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Background: Ten Years of Progress

The Big Move: Meeting the Challenge

The Big Move set out ten strategies to achieve its vision, goals and objectives (See Figure 2). The plan set out a bold shift in thinking about all modes of transportation: the shift from a focus on moving vehicles to moving people.  

Today, progress can be seen in the fact that 94% of the plan’s actions and supporting policies are complete or in progress (see Figure 2). (See The Big Move Priority Action and Supporting Policy technical paper for full list)

This progress is the result of a collective effort from partners across the GTHA who have been instrumental in implementing The Big Move, including municipalities, transit agencies and provincial ministries.

Figure 2: Progress on Implementation

TTable describing progress and implementation of The Big Move. It shows that 32 per cent of the 92 actions and policies have been completed or are continuous, 62 per cent are in progress and 7 per cent have yet to be initiated.

Putting the ten strategies in motion. In addition to moving forward with major rapid transit investments, Metrolinx and its many partners have also been implementing many projects that reflect the full breadth of the ten strategies in The Big Move. Together, these initiatives are having a positive impact on mobility in the region. The Big Move Baseline Monitoring Report (2013) provides a comprehensive review of progress on all of the actions and policies in The Big Move.

Examples of The Big Move in Action

Strategy #1: Build a comprehensive regional rapid transit network  

  • Metrolinx is introducing GO Regional Express Rail and launched UP Express
  • The City of Toronto, Metrolinx and their partners are revitalizing Union Station
  • Metrolinx is continuing construction on the Eglinton Crosstown LRT in Toronto, and has provided the GO rail extension to Kitchener-Waterloo
  • Mississauga’s MiWay is completing a bus rapid transit system
  • York Region is upgrading its bus system with separated rapidways, under VivaNext

Strategy #2: Enhance and expand active transportation

  • Metrolinx added walking and cycling bridges and underpasses across major highways, rail lines and waterways
  • Public transit agencies added bike racks to all GTHA transit buses
  • Ontario introduced the provincial #CycleON strategy
  • Municipalities provided new walking and cycling facilities - from trails to painted or separated bicycle lanes - and updates to active transportation plans
  • Hamilton and Toronto introduced bike-sharing programs

Strategy #3: Improve the efficiency of the road and highway network

  • MTO is building new carpool parking lots, high-occupancy vehicle lanes on 400-series highways, and extensions to Highways 410, 404, 407 and 427
  • Metrolinx introduced priority parking for carpool users at several GO Transit stations
  • Municipalities added capacity additions to arterial roads across the region

Strategy #4: Create an ambitious transportation demand management program

  • Municipalities and Metrolinx expanded the Smart Commute workplace program to provide TDM programming for approximately 330 members (with 720,000 employees), and launched many initiatives to support active school travel.

Strategy #5: Create a customer-first transportation system

  • Metrolinx launched the Triplinx regional travel planning tool
  • Toronto, Hamilton, Brampton, Durham and York Region transit agencies and Metrolinx introduced real-time information for transit services
  • Metrolinx supported the Call-One joint paratransit booking centre during the 2015 PanAm Games
  • Metrolinx and local transit providers are developing a seamless network wayfinding program

Strategy #6: Implement an integrated transit fare system

  • Metrolinx, UP Express and all transit agencies (except Milton) have adopted the Presto fare card system
  • Metrolinx and all regional transit providers have fare integration agreements in effect
  • Metrolinx and GTHA transit providers outside Toronto have fare integration agreements providing discounted travel on municipal transit to-and-from GO services

Strategy #7: Build communities that are pedestrian, cycling and transit-supportive

  • Metrolinx introduced Mobility Hub Guidelines and the GO Transit Rail Parking and Station Access Plan (now being updated in the context of GO RER)
  • Ontario published the Transit-Supportive Guidelines
  • Municipalities have integrated mobility hubs into official plans and transportation master plans
  • Metrolinx and GTHA municipalities have initiated parking studies, such as Mississauga’s parking strategy for the City Centre

Strategy #8: Plan for universal access

  • Metrolinx established the regional Accessibility Advisory Committee comprised primarily of people with disabilities, to provide input on the accessibility elements of a broad range of Metrolinx projects
  • Municipalities and transit agencies are improving specialized transit coordination and delivery including establishing a Memorandum of Understanding that recognizes eligibility between specialized transit service providers to facilitate cross-boundary travel

