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  3. On what electoral reform reforms
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  6. 2019-07-15 SECU 171
  7. 2019-06-20 RNNR 140
  8. 2019-06-17 14:14 House intervention / intervention en chambre
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  10. 2019-06-13 PROC 162
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  12. 2019-06-06 PROC 160
  13. 2019-06-06 INDU 167
  14. 2019-06-05 23:27 House intervention / intervention en chambre
  15. 2019-06-05 15:11 House intervention / intervention en chambre
  16. older entries...

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Links of interest

  1. 2009-03-27: The Mother of All Rejection Letters
  2. 2009-02: Road Worriers
  3. 2008-12-29: Who should go to university?
  4. 2008-12-24: Tory aide tried to scuttle Hanukah event, school says
  5. 2008-11-07: You might not like Obama's promises
  6. 2008-09-19: Harper a threat to democracy: independent
  7. 2008-09-16: Tory dissenters 'idiots, turds'
  8. 2008-09-02: Canadians willing to ride bus, but transit systems are letting them down: survey
  9. 2008-08-19: Guelph transit riders happy with 20-minute bus service changes
  10. 2008=08-06: More people riding Edmonton buses, LRT
  11. 2008-08-01: U.S. border agents given power to seize travellers' laptops, cellphones
  12. 2008-07-14: Planning for new roads with a green blueprint
  13. 2008-07-12: Disappointed by Layton, former MPP likes `pretty solid' Dion
  14. 2008-07-11: Riders on the GO
  15. 2008-07-09: MPs took donations from firm in RCMP deal
  16. older links...

All stories filed under transit...

  1. 2002-12-03: The Evolution Of The Cost-Effective TrainCam
  2. 2006-05-20: May 20th, 2006
  3. 2006-06-09: A ten-lane 401?
  4. 2006-10-04: Policy alternatives: Strict Main Highway Traffic Laws
  5. 2006-10-05: Bring GO train service to K-W/Guelph/Cambridge!
  6. 2006-11-01: GOKW.org gets excellent response from the community
  7. 2006-11-10: Public transit dominates municipal election debates
  8. 2006-12-19: The future is rail
  9. 2007-02-07: Dear MP Mike Wallace: try the truth on for size
  10. 2007-03-14: Let's get Guelph back on the GO
  11. 2007-11-28: We're band-aiding our highways again
  12. 2007-12-14: Greater Toronto Transit Authority -- sorry, Metrolinx -- wants your input
  13. 2008-01-15: Highway 6 improvements a waste of money
  14. 2008-01-20: Guelph's former LaFarge property an opportunity not to be wasted
  15. 2008-02-04: Guelph official plan city council presentation
  16. 2008-03-02: New Highway 7 a total misallocation of funds
  17. 2008-03-03: Guelph city council presentation on the former Lafarge Lands planning application
  18. 2008-03-07: Stop paving over my generation!
  19. 2008-03-20: Evidence mounts in favour of Silvercreek Junction Park-and-Ride in Guelph
  20. 2008-03-25: Guelph's Imico property -- our other major transit opportunity
  21. 2008-03-26: On Guelph's Wilson St Parking Garage
  22. 2008-03-28: How I came to believe in better public transit
  23. 2008-04-08: Pearson's airport link a head-scratcher
  24. 2008-04-12: $15 million parking lot a curious approach to planning for the future
  25. 2008-04-15: Free bus service, and a transportation forum
  26. 2008-04-18: More broken thinking on parking
  27. 2008-04-25: Guelph to rail using industry in 1974: can you move to trucks?
  28. 2008-04-29: Guelph throws another $126,000 at free parking
  29. 2008-05-02: The March of the Hanlon Freeway
  30. 2008-05-04: MTO/Guelph Hanlon workshops show divisions, unity
  31. 2008-05-12: GO notices Guelph
  32. 2008-05-13: Guelph Transportation forum
  33. 2008-05-14: Final Hanlon workshop and related thoughts
  34. 2008-05-26: Every day should be Clean Air Day
  35. 2008-05-28: GO official announcement of service to Guelph
  36. 2008-06-03: Letter to Guelph City Council re: Lafarge property
  37. 2008-06-04: GTA West Community Advisory Group meeting 1
  38. 2008-06-06: High Speed Rail link in Windsor-Quebec City corridor is premature
  39. 2008-06-13: Clean Air Day a bust?
  40. 2008-06-17: Highway 7 broken thinking
  41. 2008-06-18: Banning drive-thrus won't solve the real problem
  42. 2008-06-19: Hanlon upgrade PIC #3 looks familiar
  43. 2008-06-24: GTA West study public information night
  44. 2008-07-28: Transit issues gaining traction in Guelph
  45. 2008-08-23: Community service like no other
  46. 2008-09-18: First public meeting for GO train expansion to Guelph and Waterloo region
  47. 2008-09-24: GO trains to run to Guelph and Kitchener by 2011
  48. 2008-10-24: Assorted thoughts on leadership, recessions, and highways
  49. 2008-12-12: GO train service not to reach Kitchener?
  50. 2009-02-01: Lafarge-Howitt deal an improvement, but still hampers transit future
  51. 2009-02-13: GO PIC #2 results
  52. 2009-03-10: TTC Chairman William C. McBrien accurately predicted the state of our transit system -- in 1954
  53. 2009-03-30: Celebrating our heritage
  54. 2009-04-28: City Council decision on the Hanlon upgrades
  55. 2009-07-09: Column on UK vs CA rail service
  56. 2009-07-21: GO Transit EA study for Georgetown to Kitchener expansion complete
  57. 2009-08-11: Column: GO service is coming to Guelph
  58. 2009-10-04: A sombre anniversary
  59. 2009-11-01: Transportation planning leaves a lot to be desired
  60. 2010-01-13: Keeping Track - Rethinking the commute
  61. 2010-04-14: Keeping Track - Bus system overhaul coming to Guelph while GO station might go to Lafarge after all
  62. 2010-05-15: Keeping Track - The Rails of the Royal City

Displaying the most recent stories under transit...

Keeping Track - The Rails of the Royal City

On May 2nd, I led one of the many Jane's Walks in Guelph on a route I called "The Rails of the Royal City". Not everyone wants to do a seven kilometer wet-weather walk, so my column for this month is the written version of the same tour. I hope you enjoy this little taste of Guelph's rich rail history.

History haunts Guelph's railways

Thunderstorms and miserable weather were predicted for that first Sunday in May. Still, a small group of dedicated people showed up for the Jane's Walk that morning.

It was my task to lead the walking tour of Guelph's rail network - and how great it would be, I thought, if I could show everyone this poorly understood bit of our city.

As we gathered at the Guelph railway station, the Via train pulled out of the platform on its way to Toronto. The station, once part of the Grand Trunk system, was once serviced by the streetcars of the Guelph Radial Railway. It served as a transit hub, and retains its strong heritage and functional value.

Via Rail train No. 85 departs for Sarnia in this March 16, 2008 photo. CN Locomotive 6167 is visible in the top right corner of the image.

Via Rail train No. 85 departs for Sarnia in this March 16, 2008 photo. CN Locomotive 6167 is visible in the top right corner of the image.

Across the tracks from the station, we looked at the soon-to-be-demolished cotton mill. Removed from the city's register of historic buildings, the site will instead serve an essential heritage and functional role in Guelph's restored transit hub.

We walked along Carden Street to the pedestrian overpass at Norfolk and along Kent Street, straddling the Guelph subdivision - better known as the north mainline - just west of downtown. We may never see another street quite like Kent, with its lane-rail-rail-lane configuration.

When we got to Edinburgh, we took Crimea to Alma Street. Just Alma Street - not Alma North or Alma South, because it is the tracks that are the north-south divider for street names.

There, the tracks leave the intersection of Alma and Crimea in four directions - to Cambridge, Kitchener, Georgetown and toward Fergus.

