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Aug 27

Federal Funding Committed for two Toronto Transit Projects

By Transport Action Ontario | Latest News , Urban Transit

On August 26, 2019, the federal government confirmed more than $1B of funding for two Toronto rapid transit projects – capacity improvements at Bloor-Yonge subway station ($500M) and construction of 6 new Smart Track (ST) stations  ($585M).   The funding comes from the PTIF-2 program which will direct about $4.9B to Toronto transit over the coming 11 years.   For further details on PTIF, check the Transport Action Ontario (TAO) report “Update on Federal Funding Commitments for the GTHA” in May, 2019.  As can be read, the Smart Track funding is not a surprise,  as Prime Minister Harper had previously committed similar funding.

The Bloor-Yonge capacity improvement project is a solid, badly-needed project with little controversy. It will build/modify platforms on both Lines 2 and 1 and add stairs, escalators and elevators.

However, there is considerable strategic uncertainly about the Smart Track stations.  See Figure below.    

The following summarizes key facts on the stations:

  • There is no question that stations at all 6 locations are needed.  TAO’s seminal report in 2013 on “Regional Rapid Rail” recommended new GO stations at all 6 locations.
  • However, changes to the proposed subway network may put the viability of several of the ST stations in question.  The proposed Ontario Line (subway) includes stations near the ST stations at Gerard-Carlaw, East Harbour and King-Liberty.  Similarly, the proposed Line 2 Subway Extension includes a station near the ST station at Lawrence-Kennedy.  These may impact rider demand for these ST stations.
  • There is also uncertainty about the role that Transit Oriented Development will play in station construction.  New provincial policy indicates that developers must contribute to the costs of new stations, in return for development rights.  It is unclear if this stipulation will apply if federal funding is in place, or if there is developer interest in the ST stations.

TAO will continue to track this funding and the projects and advocate for the best use of taxpayer dollars.

Jul 23

Letter to Minister Mulroney – Rail and Bus Transportation Plan for Southwestern Ontario

By Transport Action Ontario | Intercity Rail and Bus , Press Releases and Open Letters , Southwestern Ontario

Ontario’s Budget 2019 confirmed that the Province is actively exploring opportunities in Southwestern Ontario to enhance passenger train speeds and service levels on existing railway corridors, as well as opportunities for inter-community bus services or other transit solutions that better support the immediate public transportation needs of the region. A transportation plan will be brought forward by fall, 2019.

Transport Action Ontario (TAO) strongly supports this new approach. We have long advocated for High Performance Rail (HPR) – incremental improvement of passenger rail service on existing corridors, plus improved bus feeder service. Various meetings on this topic were held earlier this year by TAO and affiliated organizations with then Transportation Minister Yurek and his staff.

With the appointment of a new Minister, the Hon. Caroline Mulroney, TAO took the opportunity to update her and her staff on our thinking for this upcoming plan. Our letter to the Minister summarized the need for a robust public transportation option, the available technical reports on HPR, the need to include VIA Rail Canada and the Federal Government in the study, and key next steps including specific service scenarios that should be studied.

Our letter to Minister Mulroney can be viewed here:

We also sent the Minister a Policy Briefing prepared by Transport Action Canada on Southwestern Ontario Rail and Bus.

Jun 25

Transport Action Welcomes VIA HFR Announcement

By Transport Action Ontario | Intercity Rail and Bus , Latest News , Press Releases and Open Letters

The following announcement was made today, June 25, 2019, by our parent organization, Transport Action Canada.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Transport Action Canada Welcomes VIA HFR Announcement
Today, the Honourable Marc Garneau, Minister of Transport, the Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, Cynthia Garneau, VIA Rail Canada President and CEOfficer, andPierre Lavallée, Canada Infrastructure Bank President and CEO announced a total of $71.1 million in funding to further explore VIA Rail Canada’s proposal for High Frequency Rail in the Quebec City- Toronto corridor.

Transport Action Canada welcomes the announcement of $71.1 million by the Canada Infrastructure Bank and the Government of Canada to complete diligence work on VIA Rail’s High Frequency Rail project.

While we would clearly like to see the High Frequency Rail project move forward as swiftly as possible, we’re very pleased to see that the vital question of ensuring interoperability with REM (Réseau Express Métropolitain) and access to Montreal’s Mount Royal Tunnel is going to be addressed. We are confident that an engineering solution will be relatively straightforward now that the political will to make this work has been confirmed, ensuring that Montreal will enjoy both better transit and enhanced inter city connections.  

Thanks to VIA Rail’s choice of making best use of existing rail corridors and extant rights of way, the project completion risk for High Frequency Rail is much lower than any previous Quebec-Windsor upgrade proposal and many transit projects. We hope this will allow the remaining diligence to be completed swiftly, and for the work to proceed on the first sections of the new route in time for the arrival of the new corridor fleet in 2022.

The largest risk, which we feel the government needs to pay more attention to, is the escalating opportunity cost to Canada of falling further behind the rest of the world on this vital aspect of our transportation infrastructure. Infrequent and inadequate inter city rail service both is a constraint on our domestic economic growth and a deterrent to international investors. 

About Transport Action Canada
Transport Action Canada, founded as Transport 2000 Canada in 1977, is the nation’s leading citizen transportation advocacy group. We are a non-profit, consumer-based organization that promotes through advocacy and education, and represents the interests of consumers or users of public transport services in Canada.

Jun 05

Public Survey on Passenger Rail Restoration in Northeastern Ontario

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

As summarized in our posting of April 28, 2019, Ontario Northland has been tasked by the provincial government to complete a plan to restore passenger rail service to Northeastern Ontario. Our hard-working affiliate group, the Northeastern Ontario Rail Network, together with the Committee Promoting Muskoka Rail Travel and with the District of Muskoka, have initiated an on-line public survey to gauge citizen interest.

For more information, see the article in “My Muskoka Now” at this link:

https://www.mymuskokanow.com/90313/survey-launched-to-gather-views-on-passenger-rail-restoration/

The survey can also be accessed directly at:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/NEORNsurvey

The survey will run until June 30.

Jun 05

Update on Federal Funding Commitments for Greater Toronto and Hamilton Transit

By Transport Action Ontario | Latest News , Urban Transit

With an upcoming federal election in October, Transport Action Ontario has reviewed federal funding support for transit capital maintenance and expansion in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA). No matter how the numbers are displayed, the current federal commitment is very low versus a target of 33% or more.

The federal government must up its game! And the provincial and federal governments need to cooperate to deliver the funds!

Our full report can be viewed here:

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