Is GO Transit Bad For Your Health? (Update 2)

Updated June 27 at 10:10 am:  The study of noise impacts is now available on the Metrolinx Site.  I will review this and other reports in a future post.

Updated June 23 at 9:45 am:  The detailed studies of air quality and health impacts are now available on the Metrolinx site.  I have not had a chance to read through them yet, and will probably not be commenting on them for a few days.

On June 15, the Toronto Board of Health (an agency that operates independently of City Council but on which some members are Councillors) considered a report from the Medical Officer of Health concerning the impact on air quality of the proposed service expansion in the Weston rail corridor.  The recommendations in this report were amended by the Board (see item 24.4 in the decisions of the Board).

The MOH had been asked by both the Board and by the Parks and Environment Committee of Council to review the potential health impacts associated with diesel fumes from the proposed increase in diesel train traffic in the corridor.  Noise issues were not addressed by the MOH’s report although they are mentioned in the Metrolinx Part II document for the Environmental Assessment now in progress.

The full Part II document is available online.  A much reduced version of the information is available via the consultation portal, but I don’t recommend it. 

Many people from communities along the corridor appeared at the Board to make verbal presentations.  A common theme in their submissions was that the large increase in diesel traffic in the corridor will have an adverse health impact on those who live, work and go to school nearby, especially children who are more sensitive to pollution effects.  In particular, there was a concern that overall air pollution may be contributing to the rising rate of asthma among children, and that the levels expected in the rail corridor, although mostly within “standards” may disproportionately affect families living in the corridor.

Speakers asked that the Board strengthen the recommendations of the MOH which they did by inserting:

The Board of Health … requested Metrolinx to electrify the Georgetown South Service Expansion and the Union-Pearson Rail Link prior to implementing expanded service (Clause 3.a of the decision).

This decision does not bind Metrolinx, but indicates that the BOH considers this to be the preferred way of dealing with the corridor.

One speaker pointed out that the “West Toronto Triangle” is bounded not only by the Weston corridor, but by the Newmarket subdivision (Barrie service) to the east and the CPR North Toronto subdivision (all freight, but with future possible GO service) to the north.  Any study of effects in this neighbourhood should take into account the combined effect of trains on all three corridors.

At this point, the MOH has not been able to review the detailed Metrolinx study concerning air quality effects even though the findings of that study are included in the Draft Part II report.  This limited the MOH’s ability to assess the underlying assumptions and methodology of the study.  The Board has requested that the MOH review this information when it is released by Metrolinx.

I will not attempt to consolidate the large amount of data in the Part II report, but can say that, in general, Metrolinx claims that the projected levels of emissions along the route will be below the levels required by standards except for NOx, and that primarily near Bloor West Station.  Because trains will idle here, then accelerate away from the platform, they will produce more emissions than trains simply passing along the line.

The community debate (and by extension the political one) turns not on whether the new GO and ARL services would exceed the maximum allowed by standards, but that any increase over current levels could pose a health risk.  The MOH, in answer to a question from Councillor Perks, stated clearly that any increase in emission levels caused by the new services would have a health effect.

The situation is complicated by the fact that there are distinct segments of the line with different service levels.  The MOH report (page 6) reproduces Metrolinx information about train numbers.  Fully built out based on 2031 projections, the trains per day on various branches will be (current numbers shown in parentheses):

  • Via – 12 (6)
  • GO Georgetown – 112 (19)
  • Airport – 140 (0)
  • GO Bolton – 12 (0)
  • GO Milton – 97 (12)
  • GO Barrie – 87 (8)
  • CN Freight – 4 (4)
  • CP Freight – 21 (21)

The most densely travelled section of the line is south of Dundas Street through Parkdale and Liberty Village where all services except CP freight share the same corridor.

  • Bathurst to Dundas (Barrie service splits off here) – 464
  • Dundas to West Toronto – 377
  • West Toronto (Milton service splits off, CP freight service enters) to Weston – 301
  • Weston (Bolton and CP freight service splits off) to Airport spur – 268
  • Airport Spur to Georgetown – 128

The Airport and Georgetown trains account for about 5/6 of the total volume of trains passing through Weston.  Of these, about half are the Airport trains which are proposed to be three-car units of refurbished RDCs (Rail Diesel Cars) with new engines to meet modern pollution standards.  (Today, there are only 50 trains/day through Weston, and half of these are freights.)

