There is increasing recognition on both sides of our border about the need for low or zero-carbon public transportation. This opens up opportunities for the growth of same-train passenger rail services between Canada and USA. Canadian Minister of Transportation Alghabra and US Transportation Secretary Buttigieg talk frequently, and Amtrak has recently proposed a new Chicago-Detroit – Toronto service. Non government organizations on both sides of the border are developing ideas to bring forward.
Transport Action Ontario has issued a briefing paper on our ideas on advancing US-Canada passenger rail connections. The paper covers:
Transport Action Ontario was invited to provide a short verbal presentation on recommendations for the 2021 Ontario Budget to Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy on January 29. We also submitted the same remarks plus supplemental information to the Ministry of Finance.
We proposed a list of 9 items. These are described in the supplemental material, and can be boiled down into 4 overarching themes:
Representatives of Transport Action Ontario recently attended conferences put on by the Canadian Urban Transit Research and Innovation Consortium (CUTRIC) and by the Toronto Region Board of Trade (TRBOT). Both had content relevant to improving passenger rail in Southwestern Ontario in the areas of technology, politics, projects and cost control.
Updated: a video recording of the entire meeting is now available:
Transport Action Ontario’s (TAO) annual general meeting, postponed from its usual spring date due to the pandemic, will be held on Saturday, October 24, 2020, starting at 1:00 pm Eastern. As is our usual practice, we will also have a presentation open to the public. Both events will be virtual, and free to join from your computer or phone. Here are the details:
Public Presentation (1:00 pm)
We are pleased to announce that our guest lecturer will be Stephen Wickens, transit researcher and journalist with a four-decade career at four Toronto-based daily newspapers. Steve will summarize his recent report for the Residential and Civil Construction Alliance of Ontario (RCCAO) entitled “Station to Station: Why Subway-building Costs have Soared in the Toronto Region”. This thoughtful report has been well received and hopefully will inform government decisions about at-grade versus below-grade rapid transit projects.
Annual General Meeting (2:00pm)
The AGM will review 2019-2020 performance by the organization and elect the executive and board of directors for the upcoming year. TAO members in good standing will receive an electronic invite and can vote at the virtual meeting, or give a proxy to another member. Send proxy information to firstname.lastname@example.org.
TAO is always looking for new members to join our board of directors. If you have a passion for public transportation and want to make a difference, contact us at email@example.com.
The Ontario government is asking for public input into the Fall, 2020 Budget, to be released in early November. Transport Action Ontario has made the following submission, focusing on public transportation.
Provide funding to implement the Ontario Northland + Metrolinx study on passenger train and bus renewal in Northern Ontario
Work with the federal government to save the Huron Central Railway (HCR), ideally under Ontario Northland management
Provide funding to initiate firm steps to implement some of the Action in the recently released draft transportation master plan. Particularly important are concrete steps on Actions 6 to 8, which deal with improving passenger rail on existing rail corridors owned by freight rail companies. Work needs to be initiated with the freight rail companies and with VIA Rail. This would include lengthening freight sidings to effectively provide passenger rail priority.
Work with the federal government to assist Ontario’s short line railways by providing financial assistance as per our position paper of September 14, 2020. In addition to the HCR above, the Barrie-Collingwood-Railway is currently under threat of closure.
Urban and Rural Transit
Continue to work with the Federal Government on emergency funding for transit to bridge revenue loss from Covid-19 pandemic.
Increase the gas tax share directed to transit. This had been promised by the Ford government during the election campaign, but was not kept.
Initiate a study to permit Ontario municipalities to use new revenue tools, such as a piece of the provincial sales tax, a land-transfer tax, or authority for road tolls, to fund critical infrastructure such as public transit or roads.
Develop a program to subsidize transit fare integration in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Areas in order to reduce two-fare walls between agencies like TTC-GO and TTC-York Region Transit.
Expand the highly-successful Community Transportation Grant Program and improve regional coordination/planning/oversight and shared service models.
Include environmental and climate change considerations when reviewing transportation modal options. Any provincial transportation proposals are then more likely to meet with broader public approval.
Expand the HOT lane program on Ontario expressways.