Category Archives for "Latest News"

Nov 11

Comments on Metrolinx Discussion Paper for the Next Regional Transportation Plan

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

 

Metrolinx is in the process of updating their Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) for the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area.  This would replace the previous RTP,  The Big Move, which was released in 2008.  They have released a Discussion Paper on topics and approaches to be included in the update.

 

Transport Action Ontario has submitted a formal letter response to the Discussion Paper.

Our input can be viewed here:  tao-mx-rtp-2016-11

Nov 07

Rail advocates outraged by Garneau announcement

By admin | Latest News , Press Releases and Open Letters

Rail advocates outraged by Garneau announcement

Minister supports cheap airlines over good rail options

OTTAWA – Transport Action Canada is stunned, even outraged, by the Transportation 2030 Vision presented in Montreal by Transport Minister Marc Garneau last Thursday.

“With climate change on everyone’s mind, and transportation causing a huge percentage of greenhouse gas emissions, smart solutions are needed,” says the public transportation advocacy group’s president Bruce Budd. “And the smartest solution of all is the rail network we already have. Except for a brief passing reference to a feasibility study of high frequency rail service linking Toronto to Ottawa and Montreal, why has Minister Garneau virtually ignored VIA Rail Canada in his 2030 Vision?”

The Amtrak system, the US equivalent of VIA Rail, demonstrates that short, intermediate and long-distance trains can be heavily used, and gain significant ridership. Amtrak’s success is bringing demands across the US for increased train service of all kinds. Transport Action believes that this would happen in Canada if our passenger train network was modernized, expanded, reliable and lower-cost.

Adding new discount airlines may be helpful to some, Budd says, but short-haul air travel is a poor solution for a government committed to “real change” and reducing greenhouse gases. If Canada followed the lead of countries like France, Germany, Japan, China and the US, by making investments in passenger rail, we would get much closer to our climate change targets, he predicted. Passengers would continue to fly for most long distance trips, but use or connect to fast efficient train networks for shorter journeys.

“Canadians travel all the time. They deserve affordable, efficient and sustainable ways to get around. Why drive congested, dangerous, snowy highways and pollute our environment? Canada’s railways are not just for freight; they are the best solution for millions of travelling passengers. Investments in VIA Rail will produce benefits all across Canada: higher speeds and higher frequency for the busy corridors, reliable safe on-time options for long distance travellers, and vital links for First Nations and remote communities.”

Transport Action Canada works with its regional partners Transport Action Ontario, Transport Action Atlantic, and in Quebec and Western Canada to connect community groups, government stakeholders and businesses, and advocates for better travel options across the country. TAC has commissioned many studies, available on its website, showing how passenger rail networks can be improved quickly and affordably.

Nov 07

High Performance Rail: An Alternative for the Montreal-Ottawa-Toronto Triangle

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

 

Representatives of the Transport Action family of NGOs met with Transport Canada in September to review several matters relating to passenger and freight rail in Canada.   This included discussion on Transport Canada’s due diligence review of VIA Rail’s High Frequency Rail (HFR) proposal for the Montreal-Ottawa-Toronto triangle.

 

We were pleased to hear that Transport Canada would welcome submissions on alternatives to the HFR plan.  Accordingly, we have submitted our report on the High Performance Rail (HPR) Option prepared in March, 2016.  That report can be found elsewhere on this website.

 

 

 

A copy of our cover letter, describing the option in summary form can be found here   tao-tupper-hpr-2016-11 :

Oct 30

Power of Rail Symposium at Western University

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

The Southwestern Ontario Transportation Alliance (SWOTA) and Transport Action Ontario (TAO) hosted a symposium on Oct. 12, 2016, promoting better passenger rail service for Western students and faculty. Our special guest was NDP MP Irene Mathyssen. TAO Director Scott St. John introduced SWOTA President Terence Johnson, who discussed the need for an urgent High Performance Rail solution to address the growing infrastructure and mobility gap in Southwestern Ontario. Debunking the myth that Ontario lacks the population density to support a reasonable level of core services, Johnson drew a parallel between London, Ontario and Crianlarich, a village of 185 people in the Highlands of Scotland, which has more frequent and less expensive services to Glasgow than London does to Toronto. 

Drawing upon examples from across the United States to illustrate the comparatively low cost and rapid implementation schedule of High Performance Rail, and the benefits of service integration between train and bus, Johnson set the stage for TAO Acting President Tony Turritin to give a more detailed description of the Network Southwest vision for restoring mobility to the region.

 

Irene Mathyssen, MP for London-Fanshawe, expressed her support for “Network Southwest” and making London a regional hub for Southwestern Ontario. She is working to draft a new version of the “VIA Rail Canada Act,” originally introduced by MP Phil Toone, that would empower VIA’s mandate in relationships with government and the freight railroads.

 

As Tony Turrittin explained, examples of High Performance Rail are close at hand.  In the United States, Amtrak operates fast and very frequent trains between New-York and Albany (227km), Chicago-Milwaukee (137km), Los Angeles-San Diego (205km), and Oakland-Sacramento (144km).  As VIA Rail has withdrawn service in Southwestern Ontario over the last two decades, cities such as Stratford, Kitchener, Guelph and Niagara Falls have put out a cry for help to the Province asking that GO trains be extended to their cities.

