Cambria Ravenhill represented the Canadian Federation of University Women (CFUW), Stratford, at a transportation conference in Toronto in November 2017 entitled Transport Futures. The conference dealt with intercity public transportation in Ontario, concentrating on service options and the need for their integration into an efficient and accessible network. Various grassroots organizations and consultants were represented, but few municipalities or government agencies.
The consensus from multiple speakers was that a “multi-modal and mesh transit structure” is greatly needed, integrating SW Ontario rail, bus and any other transportation systems, although at the time of the conference, the primary concern seemed to be the single line high speed rail proposal that the Ontario government is proposing to run from Toronto to London in the first phase, and then on to Windsor, as noted by David Collenette, the Special Advisor on High Speed Rail (HSR)to the Ontario Government. A reference was made to the possibility of rail Deisel Multiple Units (DMU’s) or bus shuttles to serve Stratford and St. Marys.
An integrated plan for multimodal terminals linking urban transit, intercity bus, GO Transit and rail was presented by Peter Crocket, Oxford County CAO. That plan addressed the benefits of High Performance Rail (HPR), improving current rail links with better tracks, upgraded trains, and more frequent, faster rail service. Crockett also spoke to the problems posed to agriculture by the HSR line with interruption to product routing and agricultural farm management.
Speaking for Ontario Northland, Corina Moore, CEO and President, described the innovative integrated rail and bus system they have developed working in partnership with communities, providers, medical services and employment sectors. Additionally, they have created a “smart ticketing” system across different agencies. They have been able to use their relative independence to meet the needs of both freight and passenger stakeholders. Ravenhill referred to the reality of freight over passengers in current rail ownership, and the continued need for an overall plan for SW Ontario. Multi-modal integration continues to be a critical need linking all forms of public transportation to enable efficient, accessible, and frequent travel.