On December 3, 2018 the Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, released a policy report on Ontario’s transportation challenges, entitled Moving Forward: A Strategic Approach to Ontario’s Transportation Needs. The report calls on the Government of Ontario to develop a Long-Term Transportation Plan to address the current and future transportation needs of the province.

The Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce and the Ontario Chamber of Commerce developed thirteen tangible and pragmatic transportation recommendations for a stronger Ontario within three key areas of opportunity. This approach will help to address the current and future transportation needs of the province with a focus on:

  • transit planning governance;
  • moving people and goods by rail; and 
  • autonomous vehicles.

Read the full report here.

See below for a synopsis of the report. 

Transit Planning Governance

Each region of this province faces challenges in efficiently and reliably moving goods and people through their jurisdiction. While insufficient investment in both new infrastructure and the maintenance of existing assets is a critical driver of these challenges, poor integration between communities, service operators, and higher-order government bodies undermines the ability to manage assets effectively.

Outside of the Ministry of Transportation, governance of transportation planning and operations is frequently the mandate of a single local government department or agency. This hinders long-term strategic thinking in order to meet immediate electoral or budgetary demands. Integration among municipal or regional transit operators is limited, and gaps in infrastructure and services are commonplace for many Ontarians.

This governance challenge takes different forms in different regions of the province:

  • In the GTHA, a growing region struggles to integrate existing transportation assets and build public transit services that meet demand.
  • In the North, mass transit service has been reduced or eliminated while highway projects stall, impacting economic opportunities and public health.
  • In small towns and rural areas, few or no mass transit options exist, limiting the mobility of residents.

Overall, to combat congestion, lessen our impact on the environment, and increase mobility options for millions of Ontarians, the Province needs a new approach to transportation policy planning. Meeting the changing transportation needs of Ontario’s people and its economy requires a long-term, evidence-based strategy that enables improved integration between governments, between the public and private sectors, and of technology.

Key Recommendations:

  • Conduct a review of transportation assets and limitations in Northern Ontario to determine how mobility in this region can be immediately improved.
  • Support municipal governments as they develop innovative solutions to address transit challenges.
  • Establish Transportation Ontario, an independent, province-wide transportation planning authority that would advise the Ministry of Transportation and support regional transit agencies.

Moving People and Goods by Rail

Rail transportation – including subways and LRT, as well as heavy rail – is critical to the movement of both people and goods across Ontario. Yet freight and passenger rail frequently share lines, causing delays and limiting productivity. Existing assets are at capacity, and service limitations fail to meet the demand of growing regions.

Given the established benefits of rail – robust carrying capacity, solid safety record, and a comparatively low environmental impact – the Government of Ontario should revisit this mode of transportation as a means of creating new opportunities for mobility and trade.

While the province requires greater rail infrastructure and service options, such investments can be costly. Fortunately, Ontario currently possesses both technical and strategic options for improving capacity and reliability in the near-term – without time or resource-intensive outlays from the Provincial budget.

Key Recommendations: 

  • Develop a goods movement convener framework that engages municipalities, the freight industry, relevant provincial Ministries, and the federal government where appropriate. 
  • Prioritize investments with the greatest potential to provide a strong return on investment via economic growth. 
  • Partner with the Canada Infrastructure Bank to secure funding for critical rail projects in both Northern and Southern Ontario.

Autonomous Vehicles

Driver-less technology has the potential to completely change major facets of our society, altering personal mobility, the built environment, productivity levels, and the composition of our workforce. According to the Conference Board of Canada, the widespread adoption of autonomous vehicles (AV) is not a matter of “if” but rather “when.”

Ontario has taken several steps to position itself as a leader in this space, including becoming the first jurisdiction in Canada to introduce a pilot AV regulatory framework and make significant investments in technology development and demonstration zones. Yet continued policy and regulatory development is necessary if the province is to capitalize on its first-mover status and adequately prepare for the future of mobility.

Key Recommendations: 

  • Anticipate Ontario’s AV future within the province’s upcoming Long-Term Infrastructure Plan.
  • As the current Canadian leader in this space, the Government of Ontario should encourage the federal government to act on AV readiness.