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Contention grows around LRT route in Brampton
Mayor Linda Jeffrey wants to turn around a 10-1 vote by the previous council that called for the route to be changed
June 30, 2015
San Grewal

With the future of mass transit in Brampton about to be decided, one burning issue has divided council, residents and businesses: What route should a provincially-funded regional LRT take?

It’s an issue that could define much of the city’s future.

The question is particularly pertinent in Brampton, where the planned route takes the LRT north along Main St., including a 2-kilometre section lined with heritage homes that date back as far as the 1850s, before looping back down from the city’s central GO Train station.

The schism has put Mayor Linda Jeffrey, a former Liberal cabinet minister and MPP, at the centre of the debate, as she tries to lobby council and the public to get behind the route and plan backed by the Liberal government. Brampton council will vote on the LRT’s future at a special meeting July 8.

“I will be voting in support of the (Metrolinx) alignment and route, as it will serve the needs of our community both today and long into the future,” Jeffrey wrote in an email Monday. “The H-M LRT will potentially be a game changing initiative that will revitalize our downtown and our city's future.”

That’s not how her critics see things.

Since the province agreed two months ago to fully fund the core capital cost for the Hurontario-Main LRT, to run north-south through Mississauga and part of Brampton, the $1.6-billion transit windfall has left many unsure about the specifics.

The previous city council rejected the plan put forward by Metrolinx in a 10-1 vote. That plan calls for the LRT to travel up Hurontario St., crossing the city border at Steeles Ave., and continuing on Main St. in Brampton.

Some councillors and residents have taken entrenched positions that the LRT would harm the Main St. area’s character. They also question what some believe was a “made in Mississauga” solution that former Mayor Hazel McCallion aggressively lobbied to get for her city. The plan gives Mississauga about three-quarters of the stops and the overall distance.

Councillors have raised concerns that there isn’t enough demand along the more sparsely-travelled corridor north of Steeles. Some have suggested alternative routes, and even raised the possibility of instead going with an east-west LRT along Queen St., the city’s growth corridor. City staff said alternative routes would be too expensive and would add travel time.

Others say the heritage argument isn’t valid, with LRTs around the world running through neighbourhoods much more historic than Brampton. They argue the city’s downtown area desperately needs high-order transit.

“People move from city to city for different reasons, including to go to work, to shop, or to meet with friends. The Metrolinx LRT project is not a ‘Mississauga’ LRT, any more than Hurontario-Main is Mississauga’s road,” says a statement from Kevin Montgomery, co-founder of the group Fight Gridlock in Brampton.

Jeffrey added: “Transit has the power to transform communities. The H-M LRT will also give Brampton the necessary edge to compete in our bid to ensure that Brampton is a serious contender for a future University site.”

Montgomery and his group say the LRT is crucial to revitalizing Brampton’s aging downtown.

“Downtown Brampton is not seeing the kind of foot traffic that it needs to be truly successful. Raising those numbers will not happen by adding more capacity for cars, increasing the problem of congestion,” they say in their statement. “Allocating the already congested space for LRTs instead of single-occupant motor vehicles is a better use of the road allowance. It will move more people into the inner core.”