 

GO service is highly popular because it is mass transit: frequent, high capacity so reserved seating is not necessary, pairs of wide doors for quick boarding, reliable sechedules, and low fares — all the things that VIA Rail isn’t, Turrittin pointed out.  VIA’s schedules don’t comprise a workable network, on-time performance is very poor, seating is limited, and fares extremely high.  But VIA is an express service which GO is not in its present commuter rail form.  He proposed melding the best of what VIA is supposed to do with GO’s mass transit model.

 

Turrittin closed his presentation by calling on the Province to step into the intercity rail vacuum left by VIA Rail with the GO-train mass transit model.  This is an opportunity.  A new delivery agency is needed with the participation of the region’s municipalities.  The federal government can help by passing on its regional VIA subsidy to the new operating agency.  Some track upgrades are required.  There will be major economic and social benefits flowing from quality intercity express rail in Southwestern Ontario integrated with regional and local transit. 

 

Turritin’s presentation can be viewed here:  nsw-presentation-london-10122016-turrittin

 

Communications expert and TAO member Chris Ryan spoke at the end, encouraging everyone to get involved and write to their politicians.

 

The full “Network Southwest” report is available at http://www.swota.ca/network-southwest/

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Oct 24

Update on Positive Train Control

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

By Robert Wightman, Vice President, Transport Action Ontario

There has been a lot of talk on Positive Train Control, PTC, lately, especially with the New Jersey Transit, NJT, incident in Hoboken recently. Exactly what is PTC, why did it come in to being and what will it do?

From Wikipedia Positive train control (PTC) is a system of functional requirements for monitoring and controlling train movements as an attempt to provide increased safety. The American Railway Engineering and Maintenance-of-Way Association (AREMA) describes Positive Train Control as having these primary characteristics:[1]

  • Train separation or collision avoidance
  • Line speed enforcement
  • Temporary speed restrictions
  • Rail worker wayside safety

The USA is on a major initiative to install PTC by about 2020 on Class I lines carrying hazardous material or passengers.  This is a result of a collision between a Metrolink Commuter train and a Union Pacific freight train on September 12, 2008, in California, which resulted in the deaths of 25 and injuries to more than 135 passengers. The operator of the commuter train was allegedly texting on his cell phone at the time and ran a red signal. The US Congress passed a 315 page bill that President Bush signed into law on October 16, 2008.

PTC would have prevented the Metro North Derailment where the commuter train entered the curve at three times the stated speed on December 1, 2013 killing 4 and injuring more than 70. It would also have prevented the Amtrak derailment near Philadelphia in May of 2015 that killed 8 and injured over 200.

There are many incidents that PTC would NOT have prevented. In the US these include:

  1. The accident on February 3, 2015 where a Metro-North train slammed into an SUV on the tracks at a railroad crossing about 20 miles north of New York City, killing the SUV’s driver and five people aboard the train.
  2. The April 3, 2016 accident on Amtrak where two employees moved a back hoe onto the tracks near Chester PA without obtaining permission from the Rail Dispatcher. If they had done this, the track would have been locked out and the train switched to another track.
  3. The September 22, 1993 incident where a barge hit a railroad bridge near Mobile, Alabama. Minutes later, an Amtrak train hit the bent tracks and plunged into the bayou, killing 47 people.
  4. The accident of January 26, 2005 when a southbound Metrolink commuter train #100 collided with an SUV that had been abandoned on the tracks immediately south of Chevy Chase Drive The train jackknifed and struck trains on either side of it—one a stationary Union Pacific freight train, and the other a northbound Metrolink train (#901) traveling in the opposite direction. The chain-reaction collisions resulted in the deaths of 11 people.
  5. The collision in February, 2015 where six people died and 12 were injured when a Metro-North train smashed into an SUV that was stopped on the tracks in Westchester County.
  6. The most recent collision in the US, the New Jersey Transit, NJT commuter train crash in Hoboken NJ, would not have been prevented by PTC because the Federal Railway Administration, FRA, had granted a Main Line Track Exclusion Addendums (MTEAs) for the New Jersey Transit’s Hoboken passenger terminals where speeds are restricted to no more than 20 mph and interlocking rules are in effect as the terminal is too complex for the system, PTC, to operate.

In the Canadian context, PTC would have prevented the VIA train derailment at Burlington on February 26, 2012 when a Via train entered a 15 mph crossover at 56 mph killing the 3 crew in the locomotive and injuring 46 people. It would not have prevented the Lac Megantic disaster where an unattended train ran away backwards down a grade after being left without enough hand brakes applied nor would it have prevented the CP Derailment in the winter of 2015 near Nipigon ON that was caused by broken rail inside an insulated joint which was partially caused by extreme cold.

Positive Train Control may look like a major safety advance, and it is, but at price tag of over $2 billion Canadian it makes one wonder if it is the best bang for the buck. There are more people killed each year in level crossing collisions between trains and autos than in PTC preventable railway accidents. Would it not be more prudent to increase level crossing grade separations before PTC?  Major train accidents may be more spectacular but more people are killed in level crossing accidents each year that in train accidents.

1      American Railway Engineering and Maintenance-of-Way Association (AREMA), Lanham, MD (2009). “Meeting the Communication Challenges for Positive Train Control.” AREMA 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, IL.

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