Category Archives for "Northern Ontario"

Jan 26

Submission to Ontario 2024 Budget Consultation

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

The Ontario government is conducting public consultations leading up to its 2024 Budget, expected in March, 2024. Transport Action Ontario has made a written submission on public transportation needs, with eight recommendations:

  • Make Community Transportation Grants permanent
  • Use a partnership approach on regional passenger rail outside the Greater Golden Horseshoe
  • Work with CN to upgrade track for new “Northlander” train
  • Support shortline rail with track maintenance tax credit
  • Introduce provincial banking of discontinued rail corridors, i.e. “rail bank”
  • Do a deep dive into capital costs and procurement model for rapid transit in Ontario
  • Cancel Highway 413
  • Scope new revenue tools for municipal government, and on congestion/road pricing

Our submission can be viewed below.

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.

Dec 24

Ontario Northland Passenger Train Order Confirmed

By Transport Action Ontario | Northern Ontario

Christmas came early for northeastern Ontario, and a major victory for citizen advocacy, when Stan Cho MPP, Ontario’s Associate Minister of Transportation, announced the purchase of three new train sets to restore the Northlander passenger train service on December 15th, 2022.

The promise to restore the service, first made in 2018, has now been transformed into a $139.5M purchase order for Siemens Venture trainsets to be delivered by 2026. Now we can be confident that the service will be reinstated, and the purchase of new equipment should help to assure its future over the longer term.

“Thank you to all the people who helped make this happen – our advocacy is working! Such great news especially at this holiday season. See you on the train in 2026.”

— NEORN co-chairs Howie Wilcox and Lucille Frith

It has taken a decade of citizen and community advocacy by the Northeastern Ontario Rail Network, Transport Action Ontario, and other groups; more than 72 municipalities along the route passing resolution calling for the return the passenger train; and hundreds of people putting in hundreds of hours attending meetings, town halls, interviews, writing articles, and connecting with anyone who could help make the government understand the need for a passenger train between Toronto and Cochrane; followed by two elections worth of political promises and millions of dollars in studies and business plans, to get the this milestone.

Each Venture train, purchased as a follow-on to VIA Rail’s order and therefore mechanically identical, will be hauled by a diesel locomotive that meets the latest EPA Tier 4 emission standards, making them one of the most environmentally friendly engines on the market. The consists will each have one business-class car and two fully accessible economy coach cars, one of which will also be a cab car to allow bidirectional operation. The trains will include built-in wheelchair lifts, mobility aid spaces, galleys for food services, and fully accessible washrooms. The trainset interiors will also feature spacious seating and modern amenities, including Wi-Fi connectivity and passenger information systems with audio and visual announcements.

The train will travel north from Toronto on the Richmond Hill line as it did in 2012, making sixteen stops between Union Station and Timmins, but it expected to run through the night between North Bay and Timmins in each direction, making its schedule similar to the Northland formerly operated jointly by Ontario northland and VIA. There will be a rail connection onwards from Timmins to Cochrane to make the connection to the Polar Bear Express to Moosonee, which will probably be a continuation of the train from Toronto using the bidirectional capability of the Venture trains. Some communities that were omitted from the route earlier in the business case process, like South River, now appear to be back on the map, a further victory for community advocacy.

Next steps for Ontario Northland

With the purchase confirmed, Ontario Northland can now move forward with the details of the business plan. This will include customizing the interior design of the trains to provide comfort and amenities suitable for the route; developing connectivity plans with bus services; details of corridor, station, and shelter infrastructure; and with community outreach, marketing, and partnerships. Most important will be securing track access and right of way for the service over tracks owned by Metrolinx and CN, including track upgrades required to ensure a smooth ride and robust on time performance.

The Updated Business Case projected investments of between $8M and $15M in stations, including a new facility at South Porcupine to serve Timmins, and up to $35M for track upgrades.

Hiring has already begun for staff dedicated to passenger rail service, operations and maintenance, with Krystal Perepeluk appointed as Director of Passenger Rail and Customer Service in October. Krystal Perepeluk brings more than a decade of experience with GO Transit and Metrolinx to the role, and was also involved in preparing MTO’s Northern Ontario Multimodal Transportation Strategy.

Ontario Northland will share progress updates at

What next for advocacy?

So, what can we do as advocates while waiting three years for delivery of these trains? NEORN and Transport Action will continue to work closely with Ontario Northland and our elected representatives, along with the northeastern municipalities, Chambers of Commerce, First Nations, universities and colleges, and tourism offices from Washago to Moose Factory. We to ensure the passenger rail service is delivered on time and meets the needs of the many residents, visitors and businesses that will use the service; and to ensure that interest in riding the new service grows and grows.

We will also continue to advocate for the return of trains to the rest of northern Ontario, particularly the Algoma region, and the future of VIA Rail’s services in the region, which also need new equipment.

