Packed house greets Metrolinx town hall in Mississauga

Peel residents lined up at the microphone to ask questions of transit brass.

The place was packed with people and questions.

Almost every seat was filled inside the agora of Sheridan College’s Square One campus, in Mississauga. A space where students usually come to study was transformed into a community centre on Sept. 5 for a Metrolinx town hall.

Darshpreet Bhatti stands up to answer a question before the crowd.

Darshpreet Bhatti, Vice President, Rapid Transit – Hurontario Light Rail Transit taking questions from the audience. (Photo by Tim Lai)

The gathering was part of a continuing series of sessions where customers and local residents get the chance to quiz Metrolinx leaders.

From increased train service to customer experience to the future of transit for the region, Metrolinx CEO Phil Verster, along with members of his senior management team, came prepared to answer pressing questions.

Verster explained Metrolinx is working with Canadian Pacific Railway, which owns the rail on the line.Among the topics was when the Milton line will see more service, with many residents hoping to see a plan for all day, two-way service.

“We need to have a commercial agreement with them first,” Verster told the gathering.  “They are great colleagues and we need to get this right.

“Conversations are ongoing – it’s on our agenda.”

The view of the meeting is captured in a camera's view finder.

A cameraman records the town hall. (Photo by Tim Lai)

Representatives from Kingsbridge Matters were also in attendance. The community advocacy group is fighting for a light rail transit (LRT) stop at the busy intersection of Hurontario Street and Kingsbridge Garden Circle.

Concerned about potential health effects, they also asked about a transit transformer in the area.

Verster explained the transformer – known as a traction power substation – is a common component on transit and LRT systems worldwide, and is in no way hazardous.

As for the request for a closer stop, Verster said there can only be so many stops on the Hurontario LRT line. Each of those stops is determined by population density.

“We are always asked why it can’t be closer… but this is not an emotive matter, it’s about what can be done,” Verster said.

A view down into the large hall, where people line up to ask questions.

Metrolinx leaders took questions from the floor, as well as through social media. (Photo by Tim Lai)

Other questions were about the customer experience. One resident asked whether Lyft and Uber ride-share services would step at all stations across the network. Metrolinx’s chief marketing officer, Mark Childs, said partnerships with the firms are doing well and both pilot projects have a future.

“Initial signs show ridership increases at stations with ride-sharing options,” he noted, adding the data is being looked at with first mile-last mile – the distance a passenger has to cover to get to a transit station and onto their final destination after they step from a train or bus – in mind.

The new Hurontario LRT was a reoccurring topic, with some wondering how customers will pay to get on the new vehicle.

“There’s no final decision – we are looking at all the new infrastructure, thinking of regional system integration,” said Annalise Czerny, executive vice president for PRESTO.

The panel of executives listen to a man asking a question.

Metrolinx leaders listen to questions from the floor during their latest town hall. (Photo by Tim Lai)

As for the last question of the night, one resident wanted to know why there isn’t a GO train station in downtown Mississauga. Metrolinx’s chief planning officer, Mathieu Goetzke, said building rail transit is complex.

“A brand new corridor (is) extremely costly, but very shortly Mississauga will have an LRT that will run in that area – it will make a big difference,” Goetzke said.

One of the stops for the Hurontario LRT will be right next to the Playdium amusement facility, near the shopping centre and steps away from both the GO and MiWay bus terminals.

The Ask Metrolinx Town Hall series hits the road again and will be heading to Hamilton and Niagara in the near future.

Story by Nitish Bissonauth, Metrolinx Bilingual Spokesperson, Media Relations and Issues Specialist