Transport Action BC

2014, December 5

“BC on the Move” Online Survey Closes Soon

The BC Government’s online survey for its latest 10 year transportation plan closes on Friday, Dec. 12, 2014.

Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Todd Stone announced the next 10-year transportation plan (“BC on the Move”) and consultation in October 2014. Consultation documents and details are here. Take the survey here.

SFU’s Gordon Price notes that funding for the planned projects is not subject to voter approval even though Vancouver area transit projects are subject to a “Yes” vote in the upcoming transit funding referendum. According to Price, the plan continues the province’s current highway projects with a bit of a sop thrown to cycling and transit.

The plan does mention rail but only as a mode for moving bulk goods and containers efficiently. Improvements to / support of intercity bus and rail passenger services are not considered.


2014, April 25

The National Dream Renewed – Western Town Halls – May 2014


The National Dream Renewed – Le Rêve national renouvelé
Tapping the Potential of Canada’s rail passenger service
Western tour: May 2014 – Consultant/Conférencier Dr. Harry Gow

Vancouver  (May 8 – 07:00 to 09:00 PM):
Town Hall meeting: Brix Studio, 102-211 Columbia St. (Gastown), Buzzer #102 for entry.

Organiser: Transport Action BC. RSVP to


Victoria (May 9 – 06:00 to 10:00 PM):
Town Hall meeting: Ambrosia Centre, 638 Fisgard St.

Co-sponsors: Elizabeth  May MP, Green Party of Canada; Dr. Judith Sayers, Island Corridor Foundatioon.

Read Ms. May’s blog post  on the crisis in Canada’s passenger rail system here.


Melville, SK (May 11 – 07:30 PM):
Town Hall meeting: Community Works, 800 Prince Edward St.

Organiser: Ron Haskell, Melville; Transport Action Prairie


Winnipeg (May 13 – 06:30 PM) :
Town Hall meeting: Carol Shields Auditorum, Millenium Centre Winnipeg Central Library

Organiser Peter Lacey, Winnipeg;  Transport Action Prairie

Dr. Harry Gow:

Harry Gow was born February 3rd, 1939 and raised at Invermere, British Columbia and Banff, Alberta inter alia.

He was Founding President of Transport Action Canada (formerly Transport 2000 Canada, from 1976) and is now its Past President and Newsletter Editor.

After serving in the Army in Calgary, Wainright and Camp Borden, Gow went on to five years with the Canadian Pacific Railway in engineering support roles. After graduation from Carleton University, Gow had a career in corrections and social work, which he began as Probation Officer, then Corrections Administrator.

After obtaining a Master’s degree from McGill University, he was a Health and Social services Director and then international consultant and teacher (York U., UQAM institutes). During all this time Gow maintained contact with the railways and found time to organise Transport 2000 (Action) Canada, as a passenger advocacy group. He led a seminar at Carleton University on economic and environmental aspects of transport for Honours engineering and geography students.

Gow was Field Placement Coordinator at the University of Ottawa Department of Criminology and taught intervention methods and seminars for practicum integration and other intervention, before retirement in 2001, when he became leader of a research action project for Health Canada on the effects of provision of rural transit to deprived populations.

Gow is now a consultant in rural community transit and rail and urban transit. He was a member of the Ottawa Mayor’s Task Force on Transportation which recommended the $2 billion Light Rail project now underway, and a member of a group consulting in the field of short line railways and commuter services. He is currently consultant to les Transports adaptés et collectifs des Collines, and for Transport Action Canada on a national speaking tour.

Gow brings a unique perspective on transportation with a blend of engineering, social and environmental knowledge and insights. He is often invited by media to comment on transportation safety issues and passenger concerns.

Previous posts are here and here.

