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As passengers, we can’t wait to get to our train stop. But, amid occasional platform overshoots and safety reminders to stay off the tracks, few of us know how complicated stopping a train can be. And that each stop starts long before the brakes are ever applied.
For passengers, the effort of arriving at a GO station amounts to gathering up any bags and stepping onto the platform. It can burn, if lucky, about five calories.
But for the GO train, and those at the controls, it’s an exertion of brain and braking power. In fact, the amount of energy required to stop a loaded 12-car GO train, weighing just over 1,100 metric tonnes from a speed of 80 mph (129 km/h) could power the average Ontario household for eight days.
And the mental effort behind that stop may make that mechanical output seem rather modest.
By Greg Gormick
Opportunities lost. That’s what the Getting Ontario Moving Act, coupled with the 2019 Ontario budget and a Toronto subway-building mania, mean to Northern Ontario’s transportation system.
To call this disappointing is an understatement. Many of us in the industry had high hopes for this government when it was elected in 2018. In Opposition, members such as Nipissing MPP, now Finance Minister, Vic Fedeli said all the right things and seemed sincere when they talked about the urgent need to improve Ontario’s strained and straining transportation system. I didn’t doubt their sincerity.
But what has emerged is not just underwhelming, it’s dangerous. If left unaltered, the moves being made – or not being made – will drive our increasingly dysfunctional transportation network to the point of no return. This system is sick and in need of attention.
Northern comments have been swift and justified: What’s in this for us? That’s particularly the case after all the pre-election promises about improvements such as the return of the Toronto-Cochrane Northlander train, which was cut by the previous government in 2012.
Northerners shouldn’t feel they have been especially slighted. The reaction from other regions has been similar, including the communities that ring the City of Toronto. Calls for improved GO Transit regional rail and bus service have resulted in the same far-off promises and self-congratulatory photo-ops that characterized the previous government.
As for Torontonians, they haven’t come out so well, either. They are being force-fed a fantasy plan wrapped around questionable mini-subway technology that is a hobby horse of Metrolinx advisor Michael Schabas. It’s bizarre that this Conservative hireling was previously the Liberal advisor who concocted the derailed southwestern Ontario high-speed rail dream scheme.
Backing him is Metrolinx CEO Phil Verster, who left two high-profile UK jobs amid clouds of controversy before being hired by the Wynne government. Verster told Ontario Northland execs last summer that a revived Northlander couldn’t use “his” Toronto Union Station.
While all this palace intrigue transpires, nothing practical is being done to improve Ontarians’ travel options. One of the three theories I employ in all my transportation work is access + mobility = destiny. I, therefore, question the impact of this on our destiny.
While Ontario’s regional mobility and access stagnate, other regions beyond Ontario’s borders are making solid progress by dispensing with the political posturing, game playing and axe-grinding, and getting on with practical, real-world plans. A prime example is California.
That booming region is fast-tracking a train yard full of light, commuter and high-performance intercity rail projects at a reasonable cost using proven technologies to make the Golden State economically, socially and environmentally competitive. That Los Angeles decimated its system in the post-Second World War era and is now aggressively restoring it provides a cautionary tale. This is but one of many increasingly mobile regions with which Ontario must compete.
Using the working California example, there is no reason why Queen’s Park can’t stop the clock on what it is now attempting to unleash with its misnamed Getting Ontario Moving Act, which is currently being railroaded through the legislature at high speed.
A lightly attended local roundtable discussion Friday in Owen Sound gathered input to help create a provincial “transportation plan”.
The closed-door meeting at Georgian College was held by Kinga Surma, the parliamentary secretary to Minister of Transportation Jeff Yurek. She spoke with The Sun Times by phone after the meeting.
Surma said it’s important to “really understand the needs of different regions. So that when we do implement programs or whatever it is or long-term transportation plans, that we really understand the difference in need in different regions.”
Surma, the provincial member for Etobicoke Centre, said she has been to Sarnia and Windsor for consultations and that more will follow in June and again in August in southwestern Ontario. There will be seven roundtables in all.
She was looking for feedback “as to how we can adjust programs, how we can plan better long-term, what are some of the challenges municipalities are facing?” She also was looking for how how to cut “red tape”.
Yurek will review the feedback to “plan transportation better.” She said “we will be making changes and seeing how we can help municipalities provide better transit and be there to support them.”
Surma said people at the roundtable were interested in “a more centralized, flexible system, perhaps with a ride-share program or centralizing different services that transport people throughout the region,” to ensure bus use efficiency.
Surma said no one raised concerns about whether transportation funding would be there for them in future, given the government’s stated intention to cut costs and find efficiencies.
“I think overall the conversation was very positive, very optimistic and I think people appreciated that we were here and that we will be meeting with them regularly and discussing things regularly.”
She was told the region wants to protect old rail corridors and wants provincial help to do it, she said.
She noted congestion problems on Highway 26 in eastern Grey County are something the province would like to help address. She said an environmental assessment to look at options is underway. She heard about traffic problems on Highway 6 too.
“A key part of our government’s priority is investing in infrastructure. And public transit, providing that support, because that’s critical in terms of growing our economy . . . ” she said.
Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound MPP Bill Walker, the Minister of Government and Consumer Services, attended the meeting. He said he thought more people would have been there and planned to look into why more weren’t.
“I was actually kind of shocked that there weren’t some more people there.”
The Ministry of Transportation arranged invitations and he saw that contacts for all municipalities and First Nations were shared with the MTO, Walker said.
Andrew Buttigieg, the transportation minister’s press secretary, declined to say who attended the roundtable and wouldn’t say why.
The City of Guelph has posted two surveys that are focused on expanding Guelph Transit‘s Community Bus service and adding a route into the Hanlon Creek Business Park.
Both online surveys are looking for feedback from residents and are available until the end of May.
Guelph Transit currently operates two Community Buses that travel throughout the city.
Unlike regular buses, passengers can flag down or be dropped off by the Community Bus at any time, whether it’s at a designated stop or anywhere along the route.
The service operates hourly Monday to Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
As I’ve mentioned in previous columns, transportation is one of the most important issues affecting the people in Etobicoke Centre.
If passed, the Getting Ontario Moving Act — which was introduced in the legislature earlier this month — will keep our roads safe, protect front-line workers, schoolchildren, and motorcyclists, upload authority for new subway projects to the province, cut red tape for our province’s job creators and help make sure that Ontario’s roads remain among the safest in North America.
Recently, Premier Doug Ford, Minister of Transportation Jeff Yurek, Minister of Infrastructure Monte McNaughton, PA Stephen Lecce and myself, unveiled the new Transportation Plan at the GO Maintenance Facility in Etobicoke-Lakeshore. Together, our government announced our $28.5-billion plan to get Ontario moving. This is by far the most money ever invested to get shovels in the ground and get new subways built.
A cache of internal documents is providing a rare glimpse into the planning process at Metrolinx, the bureaucratic provincial agency that wields considerable power over public transit in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area — and could soon be granted influence over the TTC subway system by the Ontario Progressive Conservative government.
The documents show Metrolinx officials internally raised significant concerns about GO Transit stations the agency ended up recommending, and some of the selected stops fared worse in earlier versions of Metrolinx’s analysis than the final version it later made public.
They also show that as Metrolinx drafted and redrafted its final report, the agency removed statements that could cast its station program in a negative light.