Green Party of Canada Platform: 1.12 Railroads – re-establishing the national dream, 1.13 Green urban transportation

A continuing review of  the Green Party of Canada’s Platform:

1.12 Railroads – re-establishing the national dream

Canada’s national rail systems are in decline. We are the only country in the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) with no national transportation strategy. While Europeans have highly efficient inter-modal connectivity, with high speed rail linking downtown cores to airports, with bicycle lanes allowing people to move around cities safely, efficiently and pollution-free, with streetcars in the downtowns and even rural areas serviced by bus and rail, Canadian communities are increasingly stranded. Except for Vancouver, which has a downtown to airport rapid transit line built for the 2010 Olympics, nothing links our downtowns to airports other than a stretch of gridlocked traffic. Even along the Windsor-Quebec corridor, passenger rail is increasingly infrequent and outmoded. In much of Canada, rail routes that once moved thousands of people are abandoned. Edmonton to Calgary, Saskatoon to Regina, Halifax to Sydney have all been axed, despite their profitability.

Sir John A. Macdonald understood that to be a nation, to have a sense of shared identity and common purpose, Canada needed effective east-west links in communications, in energy delivery and in transportation.

To renew this “national dream” today requires a complete overhaul of our rail system for both passenger and freight. It will mean shifting cargo containers off highways and onto freight trains, driving the development of freight distribution nodes (off-loading containers onto local trucks) along new “green corridors.”

The rail system changes will include a separate line for passenger trains. At the moment, freight owns the tracks and controls the traffic signals. Passengers are at the mercy of freight. New high-speed commuter trains will almost halve the travel time between Toronto and Ottawa and Toronto and Montreal to about two and a half hours. With downtown-to-downtown service, the train will be faster than the plane, when security and other airport delays are factored in. Reducing air travel will reduce greenhouse gases and remove the need to expand airports or build new ones, including the Pickering airport near Toronto. Better rail service will take cars off the roads between major cities, reducing air pollution, congestion and loss of life in traffic accidents. An improved rail system will make Canada more economically competitive and provide thousands of new jobs.

Green Party MPs will re-establish Canada’s National Dream and:

  • Re-invest in our national rail systems, building more train cars in Canada, increasing train speeds and phasing in high speed rail where feasible, and creating green transportation and energy infrastructure corridors in key regions.

  • Improve rail infrastructure and intermodal connections, increasing joint federal-municipal light rail investments, as well as improving VIA rail service nationwide.

  • Work with railway companies to improve rail infrastructure and to restore VIA rail service to all major regional cities.

  • Create a national clean freight initiative, using both regulation and financial incentives to improve fleet efficiency and safety.

  • Support the trucking industry, reducing pollution through add-on generators to avoid the need to idle to maintain air conditioning and refrigeration, while ensuring the right fit of trucking in a more efficient, rail-based intermodal system.

1.13 Green urban transportation

Urban sprawl means commuters crawl. More roads don’t solve the problem; they make it worse. Gridlock means more air pollution and more greenhouse gas emissions. A transition to efficient light rail transit and coordinated buses will take cars off our roads, breaking the cycle of an increasing number of cars on increasingly-crowded roads to make our cities more livable.

We must build our way out of the problem of clogged roads and smog-choked cities, not by building more roads and bridges and more distant suburbs, but by building “smart growth” infrastructure. Excellent public transit and efficient housing in high-density nodes along existing transit corridors will make cities more livable and people-friendly. The federal government must take the lead in funding the “greening” of Canada’s cities. (see Section 1.14 Infrastructure and Communities for more on federal-municipal relations.)

Green Party MPs will:

  • Increase federal funding for pedestrian, cycle and car-sharing infrastructure in towns and cities.

  • Double existing funding to stimulate a massive re-investment in public transportation infrastructure in all Canadian towns and cities to make it convenient, safe, comfortable and affordable.

  • Make employer-provided transit passes tax-free by exempting them from taxable benefit status, to encourage workers and businesses to use public transport, and provide financial support to provinces that provide free public transit passes to people living below the poverty line.

  • Oppose funding for highway and bridge expansions (like the Gateway Program currently being built in Greater Vancouver) that encourage urban sprawl, increase private vehicle use and truck transport of goods, and consequently increase greenhouse gas emissions.

  • Ensure federal infrastructure funding does not go to expanding highways and roads, but is rather spent on more efficient light rail systems.

Comments and discussion are welcomed.  I am examining this as I go to gain a better grasp of their platform and invite all who are interested to do the same with comments and discussion.

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