One day we will have achieved the dream of all-day, two-way service GO train service on all lines. I’m not talking about a train every hour – I’m talking about trains at subway-like frequencies with VIA Rail-type services on hourly schedules extending beyond. You might be thinking “why would anyone need 15 minute service to Barrie?”, but remember that this isn’t about the two endpoints. This is about ons and offs at the intermediate stops. In that example, it would be places like Newmarket, Aurora and Maple – places where urban town centres are developing.
Once we’ve achieved that dream we will have a lot of spare GO buses on our hands, and I believe that facilities like the pictured Mississauga Transitway are a way to extend the high quality of service associated with rail will have to areas not fortunate enough to have a railway line nearby. Is this an alternative to an LRT line or bus-only lanes along arterial roads? Nope! Is this a way to quickly shuttle people along corridors of least resistance? Yes. We’ve seen how successful the GO Highway 407 bus service has been, but the reason it’s successful is that the buses can come and go from the highway as needed to serve major destinations just off the corridor. Taking those buses off of the highway and onto bus-only roads preserves that while eliminating the unpredictability that comes with running on a public freeway.
Some personalities in the transportation planning community have said that the pictured Mississauga Transitway was not wise investments. If your goal is to improve transit and urban development along a corridor like Burnhamthorpe or Eglinton then I agree with that statement. If, however, your goal is to improve city-to-city connections then I believe that transitways are just as justifiable as improving the GO train. Of course, it isn’t an either-or circumstance. A good transit network has both frequent service along strong corridors and fast city-to-city connections. Anyone who says otherwise is, in my opinion, not really interested in building transit.