Transport 2000 Canada Hot Line

7 September 2002

This is the Transport 2000 Canada Hotline, issue number 670, recorded on 7 September 2002, David Leibold reporting.

In this issue...

1 - New Air Travel Complaints Commissioner announced

This week, the federal government appointed Liette Lacroix Kenniff as the country's new Air Travel Complaints Commissioner. She becomes a temporary member of the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) as of 1st October, initially for a one-year term which can be extended to a second year.

She replaces Bruce Hood whose term expired at the end of July. Hood was not reappointed because provisions in the Canada Transportation Act rendered him ineligible for another term.

Transport 2000 expressed deep concern when Bruce Hood was not reappointed. "Hood did an excellent job establishing this new consumer-protection office," says David Jeanes, President, Transport 2000 Canada.

"We hope that the new Commissioner, Ms. Liette Lacroix-Kenniff, will be effective under these difficult circumstances, and we would expect to meet with her as soon as possible. However, we are concerned at the appointment of a consumer representative whose previous positions were within the airline industry," Jeanes continued.

The position has been left unfilled for more than a month and no orderly transition of responsibility to a new commissioner seems to have been planned. No provision seems to have been made for Mr. Hood's fourth semiannual report for the just completed period, even though the law requires the Commissioner (and not his staff) to submit the report.

The new Commissioner currently works for the International Air Transport Association (IATA) as manager of corporate travel. She has previously held several management positions with Air Canada, including manager of customer intelligence and new product development, manager of reservations systems redesign project, and manager of customer relations - Eastern region.

2 - Some Atlantic communities to lose Air Canada Jazz service

Air Canada Jazz service will no longer land at three Atlantic airports as of 4 January 2003. Scheduled air service from Air Canada will be terminated at Yarmouth, Nova Scotia; St. Leonard, New Brunswick; and Stephenville, Newfoundland. Air Canada made a three-year commitment to maintain regional services following its takeover of Canadian Airlines in early 2000.

As of 8th January 2003, Air Canada will also cancel the following Jazz routes:

St John's - Goose Bay
St John's - Deer Lake
Goose Bay - Deer Lake
Deer Lake - Wabush

The Canada Transportation Act requires Air Canada to provide 120 days notice of air service cancellations.

Earlier this year, local air carriers replaced Jazz service in Comox, Campbell River and Dawson Creek in British Columbia and Lloydminster in Alberta.

3 - Mid-Peninsula road and CASO

A battle continues in southern Ontario against proposals to construct a Mid-peninsula superhighway, which would parallel the Queen Elizabeth Way and consume rural territory between Hamilton and Niagara.

Southern Ontario is an ideal corridor for transport between Detroit and Buffalo, because the distances are shorter than on the south side of Lake Erie.

Many residents in the area object to the Mid-Peninsula road, citing the problems of pollution and heavy traffic such facilities normally bring. These residents ask why rail is not considered instead.

But the rail option remains in critical danger. The strategic Canada Southern (CASO) rail line runs in the region and makes an ideal connection between Michigan and New York for international and regional transport purposes. Meanwhile, Canada's railways have been crowding more traffic onto fewer mainlines and allowing themselves fewer alternate routes due to line abandonments.

Thanks in part to the efforts of the Railways to the Future Committee, Federal Transport Minister David Collenette has ordered that the dismantling of CASO be suspended until at least the end of September. Some local governments on the CASO route want to purchase the corridor, but their resources to do this are limited.

Hamilton Transport 2000 member Raymond Dartsch wrote a letter this week for various community newspapers in the region, calling for an inexpensive retention of the existing CASO route while questioning the huge new road expenditures of the Mid-Peninsula route.

4 - VIA Rail ticket prices up substantially

VIA Rail fares in the Ontario-Quebec corridor have shot up substantially in recent months.

For example, Ottawa-Toronto discount return fares are up 25% from $104 in September 2000 to a minimum of $130 now. Current Ottawa-Toronto regular one-way train fare is now $93.

The price of a 10 ticket Bizpak between Ottawa-Toronto increased 12% from $540 earlier this year to its current price of $605.

By comparison, on the buses, Greyhound's standard one-way fare for Ottawa-Toronto is $54.80, with advance purchase return fare of $89.

These fares do not include applicable taxes.

5 - New Ottawa bus routes begin

OC Transpo began new rural bus routes in Ottawa on 3rd September. Most of these new routes are limited service trips, into the urban area on working mornings, and returning in evenings. These new routes are offered free during September.

There was also an extension of a core service (route 97) west from Kanata to serve Stittsville on an hourly basis, Monday to Saturday.

Bus route changes were also made within the urban area last week. A new route 105 was introduced to link the O-Train Bayview station with Hull. Some Transport 2000 members evaluated the initial service on the route, and discovered a very rocky startup.

One problem is that route 105's 8-minute frequency does not properly match the O-Train's 20-minute frequency. Most riders are apt to take the first available bus east to Lebreton where they can transfer to another bus into Quebec. A 10-minute frequency, geared towards O-Train arrival and departure times, would be more suitable for the route.

There were additional problems which made the route 105 service lose time, including lack of turning ability in Hull, and conversion of runs into another route. Unlike the new rural services, there is no initial free service period on this new O-Train connector.

6 - Light rail vs busway

Calgary Transit's overall daily ridership was 430 000 by early 2002, an increase of 33% over the past five years. Its C-Train light rail routes alone carry 187 000 passengers each working day, which is up 73% over the past five years. New rail cars and new buses are expected to be in service this year to meet this demand.

