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RedRocket191

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Once upon a time, railways crisscrossed Ontario and moved freight and passengers between almost every city, town and village and town But, as roads were improved and automobiles and trucks became more popular, passengers and shippers migrated to other means of travel and railways were gradually abandoned. In most cases, the rails were torn up and the the corridors built over or converted to nature trails. Today, passenger rail service in Ontario is limited to commuter trains in the Toronto area, VIA Rail Canada inter-city service, and rural services in the far north - a relatively small network. The freight railway network isn't much bigger, limited the potential to expand passenger rail service to additional communities. But, what if we hadn't abandoned those lines?

Using GIS technology to display data created by myself and by the Southern Ontario Railway Map project, this is one concept of what an Ontario passenger railway network could look like:

[VIEW MAP | DOWNLOAD GOOGLE EARTH FILE]

(other formats coming soon)​

This railway network, which I call Rail Ontario, could stretches to all corners of the province with connections to Detroit in the west, Buffalo in the south, Quebec City in the east and Winnipeg in the north. Many of these lines could use existing fright railway lines, but the vast majority run in corridors which have been abandoned for decades. In some cases, these corridors have become trails, and a trust fund should be established to ensure that every kilometre of reconverted trail is replaced. In some cases, development has obscured the old rights-of-way. In these cases, street railway alignments should be used with tram-trains - vehicles that can operate safely on the street and at high-speed on the mainline. Electric rail infrastructure should be installed on high ridership routes with frequent departures, and other routes should use diesel-electric equipment which meets the most forward-looking emission standards. Stations should be built as close to the central business districts of the cities and towns that they serve, and local transit, taxis and bicycle rental stations should be available to for the last mile of the trip.

A Rail Ontario network would offer several different brands of service, depending on the line.

Regional service would be the evolution of the VIA Rail service we have today and would operate on the high-ridership routes passing through major cities in southern Ontario. Standard locomotive-and-coach trains would call at the larger centres similar in size to those that VIA Rail and Ontario Northland currently stop at. However, service will be much faster and much more frequent than the service operated today.

Express service would use european-style high speed trains between Toronto and Quebec City. This service would be designed to compete with airlines, so trains should offer premium amenities, only make intermediate stops in Ottawa and Montreal, and be able to reach top speeds of 300 km/h. Express trains could operate in other corridors, but these would fall under the Regional brand to avoid customer confusion.

Local service would call at all the towns and villages along the line to ensure that everyone has access to the railway network. The major transcontinental lines, mostly connecting northern and southern Ontario, would use more traditional train sets with baggage cars, coaches, sleepers, dining cars and observation coaches, while shorter lines would use multiple-unit trains which are more efficient to operate. At minimum, all lines will see service under the Local brand.

Suburban Metro service would only operate in built up areas, and would be the evolution of the current GO Transit network to provide both a peak-hour commuter service and a frequent regional rail service. Peak-hour and high-ridership line equipment could include locomotive-hauled trains of bi-level coaches while european-style multiple-unit trains could be used in the off-peak and on lower ridership lines. Unlike the GO Transit network of today, Suburban Metro service would operate the multiple-unit trains every ten minutes or better to provide a quality of service similar to that of a subway line. Bi-level trains would provide additional peak-hour capacity.

These distinct brands will serve different markets and travel patterns, but will complement each other to ensure seamless travel between many communities in Ontario. Today, the mainline between Toronto and London has 11 GO Transit stations and 6 VIA Rail stations. Under a Rail Ontario network, there could be 11 Suburban Metro stations, 16 Local stations, 6 Regional stations and 2 Express stations. In addition, numerous other lines could connect with the mainline to serve other communities that have gone without rail service for decades. Potentially, the service map for this line could look like this:

GW_main.gif

Each brand would use its own method of calculating cost, as some services would be faster and offer more amenities. However, the pricing would be consistent within the brand (i.e, an express Suburban Metro train from Burlington to Toronto would cost the same as a stopping Suburban Metro train). An integrated ticketing system would allow each brand to complement each other for seamless travel across the province.

As the price of gasoline climbs ever higher, every community in Ontario will be affected. There will be pressures to relocate businesses closer to large markets as the cost of shipping increases, and potentially, the only employer in one-industry towns will close. As the businesses move, people will follow leading to increased development pressure on cities. While we will always need to intensify our urban spaces, the large urban centres of the province cannot possibly accommodate the citizens of every town and village in the their hinterlands without resorting to allowing urban sprawl (even if it is better designed sprawl). By expanding railway service to these communities and providing convenient links between large urban centres we can reduce automobile dependency, build more sustainable cities and towns and prevent the sacking of Ontario's small towns. As an added bonus, these railway links will allow industries in the hinterland to survive by shifting goods movement from trucks to trains.

