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VIA Rail

kEiThZ

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If they were to build Pickering as a 20 million passenger per year facility from day one, sure.

There's no plans for that though.
Like the MOOSE Rail clown, Mark Brooks keeps telling us that this is now well beyond GA and that there's investors lined up to throw down billions on a Pickering airport if only the government would let them.

They could launch as a massive facility in Pickering if they had a major anchor and major investors. But there's no business case for any airline to move there. And there's no investors close to the league required to build that large facility.

Consider this: The proposed Pearson transit hub has a supposed price tag of $11 billion. That's just the transit hub. That's not the terminals, airside facilities, etc. Each runway will end up costing a billion dollars alone. And their little graphic shows three major runways. What they are proposing is easily $5 billion. And that's just the terminal and airfield. Does not include all the civil works to facilitate the airport or transit connections. As a point of reference, the redevelopment of LaGuardia (which handles 30 million mostly domestic pax per year) is running at US$8 billion. In reality, when you add it all up, it's a CA$7-10 billion plan for what Mark envisions at Pickering.

With those price tags in mind, now ask yourself which airline will want to be the anchor at that airport, and can generate enough traffic to pay off that kind of debt. Can't be Westjet or Air Canada. Business traffic is a big deal and all those head offices are in the western GTA or in the downtown core. Not to mention that neither carrier would want to split up traffic from a hub. Air Transat would have been a candidate. But AC owns them now. Sunwing is too small and seasonally dependent to be the prime anchor. Who else is left?

One could argue that they could scale back plans and go with smaller runways, smaller terminal, etc. But all of it leads to the same problem. Who will provide the traffic that will pay for this? They could build a $1 billion airport that's the size of Waterloo tomorrow and they'd face the same problem. Who will operate from there and provide the traffic that let's them pay off the debt?

The "If you build it, they will come" approach doesn't work for multi-billion dollar facilities. And that brings me to the next point: investors. I don't doubt that Mark has some conditional investors line up who might have tens or even hundreds of millions. But I seriously question if there's enough investor support to plop down billions on this idea. Which inevitably means they will need taxpayer support. Hence why Mark is here to socialize the idea with the public....

As far as a rail connection goes. If there was going to be an airport there, co-locating the GTA East station at the airport makes a lot of sense. Shared parking, feed from air to rail and vice versa. But if the airport is a rather sketchy idea, why the heck would you build your station out there? Would make much more sense to locate near where there's residents and industry...ie Markham. Not to mention, Mark and his fantasy crew have completely ignored the rail line and not even planned to run it through their terminal. It was seen entirely as a fuel conveying operation until Mark and co. realized that a government entity wants to run a $4 billion rail service right through their fantasy map, making their plans as realistic as the MOOSE Rail crew. Having tried to trash rail and HFR and failed, he's realizing he needs to work it in to his sales pitch. Maybe he should start with something basic like actually co-locating the rail line and the terminal and considering how many hundreds of millions will have to be spent on triple tracking the corridor till Pickering to provide VIA HFR, GO RER and fuel delivery service.
 
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Urban Sky

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Thankyou for your in-depth reply, Your observations are interesting. The rail station shown in the diagram you posted is from a GTAA 2004 report. Although now widely used as a base line, it is not a final design. That will be undertaken by an RFP process, expected as a follow on to the soon to be released KPMG report . In 2004 it was strictly envisioned as a local commuter rail service. This should no longer be the case in an updated design.

We agree that HFR needs a different design, your idea of no diversions/get people off-on quickly and get on its way is interesting.
Thank you for providing the updated map, it at least seems that a rail station would be possible within walking distance from the terminal.

The ticketing issue has never been raised by anyone before to the best of my knowledge, including Transport.
It’s not that obvious as an issue, but if you tried to book a 5pm weekday VIA train out of Toronto to Oshawa, you might notice that it’s quite challenging to find anything cheaper than “Economy Plus” tickets...

The problem is that not a lot of forward thinking has been applied to the rail side of the Pickering airport design. Up to now the energy has been focused on the airside with rail tacked on as a nice to have. That said, It can easily be envision as a Via-Metrolinx arrangement with Via HFR and GO short-turn service at Pickering. Via could then be setup for a share of that Metrolinx revenue. Via HFR could connect Ottawa / Montreal to Pickering area including Stouffville. In coordination with airside flights it could in theory greatly improve the efficiency ( and carbon footprint) of our transportation network.
I’m not entirely sure what would be the kind of cooperation with Metrolink you just described for VIA, but it would be subject to the same ticketing constraints...

Here is a newer private design, an update from the 2004 layout. Note the rail line is expected to be used to supplement the fuel farm. The main fuel delivery is expected to utilize a pipeline to the south of the airport, the same one that currently serves as the main way to delivery JetA to Pearson. Is supplemental fuel delivery by rail to a fuel farm even feasible if the line is heavily used for HFR service ? An open question.
View attachment 197888
As far as I’m aware, CN and CP are “common carriers”, which means they have to transport goods even if they consider them as “unsafe” (which was one of the contributing factors in the Lac-Mégantic disaster) and it would be unreasonable to believe that a public railroad could be more selective with the kinds of traffic it hosts. There might be no possibility of shared operation, but I don’t see a problem to do the deliveries outside of HFR operating hours (i.e. during the night)...

