Halfway through the Queen Street Transportation Master Plan (QSTMP), planners have chosen “Bus Rapid Transit” (BRT) to be the transit technology choice to better link downtown Brampton with Vaughan Metropolitan Centre.

The Queen Street rapid transit line is one of the legacy rapid transit lines that has been considered in Brampton since the 1970s, and is included in the Metrolinx 2041 Big Move plan as a priority project for the region. The Queen Street corridor has the highest ridership on Brampton Transit, with over 25,000 riders per day between the 501/A/C Queen and 1/A Queen.

Major Transit Station Areas for Queen BRT // Courtesy of the City of Brampton
Major Transit Station Areas for Queen BRT // Courtesy of the City of Brampton

The line would replace the current 501 Queen Züm line, though it’s not guaranteed that the existing Queen Street Züm stops would be adapted for a proper BRT line; it should be noted that no new stops are being considered.

The line would be designed for conversion to light rail and advances in technology such as autonomous buses and electric battery buses, and any future co-running with a Hurontario LRT extension via Kennedy Road.

BRT refers to a set of upgrades that allows buses to run better in transit-exclusive lanes and could include off-vehicle payments, better shelters, and transit signal priority. This reduces delays, running time, and allows for higher frequencies.

Brampton Transit and the city refer to the current Züm lines as a BRT system, though that’s not technically correct due to the lack of exclusive lanes. It’s more commonly known as adapted bus rapid transit.

York Region and Metrolinx are currently building a set of bus rapid transit lines on Highway 7, Yonge Street, and Davis Drive. This regional connectivity is an important factor as to why BRT was chosen.

Züm buses currently use the VIVA bus lanes between Interchange Way and Keele Street to connect to the TTC’s Vaughan Metropolitan Centre Station. Those lanes are being extended westward to Helen Street in Vaughan by late 2019, and York Region is seeking funding to go all the way to Highway 50.

Creating BRT lanes to Downtown Brampton would ensure riders from Brampton heading to destinations in Vaughan, like the subway or employment areas, and vice-versa, have a seamless one-seat ride along the entire corridor.

Avoiding an awkward transfer between Brampton and Vaughan is important: a 2013 business case assessment found that light rail transit (LRT) or BRT could serve Queen well, but asking riders to transfer between a Brampton LRT train and a Vaughan bus could actually damage ridership.

In terms of changing the roadway, there are three options: converting two lanes for transit use only, widen the roadway to add BRT lanes and keep the same amount of general traffic lanes, or convert the curb lanes for BRT and high occupancy vehicles.

Three options are also available for the placement of BRT lanes: the middle, the curbs, or two BRT lanes running on one side of the road.

Members of the public will be able to see detailed plans for the QSTMP at the official consultation meetings on June 21 at Bramalea Civic Centre or June 25 at City Hall, though some information is being provided to council at the June 20 Committee of Council meeting.

The project would be rolled out over the next decade.