The tracks to Cambridge once led to a point near Brantford known as Lynden Junction, allowing Guelph residents a north-south connection to Brantford on the Great Western Railway.

Today, the same track in the direction of Fergus goes only as far as Woodlawn Road to the north, but once continued to Palmerston, which was a major passenger rail junction connecting much of the Bruce Peninsula and giving Guelph rail riders access to Owen Sound and many other communities.

The tracks to Kitchener and Georgetown still carry six passenger trains per day.

As we continued our walk, to the west lay Howitt Park and the Lafarge property.

We followed the tracks along Edinburgh northward as far as London Road.

Called the Guelph north spur, these tracks allow the Goderich-Exeter Railway to reach the industrial railway tracks in the Edinburgh-Speedvale-Elmira-Woodlawn roads block, which are shared with the Guelph Junction Railway. We hung a right and got on CN Spurline Park at London Road, walking along what used to be a connecting track between the Guelph Junction Railway and the Canadian National network.

This park, one of two former rail lines that now serve as walking trails in the city, runs from London Road along the south side of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic High School, across the northern tip of Exhibition Park, and curves sharply back to the Guelph Junction Railway at Clarence and Dufferin. The tracks along this alignment were pulled up nearly half a century ago, but the right of way remains clearly visible, a silent testimonial to the durability of rail.

While other tracks connected Guelph to Brantford and Owen Sound, the Guelph Junction Railway once continued north-west through Elmira all the way to Goderich.

We followed Dufferin and Cardigan streets along the Guelph Junction Railway as far as Eramosa Road. There, we were able to join the walking trail at John Galt Park along the side of the tracks, by the site of the old CPR station, now an apartment complex, and the Priory, the predecessor station. Along the way, we found a milepost: 32. I asked those along for the walk if they had any idea what we were 32 miles from. Nobody was quite sure. Hamilton, I told them, is 32 miles away. Railways still use miles

Hamilton, a city from which it is virtually impossible to visit Guelph without a car, has a direct rail line to our wonderful little community, but no service.

As we approached the River Run Centre, we noted the tourist trains. The Guelph Junction Express operates tourist and dinner trains along the Guelph Junction Railway. Waterloo, Tottenham, Orangeville, and several other communities in the area have similar services. Why has passenger rail been largely relegated to the status of a tourist attraction?

We approached the intersection of Macdonell and Wellington streets. There, the North main line has a large viaduct passing over the Guelph Junction Railway and the Speed River. The viaduct was built wide enough to support two tracks, showing excellent advance planning - far more than the 20 years we plan ahead for now.

The transit hub will have a platform that comes nearly all the way to this intersection. Why not build it just a bit longer to connect it to a platform along the Guelph Junction Railway? That would be planning for the future.

The last stop on our journey took us to CN 6167, the steam locomotive nestled in next to the Greyhound station. The locomotive will be moved to make way for the restored transit hub. Like the cotton mill, 6167 stands as a silent witness to our past successes - and will need to be removed in order for us to repeat them.

columns guelph transit 972 words - permanent link - comments: 0. Posted at 11:33 on May 15, 2010

Keeping Track - Bus system overhaul coming to Guelph while GO station might go to Lafarge after all

There are quite a few new developments on transit in the Guelph area. This month's 'Keeping Track' addresses the Transit Growth Strategy's report on new bus routes for the city. I served on the community advisory committee for that project and am largely pleased with the results, provided they actually come to fruition. But there is more going on than just a redrawing of our bus route maps.

In a twist of irony, the plan to tear down a historically significant factory next to the train station in Guelph may prevent GO from stopping at the transit hub, with the station instead likely winding up at the Lafarge property. The Lafarge property is a large plot of vacant industrial land at the junction of highways 6, 7, 24, and two railway lines. I have advocated for a station to go there all along. As that has not been the plan, the City and the Ontario Municipal Board have cleared the way for a commercial development to go there instead, which will negatively affect our ability to usefully stop passenger trains there. Losing the downtown location would be tragic, as I believe both downtown and Lafarge are needed in spite of their proximity to eachother. If we want rail service from Guelph to be successful, it will need adequate parking that does not interfere with businesses. The downtown station cannot accommodate that for a variety of reasons.

The Lafarge/downtown station issue remains one to watch, but this month's column is limited to the bus system improvements outlined in the Transit Growth Stategy Public Information Centre report.

Guelph's transit strategy moving in the right direction

Public transit in Guelph is on the cusp of making a major leap forward - right into the early 20th century. Local bus routes that make sense and useful inter-urban mass transit connections are on the table and may well be in our future.

Anyone who has ever taken bus route Number 52 University/Kortright knows the true definition of the word meander. From its outer extremity along Ironwood Road south of the intersection of Scottsdale Drive and Kortright, it travels most of the way to the university, all the way back to Scottsdale, around behind Stone Road Mall, and only then back to the university, before finally making a beeline up Gordon Street toward downtown. Although it tries, it is an excellent example of that adage, "You can't be all things to all people." The route map generated by Guelph's transit growth strategy study, to be implemented with the arrival of the Carden Street transit hub in June 2011, shows huge improvement, and it cannot be implemented soon enough.

The message that Guelph Transit's route map needed to be wiped clean and started fresh got through, and residents throughout the city should soon be able to cross town in just 45 minutes in a worst-case scenario, down considerably from the more than an hour for the current trajectory.

The 10 linear and three loop routes introduced at the March 30 public information centre will almost all provide some measure of bi-directional service. This means that, for most of us, going from home to work will take the same time as going from work to home. For people who are used to a 10-minute trip one way and a 40-minute trip the other, this is indeed something to get excited about. Additional routes are being planned, according to the study, to provide practical service to the city's vast industrial parks whose current transit routes are, at best, painful, as anyone who has ever taken Number 51 around Southgate Drive, or Number 24 over the entire northwest corner of Guelph can attest.

Transit is apparently discussing the idea of bulk-rate passes, similar to the university passes, to be sold through large employers throughout the city. While many of us cannot benefit from such deals for the moment, one can hope that their success in moving more people further, faster, in fewer vehicles, will ultimately result in less expensive transit fares for all users. Making transit the most affordable way for people to get around can only serve to encourage its use and reduce other pressures on our infrastructure.

Most of the routes proposed are direct. There is minimal overlap except at defined transfer points. The loops at the ends of the routes to turn the buses around and provide service on the same routes in the opposite direction are mostly small and sensible. Instead of Number 52's vast 20-minute U-turn, proposed bus route Number 6 will travel from the university, along Gordon, across Kortright and Downey Road by the YMCA, and use Niska Road, Ptarmigan Drive, and Downey to turn around, then go straight back across Kortright and Gordon to the university. How novel is that?

The best news is that Guelph's transit growth strategy is the third serious study in seven years to look at how to connect Guelph to our neighbours without relying solely on the construction of new freeways. The others were the North Mainline Municipal Alliance and GO Transit Kitchener expansion studies. While the focus of Guelph's study is on bus rapid transit of various descriptions, the use of self-propelled passenger rail equipment to connect Guelph to Kitchener, Cambridge, and Brampton is proposed, with use of the same equipment to provide service between Guelph and Hamilton or Milton viewed as a longer-term prospect.

Demand for such a service on any one of these inter-regional corridors not only exists now, but has for a considerable period of time and must be properly run and marketed. More importantly, mass transit service on any one of these corridors would serve to reduce pressure on the many expensive highway expansion projects on the table for all of these same connections.

Guelph has been here once before. Up until the Great Depression, streetcars provided direct, frequent, affordable bi-directional service radiating out from Carden Street, where they connected with north-south service on the Guelph Junction Railway, east-west service on what we now call the North Mainline, and even streetcar service into Toronto, the only remnant of which is the Halton County Radial Railway Museum.

