A Bramptonian’s Alternative to Toronto’s Rail Deck Park

Talk of another city doing something massive always starts the naval gazing in Brampton.  On August 3rd in Toronto, Mayor John Tory announced “Rail Deck Park”. The park is to be a new large-scale green space built above the city’s rail corridor from Rogers Centre to Bathurst St. The park complements the Bentway, another huge new public space being built underneath the Gardiner Expressway. While many of us naval gaze in awe, we also take the opportunity to revisit visions of a renewed downtown core in Brampton.

Can we mimic the success that Union Station has had on Toronto? Union Station is the meeting point for Go Trains, GO Buses, TTC LRTs and subways. People all around the GTA choose to work in the area or set up their businesses there because of the convergence of multiple lines of rapid transit.  It is why office towers are centred around Bay and Front, why jobs congregate there, and why condo towers have sprung up.

Some might argue that Toronto’s success is based on the Gardiner Expressway or access to Lake Ontario. Yes, they have influence, but to a much lesser extent. Consider that the lake stretches the entire width of Toronto and the expressway is 10km’s long, yet development is not at all uniform from end to end.  Front and Bay is unique in that development is concentrated there, where there is ready availability of multiple, consistent, frequent transit options.

To the naysayers that rejected Brampton Mayor Linda Jeffrey’s support of the Hurontario-Main LRT, I say: yea, our mayor is on the right track.

Brampton is a city of 600,000 people, which is roughly the size Toronto was when construction began on the Yonge Street subway on September 8, 1949.  Toronto’s population back then was 668,000. Yes, the situation is a bit different in that Brampton is part or the large GTHA region and we don’t stand alone as Toronto did.  Our residents work, shop, find entertainment and visit friends and family outside of municipal boundaries.

There is a demographic that grew up with the car and look to more roads as the answer to every transportation problem.  This group is aging, driving less and becoming a smaller percentage of the overall population.  Over 25% of Millennials do not own or ever intend to own a car.  People of all ages in transit friendly cities like Toronto choose to not own vehicles as they have other options. A car is not necessary if other options exist. Look to Manhattan or downtown San Francisco if you believe that car ownership is a necessity. It is not.

So back to the visionary “Rail Deck Park” announced in Toronto. Could Brampton develop an inverse of this concept? Rather than build on top of the tracks that run through Brampton, we could instead dig out the grassy berm under the CN line that currently bisects the downtown. We would effectively create abundant space under the tracks. Imagine an area from the Mill Street crossing all the way to Queen Street East open to the public. There could be market space, interesting retail space, and public recreation spaces. This could be similar to Underpass Park in Toronto or the Bentway that is being built.

Imagine people coming from all over the GTA by transit to see our unique public space, whether by GO train, or LRT or…

Let’s be visionary.

Author: Andrew DeGroot – A local transit advocate and founder of ONEBrampton. Mr. DeGroot has also appeared as a guest on our episode: Brampton on Track with “Innovation Supercorridor”