Mobility hubs – what are they and do they matter to the city? Planners are looking at four of the things.

By Pepper Parr

March 11, 2014


This is part 1 of a four-part series on the concept of Mobility Hubs; a concept the public has been discussing during two public workshops.  We start with the down town hub and follow-up on the Burlington, Appleby and Aldershot GO station hubs.

There are a handful of subjects getting talked about at city council and at public meetings that have the potential for a huge impact on the kind of Burlington that is going to exist in the city’s midterm future – 8 to ten years out.

The suggestion that the John Street terminal be torn down to save $8000 a year in operating costs moved the discussion on transit and mobility hubs into new territory.

We saw the thin edge of those discussions when Burlington Transit suggested closing the John Street terminal to save $8000 a year.  That suggestion got turned down – the decision wasn’t unanimous.

The three discussions taking place are:

1: What are we going to do with public transit.

2: An overall Master Transportation Plan

3: The creation of Mobility hubs.

The John Street terminal became a budget issue; the transit people wanted to remove it while the recommendation in the draft Mobility Hub document said – “a strong transit presence was necessary for the downtown mobility hub.”  The left hand didn’t seem to be talking to the right hand.

The Big Move conversation was an important part of the province beginning to tackle the problem of moving people efficiently.

The public review of the Mobility Hub concept for Burlington came about when the province, through Metrolinx, created a plan they called The Big Move.  The province had come to the realization that better ways had to be found to move people.  The congestion on the QEW was beyond being tolerable and traffic within the city was plugging up at major intersections frequently.   Solutions were needed.  The Big Move got the discussion started provincially now it is taking place in communities across the province.  Because Burlington is in the process of reviewing its Official Plan moving people had to become part of that that conversation.

When the public consultation on the mobility hubs is complete a directions document will be sent to the team working up the next version of the city’s Official Plan, which is a document Burlington is required to review and revise every five years.

The discussion was about four possible mobility hubs – one at each GO station and a fourth downtown.

Mobility hubs are urban growth centers and major transit station areas with significant levels of planned transit service with high residential and employment development potential within an approximately 800 metre radius of the rapid transit station.

Hubs are seen as a gateway for visitors to a city.  The objective of a hub is to create a seamless integration between modes: walking, cycling, transit and private vehicles with a mix of uses that support a healthy neighbourhood in attractive public spaces.

The need for these studies came about when Metrolinx, an agency of the Government of Ontario was created to improve the coordination and integration of all modes of transportation in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area. The organization’s mission is to champion, develop and implement an integrated transportation system for the region that enhances prosperity, sustainability and quality of life. Metrolinx launched The Big Move, a Regional Transportation Plan to allow people to use public transit to travel easily from Hamilton to Newmarket to Oshawa. It’s the final piece in a three-part approach by the province to prepare the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area for growth and sustained prosperity.

Metrolinx is a part of the provincial plan that includes the Greenbelt, which protects more than 1.8 million acres of environmentally sensitive and agricultural land in the heart of the region, the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, a plan that coordinates population and job growth.

The The Big Move – identified that the province’s transit and transportation problems as  regional in nature and across municipal boundaries. The solution required the coordination and integration of transit and transportation systems in order to allow growth to happen and help people and businesses move more easily throughout the region.

In 2009, Metrolinx merged with GO Transit, the regional public transit service. The organization grew further with the addition of two more operating divisions – the Union Pearson Express in 2010 and PRESTO, an electronic fare card that allows riders to transfer seamlessly across multiple transit systems, in 2011.

Burlington is now applying Metrolinx Mobility Hub Guidelines, to identify and address opportunities and constraints of Burlington’s mobility hubs and major transit station areas.  The thinking that comes out of the public meetings will inform the integration of mobility hub objectives and policy directions in the Official Plan and, where applicable, inform directions for the City of Burlington’s Core Commitment, Transportation Master Plan, Community Trails Strategy, Community Energy Plan, and others.  Ideally, the community will propose Placemaking – streetscapes, branding, programming;  Land Use – mix of uses, employment protection, infill;  Built Form -height, massing, facades; Open Space and Circulation – transit, cycling facilities, new and improved parks.

The thinking for Burlington was four different mobility hubs: a downtown hub that would appear to center on John Street between John and Pine and then a hub at each of the GO stations: Burlington, Aldershot and Appleby Line.

We start this with a review of the thinking that has been done on the Downtown hub:

Boundaries set out for the Downtown mobility hub.

For each situation the planners set out a mission statement and then provide comment on the opportunities and constraints with each situation; land use within a specific area (800 metres); and the existing built form.

Land Uses as set out in the draft document of a downtown hub would encourage mixed-use (retail, office, residential) infill with transit-supportive infrastructure on vacant and underutilized lots (Lots 4 and 5 subject to additional study).

This graphic shows some of the constraints as well as the opportunities for a mobility hub in the downtown core.

Along John and James Street, new development should reinforce a strong transit presence through attractive waiting areas, ticketing functions and supporting retail.

The idea would be to concentrate the greatest densities in close proximity to the transit station at John Street and along the key transit corridors to protect adjacent residential neighborhood’s and heritage buildings.

At the edge of the Primary Zone, the height, mass and design of buildings should be controlled to provide appropriate transitions to adjacent stable residential neighborhoods, Martha Street and Hurd Avenue.

Maintain and promote a transit presence at the Burlington Transit Terminal. Explore opportunities to redevelop the area as a mixed-use area, with transit – supportive uses at grade (i.e. cafes, plazas, retail, etc.) while retaining part of the site for complimentary transit facilities.

