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VIA Rail

crs1026

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Why should two passenger rail services provide overlapping services in the same area, still using third party rail (or should VIA run on GO trackage)? Should VIA provide Toronto-area commuter service? Should GO provide inter-city service to Ottawa? Makes little sense to me.

It’s complicated, I agree… but even if it’s hard to create a bright line, and even if the two do overlap in spots, I do believe there are two or three different system and service roles that have totally different business models and funding bases and clientelles and governance needs.

It’s possible that a single Oncorr type operator could run them all (Amtrak has won commuter operation contracts, for instance, as well as 403b services, as well as federally mandated services) …. but ultimately it is hard for one organization to ride that many different types of ponies simultaneously.

I would be horrified if Ottawa volunteered to run GO, because the responsiveness to local interests would be sacrificed and “national” agendas would inevitably creep in. And VIA lacks a legal mandate to fend off the federal bureaucracy..

Conversely I suppose GO could absorb longer distance runs, but these demand different amenities and infrastructure and equipment. Funding models would be completely different. Inevitably, the operating organization would be set up with siloes suited to each type of business… and for many purposes it would be three organizations under one roof. There’s wisdom in having a single infrastructure for integrated Ontario-Quebec intercity service, all the way to Detroit.

- Paul
 

Bordercollie

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It’s complicated, I agree… but even if it’s hard to create a bright line, and even if the two do overlap in spots, I do believe there are two or three different system and service roles that have totally different business models and funding bases and clientelles and governance needs.

It’s possible that a single Oncorr type operator could run them all (Amtrak has won commuter operation contracts, for instance, as well as 403b services, as well as federally mandated services) …. but ultimately it is hard for one organization to ride that many different types of ponies simultaneously.

I would be horrified if Ottawa volunteered to run GO, because the responsiveness to local interests would be sacrificed and “national” agendas would inevitably creep in. And VIA lacks a legal mandate to fend off the federal bureaucracy..

Conversely I suppose GO could absorb longer distance runs, but these demand different amenities and infrastructure and equipment. Funding models would be completely different. Inevitably, the operating organization would be set up with siloes suited to each type of business… and for many purposes it would be three organizations under one roof. There’s wisdom in having a single infrastructure for integrated Ontario-Quebec intercity service, all the way to Detroit.

- Paul
In Japan they have trains that are 6 car express trains, 2 cars have reserved seating and the rest have regular seats. The objective is to allow transit to be more competitive. Why have overlapping services?

If I live in Hamilton and need to go to Oshawa for a meeting, driving THROUGH Toronto is such a pain, but if the train could get me there faster and ran at all times during the day it would make it more attractive. Currently it takes double the amount of time to take transit than to drive, if you could make this comparable to driving, more people would take transit.
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crs1026

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In Japan they have trains that are 6 car express trains, 2 cars have reserved seating and the rest have regular seats. The objective is to allow transit to be more competitive. Why have overlapping services?

If I live in Hamilton and need to go to Oshawa for a meeting, driving THROUGH Toronto is such a pain, but if the train could get me there faster and ran at all times during the day it would make it more attractive. Currently it takes double the amount of time to take transit than to drive, if you could make this comparable to driving, more people would take transit.

I cringe at arguments of the form “In (country) they have (nice thing)” because a) their having something doesn’t make it a solution to our problem and b) we may not have the ability to apply that something here without impacting a lot of other things.

I have no argument with the concept of express trains, but deciding which nodes to serve is a lot more complicated than your simplistic example. Even with its ambitious and high-cost expansion program, ML has only so much track available. They may be receptive to express opportunities but it may be impossible to ever fit them onto their network.

In the case of regional centres at the periphery of the GTA, such as Niagara, Kitchener, and Cobourg/Belleville - it makes no sense to run stopping trains. Those stops will mostly inconvenience any significant ridership component making an end to end trip. A regional service that serves the most distant stops and then runs express alongside a central stopping commuter service is better. But some judicious stopping will create more utility and more travel opportunities than a pure express. It’s a balancing act.

The worst case would be to have two different agencies with different masters and different business models trying to dovetail a service plan on top of each other. Which is why I have concluded that GO should run both into the GTA. There is no easy dividing line - a regional service running east of Bowmanville is a good example, it could remain a VIA line because the “region” stretches all the way to Kingston and there are only a few stops along the way (as yet). But if Ontario’s MTO concluded that the 401 is just getting too busy along that stretch - one would want VIA/Ottawa to be responsive to the problem. It might be simpler for GO to tackle that and have VIA bow out.

