Protect Ontario's Wildlife, Rural living and Agricultural land—Focus on Enhanced VIA Rail
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We propose the Ontario Government should primarily focus on Enhanced VIA Rail - also known as High-Performance Rail (HPR). By utilizing this system, it would be a good way to judge if a more intensive High-Speed Rail service would need to be further developed for the future.
The three biggest questions that need to be addressed are:
1. Will the people of Ontario use an intercity rail passenger service?
2. Why aren't the residents of Ontario using VIA Rail more often now?
3. What will the cost of tickets and parking be per rider? For a family?
The following aspects of daily living will be negatively impacted in our rural/urban communities under the current High-Speed Rail proposal:
1. Rural living— HSR does not allow level crossings on secondary roads. Only primary roads will have bridges or tunnels for the rail system. This will result in many dead-end roads where school bus routes, emergency services, and road maintenance will be negatively impacted. The impact of permanent road closures on ambulance, police and fire services will be significant with the additional time required to access the emergency. The townships involved will also incur increases to their road maintenance budgets. Major upgrades to existing primary roads will be required to allow for more traffic usage by motor vehicles and farm vehicles. Postal and parcel service in rural areas will also have an increased cost as the ability to deliver mail and packages to rural customers will be compromised.
2. Urban living — Even residents that live in more populated areas will have to travel farther to even larger cities to travel by High-Speed Rail. The majority of these areas are already serviced by VIA rail and these routes, although necessary and useful, are not seeing high ridership levels now. These routes are not performing to their full potential. Wouldn't it be better to focus on VIA improvements first? Additionally, High-Speed Rail lines have the definite potential to divide urban communities depending on where the tracks are located.
3. Loss of agricultural land—farms will be divided, farmers will need to travel on primary/secondary roads to get to fields on the other side of the tracks and prime agricultural land will be lost to High-Speed Rail. Farmers who own property on both sides of the proposed High-Speed Rail line will incur not only an additional financial burden but also time lost in travel. There is also the challenge of travelling with large farm equipment on primary roads which may increase the risk of accidents on these much busier roads. With a minimum requirement of 80 feet for a High-Speed Rail track, a great amount of prime agricultural land that feeds Ontarians will be lost. 12 acres of farmland will be lost for every mile of High-Speed Rail - which adds up to a lot of food.
4. Environment—wildlife habitat will be greatly affected by high fence borders along HSR. How will animal migration patterns be affected? In the most recent news reports, they discuss that High-Speed Rail is a low-carbon/greener way to travel. But what about the fact that more people will have to drive farther distances in rural areas due to dead-end roads. The effects of noise pollution on residents and on wildlife are unimaginably significant.
5. Travel time to High-Speed Rail stations— these stations will be out of the way. With few stops on the rail lines, there is little access to getting onto HSR. Where will passengers park? There is already a lack of parking at current rail/GO stations. And once passengers are in Toronto, people will need additional transportation to get to their final destination.
6. Climate - Can a HSR line function in our climate with extreme summer and winter temperatures?
7. Cost - Can we afford this? Not only is the comprehensive environmental assessment going to cost taxpayers $15 million, but the estimated cost of the High-Speed Rail line is $21 billion. That's a whopping $60 million per kilometre for the 350-km line!!!
While we accept that something needs to be done to deal with the traffic on the 400 -series highways, the proposed High-Speed Rail plan is not the best option for the people of Ontario. There needs to be a much better assessment (try local - not foreign) of costs, both direct and indirect, and consider an already high deficit in Ontario.
We propose the Ontario government should focus on High-Performance Rail (HPR) using the existing VIA rail lines - also known as Enhanced VIA rail. By utilizing this system, it would be a good way to judge if a more intensive HSR service would need to be further developed for the future.
Enhanced VIA rail would build on the public funds previously invested in it and improve all aspects of our conventional rail service. (Source: New Directions - Oxford County Publication, 2017, pages 20-21)
Enhanced VIA Rail would offer:
1. trains operating at speeds of 200 km/hour with modern locomotives
2. have increased frequency
3. reduced door-to-door travel times
4. enhanced comfort and onboard amenities
5. have better on-time performance and all-weather reliability
6. improved, fully-accessible stations
7. more and better local and regional transit connections
In conclusion, Enhanced VIA Rail (HPR - High-Performance Rail) is the best option available to protect Ontario's wildlife, rural living and agricultural land. It will be an affordable path to faster and more frequent train service. As proven in some American States, this Enhanced system will increase ridership. Additionally, cost recovery improvements will still provide an alternative to car travel. With VIA not performing up to its full potential now, it is essential that this service is enhanced as the first step in seeing if High-Speed Rail is a necessary service required by the people of Ontario.
So let's all stand together against the proposed High-Speed Rail system, and show that we support the protection of Ontario's wildlife, rural and urban living and agricultural land.
We'd like to ask that you sign this petition, and also share it with family, friends, and anyone that follows you on social media. We all need to work together to derail this intrusive transportation proposal, and your signature and a simple click of the "share" button could make a world of difference!
Concerned Citizens of High-Speed Rail in Ontario
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