Jan 17

Draft Transportation Plan for Southwestern Ontario released by MTO

By Transport Action Ontario | Intercity Rail and Bus , Southwestern Ontario

On January 17, 2020, the Ontario Ministry of Transportation released the report Connecting the Southwest: A draft transportation plan for southwestern Ontario. Transport Action Ontario is pleased that the plan has been released, as promised in the 2019 Provincial Budget.

The Province has also launched an online survey to gather feedback on the document.

Most of the plan’s 43 Actions deal with expansion or operations of highways and roads. As an organization focusing on rail, bus and transit public transportation, we will not comment further on those Actions.

We are encouraged to see the province taking the public transportation concerns of communities large and small across the region seriously, to reverse the decline of rural and regional mobility. Some of the Actions are province-wide programs or plans already underway. We support these programs such as the Community Transportation Grant Program, the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program, Dedicated Gas Tax Funding for Public Transportation and Transit-Oriented Development of stations.

We are pleased that the province will be actively engaging with mayors in a Task Force to build upon the foundations that have been created by the Community Transportation Grants, and focusing on a regional bus network with a rail spine, as recommended in our policy research and reports.

The province is working to identify opportunities for incremental improvements to the existing rail corridors, which could swiftly deliver the more frequent and reliable passenger services that the region needs. It is imperative that these passenger rail improvements are for the benefit of the whole region, including additional services to Sarnia and Windsor.

We hope to see the federal government represented on the new Task Force and working alongside the province as an active partner in bringing about significant improvements that will make the best use of the increased capabilities of the new VIA Rail train fleet that will be arriving in 2021.

We’re encouraged by a focus on passenger convenience, and connectivity between rail and bus services. This is something people in this region have brought up frequently at our public meetings. It is also fundamental to maximizing the benefits to quality of life and minimizing the burden on the public purse.

Bus drivers and train crews are the backbone of a passenger friendly transportation network. They need fair wages and good working conditions to help them deliver outstanding levels of customer service, and that’s an issue we will be watching.

We look forward to seeing concrete steps to fulfill these Actions, including line items in upcoming Provincial Budgets. Inevitably, investment decisions will have to be made between highway, road and public transportation projects. It’s imperative that all investment decisions be evidence-based and incorporate broad-spectrum stakeholder consultation. All plans need to include a contribution to citizens’ wellness and full consideration of their health effects. Economic growth facilitation should not be based on monetary considerations alone but its positive effects on society in general.

Photo: Ontario Minister of Transportation Caroline Mulroney announcing Connecting the Southwest accompanied by Environment Minister Jeff Yurek, MPP for Elgin-Middlesex-London; London Mayor Ed Holder; Agriculture Minister Ernie Hardeman, MPP for Oxford; Consumer Affairs Minister Lisa Thompson, MPP for Huron-Bruce; and Bob Bailey, MPP for Sarnia-Lambton

Jan 01

Rural Transit Renaissance for Southwestern Ontario

By Transport Action Ontario | Southwestern Ontario

After several years of patient lobbying by rural citizens, transit activists, and local councils, 2020 is set to be a banner year for rural transit in Southwestern Ontario. Many of the projects funded through the Community Transportation Grants will come to fruition, and new bus services are expected to be in place by summer 2020.

The Community Transportation Grants were first announced in 2018, but with the change of provincial government and lack of central support or coordination for procurement, some routes have taken longer to start up than others. The Leamington – Windsor service, which uses existing Transit Windsor buses, has been running since July 2019.

Without regional coordination of transportation planning, something we believe is most certainly needed for Southwestern Ontario, there is as yet no comprehensive route map and schedule database to illustrate the full scope of the services being funded and introduced, but it will include several of the routes previously identified as high priorities by Transport Action Ontario and the Southwestern Ontario Transportation Alliance in the Network Southwest report published in 2014.

There were critical gaps in the projects that applied for the Community Transportation Grants, including St. Thomas – London, further illustrating the need for regional coordination, rather than a process dependent upon piecemeal grant applications, to maximize the social and economic impact of these investments, although the Mayor of St. Thomas is now requesting additional funding from the Ontario government to restore services on that route.

https://london.ctvnews.ca/ticket-to-ride-regional-bus-from-st-thomas-to-london-in-the-works-1.4733716

Here are the announcements for many of the new services funded by Community Transportation Grants:

Sarnia – London

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/london/voyago-to-operate-london-strathroy-sarnia-bus-service-1.5402461

Owen Sound – Guelph

https://www.owensoundsuntimes.com/news/local-news/kaspers-owen-sound-to-guelph-transit-service-to-start-jan-15

Tillsonburg – Woodstock

https://www.woodstocksentinelreview.com/news/local-news/oxford-inter-community-bus-service-to-launch-in-april

Stratford – Kitchener/London

https://kitchener.ctvnews.ca/bus-pilot-project-from-stratford-to-london-kitchener-and-more-set-to-launch-next-year-1.4604140

Leamington – Kingsville – Essex – Windsor

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/windsor/windsor-leamington-transit-route-1.5204505

Brant e-Ride (on-demand)

https://www.brantfordexpositor.ca/news/local-news/brant-to-offer-eride-service

Wellington County RideWell (on-demand)

https://www.guelphtoday.com/local-news/wellington-county-rural-transit-service-takes-to-the-road-1723716

Chatham-Kent adVANtage (on-demand)

https://familyservicekent.com/services/advantage-transporation/

These services join existing rural transit services in the region, including:

Four Counties Transit (West Elgin, SW Middlesex, Newbury, Eastern Chatham-Kent)

http://www.westelgin.net/residents/four-counties-community-transportation-service

Ride Norfolk

https://www.norfolkcounty.ca/transit/schedulesandmaps/

Chatham-Kent Inter-urban Transit

https://www.chatham-kent.ca/community-services/transportation/InterUrbanTransit

Dec 18

Statement on Cancellation of Hamilton LRT Project

By Transport Action Ontario | Latest News , Press Releases and Open Letters , Urban Transit

Transport Action Ontario issued the following statement on December 18, 2019 regarding the cancellation of the Hamilton LRT project.


