Category Archives for "Highways and Bridges"

Nov 21

Ontario’s 2018 Fall Economic Statement – Mixed Signals on Transportation

By TAO-admin | Highways and Bridges , Intercity Rail and Bus , Latest News , Northern Ontario , Urban Transit

On November 15, Ontario released its 2018 Fall Economic Statement (FES). It is a large document covering all aspects of the Province’s operations. It is likely the most significant statement on the government’s intentions until the provincial budget comes out in Spring, 2019.

To date, the government has implemented various tax and fee cuts, including cancelling cap and trade, putting in a hiring freeze, changing labour laws, and cancelling some projects and programs, including 4 new universities, 758 renewable energy contracts, and the Environmental Commissioner office. There is a lot of public worry about additional future cuts as the government struggles to balance its books.

The statements on transportation in the FES are a mixed bag as summarized below:

• In contrast to their election platform promise to reinstate the Northlander train, the FES emphasizes northern highway improvements, and only promises to “review other initiatives to meet Northerners’ transportation needs, including passenger rail and bus services”.

• Similarly, in contrast to their promise to deliver all transit and transportation projects currently funded, the FES simply indicates that “the government looks forward to completing its review of all capital projects and intends to share details in the coming months”.

• The campaign plan to upload responsibility for existing and new subway lines from Toronto is maintained in the FES. See previous posting on this topic on the TAO website for more details. We have now heard that the advisory report on this uploading will be coming to the government by the end of this month.

• The campaign promise to actively explore High Speed Rail in Southwestern Ontario has been replaced with a plan to analyze a range of “options to either upgrade existing rail corridors, create new ones or utilize other forms of transportation.” This appears to be a welcome step-back from the previous government’s single-minded pursuit of High Speed Rail only. TAO has long advocated for a review of rail alternatives such as High Performance Rail involving incremental improvements to train speed and frequency on all existing corridors. But of course, the “other forms of transportation” statement bears watching.

• As expected, the province is reviving the Environmental Assessment for the GTA-W highway corridor. TAO participated in the previous EA process, emphasizing that existing infrastructure (rail, provincial highways, regional roads) need expansion to full capacity prior to a new expressway being built.

• A new item in the FES is a planned review of the enabling legislation for Metrolinx to “enhance the agency’s focus on regional transit delivery and service excellence”. Whether this leads to some sort of broader scope for Metrolinx, such as one regional transit agency like “Superlinx”, remains to be seen.

• The province is continuing work on the Greater Golden Horseshoe transportation plan, to which TAO and other non-government organizations have previously inputted.

• The FES is silent on the campaign promise to add $5B in new subway funding to build various lines in the GTHA. It is also silent on other topics that TAO has urged action on, including living up to the previous government promises of higher gas tax revenue to municipalities and provincial contributions to transit fare integration in Greater Toronto, as well as assistance to municipalities to implement low-income fares/passes.

 

In summary, with this new government, there are many planned or potential major changes to Ontario’s transportation landscape. TAO intends to closely monitor all of these and provide input to ensure that sustainability gets its fair due.

Jan 09

Response to the Greater Golden Horseshoe Transportation Plan

By TAO-admin | Highways and Bridges , Intercity Rail and Bus , Latest News , Urban Transit

The Ontario Ministry of Transportation is developing a long-range (2051) multimodal transportation plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe.  Objectives include reducing congestion, supporting economic growth, promoting healthy lifestyles, responding to the climate change challenge and leveraging new technology.   The province is seeking public input on a draft set of long-term goals which will inform the plan.

 

Transport Action Ontario, along with 5 other non-government organizations, has formally responded to the Province’s request for comments.  Our letter can be viewed here:  GGH Draft Transportation Plan Comments – December 22, 2017

Dec 23

Transport Action Ontario featured in article on road tolls

By TAO-admin | Highways and Bridges , Latest News , Urban Transit

Note to Readers:   with the approval of expressway tolls in Toronto, interest in road tolling has spiked all across the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area.  Transport Action Ontario was featured in an article by York Region Media Group on this topic.  The article summarizes our position and reasons why we support such tolls.  The article can be viewed below. 

 

Dec 20, 2016  |  Vote 0    0

Transportation group advocates for toll roads in York Region

Markham Economist & Sun

If you’re a commuter who thinks toll roads coming to Toronto are highway robbery, brace yourself.

While the issue doesn’t have the same traction as it does in Toronto where council agreed in December to pursue the idea, it is slowly percolating, mainly out of the public eye, in York Region.

“We’ve been working behind the scenes (to make it happen here),” said Markham resident Peter Miasek, past-president of Transport Action Ontario, an organization advocating for rail-based public transportation.

The organization supports tolls on highways 400 and 404, with revenues being earmarked for transit and transportation projects in the region.

