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Nov 07

New Report on using Highway 407 for Trucking

By Transport Action Ontario | Highways and Bridges , Latest News

A new report has been released entitled The Freight Escape: How to Get Trucks Off the 401 Without Blowing a Hole in the Greenbelt

This report was commissioned by Environmental Defence with input from Transport Action Ontario and you can access this report here.

The report finds that subsidizing the toll on the 407 ETR is cheaper, easier, and better for the trucking industry than building the proposed Highway 413. It also shows that moving trucks from Highway 401 to the 407 will alleviate congestion for all road users and reduce journey times for truck drivers. This would also make building the proposed Highway 413 unnecessary, save taxpayers at least $6 billion (based on 2018 estimates), and conserve valuable natural spaces including 2000 acres of farmland and 400 acres of Greenbelt.

The Freight Escape report finds that moving trucks to the 407 will: 

  • Move 12,000 to 21,000 trucks a day off Highway 401, reducing daily traffic for passenger vehicles 
  • Cost $6 billion less than constructing the proposed Highway 413. Subsidizing the 407 trucking toll is estimated to cost $4 billion, which would be paid over a 30 year period. The Ontario government has not revealed a cost estimate for building Highway 413, but estimates cited in the media are as high as $10 billion 
  • Reduce cost and journey time for truck drivers: using Highway 407 will improve journey times for truckers by approximately 80 minutes, which would be less than half the length of time than the equivalent trip on Highway 401 
  • Conserve local natural spaces and local food production – including 2000 acres of farmland and 400 acres of Greenbelt land that would be paved by Highway 413.
Oct 23

Briefing Note on North Main Line (NML) Passenger Rail

By Transport Action Ontario | Intercity Rail and Bus

Transport Action Ontario has issued a briefing note for municipal stakeholders on the opportunity, status and suggested next steps on passenger rail service on the North Main Line (London – Stratford – Kitchener). This file has a lot of moving parts, including the recent shutdown of GO Rail service on the NML, as well as studies underway by the federal and provincial governments.

The briefing note can be viewed below.

Second main track for GO trains under construction near Breslau, Ontario, showing earthwork and grading completed alongside the existing track.
Sep 25

Kitchener GO construction progress – Fall 2023

By Transport Action Ontario | Intercity Rail and Bus

Metrolinx is making progress addressing the bottleneck on the Kitchener Line between Georgetown and Kitchener. There are currently no opportunities for trains to pass each other west of Georgetown, vastly constraining capacity on the line, so the addition of passing tracks is crucial to providing the promised all-day two-way service to Kitchener.

Earthworks are now largely complete to install 2.6 miles of second track near Breslau (pictured above), ready for track installation, and the first switches for the were installed in mid September. Rather than acting as a siding where one train must stop, trains will be able to pass here at line speed.

The second platform at Guelph is progressing well, with canopy work expected the be complete this year, and the signals controlling the second track have been partially activated, thus providing a bit more flexibility for dispatchers even before the new platform is ready to fully open.

To complete this infrastructure work, the line has to be closed over several weekends, with VIA Rail trains between Toronto and Sarnia being replaced by motorcoaches. Further closures will be required on October 21-22 and November 4-5, 2023.

Metrolinx have also added a storage track for maintenance equipment west of Guelph and have plans for a third siding in the Acton area to round out the capacity enhancement.

Earlier this summer, Waterloo MPP Catherine Fife challenged the apparent absence of a clear timeline for the project, and Metrolinx would not commit to a 2025 start date for increased services, citing ongoing negotiations with CN.

On the Toronto end of the corridor, the new double track tunnel under 401/409 which was completed in 2020 sits unused pending the completion of other work to bring additional tracks to it. The new GO/UPX station at Mount Dennis for interchange with Eglinton Crosstown LRT is nearing completion, even though the Crosstown opening date remains uncertain.

Railway tunnel under highways 401 and 409.

Metrolinx also announced in August that it would be constructing a pedestrian tunnel to connect its Bloor GO/UPX station with Dundas West and the TTC’s Bloor-Danforth subways line, providing a shorter and weatherproofed transfer that should attract more passengers to use the connection.

At Brampton, the existing two-track station will be expanded with a third track, south of the existing south platform, thus closing a gap between triple-track sections of the corridor east and west of the station. Metrolinx awarded a contract for design work on the necessary modifications to the station and retaining wall in August.

West of Kitchener, however, the news is not good. The slow track speed between Kitchener and London, which Premier Doug Ford promised to address during the last provincial election, together with increased GO service to London, now appears set to be neglected because Metrolinx has reversed course and will end service to London on October 13, 2023.

Similarly, we await news regarding capacity enhancements on the Bramalea-Georgetown section, which also serves as the CN main line. The 2021 Preliminary Design Business Case cited the need for passing tracks and either a rail-rail flyover at Silver Junction or a double crossover to allow east and westbound passenger trains to meet at Georgetown, but neither project has been announced yet.

Simcoe County LINX Transit bus 6016 at Wasaga Beach, with destination board for Barrie Allendale GO station
Aug 25

Simcoe County’s LINX Transit System celebrates five years of service

By Transport Action Ontario | Community Transit

The County of Simcoe is celebrating a significant milestone as its LINX Transit service reaches its five-year anniversary. Since its launch in 2018, LINX Transit has undergone remarkable expansion, catering to over 700,000 riders to date and operating nearly two million kilometers in 2022.