- Paul
 

reaperexpress

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In Japan they have trains that are 6 car express trains, 2 cars have reserved seating and the rest have regular seats. The objective is to allow transit to be more competitive. Why have overlapping services?
Because overlapping services can have different stopping patterns and thus different speeds. Japanese mainlines have tons of different stopping patterns too. Even the Tokaido Shinkansen has three stopping patterns: Kodama (local), Hikari (express) and Nozomi (super express). And the Nozomi also has different ticket conditions, so certain passes are not accepted whereas they may be on Kodama or Hikari trains.

Sure, GO could theoretically be set up to enable different types of tickets (reserved/unreserved seats, first/second class, etc), but there's not really much point in doing so, since VIA already offers the alternatives that GO doesn't, and there is plenty of other difference between VIA and GO offerings to justify overlapping along a corridor. Namely that VIA trains make far fewer stops, require tickets booked for a specific train (because they're lower-capacity trains than GO) and continue outside of GO's service area.

GO's planned all-day Regional Express services to destinations such as Kitchener, Niagara Falls, Hamilton and Barrie certainly have the potential to infringe on VIA's market, but I think that there is plenty of room for VIA to move upmarket to avoid redundancy. For example, VIA trains to Kitchener currently take about the same time as GO express trains, but ticket prices are much higher. If VIA were able to drop some intermediate stops and offer shorter travel times than GO, their product could be positioned as a premium-express alternative to GO's fairly basic Regional Express services.
If I live in Hamilton and need to go to Oshawa for a meeting, driving THROUGH Toronto is such a pain, but if the train could get me there faster and ran at all times during the day it would make it more attractive. Currently it takes double the amount of time to take transit than to drive, if you could make this comparable to driving, more people would take transit.
Yes, and once GO starts operating all-day express trains from Toronto to Hamilton, it won't take as long to cross the region on transit. Ideally the Hamilton express would continue through to Oshawa, but that may be somewhat limited by the discrepancy in track capacity west and east of Union.
Lakeshore West will have 4 tracks, while Lakeshore East will only have 2.
Kitchener will have 4 tracks while Stouffville will only have 2.
Barrie will have 2 tracks, while Richmond Hill will only have 1.
 
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Bordercollie

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Because different services have different stopping patterns and thus different speeds. Japanese mainlines have tons of different stopping patterns too. Even the Tokaido Shinkansen has three stopping patterns: Kodama (local), Hikari (express) and Nozomi (super express). And the Nozomi also has different ticket conditions, so certain passes are not accepted whereas they may be on Kodama or Hikari trains.

Sure, GO could theoretically be set up to enable different types of tickets (reserved/unreserved seats, first/second class, etc), but there's not really much point in doing so, since VIA already offers the alternatives that GO doesn't, and there is plenty of difference between service types to justify overlapping VIA and GO services. Namely that VIA trains make far fewer stops, require tickets booked for a specific train (because they're lower-capacity trains than GO) and continue outside of GO's service area.

Yes, and once GO starts operating all-day express trains from Toronto to Hamilton, Kitchener and Barrie it won't take as long to cross the region on transit. Ideally the Hamilton express would continue through to Oshawa, but that may be somewhat limited by the discrepancy in track capacity west and east of Union.
Lakeshore West will have 4 tracks, while Lakeshore East will only have 2.
Kitchener will have 4 tracks while Stouffville will only have 2.
Barrie will have 2 tracks, while Richmond Hill will only have 1.
Lakeshore east has space for an additional track.
 

reaperexpress

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Lakeshore east has space for an additional track.
The corridor east of Union is being widened to 4 mainline tracks, to be used by both the Stouffville and Lakeshore East lines as well as VIA trains. According to Verster's comments about cancelling the rail-to-rail grade separation at Scarborough Junction, 2 will be for Stouffville and 2 will be for Lakeshore East.
 
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Urban Sky

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You should see the QEW in the morning coming into Toronto, its Bumper to Bumper from Burlington to Southdown and then again from before the QEW bridge until the 427. Brutal.

This is why VIA should be in the commuter service offering express from Burlington/Aldershot to Toronto and then to Oshawa.
This again raises the question of what is the problem you are trying to fix. If you want to relief highway congestion, then operating 3-6 car trains with a capacity of less than 70 seats per coach would be like throwing popcorn at a car...

Not to mention that this neither falls into the mandate of VIA or the federal government (why should taxpayers in Nova Scotia, Nunavut or BC pay for the operating deficit of commuter rail operations in the GTHA?) nor does VIA have access to any spare and suitable rolling stock for such mass transit applications...
 

