Several Bramptonians met with mayor Linda Jeffrey for a town hall at LAB-B on the proposed LRT. Councillors Martin Medeiros (Wards 3 and 4), Gurpreet Dhillon (Wards 9 and 10) and Pat Fontini (Wards 7 and 8) also participated.
The LRT is currently being met with criticism from city councillors and citizens who believe that a 23-kilometre LRT – which is proposed to run from the Brampton GO station to the Port Credit GO station – will cause congestion in an area where there is limited space for both cars and pedestrians. The councillors say that this area was chosen because it has the highest level of ridership, with 35 million riders a year.
Moderated by Nikita Brown, Linda Jeffrey and the councillors took questions from the audience, who were mostly pro-LRT. One question that came up consistentlywas the cost.
“The province of Ontario has agreed to pay all of the construction costs up to $1.6 billion,” said Jeffrey. “Depending on what council decides on the 8th, if they decide to go underground or another route, those costs will be borne by the city of Brampton.”
The tunnelling under Main Street option has an estimated price of at least $380 million, which is why a surface option was determined to be the most reasonable by city staff.
Another concern was the fact that the LRT would destroy the heritage buildings of the downtown area, but Dhillon said that Paris and Bern, which are home to UNESCO Heritage sites, don’t seem to have a problem with LRTs running through those areas.
“I think we can use those examples because they have it going all through their downtown,” Dhillon says. “So has it been done before? Yes, it’s been done throughout Europe.”
Jeffrey added that creating an LRT without disturbing the historical integrity of the downtown area was a high priority.
“I respect the work that the Historical Society does. It’s a challenge to protect the features and the uniqueness of our city, and it’s our intention to work with them, and it’s my understanding that with the design, there won’t be any expropriation of the roadways so we will find a way to make this work.”
If the LRT plan goes through, Councillor Martin Medeiros says that it would be the beginning of prosperity in other areas of Brampton, not just the Main Street LRT corridor. He was addressing the idea that the LRT should run East to West through Queen Street rather than North to South through Hurontario.
“I think our approach is that this is just a short part of an overall plan in transportation,” he said. “Hurontario is not the end-all of our plan. And once we get into this phase, then we’ll start looking at the second phase.”
Councillor Pat Fortini shared an anecdote with the audience about the importance of an LRT to a downtown business, based on an experience with a cousin who came to live in Canada from Europe, and wanted to open up a bakery in Brampton. The lack of reliable transit in the area convinced Fortini’s cousin not to open the bakery in the area.
Overall, the tone of the talk was one of cautious optimism for an LRT in Brampton, and Jeffrey pulled no punches emphasizing that she felt this was an opportunity of a lifetime.
“I want more of young people and more of our young entrepreneurs to feel that this is a great place to do business. We have a diverse community, and I don’t think we’re leveraging or bragging about it enough,” Jeffrey says. “I want to find a way to make that the strongest part of our pitch. We have a chance, and that catalyst and that gift is in front of us. I just don’t want us to miss this opportunity.
All of the pictures in this post are a courtesy for Herman Custodio’s photo studio