Any projection of emissions must take into account both the variation between types of trains/locomotives as well as the temporal patterns that will vary by time of day.  Some of this has been done in the Metrolinx data that are public, but without the detailed background, notably whether the peak period was simulated separately from an all day average.  Therefore, it is hard to tell whether the model scenario reflects typical rail operations and variations in concentration of emissions over a typical day’s service.

The detailed discussion of air quality issues is in the Draft EA in section 6.2.4 at page 304 (of the PDF).  Metrolinx emphasizes that this is a worst case projection, and actual conditions should be better than their forecast.  However, it is unclear whether the 1-hour average projections in table represent a peak service configuration, or all day values with emissions spread equally over the day.  If the latter, then the projections will understate the actual concentrations during peak periods when service levels, especially on GO, are higher.

Vibration and Noise

Vibration and noise are dealt with in sections 6.2.2 (page 263) and 6.2.3 (page 290) respectively.  The MOH did not comment on these sections because the Board’s request to him dealt only with health effects of emissions.  However, both of these factors can have health effects by interfering with ordinary life — conversation, concentration on work, relaxation — through the effects of passing train traffic.

Metrolinx proposes various ways to deal with these two problems including floating slab construction (similar to that now used in subway tunnels and theatres) to mechanically isolate the track slab from the surrounding earth, and noise barriers to limit the effects on neighbouring houses.

As with the emission projections, we don’t know whether the model is reporting peak values or all-day averages.  Noise standards tend to be based on averages over time on the assumption that both the ambient noise and whatever is added by a new project tend to have ups and downs that are smoothed out over time.  This is valid provided that the peak noise levels will actually blend into the background.  However, we do know that there will be more trains during peak periods, and the report does not distinguish between all-day values and these peaks.  Also, it does not distinguish between periods of the day and week when the ambient levels may be lower and the effect of the new train services may be greater.

The study includes a chart showing relative sound energy vs time values for airport trains (3-car RDC consists), GO trains and CN/CP freights.  The freights produce the highest peak because their locomotives tend to be hauling heavy loads, and the longest sustained wheel-on-rail noise due to the length of the trains.  However, their numbers are small and there is no projected increase in freight traffic in the corridor.  Next down are the GO trains, and the airport trains have quite a small effect both because they are short, and because each car has its own diesel rather than a single locomotive. 

Metrolinx proposes to address noise problems with 5-metre high barriers in some locations.  This is a “Catch 22” because such barriers also create visual and physical isolation which invite graffiti and crime.  They do little good for noise reaching nearby highrises where a line-of-sight barrier is impractical.  Neighbourhoods may face the unsavoury choice between a visual eyesore and the noise of passing trains.


The title of this post asks a question, but a definitive answer is hard to provide because:

  • The detailed background studies containing the source material for information in the Draft EA are not yet available for review.
  • We do not know whether the modelled emissions, vibration and noise presume that all train service is averaged over the day, or if time-of-day effects are taken into account.
  • Although most of the modelled emissions lie below standards, each of the emissions is considered in isolation from the other rather than for the potential of their combined increase.
  • Electric trains, be they pulled by electric lomotives or as consists of self-propelled cars, are not modelled because this was not part of the terms of reference for the EA.  Therefore, we have no basis of comparison with some or all of the corridor services being electrified.

In future posts, I will turn to electrification and to the alignment proposals in the current scheme.

30 thoughts on “Is GO Transit Bad For Your Health? (Update 2)

  1. A definitive answer, at the very least, should also consider:

    – overall reduction in emissions due to people switching from automobiles to public transit
    – localised emissions from diesel trains vs. increase in emissions in the communities surrounding the coal and gas-fired plants that power these electric trains

    Steve: GO/Metrolinx have used the overall emissions argument from time to time to argue that whatever they might do, it’s for the overall good. This does not wash for two reasons. First, assuming that all of the trips diverted from road to rail are not backfilled on the highways by induced demand (a well-known highway capacity problem), we would be trading diesel pollution concentrated in the rail corridor for general auto pollution on the highways. However, as general traffic levels are rising, we can expect that the road capacity will backfill, and the pollution generated there will remain the same.