Once upon a time, the train was the only way to travel quickly between cities and towns in Ontario. A second renaissance is long overdue, and when it arrives, almost every community in the province could be just a convenient train ride away.
 

lead82

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ah if only this was possible. Alas it is but a dream that will not come true in our lifetimes. Their needs to be a huge mentality change before this can be funded
 

kettal

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The biggest obstacle is not mentality, it's the fact that the lines with the greatest potential are firmly in the grip of private cargo carriers.
 

Mr.Colley

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Once upon a time, railways crisscrossed Ontario and moved freight and passengers between almost every city, town and village and town But, as roads were improved and automobiles and trucks became more popular, passengers and shippers migrated to other means of travel and railways were gradually abandoned. In most cases, the rails were torn up and the the corridors built over or converted to nature trails. Today, passenger rail service in Ontario is limited to commuter trains in the Toronto area, VIA Rail Canada inter-city service, and rural services in the far north - a relatively small network. The freight railway network isn't much bigger, limited the potential to expand passenger rail service to additional communities. But, what if we hadn't abandoned those lines?

Once upon a time, the train was the only way to travel quickly between cities and towns in Ontario. A second renaissance is long overdue, and when it arrives, almost every community in the province could be just a convenient train ride away.
THhis would be amazing. But the question remains. Is it feasible? what kind of trains would be used?
 

Mr.Colley

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The biggest obstacle is not mentality, it's the fact that the lines with the greatest potential are firmly in the grip of private cargo carriers.

Not even that. Money is a huge obstical. They would have to upgrade to electric more then likely for it to be economicly (both monitarily and enviromently) fresible.
 

mpd618

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It is obvious that we're not going to resurrect every railway that has existed in the past. Besides, a planned network can be more efficient and simpler for riders than a network built by competing private railway companies.

So the question is: which routes come first, and how?
 

Prometheus The Supremo

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wow! :eek: alot of work was put into that!
 

RedRocket191

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wow! :eek: alot of work was put into that!

Most of the work was done by the Southern Ontario Railway Map project, while I tracked down the lines in Northern Ontario (which are much harder due to low res images). The modifications I made include re-aligning lines which have been developed over (mostly onto street railways) and eliminating duplicate lines and yard trackage (Lindsay was once pretty much one large railway yard).
 

Mr.Colley

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Most of the work was done by the Southern Ontario Railway Map project, while I tracked down the lines in Northern Ontario (which are much harder due to low res images). The modifications I made include re-aligning lines which have been developed over (mostly onto street railways) and eliminating duplicate lines and yard trackage (Lindsay was once pretty much one large railway yard).
Thats still a lot of work on your part Red.. I wonder though. Is this just a personal project or does this somehow tie into your work? just out of curiousity?
 

RedRocket191

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Thats still a lot of work on your part Red.. I wonder though. Is this just a personal project or does this somehow tie into your work? just out of curiousity?

Personal project, part of my personal transportation advocacy.
 

RedRocket191

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That's cool. You really should see about getting into that though. Could be a lucrative buissness for you in the end.

In 12 months I will be a professional planner. If I can advocate for better transit and make a name for myself in the industry then everybody wins!

@ lead82 - It's just a vision, but I think that fuel prices will be the deciding factor. When the cost of shipping by truck quadruples there will be no economic argument for Dickies Canada to manufacture clothing in Hanover, Ontario - they will move closer to the markets. Restoring rail service to these communities will allow these one-industry towns to survive (not knocking Hanover at all, it's a very nice place).

@ Kettel: The government could buy these lines from the private carriers, or could pay for the upgrades to higher-speed passenger service. The second is not an ideal solution, but the amount of ownership and investment would probably reflect the traffic on the line.

As for the type of trains that it would use, a one-size-fits all system would not work. The faster services would have to use TGV trains, while the regional and local trains would look pretty similar to the stuff we run today. The length of the line and the frequency of trains would decide if it was to be electrified or not. High frequency service between two nearby cities would most likely qualify, while a lonely line in Northern Ontario would probably not.
 
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Mr.Colley

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Good, Im glad to hear it. 12 months and you can see what I assume one of your dreams finally start to take some real shape. you have any other amazing ideas stuck rattling around in that genious head of yours?
 

Woodbridge_Heights

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Not to criticize your work and I realize that this is more focused on historical lines but do you think that a routing through Owen sound and Manotoulin island to Slt Ste Marie be used as a short cut? It would be quite difficult I imagine and with a few bridges.
 

Epi

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Wow very impressive. It's pretty interesting how the GTA has been able to keep a lot of those lines in working order.

I wonder how a project such as this would be actually phased in. Obviously it can't all appear at the same time, so what order would the phasing in be. When would express services be brought in (in the beginning to enhance prestige or at the end to complement existing services?). How much would it all cost to retrofit the existing rails and electrify and how much would it cost to buy the trainsets, build the stations and rezone areas. As well how much would we have to change local transit to reorganize around this new train infrastructure?

As well, what completely new tracks would have to be laid (esp for the high speed trains) to make this feasible, and how will development around major stations be handled?
 

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