Strategy #9: Improve goods movement within the GTHA and with adjacent regions

  • Metrolinx undertook the GTHA Urban Freight Study, and established the multi-sectoral GTHA Urban Freight Forum and an urban goods movement data framework
  • Ontario published the Freight-Supportive Guidelines
  • GTHA regions are taking a strategic approach to goods movement, with a range of studies and plans, such as the Region of Peel’s goods movement strategic plan

Strategy #10: Commit to continuous improvement

  • Metrolinx has undertaken new research into a variety of transportation questions and supported local initiatives across the region, such as Milton’s dynamic transit pilot project
  • Collaborative partnerships have been established with the University of Toronto’s Transportation Modelling Group, as well as with local and regional municipalities, nongovernmental organizations and academic institutions

Expansion of the Rapid Transit System

One of the most dramatic shifts following The Big Move is the expansion of the region’s rapid transit system, starting with the early successes of the 2008/2009 “Quick Wins” program. The priority projects identified by the RTP drove the “First Wave” of investments totalling over $16 billion. Through the Moving Ontario Forward program, an additional $15.5 billion kick-started the “Next Wave” projects.  

Figure 3 presents a map of rapid transit in 2008, and Figure 4 presents a map of funded GTHA rapid transit projects expected to be completed by 2025, as well as “Next Wave” projects that are being advanced through further planning and design.

A Huge Step Forward: GO Regional Express Rail (RER). The impact of the RTP was clear in 2015 when the Province of Ontario announced its commitment to faster, more frequent, electric GO rail service across the whole region. This initiative will transform the GO rail network from a largely rush-hour service into an all-day, two-way rapid transit network, increasing transit ridership, reducing trip times and helping to manage congestion. The GO RER concept was set out in The Big Move and its implementation continues through the province’s Moving Ontario Forward plan.

Today, GO RER is creating new opportunities across the region by improving convenience, unlocking development potential, and making employment centres more accessible with 15-minute frequent train services. Rush-hour GO rail services will also be expanded to ease connections to other transit systems and reduce customers’ reliance on schedules. GO RER will provide four times the number of trips in off-peak periods, such as evenings and weekends, and twice the number of trips during peak rush-hour periods. Upgrading most of the GO rail system from diesel to electric engines in core areas of the network will enable faster travel speeds, more frequent service, and reduced operating costs and emissions.

Every area of the GTHA will see improvements with GO RER. GO ridership is expected to almost double - an increase to approximately 127 million customers - within five years of completion.

Figure 3: GTHA Rapid Transit Network in 2008

Map outlining the GTHA Rapid Transit Network in 2008

Figure 4: GTHA Rapid Transit Network in 2025 (Funded and Completed Projects) and Projects under Development

Map outlining the future GTHA Rapid Transit Network in 2025


Early Improvements. The first steps to implement The Big Move included $740-million worth of “Quick Wins.” Completed projects include an expansion of GO Transit’s bus and rail fleet, the acquisition of new buses for municipal transit agencies, the introduction of the “DRT Pulse” enhanced bus service in Durham and the addition of bike racks to every bus in the GTHA.  

“First Wave” projects. Implementing The Big Move began in earnest with the commitment of significant funding to a “First Wave” of transit projects drawn from the Plan’s list of Top Priorities. While several projects have been completed, many others are currently in planning or construction phases.

Projects partially or fully operational, since 2008:

York Region VivaNext rapidways (first major segment opened 2013). This project includes more than 34 km of dedicated express bus lanes on major roads including Highway 7, Yonge Street and Davis Drive.

Mississauga Transitway (first segment opened 2014). This 18 km corridor that parallels Highway 403 and Eglinton Avenue will allow buses to run unhindered by general traffic when fully completed, connecting the TTC subway system, Mississauga City Centre and employment hubs such as the Airport Corporate Centre.

UP Express (Opened 2015). This direct rail link between Toronto Pearson International Airport and Union Station offers 15-minute frequency with stops at Weston and Bloor GO stations.