    The underlying problem is to provide more transportation capacity without producing more pollution, and preferably less. The point about generating station sources is well taken and should be part of the overall consideration. We hear a lot about fields full of windmills, but the green energy solution needs real implementation, not just announcements. It needs to run at a pace much faster than overall demand growth so that new loads such as an electrified GO can lay claim to being powered by clean(er) energy.


  2. Talking about the health effects of diesel emissions, what are the health effects of living next to a major highway such as Highway 401? The emissions of all those cars and trucks must be far greater than those of a few diesel GO trains in Weston. Never mind the number of cars that improved GO service will take off the road, which more than offsets the small increase in emissions created by trains. Or if the line is electrified, the emissions created by the fossil fuel power plants that will power it for the forseeable future. I can’t help but believe that the whole issue of diesel emissions is a red herring – this is really just NIMBYism.

    Steve: As I said in response to a previous comment, putting new service on GO will not reduce traffic on the highway system which will backfill due both to latent demand and to growth in population. This is a situation where the number of trains is changing by a factor of 6.

    Frankly, if someone proposed to build the 401 today, they would have to answer for the pollution effects of a new expressway, but that’s not the project on the drawing boards.

    As for NIMBYism, that’s a handy way to dismiss any opposition you don’t like, and some days I wish the entire Tory party could be dismissed simply as a bunch of right-wing no-nothings. However, that’s not fair to the broad range of legitimate opinion, however misguided, that they represent and we cannot have any sort of political debate by dismissing our opponents out of hand. Come up with a valid argument. Here’s one you have missed.

    Today, the number of passenger trains passing through Weston in each of the peak periods is about a dozen. This number will grow substantially with the addition of an airport train every 15 minutes each way (12 trains during a three-hour peak), reduction of the Brampton/Georgetown headway to, say, 10 minutes (net addition of about 9 trains), new service to Bolton (6 trains). This will roughly triple the number of trains on the corridor in the peak period. Further south where the Milton and Barrie streams join the line, the ratio is even higher. This is not a trivial change.


  3. Realistically, Steve, even with this sort of pressure coming to bear, is Day 1 electrification a plausible outcome?

    In light of the time that will get eaten up by this Metrolinx commitment to doing a system-wide electrification study before doing anything, the potential legal requirement for having to do a second EA, the (comparatively minor) added construction time that stringing pantograph and adding substations would probably necessitate, and then the time for tendering and acquiring some manner of electrified rolling stock (be they dual-input locos or all-electric locos or EMUs or what have you), it seems that an ironclad insistence on no expansion without electrification will delay the launch of an ARL or any sort of increased Georgetown GO service frequency by at least a year or more, quite possibly punting opening day into the political danger zone of after the next provincial election.

    Seeing as Metrolinx’s marching orders from on high very much centre around this goal of having visible evidence of The Big Move(tm) before McGuinty goes to the polls again, it stands to reason that the most they’ll be willing to offer is perhaps a promise to cap the line at x diesel trains/day.

    If x were, say, 75, that could well be the difference between seeing electrification work undertaken in 2013 vs 2030. Certainly an important accomplishment. But not what the Clean Train Coalition is demanding.

    Steve: I will comment on electrification in a post that I am now writing. In a brief answer to your note, I believe that Metrolinx is putting up a smokescreen by doing a full system electrification study as a pre-requisite for any work. This will be done in the “old EA” style with a terms of reference for which a consultative committee will be created. However, GO already has an electrification study for the Lake Shore corridor from Oshawa to Hamilton that was done originally in 1992, updated in 2001, and updated again in 2008. We don’t have to duplicate that work, and we can use the general design principles as a jumping off point for a detailed review of the Georgetown corridor. We do not need to look at minor services that would never be electrified in order to determine what might be done on the Georgetown line.

    The position the Board of Health has taken says, basically, electrify the line before you build anything, but in the event that isn’t possible in time, then use the best technology available to mitigate the effects in the short run. In effect, Metrolinx is on notice that they should do the best possible.