By comparison, as of the end of year 2000, Ottawa's bus rapid transitway carried 200 000 passengers each working day, with total weekday system ridership at 325 000. The bus transitway carriers 190 buses per peak hour through the city core, meaning a bus every 38 seconds on average in each direction. Even so, buses are often overcrowded which limits ridership. There are also signs of bus jams, suggesting that bus service may soon reach its practical capacity limits on downtown Ottawa streets.

[Sources: City of Calgary, OC Transpo]

7 - St Lawrence Seaway expansion could harm Great Lakes

Recent articles from the Hamilton Spectator indicate there are active proposals to greatly expand the St Lawrence Seaway system to allow giant ocean-going container ships. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers wants to do a $20 million study on this expansion, which could mean significant business for Great Lakes ports such as Hamilton and Detroit.

But critics of the scheme warn that this would worsen the invasion of non-native animal species such as the zebra mussels, which already pose a major nuisance in the Great Lakes, while incurring significant clean-up costs. The invading species could destroy the ecological condition in the region.

Seaway expansion would be costly, as initial estimates expect a minimum USD $10 billion price tag. The Welland Canal locks would need a complete reconstruction to allow ships longer than 300 metres long, plus the extra width and depth allowances.

There are alternate proposals to prevent salt-water ships at Quebec City or Montreal, to prevent further Great Lakes contamination. But shipping interests would not take kindly to measures that give the environment priority over economics. There would be concerns that huge amounts of cargo would be transferred to highways. Yet rail could carry this cargo instead of roads and with greater environmental benefit.

8 - Montreal area rail extended, while bus lanes stalled

Montreal-area commuter rail was extended last week on two lines.

South Shore line service has returned Mont Saint-Hilaire for the first time since 1988. More runs have been added, which now makes four morning and four evening trains on that line. The line was carrying close to its 5000 passenger capacity on the first day of increased service. Meanwhile, the Delson line has doubled its departures to four morning and four evening trains.

Transport 2000 Quebec welcomed the increased rail service, but also demanded that bus service be returned to the reserved lane on Boulevard Pie-IX. That lane was shut down in June following a traffic fatality, and officials have not set a reopening date. Transport 2000 Quebec's Normand Parisien said "It's very sad when people die, but do we shut down the metro because somebody might jump in front of a train? Of course not. It makes no sense."

9 - Air France weekend strike

Air France service is disrupted this weekend due to a pilots' strike.

The dispute is over pay and conditions. The pilots are expected to return to work after Monday.

10 - Northern Alberta intermodal service

Truck company Wiebe Transport Inc and shortline operator Alberta RailNet have joined forces to provide intermodal shipping services serving northern Alberta and British Columbia. RailNet's new spur line to Wiebe's facility is now operational. Both companies are based at Grande Prairie, Alberta.

11 - CN opens Montreal intermodal terminal

CN opened its new $47 million Montreal Intermodal Terminal at Taschereau Yard last week.

12 - ICAO plans to expand

Despite a general downturn in the airline industry, the Montreal-based International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) is negotiating with the federal government to expand its office facilities for new global civil aviation safety and security programmes.

13 - BC Millennium line opens

The full length of the Vancouver-area Millennium SkyTrain line opened 31st August. The project is a year late, and the Vancouver Community College station remains unfinished. Cost is nominally $1 billion, but the capital amortisation will mean a total $4 billion cost.

This completes a SkyTrain loop in the Lower Mainland. Simon Fraser University does not have a direct SkyTrain stop, but will receive a considerably shorter connecting bus service.

A new 97B-Line express bus service also began for Coquitlam riders, but critics note the lack of other local services. Bus service to Riverview Hospital was chopped in half, for example.

The Millennium line uses new Mark II cars. No bikes are allowed on the new cars, or the old Mark I cars for that matter. Mark II cars include air conditioning, but are only designed so that the inside of the car matches the outside temperature.

14 - Bombardier profit slump

North America's air industry slump contributed to a 65% nosedive in profits for Bombardier in its second quarter. Earnings for the latest quarter are to $101 million, down from $289 million last year. Company stock prices are also substantially lower than last year.

The transport manufacturer also took a public relations beating in recent months. The company is in a public feud with Amtrak over reported Acela train equipment problems. Bombardier also recently lost a substantial New York City contract.

Metro-North Commuter Railroad brought good news to Bombardier last week by purchasing another CAD $500 million in M-7 electric commuter coach cars.

15 - CBC TV 50th anniversary train

CBC Television and Radio-Canada are observing the 50th anniversary of television broadcasts in Canada this year.

A specially chartered VIA train is travelling east from Vancouver to various communities throughout Canada. The trains include museum style exhibits with interactive displays and a broadcast studio car.

The scheduled train stops are:

Sunday 8th September Kamloops, BC
Monday 9th September Jasper, AB
Tuesday 10th September Edmonton, AB
Thursday 12th September Biggar, SK
Friday 13th September Saskatoon, SK
Saturday 14th September Melville, SK
Monday 16th September Winnipeg, MB
Wednesday 18th September Sudbury, ON
Friday 20th September Windsor, ON
Saturday 21st September London, ON
Sunday 22nd September Toronto, ON
Wednesday 25th September Ottawa, ON
Friday 27th September Montreal, QC
Sunday 29th September Quebec City, QC
Tuesday 1st October Campbellton, NB
Wednesday 2nd October Moncton, NB
Saturday 5th October Halifax, NS

CBC will conduct community events this month and next in some cities where the train cannot or will not be stopping. This includes Victoria, Calgary, Regina, Iqaluit, Whitehorse, Yellowknife, Charlottetown, Fredericton and St John's

16 - Calendar

Wednesday 11 September 2002 - Ottawa, Transport 2000 Canada Steering Committee meeting.

Saturday 21 September 2002 - Toronto, Transport 2000 Ontario Board meeting.

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