MTO Deputy Minister lays out ministry’s vision and values on goods movements

by Canadian Shipper

BURLINGTON, Ont.—In a presentation Tuesday at Translog2014, an event jointly hosted by the McMaster Institute for Transportation & Logistics and The Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport, Carol Layton, Deputy Minister at Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation, spoke of visions and values relating to transport requirements in the province.

“The sustainable movement of goods is part of our vision and we see our ministry policies as economic. Our strategies around goods movement support this vision. We measure ourselves against our ability to prioritize this and to prioritize safety,” said Layton.

There are 4 pillars shaping transportation policy in the province today, Layton noted.

The first is sustainability.

“Data is so critical. With Ontario’s population projected to grow 28 % by 2036, one of the largest, fastest growing urban regions in North America, there is a deficit in our transit network. The more people we have on public transit and the fewer on highways we are better able to sustain the movement of goods,” she said.

A June 12 election in the province may result in a new administration, but Layton said “we at the Ministry are moving into caretaker mode, ready to address the new administration.

Layton said current Transportation Minister Glen Murray “brought a thirst for data and monitoring to the Minsitry. As we think about where else we’re going in the future, and when we embrace the new administration, there are things we have to get right regardless. We have to kick it up a little more around the goods movement strategy,” she said.

As the second pillar in the province’s goods movement strategy, innovation has seen the province experiment with extended semi-trailers and long-combination vehicles, ITS facilities and increased monitoring of border crossing technologies.

But innovation in one aspect can be problematic in another.

“Recently the feds have come to me saying that the wind turbines that have been approved in Ontario are awfully close to the flight paths (of various airports). The wind turbines have been approved by the Ontario Power authority and the Ministry of the Environment, and our role is to observe them,” Layton said.

The 3rd pillar of safety has long been held as paramount in the province, noted Layton.

“We have the second lowest fatality rates per 10,000 vehicles (0.53 per 10,000 drivers). That is not to say that you ‘take your pedal off the metal’- we have to continue to support truck and vehicle safety, a critical thing because when traffic backed up, commerce is backed up. We have a division that is called road user safety, addressing everything from the policies we have to design,” she said.

MTO is also undergoing a modernization initiative to update all legacy database systems, implementing e-collision reporting and driver vehicle and carrier records updated within 24 hours of receipt.

“We feel we have set a new standard in collision reporting,” Layton said.

In terms of the final pillar, partnerships, the ministry attends yearly ministers’ meetings as they relate to road safety, and will participate in a formal review coming up of national highway systems.

Layton also noted there is work being done in Windsor to support better movement of trucks, and there are efforts to harmonize with other jurisdictions on issues like ballast water.

The PanAm/Para PanAm games will take place in Ontario next summer, and the province is looking for 20,000 volunteers.

“MTO has been given the challenge of working with the municipalities on transit, and providing transportation planning on the highway. The actual footprint for the games is 10,000 square km. We will have to introduce priority lanes-we don’t plan to be a headline about the ‘failure of transportation’,” Laytton said.

In response to a question from the audience involving how municipalities should be planning in the absence of a transportation blueprint that goes beyond 2025, Layton acknowledged municipalities “are scrambling for clarity from the province in terms of setting out a long term vision, so they and the private sector can plan arterial roads and facilities. The 2014 budget that was not passed was certainly starting to move further down the path of showing a longer forecast in terms of an infrastructure plan. But as much as you set out a plan, achieving it is another story,” she said.

“We’re an aging population. We can come up with a plan but it’s going to be aspirational to a certain extent as well. We are a fast-growing ministry in terms of our budget, and our capital is amortized. When I started out capital expenditures were viewed as discretionary for transport. We’ve come a long way in terms of where we value transport spending. We appreciate that money spent on transportation is an economic asset,” Layton concluded.

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