It’s hard to think of a decision that will have a longer-lasting and more pronounced impact on Brampton’s downtown core than the Main St Light Rail Transit (LRT) project that the City is currently considering. The system would be an extension of Metrolinx’s Hurontario LRT that begins in
Port Credit, continues north and, as currently designed, ends at Steeles Avenue. When the provincial government originally committed funding for the project in 2015 the segment now under consideration in Brampton was included and paid for, but the previous Council declined to have it built.
The primary decision in the upcoming debate is over whether the LRT should be built at street-level (surface) or underground (tunnel). When the project announced in 2015 was declined by the City, the surface-level characteristic of it was widely seen as the reason following intense lobbying around concerns for the aesthetic of Brampton’s historic downtown.
While the LRT is a complex project that touches on nearly every facet of city planning and overlaps with policy setting in many areas (including other overdue work in the downtown, such as utility upgrades),
there are three core concerns that the Brampton Board of Trade is thinking about. The first is cost. Governing is about making choices, and the fiscal capacity (resources) of governments and the tax base has been stretched greatly during the COVID-19 pandemic. Value for money should always be a paramount consideration, but it seems especially important at this particular moment. We are eagerly awaiting revised costing estimates from the City, but last we had seen the surface option would cost approximately $400 million, with the tunnel option ranging from $1 billion to $1.7 billion.
Another consideration is future capacity to extend the line northward to Mayfield Road. Many transit projects, the Hurontario-Main LRT being an illustrative example, happen in phases. An initial segment is built, extended, and then extended again. Even as decisions are made solely about the downtown Brampton corridor for the time being, it is reasonable to forecast what future extension of the line could look like. Further extension of a tunneled system would require even more tunneling in order to transition back to surface level, while a continuous surface-level route could be extended beyond the existing corridor, likely at a much lower cost.
East-west connectivity is the third critical factor that must be taken into account. We know it is likely that Queen St will soon have the density to require higher order transit of its own. One of the main advantages of LRT systems is their ability to bring together different modes of transit that serve major arteries and connect regions. A surface-level LRT would offer options to connect to Queen St that could eventually include an LRT system of its own, buses and other forms of transit. It is unknown how a tunneled Main LRT would be able to connect to a future Queen LRT.
These three factors are not the only considerations at play in the LRT debate, but the Brampton Board of Trade sees them as foundational questions that should guide the conversation. We look forward toreviewing the City’s preferred option(s), weighing it against the factors outlined above and advocating for the interests of Brampton businesses.
Todd Letts, CEO
Brampton Board of Trade