GTTA Board gives green light to seven inter-regional transit projects


    TORONTO, Aug. 24 /CNW/ - Moving forward on its bold vision for a
seamless, integrated transportation system, the Board of the Greater Toronto
Transportation Authority (GTTA) today identified seven proposed projects to
quickly improve service for commuters in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton
Area.
    The seven projects - four transit network expansions and three customer
service improvements - will now be recommended by the GTTA to the provincial
government for immediate funding consideration. Implementation of each of
these early projects is estimated to require less than two years to complete.
    "We are committed to action," said Rob MacIsaac, Chair of the GTTA. "Even
as we work toward a comprehensive Regional Transportation Plan, when we see
opportunities to improve the system in the short-term, we will act on them."
    Recommendations by the GTTA Board include $100.1 million for
inter-regional network expansion, through four specific projects:-   Expansion of GO Transit's rail fleet, including 20 new bi-level
        passenger coaches;
    -   Expansion of GO Transit track capacity, including two double-track
        sections installed on the GO Bradford and GO Stouffville corridors;
    -   Expansion of GO Transit's bus fleet, including 10 new double-decker
        coaches;
    -   Construction of a new Markham/Cornell Transit Terminal; and
    -   Acquiring six new hybrid articulated buses for the Hamilton/Upper
        James Rapid Transit Corridor.

    The Board also recommended up to $6.5 million for customer service
improvements, including:

    -   An integrated web-based Trip Planner pilot, giving transit customers
        real-time directions and schedules across the transit system;
    -   A carbon-footprint calculator, helping inform decisions by allowing
        transportation users to calculate the impact of their travel choices;
        and
    -   Bicycle promotion initiatives, including 1,000 new safe/secure bike
        storage spaces and expansion of bike/bus rack programs."Our ultimate goal is to plan and develop an integrated multi-modal
transportation system to support the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area - to
improve people's quality of life, strengthen our economy and enhance our
environment. These seven projects represent an excellent start in that
direction," MacIsaac said.

    Criteria for Quick Action

    At a previous Board meeting, criteria was established to allow the GTTA
and its municipal and transit partners to move ahead quickly with transit and
transportation initiatives.
    "These 'early wins' are important, as they recognize the urgency in
addressing transportation issues in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, and
demonstrate to the public that the GTTA is making a difference," MacIsaac
said.
    Among the criteria, visible and tangible benefits for consumers were
critical to determining which projects would be fast-tracked.
    "All of our decisions will be shaped by an overarching commitment to the
people using the system," MacIsaac said. "Fixing complex transportation
problems will be challenging, but we will always use the interests of the
commuter as our guide - relentlessly asking how we can improve service for the
travelling public."

    Toronto Union Station Inter-Regional Bus Terminal

    In addition to approving the seven projects outlined above, the GTTA
Board agreed to move ahead in evaluating the viability of a longstanding
proposal to establish an inter-regional bus terminal in the Toronto Union
Station precinct. Specifically, a site at 90 Harbour Street, the former
Ontario Provincial Police headquarters building, has been identified as
potentially accommodating the requirements of a major bus terminal. GTTA staff
will lead a six-month workplan to evaluate the business case, conceptual site
plans and planning rationale for the proposed project. Features of the
proposed plan include:-   A new multi-level inter-regional and long-distance bus terminal to
        replace the existing facility at Bay and Dundas Streets;
    -   A protected pedestrian access between the bus terminal and Union
        Station;
    -   Integration with the PATH underground walkway system; and
    -   A design of architectural merit that enhances the public realm,
        travelling experience and urban form.The GTTA is a Crown agency of the Province of Ontario. Its mandate is to
create a seamless and sustainable transportation system for the residents and
businesses of the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area.


    BACKGROUNDER:
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------

    IDENTIFICATION OF EARLY INITIATIVES:

    The proposed projects were identified on the basis of their alignment
with the mandate and objectives of the GTTA and MoveOntario 2020 vision. Final
selected projects will be integrated with the strategic directions and actions
to be set out in the GTTA Regional Transportation Plan.
    Factors in determining which projects would be recommended to move ahead
quickly included: visible and tangible benefits for consumers; an estimated
completion time within two years; relatively moderate cost; cross-boundary or
regionally significant benefits; and that they would not prejudice the
roll-out of the GTTA Regional Transportation Plan, being developed for
anticipated launch next spring.
    The following seven projects have been identified for early
implementation:1.  GO Transit Rail Fleet Expansion
        -------------------------------
        $60.0 million for 20 new bi-level passenger coaches

        Timing and delivery of the new rolling stock will be aligned with the
        completion of the GO Lakeshore Corridor third track expansion
        project. Benefits to customers include more train departure choices
        during the morning and afternoon rush hours.

