Category Archives for "Latest News"

Apr 19

Federal Airport Study Casts Doubt on Pickering Airport

By Transport Action Ontario | Aviation , Latest News

In a surprise announcement on April 18, 2023, federal Transport Minister Alghabra kicked off a study on airport capacity in Southern Ontario. A prime focus appears to be the Pickering Lands, where it was stated: “We have no intention to proceed with building an airport on the Pickering Lands in the near term and the conclusions of the study could lead, for example, to a determination that an airport on the Pickering Lands is not required in the long term”.

Transport Action Ontario (TAO) has long opposed the Pickering Airport. We believe that improved passenger rail service can provide more than enough capacity for medium distance (< 800 km) trips, so that the existing Pearson Airport could handle all future long-distance needs.

TAO will monitor this study closely. In addition to Pickering, there are other questions that should be studied, including

  • Future role of Toronto Island, Hamilton, London and other airports in Southern Ontario
  • Adequacy of ground connections to airports, i.e. rail and bus
Apr 16

Advocacy Summary for April, 2022 – April, 2023

By Transport Action Ontario | Events , Highways and Bridges , Intercity Rail and Bus , Latest News , Northern Ontario , Southwestern Ontario , Uncategorized , Urban Transit

Transport Action Ontario’s annual general meeting (AGM) was held in Toronto on April 15, 2023 in a hybrid format. The meeting followed a pro-forma agenda, including Treasurer’s report and election of officers and directors for the upcoming year.

The major part of the meeting was devoted to the President’s report, which summarized the extensive advocacy work undertaken by the organization all across the Province over the past 12 months. In total, work was conducted on about 30 items, with some successes and good progress on others.

For members and subscribers who were unable to attend the AGM, the President’s Report is attached as a FYI.

Mar 22

Gardiner East Transparency – Advocacy Update

By Transport Action Ontario | Highways and Bridges , Latest News

Transport Action Ontario is a core member of a coalition of community groups called Gardiner East Transparency (GET), calling for the City of Toronto to be transparent and to reveal the full go-forward costs and foregone revenues – potentially exceeding $1 billion – of its June, 2015 decision to build a colossal elevated link between the Gardiner East Expressway and the Don Valley Parkway.

A media release (see below) was issued on March 13, 2023 and was extremely well received, with over 10 radio, TV and print outlets picking up the story.

Unfortunately, despite many letters and deputations from residents, Toronto’s Infrastructure and Environment Committee chose on March 20 to not take further action on this matter. GET will continue its advocacy by keeping the issue visible during the upcoming Toronto mayoral campaign April 3 to June 26.

Mar 11

Federal Funding Needed to avoid Public Transit Death Spiral

By Transport Action Ontario | Latest News , Urban Transit

 During summer, 2022 the federal government engaged in public consultation on a proposed $3B/yr Permanent Public Transit Fund.  The purpose was to “support the expansion and upgrading of public transit and active transportation networks in communities across Canada”.  This wording implies that the funding will be for capital projects, not operating funds.

 One of the comments made by Transport Action on the posting was that the funding ought to also include operating cost support.  Now, 6 months later, the need for federal operating cost support is as large as ever.

 The pandemic has broken the public transit funding model.  Prior to the pandemic, the federal government was only involved in capital funding, through such programs as the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program.  The role of funding public transit operations was traditionally left to provinces (e.g. Ontario Gas Tax program) and municipalities.  In most cases, municipalities were the primary funders of operations, but have limited fiscal tools beyond politically unpopular property taxes and user fees.

 With the precipitous drop in transit ridership and farebox revenue in 2020, the federal government intervened with the provinces to provide emergency operating support though the Safe Restart Agreement, which was renewed in 2022.  This support prevented a complete collapse in transit service. Despite passenger revenues declining by 57% overall in 2020-2021, service levels only declined by 9%.  

Ridership is now at only 70% of pre-pandemic, although has recovered more for off-peak service and bus routes versus peak-hour rail routes, due to continued work-from-home practices. Overall ridership is unlikely to recover to pre-pandemic totals for quite a time. Thus the operating funding problem has not gone away.  Before the pandemic, 40-70% of transit operating budgets for transit systems were paid for through fares.  With fare box revenue reduction and financial assistance from other levels of government drying up, transit systems face the threat of a death spiral.  This is a vicious cycle of service cuts and fare hikes that push people away from transit, further decreasing revenue leading to further service cuts. This has huge negative consequences  on traffic congestion, carbon emissions and to shift workers and low-income riders.

 The death spiral may already be starting.  Montreal has killed most of its frequent bus network.  The TTC 2023 budget is proposing a 5% service cut versus 2022 and a 3% fare hike (most riders).  Despite a proposed increased subsidy from the City of Toronto, an additional subsidy is  being sought from the provincial and federal governments.  There is no answer yet on this request.

 We urge the federal government to stop the public transit death spiral with additional funding. This could be in the form of operating subsidies, or “restructuring” funding to align service patterns with new demand patterns. In the GTHA, the feds could also provide support for region-wide fare integration, which would undoubtedly boost ridership. Action is needed in the upcoming federal budget.

 (with thanks to Nate Wallace, Environmental Defence, for background information)

Mar 01

Truth in Advertising for High Frequency Rail

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

Transport Action board members Terry Johnson and Peter Miasek recently published an article in the March/April 2023 edition of Renew Magazine advocating for increased federal transparency for the High Frequency Rail (HFR) project. This project appears to be rapidly increasing in scope and complexity versus what was proposed in 2017 by VIA Rail, including higher potential speeds and more complex routes into Montreal and Toronto city centres.

We urged the release of the $71M study completed by the Joint Project Office in 2021, an updated cost estimate and a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis.

The article can be read here.

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