The system is a good example of the kind of community transportation network Transport Action encourages, connecting residents across the 16 communities in the county, and to GO train and bus services at Barrie and Bradford.

The foundation for LINX Transit’s success was laid in 2017 when the Simcoe County council approved a five-year, $5 million initiative. Having now concluded their five-year launch plan, LINX Transit boasts an extensive network, with six routes traversing the county:

Route 1: Penetanguishene/Midland to Barrie
Route 2: Wasaga Beach to Barrie
Route 3: Orillia to Barrie
Route 4: Collingwood to Wasaga Beach
Route 5: New Tecumseth to Bradford West Gwillimbury
Route 6: Midland to Orillia

The network operates fully accessible buses, and the county also offer a LINX PLUS+ door-to-door accessible service for eligible residents, and for visitors who are registered for accessible service in another community. 

In a press release, Dennis Childs, the transit manager for the County of Simcoe, remarked on the growth of LINX Transit. “Since the start of LINX Transit, we’ve grown dramatically. Starting out with just four buses, we now operate more than 30,” Childs stated. “Thanks to the hard work of our operators, mechanics, and supervisory staff, we saw our ridership double in 2022, and we look forward to building up LINX Transit through our transportation master plan.”

A key feature of LINX Transit is its strategic route design, with stops at major hubs, including hospitals, educational institutions, and employment centers. This approach provides convenient access to essential services and job opportunities, fostering economic growth and improving the lives of the county’s residents.

Simcoe County is now in the process of updating its transportation master plan, which will incorporate a comprehensive transit review. With future growth and expansion in mind, this review will serve as the foundation for five-year and ten-year plans aimed at enhancing transportation connections between local municipalities. The county council is set to evaluate suggestions and proposals, with input from residents and key community stakeholders.

Local citizen advocates affiliated with Transport Action have written to request weekend and evening service on all routes, including Route 2 to provide a connection into Collingwood on weekends which should be a significant opportunity to grow ridership further. The extension of route 3 to connect with GO at Allendale Waterfront, and additional stops in Midhurst to access the county museum and other key destinations, were also suggested. We are awaiting a response.

County Warden Basil Clarke also emphasized the importance of LINX Transit, stating, “LINX Transit connects Simcoe County and provides our communities with affordable, reliable and environmentally responsible transportation to and from our major business, education and health hubs.” He further expressed the County Council’s dedication to nurturing the growth of this transit service, acknowledging its popularity and effectiveness.

London Mayor Josh Morgan meeting with Transport Action Ontario board members Ken Westcar, Tariq Khan, and Terry Johnson.
Aug 14

London should become a regional rail and bus hub

By Transport Action Ontario | Southwestern Ontario

London is the economic hub of southwestern Ontario; and should also be its mobility hub with frequent and reliable rail and bus connections throughout the region. This was the message shared by all when Mayor Josh Morgan met with public transportation advocates and researchers from Transport Action Canada on August 10, 2023.

The group discussed the need to revive the promised, but subsequently cancelled, improvement plans for GO services on the North Main Line through Stratford and Kitchener. The service is be cut in October with the province asserting that “infrastructure will no longer be available to maintain this service”. The facts supporting this statement are obscure, but it is known that the CN track between London and Kitchener is in extremely poor condition, with train speeds limited to 30 mph over most of the route, which is why the train current takes four hours to reach Toronto, 90 minutes slower than in the 1990s. At the last provincial election, Premier Doug Ford promised an investment of $120M to address this, providing a more frequent service to London on a more attractive schedule.

Transport Action has been campaigning for improved service on this route since the federal government directed VIA Rail to cut back services in 2011, an effort supported by the Stratford and District Chamber of Commerce and all communities through which the North Main Line passes. Together we must speak with a robust and strident voice to the Ford government about the vital importance of adequate passenger rail services, extending the strategy adopted by Kitchener to securing a provincial commitment for all-day/two way GO train services.

It is also hoped that ongoing studies by both senior levels of government will result in timely improvements in rail service in southwestern Ontario, in addition to the promised return of the morning VIA train, #82, to Toronto this fall. With all three levels of government working together, London’s station could become the nexus of rail, motorcoach, and intercommunity bus routes throughout the region, providing both reliable mobility and a safe, fully accessible, place to make connections.

Transport Canada has engaged CPCS Transcom to undertake a SWO rail capacity study, as promised by former Transport Minister Omar Alghabra in London last year. This study is expected to recommend investments to significantly increase VIA Rail services between Toronto and London on the route through Brantford. However, this has in indefinite timeline having been framed by the federal government as “phase two” of the slow-moving High Frequency Rail project. This delay is unnecessary, and Transport Canada should advance much-needed investment in southwestern Ontario in parallel with the Toronto to Quebec City project.

The provincial government has contracted Arcadis/IBI Group to work on an extension of the previous SWO Transportation Task Force Report covering all modes. The original report of the Task Force, chaired by previous mayor Ed Holder, has not yet been made public by the Minister of Transportation.