Over 40 million riders used Brampton Transit in 2023—Where is the servicing to meet the city’s growing demand?
(Hafsa Ahmed/The Pointer)

Over 40 million riders used Brampton Transit in 2023—Where is the servicing to meet the city’s growing demand?

After warnings almost a decade ago that Brampton’s elected officials were ignoring the huge demand for public transit in the city, nearly 41 million people used the system last year, a record that represents a roughly 31 percent spike from 2022, exceeding projections by nearly 5 million riders.

Rapid population growth coupled with an ongoing affordability crisis are creating unprecedented demand on Brampton Transit. 

And in an age when fast, efficient and reliable transit is one of the best solutions to curb climate change, the failure of leaders such as Mayor Patrick Brown, who has cut transit investments dramatically, represents a lost opportunity with dire consequences. 

Stories of Brampton residents stranded at stops because passing buses are too full, and overcrowded aisles inside are becoming more common, as residents who have no other option for getting to work or school wonder why the service is so inadequate. 

This growth in ridership is creating significant pressure on a public transit system that has been left underfunded for years, despite surging ridership. The lack of infrastructure (due to poor leadership on council) to support this unprecedented demand has been an issue for years. The red flags were raised long ago. 

The current system is not able to support more than a hundred thousand daily rides, on average, as commuters travel in and out of the city—they are regularly left behind at stops because the bus was too full; riders are often crammed shoulder-to-shoulder standing on overcrowded vehicles posing safety and accessibility concerns. Delays and no-shows are also an issue.



Riders of Brampton Transit often share their complaints on social media.



Funding to fix these chronic problems has repeatedly been delayed by City Council. In 2023, $135.9 million was forecasted to be spent on transit operations in 2024, but Brown’s approved 2024 budget—despite the overwhelming 40,907,484 riders in 2023—put only $91.9 million toward this investment, a $44 million reduction. 

Brampton resident Amanda Calder told The Pointer she has “very strong feelings” about the need for more capacity on the Züm Queen route. The 501/501C Züm Queen is the busiest route in Brampton, according to the City. 

“My daughter works at a bar at Highway 27 and Highway 7 in Vaughan. We thought she could take transit there from our home near downtown Brampton when she got the job. We have since learned it is nearly impossible,” she said. “She can get there, but getting home even late at night is nearly impossible, because the buses are full from leaving the Vaughan Metropolitan Centre. They pass by her stop full, even at 11 at night.” 

Calder said the situation has gotten to a point where her son picks her daughter up, a roughly 40-kilometre round trip for him, or her daughter is forced to pay for a costly Uber.

Resident Greg Black told The Pointer the 7 Kennedy route could also use additional buses. He says the 7 South from Heart Lake Terminal is nearly at capacity by the time it reaches Bovaird Drive—only 9 stops into the 39 on the entire route.

“I actually believe the Kennedy route rivals the [S]teeles route as one of the busiest,” Black said.

According to the City, improvements to existing routes could soon be announced. 

“Service improvements for a number of routes on the system are currently under review for implementation starting in late April and continuing through to September,” a spokesperson told The Pointer. 

Staff are actively advancing Züm service expansion and exploring the future potential for higher order transit along Steeles, Bovaird and other key growth corridors, the City spokesperson explained. 

Changes “may include service frequency increases, earlier and later service, additional trips at peak times and schedule adjustments to improve on-time performance.”

“Ridership data, resource availability, on-time performance and other inputs are currently being assessed and improvements are being implemented as resources come available,” the spokesperson said. “Transit staff will be seeking further input from the public on these changes at our upcoming Public Information Centres.”

Brampton Transit is also relying on improvements to other major transit initiatives to potentially ease the burden on its existing routes. 

“There are several projects and initiatives that are critical to addressing the City’s current and future transit ridership demand,” the spokesperson said, highlighting the The Hazel McCallion LRT from Port Credit to Brampton Gateway Terminal which is currently under construction, as well as the potential LRT extension along Main Street to Brampton’s downtown GO station. Brampton Council agreed to an alignment for any future extension, which includes tunnelling part of the LRT, driving the cost up to nearly $3 billion. The PC government has indicated this LRT extension is a priority project, but has not yet committed to a tunnel option, which is significantly more costly for taxpayers. The provincial budget being delivered today (March 26) could offer clarification on how much the PCs are willing to provide for the project. 


