GO Train at Bloor station. Photo by Sally Hewson.
May 03

Improving and Expanding Service on Kitchener GO Line

By Transport Action Ontario | Intercity Rail and Bus , Uncategorized

One of the prime transportation objectives of the Ontario government is to establish 2-way all-day GO service from Toronto to Kitchener along the so-called Innovation Corridor. The recent Provincial budget explicitly discussed progress on a second tunnel under Highways 401/409 and progress on procurement this year of additional tracks and new platforms.

The current operation provides limited service to Kitchener.  Metrolinx has now released the Preliminary Design Business Case (PDBC) defining the infrastructure requirements, costs and benefits of reaching the provincial objective.  For the inner portion of the line (Weston Sub), the approved GO Expansion project will provide adequate infrastructure.  However, on the Bramalea – Georgetown portion (Halton Sub), additional track and potentially a rail-rail grade separation will be needed to allow shared use with CN Rail. On the Georgetown – Kitchener portion (Guelph Sub), passing tracks will need to be added on this single track line.  Capital cost is estimated at $1.3B – 1.7B PV, roughly within the provincial funding envelope.  It is also encouraging to note the apparent cooperation between CN and Metrolinx on this project.

The PDBC also mentions other potential future enhancements, such as a direct connection to Pearson Airport, electrification beyond Bramalea and service extension to Southwestern Ontario. Transport Action will continue to monitor this strategic project closely.

The full report is available online: Kitchener GO Rail Service Expansion – Preliminary Design Business Case

Photo of GO Kitchener Line train at Bloor station by Sally Hewson.

Apr 27

Yonge North Subway Extension – Controversy Develops!

By Transport Action Ontario | Latest News , Urban Transit

Residents in the Thornhill neighbourhood in York Region were blindsided in mid March when Metrolinx finally released its long-awaited Initial Business Case for the Yonge North Subway Extension (YNSE).  The best-performing option proceeds north from Finch Station about 5 km, and then turns sharply east and tunnels under 60 homes, one school and a creek to reach the GO Richmond Hill corridor. It then gradually reaches the surface and remains at grade within the corridor to a terminus in Richmond Hill Centre (RHC). Three stations are proposed – underground at Steeles Ave,  at-grade between Highways 7 and 407 (“Bridge” Station) and at-grade at RHC. The main positive feature of this option is that Bridge Station will be located in the heart of two planned dense communities – Langstaff Gateway Centre and Richmond Hill Centre.  It will also be well located for connecting bus routes.   Because the capital cost of this option is below the funding envelope of $5.6B, a fourth station is being studied at one of three candidate locations.

This controversial alignment was approved by the Metrolinx board months ago and is called the “Approved Reference Alignment”.  However, residents only became aware of it in mid March. Naturally there is plenty of concern about noise, vibration, property values and construction disruption. Metrolinx is moving ahead rapidly with community and public engagement as well as field testing. It expects to go to the market with a Request for Qualifications this Fall,  and is predicting completion of the work by 2030.

Transport Action Ontario (TAO) supports construction of this subway “missing link”. It is essential to the orderly growth of the northern GTHA. As taxpayers, we also support getting the best value for our capital dollars. Therefore it is concerning that, despite its width, the portion under Yonge Street is slated for tunneling rather than the much cheaper cut and cover.

Resident concerns also need to be heeded.  Metrolinx has not provided solid answers about why the eastward piece cannot be constructed using cut & cover under the currently-undeveloped lands slated for the Langstaff Gateway Centre. TAO intends to submit a proposal to Metrolinx showing that such a route appears technically feasible.

There is also resident uncertainty about how well noise/vibration mitigation will work, and if Metrolinx will compensate them for any property devaluation resulting from subway infrastructure on their properties.  Lastly, residents need to be assured that there will be at least one, hopefully two, stations in Thornhill as compensation for all the disruption.

TAO will continue to actively monitor this project and may issue further statements as more information becomes available.

Apr 26

Briefing Paper on US-Canada Passenger Rail Connections

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

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:

  • Reasons to Improve Passenger Rail Service
  • Corridors of Opportunity
  • Service Concepts 
  • Existing Canada/Ontario Initiatives to Build Upon
  • Making it Happen

The paper can be viewed below:

Apr 06

Truck Subsidy on 407ETR versus Building Highway 413

By Transport Action Ontario | Highways and Bridges , Latest News

The idea of providing a toll subsidy for trucks on 407ETR during busy hours is being proposed as an alternate to building the GTA West (Highway 413) expressway. An analysis by Transport Action Ontario shows that the costs of such a truck subsidy are less than half the costs of constructing and maintaining Highway 413. Furthermore, due to its better location, 407ETR would also be more useful to truckers, with commensurate benefits to air quality and climate change.

The analysis can be viewed below.

Mar 08

Urgent Time-out Needed for Scarborough Subway Extension

By Transport Action Ontario | Latest News , Urban Transit

The Ontario government has announced the selection of the consortium that will construct the tunnels for the Scarborough Subway Extension. Transport Action Ontario (TAO) has long expressed concern with this project.

One claimed advantage of tunneling was that the existing Scarborough RT would not have to close during subway construction. With the revelation that a new deep-tube subway would not be finished until 2030, and that the RT will not run past 2023, that argument is moot. TAO continues to engage with elected officials at the City and Provincial level to advocate for consideration of various surface options, particularly the approach of constructing a branch line (“Smart Spur”) from the existing GO Transit commuter rail line. As this is a provincially-uploaded project, the Province has the final say.

A recent op-ed by noted transit experts Stephen Wickens, David Crowley, Bern Grush, Ed Levy and Richard Soberman points out the folly of the current subway plan and the much better alternatives that exist, including “Smart Spur”.

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