Designing the next generation of transit hubs


Metrolinx is changing the way GO train stations are built in Ontario

To see how far we’ve come, look back at where we started.

The way train stations in the past were designed and funded were far different than today. Historically, Canada built central rail hubs as large and expensive tributes to cities and a country on the move.

But today, Metrolinx has rethought that approach. And it’s using concepts and funding models that make good sense for growing communities while using enterprising partnerships.

As one of North America’s leading transit organizations, and as a provincial Crown agency, Metrolinx has embraced the third-party funding model as a way to grow transit, save tax dollars and create neighbourhoods that are quickly and easily interconnected. A hub should be an easy option. It should be a short walk away.

As easy as getting to your bank or the drug store. It should be a seamless part of your journey and your day. In fact, as we build a system of rapid transit connections across the Greater Golden Horseshoe (GGH), there’s a concept we’re integrating into everything we create: the seamless journey. To Metrolinx, this seamless journey is all about our customers – moving them quickly and easily, and making the entire journey simple.

The GGH is dealing with massive traffic congestion. Better public transit is a key solution in addressing this issue. By building central hubs where transit options connect and extend into our communities, we solidify this seamlessness. Enter the Kipling Mobility Hub – a newly transformed Kipling Station allowing the ability to connect to the TTC, MiWay, GO Bus, or GO Train, all from the same place.

Metrolinx is now developing innovative and economical modern hubs using Transit Oriented Development (TOD). The plans mean creating centres of movement and community, but with different economics and a wider vision of how they will be used tomorrow.

Versions of TOD are being used in densely populated urban areas around the globe. Everyone wants hubs to quickly get their people on the move. TOD makes financial sense for taxpayers and is a win for private developers looking to grow neighbourhoods with their projects.

As part of TOD, the private sector builds and pays for new GO Transit stations, such as at Mimico in southwest Toronto, to reduce the cost to taxpayers.

These projects are exciting for private developers. They offer the chance to design mixed-use communities over and around the stations. This becomes a selling point when they rent out space or sell condos that may go up as part of the projects. Allowing developers to build above transit stations in exchange for building new transit facilities will help create mixed use communities around stations.

A stop on the Lakeshore West line, Etobicoke’s new Mimico GO Station, will be built by VANDYK Group of Companies, a developer that owns the land to the north of the existing station. Once an agreement is finalized, the developer will build and pay for the new station, covered parking, and cycling and pedestrian paths as Metrolinx delivers other customer improvements. So much has changed in transit over the past century. Perhaps nowhere else in the country is that more apparent than in the GGH. At the core is not just the creation of a large number of community public transit nerve centres, but this new market-driven way to practically pay for those projects – especially those that include vital transit hubs.

It’s not just about the arriving. It’s about people who work or live very close by and are able to go to a drugstore in a section of a new station after they go to a bank that’s also attached. The TOD market-driven approach for building transit infrastructure fits within Metrolinx’s 2041 Regional Transportation Plan for land-use planning, and the funding model is seen as a way to maximize transit investment.

It also enhances the GO customer experience through dense, mixed-use and integrated development at stations. But the projects still have to follow Metrolinx’s stage-gate process with appropriate business cases, which is a comprehensive collection of evidence and analysis that sets out the rationale for why an investment should be made.

This TOD model also means more jobs and opportunities in neighbourhoods across the GGH.

We’ve come a long way in transit over the past century. And those who built transit stations in the past have led us to where we are today. But it’s time for a new model – a seamless one – that makes financial and social sense.

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