  4. Hmmm,.. interesting catch 22. Local residents along the line complaining that fossil fuel emission from diesel engine train will increase too much even though it will still be within “standards”,… yet, local residents want more stops to service them, which will cause more train to idle and accelerate from stop causing even more fossil fuel emmissions. So if Toronto Board of Health is against the increase in fossil fuel emmission along the rail line, … then they must be against having more stops to service local residents along the rail line in Toronto. Which of course would benefit the 905ers since the ride will have fewer stops and thus be faster.

    Steve: You have completely missed the point. With electrification, trains have better acceleration and braking, and additional stops can be served with no loss in overall trip time. Conversely, it has been estimated that the Hamilton-Toronto trip could be cut by 15 minutes using electric trains. That translates into a saving in equipment and operating costs because the same demand can be served with fewer trains and staff. When we are looking at headways of 10 minutes and below, as the Metrolinx plan does today, this is an important distinction.

    As for the added pollution from stopping and starting, that doesn’t exist, at least not locally, if the trains are electrified. Emissions are much easier to control, and probably lower per unit of motive power, at centralized power plants than for engines on each train.


  5. The trench in Weston will not increase real estate values for anyone. It will attract crime and vandalism possibly even endangering trains and passengers. Exhaust from diesels will be at ground level instead of higher up. The steep grade will require a heavy hand on the throttle to get out of the ditch increasing pollution. CP crosses the Rockies on a much lower grade! Sound will bounce off the trench walls as the diesel rpm builds up rapidly.

    The cost of the trench ($200,000,000 I believe) would be better directed to electrification now rather than later. A trade-off might be to eliminate the trench even if it means closing all level crossings and put the money into electrification.

    Steve: There is no intention of putting the CP trains in the trench, only the four tracks to be used by GO, Via and the Airport shuttle. CP absolutely rejects any attempt to have them change the grade of their line.

    The trench is intended to allow the greatly increased passenger service in the corridor to get through Weston without a grade crossing, while leaving the connections open between the residential area east of the tracks and the commercial area west of them.


  6. The static value of CP traffic in the corridor is suspect, as CP is expecting activity at its Vaughan yard around Kleinburg to double in the next decade and change. I doubt that traffic increase is going to be exclusively from Western Canada.


  7. This whole matter infuriates me. It infuriates me because

    (a) the air rail link should have already been built by now, except for the interference by government which inserted SNC Lavalin as operator
    (b) as pointed out above, it holds GO Transit to a higher standard than road or air developments (Pearson is projected to almost double traffic at ultimate build-out, and highways such as 407 and 410 are being expanded and widened to local acclaim)
    (c) the industry has been developing cleaner locomotives at the insistence of USEPA, and GO Transit owns among the newest and cleanest – the MP40s are Tier 2.
    (d) the misguided “don’t build it diesel and rebuild it electric” rhetoric which refuses to recognise that much of the spend will not actually be on the catenary and related track equipment so much as the supporting infrastructure such as transformers and grid connections which will touch the alignment hardly at all, and that existing rail improvements in GTA have already started to anticipate electrification clearances.
    (e) the possible impact of this scaremongering on existing and planning GO Transit and VIA Rail expansions in the GTA because folks there “read on the internet that diesel trains are killers”

    I’m for electrification in principle, but this can’t fall solely on the shoulders of GO Transit who will be required not just to wire up the track but to fund the rolling stock when they have already ordered more MP40s.

    When the feds wanted Toronto to buy hybrid buses when diesel would have done as well (and it turns out possibly better) they threw in the difference. If the City of Toronto and their Board of Health wants electric services it should find ways to assist, such as asking the Hydro companies who will be significant beneficiaries to put in some money as in Quebec. The feds should also find some dollars out of the huge rents paid by Pearson to contribute, given that it’s the dedicated service to their airport that’s causing this damned fuss in the first place.

    Steve: If you look at the amount of service GO expects to run in the decades to come, they will have no trouble soaking up those diesels on lines that will never be electrified. This is a situation where if we don’t start now, we will go through the service expansion based on diesel hauled trains and then be told that we cannot afford to retire the almost new equipment. Electrification and fleet planning have to go hand in hand, and just before a big increase in service is the ideal time to be making technology changes.


