Ajax Mayor on board with BRT transit plan

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Published July 9, 2021 at 2:07 pm

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The future of transit in Durham Region will not arrive without a few hiccups, but Ajax Mayor Shaun Collier is a firm believer in the Durham-Scarborough Rapid Bus Transit line – or BRT – and its potential to one day get people through the Region faster than a Ferrari can.

As long as said Ferrari is obeying all posted speed limits, of course.

Metrolinx, the Ontario government-owned agency responsible for transit projects in the Golden Horseshoe, has provided Durham with its preferred option for the 36-kilometre, $500 million BRT, that will transport riders on dedicated bus lanes from the Scarborough Town Centre to Simcoe Street in Oshawa and beyond.

Collier said it is the dedicated centre lanes that is the key to the efficiency of the transit line, noting that as Metrolinx works the bugs out in the coming years and ridership numbers increase, transit, using their own dedicated lanes, “should be able to go through the Region quicker than a car.”

Collier said pinch-point issues that are especially problematic in neighbouring Whitby, only came up in the stretch of Kingston Road going through historic Pickering Village, where the decision was made to reduce the vehicle traffic lanes from four (two each way) to three (two eastbound, one westbound) to save some 23 heritage buildings from destruction.

“We weren’t going to (let that happen), so this was a compromise, but it still allows the centre transit lanes, which has been proven to be the most effective way to go.”

Collier, who also serves as the Chair of Durham Transit – “so I tend to be pretty open-minded when it comes to transit” – said the Pandemic has taught us that many people can work from home.

“Post-Covid, I think a lot of those people can continue to work from home and that will mean a lot fewer cars on the road.”
The capital cost to the Region for the BRT is expected to be about $500 million, with additional costs when the line is extended past Simcoe – likely east to Ritson Road and then south to the proposed new Go Station at First Avenue. The project will be funded with a 40 per cent (Ottawa), 33 per cent (Queen’s Park), 27 per cent (Durham) model.

Just $200 million has been committed so far.

The project is still in its design phase, with construction not expected for the “pinch points” in the downtowns of the four affected municipalities for at least five years, though Metrolinx hopes to have tenders out for preliminary work next month.

Construction should get underway sometime next year for three sections of the project, with Westney Road to Alexander Crossing in Ajax on that list.

Other portions in Ajax should be complete by 2023, while work on the Pickering Village section won’t begin until 2025.
When complete, the BRT is expected to save 9.5 minutes saved per trip per rider and lead to safer and environmentally cleaner roads, and an expected real dollar savings of $686 million, meaning every dollar spent returns $1.29 worth of benefits.

“It’s going to be inconvenient for some people, absolutely, but that’s the nature of major construction projects,” Collier said. “Long term this will benefit everybody.”

Artist rendering (Courtesy of Metrolinx) – Kingston Road at Church Street, looking west

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