The Model and MCE
The most highly suitable locations for Regional Express Railway station development are located within Toronto. The existing GO lines already have substantial ridership from people who live outside of Downtown Toronto, but work in the city. The model in this study was developed to determine the census tracts that would benefit the most from new stations by incorporating socioeconomic variables that go beyond employment. The MCE proved to be the best tool for this, as it was able to incorporate all of the factors that were deemed significant for rail use. As such, the results follow the expectations, as the most suitable area for RER station development is in a dense neighbourhood of Toronto on the underserviced Richmond Hill Line, with few existing stations nearby. The model also yielded results showing that for the considered factors, transit is adequately serviced in the other major cities in the GTHA like Milton, Burlington, and Kitchener. The only city outside of the Great Toronto Area that has any socioeconomic suitability for RER stations is Guelph, with two census tracts that still score substantially lower than the suitable areas noted in Toronto.
The intentions behind the currently proposed RER stations are unknown, as based off of the factors examined, none were explicitly stated as part of Metrolinx's decision-making. Their proposed stations fall within some of the lowest scoring census tracts, with none falling within any of the higher scoring census tracts found in this study.
Potential development projects aside from the construction of brand new RER stations is to upgrade existing GO stations that are operating at full capacity, and need retrofitting in order to support projected demand. This can be done throgh the electrification of certain lines along the railway, and the information found in this study can help identify the extent of electrification on the various GO corridors. Ultimately, supplying access to these areas through the proposed uprgrades is the most effective way to improve ridership and increase capacity.
It is important to consider that many variables have not been included in this study, such as the environment directly surrounding the transit lines, and employment status within the census tracts. These variables are not easily available, and would be better suited for a study conducted by firms with greater access to data repositories. In addition, the most refined area to determine suitability for RER stations are census tracts, which vary greatly in size. In order to pinpoint a more refined location, more information is needed regarding the physical and socioeconomic characteristics of the areas surrounding existing GO corridors. Lastly, this study does not consider access to transit from other modes, such as subway, bus, streetcar, or light-rail. This was done with the intention of differentiating between the transit modes, as RER serves a specific purpose that isn’t comparable to other modes of transit. However, in order to create a comprehensive transit network, future studies would need to consider how incorporating municipal transit projects can work to improve provincial projects, such as Metrolinx’s RER project.