‘City building requires vision, and a leap of faith’

The City of Brampton recently had its first major disagreement, over the issue of the proposed Hurontario-Main Light Rail Transit, being funded by the Province of Ontario. While Mayor Linda Jeffrey and her supporters expressed their backing, critics of the project expressed their concerns, particularly about its proposed route through the Downtown Core. The project now hangs in the balance as mediators try to find middle ground. Desi Express presents here commentaries from either side of the railroad divide.

The City of Brampton recently had its first major disagreement, over the issue of the proposed Hurontario-Main Light Rail Transit, being funded by the Province of Ontario. While Mayor Linda Jeffrey and her supporters expressed their backing, critics of the project expressed their concerns, particularly about its proposed route through the Downtown Core.
The project now hangs in the balance as mediators try to find middle ground.
Desi Express presents here commentaries from either side of the railroad divide.

By Linda Jeffrey
One of my favourite movies is a 1989 classic called “Field of Dreams” with Kevin Costner playing the role of a farmer from Iowa, who hears a mysterious voice in his cornfield whispering, “If you build it, he will come.”
The farmer, Ray Kinsella, interprets this message as direction to build a baseball diamond on his cornfield. Neighbours stop to watch and heckle as he plows under the corn. For a while nothing happens and then one hot summer evening several deceased Black Sox ballplayers from the 1919 World Series team arrive and begin practicing and playing on the field.
City building is similar to building baseball diamonds in Iowa, it frequently requires a leap of faith and a vision. Where one person sees an opportunity others are so cautious or suspicious they delay — thus missing the chance to participate.
Last October the voters, gave this new Council a strong mandate to do things differently and I know that each of my colleagues wants to make the right decisions that will help our community reach its full potential.
Upon becoming Mayor I immediately re-engaged with senior levels of government on Brampton’s transportation and transit needs. While the Province was deliberating on what to include in their budget I spoke to the Premier and various Ministers of Brampton’s need for a game-changing regional transit and transportation plan.
Office of the Mayor
In April the Province announced their intention to fully fund the Hurontario-Main LRT and to expand and enhance GO rail service in Brampton.
By publically committing to make these investments — most specifically to fund the Light Rail Transit the Province has potentially saved the taxpayers of Brampton hundreds of millions of dollars in costs that other cities like Ottawa and Kitchener are funding through property taxes.
This is a once in a lifetime opportunity that must be seized, otherwise we potentially risk losing it to another community.
Every day tens of thousands of Bramptonians commute out of our city to work, shop and play in neighbouring municipalities. This daily exodus reinforces the stereotype that Brampton is a “bedroom community”.
Brampton has been and continues to be a great place to live. Unfortunately I, and many Bramptonians have never felt our downtown has kept pace with the times. It has been neglected and the numerous boarded up storefronts and lack of customers is evidence that our downtown requires our immediate attention.
Successful cities all have dynamic and accessible downtowns with vibrant parks and exciting public spaces. Brampton’s downtown can and should be a magnet that becomes a destination for people to shop, dine and be entertained.
Brampton has a lot of the qualities that define a world-class city — safe, clean and livable; our education system; our parks and ravines, and our diversity. All these components are important to attract investment. But without addressing the serious traffic gridlock we face and the inability to get around our city we are robbing families of time together and increasing the cost of doing business in Brampton
The Hurontario-Main LRT will lead to a downtown transit mobility hub, Two-Way, All-Day GO rail service to our downtown station, integrate with Zum and Brampton Transit and will be the lynch pin of potential investment, economic growth and employment.
A regionally integrated transit system represents one of the best investments for job creation. Where cities have built up transit infrastructure there has been increased investment resulting in jobs for local communities. It has also allowed for greater choice in jobs by offering a simple transit commute versus a long and expensive car trip.
Today LRTs are found around the world. In European cities they pass through historic streets and squares providing residents and tourists alike with a seamless transportation network that alleviates traffic, congestion and environmental impact.
In Canada, cities like Calgary and Edmonton have operated LRTs that pass right through their downtown cores above ground for years.
The City’s planning and transportation experts are in agreement with Metrolinx that this proposal will serve the needs of our community, both today and tomorrow.
Yet there are those who are critical and feel we are somehow getting a poor deal from the Province. To those critics I assure you that we have achieved a far better deal than I ever could have imagined — much sooner than I could have imagined too.
The Hurontario-Main LRT has the potential to be a game changing initiative that will revitalize our downtown and our city’s future, but it is not the only solution.
The new LRT will give us the necessary edge we need to compete with the Region of Halton should Council decide on an urban based campus for our university. Higher order transit will be necessary to help move the anticipated 10,000 students and staff to a new university campus that we are aggressively pursuing with the Blue Ribbon Panel.
In the coming years we as a City will be lobbying strongly for the full implementation of the Metrolinx Big Move plans for Brampton, the first being a Queen Street transit line which ultimately will connect downtown Brampton to the Viva Bus Rapid Transit project on Highway 7 in York Region.
We face many challenges in the months to come but in these challenges lie the seeds of opportunity.
While we will frequently hold different points of view, and debate about what’s right for Brampton going forward, it’s absolutely critical that we always remember our ultimate goal: to make Brampton stronger.
As a young and rapidly growing city we need to look ahead to a future filled with potential, job growth and economic prosperity.
I will continue to work with Council and our community to find solutions and raise the bar to rebuilding the foundation necessary for our collective future success.
Ray Kinsella’s story is one that touches on the theme of the fulfillment of dreams — I hope that Brampton City Council will collectively seize this once in a lifetime opportunity to transform our City and our downtown.
This is only the first of many decisions we will need to make to set us on the road to building a better Brampton.