Brampton Transit is recording unprecedented levels of ridership, but the City’s transit services are still unable to adequately serve the growing demand.

(Hafsa Ahmed/The Pointer)


The City is also exploring a Transit Hub in downtown Brampton to connect routes and improve the transition from Brampton Transit to interregional systems such as the GO network. 

During a public information session in November to present plans for a Transit Hub in downtown, City staff confirmed the current downtown transit terminal “is facing difficulties in accommodating the capacity needed for current and future transit services.” 

“Specifically, anticipated rapid transit services, including increased service frequency on the GO rail corridor immediately north of the site, the introduction of the Brampton LRT, as well as the Queen St-Highway 7 BRT, will lead to an increase in demand on the local transit network,” the staff presentation stated.

The proposed construction of the LRT was framed as a catalyst for improved service.

“Consequently, the new proposed Transit Hub can address the capacity constraints while also presenting the opportunity to provide improved connection between municipal and interregional transit networks, as well as supporting the intensification and mobility objectives listed in municipal and regional planning policies.”


The existing transit terminal at 8 Nelson Street West in downtown Brampton, recently renamed Brampton Innovation District GO Station, is unable to meet ridership demands. A new Downtown Brampton Transit Hub is being planned to increase service capacity.

(Hafsa Ahmed/The Pointer)


In an email to The Pointer, a Brampton Transit department spokesperson wrote, “The Downtown Transit Hub is currently in the Transit Project Assessment Process (TPAP), to develop the preliminary design in the Downtown Core, to address future transit needs and take advantage of opportunities to better integrate with other initiatives in Downtown Brampton.” These other initiatives include the Brampton LRT, GO Kitchener Two-Way All-Day service, Queen Street-Highway 7 BRT and Downtown Revitalization Program. 

Any efficiencies realized from this proposed hub will not be seen for several years. In the meantime, Brampton Transit must find ways to increase the number of buses, and the number of service hours to accommodate the increasing number of residents relying on transit to get around the city. One of the major roadblocks to achieving this is the lack of available storage space for City buses. The failure to fund this infrastructure creates the bottleneck that leads to the crush of riders and the problems that exist today with buses crammed to capacity passing by stops. Almost a decade ago, a master plan recommended a path to avoiding these problems, in particular investing in more storage and maintenance space for buses. It was ignored. 

Currently, the City of Brampton only has two transit maintenance and storage facilities. A third, as previously reported by The Pointer, is being planned but lacks sufficient funding for the construction phase of the project. A report from 2015 recommended the City build two additional bus storage and maintenance facilities for 2021 and 2028 to prevent reaching what Brampton Transit staff described as “crush capacity” within its existing facilities. That threat of over-capacity was at risk of occurring as early as 2023. Despite this knowledge, Brown and councillors ignored the original plan and instead pushed for a single, larger facility to be built a year later, in 2024. 

The spokesperson said the third facility is “currently in the design phase, with construction anticipated to begin in 2024.” However, the staff report from November 2023 states the $189,780,000 in funding “is insufficient to complete the project.” This suggests Brampton is currently moving forward with the project despite not having the money to pay for it. The staff report warned this could result in “sunk construction costs” — wasted tax dollars should the full funding never materialize.

The City has not shared how much additional money is needed to fully fund the project, with staff noting a budget amendment is planned to come to council in mid-2024. The construction portion is supposed to begin in Q4 2024 and end in 2027.

Dozens of people board a bus at Brampton Gateway Terminal. Brampton Transit’s ridership reached nearly 41 million in 2023.

(Hafsa Ahmed/The Pointer)


The City is also working on the Queen St. – Highway 7 Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project alongside Metrolinx. This future 24-kilometre corridor (18 are in Brampton) would create a critical east-west connection, reaching the Vaughan Metropolitan Centre and linking to the future Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension. 

Recently, Metrolinx published plans for major service changes this spring, although the update was later redacted—reportedly announced ahead of schedule—it noted enhanced services on the Kitchener Line in April would see “approximately 30-minute weekday service in the midday and evenings between Bramalea GO and Union Station.”


(City of Brampton)


The City is planning a number of public information sessions in April so residents can provide input to shape future transit service priorities. Four sessions will be held in-person and online on April 2, 4, 9 and 11 at community centres and bus terminals in Brampton. 



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