Monday, October 13, 2008

The Big Move

Last month Ontario’s long-awaited Metrolinx draft plan was unveiled. Entitled, The Big Move: Transforming Transportation in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, the plan proposes a massive $ 50 billion investment in public transit and transportation infrastructure over the next 25 years. When completed, 1,150 km of new rapid transit lines will bring 75 percent of residents in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA) within 2 km of rapid transit. Currently only 42 percent of residents are within the targeted 2 km range.

According to Metrolinx Chair Rob MacIsaac, the plan will launch a “Renaissance of Transportation for the Greater Toronto and Hamilton area.” Metrolinx is a Crown agency of the Province of Ontario, operating within the legislative framework of the Greater Toronto Transportation Authority Act, 2006 and the provincial Growth Plan.

“Transportation is the largest challenge facing our region – and this plan will be a major step forward in addressing that challenge,” said MacIsaac. “This plan will yield tangible results – moving more people, more conveniently, faster. It’s a plan of action, to get things moving now. We are finally playing catch-up, after decades of neglecting major-league transit improvements. Other jurisdictions in North America and around the world have gotten the competitive jump on us. This plan can restore our city-region as pre-eminent in transit.”

In addition to public transit, The Big Move proposes a $ 500 million investment in walking and cycling infrastructure, including the creation of more than 7,500 km of pathways.

Input on The Big Move will be sought over the next two months through open houses and meetings with the public and stakeholder groups. The final plan is scheduled to be released later this year.

If all goes according to plan, The Big Move will definitely ease the transportation chaos that has become a daily nightmare for many GTHA commuters. The question is, “What do commuters do in meantime?”

One very effective and immediate solution is carpooling. Years ago when I used to take the GO Train into Toronto on a regular basis, I would sometimes count the number of people in each vehicle as the train whizzed by the traffic crawling along on Highway 401. While my head counting wasn’t an exact science, on average only 1 in 10 cars had more than one person inside. As a general rule, the cars with two or more passengers were usually fuel-efficient compact vehicles or hybrids. Larger gas-guzzling SUVs, vans and luxury vehicles were almost exclusively the domain of one.

Carpooling has come a long way from the days when co-workers from the same office would ride together out of convenience. Now thanks to program like Smart Commute, people can connect through an online ride matching system that identifies commuter’s points of origin and destination. In addition to carpooling, Smart Commute also helps local employers and commuters to explore different commuter choices like teleworking, transit, cycling, walking or flexible work hours.

Smart Commute is a partnership between Metrolinx and the cities and regions of the GTHA region. While GHTA residents wait for The Big Move to get them out of their cars and on to public transit, Smart Commute offers more immediate solutions.

Which brings us nicely back to carpooling. This simple step has tremendous potential to help relieve traffic congestion and its associated ills. Imagine what would happen if everyone doubled up on his or her daily commute? Road traffic would immediately be cut in half, effectively reducing the frequency and severity of accidents, as well as the wear and tear on our highways. Commute times and in-traffic idling would also be reduced, further reducing greenhouse gas emission, fuel consumption, commuter fatigue and even road rage. Parking spaces would no longer be at a premium and the cost of monthly parking passes could be shared. As an added bonus, a drop in congestion will reduce insurance rates for everyone.

There’s no time like the present to get started. The first annual National RideShare Week is scheduled for October 6-10, 2008. Join in and let someone else do the driving for a change.


National RideShare Week is a program of the Association for Commuter Transportation in Canada. Check out for more details, or to find out about the upcoming Canadian Transportation Demand Summit in Halifax, October 19 to 22. offers a wide array of services such as ride matching programs, site assessments, emergency ride home programs and employee work solutions workshops, promotions and other fun stuff.

The draft plan The Big Move: Transforming Transportation in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, is posted at


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