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Ontario Northland and the End of the Northlander

CDL.TO

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#1
March 23, 2012 10:00 AM
Ontario has chosen to take a new approach to regional transportation in northeastern Ontario by winding down the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission (ONTC).

This decision will allow the government to protect investments in northerners' health and education systems while balancing the budget by 2017-18.

Since 2003, the government has worked hard to make the ONTC viable by increasing funding by 274 per cent. However, demand for its services has stagnated. Also, the current subsidy on the Northlander train is $400 per passenger, and no longer affordable.

Government funding has increased from $28 million annually in 2003-04 to $103 million this year.
Ridership has remained stagnant at about 320,000 rides a year.
Sales revenues have declined from $140 million in 2005 to just over $100 million this year.
Private buses serve most of the same communities.


A transition board has been appointed to work with current Chairman Ted Hargreaves to begin the divestment of the commission. The board has been given a mandate to:

Ensure the ongoing operation of the Polar Bear Express service
Divest commercially valuable assets such as rail freight, rail refurbishment and Ontera telecommunications
Begin the process of cancelling the Northlander train service that runs between Toronto and Cochrane - to be replaced with enhanced bus service
Tender bus services for other operators to service existing bus routes
Consolidate the ferry service between Moosonee and Moose Factory with other provincial ferry services.

There will be no immediate changes for ONTC services or employees.

http://news.ontario.ca/mndmf/en/2012/03/ontario-northland-transportation-commission.html
 
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#2
Oh dear.

"Private buses serve most of the same communities" - that's far from the truth. Greyhound runs express between Barrie and Sudbury, leaving the Northland buses to make the local stops. Greyhound does make a pit stop in Parry Sound, but does not accept passengers there. ONTC is the only provider to Timmins, Gravenhurst, Bracebridge, Huntsville, Kirkland Lake, Cochrane, Kapuskasing and lots of smaller communities in between. ONTC also is the sole operator between North Bay and Toronto (Greyhound serves North Bay on the Sudbury-Ottawa-Montreal route).

I bet CN is licking its chops eager to purchase the freight railway operations, as it did to BC Rail (which also had daily passenger service) and Algoma Central.
 
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#4
Not a peep in the Toronto-based papers' websites, but certainly outrage in the Timmins Daily Press, North Bay Nugget, etc.

Sure McGuinty pledged not to raise taxes with the creeps at the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (and supposedly ducked it though the new Health Premiums), but he also made a similar pledge not to privatize ONTC. North Bay could be hard hit and other Northeast Ontario communities lose their bus and rail service, this is why it has been a sacred cow, even under the Harris years. Is this a symbolic slash, that there were no "sacred cows", much like Mulroney's torching of VIA in 1990?
 

Electrify

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#6
Ontario Northland should run trains to Timmins since it is the major urban centre for the region, rather than forcing a transfer at Matheson (which I was told is not always timely, meaning you could be waiting till the next day if there is a delay with the connection). An intermediate stop at Langstaff might also help to increase ridership as well.
 

k10ery

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#7
Ontario Northland should run trains to Timmins since it is the major urban centre for the region, rather than forcing a transfer at Matheson (which I was told is not always timely, meaning you could be waiting till the next day if there is a delay with the connection). An intermediate stop at Langstaff might also help to increase ridership as well.
The current subsidy is $200-400 per passenger, depending on which set of numbers you use. I don't think a simple change in routing is going to make it financially viable.
 

nfitz

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#8
The current subsidy is $200-400 per passenger, depending on which set of numbers you use. I don't think a simple change in routing is going to make it financially viable.
Good grief! Not sure why we should continue to subsidize people to that extent who choose to live unsustainable lifestyles!
 
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#9
Ontario Northland should run trains to Timmins since it is the major urban centre for the region, rather than forcing a transfer at Matheson (which I was told is not always timely, meaning you could be waiting till the next day if there is a delay with the connection). An intermediate stop at Langstaff might also help to increase ridership as well.
There used to be two daily Toronto-NE Ontario trains, a day train to/from Cochrane and a night train to/from Timmins. The night train was cut and the tracks removed from central Timmins, and cut back for freight service to the mines out of town, the old station is now a the ON bus terminal (as is the case in Orillia). In the late 1970s (when both trains were running), Ontario Northland even brought over TEE (Trans Europe Express) trainsets to boost the popularity of its passenger services.

