OTTAWA – Transport Action Canada is stunned, even outraged, by the Transportation 2030 Vision presented in Montreal by Transport Minister Marc Garneau last Thursday.
“With climate change on everyone’s mind, and transportation causing a huge percentage of greenhouse gas emissions, smart solutions are needed,” says the public transportation advocacy group’s president Bruce Budd. “And the smartest solution of all is the rail network we already have. Except for a brief passing reference to a feasibility study of high frequency rail service linking Toronto to Ottawa and Montreal, why has Minister Garneau virtually ignored VIA Rail Canada in his 2030 Vision?”
The Amtrak system, the US equivalent of VIA Rail, demonstrates that short, intermediate and long-distance trains can be heavily used, and gain significant ridership. Amtrak’s success is bringing demands across the US for increased train service of all kinds. Transport Action believes that this would happen in Canada if our passenger train network was modernized, expanded, reliable and lower-cost.
Adding new discount airlines may be helpful to some, Budd says, but short-haul air travel is a poor solution for a government committed to “real change” and reducing greenhouse gases. If Canada followed the lead of countries like France, Germany, Japan, China and the US, by making investments in passenger rail, we would get much closer to our climate change targets, he predicted. Passengers would continue to fly for most long distance trips, but use or connect to fast efficient train networks for shorter journeys.
“Canadians travel all the time. They deserve affordable, efficient and sustainable ways to get around. Why drive congested, dangerous, snowy highways and pollute our environment? Canada’s railways are not just for freight; they are the best solution for millions of travelling passengers. Investments in VIA Rail will produce benefits all across Canada: higher speeds and higher frequency for the busy corridors, reliable safe on-time options for long distance travellers, and vital links for First Nations and remote communities.”
Transport Action Canada works with its regional partners Transport Action Ontario, Transport Action Atlantic, and in Quebec and Western Canada to connect community groups, government stakeholders and businesses, and advocates for better travel options across the country. TAC has commissioned many studies, available on its website, showing how passenger rail networks can be improved quickly and affordably.
Ontario’s Climate Change Action Plan (CCAP) was released in June, 2016. TAO has been actively involved, both through the Move the GTHA collaborative and as an individual organization.
TAO supports much of the CCAP. However, we have identified two significant concern areas related to transportation:
Letters have been written to the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change on both topics, and can be viewed below:
Toronto Council will be voting in July to approve a new rapid transit network. A cautionary note was sent to key Councillors indicating that the decision should be deferred until Metrolinx-lead work on fare integration is complete.
The letter is reproduced below:
Michael Enright of the CBC Sunday Morning radio show presented a poignant essay on the decades-long decline of passenger rail in Canada, the current challenges faced by VIA Rail and the need for significant federal investment.
The essay can be heard here