Category Archives for "Latest News"

Jun 18

Transport Action urges Investment to Accelerate VIA Rail Project Delivery

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

Transport Action Ontario engages in frequent correspondence and dialogue with VIA Rail on many topics, usually related to delivery of various improvement and expansion projects. We have become increasingly frustrated with VIA’s incapability, likely as a result of federal actions and neglect, to participate in discussions on Canada’s sustainable mobility future and achieve the required transformational change.

We have written to the three federal Ministers of Infrastructure, Environment and Transport expressing our concerns and look forward to a meaningful reply from them.

Our letter can be viewed below.

May 27

Ontario Releases Initial Business Case for “Northeastern Passenger Rail” – Statement

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

Transport Action welcomes the long-awaited Initial Business Case published by MTO and Ontario Northland. We are encouraged that the Government of Ontario plans to move forward with the restoration of passenger rail service between Toronto, the Muskoka region, and Northeastern Ontario based on the clear social equity need for this service and whole-economy spin-off benefits for the north.  However. we note that “a potential in-service date in the mid 2020s” is well behind the election promises made by the government. We urge the Province to move ahead promptly on the many key steps still needed for implementation. 

In order to move swiftly to implementation, MTO must robustly support the negotiation of a train service agreement with CN for operations between North Bay and Toronto. We had hoped to see such an agreement concluded by this stage, with known costs for necessary additional passing tracks or upgrades. As noted in the IBC, an agreement that protects on-time performance and ensures punctual train meets should reduce the need for costly additional infrastructure, as well as being vital to the passenger experience.

The proposed service integration with Ontario Northland’s bus network will ensure that the train improves the level of service for communities across the northeast and will serve as a best-practice example to other Canadian regions.

Tourism revenues that would be attracted by a high-quality service are not analysed in the report, but would represent millions of dollars in whole-economy benefits and a significant boon to northern Ontario businesses. Domestic tourism within Canada is likely to be strengthened in the next couple of years as families seek alternatives to long-haul travel, and once international travel resumes the global market slow-travel opportunities involving rail travel, cultural heritage, and outdoor pursuits is likely to rebound strongly, attracting a high-spending early-retired demographic.

The report does not address the selection of rolling stock in any detail, although it mentions the possibility of a cab car for bidirectional operation, which may have limited additional utility on a long-distance service of this nature, unless the train reverses at Timmins to continue to Cochrane.

Rolling stock procurement is a critical step in service delivery, and with order books full at most north American car builders, a more proactive approach by the government to securing new equipment would have paid significant dividends. It may be possible to accelerate the timeline for service restoration by leasing equipment in the interim until brand new cars can be ordered and delivered.

Selection of suitable new rolling stock will be critical to the long-term success of this service. In addition to providing affordable seats and accessible accommodation, the rolling stock should also offer a service level suited to the tourism market, which means good all-round visibility, sleeping accommodation and decent catering. The suggestion of a “no amenities” service level in the initial business case is concerning, morning coffee being the least Canadians are going to expect on an overnight train. After making the investment to get the train running, going cheap on amenities would seriously inhibit the success of the service.

The equipment must also ride well across the range of track conditions in northern Ontario. A common complaint about the rebuilt single-level commuter cars used prior to 2012 was that ride quality was highly variable, which caused mobility impaired passengers difficulties moving about the train for refreshments or to the washrooms.

With both Amtrak and VIA Rail in need of new long-distance equipment in the current decade, and Amtrak being likely to select single-level design due to accessibility requirements, there is an opportunity to develop a new generation of single-level overnight and long-distance equipment. Leadership on this file by the governments of Ontario and Canada would increase the chances of a share of that work being conducted in Thunder Bay.

Northeastern Passenger Rail Service Initial Business Case

May 05

Pressure Against Highway 413 Continues – Federal Impact Assessment to Occur

By Transport Action Ontario | Highways and Bridges , Latest News

Pressure continues to mount in opposition to Highway 413. May of the municipalities on or near the route have resolved to oppose it. Transport Action Ontario (TAO) made a deputation to Markham Council on May 3 outlining the reasons to oppose this highway. It can be viewed below.

We are pleased to report that Federal Minister of the Environment Jonathan Wilkinson ruled favourably on a request by 8 non-government organizations, including TAO, to designate the Highway 413 project for a federal Impact Assessment (IA). Although the scope of the IA is not yet know, we expect that this will create a “sober second look” at all aspects of the project, including identification of superior alternatives like transit and truck toll subsidies.

May 01

Yonge North Subway Extension – TAO Suggests Alternate Route

By Transport Action Ontario | Latest News , Urban Transit

Resident outrage over the recommended route for the Yonge North Subway Extension continues. See our post of April 27 for background. Transport Action Ontario has now suggested an alternate route, known as Option 2A. It has been submitted to Metrolinx, who have indicated they will comment back. Our submission is given below.

