Entries in train (2)

Wednesday
Apr132016

Moving the goods takes trains, planes, and autos

There’s a catchphrase emerging in the discussion around transportation: multi-modal transportation strategy.  I have read it in a few articles, the federal budget document and then provincial Minister of Transportation Steven Del Duca used it twice in a discussion during the Chamber’s advocacy day at Queen’s Park.

A broad definition of the concept figures prominently in the Provincial Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe (2006) and can be found in the work of the Interuniversity Research Centre on Enterprise Networks, Logistics and Transportation at the University of Montreal, which defines the concept as a chain made up of several transportation modes that are more or less coordinated and interact in intermodal terminals to ensure door-to-door service.  While the context of this particular definition is based in the movement of freight, it could also be easily applied to the movement of people.  You could also define it as – "anywhere in Europe…"

In the year 2041, the provincial government estimates the population of the GTHA and the outer ring (which includes the Greater Peterborough Area) will be 13.5 million people.  That is just below the current population of the entire province of Ontario.  

Developing a coherent transportation strategy for Peterborough now will serve us well into the coming decades.  We need roads and public transit to move people and things, we need air and we need rail.  If we are going to consider all modes of transportation, Peterborough also has the opportunity to move people and things via water and the Trent Severn Waterway.  

Transportation corridors are different from public transit, but both are connected and rely on each other. For example, an efficient bus system relies on efficient roads. 

By Road

The business community is eagerly anticipating the arrival of the 407 to the 35/115 in 2020.  This economic link will see commerce and people flowing both ways – from the GTA in the form of tourists and companies wanting to do business or relocate, and into the GTA from here allowing our companies easier access to the vast market known as the Golden Horseshoe.  

By Air

The intentional investment by the City and County into the Peterborough Airport is paying off with innovative partnerships, companies and opportunities.  There will be new passenger service starting this summer, continued flights by Stewart Travel, 15 companies that are employers driving the local economy, and there is space for a lot more.  The Peterborough Airport is also considered a part of a network of regional airports that is tasked with defining how they could help relieve anticipated pressures at Pearson Airport.  

By Water

The Trent Severn Waterway (TSW) was originally built as an economic thoroughfare.  Today its primary role is to ferry tourist traffic, but in that role it is a significant economic driver for the area.  Are there any other ways to use the TSW for modern day movement of goods?

By Rail

The return to rail movement is gaining steam throughout the province. There are projects being pushed in southwestern Ontario and along the GO Lakeshore East line to Bowmanville.  It’s no secret that Peterborough has had a project of its own on the go for over five years and that improved freight and the return of passenger service would go a long way to further opening up the area to new economic opportunities.  How we get there is not the critical point, just that we get to the point where we can offer a freight option that improves time to the GTA and eventually a passenger option as well.  There are quite a few infrastructure dollars on the table right now.  If there is a willingness for either the provincial or federal governments or both to repair the tracks for freight use, perhaps the case for passenger rail would become more attractive to Metrolinx/GO or VIA to take on.

For its part, the City of Peterborough’s transportation master plan was last updated in 2012 and will be due for review in the next few years.  Their thinking about the future is along the same track as the province. “While the next review will also look at all modes of travel in the City, the approach to delivering transit services may be quite different as we get closer to the next review,” says Kevin Jones, Manager of Transportation, City of Peterborough. “Our planning for transit may start to focus on serving activity areas, also known as hubs.  These hubs could serve as areas to support land use intensification and provide transfer points where local neighbourhood transit services connect to a core route system, featuring enhanced service levels.   Providing hubs in locations that allow for connections to regional GO bus services or a future rail corridor to serve the City would be ideal.  Can we find locations to build these hubs so that they accommodate the needs of the community in the present, but can also be transformed as needed in the future?”  

“The province is also reviewing its transportation strategy,” says Jones.  In a meeting with the Minister of Transportation (MTO) recently, I heard the same comment that the ministry is working on a plan that is looking 50 years into the future.  Minister Del Duca also recognized that there is more work to do to incorporate the needs of mid-size cities such as Peterborough into plans for improved linkages for future employment and economic potential.

