Eyes on Via Rail cuts, TransLink P3 accountability

Transport Action Canada wants to improve
Via Rail services in "the rest of Canada."
(Photo by Steve Boyko, www.traingeek.ca )
Reports on changements climatiques, disconnected in PEI,
counting the numbers at STM and TransLink, Canadian Wheat Board farmers fear for local rail lines in this week's Transport Action Canada Hotline. 

Cash, new members, volunteers are always welcome

Donate via PayPal at http://www.transport-action.ca
Or mail a cheque to:
Transport Action Canada
Box/C.P. 858, Station B 
Ottawa, Ontario 
K1P 5P9 

You can email the national watchdog group at info@transport-action.ca or phone Transport Action Canada at (613) 594-3290. You can forward this hotline to your MP whose contact info is at http://is.gd/Q5JHYT

MP Robert Goguen keeps eye on fate of rail service, The Ocean

"Transport Action Atlantic this week joined a growing chorus of concern over the future of the six-days-per-week Ocean run between Halifax and Montreal, which travels right across New Brunswick. A number of transportation groups fear the run is on borrowed time with its demise to be announced within weeks at best, days at worst. Talk in industry circles that the run could be axed first surfaced last fall, and (Moncton-Riverview-Dieppe MP Robert) Goguen said he's been watching the situation since," James Foster reported for the Times and Transcript on June 7.

"There is also speculation that the run would be cut to three days per week, but only as a precursor to eliminating it entirely. Rail advocates argue there are plenty of ways to boost usage of the rail service and increase revenues, and that slashing the service would strike a blow to the region and its people," the Times and Transcript reported. 

National Association of Railroad Passengers reports on Via Rail cuts

In the United States NARP reported; "It’s been a mixed week for VIA Rail Canada ... within days of the railroad’s announcement that it posted revenue gains .... Global News published stories indicating many routes and services are on the block.  http://is.gd/yz6FOg

Transport Action is urging American friends to express their concerns to:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper
House of Commons, Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0A6
613-992-4211 (fax) 613-941-6900  stephen.harper@parl.gc.ca

Plan d’action sur les changements climatiques 2013-2020

Montréal, le 4 juin 2012 – L’association Transport 2000 Québec salue le leadership du Québec en matière de lutte contre les changements climatiques, tout en reconnaissant la vision mobilisatrice du plan d’action présenté dimanche par le gouvernement québécois, sans compter l’engagement des nombreux regroupements de la société civile, qui a connu un bond prodigieux depuis 20 ans au moment du Sommet de la terre tenu à Rio de Janeiro à la même période.  De plus, on accueille comme une bonne nouvelle le fait que plus de la moitié des 2,7 milliards de dollars d’argent frais prévu dans ce plan soit consacrée aux transports, de même qu’un parti pris pour les transports collectifs.

En revanche, il faudra attendre le plan d’action en transport pour mieux identifier les priorités à ce niveau.  Mais Transport 2000 rappelle le défi des attitudes et comportements en transport.  On assiste au quotidien à de nombreuses décisions prises à tous les niveaux (consommateurs, entreprises, institutions gouvernementales et municipales).

Par conséquent, de plusieurs centaines de milliers à quelques millions de décisions sont prises sur une base régulière et sont susceptibles de court-circuiter les actions au sein des communautés.  Cette situation implique une concertation volontaire et éclairée des nombreux intervenants.  C’est pourquoi l’Association met actuellement au point une campagne d’éducation nationale qui aura cours pendant l’année quant à l’utilisation efficace des moyens de transport de personnes.

VIA Rail cuts on the horizon, CAW National Council 4000

"NDP transportation critic Olivia Chow, MP for Trinity-Spadina, said she expects one of three daily trains to London, via Kitchener and Stratford, and VIA’s daily train to Niagara could be eliminated. A joint VIA-Amtrak run to Niagara is, however, expected to continue. The scenic transcontinental “Canadian” running three times a week between Toronto and Vancouver will also likely be reduced to two trains weekly in the off-season. That train attracted 109,000 riders last year, up 3,000 from 2010, according to VIA’s annual report," Tess Kalinowski reported for the Toronto Star on June 6. 

"Some Montreal-to-Halifax service could also be on the line, said Heather Grant of CAW National Council 4000, which represents about 2,000 VIA workers.The service carried 134,000 riders last year — about 7,000 more than the previous year," the Toronto Star reported. http://is.gd/rcRbSw

Public transportation, Minister Finley says there is a disconnect in P.E.I.

"The 'disconnect' is geographical, the distance between where the qualified local fish processing workers live and the fish plants. If these workers do not possess an automobile, a common situation, they have no way of getting to work. Our P.E.I. Public Transit Coalition has often pointed out the absurdity of flying in foreign workers, housing and feeding them," Transport Action Atlantic's Jim Munves wrote to the editor of the Charlottetown Guardian on June 7.  