        $20.0 million for Track Expansion

        Two double-track sections will be installed on the GO Bradford and GO
        Stouffville corridors, to allow all-day two-way service on the
        Toronto-Markham and Toronto-Newmarket routes.

    2.  GO Transit Bus Fleet Expansion
        ------------------------------
        $9.0 million for 10 new double-decker commuter buses

        A precursor to a future east-west Bus Rapid Transit corridor, this
        project would improve service on Highway 403 and 407.

    3.  Markham/Cornell Transit Terminal
        --------------------------------
        $5.6 million capital cost to construct the Cornell Terminal (near
        Highway 407 and Don Cousens Parkway in Markham) and three
        intermediate stations in the Cornell community. This project will
        include new platforms and passenger amenities, and will seamlessly
        integrate VIVA with regional transit systems in York and Durham, as
        well as GO Transit.

    4.  Hamilton/Upper James Rapid Transit Corridor
        -------------------------------------------
        $5.5 million for six new Hamilton Street Railway (HSR) hybrid
        articulated buses - recognized as contributing to a cleaner,
        healthier environment - dedicated to the Upper James Corridor. This
        project is a precursor to future Bus Rapid Transit or Light Rail
        Transit service on the James/Upper James Street Corridor and connects
        downtown Hamilton to John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport.

    5.  Integrated Web-Based Trip Planner
        ---------------------------------
        An integrated, interactive trip planner tool will be implemented at
        www.gtta.com, enabling transit customers to enter their travel origin
        and destination and receive real-time directions and schedules across
        the transit system. The web portal will also include an interactive
        map to allow customers to view real-time incident and traffic
        congestion information. Cost estimates for the pilot project are
        $500,000 to $1 million for development/implementation and $250,000
        per year for operating. The Integrated Trip Planner Pilot project
        will be addressed in the September 2007 staff report-back to the
        Board on the revised GTTA budget. The initial first phase or pilot
        could be implementation-ready in fall 2007, with further upgrades
        introduced in 2008.

    6.  Carbon Footprint Calculator
        ---------------------------
        A region-specific carbon footprint calculator feature will be
        installed at www.gtta.com, enabling users to calculate the impact of
        their local and inter-regional travel mode choices, and their
        employment/home location decisions, on air quality, climate change,
        biodiversity, habitat and other indicators. Enhanced features could
        include access to customized advice on the user's specific footprint
        pattern and comparative analysis with footprint patterns and trends
        in other jurisdictions. The initial phase of this project could be
        ready in early 2008, at a development/implementation cost of $200,000
        to $250,000.

    7.  Bicycle Promotion Initiatives
        -----------------------------
        $2.1 million to $3.2 million for safe/secure bike storage

        Installation of 1,000 new safe, secure, weather-proof bicycle storage
        spaces at strategic locations across the GO Transit inter-regional
        network, to compliment current bicycle storage initiatives by GO
        Transit and the City of Toronto, City of Burlington, and City of
        Hamilton.

        $1.0 million to $1.8 million for expanded bike/bus rack program

        In a move toward the goal of 100 per cent bicycle accessibility for
        all bus routes, bicycle-carrying devices will be installed on 1,000
        new-order and existing municipal transit vehicles.THE REGIONAL TRANSPORTATION PLAN:

    The Greater Toronto Transportation Act 2006 requires that the GTTA create
a regional transportation plan. The creation of the plan will provide a
strategic, long-term vision and guidance for investment decisions. Shaping the
plan will require input from municipalities, operators, stakeholders and the
public to ensure it brings together the needs of the broader region.
    Starting later this fall, the GTTA will begin developing its Regional
Transportation Plan with support from technical groups from its network of
government and transit partners. During today's meeting, the Board was advised
that GTTA staff are completing the Request for Proposals process, aimed at
encouraging interest from a wide, global market of transportation planning
firms. The RFP will be posted on MERX, the North American electronic
procurement service used by governments across Canada and the United States.
    Details on how the GTTA will develop the regional transportation plan are
available at
http://www.gtta.com/en/business/regional_transportation_plan_0707.pdf




For further information: Fran Agnew, Executive Assistant to the GTTA
Chair, (416) 874-5902; Rita Scagnetti, Director of Public Affairs and
Communications, (416) 874-5910; Beverley Thomson, Assistant to the Director,
Public Affairs & Communications, (416) 874-5920