2013, May 29

BC Premiere of De-railed film

Filed under: Announcement, Inter-city rail — Tags: , , , — Matthew @ 10:15 am

If you will be, or know of anyone who will be in Victoria on June 6th, the Coalition for Algoma Passenger Trains will be hosting the premiere screening of “De-Railed: The National Dream” on Thursday June 6th, 7:00 pm at the University of Victoria (David Strong Building rm C122). Opening remarks will be said by Dr. Linda Savory Gordon, producer and Irwin Henderson of .


2013, March 2

The Future of Canada’s Passenger Trains. Are you on Board? Part 2


The federal government’s willingness to get rid of passenger rail extends beyond eliminating actual trains. Even symbolic references to passenger rail are disappearing. Passport Canada’s latest “Tips” brochure shows no rail pictogram on its cover. 

                                                    Passport Canada Brochure                                                                 

The federal bureaucrats responsible for approving the brochure have forgotten that Canadians actually can cross the US border by rail from Vancouver, Toronto and Montréal. An unintentional lapse, perhaps, but it indicates how far passenger rail is from the consciousness of the federal government.

Fortunately, many groups are defending passenger rail transport as a viable and sustainable transportation option. Transport Action Canada  and its regional affiliates, the National Dream Renewed Project, the Island Corridor Foundation on Vancouver Island and other local and national organisations are campaigning for more investment to improve and expand Canada’s passenger rail network.

Your support for these organisations is crucial in the fight for Canada’s passenger rail service. Please consider signing up.

2012, November 15

URGENT! The future of Canada’s passenger trains is on the line. Are you on board?

Filed under: Announcement, Inter-city rail — Tags: , , — Matthew @ 1:21 am

Today, VIA is once again being forced to chop services on what many consider to be already a minimal rail passenger system. A federal government cut of $41 million in VIA operating funds over the next three years has already forced the discontinuance of several VIA trains. More cuts are coming.

Behind this decision is a long list of vested interests who are – and always have been – hostile to VIA’s existence. They include numerous high-ranking civil servants, certain freight railways and tourist train operators, and some of VIA Rail Canada’s air and highway competitors.

If they get their way, Canada will be the only industrialized nation without modern, effective rail passenger service. It will make us totally dependent on less efficient and unsustainable forms of transportation. We will be socially, economically and environmentally uncompetitive with those other countries that are investing today in
expanded and improved rail passenger service.

What can you do about it? You can join us for one of the numerous National Dream Renewed town hall workshops we will host across Canada this fall. This is your chance to learn more about VIA and voice your opinion about its future. Details of this joint initiative by Transport Action Canada and its five regional affiliates are available on the project’s dedicated website at

What else can you do? You can become a National Dream Renewed sponsor. Your donation will help Transport Action take the workshops across the country and give all Canadians a voice in this latest attack on VIA.

The easiest way to donate: By to (PayPal also accepts Visa or MasterCard).

By cheque: for this important public education, consultation and outreach project should be marked National Dream Renewed and made payable to:

Transport Action Canada
Box 858, Station B
Ottawa, Ontario
K1P 5P9

(Registered Charity 119268571RR0001)

An official receipt for income tax purposes will be provided.

We need your help to save VIA and all rail passenger service across Canada!

Please join us in ensuring we finally have the efficient, affordable and sustainable rail passenger service that Transport Action has called for since our 1976 inception as Canada’s only nationwide public transportation education and advocacy association.

Your donation will help to make the National Dream Renewed a reality!

All inquiries regarding donations to National Dream Renewed should be directed
to Elizabeth Hill at or (416) 497-6090.

2012, June 27

The slow death of passenger rail in Canada continues

Transport Action BC calls VIA Rail Canada cuts ‘inexplicable’ and ‘wrong to the core’

‘Death by a thousand cuts’ continues while hundreds of millions invested in VIA’s renewal

VIA rail fading away slowly.

KAMLOOPS, JUNE 27, 2012 – Matthew Buchanan, president of the public transportation users and advocacy group, Transport Action BC, said that today’s announcement of yet more cuts to Canada’s nationwide rail passenger service is wrong and inexplicable given this federal government’s recent investment of $923 million in a renewal of VIA Rail Canada’s trains, stations and other assets.

