Last Update: February 21, 2020 - details at bottom of article
The planned expansion of GO train service from Oshawa, through Courtice and into Bowmanville has been a hot topic lately, and for good reasons.
With traffic along the 401 making daily commutes nightmarish at peak times, having a rapid alternative is critical to improving not only the flow of traffic but also the quality of life for the residents of Durham Region and beyond.
Anyone that currently commutes from Oshawa or to the east knows that there are challenges in using GO service, with parking areas in Oshawa and Whitby frequently filled to capacity. Many are forced to either try stations further to the west or to brave the rush hour drive.
This not only makes their commute longer, it further exacerbates the traffic problems we see every day between Oshawa and Ajax (and beyond) along the 401 and alternate routes. With additional stations, parking and service, we could see benefits including reduced time and cost for commuters in getting to the train, as well as less traffic on the roads.
Let's not even start on removing the tolls on the public portions of the 407, 412 and 418. Just imagine the improvement in traffic if those routes actually had decent traffic load on them!
Here is a look at projected population growth from Metrolinx's 2041 Regional Transportation Plan, according to Statistics Canada's 2016 Census; Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, 2017:
According to the plan, Durham is poised to have the fastest growth in the GTHA, at 79%!
Under consideration are four different options for extending service in Durham.
The following diagram illustrates each:
Three of the options involve using CP Rail's existing corridor north of the 401, with different options for stations for each. The last involves using the existing CN Rail corridor south of the 401. I will explore each in more detail:
Option 1 - CP Alignment
This option involves building a bridge across the 401 west of Thornton Road to connect with the existing CP rail line north of the 401, and building four new stations - one at Thornton, another at Ritson, another at Courtice Road and another at Bowmanville Avenue near highway 2.
Option 2 - CP/GM Alignment
This option would use an existing rail bridge east of Thornton Road, with the rest being the same as the first option.
Option 3 - CN Alignment
This option would use the existing CN rail line south of the 401. New stations would only be added at Ritson Road and Bowmanville Avenue.
Options 4 - CN/CP Alignment
This option would be similar to Option 3, with use of the CN line south of the 401 and a new station at Ritson Road (south of the 401), the cross the 401 at a new bridge near Townline Road, then using the CP line north of the 401, with new stations at Courtice Road and Bowmanville Avenue.
With three options making use of the existing CP line north of the 401, there is significant potential for development around the proposed new stations, including what we have seen around GO stations to the west. High-density housing, including condominium towers, and gentrification of stagnating neighbourhoods.
The potential, in particular, for rebuilding the area around the Ritson (north) station is huge. At present, there are myriad industrial, commercial and residential properties in various states of dereliction. Consider the overall improvement if most of those could be rebuilt to either provide new housing, or businesses and amenities to serve the higher density of new residents.
In the case of Courtice and Bowmanville, the development options would primarily be for new construction, as the existing sites are largely undeveloped, or recent builds. Of course, that all changes if the rail line chosen is the existing CN line south of the 401.
Much of the path runs aside industrial sites including Darlington Nuclear Generating Station and St, Marys Cement plant. Also along this route are Courtice's sewage treatment site and the Durham/York Energy Centre (aka - the garbage incinerator). Not the most ideal mix of neighbourhood amenities for new residential builds.
While it also goes through McLaughlin Bay Wildlife Reserve and Darlington Provincial Park, those protected areas aren't going to see any type of development.
Consider having the new line along the existing CN line, without substantial new housing development at the stations. Now, we have to get commuters to the stations from residential areas, a problem that creates more traffic for getting to the station, and/or more buses. Either way, it's more commute time, hassle and less potential to combine transit hubs with concentrations of affordable housing.
When the housing is close to the station, fewer people need to drive. Fewer vehicles equal less traffic for the same population.
Further Implications on Real Estate
With due consideration to which option comes out as the winner, any of them will have an influence on area real estate perceptions and values.
Having better commute options will increase the appeal and marketability of area properties. With homes in north Oshawa, Courtice, Bowmanville and rural areas to the north and east, having a train option (with a drive to the station, of course) will enable more potential buyers that can consider whether it is worth the time to get to and from work in the city.
If a property is close to one of the new stations, the service has greater appeal, depending on the property. Existing homes should have considerably more appeal for commuters and new developments will include the GO train access as a primary benefit to their offerings.
Investors looking for rental properties would consider a location near a train station exceptionally good for attracting tenants. Of course, regular buyers looking to supplement their income with a rental unit would use the same rationale.
Commercial properties could benefit even more. Think about the potential that several thousand nearby new residents (customers) would have versus the status quo.
Let's cross our fingers and hope that Option 1 comes out as the chosen direction, and with an expedited schedule. The sooner this all gets off the drawing board and into reality, the sooner our community reaps the benefits - including a greater appeal to more buyers and higher property values.
UPDATE: February 13, 2020:
Option 2 With 4 New Stations in Oshawa, Courtice and Bowmanville Selected by Metrolinx
Durham MPP Linsey Park announced that Metrolinx has selected Option 2, which has GO train service crossing the 401 east of Thornton Rd., and has new stations as follows:
- At Thornton Road north of Consumer's Drive
- At Ritson Road south of Olive Ave, at the old Knob Hill Farms site.
- At Courtice Road north of Baseline Rd. W.
- At Bowmanville Ave. south of King St.