After 80 years of building our community around an ever-expanding automobile network, the past is once again proving to be the best example for the future, and Guelph's transit and inter-regional infrastructure may soon be up to the standards our great-grandparents enjoyed.

columns transit 1083 words - permanent link - comments: 2. Posted at 18:35 on April 14, 2010

Keeping Track - Rethinking the commute

Today's column in the Merc, the first in my Keeping Track series.

Leaving car at home would ease our stress

In a perfect world, commuting would be about more than just getting there, but could contribute to strengthening our community.

With advances in technologies like home video conferencing and our gradual shift to a knowledge and service economy, it seems to me that the ultimate solution for our clogged roads and crazy commutes is to not commute at all. We are a long way from there, of course, and much of our economy will always require being on-site. Many jobs will always require driving a car, whether to obscure locations at odd hours, or simply because there is too much stuff to transport any other way, or because extensive travel needs to be done for the job itself. And while some drivers value their commute as their one time to be alone and at peace during their busy lives, it is an inherently unsocial way of getting around.

When we think about how to improve our transportation system, one fundamental piece of the picture is missing. It should not be about how to accommodate those commuters who must drive, but how to organize transportation so that everyone uses the most sensible system for their needs. That would free up the road network enough so that those who have to drive can do so sanely and would make transit more attractive to the vast majority of travellers who currently are aware of it only insofar as they occasionally have to pass a bus stopped at the side of the road.

I take bus route 52 to work. I live near its southern extremity, in Ward 6. Number 52 is a slow, meandering route, and it takes 29 minutes to get downtown and 26 minutes to get back home, plus waiting, and walking time at either end. It gives me a chance to relax and read a book or chat with the person next to me, and by taking the bus I pass on the responsibility of cleaning off and warming up the snow-covered vehicle to someone else. When all is said and done, at least in the winter months, it is not significantly slower than driving the six kilometres to the city's centre.

Taking the bus to work has helped me understand that I often feel rushed when I am in a car. I do not know what it is, but there is something about a car and its asserted anonymity that makes its very existence feel urgent. It is counter-intuitive and unhealthy, yet I know that it is very common. One need only spend a few minutes on the road to experience another driver's hurry to get somewhere. Driving is a dangerous way to travel at the best of times.

Commuting by transit is inherently safer than travelling by car. The medicare costs alone of auto-crash-related injuries, should give us pause when considering the economics of different modes of travel. The personal risks and stresses of driving when there are viable and even relaxing alternatives are things that most of us do not even consider as we feel a desire to "get there." Intuitively, public transit should cost little to the user, be relatively quick, go far, and run reliably, none of which is generally the case today in Canada.

The Toronto Transit Commission is raising fares so much this year that it's expecting a drop in annual ridership. The TTC's chief general manager, Gary Webster, noted publicly last fall that for every 10-cent increase in fares, a ridership loss of three per cent can be expected. The service is raising its cash fare by 25 cents per ride, which, based on his numbers, should reduce transit use in Canada's largest city by seven-and-a-half per cent.

Those riders will not stay home. One can imagine the cascading effect of increased transit fares and decreasing ridership on other aspects of our infrastructure.

Guelph's transit fares will be going up the same amount in just a couple of weeks, with route and schedule cuts to follow. Ridership loss should not be as pronounced in Guelph because so much of the ridership is made up of university students on their fixed-rate passes, to the tune of 60 per cent of its riders. As many of my fellow bus commuters will no doubt do, I have stocked up on bus tickets at the current price and fully intend to save the few cents per trip.

In a perfect world, commuting would not be about everyone hurrying some place, but about simply getting where we need to go and helping our society calm down just a little bit. From a social point of view, driving and taking transit are polar opposites. Going together is not only an environmentally and economically responsible way to travel, but one that helps build our community.

columns transit 820 words - permanent link - comments: 1. Posted at 11:47 on January 13, 2010

Transportation planning leaves a lot to be desired

Tuesday's column appears in yesterday's on-line edition, so here goes. It's an expession of my annoyance that we have become so obsessed with a downtown railway station for outbound Guelph commuters that we will now risk entering GO service in two years without having one single parking space for those commuters in the entire city. Somehow, tying up our remaining already overcrowded city lots with commuters' cars is considered good for our downtown businesses. The lack of clarity in our vision for how to build our infrastructure if it isn't a simple road is truly mind-boggling.

Anyway, here it is...

Stimulus opportunity fails to hit the rails

Transportation planning leaves a lot to be desired

With two years to go before leaving the hatchery, our chickens are already on their way home to roost.

The proposed Wilson Street civic parkade, Guelph's answer to a proper commuter rail station, will be deferred years past the arrival of the trains it was meant to serve, and, for the second time in as many decades, GO trains will visit Guelph without providing a realistic option for its passengers to park and ride.

The decision to defer the lot may be the right one, if made for the wrong reason. Its main purpose, by design or otherwise, would have been to service the train station, drawing more cars into downtown outside of business hours and contributing only parking fare to the local economy. But by requesting only a single station in our downtown, and by settling with a particular set of developers whose vast, vacant land lies between two railway lines and three highways, Guelph has effectively cut off its nose to spite its face. When GO trains arrive two years from now, we will have neither a proper station downtown, nor an alternative location conducive to getting drivers out of their cars.

Once again, we will be encouraging our commuters to use the ever-expanding highway network while pondering why our GO trains are leaving Guelph with almost only Waterloo region passengers aboard.

The 401 is among the busiest highways on earth. Stretching 16 lanes across at its widest, it is also among the slowest. With all that, you would think that the GTA is one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. But it only makes the top 50 if you stretch it to include Hamilton.

Our solution to our never-ending congestion problems is inevitably to pass up golden transit opportunities, build another highway, and enlarge the freeways we have until there remains no room to grow.

We have an extensive network of buses and trains of various descriptions, speeds, and routes. And if you don't mind going through downtown Toronto, you can get pretty well anywhere in under a day. Guelph to Hamilton, with the end of direct CoachCanada service, is a mere four hours by bus, and we can even make Brantford on overnight service.

Among the many studies taking place in the area is one called "GTA West." It looks at transportation problems from the Hanlon in the west to the 400 in the east, from the 401 in the south to a fuzzy line north of the GTA. Every few months, the GTA West study's Community Advisory Group meets to hear about the latest developments and offer input to the planning team. The fifth such meeting will take place in Mississauga on Thursday.

GO has already run an environmental assessment from inception to completion, albeit largely based on city parking plans that won't come to fruition, since the GTA West study got under way for much of the same territory. GTA West, delimited by highway rather than developed boundaries, remains focused on all modes of transportation, with a likely outcome of a new super-corridor stemming off the interchange of the Hanlon and the as-yet unbuilt new Highway 7 to an unclear easterly terminus.

Coupled with the grade separation of the Hanlon and the pending expansion of the four-lane Highway 6 south from the 401 toward Freelton, such a highway would make a clear means of coming up from the Niagara Peninsula and bypassing Toronto to get straight onto the 400, via Guelph. However the planners have acknowledged the loud and clear message from the community advisory group is that a new highway, at least on its own, is not an acceptable solution to our transportation woes.

For the past year, we have been in recession. In an attempt to jump-start the economy, roads across the country are being rebuilt at a frenetic pace. And while our governments at all levels are borrowing heavily to pay for it, one has to ask what we are actually achieving.

There is no better time than a deep recession to rapidly and comprehensively rethink national infrastructure. Labour is cheaper and more abundant than during a boom, and the work can create jobs. We have figured it out to an extent, with the largest pothole-filling project in history, but what we are lacking is the vision required to turn this economic bust into a true infrastructure boon.