Develop Brant Plaza to ensure new buildings support the mobility hub vision, including pedestrian supportive streets and height limitations to adjacent properties.

The built for the downtown mobility hub would reinforce nodes at Baldwin Street/Victoria Avenue and Brant Street and on Lakeshore Road at the key Downtown intersections.

Would a downtown mobility hub result in greater density on the east side of Brant Street? Would traffic from the core work itself to the Burlington GO station?

Where Tall buildings (> 10-storeys) are provided, typically on Brant Street/Lakeshore Road. they should be designed and massed to protect and frame views of Lake Ontario.

At Brant Plaza, new buildings should create a mid-rise (6 to 10-storey) character along Brant Street that compliments the uses south of Caroline Street. At the rear of the site, height limitations are encouraged to provide a transition to the residential dwellings along Wellington Avenue and Emerald Crescent.

Would the west side of Brant Street south of the Brant Plaza be kept at a smaller scale? Would this create the kind of traffic that transit needs to justify the amount being spent on bus operations in the city. Does transit even have a future in Burlington?

Mid-Rise and Tall buildings should be subject to front and rear-yard angular planes to reduce their perceived mass and minimize shadow and privacy impacts.

The report also asks that more efficient alternatives to surface parking, including above and below-ground structured parking where feasible, and on-street parking.

The  Open Space and circulation thinking would Reinforce Brant Street as the primary Downtown main street leading to the waterfront. It should be a ‘complete street’ with equal consideration given to all modes of transportation, including transit, pedestrian, cyclists, and vehicles.

Promote Brant Street as the primary connection between the Burlington GO Mobility Hub and the waterfront. Support this role through streetscape initiatives, active ground floor uses and street-related infill that builds on the continuous pedestrian-supportive main street.

Promote pedestrian-focused street design on Brant Street and John Street to balance the multiple roles of the street as a vibrant place and connector.

Create a linked network of cycling connections to promote active transportation to and throughout the Downtown. New Bicycle Priority Streets are encouraged on local streets to provide continuous connections.

The draft document suggests extending the Centennial Bike Trail to connect to Brant Street as part of the Downtown Core Commitment.

As you read this over and look at the graphics – is this a Burlington you see in your mind’s eye; is this the direction you want to see the development of your city going in?

Is this a Burlington you see in your mind’s eye; is this the direction you want to see the development of your city going in?Planners work from deep experiences bases but they need the thinking of the general public.  While the public meetings on these hubs have come to a close there will be an additional opportunity for comment when the planners take their report to a city council Standing Committee, expected before the summer.  There is never enough public input on projects like this in the early stages. 

In the past Burlington has not had the kind of news media that provided this kind of background and explanation in context.  Traditional print media rarely has the space to provide the illustrations.

The thinking behind the Burlington, Aldershot and Appleby GO stations follows in separate articles.

Background links:

John Street terminal not going anywhere right now.

Return to the Front page
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

3 comments to Mobility hubs – what are they and do they matter to the city? Planners are looking at four of the things.

  • Susan Lewis

    According to Metrolinx, “Downtown Burlington is identified as an Anchor Hub in the Greater Toronto & Hamilton Area (GTHA), and includes the Burlington Transit Terminal. As defined in The Big Move, this hub is planned to integrate Rapid Transit, Regional Rail and local transit.”

    In Burlington, the Car is King. When I first saw a street sign in the downtown area that said “Vehicles have the right of way” I had to read it 3 times because I thought I was reading it wrong. I have since realized that I “just don’t get it.” I seem to be out of touch with some City Councillors that have told us repeatedly, “Burlington is a car-centric city”. (And, we spend $10’s of millions each year to keep it that way.) One Councillor said during a televised meeting that the only way you’d get the steering wheel out of his hands was over his cold, dead body. That may be true for his generation but I believe most baby-boomers think differently. The younger generations certainly do.

    Some people actually think that cars pay for our Municipal roads. Not true. They do pay for highways but our Municipal roads are paid for by our property taxes. Pedestrians, public transit users and cyclists all pay the same property tax for our roads as car drivers do. It’s time we all learned to share. If we don’t share our roads, no one is going to go anywhere.

    As I see it, there is no longer a choice in the matter. There’s too much traffic on the roads now and it will only get worse. We have to do something now, before Burlington grows any further.

    Actually, those who have to have a car for work etc., will welcome this move. The more cars we can get off the roads, the better for all of us. A full sized 40 foot bus can carry about 40 people and takes up the space of about 2 cars on the road. Even if the bus was only half full during rush hour, that’s 20 people going to work by bus and 20 less cars on the road causing the traffic jams and slowdowns. And if the bus had 40 people on it as is often the case on the Fairview bus route, that’s a success for all of us. Could you imagine what Fairview would be like if there were no buses? Buses are really the car driver’s best friends.

    • Chris Ariens

      Great comment, Susan.

      It’s true that a minority of citizens currently use other modes of travel than the single occupant car. This is largely because our politicians have chosen to under-invest in those modes for a long time and have become horribly inconvenient.

      The car-dependent majority need to understand how having alternatives can positively impact their quality of life, even if they themselves choose not to take advantage of them.

      It’s not just those who take the bus or cycle today who benefit – it’s ALL of us!

  • James Smith

    Hubs need to be more than just bus depots

    But the Big Flaw-
    No Hub planned for north Burlie