Category Archives for "Urban Transit"

Oct 16

Submission to Ontario Fall 2020 Budget Consultation

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

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.

Northern Ontario

  • 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

Southwestern Ontario

  • 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.

Other Rail

  • Work with the federal government to assist Ontario‚Äôs 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. 

General

  • 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.
Aug 24

Update on Hamilton LRT Project

By Transport Action Ontario | Latest News , Urban Transit

Events continue to unfold in the Hamilton LRT saga, including the recent release of a report from 2019 by Turner and Townsend (T&T) that does not appear to confirm the cost numbers used by the Province in December to cancel the project.

On August 24, 2020, Transport Action Ontario again wrote the Auditor General of Ontario asking for a review of this file. We received word that an audit of the Hamilton LRT project, including the T&T report, will be tabled in December, 2020.

Our August 24 note can be viewed below:

As you may recall, Transport Action Ontario sent a letter to your office
December 31, 2019 outlining our concerns with the cancellation of the
Hamilton LRT project by the Province in mid-December. We subsequently
met with your staff on February 3, 2020 to discuss the concerns in more
detail.

Events have continued to unfold on this file.

We were heartened that, in March, a provincially-appointed task force
recommended that the $1B provincial commitment indeed be spent on
higher-order transit-either LRT or BRT. The Province still has not
responded to this recommendation.

On August 6, the Hamilton Spectator reported it had obtained, pursuant
to a Freedom of Information Act request, the secret report by Turner and
Townsend that was used by the Province as the basis for project
cancellation. Although heavily redacted, the summary is visible and does
not support the cost values claimed by the Province. Specifically, the
province had cited $5.5B in provincial and municipal costs, while Turner
and Townsend cite capital costs of $2.3B (including contingency and
escalation) and $1.3B operations, maintenance and lifecycle costs (30
years). The figures in the report are much lower than claimed by the
Province.

The Hamilton LRT is a vital project for that city. It is clear that
there is a serious problem with project cost estimating and with
government announcements. We urge your office to review this file,
request the source and corroboration of the $5.5B figure stated by the
Transport Minister, and make recommendations that will restore
transparency and good business judgement to this project.

May 29

Yonge North Subway Extension Reaches Milestone, but Challenges Remain

By Transport Action Ontario | Latest News , Urban Transit

The Yonge North Subway Extension (YNSE), from Finch Station in Toronto to Richmond Hill Centre in York Region, is one of Ontario’s four priority subway projects. Transport Action Ontario has long supported this project, in conjunction with a relief line for the Yonge Subway, as ridership on the extension is expected to easily meet subway thresholds.

The project recently reached a milestone with the signing of the “Ontario-York Region Transit Partnership Preliminary Agreement”, which outlines the responsibilities of each level of government. However, the project still faces significant challenges, which include:

  • Federal funding. The project is looking for 40% federal commitment, but currently there is nearly zero. The funding instrument that the feds have been using is their PTIF-2 program, which allocates money to municipalities based on current population and current transit ridership, not growth potential. Toronto is using their $4.9B allocation on other projects in the City. York Region has received $200M from PTIF-2, which will be directed to YNSE, but is obviously insufficient.
  • Municipal funding. The Province is looking for a capital commitment from York Region of about 15%, or $1.1B. Much of this will come from Development Charges, but the Region will need new revenue tools, e.g. land transfer tax like Toronto has. This requirement for municipal funds is different than the Ontario-Toronto transit agreement inked last fall, where the municipal contribution on the 4 subway projects within Toronto was agreed to be zero.
  • Capital cost escalation. The capital costs are rumoured to have increased dramatically, from the $5.6B cited in the agreement to over $9 B. There is talk about reducing the number of stations and perhaps changing the alignment.
  • Operating and maintenance costs. The agreement also specifies that York will have a responsibility to share in the operating and maintenance cost subsidy. This is new for York and is in contrast to the Spadina subway extension to Vaughan, where Toronto picks up 100% of operating and maintenance costs.

An updated Initial Business Case is slated to be presented to the Metrolinx Board soon, perhaps in June. It should be an interesting discussion, particularly about capital cost reduction ideas!

Mar 20

Hamilton LRT Project Update

By Transport Action Ontario | Latest News , Urban Transit

Our earlier posting of December 18, 2019 expressed our disappointment with cancellation of this LRT project. Since then, we have continued to be active on this file. On December 31, 2019, we wrote the Auditor General of Ontario expressing our concerns with the rationale and process of cancellation. We had a productive meeting with the Auditor General in February, and are hopefully that they will act on our concerns. Our letter is attached.

As part of the cancellation announcement, the Province stated it was still committed to a investment of $1 billion towards future transit and transportation in Hamilton. A Task Force was set up in January to recommend how this funding is to be used. According to media reports, the Task Force reported back to Minister Mulroney on March 16, but the report will not be made public at this time. Stay tuned!

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