Monday, December 17, 2007

Barrie, the next Hamilton?

Some good news in public transit ... and with it, some bad news as well. GO Transit, the inter-city mass transit system here in South Central Ontario, has extended the Toronto-Bradford line to Barrie. More accurately, the train service has been restored and enhanced beyond what existed when Bob Rae cancelled the run fifteen years ago. Reports this morning for the first day indicated surprisingly high usage, especially for a snow day. And that's just for a line that for now will only have rush hour service.

If it gets even some traffic off the 400 during rush hour, that's fantastic.

Or is it? Well, not really. Because while the Greenbelt has contained urban sprawl within the GTA, it doesn't stop developers from leap-frogging it. And Barrie is quickly becoming the new Hamilton, the last refuge from the exhorbitant housing prices in and around Toronto. The last few years, the population of Barrie has doubled. And it's facing the same kinds of problems much larger cities further south have, not the least of which is urban sprawl. What was formerly a staging area for resorts further north is now more or less a suburb ... separated by a lot of farmland, to be sure, but a suburb nonetheless.

We don't need an American style Megalopolis -- the non-stop city from Richmond, Virginia to Boston, Massachusetts.

One other observation I have is that the rail line is well away from both the 400 and the 404. Were it closer or parallel to it, drivers would see the speedy train as compared to the snail's pace of the expressway.

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