"This is one reason for our advocacy of Islandwide public transportation, and one reason the province funded the excellent ENTRA study showing how this could be brought about for a small fraction of the provincial transportation budget. This EI dilemma and the waste it represents, is one of many hidden costs of leaving so many Islanders isolated," the Guardian letter said. http://is.gd/Xbrw4Z

National Association of Railroad Passengers reports on Via Rail cuts

In the United States NARP reported; "It’s been a mixed week for VIA Rail Canada ... within days of the railroad’s announcement that it posted revenue gains .... Global News published stories indicating many routes and services are on the block.  http://is.gd/yz6FOg

Transport Action is urging American friends to express their concerns to:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper
House of Commons, Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0A6
613-992-4211 (fax) 613-941-6900

The Ocean, New Brunswick's train 

"The Ocean is currently the oldest continuously-operated named passenger train in North America. It's also the last rail passenger service through New Brunswick after the demise of the Via-operated The Atlantic some years ago," James Foster wrote for the Moncton Times and Transcript on June 5. 

Should The Ocean service follow The Atlantic into railroad history, it is unlikely that Via would offer any other passenger service in the region, leaving it to private enterprise to decide whether there is money to be made by running rail service in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Transport Action Atlantic believes a limited service, such as a tourist train running short trips at a much higher price, would be left in the Ocean's wake - if anything at all. "We're not against privately run tourist trains," (Transport Action's Marcus) Garnet said. "But the point is that Canadians also would like to travel."

Transport Action, TransLink P3 partner must be held to account 

Transport Action BC has ongoing concerns with certain aspects of Canada Line (CL) performance and the seeming unwillingness of TransLink to hold the concessionaire – InTransitBC and Protrans BC – publicly accountable for any shortcomings. Significant service disruptions occurred on April 16, 2012, inconveniencing customers for most of the service day. The disruptions, centred on Olympic Village Station and affected service on the entire line. Anecdotal evidence from a TABC member indicates sporadic and crowded service. Possible cause(s) of the disruption have not been publicly released and media coverage of the incident was minimal," Rick Jelfs wrote for the Transport Action BC blog on June 1.

"Transport Action BC requested a detailed, open and public post-mortem on the disruptions. The Canada Line’s operating company has passed the two-year “learning curve” allowed in its contract . Performance penalties should be considered as part of TransLink’s response to the disruptions. …. Transport Action BC sent a letter to the TransLink Board on April 20, 2012 detailing our concerns but a response has not been received. This blog posting is an expanded version of the contents of that letter," Jelfs wrote. The complete post is on the blog at http://is.gd/IqJ7iB

VIA Rail train 92, Signal and switching technology lags in Canada 

"On Sunday, February 26, VIA Rail train 92 rumbled down the tracks through Burlington, Ontario from Niagara Falls, heading into Toronto’s Union Station. The crew and passengers on board were just 80 of the 15,000 people riding the rails on 51 different trains criss-crossing the country that day. At 3:30 pm, as the train crossed over from track two to track three at more than four times the maximum authorized speed limit, the locomotive and all five cars bucked off the rails and smashed into a nearby building, killing all three engineers and injuring 45 passengers," OHS Canada reported in its June 2012 edition. 

“Our railroads are built to a relatively high standard, but not to anything like the levels of technology in terms of train speeds and signalling systems that exist in other countries,” says David Jeanes, president of Transport Action Canada, a public transportation advocacy group in Ottawa. Robert Smith, national legislative director for rail union Teamsters Canada Rail Conference in the nation’s capital, echoes the sentiment. “Technology-wise, in other parts of the globe, we are lagging behind,” Greg Burchell wrote for OHS Canada. http://is.gd/yvCjdP

Stratford, Able to get back and forth to the city

“If there are cuts coming I’d be most concerned,” said Stratford Mayor Dan Mathieson, who said the city has worked with VIA to co-ordinate service for Toronto theatre-goers. “Many of our residents work in Toronto and are looking at that as an opportunity for them to reside in a city like ours with a high quality of life but still also be able to get back and forth to a city,” the Toronto Star reported. http://is.gd/rcRbSw

Passenger rail service endangered in Canada

"Currently the only 'public' passenger train in all of Western Canada is VIA Rail's tri-weekly Canadian, which runs on a three-day, four-night schedule between Toronto and Vancouver. It too carries tourists, and offers the choice of purchasing a range of higher-priced accommodation and meal options. But it also serves ordinary Canadians - year round," Ted Bartlett wrote to the editor of the Moncton Times and Transcript on June 2.

"The Canadian, unfortunately, is an endangered species these days. Like its eastern counterpart, the Ocean, it is in grave danger of being reduced in frequency or eliminated entirely, as the Crown corporation responsible for Canada's 'national' rail passenger network becomes increasingly focused on the Quebec City-Windsor corridor," the Moncton Times and Transcript letter said.