Now is the time we should be mapping our country and drawing a new transportation infrastructure on it that does not focus around our insatiable demand for highways. We need to be building new railway lines and stations and improving existing ones. We need to make our different means of transportation interconnect. And we need to provide a place for people to put their cars to ride into the future. Projects such as GTA West provide us an opportunity, at least in our little corner of the country, to push for transportation strategies that offer meaningful alternatives where only another highway and a parkingless commuter station are envisioned.

columns guelph transit 961 words - permanent link - comments: 0. Posted at 08:24 on November 01, 2009

A sombre anniversary

Twenty years ago today, Conservative transport minister Benoit Bouchard announced that Via Rail would be cut from 405 trains per week to 191, with the layoff of nearly 3000 Via employees and the outright elimination of 18 of the 38 passenger train routes that existed in the country at that time. The cuts took place on January 15th, 1990.

The predictions at the time were that passengers carried would drop from 6.8 million to 4.1 million per year, unnecessarily forcing 2.7 million trips onto the road per year.

Surely we have learned from this and will do better under the current Conservative government?

transit 106 words - permanent link - comments: 1. Posted at 23:46 on October 04, 2009

Column: GO service is coming to Guelph

This month's column focuses on the details of GO Transit's EA study results for train service to Guelph and Kitchener. The short version is that Guelph will be moving from 6 Via trains per day to 12 Via and 8 GO trains per day, with none of the twenty daily trains allowing commuters to take the train to work west of their origin.

The combined schedule at Guelph is currently expected to look something like this when GO service commences in 2011:

Guelph Eastbound (to Toronto):
co. train number time originatesstatus
GO204 05:53Kitchener new
GO206 06:17Kitchener new
Via 8607:01London existing (at 07:05)
GO210 07:13Kitchener new
GO252 08:13Kitchener new
Via 8409:52Sarnia existing
Via 684 13:33London new
Via 686 16:43London new
Via 688 19:33London new
Via 8821:55Sarnia existing (at 22:09)
Guelph Westbound (from Toronto):
co. train number time terminatesstatus
Via 8512:01Sarnia existing (at 12:25)
Via 683 14:11London new
GO281 16:57Kitchener new
GO205 17:35Kitchener new
Via 685 17:41London new
GO209 18:35Kitchener new
Via 8718:52Sarnia existing (at 19:01)
Via 687 19:41London new
GO269 20:10Kitchener new
Via 8923:08London existing (at 23:22)

Here's the article, as it appeared on page A8 of Monday's Mercury.

GO expansion plans are good news for Guelph

An environmental assessment for Guelph was released by GO Transit July 23, and while this city was not even mentioned in GO's 10-year plan just three years ago this newest study recommends four trains per day running from Kitchener to Toronto and back. And the surprises don't stop there.

According to Appendix B of the 1,452 page document found on GO's website, VIA Rail has advised GO that it intends to double service to Guelph, running 12 VIA trains and 8 GO trains to the Royal City, putting us well on our way back to levels not seen since the early 20th century.

If GO's board approves this environmental assessment, the project will become "shovel-ready," magic words for infrastructure projects in today's economy. GO trains could be running to Guelph by some time in 2011. The cost is projected to be $153,400,000, a little over one-third of the cost of the new Highway 7.

The new combined schedule for VIA and GO trains to Guelph will add four eastbound morning GO trains originating in Kitchener, and three additional afternoon VIA trains in each direction through Guelph between Toronto and London.The report notes, as anyone following Guelph's transportation issues will already be aware, that the rate of commuter traffic from Kitchener to Guelph vastly outnumbers commuter traffic from Guelph to Kitchener. So, while several trains will service the Kitchener to Guelph commuter market, there are no westbound trains planned before noon and no eastbound trains at a commuting-appropriate time in the evening. Those will come later, according to the study, when 50 miles of additional track are built alongside the existing line that runs between Brampton's Mount Pleasant station and Kitchener, giving us all-day service.

But if it all sounds too good to be true, there may be a fly in the ointment. While three station locations were proposed in the study for Guelph - the former LaFarge property, the existing VIA station, and a greenfield site at Watson Road - only one was selected. The study predicts that 65 per cent of GO train using commuters in Guelph will drive to the station and park, with 35 per cent using other modes such as bicycles or transit - so parking capacity for 65 per cent of those train riders will be needed if that prediction is accurate for the service to succeed. GO trains ran to Guelph from 1990 to 1993 and the lack of parking is often cited as a major reason for its failure last time around.

According to the report, Guelph's VIA station currently has only 45 parking spaces.

Even a cursory look at the station any day of the week will show that the parking lot is filled beyond capacity every working day for the existing lone VIA commuter train. That station lot is due to be converted into Guelph's long-awaited transit hub. Moreover, the city has promised to build a new parking garage on the south side of the tracks at the top of Neeve Street in time for the opening of GO service in 2011.

If you're keeping track, that means the city is now planning to build at least three parking garages downtown (on Wilson, Baker, and Neeve streets), forcing train-using commuters to compete with downtown businesses for parking.

While GO's report anticipates 210 parking spaces will be needed for commuter service in Guelph on day one - and 210 will be provided in the Neeve Street lot - the study anticipates a demand for 670 spaces by 2031. GO had predicted 150 spaces would be needed in Barrie on day one, less than two years ago, and within a couple of months faced three times that demand. Barrie's station now has 628 parking spaces.

The stations along the route will include Kitchener's existing downtown VIA station - with a transit connection, but no new parking - the Breslau Greenhouse Road park-and-ride - with 700 parking spaces, and expandable to 1,050 - Guelph's downtown VIA station, with a transit connection/park-and-ride, 210 parking spaces, and the Acton Hide House, with a park-and-ride and 200 parking spaces).

Guelph is well on its way to a reasonable level of passenger rail service, and barring a cataclysmic event, it is likely to be here within two years. I commend GO and VIA for working together to improve our passenger network and to give people alternatives to our clogged highways. Better transit service cannot get here soon enough.

[ My concluding sentence: "I hope that Guelph can rise to the challenge of moving people to and from this service." did not appear in the printed version but does appear in the on-line version. ]

In Saturday's Mercury, there was a related story: a detailed history of the Guelph Junction Railway spanned pages A1 and A3 of the paper, incorrectly asserting that the Canadian National once operated the Guelph Junction Railway when it was the Canadian Pacific. The phrasing made it sound like that bit of incorrect information came from me, but it most assuredly did not.

columns transit 1041 words - permanent link - comments: 6. Posted at 11:20 on August 11, 2009

GO Transit EA study for Georgetown to Kitchener expansion complete

I just received the following in the mail. It's not even on GO Transit's website yet. Looks like good news all round. Short version: "Details of the preferred alternatives include these stations: Acton - Hide House; Guelph - Downtown VIA; Breslau - Greenhouse Road and Kitchener - Downtown VIA, and a layover facility at Nafziger Road, Baden."

The EA study report can be viewed in person at the following locations from July 23rd to September 7th:

I'm disappointed that, as I predicted, the nearest park-and-ride for Guelph will be in Breslau rather than at Lafarge, something we will pay dearly for down the road, but that this study recommends going right through to Kitchener downtown from the outset is very good news for transit in this region indeed.

transit 284 words - permanent link - comments: 7. Posted at 12:35 on July 21, 2009

Column on UK vs CA rail service

I recently travelled to the UK and spent a lot of my time travelling around the country on the country's expansive rail network. Some stats that couldn't fit into the column: 550 trains a day go through Oxford station, including freight trains and passenger trains that don't stop. 1,100 trains a day go through nearby Reading station. According to the CIA World Factbook, Canada has ~415,600 km of paved roads and 48,000 km of rail, and the UK has ~398,366 km of paved road and 16,567 km of rail.

U.K. shows us the value of rail transit

Ever taken a train to the airport? I dream of being able to get to Canada's major airports by train.

