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Nov 06

Hopes run high for New Brunswick’s RuralLynx

By admin | Atlantic , Interurban Rail and Bus

“Could be a model for all of Canada” – TAA

taa-rurallynx

Supported by Transport Action Atlantic, the Southwest New Brunswick Transit Authority presented the case for RuralLynx to provincial transportation minister Bill Fraser on October 27th. Although there’s nothing official yet, chair Stan Choptiany (second from left) is optimistic that funding will be found to bring public transit to Charlotte County in 2017. Also in the photo (l. to r.) are Laurie Parris, executive director of the Charlotte County Multicultural Association; Minister Fraser; TAA president Ted Bartlett; St. Stephen town councillor Ghislaine Wheaton; and TAA board member Michael Perry.

RuralLynx may soon be a reality in New Brunswick’s Charlotte County, bringing renewed mobility to the people of small towns and rural communities and connecting them with the public services they need in Saint John.  The Southwest New Brunswick Transit Authority Inc. pitched its business plan to provincial Transportation Minister Bill Fraser and senior officials on October 27th.  While the minister’s response was positive, there has been no firm commitment of the necessary financial support that would enable the bus service to finally hit the road next year.

Yet Stan Choptiany, the former mayor of Saint Andrews who chairs the authority’s board, has a positive feeling that it’s all going to fall into place.  The project, strongly supported from the start by Transport Action Atlantic, has found favour with both the MLA and MP for the area, and is well positioned to receive a portion of its necessary funding from United Way.

TAA emphasizes that the amount of money needed from the provincial coffers is miniscule in comparison to the overall budget of the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure, and is an investment that will ultimately result in significant overall savings to government.  A follow-up message to Minister Fraser urged him to take a “leap of faith” to support an imaginative proposal that could be a model for all of Canada.

Nov 06

Ottawa Light Rail Project Now Really Visible

By admin | Ontario , Urban Transit

OC Transpo Report Photo

OC Transpo Report Photo

The casual resident or visitor to Ottawa will no doubt note the catenary now visible at several locations of the Ottawa Light Rail Transit system under construction. The photo to the left is from the access to Belfast Yard, the shops and maintenance facilities where actual rolling stock is being assembled. This location is closer to the Eastern section of the system. But if you happen to come into town along highway 174 from the East, you will also note, just before the merge and arrival of the St Laurent Shopping Center, the Blair Street station which is the Easternmost end of the 13.5-kilometer line. There you will also see overhead wiring installed and ready for test runs as rolling stock comes off assembly.

While construction has been under way for more than two years now, the work was not highly visible to a casual observer, unless you were inconvenienced by down-town construction locations. But who can miss the poles and wires of the catenary system, a proud symbol of what we are about to get by the spring of 2018.

While about 3.5 kilometers of the system will be underground, physical evidence of the trackage and electric lines will be seen prominently above gound close to Ottawa University, which will also have the last stop, coming from the East, before descending into the underground section of 3.5 kilometers housing the three underground stations of the system.

Submitted by Ben Novak, Transport  Action

Nov 04

State of play regarding Lac-Mégantic’s quest for justice and for safety of oil transported by rail

By admin | Interurban Rail and Bus , National News

PIAC article on state of play regarding Lac-Mégantic’s quest for justice and for safety of oil transported by rail.

Bruce Campbell, PIAC* Board member

It has been more than three years since the Lac-Mégantic rail disaster, which killed 47 people; left 27 children orphaned; spilled six million litres of crude oil, poisoning the land and waterways; destroyed the town centre; and traumatized a community – trauma that continues to afflict its residents. Combining lives lost, environmental damage and physical destruction the July 6, 2013 Lac–Mégantic rail disaster is – outside of wartime – without precedent in modern Canadian history.

Have the lessons from this disaster been learned? Has it led to fundamental improvements in the rail safety system? A number of policy changes have been put in place since the tragedy including: the rule allowing single operator freight trains has been removed; rules regarding train securement have been made more precise; crude oil has been designated a dangerous good requiring an emergency response plan; a stronger crash resistant tank car has been introduced and will be phased in over 10 years. Nevertheless, massive oil trains continue to run on increasingly overstressed and under-maintained tracks, through urban areas, sometimes at excessive speeds. Main track derailments of trains carrying dangerous goods have increased.

The CPC-1232 tank cars (a slightly improved version of the old legacy DOT-111s), which currently carry virtually all crude oil, continue to puncture and their contents explode – most recently in May, 2016 in Mosier, Oregon, where a disaster was narrowly averted. These unsafe cars will be allowed to carry their dangerous cargo until 2025, when their stronger replacements (DOT-117) are fully in place.

Rail oversight measures essential to a safe regulatory system – notably frequent on-site inspections – remain inadequate. Without them, companies are still “regulating themselves”, compromising safety when it conflicts with costs. An impediment to a robust rail safety system is the “cozy” relationship between Transport Canada and the powerful rail industry. Far too often, the industry is able to shape regulations to its own benefit while compromising the public interest. The industry can block or delay new regulations, and remove or dilute existing regulations that adversely affect its costs.

The 2016 budget allocated $48 million per year for three years to “strengthen oversight and enforcement, and to enhance prevention and response capabilities, related to rail safety…”; but results so far are far from what is needed.