Transport Action BC,  Public transit boosts local economies

"Some intriguing numbers surfaced in media reports on the recent disruptions of Montréal’s Métro. The Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montréal and the Montréal Economic Institute provided estimates of the economic impact (lost productivity) of the disruptions. The Board of Trade estimated the 90 minutes of disruption cost the city’s economy $11,000,000 while the more conservative MEC estimated $9,300,000. Put positively, the Métro generates significant productivity benefits to Montréal’s economy," Transport Action's Rick Jelfs wrote in a May 31, 2012 blog post. 

"Unfortunately, details on the methodology used to derive these numbers are not available. However, the number can be used to calculate an order of magnitude estimate of the value of public transit to a local economy. Operating conservatively, I‘ll assume the productivity impact [PI] is a high estimate, given the political situation under which it was released.  Therefore, I’ve reduced it by approximately 50% to $5,000,000 per 90 minute time period [MTP]. Also, I’ll assume that most of the productivity impact of the Métro is provided during the peak hours when the system is at its busiest. Peak hours are generally considered as 06:00 – 09:00 and 16:00 – 19:00 or 6 hours / business day which equals four, 90 minute time periods:
• 4 (90 MTP) X $5,000,000 (PI / 90 MTP) = $20,000,000 PI for 1 business day.
• 20 (business days / month) X 12 (months / year) X $20,000,000 (PI /business day) = $4.8 billion PI / year.

Thus, Montréal’s transit system has a positive, $4.8 billion productivity impact on the city’s economy each year. Check Rick Jelfs calculations for the STM and TransLink on Transport Action BC's blog. http://is.gd/yPfWhO

Build bike lanes on Bloor St, Albert Koehl 

"This year, Bells on Bloor participants joined forces with other cycling activists across the city — Bells on Danforth and Bells on Yonge, and a group of pedestrians — to form Cycle and Sole: a citywide rally demanding action from not just city hall, but the provincial government in helping to create streets safer for both pedestrians and cyclists in Toronto and across the province," Niamh Scallan reported for the Toronto Star on June 2. 

“We have a right to be on the roads. We also have a right to be safe on the roads,” said Albert Koehl, a Toronto-based environmental lawyer and founding member of Bells on Bloor, a bike rally in its sixth year, which called on city hall to build bike lanes on Bloor St. … Ontario’s coroner’s office announced last fall the first ever province-wide investigation into cycling deaths between 2006 and 2010. It’s estimated that between 15 and 20 cyclists are killed on Ontario roads every year, and about a third of those are in the Greater Toronto Area," the Toronto Star reported. http://is.gd/16apUB

Trucking safety? Roadcheck 2012, June 5-7

Commercial vehicle safety inspectors were out in force for three days. And it was a good thing even if no one talked about:
- cuts to commercial vehicle inspectors in Ontario and BC
- heavy trucks are involved in 19% of road fatalities in Canada
- the annual cost of collisions is estimated at $62.7 billion for 2004 (about 4.9 per cent of Canada's Gross Domestic Product)
- commercial vehicles are not covered in the national strategy to make Canada's roads the safest in the world
- the "new" (five year-old) 14 hour a day and 84 hours a week limits to truck driver "hours of service" have never been evaluated
- the added risk created by the low pay and poor working conditions endured by many truck drivers
The J. Goss post is at http://is.gd/8RAcm4

If producer cars are dead grain dependent, shortline railways are dead 

"After August 1, 2012 when terminal operators do not pay producer car shippers elevation, the lifeblood of producer cars will cease to exist.  The Battle River Railway in 2010-2011 shipped 731 cars.  Their members or customers received $1,300 per car or $950,000 from saved elevation.  That is real money, extra to what these farmers would have received delivering to a country elevator.  If this money cannot be realized after August 1, 2012 why will farmers use producer cars?," Reg Enright wrote for Canadian Wheat Board Alliance, Facts on June 7. 

"When the (Canadian Wheat Board)  was in charge it was a simple transparent calculation.  If an elevator elevated a farmers grain $14 a tonne was deducted at the elevator.  If the grain was loaded in a producer car $14 was not deducted and the farmer received $14 per tonne more when the grain was unloaded at the coast terminals. After August 1, 2012 a procedure must be in place to ensure producer car shippers can realize their savings when not using inland elevation.  If no procedure is found to make the savings real the lifeblood of producer cars is gone and producer cars are dead," Reg Enright wrote for CWBA Facts, http://is.gd/7sZuYJ

Ontario Road Safety Annual Report for 2009
Published within the last two weeks. Exact release date unknown. 

McGuinty  privatization of the ONTC is unfair to Northern Ontario 

Toronto Star, Metrolinx part of the problem
Greg Gormick, June 3, 2012