Sorauren Avenue Park is the largest park beside the rail corridor that runs from downtown Toronto to Kitchener and beyond. This is the old Grand Trunk line, dating from 1856, now owned by the Metrolinx provincial transit agency and under massive expansion for a planned eight-fold increase in diesel train service.
The Kitchener-Georgetown line, as it is called, carries GO trains, Via rail trains and occasional freight service. The line also carries the new Union-Pearson Express (UP Express) service connecting Union Station to Pearson Airport, opened June 6, 2015 for the Pan-Am Games. The diesel trains run by every 7.5 minutes on average.
The non-profit Wabash Building Society supports the expansion of the rail corridor for public transit. And everyone wants a train to the airport.
However, the WBS is seriously concerned about Metrolinx’s plans for the increase in diesel train traffic, when diesel exhaust has been declared a carcinogen by the World Health Organization. Diesel traffic will increase from about 50 trains per day currently to 200 per day by 2015, with projections for more than 400 per day in the decades ahead.
THIS JUST IN: Tier 4 diesel engines proposed for UP Express may pose even more danger to health. As noted Stanford University researcher Prof. Mark Jacobson, Civil and Environmental Engineering, writes to Toronto’s Ward 13 activist group Green 13: “Tier 4 should reduce particle mass versus Tier 3, but at the expense of greater particle number at smaller sizes for Tier 4. This could lead to deeper penetration of particles into the lungs, since small particles penetrate deepest.”
Do we want that for the kids of Sorauren Park and all along the rail corridor?
The City of Toronto Medical Officer of Health, Toronto District School Board, City of Toronto, Professional Engineers of Ontario and many other groups have spoken out against the use of diesel trains and the increased health risks to our communities. Our area is particularly hard hit, because of idling trains at the GO Bloor Station, and extra traffic from the Barrie line that joins the rail corridor right at the No-Frills, across from Sorauren Park.
Furthermore, the UP Express as currently designed is a bad transportation and economic deal for Toronto. It fails to deliver real public transit for people living along the corridor, and is in fact an expensive service designed primarily for the downtown business class.
Fortunately, there is an excellent alternative: electric trains, especially for the new UP Express. The Wabash Building Society officially supports the electrification goals of the non-partisan Clean Train Coalition.
Yet the Ontario Liberal government stubbornly clings to diesel trains. (Our ranks number Liberal supporters.)
Here are the views of the Wabash Building Society:
- Diesel exhaust now classified as carcinogenic by World Health Organization
- A social justice issue especially for under-served Mt. Dennis, Weston and Rexdale neighbourhoods, which could be connected to downtown and airport employment opportunities
- Incremental lifetime cancer risk highest at Bloor GO Transit station (receptor 41, Metrolinx Environmental Project Report, 2009)
- Diesel train requires 5-metre wall (higher than the Berlin Wall) to deal with increased noise “exceeding permissible levels” — a visual blight cutting through west-end Toronto
- Threat to property values along corridor: vandalized noise wall, carcinogenic exhaust
- Noise wall means visitors to Toronto will travel down a graffiti canyon into the city — hardly a positive welcome
- Only serves downtown financial and media elites — no public transit function
- Only 5,000 riders per day expected vs. 110,000 per day for Vancouver’s electric rail line to airport
- Only 4 stops vs 16 stops for Vancouver’s airport train. Same 25-minute trip. No stops integrated with the TTC except Union.
- Expected $20-$35 fare vs Vancouver’s $3.75 fare to airport
- Ontario Auditor-General slams Metrolinx business plan for UP Express (Dec. 2012). Projections are not realistic; the business elite train will end up being subsidized by taxpayers who can’t use it themselves as public transit.
- Wasted opportunity to build Downtown Relief Line to serve 300,000 people and relieve pressure on Bloor/Yonge TTC as recommended by experts including Prof. André Sorenson, University of Toronto and Edward Levy, Transit Expert and Historian
- Feeble environmental benefit: 1.2 million car trips removed vs. 26.4 million for Vancouver
- Ontario generates more electricity than it can use thanks to declining demand and rising supply. Capacity expected to exceed peak weather demand by 56% by Aug. 2013 (IESO)
- Ontario PAYS other Canadian and foreign jurisdictions to relieve it of excess electricity. Ontario is curbing wind power production because there is just too much electricity.
There is an excellent alternative. Electric trains. No diesel exhaust. More riders. Lower fares. Better environmental benefits. Plenty of electricity. Faster ride. Quieter ride. Less need for noise wall. Integrated with the TTC.
Wabash Building Society also supports the expansion of the Railpath pedestrian and bike trail, from south of Dundas to Strachan Avenue. Metrolinx should pay for it as part of the “Big Move” plan. That’s what they’re doing in California with the Sonoma-Marina County rail project, where they are building a 70-mile parallel bike path. FYI, Metrolinx piggybacked its contract for its diesel trains with this California project, meaning the trains don’t match the height of the existing GO platforms, thus requiring new separate platforms, but we digress…
Dare to dream bigger? Here is our plan for an electrified, public transit alternative to the airport, that also serves as the much-needed Downtown Relief Line for the TTC (western leg), as advocated by Prof. André Sorenson, University of Toronto, and others. It is modeled partly on the super-successful electric Canada Line in Vancouver.
Yes, an electric system costs more at first. But it’s cheaper to operate in the long run. Future generations save. Canada and Germany have the world’s best credit ratings at a time of record-low interest rates. This is the best time to invest. The federal government needs to step up. Plus, electric power means rail lines can be buried, unlocking land values over the lines.
How you can help:
Donate to the Clean Train Coalition to support its long-standing and continuing advocacy efforts.
Political pressure will get a better transit deal for Toronto, our neighbourhood, and our friends along the rail line. Write to:
Ministry of Transportation
Corporate Correspondence Unit
3rd Floor, Ferguson Block
77 Wellesley Street West
Toronto, Ontario M7A 1Z8
The Honourable Jim Bradley
Minister of the Environment
77 Wellesley Street West
11th Floor, Ferguson Block
Copy correspondence to:
Bruce McQuaig, CEO, Metrolinx
20 Bay Street, Suite 600,
Toronto, Ontario M5J 2W3