GO Transit rail service expansion (ongoing). Multiple projects to enhance regional rail service as identified in The Big Move have been completed since 2008, including the introduction of hourly bidirectional mid-day service on the Kitchener line between Union and Mount Pleasant and the extension of the Lakeshore West line to the new West Harbour station in Hamilton. The extension of the Richmond Hill line to the new Gormley station will open in late 2016. This GO expansion has been supported by upgrades to Canada’s busiest transportation hub, Union Station, as prioritized in 2008 as “Big Move #3”. Completed and ongoing work includes revitalization of the train shed and switches as well as expanded concourses, new PATH connections, and a second subway platform intended to accommodate more passengers.

Projects currently being planned, designed or built (but not completed):

Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension (Planned opening late 2017). This extension from Downsview Station to Vaughan Metropolitan Centre will be the first subway line to extend outside of the City of Toronto.

Eglinton Crosstown LRT (Planned opening 2021). This 19-km route, with more than 10 km underground, will carry riders across Toronto from Weston Road to Kennedy subway station.

Finch West LRT (Planned opening 2021). This 11-km line will run from the Finch West subway station now under construction at Keele Street to Humber College.

Sheppard East LRT (dates to be determined). This line will run almost 13 km from Don Mills subway station to east of Morningside Avenue.

Scarborough Rapid Transit (dates to be determined). The funding for the Scarborough Rapid Transit project identified in The Big Move in 2008 has been reallocated to a replacement project led by the City of Toronto, to extend the Bloor Danforth subway. The Scarborough subway extension is currently in the planning phase.


A “Next Wave” of projects was initially identified in 2012, drawing from the balance of The Big Move’s list of Top Priorities. The proposed scope of GO rail expansion would be further enhanced following the provincial government’s 2014 commitment to GO Regional Express Rail.  

With funding now in place for many of these projects, work is now underway, with the intent of growing the GTHA’s rapid transit network and extending all-day regional transit service.

Funded projects include:

Projects with full funding commitments include:

GO Regional Express Rail (Phased implementation 2014-2024). The GO RER program is a $13.5B capital investment to transform the GO network from a commuter-oriented service to a comprehensive regional rapid transit option. Service levels on all seven GO rail lines will be increased and electric service, every 15 minutes or better in both directions throughout the day, will be introduced in core areas of five lines: Lakeshore East, Lakeshore West, Kitchener, Barrie and Stouffville. UP Express Electrification will also be achieved through the GO RER program.

Hurontario LRT (Planned opening 2022). This 20-km service between Port Credit and the Brampton Gateway terminal at Steeles Avenue will link four mobility hubs and support planned urban growth areas. It will connect to the Mississauga Transitway and planned Dundas Street BRT as well as the Milton and Lakeshore West GO lines.

Hamilton LRT (Planned opening 2024). This project will run across the lower portions of the City of Hamilton, connecting McMaster University to Queenston Circle through the city’s downtown core. It will connect to West Harbour GO station as well as future pedestrian link to Hamilton GO Centre.

Additional Next Wave projects with planning and design underway include:

Relief Line. This new rapid transit line would provide new access options to the GTHA’s largest employment area, downtown Toronto, and relieve Yonge subway line congestion.

Yonge North Subway Extension. This proposed extension from Finch Station in Toronto to Highway 7 in Richmond Hill would be the second subway extension reaching beyond the City of Toronto, connecting to Viva BRT lines running to the north, west and east, as well as the Richmond Hill GO line.

Dundas Street BRT. This 40-km east-west transit project would cross the western GTHA, connecting Brant Street in the City of Burlington to Kipling subway station in Toronto. It would connect the Milton GO line, the Bloor-Danforth subway and the Hurontario LRT.

Durham-Scarborough BRT. This new line would run from the Scarborough Civic Centre in Toronto to downtown Oshawa in Durham Region via Highway 2, connecting the downtown cores of Pickering, Ajax, Whitby and Oshawa to one another and offering Durham residents improved access to the TTC rapid transit network.

Next Wave rapid transit projects enable more people to reach jobs and meet other daily needs using transit. If fully implemented, these projects would bring 72% of residents and 76% of jobs within two kilometres of rapid transit, compared to 42% and 64% (respectively) in 2001.

The potential implementation of all Next Wave rapid transit projects could create up to 900,000 person-years of employment and contribute up to $130 billion to Ontario’s economy.

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