The U.K. and much of Europe have a transit network that provides a real option to private cars. I saw a vivid demonstration of this visiting High Wycombe and Marlow stations, nearby satellite towns outside London, England that connect to different major routes, allowing passengers to avoid an overburdened hub. Marlow is a town on the end of a short branch line reminiscent of the Guelph Junction Railway. Every hour, a short passenger train completes a loop the length of the Marlow branch, connecting several small communities to the main line through the area at Maidenhead.

There, 15-minute train service connects the station to London to the east, a hub at Reading to the west, and the rest of the United Kingdom. Just to the west of Marlow is a similar branch connecting the next set of communities in a similar way. Both lines have privately operated dedicated trains and crews that service exclusively the local branch lines covering a distance of no more than a few miles.

These rail networks have not replaced the road system. They work with it, drawing down automobile traffic and allowing both systems to operate at a lower total cost. While a similar rail service is not practical for all Canada, there is no reason to build more highways in southern Ontario before we have complemented what we have with this level of rail service.

What stops us from having service that never drops below an hourly service between London and Toronto via Guelph, Cambridge, and Brantford, with north-south lines connecting them along the way?

The tracks are almost all in place. The traffic is there to justify the investment in such a network -- it needn't be high speed. Instead of servicing the demand with a proven rail infrastructure, we await the pending construction of the new Highway 7, new Highway 24, rebuilt Hanlon, and new GTA West highway corridor. Why do we lack the vision to build and maintain a rail network that works in concert with other means of transportation? Why are our taxes used to increase the size of our road network instead? Build and price rail competitively. It will save us in the long term.

For about $400, I had access to nearly every train in England at any time of any day as much as I wanted for the week I was there. That cost would barely get me to Montreal and back on Via. Individual trips for short distances can almost always be done in the U.K. for just a few pounds-paid on board without reservations. By contrast, Via's minimum regular fare is approximately $21 to travel to the next station.

We lack the vision to consider our rail system as a complement to our overall transportation network, seeing it instead as competition to aircraft. Trains are a way to facilitate inexpensive, efficient regional travel.

In London, England, it is possible to get to the city's major airports by train. The same applies to most major airports in the country. Often, the train is inexpensive and practical. Gatwick, for example, is accessible by train not only from London, but by direct train from Reading and other hubs, allowing connections from all over without entering London or having to take a car further than the nearest railway station, themselves usually well-serviced by buses.

Toronto Pearson, by comparison, is bordered to the north-east by the GO Weston subdivision, a railway line that runs nearly exclusively passenger trains, to the tune of 16 per day. In spite of bordering airport property, none stop at the airport, nor does the recently built airport monorail connect to this high capacity transit link.

Reading's direct service to Gatwick would be comparable to Guelph's service to Pearson, which is eminently doable if only we had the vision.

Toronto's ever-proposed Blue 22 service to Pearson would not help those of us coming from the Guelph side. We would have to take the train to Toronto and connect back out to the airport, along the same line we had just taken.

While on my travels, I also visited the West Somerset Railway. The tourist line connects the city of Taunton 35 kilometres north to the coastal city of Minehead.

On a Tuesday, the line's three trains running back and forth some 16 times provided more regular service than Guelph sees each day, for a smaller population base, and it was often difficult to find seat. And that is nothing compared to the 256 passenger trains per day scheduled to stop at Banbury station, a city about one-third the size of Guelph between Birmingham and Oxford.

While I flew into Pearson and waited for a car to take me along beside the railway tracks back to Guelph, I ask you to ponder what role trains should have.

Is our vision to continue paving over our region while trains languish, or could we perhaps learn a bit from the Old Country?

columns transit 947 words - permanent link - comments: 3. Posted at 21:11 on July 09, 2009

City Council decision on the Hanlon upgrades

It was a long night in Council's new chambers last night. The session lasted a full six hours, which I suspect gave most people the impression by the end that thy had always met in that room, even though it was the first meeting there since new City Hall opened. On the agenda was the construction of a new organic waste processing facility, upgrades to the Hanlon, approval of budgeting for money under a $135.5 million Infrastructure Stimulus Fund, and other topics that were ultimately deferred.

On the organic waste plant, also known as the 'wet plant,' several impassioned local residents rose to demand a full environmental assessment be done of the $26 million facility's construction. The small rural neighbourhood nearby the facility on the outskirts of town reported that the last, rather unsuccessful, such plant resulted in the deaths of four of the local residents from aneurisms as air and water quality were allegedly tainted by the facility.

Ultimately the new plant was approved by council without an EA and that project will be going forward over the next few years. I found it interesting in the lengthly discussion on this item that the City currently sends 8 trucks per week of organic waste to a Niagara Falls, New York incinerator to be burned. It perplexes me that so much of our waste leaves by truck when waste is by no means a high priority commodity, and the so-called "Waste Resource Innovation Centre", or our trash collection facility, is right next to the city-owned Guelph Junction Railway, albeit separated by a narrow river. Eight truckloads of trash is around two freight car loads of trash. Part of the plans for the new wet facility also include importing wet waste from nearby municipalities to process, which will also be done by truck. Were we to build a small rail spur into the Waste Resource Innovation Centre, we could both import and export our trash by rail at minimal environmental and economical impact rather than moving all the trash by truck, a vehicle designed for priority.

On the agenda, there was also another curious item: Guelph's distribution of money from the Infrastructure Stimulus Fund. It breaks down like this:

  1. Organics Waste Processing Facility - $26.5 million
  2. Guelph Transit Terminal, Bridge Rehabilitation and Related Road works - $16.4 million
  3. Eastview Community Park and Pollinator Initiative - $7 million
  4. Civic Square Skating Rink/Water feature - $2 million
  5. Municipal Facility Rehabilitation, Energy Conservation Upgrades and Accessibility Improvements - $10.3 million
  6. Major and Minor Road Reconstruction - $17.1 million
  7. Norfolk: Norwich to Quebec Road Reconstruction - $5.4 million
  8. Sidewalk Rehabilitation - $3 million
  9. Parks Rehabilitation - $3.8 million
  10. Road Reconstruction Projects - $24.9 million
  11. Road Pavement Deficit - $5 million
  12. City Bridge and Structure Upgrades - $2.1 million
  13. New Sidewalk and Bicycle Lane Construction - $2.5 million
  14. Intersection Improvements - $6.2 million
  15. Storm Water Infrastructure - $2.3 million
  16. Railway Crossings - $1 million.

Road investment (6, 7, 10, 11, 12, 14) $60.7 million
Walking/cycling investment (8, 13): $5.5 million
Transit/rail investment (2, 16): $17.4 million

That is $17.4 million for transit and rail projects, and $60.7 million for roads -- and that's counting rail/road crossing upgrades for rail. The $16.4 million for a Guelph Transit Terminal raises another whole host of issues, not least of which is that there is no evidence yet that Via Rail has actually agreed to have its station parking lot ripped out and turned into a bus/train interchange terminal. Even if it is, because Council elected not to save the Lafarge property as a park-and-ride, the project will devastate downtown parking no matter how many $30-$50,000/stall parking lots we build.

Anyway, in the context of all that happening, Council's other major decision last night was weather or not to support the Ministry of Transport of Ontario's recommendation to upgrade the Hanlon between Maltby Rd and Wellington.

Here is the text of my comments to Council on the topic:

Madam mayor, members of council,

What is our global vision for transportation?

While the Hanlon was being built in the early 1970s, the prevailing attitude was that any problem could be solved with another hunk of pavement. In 1974, while the Hanlon was under construction, a survey conducted by the City of Guelph asked industries, essentially: can you move away from trains and switch to trucks so that we can abandon most of the profitable Guelph Junction Railway? Surely our attitude has improved since that time.

The Hanlon was built to allow Guelph residents to bypass the downtown. Before the last section was even finished, Guelph had a save-the-downtown committee. This lesson is one we are continuing to fail to learn. The Hanlon already allows motorists to bypass Guelph's commercial centre, but its main purpose is to connect the different parts of Guelph to each other. Chopping out College and Claire, and making Kortright's Guelph-side access a residential service road, turns the Hanlon from an intra-Guelph highway to a Guelph bypass.