“While the rest of the G20 nations invest heavily and wisely in expanding their rail passenger services, Canada’s longstanding policy of cutting VIA continues,” said Buchanan.

“These cuts are wrong to the core and the destructiveness of this latest round will soon become apparent, much to the detriment of the more than four million passengers who use VIA annually.”

In 2009, VIA began receiving $923 million for the largest capital renewal program in its 35-year history.  Transport Action BC applauded that wise decision, especially the leadership role played by Finance Minister Jim Flaherty and Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird, who are strong supporters of public transportation, in general, and VIA, in particular.  Some of the investments in that capital renewal package are now being undermined by cuts to the very trains they were meant to benefit.

Respected sources, such as the U.S. Department of Commerce, have determined that every dollar invested in rail projects yields three to four dollars of economic spin-off, not to mention vast social and environmental benefits.  Furthermore, VIA’s public funding for its national network of passenger trains costs the average taxpayer only $1.60 per month – less than the cost of a large cup of coffee.

“We can only believe today’s shocking announcement is part of the usual Ottawa game,” said Buchanan.  “From the day it was born as a publicly-owned Crown corporation in 1977, VIA has been under attack by high-ranking civil servants at Transport Canada, Treasury Board and Finance.  They have engaged in a 35-year campaign that can only be described as ‘death by a thousand cuts.’  It appears these civil servants have once again misled the elected officials who have championed VIA and convinced them this is the right track to take.  Nothing could be further from the truth.”

The cuts – which are being portrayed by VIA as “the next phase of its modernization project” – will severely and negatively affect the following routes:

  • The Canadian (Toronto-Vancouver) cut from three trains weekly to two from the end of October until April each year;
  • The Ocean (Montreal-Halifax) reduced from six times weekly to three, cutting VIA service to Atlantic Canada in half;
  • Montreal-Ottawa;
  • Toronto-Stratford-London;
  • London-Sarnia;
  • London-Windsor; and
  • Toronto-Niagara Falls.

Deeper cuts will occur next year and in 2014, as VIA’s operating budget is reduced further.

2012, June 24

VIA to cut The Canadian?

Filed under: Inter-city rail — Tags: , , , , — Rick @ 4:39 pm

VIA Rail Canada  was to announce service cuts  at its May 29, 2012 Annual Public Meeting. The announcement has apparently been postponed to June 27, 2012, after Parliament has adjourned for the summer recess. This is similar to the manner in which VIA Rail service was slashed on previous occasions – do the dirty work when Parliament is not sitting and the media is not focused on day-to-day government actions.

And, once again, the service cuts would disproportionately affect the eastern and western long distance trains.

The 1990 service cuts reduced services in the west from 14 trains per direction per week (daily service over two routes) to three (tri-weekly service on one route). This bare-bones service level is to be further reduced to two during the winter months. VIA’s transcontinental route should offer a minimum of daily service, with additional offerings between major city-pairs. Service should also be available on the southern CPR route from Winnipeg to Vancouver. VIA Rail Canada is not VIA Rail Corridor; it is supposed to serve all Canadians.

Service cuts are not the only way of dealing with operating costs. Other options are:
• Improve network connectivity.
• Partnerships to increase ridership and revenue.
• More efficient operating practices.

Consider the Skeena and Canadian, both of which serve Jasper. The Skeena used to depart Edmonton in the late afternoon, travel overnight through Jasper to Prince George and daytime from Prince George to Prince Rupert. Currently, it runs from Jasper to Prince George daytime, leaving Jasper minutes before the arrival of the train from Toronto and Edmonton. It stays overnight in Prince George and then goes daytime to Prince Rupert. On the return trip, it arrives in Jasper just after the train for Edmonton and Toronto has left. It still takes two train sets, but there are no sleeping cars (passengers are responsible for their Prince George accommodation). VIA treats this as a tourist train and not part of a passenger rail network. How much additional ridership and revenue would be generated if the Skeena and Canadian made connections in Jasper?