  8. While we clearly need more transit, despite the perils of the takeback effect ie. more transit brings fewer cars on the roads, then filling up of capacity again, there are fundamental problems with only putting the longer-haul regional transit into this corridor and more importantly, having that longer-haul transit remove the potential for shorter-haul ie. TTC trips.

    We really should be looking at using this Weston rail corridor for some form of the DRL – either express buses or LRTs, and have them use Front St. for the entry into the core east of Bathurst St. Regrettably for some, this may mean removing the potential of the bike Railpath corridor, though maybe it could be built atop a TTC service, or maybe there’s enough room for both TTC and bikes, but the highest best use of this corridor is for transit, just it shouldn’t only be for 905ers.


  9. Att’n Steve: I was not referring to CP’s track through Weston, just comparing the grade through the trench which I believe is 2% and the grade of CP crossing the Rockies at 1.1%. In other words, 2% is a steep grade requiring lots of horsepower to get up it. Southward trains will need power to get up the grade and then immediately make a stop at the new GO station on the south side of Lawrence Avenue. Not an ideal situation.

    Steve: Grade restrictions are different for passenger and freight trains. Passenger can handle steeper grades. CP in the Rockies is a freight route, but CP is not going into the Weston Trench.


  10. A couple of questions Steve:

    1) What effect has all of this talk of electrification had on the private group that was going to run the Airport Shuttle? Could the cost of buying electric rolling stock make the entire proposition unprofitable and perhaps offer an opportunity to wrestle control of this plan back into the public sector? It would be nice to see ticket prices similar to GO trains thus making the service usable by regular folk.

    Steve: GO claims that its study of the corridor has nothing to do with what the Airport folks might implement, and as that’s a separate operation, it’s not under GO’s jurisdiction to tell them what to build. Having said that, the pollution from a three-car RDC train is probably much less than from a full-blown GO train, and it’s certainly quieter. We need the background details to understand what parameters for this went into the model.

    2) In the medium-long term if GO is running 112 trains per day on the Georgetown line what is the need for airport shuttle anyway? Couldn’t the current inter-terminal trains at Pearson be extended to a new stop on the Georgetown line near the airport? I believe a similar scenario exists at JFK with the connection of their “Disney World” type train to the nearest subway station.

    Steve: You’re not supposed to ask embarrassing questions like that. When Blue 22 was first proposed, GO ran a few trains, now and then, to or from Georgetown. The situation has completely changed, but nobody in Ottawa or Queen’s Park wants to kill off the SNC-Lavalin deal. Will those hard-nosed expert businessmen on the new Metrolinx board address this? I doubt it.


  11. I would be astonished if the savings in fuel for the airport trains alone would not be sufficient to justify the cost of elctrification. I have this horrible feeling that no-one wants to have to deal with the prospect of procurring FRA-compliant EMUs, or proving to Transport Canada that European-style EMUs are just as safe. (TC have said they would accept European-style rolling stock on Canadian railways, providing the operator proves they are at least as safe as FRA stock).

    With regard to wider electrification: any such study much consider the extra revenue resulting from better journey times.


  12. Ray Kennedy Says:
    June 22nd, 2009 at 12:15 am

    Att’n Steve: I was not referring to CP’s track through Weston, just comparing the grade through the trench which I believe is 2% and the grade of CP crossing the Rockies at 1.1%.

    Really? That’s funny, because the Spiral Tunnels were still in use when I went west 2 months ago, and their ruling grade is 2.2%.

    That said, I do think it would be in everyone’s best interests if CP was put into the trench as well, although I realize that it would require completely redesigning the trench (along with some of the surrounding neighbourhood) to allow for a low grade in and out.

    Toronto, Ont.


  13. It’s not just the fumes from cars and trucks on the 401, but along Lawrence and Weston. I can tell you personal experience that there are a lot of fumes in the Weston neighbourhood now – and it’s not the fault of the trains, its all those cars and trucks that make a huge impact. I wish the Government would tell these NIMBY people the truth (it’s their fault just as much as it is anyone else’s!).