As importantly, we don't even know what the MTO has in store for the other half of the Hanlon, but we do know the highway is eventually intended to connect to Highway 6 south of Morriston, new Highway 7 north of Guelph, and we can safely assume it will connect to the GTA West project which still pretends to be something other than a highway project. These upgrades are not a project by, about, or for Guelph, but about finding a way around Guelph.

While the proposal before you went through extensive public consultation, the question asked was always: how should we upgrade the Hanlon. It was never: should we upgrade the Hanlon. It was never: where do we want to be in 20 years? We have no global vision for transportation.

If we go ahead and upgrade the Hanlon, we will see increased traffic volumes with better flow, pat ourselves on the back, and congratulate ourselves for planning for the future. If we do not, we will see increased congestion, and we will regret not doing the work. Why? Because that is the shallow view of the world we take, where highways are the answer but nobody knows the question.

There are four major highway projects currently ongoing in the vicinity of Guelph, of which the resolution before you covers only one quarter of one. If we divert the hundreds of millions of dollars of our money these highway projects will cost to mass transit, and give people a useful way to get around, we may start making headway.

Most of us probably drove to this meeting tonight. I, frankly, would rather not have. But parking downtown is free. Taking the bus, round trip, is $5, and takes approximately five times as long as driving, plus waiting. In all likelihood, the last bus will have left before I leave this meeting tonight. Counting generously, one out of every twenty trips in this city is done on a bus, and we are proud of the "five percent modal share" busses enjoy. We call it our goal, and we sleep well at night knowing that only ninety percent of people use their cars exclusively.

This evening's resolution includes a request to study further transit opportunities, but it does not go far enough. These have been studied over and over; what we need is actual investment in improved mass transportation opportunities for both passenger and freight, as part of a global vision for transportation that sets out how, not whether, we will move toward mass transit over the next decades.

While passenger trains have been largely relegated to the status of quaint tourist attraction, railway tracks parallel the Hanlon and Highway 6 from Guelph to Hamilton, where they continue parallel to the QEW all the way to the US border. Abandoned railway lines parallel Highway 6 north of Guelph all the way to Owen Sound. There is no reason for us not to invest in moving our people and goods on these economical, environmental railway lines, rather than once again upgrading our highways. These are just some of the options we can evaluate, but applying more band-aids to our highways should not be among them.

The auto industry does not have the money to fight transit projects at the moment. This is the time, as US President Barack Obama has figured out, to invest in mass transit, rather than highways. The Hanlon's time to upgrade has come and gone. Now is not the time to build bigger better overpasses at taxpayer expense, it is the time to come up with alternatives so that all of us can come to council meetings by public transit if we choose, with a reasonable expectation of being able to get home after, for less than the cost of driving.

Madam mayor and members of council, while the Hanlon was built forty years ago, the decision of whether to think like forty years ago or think about forty years from now rests in your hands for this small corner of the world. Do not approve this highway project until we have planned what we are really doing with transportation, not only to get us to the year 2031, but for the indefinite future, as time will not stop when our highways and our city reach their planned capacity.

I appeal to you to show the leadership that is needed in these times to formulate and implement our part of a true global vision for transportation.

Thank you.

Following my presentation, Councillor Piper asked me to expand on the construction cost difference between road and rail. I pointed out that Highway 7 will cost in the order of $30 million per kilometre to build, while rebuilding an abandoned railway line costs approximately $1M/km in each of parts and labour.

After hearing delegations for more than two hours, some in favour, more opposed, all with one problem or another with the plan, it was approved in a disappointing 12-1 vote, paving the way for one more albatross around the City of Guelph's neck and leaving me and many others scratching our heads about the vision our leadership claims to have.

guelph presentations transit 1697 words - permanent link - comments: 1. Posted at 09:20 on April 28, 2009

Celebrating our heritage

Today's column ties Guelph's rail history to Guelph's rail future through Guelph's rail present. The message in it applies to communities all over, though. Waterloo residents can drop in Waterloo Central where Guelph Junction Express is mentioned, Orangeville and Brampton residents can look toward the Credit Valley Explorer, and the further away you go, the more of these tourist railways you find viably running on railway lines that could be hosting real passenger service.

Rail transport is not just a thing of the past

On Election Day, last Oct. 14, a teenager playing with fire destroyed the restored historic railway station in the Quebec town where I grew up. A few short years ago, Strathroy's station, too, was torched. The River Run Centre was built on the site of the original Guelph Canadian Pacific station, which was the Priory. Our Great Western station, once near the former Lafarge property, has been gone for generations. The Grand Trunk station remains in service as the city's Via Rail station, soon to be joined by GO transit and the city's bus system. This is the sole survivor of at least seven train stations built in Guelph since 1827.

It used to be that the Guelph Junction Railway was part of the Canadian Pacific network as a passenger and freight line, connecting Goderich to Hamilton through Guelph. The line was abandoned from Guelph to Goderich some years ago, and passenger trains have not run on the balance with any regularity for over four decades.

Now that has changed. Last year, a local business person started the Guelph Junction Express, a tourist railway running between downtown Guelph and Guelph Junction, which is just west of Campbellville, on weekends.

Guelph residents have an opportunity to see this passenger train as it goes by the site of the old CPR station at the River Run Centre. The symbolism cannot be overstated.

The Guelph Historical Railway Association, which has been an active participant in the Guelph Junction Express project and has provided volunteer labour for many aspects of its preparation and operation, is putting on a special trip on April 25, running the Guelph Junction Express passenger train over most of Guelph's railway tracks. It will cover all of the tracks from Guelph Junction to north of Woodlawn Road, and into the industrial tracks that cross the Hanlon Expressway between Speedvale Avenue and Woodlawn Road, off of Edinburgh Road. This is an opportunity to experience Guelph's existing, and still active, rail network.

The tracks on which the Guelph Junction Express operates represent a huge opportunity for Guelph, if we have the courage to rise to the challenge. While studies looking at transportation in the region see tracks that run from Guelph to nowhere, and studies in the region south of us see tracks that run from Hamilton to nowhere, we must see that these tracks do not go nowhere, but connect Guelph to Hamilton.

Imagine a direct train from here to Hamilton. When Guelph had 20,000 people, passenger trains regularly ran that route. Now, with over 120,000 people, we have settled for a tourist train, celebrating rail transit as an exotic form of transportation that only our grandparents used.

While we treat passenger trains as a tourist attraction rather than as a practical way to get around, a ride on the Guelph Junction Express will challenge that assumption. Short-, medium- and long-distance travel are all possible by rail. All we lack is the imagination and courage to invest and restore our service to the level it was a century ago when taking the train got you some place other than Front Street.

Could we run a light-rail transit system south from Guelph's downtown to Hamilton's? Could we run one from downtown Guelph to our northwest industrial park? The Guelph Historical Railway Association excursion train will operate on one of the two potential routes for that service, which exist today as freight lines.

Integrating a Guelph light-rail system with a Waterloo Region light-rail system can be accomplished along two existing, serviceable routes, one that goes from Guelph to Cambridge (that appears as a desired route on Guelph's walking-trail master plan, in spite of being an active railway line) and the other, which goes from Guelph to Kitchener. But even if we do not connect to Waterloo, we can provide meaningful service within Guelph city limits, connecting some of Guelph's residential areas to its industrial ones by rail.

While our train stations continue to be burned or torn down, whether through malice or planning, the opportunities along the railway lines that pass those stations remain untapped and unexplored. Take a moment out of your weekend, take the Guelph Historical Railway Association's excursion, and imagine the possibilities as you ride a passenger train around Guelph.