The organization has talked about toll roads with regional transportation staff and some councillors, including Newmarket Coun. John Taylor and Richmond Hill Coun. Vito Spatafora, who chairs the region’s transportation committee, Miasek said.

Meanwhile, he pointed out the region’s new transportation master plan supports pursuing the possibility of toll roads.

“Support and participate in a constructive dialogue on road pricing among governments, the business sector and general public across the GTHA (Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area) and support education, research and demonstration that are essential to effective, efficient and equitable road pricing in the long term,” the plan said.

Miasek, who made a presentation to Toronto’s executive committee on Dec. 1 in favour of the city’s plan to impose tolls on the Gardiner Expressway and Don Valley Parkway, said it doesn’t make sense to bring toll roads to York Region until the transit system is at a point where it can offer a reliable alternative to driving.

But with significantly expanded GO train service now being implemented, it makes sense to start discussing the issue, he said.

Toll roads have many benefits, Miasek said.

“It does a number of things. It boosts revenue, it will cut travel time for those people who want to pay, it does wean us off the car,” he said, adding a program to help low-income commuters could be considered.

“I do think our automobiles, and I’m an auto driver like everyone else up here, is past its best before date with all the accidents and the health issues, climate change, congestion and all of that. So, it’s a step in the right direction.”

While Toronto is eyeing a $2 flat toll, Miasek said a fee by distance is fairer and would also help prevent drivers from bailing from the highway onto local roads just before tolls begin.

Ideally, the province would be leading the discussion but likely won’t embrace the political hot potato in advance of the 2018 election, Miasek said.

He acknowledged the issue is controversial.

“I may not want to run for most beloved citizen,” he laughed, adding he’s surprised at the support he’s heard among his friends for toll roads as long as rates are reasonable and the revenues are used to improve transit and transportation infrastructure.

Spatafora, who agreed the region is looking at the concept of road pricing, said he has mixed feelings about toll roads.

Implementing tolls on highways 404 and 400 would be difficult because they are provincial highways but the region could consider them for future regional roads, specifically much-needed and expensive east-west streets needed to ease the region’s serious traffic congestion problems, Spatafora said.

Tolls are worth considering if the revenues are used for the construction of transit and transportation infrastructure, not to fund ongoing operating expenses, Spatafora said.

It’s also crucial they not be run like Highway 407, he said.

“I take a look at what’s happened with Highway 407 and it’s become a money-maker for foreign investors. It kind of defeats the purpose because a lot of people who’d want to use this east-west connection avoid it because of the heavy cost,” he said.

“If it’s a reasonable cost, in terms of the operating expense, then it’s one thing. But when it becomes a gouge, like it has been with the 407, that’s where I’m hesitant and have concerns.”

Tolls shouldn’t be implemented until the region’s transit system is more developed, Spatafora said.

Tolls can cause drivers to migrate to surrounding non-toll roads, meaning traffic patterns are just shifted rather than alleviated, Elliott Silverstein, manager of government relations in the Canadian Automobile Association’s Thornhill office, said.

The CAA and Conference Board of Canada produced a report in 2010 which showed motorists in Ontario pay for 70 to 80 per cent of road infrastructure costs through fuel taxes and vehicle registration fees.

That jumps to “well over 100 per cent” in the GTHA, showing motorists already shoulder more than their fair share of transportation costs, Silverstein said.

On Jan. 1, drivers will begin paying 4.3 cents more in gas taxes as part of the carbon tax, putting more of a burden on motorists, he said.

Governments need to look at other options other than tolls to manage traffic congestion, Silverstein said.

Aug 08

Panel Struck to look at Alternatives to GTA-West Expressway (Highway 413)

By TAO-admin | Highways and Bridges

 
Ontario has been conducting an Environmental Assessment on this $4B proposed new 6 lane expressway, running from Vaughan to Milton, since 2007.  Transport Action Ontario (TAO) has been participating in the public discourse.  Our position has been to emphasize that existing infrastructure (highways, rail) must be fully expanded first, and that an expressway only be considered after a broad range of other alternatives were studied.  For further details, see the TAO website.
In December, 2015, the province suddenly announced the suspension of the EA process.  The reasons cited were emerging technologies and the sharing economy, a commitment to public transit, the need for natural heritage protection (including Greenbelt) and the need to live up to climate change commitments.  We viewed this announcement as promising.  (see Ontario Report, November-December 2015, From the President, for more details).
This July, the province established a new advisory panel tasked with looking at alternatives to meeting the future transportation demand in this high-growth area.  According to the Toronto Star, the panel includes experts in the fields of urban, regional and transportation planning, environment assessment and protection and resource management.  The panel is expected to provide an update in the fall.  To be continued……..
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