Category Archives for "Press Releases and Open Letters"

Jul 21

Transport Action Ontario rejects high-speed political vanity project, calls for high-performance rail plan

By Transport Action Ontario | Press Releases and Open Letters

TORONTO – In a hard-hitting policy statement, the transportation advocacy group, Transport Action Ontario (TAO), calls for the rejection of the provincial government’s high-speed rail (HSR) proposal and its replacement with a more [click on title to continue] practical, high-performance rail (HPR) alternative.

“Will the Government of Ontario’s rosy predictions about the benefits of HSR actually materialize?” asks TAO president Robert Wightman. “The odds are they will not. Even in countries where HSR is deemed to be a success, there are problems.”

The HSR proposal endorsed by the current Government of Ontario is estimated to cost as much as $30 billion and can’t be fully built to Windsor until at least 2031. Among the points TAO finds deadly to the Ontario HSR scheme are:

  • An inability to operate at true high speed between Toronto and Kitchener, where the trains must share GO’s lower-speed tracks;
  • The need for high station platforms, which will boost construction costs by requiring both high- and low-level platforms for HSR and GO trains;
  • The lack of a well-developed network of rail, bus and transit services to feed passengers to the HSR trains and make truly car-free travel possible; and
  • The bypassing of major centres on the two existing Toronto-London passenger lines, including Brampton, Stratford, St. Marys, Oakville, Burlington, Brantford, Woodstock and Ingersoll.

TAO describes the government’s Toronto-London-Windsor HSR proposal as “a vanity project on which politicians fixate, similar to other politically-motivated mega-projects, such as Toronto’s controversial Union Pearson Express.”

The public advocacy group recommends its replacement with a better and more affordable high-performance rail (HPR), which has been proven on many comparable rail corridors around the world, including the U.S.

HPR includes major improvements to the existing infrastructure to boost speed and frequency, new trains and revisions to the fare structure to provide a fast, frequent and affordable service that can be running in less than half the time of HSR at a much lower cost. Because HPR is implemented incrementally, it provides improvements the public can use every step of the way.

HPR’s multiple benefits are outlined in the TAO booklet, This is High-Performance Rail

Says Wightman, “This is the course of urgent action TAO is advocating. Pursuing HSR after so many failed attempts over nearly 40 years will only lead to further deterioration of our public transportation system, the competitiveness of our economy and our quality of life. We cannot afford to waste years on another gee-whiz scheme that is, at best, a pre-election vote chaser.”


For further information, please contact:

Robert Wightman


Transport Action Ontario

Cell: (416) 540-5764

(Double-click on link below to download press release)

Why HSR Press Release Final 170718

Jun 04

TAO urges Brampton councillors to push for major changes to high-speed rail proposal

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

BRAMPTON, ON – As a result of a deputation to Brampton City Council by Transport Action Ontario (TAO) president Robert Wightman, local politicians have said they want Queen’s Park to make changes to its recent high-speed rail proposal, which fails to include….   Click to continue

Jan 03

2017 New Year’s letter from the president

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

Welcome to the New Year of 2017. May it be happy and prosperous for you!

Our path forward Transport Action Ontario has a full agenda for 2017. In the fall of 2016, TAO decided to focus its advocacy on intercity rail and connectivity, the integration of public transport into a network of services that includes intercity rail, regional bus and rail services, and local transit. We will oppose the bad and the ugly, support the good, and call for and champion initiatives that take Ontario closer to a sustainable public transportation system. We highly value local public transit, but will rely on and work with other groups already doing transit advocacy. Metrolinx will remain as a focus as a provider of regional intercity transit.

Ontario is facing a large public transportation deficit. Most of the province is without intercity or even local public transportation. While the Province has invested in transit in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, and in Ottawa, the rest of the province is stuck with auto-dependency. There is a heavy price to auto-dependency which disadvantages students and seniors and people with low incomes generally. Auto-dependency is a drag on local economic development hampering labour mobility and spurring depopulation. While the Province recognizes that it must work to help reverse climate change, it has not recognized that a key way to do that is to provide public transport alternatives to the whole of Ontario.