Now is the time, with more and more of us looking for work, to invest in improving the underused rail infrastructure that we already have, an approach that could truly make us stronger for when times improve.

columns guelph transit 834 words - permanent link - comments: 0. Posted at 09:49 on March 30, 2009

TTC Chairman William C. McBrien accurately predicted the state of our transit system -- in 1954

This gem was handed to me by a fellow member of the Guelph Historical Railway Association last night. It is the text of a speech by TTC Chairman William C. McBrien at the opening ceremony of the Toronto Subway on March 30th, 1954 at the Davisville station. As I reflect on Guelph's mind-numbingly stupid decision to reject the former LaFarge lands as a transit station in favour of continued inadequate transit policy, the words of this man ahead of his time ring loud and true.

Also worth noting over at GO K-W: Ipsos-Reid poll on GO service to Guelph says 98% of Guelph residents want GO trains. They can't come soon enough.

Here's the text of William C. McBrien's speech:

Honourable Sirs and Distinguished Guests, on behalf of the Toronto Transit Commission I welcome you here today and wish to thank each of you for coming and helping us make this, the official opening of Canada's First Subway, a success.

We would not be human if we did not admit that we are a very proud organisation today. This tremendous task is completed.

The dream of 1944 becomes a reality of 1954. This project was designed and built in the ten most chaotic years in the history of our country - war, shortage of steel and building supplies, shortage of skilled and unskilled labour and a general increase in labour and materials of nearly 100 per cent.

True, it cost more than our original estimate of ten years ago, but if started today, at present prices, it would cost at least 15 million dollars more or 30 percent above the actual cost.

We are more than satisfied with the design, construction, finish, and equipment, and today we publicly express our sincere thanks to the engineers, architects, contractors, suppliers, and workmen for a grand job.

In admitting that we are a proud organisation today we must also admit that we are also a humble one. For we know that the completion of this subway is not the final solution of Toronto's traffic problems. It is only the start of combatting this monster. Many other lines will have to be built in the future.

But the right-of-way and construction of all future rapid transit lines will have to be financed out of general taxation. If public transportation is to be the medium of relieving traffic congestion in our cities, and we believe it is, its success will depend upon getting more people to use it rather than on increasing fares to make it pay. We must not price ourselves out of our own field. We know that moving the masses, in the future, will be a tremendous task.

But if planners will give us the same consideration as the automobile in providing rights-of-way for new rapid transit lines; if government bodies, federal, provincial, and civic, will start making capital expenditures for the benefit of public transportation, we will accept the challenge.

Our major problem in Toronto is traffic congestion. If our small downtown business area supplies one third of our taxation we cannot allow it to be strangled to death by traffic congestion.

Surely we now realise that our patient medicine prescription of street widenings is not the cure. For it has only lured unmanageable numbers of automobiles into our downtown streets that were already overcrowded. We suggest:
1. Eliminate parking on all major streets in the downtown area.
2. Parking meters belong to the horse and buggy days and have no place in a large modern city.
3. Develop fringe parking lots to be serviced t o this subway and the downtown area by bus transportation.
4. Downtown business will have to establish a system of staggered hours for their employees. All of these improvements can be put into effect with little or no capital cost.
5. The proposed mile of Queen Street subway should be started at once, eliminating 80% of the street car operation in the downtown area, and freeing many streets for one-way traffic.

Do not sell public transportation short. We are not a dying industry, but one that can and will meet the competition of the automobile. For we know that the egotism is gone from driving a motor car and that, today, tens of thousands of automobile owners do not want to bring their cars into the downtown area.

We also know that what the great majority of our people want is good public transportation with more speed, greater comfort, and improved service at a reasonable fare. Our ambition is to give such service.

In conclusion, I wish to say that the Toronto Transit Commission does not want or expect any praise or glory for the completion of this gigantic task. It was our job and we did it. Our reward is in the fact that we, ourselves, know - it was a job well done. Thank you.

transit 827 words - permanent link - comments: 2. Posted at 09:14 on March 10, 2009

GO PIC #2 results

GOKW.org has posted the boards from the Kitchener service PIC #2 that took place yesterday. I'm out of town and can not attend any of the three PICs, but from talking to some who attended and reading the boards I have a few quick comments. First: GO is accepting the city's recommendation to go with a downtown station only in Guelph, which isn't surprising as GO will have no desire to fight with the city. But the plans call for a parking lot at Neeve St to be provided by Guelph (which the papers have already picked up on). With the city government arleady taking flack for wanting to build two hugely expensive parking lots downtown, at at least $15M a piece, committing to a third such lot that will in no way be adequate for future needs near downtown is not something I consider completely rational.

GO's own projections see nearly 2000 people a day commuting out of Guelph by 2031, a third of them in the westbound direction. Three 500-stall lots in the downtown core might accomodate that, but downtown business will have a net loss of parking on an investment of at least $45M in multi-level lots if those traffic projections are right. But I must remind all that their projections tend to be conservative. Barrie was projected to have 150 passengers per day, but within two months their 430-stall lot was inadequate to handle the demand. And the world won't stop turning in 2031 when those projections are set for. We have no allowance for parking in 2046 or 2075 or 2109, when more heavily developped areas will have to be bulldozed to make way for service that is nearly back to the levels we had in 1917.

Having the city of Guelph commit to funding GO's parking is a far from ideal solution, reflects continued poor advance planning, and is something that we will all live to regret. We have opportunities now that will not exist in 5, 10, 20, 100 years to make getting in and out of Guelph easy for those who need to and, from this PIC, Guelph is opting to take on that responsibility by committing to providing a lot at Neeve St that may be adequate for a couple of years, and releasing GO from the responsibility of providing parking for the Guelph market.

GO'so PIC itself is almost entirely positive, aside from this huge thorn Guelph has inserted into its own side for no apparent reason, laying out plans for expanded bi-directional service to Kitchener, with track upgrades, longer sidings, and eventually double tracking of the Guelph subdivision through the entire service area.

Bi-directional service is integral to the success of transit in and around Guelph. Guelph and Kitchener are the big commuter markets to eachother, and the expansion of transit service between the cities should be a much higher priority than the construction of a $400M divided highway between them (which is getting under way this year). The fact that GO is considering bi-directional service is a positive sign that it will evolve into a more comprehensive commuter service, not focused on getting everyone to Toronto Union Station, but just on getting people where they need to go.

Earlier signs that this service would not immediately go all the way to Kitchener seem to not be there any more. Service as far west as possible is important and this PIC reflects that reality. The comment period is short, with a deadline of February 27th, though this EA process has not set up its own website as some others have. Refer to the PDF linked to at the start of this entry for how to comment.

transit 621 words - permanent link - comments: 0. Posted at 08:01 on February 13, 2009

Lafarge-Howitt deal an improvement, but still hampers transit future

Howitt Park Neighbourhood Residents Association, the city, and the developer of the Lafarge lands have come to an agreement on use for the lands that sees the retail space nearly halved and the addition of high density residential. This is an improvement from my point of view, because it allows the potential for my future dream of having the land used for walk-to-work out-of-town commuters as GO service progresses toward Guelph.

As I face the prospect of commuting to Kitchener myself, a new development in my life, the idea of having a station there that allows me to take the train westward to work is ever-more important to me.

The city has asked for only the downtown station to be used, but necessity will eventually require the Lafarge site to host a parking area for a station, even though the city government has acknowledged that westward commuting is as important as eastward commuting and a downtown-only station does nothing to help that. Having 340 residential units on the property should reduce the number of spaces needed. With trains, transit, and residential, the number of cars needed by such commuters should also be reduced.

It isn't an ideal situation, but it is a vast improvement over a nothing-but-commercial development as had been proposed. Armel's continued objection to the project and continuation of the OMB process is a plus, allowing GO Transit's environmental assessment to get out ahead of the development on the property and assert whether or not GO intends to use a portion of the land for a station, something I have long believed is essential to the future intercity transit system that Guelph is currently making no realistic plans for.