    Steve: This info is included in the modelling of the pollution for the neighbourhood and shows up as part of the “background” pollution that’s present with or without the trains. It is easy to see the comparative contribution of the trains for each pollutant. As for the “NIMBYs” being responsible for the pollution on Weston and Lawrence, once again I must point out that a lot of the traffic is going through Weston,. It is not local traffic generated by Weston residents. Please stop throwing around “NIMBY” to imply that anyone who complains must automatically have some dirty laundry that they’re not admitting. You do the pro-diesel advocates no good by taking such a simplistic position.


  14. Ray Kennedy writes:
    “I was not referring to CP’s track through Weston, just comparing the grade through the trench which I believe is 2% and the grade of CP crossing the Rockies at 1.1%. In other words, 2% is a steep grade requiring lots of horsepower to get up it. Southward trains will need power to get up the grade and then immediately make a stop at the new GO station on the south side of Lawrence Avenue. Not an ideal situation.”

    There are some pretty steep grades going under the flyover west of Union station. A short section of steep grade, as in getting up “one level”, is a whole different thing from going over the Rockies where the grade is sustained for kilometres and kilometres. Having a station at the end of a rise sounds ideal as it assists braking into the station and acceleration out … Montreal does this.

    Now that it’s warm and my windows are open, I can say that the new GO locomotives are LOUD. I’m about 500-600m south of the rail line, and there’s no direct line of sight up the local street because of the Brown’s Line overpass. Nevertheless, the electrical hum/whine of the new locomotives is very intrusive, especially at 4AM or whenever it is in the predawn when they start to dispatch trains for the morning. The old locomotives are nowhere as loud. And there’s not much exhaust noise. But the electrical equipment noise, oh my. I feel sorry for anyone who has to live closer to the tracks.

    Steve: I was down by the Lake Shore line today at the south end of High Park (north side of The Queensway) and can confirm that the new GO locos are quite loud.


  15. I think that overall, the electrification of the Georgetown and Lakeshore Corridors is a good idea with multiple benefits for GO Transit as well as the surrounding communities.

    At the same time, I also wonder about the other side of the electrification proposal – perceived effects of electromagnetic radiation and their alleged connection with cancers.

    Weston Community Coalition and the Toronto Board of Health have come out against diesel which is reasonable and their right.

    But if they are against diesel (and presumably, pro-electrification) have they got evidence that shows that electrification is a great deal safer for health and the environment than diesel?

    Does the Weston Community Coalition and the Toronto Board of Health (and Metrolinx for that matter) have studies in hand that show that the electrification of the Weston Sub (and other railways) would pose no significant health or environmental risks to area residents?

    Cheers, Moaz

    Steve: Concerns and claims about electrical fields have dealt with very high voltage transmission corridors, not with lower voltage rail electrification. This is an important distinction.


  16. So why are the new GO locomtives so loud? Did they go back to having the prime mover powering the auxuliary generator? I thought that crappy arrangement was over with.


  17. I’m no great fan of Blue 22, but in all fairness the current peoplemover is in no way suitable for a connection to the rail corridor. The line as it exists is a cable hauled system that has no ability to operate in any fashion but one vehicle per track, and has a remarkably low capacity. I don’t have any actual numbers, but my understanding is that the GTAA has said that the system doesn’t even have the capacity to handle the ridership that would be generated if a transit service were to serve only one terminal (in reference to the Eglinton LRT specifically). That said, if the Finch LRT were to be extended south, free rides in an “airport zone” from the weston corridor to the airport stations would likely be more than adequate. Overall a combination of partial grade seperation on Eglinton West, a Finch – Airport LRT extension, a new GO station and eventually a Downtown Relief subway reaching Eglinton in the west is the best solution for Toronto – Airport travel.

    As for Blue 22 it seems to me that a mainline rail connection to the airport is all for the good but the current proposal is a mess. Mainly I’d like to see the spur built such that trains can enter the airport from the west, and with stations and grades suitable for VIA service from Western Ontario. My guess is that an actual express service from Union as proposed would be appreciated by those who use it, but would be difficult to be self sustaining at any fare, and if by some chance it were, better to run it publically in any case and directly offset the construction costs. All in all, I like the idea, but have trouble justifying it before most other projects floating around at the moment. If the line proposed now is really so valuable an investment, let SNC build it, at their own expense, otherwise lets build a more robust system and do it when appropriate.