A lot to think about here, but one of the most important points is these questions need to be asked. rail needs to be included as one of the Pickering airport RFP requirements.
It’s always best to think things from the end and that starts with the question: “If this thing becomes a big success one day, what kinds of facilities would we require and where would it be most convenient to place them?”
 

crs1026

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Consider this: The proposed Pearson transit hub has a supposed price tag of $11 billion. That's just the transit hub. That's not the terminals, airside facilities, etc. Each runway will end up costing a billion dollars alone. And their little graphic shows three major runways. What they are proposing is easily $5 billion. And that's just the terminal and airfield. Does not include all the civil works to facilitate the airport or transit connections. In reality, when you add it all up, it's a $7-10 billion plan.
I can’t imagine the business case for Pickering surviving on top of HFR, especially if the two are held to the same financing model and thresholds and the same cost recovery expectations.
Even $1B of that airport investment added to upgrade HFR would give a service that is fast and frequent enough that east enders would find preferable to a Pickering-Ottawa or Pickering-Montreal flight. That’s the gap in economics that would bring a 125 mph+, grade separated, almost HSRish quality to HFR instead of it being a slightly better than LRCish thing.
A further $2-3B with the right push to CN and CP, would fund enough RER capacity across the top or middle of the City so that access to Pearson from Markham and Durham would be very convenient, as well as meeting other needs.
Pearson will remain the hub for international and transocean flights, I can’t see much incentive for any airline (except maybe Air Canada, and only to a couple of destinations) to split this traffic across two airports. Getting people to Pearson for that traffic, and using VIA to reduce short haul flights, sure seems like a better strategy.
Having said that, it’s great that the Pickering data is brought up to date, if only so that we can try to level the playing field with HFR.

- Paul
 

kEiThZ

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I can’t imagine the business case for Pickering surviving on top of HFR, especially if the two are held to the same financing model and thresholds and the same cost recovery expectations.
What will kill their business plan isn't HFR. It's the fact that the ROI for whatever has to be spent on a commercial airport in Pickering, is so much better at the existing airports.

Even $1B of that airport investment added to upgrade HFR would give a service that is fast and frequent enough that east enders would find preferable to a Pickering-Ottawa or Pickering-Montreal flight.
Exactly. There's infinitely better ways to spend a few billion dollars than a Pickering airport. Even private investors will see better ROI for HFR than this airport proposal.

Having said that, it’s great that the Pickering data is brought up to date, if only so that we can try to level the playing field with HFR.
Agreed. The updated cost info, financial and passenger projections will only make the HFR case stronger, when that comes out in 2 years.
 

dowlingm

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Forking the Stouffville line a couple of hundred metres north of Major MacKenzie to run 7km east from 43.916412, -79.258181 to the CPR line would seem to me a reasonable cost way to get non-VIA service to a Pickering airport site. It would also provide a diversion route for VIA in the event that it could not access the CP/Metrolinx Don Branch into Toronto for any reason.
 

Fritter

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Forking the Stouffville line a couple of hundred metres north of Major MacKenzie to run 7km east from 43.916412, -79.258181 to the CPR line would seem to me a reasonable cost way to get non-VIA service to a Pickering airport site. It would also provide a diversion route for VIA in the event that it could not access the CP/Metrolinx Don Branch into Toronto for any reason.
Was this not Metrolinx's solution to offer rail service to Peterborough and avoid CP's Agincourt yard and mainline when the studied it?
 

MarkBrooks

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It depends. I’m not clear on what you are collecting data about.
If you are trying to define the universe of passenger trips that are happening between Toronto and Quebec City - certainly there will be lots of people riding HFR Montreal-Quebec, so they ought to be in that universe.
But if you are trying to capture only trips that are in the universe of originating in the Pickering Airport catchment area, there will be fewer trips between that catchment area and Quebec City, versus trips to Ottawa or Montreal. So you could discount
I can’t imagine the business case for Pickering surviving on top of HFR, especially if the two are held to the same financing model and thresholds and the same cost recovery expectations.
Even $1B of that airport investment added to upgrade HFR would give a service that is fast and frequent enough that east enders would find preferable to a Pickering-Ottawa or Pickering-Montreal flight. That’s the gap in economics that would bring a 125 mph+, grade separated, almost HSRish quality to HFR instead of it being a slightly better than LRCish thing.
A further $2-3B with the right push to CN and CP, would fund enough RER capacity across the top or middle of the City so that access to Pearson from Markham and Durham would be very convenient, as well as meeting other needs.
Pearson will remain the hub for international and transocean flights, I can’t see much incentive for any airline (except maybe Air Canada, and only to a couple of destinations) to split this traffic across two airports. Getting people to Pearson for that traffic, and using VIA to reduce short haul flights, sure seems like a better strategy.
Having said that, it’s great that the Pickering data is brought up to date, if only so that we can try to level the playing field with HFR.

- Paul
By the numbers I can’t imagine an efficient transportation system with out both Pickering Airport and HFR.

