Mar 01

Scarborough Express Rail (SmartSpur)

By TAO-admin | Ontario , Urban Transit

As readers know, Transport Action Ontario has long advocated for electrification of the GO Rail system and conversion to “surface subway-like” service.   Our advocacy started with our “No Little Plan” concept report of 2011 and then with the highly-detailed “Regional Rapid Rail” report of 2013.  We were very pleased when our ideas were largely adopted in 2014 in the  Province’s Regional Express Rail plan and the City of Toronto’s SmartTrack plan.


One of few areas not picked up by either the Provincial or City plans was our idea to construct an electrified GO Rail branch/spur line to Scarborough Town Centre, rather than an underground subway or a LRT line.  Over the past few months, we have been in ongoing detailed discussions with staff and elected officials at the City, and with staff at Metrolinx on this concept,  now known as Scarborough Express Rail or SmartSpur.


A series of frequently-asked-questions can be viewed here: TAO-SER-FAQ-2016-02

A technical memo covering various technical aspects of the concept can be viewed here:TAO-SER-TechMemo2016-02-29

Feb 22

Western Ontario Wardens Caucus endorses importance of VIA Rail

By TAO-admin | Interurban Rail and Bus , Ontario

In a letter to Prime Minister Trudeau and Premier Wynne, the Western Ontario Wardens Caucus (WOWC) recognized the importance of VIA Rail to the economy and the vital role it can play in economic and environmental improvements.  The letter references key reports produced by Transport Action Ontario and its affiliates, including our  Network SouthwestPlan, our submission to the Province on Modernizing Intercity Bus Services,  and Transport Action Canada’s VIA 1-4-10 Plan.


WOWC encourages a strategic partnership between the Federal Government, Provincial Government, VIA Rail and Metrolinx to develop an integrated multi-modal mass transportation model in the Windsor-Quebec City corridor.


The WOWC letter can be viewed here:  WOWC Letter to Trudeau&Wynne

Feb 10

Support for Expanding VIA Rail Service Toronto-St Catharines-Niagara Falls

By TAO-admin | Interurban Rail and Bus , Ontario

At a Council meeting on February 8, St Catharines City Council voted unanimously to request that VIA Rail restore effective train service to Niagara.   Transport Action Ontario  submitted a letter and presented a deputation to Council supporting this request.    In our view, both VIA and GO are needed to fully meet Niagara’s needs.


The deputation and letter can be viewed here

TAO- St. Catharines VIA Presentation 2016-02-08

TAO St. Catharines Council Submission 2016-02-05


Given below is some of the press coverage that resulted:

St. Catharines requests reinstatement of VIA rail service

Council passes motion urging VIA, feds, to restore service in Niagara

By Scott Rosts

ST. CATHARINES — City Council would like to see VIA Rail return its daily train service to Niagara.

On Monday night St. Catharines council unanimously approved a motion that urges VIA Rail and the federal government to restore “effective” VIA train service in Niagara. The motion, put forth by Coun. Bruce Williamson, comes after VIA officials have suggested it will invest in the national passenger rail service. Council is hoping VIA will reverse the decision it made in 2012 to eliminate the daily return service in Niagara.

“The existing rail infrastructure, including a climate-controlled station building and parking area, is already in place,” said Williamson, adding “Niagara is positioned favourably for growth and transportation links are vital ingredients for future prosperity and sustainability.”

Greg Gormick, a rail policy advisor with Transportation Action Ontario, told council the benefits would be “large” for the city, serving as a foundation for GO service. The two, he said, would complement each other.

“Is it VIA or is it GO for Niagara? It’s both,” said Gormick. “They’re two different types of services … really complementary services.”

Gormick and Williamson both noted there are economic and tourism benefits for the region, but the service would also provide a tie to the Empire Corridor, a designated high speed rail route between Niagara Falls, New York and New York City, and the Toronto-Montreal Corridor.

Mishka Balsom, CEO of the Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce agreed, saying it makes sense to push for VIA service in addition to advocating for the GO expansion to Niagara.

“We need to take full advantage,” said Balsom, noting long-haul rail service should be an important part of any future Niagara-wide transportation master plan.

There are some positive signs in the midst of the request. With federal government promises to invest in infrastructure and transit, VIA Rail CEO Yves Desjardins-Siciliano said last fall the Crown Corporation would submit a $4 billion dedicated track plan for the busy Toronto-Montreal-Ottawa corridor to the new government. The project would see the company build, acquire and restore tracks to increase the number of daily departures from each city to 15 from the current six. Also, during a 2015 annual public meeting, VIA officials said “VIA Rail is looking into the opportunity of increasing service in the Niagara/St. Catharines region in 2016. The potential in the area is for passengers travelling for leisure or as commuters.”

Williamson suggested the region could see VIA service reinstated before any type of regular GO service was provided.

“This is not a long-term plan and can become a reality in the short term for Niagara,” he said, describing it as a “no-risk, zero-cost opportunity”.

Mayor Walter Sendzik agreed with the concept, but suggested that VIA be requested to embark on a business case analysis. He said while there would be no cost at the local level, the funds do come at the federal level and “all of us in the region pay (federal) tax dollars”.

The city has also requested that other municipalities that were receiving service — Niagara Falls and Grimsby — be asked to pass the motion as well to strengthen the message.

Feb 08

Rail Safety – Letter to Transport Minister Marc Garneau

By TAO-admin | Interurban Rail and Bus , Ontario

Transport Action Ontario is a co-signatory to a letter authored by Safe Rail Communities to the Honourable Marc Garneau, Minister of Transport, to follow up on promises made during the election campaign to review rail safety regulations.   Transport Action Ontario has been working with Safe Rail Communities on this important file for over a year.  A request for a meeting was made.


The letter can be viewed here:  TAO-SafeRailCttee-Garneau letter 2016-02-08