    Steve: The whole idea has been a mess from the start, something cooked up by people who draw lines on maps but don’t think through operational implications, and for whom the holy grail of a “private public partnership” is more important than letting the local transit systems (TTC or GO) do their jobs. The airport service should be part of GO’s system. Given the way the spur is engineered, only self-propelled cars (diesel or electric) could reasonably operate on it.

    Even the GTAA folks, apparently, realize they really screwed up with the people mover, but as it doesn’t have wings they might be forgiven for being unfamiliar with the technology.

    As for SNC, I would love to know how much of their own money they actually have in this deal considering how much of the infrastructure has been built as part of GO expansion. People who complain about wasteful public spending shoud look at how much is lavished trying to make the private sector model appear to be viable, but of course we will never know because of “commercial confidentiality”. “Con” is certainly the right prefix.

    To change topics completely, Ed and Steve are definitely right about the whine of the new locomotives being very loud. It might just be that the higher pitch carries, but to my ear they are considerably more intrusive than the F59s.

    Steve: This begs the question of what reference noise readings were used to model the sound profiles for current and future operation.


  18. I remember being within a couple of feet of an MP40 roaring full throttle out of Dixie station last month. It feels like the platform vibrates. F59HPs didn’t create that sensation. The MP40s are behemoths in noise.

    As for the RDCs, they have about half the horsepower of a F59HP at 3 cars, a third of a F59HP at 2 cars. They’ll be less noisy, but per passenger, the pollution is more than a full GO Train, easily.

    Steve: All the more reason to get the background studies from Metrolinx so that we can verify the parameters used to model the environmental effects of the new services.


  19. Yusuf: Other airports do indeed have connexions like you describe, but that’s a result of choosing much better technology. The airport people mover, as has already been mentioned, is a very low-capacity system, and also rather rickety. New York JFK’s system is a modern installation of ICTS Mark II; Heathrow accomplishes the same function using full main-line rail.

    Probably the best solution for Toronto would be to take the new streetcar line currently planned to terminate at the airport, and extend it to the GO line (probably to Malton station), as NCarlson suggests. Edinburgh – having cancelled an expensive scheme similar to Blue22 – is already planning much the same thing, with trams running from the airport both to the city centre and to a new station on the nearby railway line.


  20. The RDC’s to be used by Blue22 will have about a fifth of the horsepower of an F59. In terms of pollution-per-passenger, they may even be better – they use standard on-road diesel engines, which have more stringent emissions regulations than rail-based ones.

    As for the noise from the MP40’s, it is due to the exhaust system currently used by EMDI.


    Steve: Well, whatever causes the noise, it will be important to ensure that noise projections for the service actually reflect the noise levels of equipment to be used.
    Toronto, Ont.


  21. The connecting station to the railway from the tram line need not be Eglinton to Malton, but more likely Finch connecting to the railway at Highway 27 on it’s way to airport. This is the Official Plan’s location of choice for an interface between GO and TTC, yet Metrolinx mysteriously insists, without convincing defence of their decision, on the station being at a location as non-sensical as Carlingview.


  22. Well if GO transit is bad for your health, so are diesel buses.

    Steve: Without doubt. That’s one of the reasons for hybrid buses that are supposed to consume less fuel per km than regular buses.


  23. It does no good to electrify the line and then cut the community in two with trains every 3 1/2 minutes. The trench through Weston is a must if the rate of traffic reaches anywhere near a train every 3-5 minutes.

    If Karl is right…

    ?The static value of CP traffic in the corridor is suspect, as CP is expecting activity at its Vaughan yard around Kleinburg to double in the next decade and change. I doubt that traffic increase is going to be exclusively from Western Canada.”

    …and Metrolinx is wrong about there not being any increase in freight traffic, then the level of pollution is going to be even higher.

    India is in the process of converting it’s rail system from diesel to electric because of pollution concerns. Canada needs to do the same and join the 21st century. Instead of following the US we should be leading them.