With the worst recession in three generations upon us, the province is in a hurry to shovel money at ready-to-go transit and infrastructure projects. With that in mind, GO's next Environmental Assessment Public Information Centre for Guelph service is coming up:

Kitchener:
Thursday, Feb 5, 2009
18:00-21:00
St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church
54 Queen St N

Guelph:
Thursday, Feb 12, 2009
18:00-21:00
Evergreen Seniors Centre, Room 4
683 Woolwich St N

Georgetown:
Tuesday, Feb 17, 2009
18:00-21:00
Halton Hills Cultural Centre
9 Church St

Interestingly, the Kitchener meeting directly conflicts with the next GTA West Community Advisory Group meeting (which is open to the public). It will be Thursday, Feb 5, 2009 at:

Four Points by Sheraton
2501 Argentia Rd
Mississauga

Anyone interested in the future of transportation in southwestern Ontario should go to this meeting. Visitors can observe the proceedings and do have time at the start and end (if I recall correctly) to comment. GTA West is, in my estimation, a project to build a highway between Guelph and Brampton connecting new highway 7 to the 407, but is disguised as a holistic analysis of transportation problems in the region. If there is enough community interest in solving our transportation problems with something other than steamrollers and asphalt, then it may actually become that holistic analysis that really is needed.

guelph transit 511 words - permanent link - comments: 1. Posted at 11:07 on February 01, 2009

GO train service not to reach Kitchener?

GO has released its 2020 plan, and according to the 65MB document, Guelph is to get rush hour train service, but Kitchener, Cambridge, Brantford, Niagara region, and Peterborough are only being considered for possible future expansion. Such a move makes the need for a site like Lafarge for parking and route origination much more urgent for Guelph's service, as it would be the nearest GO train access for the entire Waterloo region market. At the junction of 6, 7, and 24, Cambridge, Kitchener, and Waterloo commuters would need a place to park in Guelph to park and ride. Refer to page 20 of the linked PDF for the GO 2020 rail service map.

The whole document is rather interesting. Page 24 of the PDF outlines operating ratios for comparable commuter services across North America. In the text, the document states "GO Transit will maintain a sustainable cost-recovery ratio of 75%." According to the chart on the same page, GO's current ratio is in the area of 90%, well ahead of second-place MTA Metro-North, New York City's system, which operates at about 62%. Page 34 outlines the plans for each of the lines on the GO system. Among the interesting tidbits, this chart shows GO considering the electrification of the Guelph line, and outlines the expected service for Guelph.

See GO's press release on the topic.

guelph transit 232 words - permanent link - comments: 0. Posted at 14:02 on December 12, 2008

Assorted thoughts on leadership, recessions, and highways

Today is the 79th anniversary of Black Thursday, the first of three miserable days on the stock market that signalled the start of the Great Depression. With that, rules for the Liberal leadership race about to come forward, and new developments on the highway construction front, there's lots to talk about these days.

First off, let me say that, given the choice, I want this man to run for the leadership of the Liberal Party.

With that out of the way, down to business.

This week, Ontario posted a deficit of $500 million for the first time in a few years. I have never made any secret of my disdain for deficits, and when I see a provincial government spending more billions on building new highways than you can shake a stick at go into deficit, I really have to scratch my head.

As I have noted many times before, Guelph is currently subject of, or is close to, four major highway projects: new Highway 24 (Cambridge-Brantford), new Highway 7 (Guelph-Kitchener), new GTA West corridor (Guelph-Brampton), and realignment and upgrades to Highway 6, in four separate sections each with its own EA, from south of the 401 to north of Guelph city limits.

Last night was the 4th Public Information Centre for the first of the four sections of Highway 6 to be upgraded. I am disappointed to, again, see no consideration whatsoever for the need to connect the Hanlon industrial park to the nearby rail network, which would involve crossing the Hanlon near one of the interchanges being proposed and therefore would need at least some level of planning or preparation within this environmental assessment. The changes proposed in PIC #4 for the Hanlon in their latest "preferred plan" call for a two-way service road to run between Stone and Downey Rd on the west side of the Hanlon, connecting up to Woodland Glen Dr., and the associated construction of a large retaining wall through several back yards along Old Colony Trail.

From a traffic flow perspective, it's definitely an improvement over previous plans, but from an environmental and social perspective for that area, it's a definite setback. This never-ending balancing act is frustrating to me.

I maintain that the investment in highways is a colossal waste of money if we are not also investing to at least the same level in transit infrastructure, which here and now necessarily means rail. If the as-yet unbuilt Hanlon industrial park were to connect to rail, which could be accomplished for the cost of one or two interchanges on the highway, the highway improvements would have a net long term benefit. The rail access would allow businesses to come to this industrial park to get material out of their trucks and onto the tracks, not just move it between trucks. I am all for road infrastructure improvements that help people and businesses get off the roads, but against highways for the sake of highways. Similarly, if passenger service were restored to the line between Guelph and Hamilton, some of the car pressures on Highway 6, which runs parallel to the nearly unused tracks for the entire affected area, would be reduced.

I found out just yesterday that there is an environmental assessment public information centre on Tuesday the 28th from 5-8pm at the Springfield Golf and Country Club on Gordon discussing upgrades to Maltby Rd, which would be an ideal right of way to connect the Guelph Junction Railway to the Hanlon industrial parks with minimal cost or disruption. Tracks could easily run on the edge of the road within its right of way.

With the recession coming very much as I predicted a couple of years ago, dead-end highway projects like the Halon may finally be put on hold. Given half a moment of reflection, if we are going to go into deficit to finance infrastructure and create jobs, then we should be doing so in such a way as to have high capacity, low environmental impact, low cost transportation solutions running at the other end of the recession. It remains my belief that our existing road system would be adequate if we invested properly in rail transportation rather than heavily subsidising roads while leaving rail to fend for itself.

The reality is, though, that we will continue to rip up rails in Canada and build highways nearby. This week, work began in ripping out the Kinghorn subdivision, a 195-mile railway line that was abandoned in 2005 connecting Longlac to Thunder Bay. The track itself was primarily used as a detour route in the event of problems in northern Ontario, but its removal demonstrates that we, collectively, have still not learned our lesson in rail removal. While difficult to prove, I believe Canada remains one of the few countries, if not the only one, left in the entire world still ripping out more railway lines than we are putting in.

Earlier this week, the first federal leader of a party to meaningfully recognise this reality and put it in a platform, was pushed out of the leadership of his party in a victory of politics over policy. The Liberal platform this past election included huge sums for infrastructure, and a plan to ban the removal of railway lines like the Kinghorn sub. While this horse has largely left the barn, the Kinghorn sub demonstrates that it is never too late to close this barn door.

This leads me to my next point, which is about the leadership of the Liberal party.

We should have rules handed down soon about the structure and length of the third Liberal leadership race in recent years within a few days. While pithy, Jamie's assessment is bang on and I hope some of the suggestions in his post are reflected in the rules.

Personally, I would like to see 50% of all donations to each leadership campaign be handed over to the party in lieu of a deposit, and no spending cap coupled with a ban on coming out with any debt whatsoever. We need a leader capable of fundraising as much as any other skill, and that is one way to weed out poor fundraisers. The debt lesson is a hard learned one as some of the last round of leadership candidates still have not finished paying theirs off, and I would suggest that to enforce such a no debt requirement, any candidate who still has outstanding leadership debt by the time they reach the convention be excluded from the ballot.

And on the topic of enforcement, you can read my latest presentation, this one to the Guelph Police Services Board on Thursday the 16th on behalf of the Community Volunteer Patrol, an organisation you should get involved with.

And by the way, why do so many drivers not normally get winter tires that requiring them in one province could cause such a massive shortage?

elections environment guelph highways leadership money musings politics transit 1155 words - permanent link - comments: 3. Posted at 10:35 on October 24, 2008

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