Transport Action Ontario is profoundly disappointed with the Ontario government decision to cancel the Hamilton LRT project. Work had been underway on this project for many years, with over $160 million expended by Metrolinx on design and property acquisition, with more than 60 properties acquired and residents relocated. There are many troubling aspects about this decision.

Without completing the RFP process, the province’s figure of $5 billion (including 30 years of operating costs) is even more of a guesstimate that the previous government’s forecast. Other LRT projects in Ontario have come in at a much lower figure than this. The fact that the government will not release the third-party report that generated the $5 billion figure is also very troubling.

A business-friendly environment for investment and job creation requires political stability and long-term infrastructure planning. Businesses have been making investments in Hamilton for several years based on the promised LRT. This is a slap in the face that will also make businesses think twice about planned investments along other promised transit corridors in the GTA. This cancellation contradicts Ontario’s objective of being “open for business”. 

It is not clear from the Minister whether all the proven benefits of LRT have been fully considered. Downtown air quality in Hamilton would see significant improvement from the reduction of engine emissions, toxic PM2.5 particulates, brake and tire dust. The negative health effects of these airborne compounds in vehicle traffic-dense areas and their heavy burden on health care costs are alarming the health research community. Higher incidence of respiratory diseases and reduced brain function are, they say, a direct result of poor air quality. LRT in Hamilton would help to alleviate this growing problem.

There is a demonstrated need – economically, socially and environmentally – for the Hamilton LRT. Meanwhile the expert panel that reviewed the widely-opposed 413 GTA-West expressway project found that the need for it could not be adequately demonstrated and that tax dollars invested in transit and road alternatives would do more to reduce congestion. That report has now been deleted from the Ministry of Transportation website, and the $5 billion+ project restarted. The government has thus opened itself up to the perception that it has resurrected a known boondoggle at Hamilton’s expense.

Nov 22

Extensive Media Coverage on Return of Passenger Rail to Northern Ontario

By Transport Action Ontario | Intercity Rail and Bus , Latest News , Northern Ontario

There has been extensive media coverage recently referencing the return of passenger rail to Northern Ontario and the business case that is currently being developed between Ontario Northland and Metrolinx. The plan is slated to be presented to the Provincial Government for decision making by the end of the year.

Given below are links to recent media articles.

Passenger Rail promise will be fulfilled

Reference to passenger rail transportation proposal and rail solutions for northern Ontario

https://www.northbaynipissing.com/community-story/9706884-trains-planes-and-buses-for-nipissing-on-fedeli-s-2020-to-do-list/

Revival of Passenger Rail from Toronto to Cochrane

https://northernontario.ctvnews.ca/mobile/bringing-buses-and-trains-in-the-north-up-to-speed-1.4683248?cache=?ot=AjaxLayout

Passenger Rail Plan Closed to Being Unveiled

Nov 12

Provincial Assessment of GTA West Highway Corridor Continues

By Transport Action Ontario | Highways and Bridges , Latest News

In 2018, the new Ontario government announced it was reviving the Environmental Assessment (EA)  for the GTA West (Highway 413) corridor, proposed to run north of Highway 407 from Vaughan to Milton.  The EA had been stopped by the Liberal Government based on recommendations from an advisory panel in 2017.   Transport Action Ontario participated in the previous EA, emphasizing that existing infrastructure (rail, provincial highways, regional roads) should be expanded to full capacity first.

The 2017 advisory panel report has now been removed from the MTO website, but remains available through the Internet Archive:

https://web.archive.org/web/20190618160500/http://www.mto.gov.on.ca/english/publications/gta-west-report/index.shtml

The report was extremely thoughtful and comprehensive.  It concluded:

  • Future travel demand is very much more uncertain than when the EA was initiated 10 years ago.  This includes uncertainties in transportation technology (e.g. automated vehicles, shared mobility), economic changes (e-commerce, different manufacturing centres, bigger service economy) and policy changes (climate change mitigation, protection of valuable land, complete communities).  A broad range of scenarios should be modeled.
  • Four specific promising alternatives were modelled and should be considered before committing to a new highway:
    • Consider and prioritize planned and constructed extension and expansion of existing highways
    • Consider congestion pricing (offers much larger travel time saving than GTAW highway)
    • Consider providing truck priority on Highway 407
    • Consider slower growth and more compact land use patterns than assumed in EA, consistent with recent actual growth
  • Framework used in the EA was flawed, resulting in a failure to demonstrate that a new corridor was the only reasonable alternative
  • A preferred planning approach would be to develop a single unified transportation plan for the entire Greater Golden Horseshoe that would align with provincial policies and explicitly consider uncertainty

Despite this recommendation, the previous EA has been revived “as is” and is proceeding with detailed route evaluation.  Public information sessions were held in October.  There is mixed public reaction to the project, with concerns about induced vehicular demand and loss of valuable farm land being paramount.  TAO will consult with other non-government environmental organizations as to next steps.

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