Hi Steve….thank you to you and the Metrolinx team for participating in the lengthy Markham Development Services Committee meeting on April 25.  It is clear there are many residents with big concerns about Option 3A.  As you recall, I offered to write up what I called “tweaked Option 2”, or Option 2A, involving a cut & cover route across Langstaff to reach an at-grade Bridge Station. You agreed to evaluate this option and report back.

This idea has been developed by Transport Action Ontario, a citizen-based NGO focusing on public transportation, of which I am currently the President. 

As a preamble, just as with Option 3A, Option 2A is not perfect.  Compromises may have to be made, including potentially a need to adjust the development plan (Secondary Plan) for the Langstaff Gateway Regional Centre. Fortunately, no recent new development has occurred at Langstaff yet, although it may be imminent.  As our ideas are very high level, feel free to adjust them to make them more workable. 
The Figures below show two route concepts. 

Option 1 – From Yonge St at the cemetery, using tight curves of 600 feet radius (same as on Line 1 at Union), we believe Bridge Station can be reached for an across-platform interchange with GO Trains.  This route would almost certainly incur a maintenance penalty. 

Option 2 – From Yonge St at the cemetery, using curves of larger radii, a point 75 meters west of Bridge Station can be reached.   This could easily be incorporated into the Station, as per the rough hand-drawn sketch. The 75 m area between the subway and the GO line would make good retail space. 

We presume that cut & cover would be used to construct this portion, so track slopes should not be an issue. The Bridge Station sketch shows the subway at one level below the at-grade GO tracks, which can readily be incorporated in the station design. The bus concourse would be one level above the tracks, as proposed in your Option 3A. 
Pomona Creek is in a culvert 3 mbg near the proposed subway crossing.   Engineering would have to figure out how to best cross this culvert (over/under) or otherwise alter the creek. If the Holy Cross Cemetery could be persuaded to allow access to a corner of parkland at their northwest corner, the curve radius could perhaps be increased. 


Transport Action Ontario looks forward to your review of theses ideas.  We will be happy to answer any questions. 
Best regards, 


Peter Miasek

President, Transport Action Ontario

Diagram, engineering drawing  Description automatically generated
Inline image

Apr 27

Yonge North Subway Extension – Controversy Develops!

By Transport Action Ontario | Latest News , Urban Transit

Residents in the Thornhill neighbourhood in York Region were blindsided in mid March when Metrolinx finally released its long-awaited Initial Business Case for the Yonge North Subway Extension (YNSE).  The best-performing option proceeds north from Finch Station about 5 km, and then turns sharply east and tunnels under 60 homes, one school and a creek to reach the GO Richmond Hill corridor. It then gradually reaches the surface and remains at grade within the corridor to a terminus in Richmond Hill Centre (RHC). Three stations are proposed – underground at Steeles Ave,  at-grade between Highways 7 and 407 (“Bridge” Station) and at-grade at RHC. The main positive feature of this option is that Bridge Station will be located in the heart of two planned dense communities – Langstaff Gateway Centre and Richmond Hill Centre.  It will also be well located for connecting bus routes.   Because the capital cost of this option is below the funding envelope of $5.6B, a fourth station is being studied at one of three candidate locations.

This controversial alignment was approved by the Metrolinx board months ago and is called the “Approved Reference Alignment”.  However, residents only became aware of it in mid March. Naturally there is plenty of concern about noise, vibration, property values and construction disruption. Metrolinx is moving ahead rapidly with community and public engagement as well as field testing. It expects to go to the market with a Request for Qualifications this Fall,  and is predicting completion of the work by 2030.

Transport Action Ontario (TAO) supports construction of this subway “missing link”. It is essential to the orderly growth of the northern GTHA. As taxpayers, we also support getting the best value for our capital dollars. Therefore it is concerning that, despite its width, the portion under Yonge Street is slated for tunneling rather than the much cheaper cut and cover.

Resident concerns also need to be heeded.  Metrolinx has not provided solid answers about why the eastward piece cannot be constructed using cut & cover under the currently-undeveloped lands slated for the Langstaff Gateway Centre. TAO intends to submit a proposal to Metrolinx showing that such a route appears technically feasible.

There is also resident uncertainty about how well noise/vibration mitigation will work, and if Metrolinx will compensate them for any property devaluation resulting from subway infrastructure on their properties.  Lastly, residents need to be assured that there will be at least one, hopefully two, stations in Thornhill as compensation for all the disruption.

TAO will continue to actively monitor this project and may issue further statements as more information becomes available.