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Urbanizing the suburbs

Commuter rail has typically functioned as a way to bring people from the suburbs into downtown for employment, and sometimes recreation. That has typically translated into good inbound service in the mornings, good outbound service in the evenings, and mediocre service the rest of the time. It has also historically meant lots of subsidized surface parking. Free parking was (and still is) often thought of as the key to putting bums in seats and increasing ridership.

Here in the Toronto region, this service is provided by GO Transit, which, since 2009, has been owned by Metrolinx. But as one of the fastest growing regions in North America, this kind of service and thinking has become increasingly antiquated. That’s why Metrolinx and the Government of Ontario are working to profoundly change the economic geography of this region by both electrifying the lines and implementing 15 min, all-day two-way service. 

This may seem like an incremental improvement, but it is not. It is a significant change that will transform the service from commuter rail to regional express rail. Of course, this now means that it is time to rethink the land use policies and built form that surround these key transit nodes. One of the places where this is happening today is at the Clarkson GO Station. The City of Mississauga is in the midst of a planning study that will ultimately guide future development around the station. 

I think this one of the most important shifts taking place right now in this region and elsewhere. It is the maturation of our suburbs and it is going to result in more walkable and vibrant urban places across our cities. So if you have a few minutes, I would encourage you to complete this survey that the City of Mississauga recently put out. The results will help to guide their Clarkson Transit Station Area Study. 

I also think think it is worth completing the survey even if you aren’t local to the area. How to urbanize the suburbs is a universal problem.

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