The service made more sense when it ran on the Newmarket Sub before CN abandoned it in the 1990s, I am somewhat surprised the train lasted as long as it did, though I don't buy the $400/passenger subsidy - it would be cheaper to to just buy everyone in North Bay and Timmins AC or Porter tickets and offer airport express van service for other points on the ONTC bus and rail network. The coaches are worn ex-GO cars, and I imagine that they are nearing the end of their useful lives, hence the abandonment of the rail service.

Good grief! Not sure why we should continue to subsidize people to that extent who choose to live unsustainable lifestyles!
The Ontario government has spent huge sums of money completing widening Highway 11 all the way to North Bay from Huntsville. Subsidies come in all forms.
 
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k10ery

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#11
The service made more sense when it ran on the Newmarket Sub before CN abandoned it in the 1990s, I am somewhat surprised the train lasted as long as it did, though I don't buy the $400/passenger subsidy - it would be cheaper to to just buy everyone in North Bay and Timmins AC or Porter tickets and offer airport express van service for other points on the ONTC bus and rail network. The coaches are worn ex-GO cars, and I imagine that they are nearing the end of their useful lives, hence the abandonment of the rail service.
Yes. Even before this announcement, the Public Accounts was already owning up to $65 million in subsidies, plus $10 million in losses. Not sure how they get it up to $100-120 million though.

The Ontario government has spent huge sums of money completing widening Highway 11 all the way to North Bay from Huntsville. Subsidies come in all forms.
That one buys a lot more votes?
 

Electrify

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#12
Good grief! Not sure why we should continue to subsidize people to that extent who choose to live unsustainable lifestyles!
There is a strong resource and agriculture economy up in Northeastern Ontario. It might not be a major city, but it is important in its own way.

k10ery said:
The current subsidy is $200-400 per passenger, depending on which set of numbers you use. I don't think a simple change in routing is going to make it financially viable.
Probably right, but still, the intercity rail alternatives in Canada and the US are abysmal. When it comes to intercity transit, you can fly (obscenely expensive) or take the bus (looong). If you are fortunate enough to be going to a place serviced by VIA, it is fantastic. However, there are many regional centres in the province (Timmins, Peterborough, Thunder Bay, Hamilton - not including Aldershot, Barrie, etc.) which have rails rolling right through them - just nothing for cross-country/province travellers.
 

BurlOak

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#13
The Ontario government has spent huge sums of money completing widening Highway 11 all the way to North Bay from Huntsville. Subsidies come in all forms.
Don't forget the even more expensive and less needed freeway from Parry Sound to Sudbury.
 

ssiguy2

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#14
Train service is not a right of passage.
People who live in isolated communities enjoy many benefits suchas the closeness of nature, no traffic, a low cost of living, and often a stronger sense of community. There are of course tradeoffs. By choosing to live in such areas you must also accept it's downsides one of which is fewer transportation options. People who live in more remote locations cannot at the same time expect services which are equal to one's in more populated areas. Expecting transportation services similar to heavily populated areas is unreasonable. Life is about compromises, there is no such thing as "the best of both worlds".
People in isolated areas have, in part, choosen it due to it's affordability but transportation systems are expensive..........you get what you pay for. Northlands should have been cancelled decades ago.
 

MegaMax

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#15
Train service is not a right of passage.
What is that even supposed to mean? "Rite of passage" is a event in growing up, like getting a driving learner's permit, or a first part time job, or a Bar Mitzvah. What is a "right of passage", anyway?

People who live in isolated communities enjoy many benefits suchas the closeness of nature, no traffic, a low cost of living, and often a stronger sense of community. There are of course tradeoffs. By choosing to live in such areas you must also accept it's downsides one of which is fewer transportation options. People who live in more remote locations cannot at the same time expect services which are equal to one's in more populated areas. Expecting transportation services similar to heavily populated areas is unreasonable. Life is about compromises, there is no such thing as "the best of both worlds".
People in isolated areas have, in part, choosen it due to it's affordability but transportation systems are expensive..........you get what you pay for. Northlands should have been cancelled decades ago.
Maybe they should get a monorail.

The cost of living isn't necessarily cheaper in the North vs. the GTA, you know.