Too many details missing from Brampton LRT plan
By Councillors: Elaine Moore, Grant Gibson, Jeff Bowman, John Sprovieri and Doug Whillans
There is a familiar quote that states “the devil is in the details”, but in the case of the proposed Hurontario-Main LRT route, there is a serious lack of details available from the province to show that this is a win-win solution for Brampton and not just for Mississauga.
The consultant’s report costing millions, clearly states that north of Steeles Avenue’s traffic, ridership or future growth does not support an LRT.
Regardless of last term’s turbulent issues, Brampton council, including some current sitting Councillors and those of us new to this term were united at least on one front — that the H-M LRT that included a surface alignment into the downtown was not in the best interests for Brampton.
In 2011 when Brampton was first approached to evaluate the feasibility of having an LRT service including the alignment north of Steeles Avenue, there was cause for concern. Again in 2013, Council remained concerned and directed staff to explore alternative routes north of Steeles.
A 2014 consultant’s report, costing millions, clearly pointed out that the Main St route north of Steeles does not have the ridership nor the traffic to support an LRT, nor does it have even close to the future population and employment growth needed.
Even more recently in 2014, council passed the motion in a 10-1 vote to protect Brampton by taking the H-M LRT surface alignment north of Nanwood Drive off the table. Brampton had done its homework.
Instead we believe that the LRT surface alignment would better serve Brampton by travelling to Brampton’s single largest investment — the Peel Memorial Health Campus, where it will provide a focus for economic growth, investment and jobs.
We have since had many conversations with concerned residents about taking the LRT service to the Peel Memorial development area which is only a five to ten minute walk to the four corners of the downtown (yes, Peel Memorial is still part of Brampton’s downtown!).
This begs the question of why exactly should Brampton support the proposed Hurontario-Main LRT alignment project? Especially as it appears that Mississauga would stand to benefit much more than Brampton?
The current LRT alignment proposal puts four times the route within Mississauga’s borders, with four times the funding from the Province, and yet Mississauga does not have four times the population or traffic compared to Brampton.
Brampton is entitled to an equal investment in this project, and as elected officials, we are questioning why the Province is not looking at Brampton’s needs through the same eyes as Mississauga’s.
Unfortunately, Brampton was not at the table advocating for our best interests and Council’s wishes. The announcement from Metrolinx that disregards Council’s position on the surface alignment is testament to this.
Now, Brampton cannot give in to fear tactics where some advocate that if we don’t accept what’s forced on us, Brampton will lose out on the LRT money altogether. Brampton simply deserves better.
There are still too many questions — too many details about local construction costs and operating costs that could be hundreds of millions — hanging in the air that should be raising red flags for the residents of Brampton and for their elected representatives and Mayor.
This current term of council heard the need expressed by our residents for a new mandate that focused on accountability and transparency, something that is simply not being done with the current approach to the LRT service, which is more focused on lobbying support through threats and fear tactics than through an open dialogue exploring all costs, risks and benefits for Brampton.
In contrast, those of us that are opposing the surface alignment north of Nanwood Drive are not resorting to scare tactics.  We are instead giving voice to the uproar of a community made up not of special interest groups but instead that of grassroots supporters.
Businesses that rush into financial decisions based on a “use it or lose it” mentality often end up paying more for something that they don’t need.  Do not let this happen to Brampton.
A vote to defeat the surface alignment into our downtown through Hurontario-Main Street once and for all will force our Mayor, Metrolinx and the Province back to the table to find an alignment we can all agree on.
We have the time, but let’s not waste it by allowing our city to be divided on an LRT that holds so much promise for the future of Brampton.

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