There is a demand from within our community to be operating on all cylinders in order to take advantage of the opportunity of an expected increase in population growth.  The backbone of that economic utopia of jobs, business growth, and sustainability, is a coherent transportation network that allows for the effective movement of goods and people. Supporting and building a multi-modal transportation network will take multi-modal collaboration from government.

Wednesday
May272015

Peterborough needs more than a road win

The provincial government is going to be spending the summer hosting roundtables on the infrastructure needs of communities.  The Minister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure along with the Minister of Transportation are looking for input on how to keep “moving Ontario forward” outside the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA).   The goal is to help create jobs and support economic growth through infrastructure projects in our communities, and they are starting with three discussion questions:prioritizing infrastructure investments, and improving natural gas programs and transportation networks.  The government has earmarked $15 billion to be available for projects outside the GTHA.

There are some projects that have already started including four in the County and City of Peterborough.  Three address sewer and water system concerns and one is to complete bridge improvements.  These initiatives were announced in February as part of the $100 million per year Ontario Community Infrastructure Fund.   

There is also $272 million available over 10 years to support projects in communities with populations under 100,000, $1 billion for strategic transportation infrastructure development in the Ring of Fire Region, $62 million to support the Ottawa River Action Plan and $15 million annually for the new Connecting Links program to help pay for the construction and repair costs of municipal roads that connect communities to provincial highways (Moving Ontario Forward – Outside the GTHA Discussion Guide). 

Within these programs there is opportunity for Peterborough area municipalities to put forward projects, but ultimately we're still on the outside looking in, particularly when you look at the most recent transportation investments: 

  • Expanding Highway 11/17 between Thunder Bay and Nipigon
  • Constructing a new alignment of Highway 7 between Kitchener and Guelph
  • Improving Highway 401 in London and Highway 417 in Ottawa
  • Supporting the Maley Drive Extension project in Sudbury 
  • Advancing an environmental assessment for a high-speed rail line that will connect Windsor, London, Kitchener-Waterloo and Toronto.  

Take a look at the projects above.  What’s missing?  There is an extensive network of roads and rail currently planned for south- and northwestern Ontario, but the eastern side of the province seems to barely register.  

One of the most important questions the government is asking in its Discussion Guide is “What is the long-term future of your transportation network, and how can Moving Ontario Forward support that?”

Yes, the 407 is scheduled to be completed to the 35/115 by 2020, and while it’s an important economic link for this region, it was a decade long battle to convince the province of its importance to Ontario and one could argue that it has greater significance to the Durham Region. At a time when the goal is to move Ontario forward as a province, as a whole, there seems to be a fairly gaping hole in the plan.  In fact, that combination of roads and rail we’re seeing develop in southwestern Ontario can easily be developed in eastern Ontario.  Add in the constant expansion at the Peterborough Airport and Peterborough could easily be declared a transportation hub.      

With its diverse business community, Peterborough has a lot of opportunity in its future. Our post-secondary institutions are growing; Fleming with its focus on the skilled trades is at the frontline of a Canada battling a skills shortage and Trent is further solidifying its reputation for groundbreaking life sciences research, a strong business school and research on the Canadian North and Aboriginal peoples.  

We have an Innovation Cluster that is working hard to develop a new generation of technology companies.    

There is a strong advanced manufacturing sector based in Eastern Ontario that is reaching out beyond our provincial borders.  In fact, this group of employers along with the Chamber Network just affected a change to the requirements for bringing service technicians to Canada for repair and servicing of equipment.  The change means these instances will not require a Labour Market Impact Assessment, saving companies thousands of dollars.  

In the Peterborough Economic Development Strategic Plan, agriculture, aerospace, and entrepreneurship were identified as areas and sectors ready to grow and take flight.  These areas have also been identified as priority areas by the provincial and federal governments.   

So in answering the question "What is the long-term future of your transportation network?", the
Peterborough area is ready to create several connections to and through eastern Ontario with a completed 407, the Shining Waters Railway and the Peterborough Airport. Doing so opens up a whole host of economic opportunity and fills a glaring gap with people and jobs.     

The provincial government is accepting comments until September 18, 2015.

Comment through the "Peterborough Chamber" group of LinkedIn.