Or could VIA increase ridership and revenue on the Skeena, if it worked with local agencies and First Nations to improve transportation options for local communities along its route? The Skeena’s route parallels B.C.’s Highway of 16, the so-called Highway of Tears. A major issue for residents is the inability to travel unless one has automobile access. For those who don’t, hitchhiking is considered a viable option in spite of the danger potential. VIA partnerships with other agencies in the corridor could improve the lives of local residents and VIA’s economic and social bottom-line.

Operationally, VIA could make its well-used Corridor services more effective by using cab control cars as the rear car. Thus, VIA could eliminate the cost and delay required to turn train consists in Montréal, Québec City, Niagara Falls, Sarnia and Windsor. This is common practice on other intercity and commuter rail operations. Turning trains requires additional time, labour and trackage, all of which increase operating costs. Eliminating the practice would reduce VIA’s costs, speed-up train turn-around time and have trains spending more time carrying passengers.

VIA Rail Canada needs to be the Canadian rail passenger network dedicated to serving Canadians efficiently, responsively and cost effectively. The key is firmly establishing VIA as a ‘real’ Crown Corporation with legislated powers, responsibilities and accountability to Parliament. The current ‘non-entity’ is governed by various Orders in Council, micro-managed by Transport Canada and Treasury Board and subject to the vagaries of anti-rail bureaucrats. With a properly legislated VIA, the company could concentrate on building a rail passenger network that integrates with other carriers – local and intercity transit, ferries and remote air services – and serves all Canadians.

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2012, April 12

Transport Action BC Praises Investment in Vancouver Island Railway

Filed under: Announcement, Inter-city rail, shortline rail — Tags: , , , — Matthew @ 11:40 pm

The government of Canada announced its half of the $15 million to save and rehabilitate the Vancouver Island Railway. The railway owned by the Island Corridor Foundation has been gradually detiorating and VIA Rail passenger service was cancelled last year due to poor track conditions. The other half of the money was committed by the BC government, and $500,000 of that money was used for an inspection of the bridges. The results of the study haven’t been released but sources say that the bridges are generally in good condition have just been released, see below.

Transport Action is pleased to see the governments make investments in rail infrastructure, and is happy that the actions of everyone who contacted their MP or MLA made a difference.

Federal Government Invests in Restoring the Corridor

Story from Nanaimo Daily News

E&N Bridge Assessment Reports
More to follow on this item.

2011, August 17

Seattle-Vancouver Amtrak will continue

Filed under: Announcement, Inter-city rail — Tags: , , , , — Matthew @ 8:55 pm

The second daily Amtrak train between Seattle and Vancouver will continue. Canadian Border Services has agreed to not charge Amtrak for customs and border inspection services. Unlike past announcements, this one seems to be permanent.

Crosscut has a good summary of the news:

Canada relents on cash demands for late Amtrak run from Seattle


Amtrak Sign

Amtrak Cascades sign at Pacific Central

2011, June 30

Good News for Vancouver Island Rail (E&N)

Filed under: Announcement, Inter-city rail, Studies — Rick @ 8:26 pm

The Island Corridor Foundation (formerly the E&N Railway on Vancouver Island) received some good news on June 28, 2011. The B.C. government agreed to provide funding for much needed track maintenance, albeit with provisos.

As a starter investment, the province will provide $500,000 to perform safety evaluations on the rail line’s 40 bridges. An additional $7 million will be provided, once the bridges are determined to be safe, AND when the ICF has found other partners willing to invest another $7.5 million. The obvious ‘other partner’ is the federal government. Local MPs are working to ensure federal support for the maintenance project.

Coincidentally, this funding announcement comes almost a year to the day, after the province released a major evaluation study on the E&N. The report has a detailed analysis on commuter rail, freight activity and potential, passenger rail scenarios and tourist train possibilities.


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