Category Archives for "Southwestern Ontario"

Jan 01

Rural Transit Renaissance for Southwestern Ontario

By Transport Action Ontario | Intercity Rail and Bus , Southwestern Ontario

After several years of patient lobbying by rural citizens, transit activists, and local councils, 2020 is set to be a banner year for rural transit in Southwestern Ontario. Many of the projects funded through the Community Transportation Grants will come to fruition, and new bus services are expected to be in place by summer 2020.

The Community Transportation Grants were first announced in 2018, but with the change of provincial government and lack of central support or coordination for procurement, some routes have taken longer to start up than others. The Leamington – Windsor service, which uses existing Transit Windsor buses, has been running since July 2019.

Without regional coordination of transportation planning, something we believe is most certainly needed for Southwestern Ontario, there is as yet no comprehensive route map and schedule database to illustrate the full scope of the services being funded and introduced, but it will include several of the routes previously identified as high priorities by Transport Action Ontario and the Southwestern Ontario Transportation Alliance in the Network Southwest report published in 2014.

There were critical gaps in the projects that applied for the Community Transportation Grants, including St. Thomas – London, further illustrating the need for regional coordination, rather than a process dependent upon piecemeal grant applications, to maximize the social and economic impact of these investments, although the Mayor of St. Thomas is now requesting additional funding from the Ontario government to restore services on that route.

https://london.ctvnews.ca/ticket-to-ride-regional-bus-from-st-thomas-to-london-in-the-works-1.4733716

Here are the announcements for many of the new services funded by Community Transportation Grants:

Sarnia – London

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/london/voyago-to-operate-london-strathroy-sarnia-bus-service-1.5402461

Owen Sound – Guelph

https://www.owensoundsuntimes.com/news/local-news/kaspers-owen-sound-to-guelph-transit-service-to-start-jan-15

Tillsonburg – Woodstock

https://www.woodstocksentinelreview.com/news/local-news/oxford-inter-community-bus-service-to-launch-in-april

Stratford – Kitchener/London

https://kitchener.ctvnews.ca/bus-pilot-project-from-stratford-to-london-kitchener-and-more-set-to-launch-next-year-1.4604140

Leamington – Kingsville – Essex – Windsor

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/windsor/windsor-leamington-transit-route-1.5204505

Brant e-Ride (on-demand)

https://www.brantfordexpositor.ca/news/local-news/brant-to-offer-eride-service

Wellington County RideWell (on-demand)

https://www.guelphtoday.com/local-news/wellington-county-rural-transit-service-takes-to-the-road-1723716

Chatham-Kent adVANtage (on-demand)

https://familyservicekent.com/services/advantage-transporation/

These services join existing rural transit services in the region, including:

Four Counties Transit (West Elgin, SW Middlesex, Newbury, Eastern Chatham-Kent)

http://www.westelgin.net/residents/four-counties-community-transportation-service

Ride Norfolk

https://www.norfolkcounty.ca/transit/schedulesandmaps/

Chatham-Kent Inter-urban Transit

https://www.chatham-kent.ca/community-services/transportation/InterUrbanTransit

Oct 04

Better passenger rail access for Stratford?

By Transport Action Ontario | Intercity Rail and Bus , Southwestern Ontario

Transport Action Ontario long-time member Ken Westcar has published an op-ed in the Stratford Beacon Herald on October 2, 2019 outlining a practical vision to improving passenger rail service in Southwestern Ontario. The article is reproduced below:


By international standards, Stratford’s railway station is a rather sad place. Casual observers see it as a rather quaint reminder of the past. Nevertheless, the colourful flower baskets in summertime and general tidiness of the place provide some hope for a brighter future.

And perhaps that future is hiding in plain sight.

Municipal politicians and passenger rail advocates from Kitchener to London have been quite vocal on the role this underutilized rail corridor could play in a transportation plan for Southwestern Ontario, given the predicted 15 to 30 per cent population growth projected in the region between 2017 and 2041. Add the Ministry of Transportation’s ongoing travails on widening Highway 7/8 through Shakespeare to four lanes, and it’s easy to understand why there’s shared public interest in bringing better passenger rail services to Stratford and beyond.

However, past efforts by passenger rail supporters in engaging with senior levels of government have been akin to punching a cloud. Responses, if any, are dismissive and show an unwillingness to engage in meaningful discussion. Several years ago, Via Rail made a vague commitment to consider additional services, but nothing happened. Then the last Liberal provincial government touted the ill-conceived idea of high-speed rail project that would bypass Stratford entirely and spell the final demise of the city’s once proud railway history.

While it’s understood the implementation of a new rail passenger rail service or the improvement of an existing one is quite complex, it needs to be recognized at both the federal and provincial levels that it’s a critical part of the future mobility matrix. It’s not just about moving people from A to B, but more about social progress through connectivity, wellness and care of our environment.

This corridor is also served by highways that are increasingly unreliable, congested and a major source of air and water pollution. Ongoing improvements to the Highway 7/8-Highway 401 interchange near Kitchener may make the travel situation worse over time, not better. Relentless car-dependent urban sprawl guarantees it. For this very reason, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce has been unequivocal in its support of expanded rail transportation across the province.

