Gateway Council unites transportation modes

by Adam Ledlow

TORONTO, Ont. – In an effort to produce an atmosphere of integration and non-competitiveness between all modes of transportation, numerous regional transportation groups and government bodies have banded together to create the Southern Ontario Gateway Council. The council was launched during a ceremony in Toronto recently.

The council was conceived in part due to a recent study conducted by the Government of Canada and the Ontario Ministry of Transportation. The Council’s Strategic Plan and Economic Impact Study revealed Southern Ontario as one of the most economically fertile regions in all of Canada, with an annual generation of $33 billion in direct economic output.

However, the region also boasts one of the most complicated transportation and logistics systems in North America and with many areas in the region still dealing with inadequate infrastructure and lasting competitive issues, it was decided a body was needed to effectively and efficiently deal with the government – not as individual groups, but as a united front for all modes of transportation in the region.

“Our view is that by operating as an integrated group, as a broad-based transportation group, we perhaps can be more effective in dealing with government, because we’re seen as having already sorted out some of those competitive issues before we present our position,” says John Best, executive director of the SOGC.

Best noted that even though stakeholders have made several successful appearances before the government, what they’ve been lacking is a sense of coordination between modes as the concentration has always been on individual groups rather than transportation as a broad topic.

Though the SOGC will be operating as a multi-modal organization, Best admits that trucking, coupled with the road infrastructure that sustains it, will be a big piece of the transportation pie for the region. He says working in cooperation with the likes of the Ontario Trucking Association will be crucial to the council’s success.

“Their interests to some degree are our interests: not simply more and more highways but also how to make the system we have work a little better,” he says. Even public transit will be working with trucking in an effort to get more cars off the road and make more room for trucks, Best says.

In addition to the OTA, other voting members of the SOGC include the Toronto Port Authority, Canadian Pacific Railway, Fluke Transport, GO Transit, Greater Toronto Airports Authority, Hamilton International Airport, Hamilton Port Authority, Railway Association of Canada, St. Lawrence Seaway Management, United Parcel Service Canada, Canadian Nation, Purolator Courier, and Air Canada. Resource members for the council include Transport Canada, the Ministry of Transportation, as well as numerous municipal government bodies.

In the past, Best says the Ministry of Transportation and other governing bodies have tended to narrow their focus on road transportation, but the SOGC will be trying to find points in the system where greater integration makes sense and where infrastructure resources can be most effectively spent.

An example of this holistic approach would be an improvement to the Canadian Pacific marshalling yards in the north part of Peel Region. With a lack of proper highway infrastructure serving the area, an extra eight or nine kilometres of pavement or an interchange could greatly improve the efficiency of the intermodal facility and the flow of commuter traffic, Best says.

Though the organization’s mandate and strategic plan are still in development, the SOGC’s movements are expected to at least partially mirror those of the Greater Vancouver Gateway Council, the catalyst for the gateway council concept in Canada.

“The Greater Vancouver Gateway Council, in its early days, really focused on meat and potato kinds of things: twin this bridge, get rid of that bottleneck, left turn signals here, etc.,” Best says. Though they started as a locally-focused organization, the GVGC eventually spawned the notion of a much broader Pacific Gateway Council. The Asia-Pacific Gateway and Corridor Initiative involves all Western provinces, as well as the federal government, and has triggered almost half a billion dollars in infrastructure.

“Our ambition is that we will become a catalyst for a similar kind of investment strategy for the Southern Ontario area,” Best says.

Though the organization hasn’t quite started its “nuts and bolts” work, the SOGC is looking to move quickly from a concept to an effective voice. Soon enough, the group will become a commenting agency and be making recommendations for specific transportation solutions, Best says.

“As the spring unfolds, this organization will become increasingly visible on the transportation landscape,” he says.

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