Southwestern Ontario Cuts to VIA Rail service in 2012 hit Southwestern Ontario particularly hard. TAO, along with several other local groups, looked at how an integrated network of rail and bus services could be brought to this part of Ontario. The Network Southwest plan, written by Greg Gormick and released in 2015, proposes a provincially supported bus network integrated with an upgraded and expanded rail network. Frequent train service using bi-level passenger cars following the model of state-supported Amtrak services in California and elsewhere in the U.S. is highlighted. Another report in 2016, also written by Gormick, explores the concept of High Performance Rail in detail.

The objectives of these two reports still apply. Southwestern Ontario desperately needs integrated public transportation. In 2017 TAO will give special attention to the North Main Line, the rail line between Toronto, Guelph, Kitchener, Stratford, St. Marys and London. VIA Rail is providing very poor and extremely unreliable train service on this route. The Province has mandated Metrolinx to offer commuter rail service from Kitchener into Toronto, but Metrolinx’s commuter trains make many stops and are slow. Moreover, the transportation demand along the North Main Line doesn’t end at Kitchener. It extends west to Stratford and London. It is time for frequent all-day two-way express rail service the full length of the Innovation (Knowledge) Corridor Toronto-Kitchener-London. TAO will be advocating high performance rail for this corridor with a delivery agency to be worked out through agreements between the feds, the province, and the municipalities being served.

Northern Ontario The cancellation of the Northlander between Toronto, North Bay and Cochran in 2012, the infrequency and unreliability of VIA’s Canadian across northwestern Ontario, declining intercity bus service, and the recent suspension of the Sault-Hearst train underscore the substantial decline in public transportation options for northern Ontario. In 2017, TAO will continue to work closely with the Northeastern Ontario Rail Network based in North Bay, and the Coalition for Algoma Passenger Trains based in the Sault to bring back and enhance rail/bus and transit services for Ontario’s north.

Eastern Ontario VIA Rail has proposed building a new exclusive passenger railway from Toronto to Smith Falls through Peterborough and Havelock as part of its High Frequency Rail plan. VIA is proposing frequent rail service between Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal on this route using non-stop trains. TAO is opposed to this plan as costly and unnecessary. VIA has already paid close to half a billion dollars for added track on CN’s Lakeshore route Toronto-Kingston-Brockville-Montreal to help reduce conflicts between passenger and freight trains on this route. Perhaps in anticipation of blow back from cities such as Belleville and Kingston, VIA recently proposed adding almost hourly train service to the Lakeshore route in addition to the new dedicated track proposal. TAO’s position is to support frequent high performance passenger rail along the Lakeshore route by investing scarce capital funds on continuing to upgrade the Lakeshore line with the aim of having both frequent express trains Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal connecting with stopping trains serving cities in eastern Ontario.

Ongoing projects As part of the Move the GTHA collaborative, TAO will continue to push for new dedicated revenue sources for transporation investment. If implemented properly, these can provide funding needed for public transport improvements all across Ontario. There continues to be a need for federal legislation definiing the rights and obligations of passenger rail in Canada, especially if operating on track owned by the freight railways. We have been inputting into a Private Members Bill on this topic to be introduced in 2017.

Longer term TAO supports rail investments to upgrade international connections to the U.S. from Ontario. Both New York and Michigan are investing to implement high performance rail, in New York between Niagara Falls and New York City, and in Michigan between Detroit and Chicago. TAO supports passenger rail connections between Ontario and the U.S. at Niagara Falls and at Windsor.

Highlighted above are several big issues for TAO in 2017. Others will surely arise. We look forward to your support through membership and donations that will help us carry forward these and other activities to achieve sustainable integrated public transportation for Ontario.

Tony Turrittin, President, January 3, 2017

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.