The question is, how many shorthaul slots and passengers could be shifted from air to rail to free up airside capacity at Toronto Pearson, and could VIA take it?

Currently 4.1 million passengers take Via rail on the Toronto , Ottawa , Montreal line.
Of the 49.5 million passengers handled by Pearson, We have determined that an estimated 6.4 million people travelled by air between Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec City in 2017, on 232 daily flights. The number of flights is important as they are using about 15% of Pearson’s slot capacity, carrying 12% of it current passengers flow.

Using the GTAA’s master plan forecast of 3.1 percent annual passenger growth means theoretically there might be an additional 5 million air passengers travelling between Toronto and Ottawa-Montreal-Quebec City by its max point, 2036 (YYZs maximum airside capacity). Most of this growth would be achieved by upsized aircraft not by taking up additional slots.

Assuming that we followed the German model, which calls for a banned on local flights to save airport capacity for international flights and for which we have a reasonable same day rail service. That’s 11.4 million more via riders , for 15.5 yearly rail passengers.

Meanwhile at Pearson, which is already a level 3 slot allocated airport, the draconian action has just bought a bit more time on the passenger growth curve, about 2-4 years depending on which forecast you believe. More importantly it provided the slots to service the new routes to other parts of the world enabling more efficient point to point service.

Between 2014 to 2018 passenger numbers grew by 10 million, from 39 million to 49 million, this growth is well above projections and is accelerating.

So maxing out HFR to Ottawa and Montreal bought us another 2-4 years of Capacity before Pearson hits the slot wall ( this would shift it from 2028 to 2032 ), and the max passenger wall (70 -85 million, 2030- 2036)

Part of this assumes that smaller regional aircraft are banned from Pearson ( exec jets, RJs & Q400 service to Timmins, thunderbay etc ) to free up slot space. These would be Pickerings first customers assuming that at least one runway is open at the new Pickering airport by 2028.

These two to four years are more important that you might think, as it is the difference between rushing Pickering ( cutting corners) and doing it right, which will take a minimum of 10 years. Either way we need to start build Pickering now, and we need to wake up VIA to the issue and it’s possible roll. But the real question is , do we have the political will to do even half of what is needed?
 

MarkBrooks

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In Asia, the response is to build or expand airports, in Europe this is also being debated. Istanbul’s new airport is the latest example.
The European problem, although less extreme than Toronto’s due to existing high levels of
rail service and much lower growth, is captured in this graphic:

027ADD65-01C1-406D-B75B-F7E49AB3D4EC.jpeg
 

nfitz

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Forking the Stouffville line a couple of hundred metres north of Major MacKenzie to run 7km east from 43.916412, -79.258181 to the CPR line would seem to me a reasonable cost way to get non-VIA service to a Pickering airport site.
Seems unfortunate, not to use the CP line that literally borders the airport, rather than build a new link. Could build the airport at the current Markham Airport location, which borders the Stouffville line ... politically impossible though I'd think.

Was this not Metrolinx's solution to offer rail service to Peterborough and avoid CP's Agincourt yard and mainline when the studied it?
I don't think I've seen that study - is it available somewhere?

Yes, it was one of the options
I'd hope one option was doing something along the 407 corridor and/or the CN/Hydro corridor ... though serviing Unionville might be advantagous.

Though perhaps that line would work better if it had two spurs ... one to Stouffville/Uxbridge (and Lindsay?) and the other to Claremont and Peterborough.
 

kEiThZ

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Between 2014 to 2018 passenger numbers grew by 10 million, from 39 million to 49 million, this growth is well above projections and is accelerating.
This trope again. Why won't anyone call him on it? This growth has mostly happened because of the growth of Air Canada's hub. That is not regional demand for travel. So if there's a need for capacity, the GTAA can very easily compel operators to prioritize local traffic and have AC grow their other hubs. Incidentally, this is exactly what is happening in Montreal.
 

kEiThZ

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In Asia, the response is to build or expand airports, in Europe this is also being debated.
Ignores the massive investment in rail in Asia which dwarfs the investment in airports. Europe is not expanding substantially or building new airports. Mark himself mentions the German policy of discouraging short-haul flying.

Istanbul’s new airport is the latest example.
A replacement for an existing airport. Not a supplement to it. Not to mention Turkish airlines is simply stealing traffic from the Middle Eastern carriers rather than generating lots of new traffic at this stage. That said, Turkey is 80 million and growing and industrializing. They genuinely need more capacity and Istanbul is their national hub. There's also that whole vainglorious dictator factor. Surely it's a meme by now.....an authoritarian leader building a massive and luxurious airport. How much of all this applies to the GTA and Canada?
 

ssiguy2

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Why is Pickering being discussed when there is a thread specifically for it?

The thing that ticks me off about the VIA plan for higher-frequency and more exclusive line service is that it puts a higher priority on the Montreal to Quebec segment than it does on Union to London which has far higher ridership and much more so on a passenger per km travelled basis. That seems like Politics 101 and is made worse by the fact that the highways and congestion between London and Toronto are far busier than the ones between Quebec and Montreal making the issue of reliable transportation far more crucial in SWO than Central Quebec.
 
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