In a news release on October 23rd, the Ontario Government announced its plan to bring high speed rail to the Toronto-Windsor corridor, which is located in Southern Ontario, Canada. This would be Canada’s first high speed rail service and would slash people’s travel times in half, while also providing a greener travel option for workers, businesses and students.
For those less familiar with the Canadian city of Toronto, or Southern Ontario in general, currently the only “alternative” modes of transportation are diesel-fuelled trains with service from Barrie, through Toronto, to either Kitchener or Hamilton, or buses. Within heavily populated Southern Ontario, nestled among the Great Lakes, cars are the primary mode of transportation via roadways like the 401, 404 and 407, which are numbers that should strike fear into the hearts of all drivers. Boasting 18 lanes of traffic at points, the 401, which runs from Windsor to the Ontario-Quebec border, is often referred to as the busiest highway in North America.
The Windsor-Toronto corridor is home to more than seven million people, many of whom commute between cities within the corridor on a daily basis for work or school. This culture of commuting is reflected in estimates that indicate an average of 500,000 cars traverse the Windsor-Toronto portions of the 401 every day. The proposed high speed railway would include stops in Windsor, Chatham, London, Kitchener-Waterloo, Guelph and Toronto Union Station. Travelling at speeds up to 250 kilometres per hour it would be able to cut travel times in half, making the rail journey from Windsor a mere 2 hours as compared to the current 4 hour train trip.
The high-speed train is part of Ontario’s plan to make the transition to a low-carbon innovation economy. The trains themselves represent a large greenhouse gas emissions reduction for the province as they will run exclusively on electricity as compared to the current diesel-electric alternatives in use.
While the high speed trains are environmentally friendly because of their ability to run on electricity exclusively, that is not the most attractive “green” feature of the plan. In countries like the United States and Canada, where distances between cities, and even within cities, are so large, it can be challenging for decision-makers to convince citizens to forgo the comfort of their personal vehicle in favour of public transportation. But there is one feature that is irresistible to people – fast travel times. The speed at which the proposed high speed trains will be able to get people to their destination is the perfect recipe for encouraging people to change their transportation habits.
Estimates indicate that the increase in transit options in the region will remove more than 5 million cars from the 401 by 2041. This is based on estimates that 11 million travellers will to use the service annually by 2041. This reduction in vehicular transit converts to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of 7 million tonnes over the next 60 years.
While it will be a decade before this project comes to fruition, it has begun with an investment of $15 million CAD by the Ontario Government in a comprehensive environmental assessment. Ontarians eagerly await the improved transportation options, allowing them to make greener transportation choices, while also choosing a more convenient travel option. With the province also being reportedly a strong candidate for the world’s first Hyperloop system cutting travel time between Toronto and Montreal to 39 minutes, the future of Ontario environmentally-friendly rail travel looks promising!
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