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Guest Post by Marc Lemieux Supporting VIA Rail's High Frequency Rail Proposal

GUEST POST by Marc Lemieux - An Letter to Transportation Minister Marc Garneau

Dear Mr. Garneau:

While I am pleased with the government of Canada's decision to finally approve the purchase of modern train sets as a first step in bringing this country into the 21st century in terms of passenger rail, I find it quite puzzling and disconcerting as to why Via Rail's HFR project still hasn't been approved!

The benefits resulting from this project would be tremendous in regards to initiating the process of a societal shift away from our car culture and, most importantly, improving the quality of life of Canadians living in or near the affected areas where HFR is constructed by dramatically increasing travel options pertaining to personal mobility.

One of the largest impediments to the growth of small towns and cities located outside of large, metropolitan areas such as the GTA and Montreal, for example, is the almost total absence of public transportation in order to provide timely mobility and connectivity.

As such, these small towns and cities are seeing very little economic growth and, in some instances, an actual decrease in population largely due to the lack of opportunities for employment for young people, resulting in a migration to large, urban areas.

Having an affordable, effective, frequent and modernized passenger rail system such as proposed by Mr. Yves Desjardins-Siciliano would obviously bridge this societal and economical gap.

In addition, since the liberal government has now approved the purchase of these new train sets as a necessary requirement so as to leverage the remaining required funding for the construction of dedicated tracks and infrastructure, why must we again await the results of yet another analysis?

For decade after decade, endless studies on the subject of passenger rail have shown Canadians that successive federal governments have used this technique to obtain votes for short term political reasons and not to actually provide desperately needed improvements to Via Rail for the long term.

I sincerely hope that this is not the case for the present government!

If this government is, in effect, serious about meeting and complying with its international agreements on climate change, then a positive decision pertaining to dramatically improving passenger rail in Canada is therefore absolutely critical!

Mr. Garneau, you have been made aware of the innumerable benefits of a modernized passenger rail system through countless meetings with knowledgeable experts in the field of transportation and the Canadian public and through the analysis of endless amounts of supporting data.

Isn't it time that you make this vital decision in a timely manner so as to leave an ongoing legacy that will improve mobility for Canadians for generations to come?

And one final note, Mr. Garneau!

Since most Canadians haven't experienced decent passenger rail service in our country for decades, it will be crucial that any improvements to passenger rail be first rate and not half measures!

By that, I wish to point out that merely providing new train sets, without a complete overhaul of passenger rail infrastructure involving trackage, train stations, passenger comfort, amenities, connectivity, scheduling, etc. (including ongoing promotion through media), will consequently dissuade or discourage the travelling public from continuing to use the service, ultimately setting up a system for failure!

With the limited funds presently available in today's day and age, we must ensure that we do it right the first time around!

If we choose not to provide adequate funding to passenger rail, we may, regretfully, just as well do away with passenger rail altogether, rather than having Via Rail continue regressing into a state of irrelevance brought about through the lack of affordability, availability and frequency as is presently the case in almost all regions of Canada with the exception of the Windsor-Quebec City corridor.