The planned all-day, two-way GO train services to Kitchener should incorporate the concept of westward extension to London and perhaps Sarnia on existing and upgraded rail infrastructure. Better use of what already exists makes service improvement affordable to taxpayers and quicker to deliver. It has much lower risk and is expandable.

Several operational and funding ideas have emerged from local discussions:

  • Terminate bi-level GO trains in Kitchener and provide cross-platform connection to regional rail services to London with stops that encourage transit-oriented development.
  • Employ European-style, single-level, multiple-unit trains that are less costly to operate on regional lines.
  • Low, platform-level loading for quick and accessible boarding and a single or two-person crew.
  • Presto or contactless fare payment to encourage ridership.
  • Sponsorship of stations by local municipalities and businesses (St. Marys station is already municipally owned).
  • A new London international airport station to provide an intermodal connection and induce rail passenger demand. (It is understood a low-cost airline is considering expansion in London with up to 250,000 passengers annually). This station and airport parking facilities could also serve rapid urban growth to the east of London.

A collaborative approach between stakeholders could make this project financially viable and sustainable if a broad view of the social and economic benefits is considered.

But opposition to passenger rail expansion often trumpets the public subsidy issue. This must be tempered by the fact that, according to the C.D. Howe Institute, a Canadian think tank, the average public subsidy for highways in Canada is 30 per cent and growing. In other words, fuel taxes and licensing fees cover less than 70 per cent of the cost of building and maintaining our roads. And it doesn’t include the unquantifiable externalities of air and water pollution and their growing burden on public health budgets.

Good highways will always be part of Southwestern Ontario’s transportation system, but making them the default option for public investment will almost certainly put us on the wrong side of history. Growing concerns over carbon emissions, rapidly escalating congestion in the Greater Toronto Area-Hamilton area, an aging population and increasing focus on wellness as a measure of economic and social success requires us to think differently about personal transportation.

The solution is, indeed, in plain sight. Politicians and planners need to park their preconceived ideas and listen to what the public is saying. This is why the Liberal-sponsored Toronto to London high-speed rail project is on ice. It was a solution looking for a problem. Stratford station epitomizes a problem, a solution and an opportunity. Time to open our eyes.

Sep 09

“Ideas in Motion” 2019 Policy Briefings for Federal Election

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

The Transport Action family, under the leadership of the national organization, Transport Action Canada, has issued several one-page policy briefings on critical transportation issues. These have been delivered to all federal parties.

Several of these are very relevant to transportation in Ontario. These are

  • Policy Support for Passenger Rail
  • Rebuilding a National Network (pertains to motor coach network)
  • Southwestern Ontario Rail and Bus

The briefings can be viewed here: https://www.transportaction.ca/documents/policy-briefings/

Jul 23

Letter to Minister Mulroney – Rail and Bus Transportation Plan for Southwestern Ontario

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

Ontario’s Budget 2019 confirmed that the Province is actively exploring opportunities in Southwestern Ontario to enhance passenger train speeds and service levels on existing railway corridors, as well as opportunities for inter-community bus services or other transit solutions that better support the immediate public transportation needs of the region. A transportation plan will be brought forward by fall, 2019.

Transport Action Ontario (TAO) strongly supports this new approach. We have long advocated for High Performance Rail (HPR) – incremental improvement of passenger rail service on existing corridors, plus improved bus feeder service. Various meetings on this topic were held earlier this year by TAO and affiliated organizations with then Transportation Minister Yurek and his staff.

With the appointment of a new Minister, the Hon. Caroline Mulroney, TAO took the opportunity to update her and her staff on our thinking for this upcoming plan. Our letter to the Minister summarized the need for a robust public transportation option, the available technical reports on HPR, the need to include VIA Rail Canada and the Federal Government in the study, and key next steps including specific service scenarios that should be studied.

Our letter to Minister Mulroney can be viewed here:

We also sent the Minister a Policy Briefing prepared by Transport Action Canada on Southwestern Ontario Rail and Bus.

VIA Train #73 at Windsor, 23 March 2016
Apr 24

New Passenger Transportation Policy Shift for Southwestern Ontario

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

Ontario’s Budget 2019 confirmed a major passenger transportation policy shift for Southwestern Ontario. The Province has paused capital funding for High Speed Rail and is actively exploring opportunities to enhance train speeds and service levels on existing railway corridors, as well as opportunities for inter-community bus services or other transit solutions that better support the immediate needs of SW Ontario. A transportation plan will be brought forward by fall, 2019.

Transport Action Ontario strongly supports this new approach. We have long advocated for High Performance Rail – incremental improvement of passenger rail service on existing corridors, plus improved bus feeder service.  We look forward to the public consultation process that forms part of the new plan development.

A newspaper article speaking to the new direction was published in the London Free Press on April 19.  It quoted Transport Action Ontario director Terry Johnson extensively.  Here is a link to the article:

High-speed rail halted, but advocates still pushing for better train service