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 UP diesel trains run by every 7.5 minutes on average.
The non-profit Friends of Sorauren Park supports the expansion of the rail corridor for public transit.
However, the FOSP 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 increased from about 50 trains per day to 200 per day by 2015, with projections for more than 400 per day in the decades ahead.
Thanks to pressure by community groups including the Clean Train Coalition, and overwhelming evidence for the cost, transit, environmental and social benefits of electric trains, the Ontario Government has officially adopted electrification as a goal. The electrified GO Regional Express Rail service would greatly improve the system, including UP Express.
But the government is going slow. Diesel service will be ramped up before electric trains take over.
Support for electrification must stay strong to prevent backsliding.
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.
Fortunately, there is an excellent alternative: electric trains, especially for the new UP Express. The Friends of Sorauren Park officially supports the electrification goals of the non-partisan Clean Train Coalition.
Here are the views of the Friends:
- 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. The walls are already heavily tagged, and Metrolinx is exempt from City graffiti bylaws.
- 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
- Limited public transit function
- Only 4 stops vs 13 stops for Vancouver’s airport train. Same 25-minute trip. No stops integrated with the TTC except Union.
- 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
- Ontario generates more electricity than it can use thanks to declining demand and rising supply. (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.
An electric system requires up-front investment, and now is the perfect time to build infrastructure with low interest costs. Then, electric is 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 or covered, unlocking land values over the lines and creating opportunities for projects such as Rail Deck Park.
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. Speak up.