Here are a few measures that would substantially improve safety of rail transport of crude oil:

  • Combine Safety Management Systems (SMS) with robust on-site inspections
  • Substantially increase the Transport Canada’s rail regulatory resources and independence, reducing the potential of regulatory capture by industry.
  • Accelerate the timetable for phase-out of CPC-1232 tank cars.
  • Remove volatile components from oil (including bitumen) before loading
  • Address worker fatigue problems
  • Address speed and alternative route problems
  • Enhance the ability of TSB to enforce recommendations

The people of Mégantic paid a terrible price for failures of a dysfunctional regulatory system. The government must admit its responsibility and commit now to building forthwith a rail bypass around the town, which they are demanding. Fundamental reforms are needed to persuade skeptical public that that lessons of Lac-Mégantic have been learned.

*Public Interest Advocacy Centre

Oct 24

BC Government has started consultations on two projects having major implications for transportation options in the Sea-to-Sky Corridor and on the Sunshine Coast

By admin | Aviation & Marine , British Columbia , Highways & Bridges , Regions , Topics

By Rick Jelfs, Transport Action British Columbia

The BC Government has started consultations on two projects that have major implications for transportation options in the Sea-to-Sky Corridor and on the Sunshine Coast.

1) Transport Minister Stone and regional representatives kicked off a public consultation process discussing potential transit service improvements in the Sea-to-Sky corridor from Whistler/Pemberton to the Lower Mainland. Some details are available in the news article at  http://www.squamishchief.com/news/local-news/province-gets-behind-plan-to-expand-sea-to-sky-transit-1.2369970 . More information and an on-line survey are available at https://bctransit.com/seatosky .

2) The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure released a set of possible routings for fixed-link (highways and bridges) connections between Highway 99 and the Sunshine Coast, including Powell River. The links would replace existing Horseshoe Bay-Langdale and Earl’s Cove-Saltery Bay ferry services The proposals are all costed at $1.5 to 3.0 Billion plus. The news article at http://www.squamishchief.com/news/local-news/possible-squamish-to-sunshine-coast-fixed-link-discussed-1.2368835 offers some more details on the proposals.

Oct 24

Extra trains for Christmas

By admin | Atlantic , Interurban Rail and Bus

By Tim Hayman, Transport Action Atlantic

 

VIA Rail Train 15, The Ocean, departs Halifax with a stainless steel HEP consist in tow at the end of the 2015-16 Christmas season. (Photo – Tim Hayman)

It might seem a bit early to be thinking about holiday travels, but the Christmas season is just over two months away, and VIA has added additional departures of the Ocean into their reservations system to give people in the Maritimes more travel options during that busy time. In keeping with what VIA has done in each of the last two years, there will be three additional round trips added into the schedule, along with a rescheduling of the Sunday departures that would have left on Christmas day.

Also good news for railfans and those in the travelling public who prefer the older Budd-built stainless steel “HEP” equipment, a full set of HEP cars will be added in to supplement the normal two Renaissance trainsets, facilitating the additional departures. Unlike last year, where equipment cycling meant that the HEP equipment only operated on two round trips, this year three trips each way will be HEP equipped.

The return of this equipment means that additional accommodation types will be available on those trains, including “Cabin for 1” (traditionally known as roomettes), upper and lower berths, and drawing rooms that can be booked for 3 travellers (“Cabin for 3”). If past years are to be the example, there will also be a full diner with more meal components cooked on board, and a Skyline car to provide take-out food service and a lounge and scenic dome for coach passengers. 

VIA has not yet made an official announcement about the extra trains, and it remains to be seen what their advertising campaign will look like this year. However, the extra trains are now in the online reservations system for booking, so we can see what additional dates and accommodations are available. UPDATE OCT. 20 – VIA has now made a formal announcement about the extra trains. See the press release HERE. The VIA release does not identify the equipment used, so see our breakdown below for those details.

Here is the breakdown of the Ocean’s schedule over the holiday period. Extra trains added into the system are shown in bold. Note that the Dec. 26 departures in both directions are rescheduled from Dec. 25, and as such are not truly “extra” trains, despite running on a Monday (*Note: the VIA release identifies the westbound trip on the 26th as an extra and the one on the 27th as rescheduled from the 25th). Equipment types for each trip are shown in brackets.

VIA 15 (Halifax to Montreal)

Wed, Dec 21 (HEP)

Thu, Dec 22 (Renaissance)

Fri, Dec 23 (Renaissance)

Mon, Dec 26 (HEP)

Tue, Dec 27 (Renaissance)

Wed, Dec 28 (Renaissance)

Fri, Dec 30 (Renaissance)

Sun, Jan 01 (Renaissance)

Mon, Jan 02 (HEP)

VIA 14 (Montreal to Halifax)

Mon, Dec 19 (HEP)

Wed, Dec 21 (Renaissance)

Thu, Dec 22 (HEP)

Fri, Dec 23 (Renaissance)

Mon, Dec 26 (Renaissance)

Tue, Dec 27 (HEP)

Wed, Dec 28 (Renaissance)

Fri, Dec 30 (Renaissance)

Sun, Jan 01 (Renaissance)

VIA has been somewhat disappointed in the ridership on the extra Christmas trains over the last two years. Though numbers were up slightly last year, they did not reach the levels that management had hoped for. In any case, the extra departures did allow for more people to travel than would have been possible on the normal 3/week schedule, and VIA has presumably decided that it’s worth running these additional trains this year.

Right now it’s important to spread the word, and make sure people know these extra options are there when they think about their holiday travel plans. Just as we said last year: if we want to encourage VIA to continue running extra trains during the holidays and consider adding additional frequencies at other times of the year, it would be best if these trains are well used!