’s Transportation Master Plan 2016.

Ahhh!

That’s how they square the circle.

An Open House on the Mulock Secondary Plan is being held tomorrow (6 February 2019) at the Community Centre at Doug Duncan Drive from 7pm-9pm.

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