Bordercollie

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This again raises the question of what is the problem you are trying to fix. If you want to relief highway congestion, then operating 3-6 car trains with a capacity of less than 70 seats each is like throwing popcorn at a car...

Not to mention that this neither falls into the mandate of VIA or the federal government (why should taxpayers in Nova Scotia, Nunavut or BC pay for the operating deficit of commuter rail operations in the GTHA?) nor does VIA have access to any spare and suitable rolling stock for such mass transit applications...
I previously mentioned that it doesn't matter who provides the service. Simply that it should exist.

You can run 12 car express trains but I don't know if there would be that much demand. If you could run it from Niagara to Oshawa that would be better but they don't own the trackage.
 

Urban Sky

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I previously mentioned that it doesn't matter who provides the service. Simply that it should exist.

You can run 12 car express trains but I don't know if there would be that much demand. If you could run it from Niagara to Oshawa that would be better but they don't own the trackage.
This is surely an important question, but I suspect that this is not the most appropriate thread to discuss it...
 

kEiThZ

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I previously mentioned that it doesn't matter who provides the service. Simply that it should exist.

Except that it does matter who provides the service, because somebody has to subsidize it.

I get the a user/commuter may not care who offers it. But it's relevant for VIA. Let's say there was no extra funding coming, it would mean that VIA would have to cut elsewhere to offer this service.
 

Urban Sky

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I get the a user/commuter may not care who offers it.
They may not care whether their train is yellow or green, but they will certainly care whether they are going to pay the ticket prices which are customary on the green trains or on the yellow trains. Even more so, if they also use other transit agencies and would therefore benefit from fare integration which is unlikely to include VIA in the foreseeable future…
 

crs1026

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There are lots of examples of Amtrak providing commuter service in the US. How does that get funded?

In the US, Congress has passed legislation giving Amtrak a mandate to run state funded services. There are many precedents on how the services are equipped, costing, etc. See here.

In Canada, VIA does not have the same legal authority. Governments of all stripes have refused to pass enabling legislation for VIA. In part, this is because they fear that the provinces might actually access the legislation, and VIA might have a continuing raison d’être.. Much more convenient if VIA can be cancelled at any time.

- Paul
 

Urban Sky

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There are lots of examples of Amtrak providing commuter service in the US. How does that get funded?

Almost by definition, Amtrak doesn’t operate commuter rail services, as it is America’s largest intercity rail provider (by a wide margin). The structuring of its three mandates is not that different from VIA’s, with its operations in the Norteast Corridor being self-sufficient and with the rest of its network being splitbetween State-supported and longhaul routes. The crucial difference is that Amtrak’s non-Corridor routes are split by their length, with every route exceeding 750 miles (1207 km) being a federally-funded “Long-Distance Route”, whereas everything shorter counts as a “State-Supported Route. Conversely, in VIA’s network, non-Corridor routes are only distinguished by whether they link Halifax or Vancouver with the rest of the country (“longhaul”) or remote communities (“regional” or “remote” services).

Conversely, commuter rail networks are generally operated by State or Metropolitan agencies with funding from federal, State and local taxpayers:
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Source: AAR


What would such an arrangement mean for Canada? VIA’s Corridor services would operate as they do, but with a slightly stronger focus on reinvesting the operational surplus (direct revenues covered more than 130% of direct operating costs pre-pandemic) in improved service levels. As for the non-Corridor routes, federal taxpayers would only fund the operation of the Canadian (4466 km), Ocean (1356 km) and Winnipeg-Churchill (1697 km), whereas MTRL-HERV-JONQ/SENN (510/717 km), SUDB-WHTR (484 km) and JASP-PHEO-PRUP (1160 km) would be funded by the taxpayers of Quebec (same applies to the 1057 km long MTRL-MTPD-GASP service, if it ever gets reinstated), Ontario and Alberta&BC, respectively. GO, exo and West Coast Express would still fall in the “Commuter Rail” category, but now co-funded by federal and not just provincial and municipal taxpayers…
 

reaperexpress

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Amtrak does operate commuter rail services in the sense that commuter rail tickets are accepted on certain Amtrak services through arrangements with agencies such as Metrolink (Los Angeles), Coaster (San Diego) and Sounder (Seattle), which are presumably at least partly funded by regional or state governments.

Plus all the state-funded Amtrak services which act partly as commuter services, such as the Capitol Corridor in California or the Hartford line in Connecticut.
 

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