It remains unfortunate that the people of northeastern Ontario will have been deprived of their passenger train service for 14 years by the time the new equipment is delivered and the service can resume. The suddenness of the cut in 2012 and the utter lack of consultation by the Ontario Liberal government at that time will not be swiftly forgotten or forgiven, and attempts by Transport Action to obtain any documentation that would demonstrate evidence-based policy making came up empty handed:

“Due to the absence of methodologically sound research, there is no substantive basis to justify, support, maintain, retain, defend, uphold, stick with, promote, or otherwise find favour with the decisions to terminate The Northlander or to divest the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission.”

— Dr. Barry Wellar, Distinguished Research Fellow and Chair, ONR-ONTC Research Task Force, Transport Action Canada, January 2013

To stop other routes from suffering the same abrupt cuts,we must advocate for full public consultation before any future reductions in service, and for decisions to be made on the basis of sound research, fully considering the economic, social and community health implications in both the short term and over the longer term.

Lucille Frith spoke to Ontario Morning on CBC Radio Sudbury about the announcement:

May 04

Ontario’s Budget 2022 – Transportation Highlights

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

The Ford government introduced its 2022 Budget on April 28.  As the Ontario legislature was dissolved one week later due to the upcoming provincial election, the budget was not debated or passed.  However, it does represent the election platform of the Ford government, and presumably will be re-introduced if the Progressive Conservatives win the election.

In the transportation area, the Budget has few surprises and largely represents a restatement of previous commitments.  Key items include:

  • Highways, highways, highways.  Although more funds are to be expended to public transit, it is clear that this government’s top priority is highways.  A total of $25.1B over 10 years is slated for “planning and/or construction of highway expansion and rehabilitation projects” across the province, including the construction of new Highway 413, new Bradford Bypass and widening of numerous other highways across Ontario.  No cost breakdown is given for these projects.   (Independent experts have estimated a construction cost of $8 – 10B for Highway 413).
  • Other driver benefits.  These include removal of tolls on Highways 412 and 418, removal of license fees, 5.7c/l reduction in gas tax from July – December, 2022, and changes in auto insurance rules to give consumers more choice and reduce fraud.
  • $61B to public transit over 10 years.  The cited projects are well known and have been costed out.  The key committed projects are GO Expansion (see posting on this website January 13, 2022 for details) and the 4 GTA subway projects (Ontario Line, Yonge North, Scarborough and Eglinton West).  All these projects are moving forward.
  • GO Milton improvements not funded.  Despite a federal commitment of up to $500M (50%), the Budget was silent on provincial matching funding to convert this busy line to all-day two-way service.
  • Transit Oriented Communities (TOC).  Agreements have been signed to build TOCs at 7 stations on the Ontario Line and the Yonge North Subway Extension to provide new funding sources for the province for construction.
  • New GTA Projects.  Continued planning on Sheppard East subway extension and on Eglinton Crosstown West extension to Pearson Airport.
  • Discussion of three extension projects for GO Transit:
    • Bowmanville
    • London, where the province is “proceeding with planning work and investment for track improvements to support implementation of faster and more frequent service” (no details).
    • Niagara, where the province “continues to work with rail partners” (no details).
  • Northeastern Passenger Rail.  $75M to support corridor, fleet and station upgrades for service between Toronto and Timmins, with a rail connection to Cochrane.  Although this is a good start, we note that this is insufficient to cover the full capital cost of $150M – $230M, as cited in the Updated Initial Business Case.
  • Shortline railways absent. There was no discussion in the Budget on preserving shortline railways, such as the Barrie-Collingwood or Orangeville-Brampton lines.
  • Coach Refurbishing.  $280M for funding to refurbish 150 GO Transit bi-level coaches in Thunder Bay and North Bay. 
  • References to the GGH Transportation Plan with 100+ actions and to the Northern Task Force that will “inform the government of the most important local needs”.

As readers know, Transport Action Ontario is deeply involved in most of these projects and will continue to closely monitor, support or oppose them, regardless of who wins the upcoming election.

Apr 26

Transport Action Ontario – Annual General Meeting April, 2022 – Summary of Public Portion

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

Transport Action Ontario’s (TAO) annual general meeting, held April 23, 2022, included a portion open to the public. This featured a guest presentation by Elizabeth May M.P., former leader of the Green Party of Canada. This was followed by a brief report by Peter Miasek, President, summarizing the organization’s advocacy efforts over the past year.

Ms. May discussed the importance of ground transportation (intercity rail and bus) to Canada, her Private Members Bill C-236 (“VIA Rail Canada Act”), VIA’s High Frequency Rail proposal and her efforts t for, a multi-party rail caucus in Parliament.

Mr. Miasek’s presentation summarized advocacy activities in the following areas:

  • Northern and Eastern Ontario Rail
  • Southwestern Ontario Passenger Rail and Intercommunity Bus
  • Greater Golden Horseshoe Public Transportation
  • Highway 413
  • Eastern Ontario Transit and Rail
  • High Frequency Rail
  • Other Federal Interfaces including VIA Rail

A copy of the presentation can be viewed below.

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