In the wee hours of Thursday morning, in a council chamber still packed with members of the public, Brampton city council opted to defer the vote on the future of a 1.6-billion LRT project between Brampton and Mississauga.
Last night’s historic council vote boasted the the most public engagement Brampton has ever seen, with 130 people participating; a mix of delegations and written correspondence. The highest number of delegations to council in Brampton’s history was previously 33, that record was broken last night by almost double with 52 delegations.
Council was to vote on whether or not to accept the proposed Hurontario-Main LRT surface route that will run from Port Credit GO to Brampton GO station in the Downtown.
The future of the LRT project, and transit as a whole in Brampton, has sparked an intense debate among many of the city’s residents. Some see it as an opportunity to build better transit and plan for the projected population growth that is slated to close in on 1 million by 2041.
Others believe it will compromise Brampton’s downtown by taking away it’s character, eliminating parking spots (About 40 in total) and cite worry of missed economic opportunity elsewhere.
Of the 50 delegations to council last night, approximately 60% were in favour of the LRT and 40% were not in favour, though council votes did not reflect this, as they were split 50/50.
“This is not a gift horse, this is a Trojan horse,” Gibson said. He argued that with Brampton slated to receive only $400 million of the proposed 1.6 billion, it seems the province is attempting to force a project that may not benefit Brampton as much.
Others argue that $400 million is not something that Bramptonians should turn their noses up at. Other cities like Ottawa and Kitchener currently working on LRT projects are funding theirs at the municipal level, putting Brampton in the minority having a project with a full funding commitment from the province. As it stands, if Brampton is to divert from the proposed route, the money would come out of taxpayers pockets, potentially through higher property taxes.
Though Brampton may be getting the smaller chunk, some residents see this as only the beginning. “This is only the start,” says Brampton resident James Brown. “Ultimately Brampton needs transit that connects the whole city, I see this LRT as the start of branching out to rapid transit on Queen, and even extending this line up to Mayfield. It would be silly for us to pass this up.”
During the council debate Councillor Gael Miles (Ward 7-8) questioned President of Metrolinx, Bruce McCuaig on future light rapid transit projects within Brampton. McCuaig assured that the process to consider an LRT north up to Mayfield Rd and one along the Queen St. corridor can be expedited to consider options for expansion sooner rather than later.
By turning down the proposed LRT route, Brampton runs the risk of seeing neighbours to the south in Mississauga receive light rail while Bramptonians are left waiting for another opportunity that could take years to come along.
The deferred vote will allow council to bring in a mediator in to review the proposed routes and offer impartial recommendations of how to move forward ensuring all parties are satisfied. No doubt, Brampton residents will continue to fight, whether for or against the proposed route in the coming weeks.