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Spring will see bus lanes on Simcoe

A bus lane pilot project coming to downtown Oshawa next spring proposes one lane be dedicated to transit on Simcoe Street due to it being a higher-ridership corridor and is DRT’s second biggest transit route.

By Chris Jones/The Oshawa Express

A bus lane pilot project is coming to downtown Oshawa in the spring.

Oshawa’s development services committee, as well as Durham’s transit executive committee, were given separate presentations recently regarding bus lanes on Simcoe Street.

The pilot, which will last one year, proposes one lane be dedicated to transit on Simcoe Street because it’s a high ridership corridor and is Durham Region Transit’s (DRT) second biggest transit route.

The aim of the pilot is to address the impacts of COVID-19 on transit and test transit improvements, according to Margaret Parkhill of IBI Group.

After looking at a number of examples from other municipalities, Parkhill tells both committees they are looking for a way to balance transit and traffic.

The bus lane, which would be intermittent across Simcoe, saw several councillors concerned as there was another project on Simcoe which forced traffic to divert onto Mary Street and Somerville Street.

Oshawa Mayor Dan Carter says he would like to see IBI and DRT consult with the residents on these streets.

“I think that would be helpful,” he says, adding it would bring first-hand knowledge into the problems those streets faced.

“My desire would be a fulsome communication plan that would really talk about if this pilot is moving forward, what the pilot would look like, and how it’s going to affect daily commuters,” says Carter.

At the development services committee meeting, Councillor Bob Chapman says he isn’t very optimistic, noting Simcoe is a busy street, and would be reduced to one lane both ways under the pilot.

“Traffic’s like water. It takes the easiest course and the quickest course,” he says.

Councillor and Chair of the Development Services Committee Tito-Dante Marimpierti cautioned staff and IBI against starting the pilot without enough information.

He urges DRT and IBI to “wrap their heads around those particular impacts specific to Somerville and Mary.”

Ultimately, Marimpietri wants to know what DRT and IBI hope to achieve with the pilot.

“I think the one line is that we are looking to improve transit times, and the reliability of service… and to also regrow ridership,” says Parkhill.

While most committee members were wary of the pilot, Councillor Derek Giberson expressed a cautious optimism, noting this is a positive direction.

“Typically these sorts of changes to high volume roadways… we have struggled actually with sometimes keeping people to reasonable speeds at some points along Simcoe Street,” he says.

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