Oct 15

Chicago to Toronto – more than a line on a map

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

Transport Action Ontario was a co-presenter, along with the Michigan Association of Railway Passengers, of a paper at the Rail Users’ Network virtual mini-conference on October 15, 2021. The conference theme was “You can’t get there from here”. The paper discusses the promise and challenge of restoring passenger train service connecting Chicago-Detroit-Toronto. The presentation can be viewed below.

GO Train at Bloor station. Photo by Sally Hewson.
Sep 22

GO Transit Initiating Rail Service to London

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

On September 18, 2021, the Ontario Ministry of Transportation announced that an extension of its Kitchener GO Train service to Stratford, St Marys and London will commence on October 18. The pilot service, costing $2.6M/yr, will have one eastbound train departing London in the early morning and one westbound train departing Union Station in late afternoon. Travel time London-Union Station is almost 4 hours, partially due to the low train speeds (30 mph) due to poor track conditions west of Kitchener.

This announcement and the short time frame was a surprise. There are many unresolved matters, including accessibility for the disabled, lack of Presto cards service, lack of train layover facilities in London therefore requiring extensive deadheading, cost per passenger and absence of a business case. Transport Action Ontario (TAO) is also concerned that this development pre-empts the Southwestern Ontario Task Force work on developing a regional transportation plan, including reconciling GO Train and VIA Rail services.

On balance, TAO welcomes this pilot as a positive first step and looks forward to improvements in train service, speeds and frequency. We believe that about $25M of track improvements are needed to improve train speeds west of Kitchener to an acceptable level.

Aug 20

Greater Golden Horseshoe Transportation Discussion Paper – Comments Submitted

By Transport Action Ontario | Highways and Bridges , Intercity Rail and Bus , Latest News , Urban Transit

In late June, Ontario released its long-awaited Greater Golden Horseshow Transportation Discussion Paper for public comment. Following a situation analysis, it described three visions for 2051: (a) getting people moving on a connected transit system (b) enhancing capacity and performance on congested roads (c) efficiently moving goods across the region. It also provided 7 near-term goals and sample actions.

Transport Action Ontario has provided detailed comments to the Ministry of Transportation on this paper, identifying positives, concern areas, and additional topics to include.

  • TAO supports some of the road infrastructure policies and plans, particularly managed lanes and demand management. However, we feel that there is too much emphasis on construction of new 400-series highways, including the GTA-West corridor, Highway 404 extension and Garden City Skyway twinning. Non-road options are usually a better investment and should either replace or augment new highways.
  • TAO supports the listed ideas for goods movement, but recommends also to work with CN/CP to expand rail corridors or remove constraints where needed to benefit both passenger and freight rail. The cooperation agreements between Metrolinx and CN on the shared-use Halton Sub and on Burlington-Hamilton are good examples.
  • The Plan needs to discuss funding sources to finance these many investments, including parking fees, road pricing, federal cooperation and financing, and providing new revenue tools for municipalities.

Our full submission can be viewed below.

MTO’s discussion paper can be found at: https://www.ontario.ca/page/towards-greater-golden-horseshoe-transportation-plan-discussion-paper

Aug 16

2021 Michigan Rail Conference – Summary

By Transport Action Ontario | Intercity Rail and Bus

Transport Action Ontario was the only Canadian organization attending the Michigan Rail Conference, held August 10-11, 2021. We believe it is important to monitor our close economic partner. As seen in the attached report, there was considerable discussion on topics of interest to Ontario, including policies and funding for short line railways and new cross-border services between Detroit and Toronto.

Our report can be viewed below.

Aug 10

Encouraging Steps for Passenger Rail in Southwestern Ontario

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

Following years of benign neglect by senior governments, southwestern Ontario is finally in the passenger rail spotlight!  In mid-July, Federal Minister of Transport Alghabra toured the region announcing that the federal government is committed to working towards enhancing and modernizing intercity passenger rail in the region. 

Transport Canada will work with key partners including VIA Rail and the Canada Infrastructure Bank though the High Frequency Rail Joint Project Office to ensure that any enhancements can be effectively integrated with the core route for High Frequency Rail.  It will be reaching out to the Province of Ontario to identify areas of collaboration and avoid any duplication with provincial travel plans, including new services to be offered by GO Transit.

The announcement was welcomed by London Mayor Ed Holder, who also chairs the provincial government’s Southwestern Ontario Transportation Task Force.

The event in London was attended by Jim Houston from Rail Advocacy in Lambton, Ken Westcar from Transport Action Ontario and Terence Johnson, president of Transport Action Canada, all regional residents who have been campaigning to see and end to cuts and for service levels to be enhanced for many, many years.

Transport Action has submitted a list of rail infrastructure investments for the region to Transport Canada, VIA Rail, and the SWO Task Force. We believe that the most critical bottlenecks can and should be addressed swiftly, to alleviate passenger train delays and freight network congestion, rather than waiting for another long-term study process.

At the provincial level, GO Transit conducted a series of test train operations in early August west of Kitchener to Stratford and London. Rumours abound that this may be a harbinger of near-term implementation of GO train service to London along the North Main Line.

The announcement by Transport Canada can be read here: https://www.canada.ca/en/transport-canada/news/2021/07/government-of-canada-to-explore-opportunities-to-enhance-passenger-rail-services-in-southwestern-ontario.html

Photograph: Ed Holder, Mayor of London; Omar Alghabra MP, Minister of Transport; Peter Fragiskatos MP, London North Centre; Kate Young MP, London West.

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