    Steve: But remember that Metrolinx has no power at all over the freight roads. CP can tell them to get stuffed, and probably will. As for India, it is a much more densely populated country where electrification can achieve more per track mile than in Canada. It’s not a good direct comparison.


  24. On another note…Pushed or Pulled?

    The Clean Air Task Force – No Escape from Diesel Exhaust study

    Case Study: Boston, Massachusetts

    In Boston, CATF investigators rode commuter trains inbound and outbound to study the relative pollution levels on board a “push” versus a “pull” train. Levels in the coaches of the trains being pulled by a diesel locomotive were many times higher than those when the train was being pushed.

    n-coach levels of ultrafine diesel particles in this test were 10-100 times higher in coaches being pulled by a locomotive than in coaches being pushed.

    So not only are diesel trains unhealthy on the outside they make you sick on the inside depending upon whether they are pushed or pulled by diesel locomotives.


  25. Except CATF doesn’t say “don’t use diesel”. They say use ULSD, use exhaust filters, refit or replace old diesel engines. (see “Findings”)

    Put a GO Transit Tier 2 MP40 on an MBTA F40PH Tier 0 train and the results are likely to be substantially better. Seal the train and use filters on the air distribution and watch it get better again. The existing GO F59s have a Tier 2 retrofit option (710ECO engine).


  26. When I was at the Georgetown line meeting in Weston a couple ow weeks ago I asked one of the GO engineers about a line to Cambridge and he said that it probably would not be needed because the KW LRT would connect Cambridge to the Kitchener GO station. Also the storage yard will not be at Ira Needles (?) but at Baden because of local opposition.

    If they aren’t going to build LRT to Cambridge immediately then they cannot use the above reasoning.


  27. The Clean Air Task Force study suggested ULSD fuel and DPF’s for diesel trucks and buses. Because the ULSD fuel won’t be legislated for locomotives until 2012 there remains a loop hole for transit authorities to continue on using the same old polluting fuel. You can be sure if it’s cheaper to use they will continue to use it for as long as possible.

    “For locomotive and ferry engines, the best practice first includes rebuilding with new internal components or repowering with the newer Tier 2 engines, followed by retrofitting with diesel emission control technology such as an oxidation catalyst. EPA should issue the new Tier 3 and Tier 4 standards in late 2007 and these new technology-forcing standards are expected to drive the implementation of diesel particulate filter (DPF) technology for these applications. This is substantially similar to the technology pathway on-road and off-road diesel engines have followed, but the timelines for rail and marine have lagged behind these other sectors. These emission control technologies also need ultra-low sulfur diesel (ULSD) fuel to perform at their best. For ferries and locomotives this fuel will not be required until 2012. Until then, the results of the CATF study suggest the need to improve coach ventilation systems on trains, have locomotives push passenger trains to the maximum extent feasible, and ban the use of diesel in underground stations and tunnels.

    Overall, the best solution to the problem of commuter exposure to diesel exhaust is to clean up the existing diesel fleet with diesel particle filters so that we can all breathe easier. Until then, commuters can help protect themselves by taking clean transit, such as electrified subways and light rail”


  28. Further to Ed’s remarks about the whine of the new GO diesels, here’s a YouTube video that may illustrate it. Note that this was probably shot on a tiny little camera with an even tinier microphone, so any bass components of the sound are pretty much absent.


  29. I know that the old locomotives were using an additive to reduce NOx but the newer ones were not using that same additive because of concerns about engine warranty.

    I did not know that they were using ULSD.

    After reading this on another web site, date March 2008 … I wonder what happened to the 4 locomotives mentioned and did the problems have anything to do with the fuel being used?

    “MP40PH-3c locomotives are no good. They were built by MP, and are owned only by Go transit. 3 of them of shut down, and 1 exploded at the Appleby Go station. Dalton McGuinty the person that runs the Ontario government bought these locomotives in December 2007. Each locomotive costs 6 million dollars. And so far that’s 24 million dollars down the drain from our taxes. After they let these locomotives pull trains themselves, four of them are trash. Unless they do something with the three that shut down. If they fix them that`s 6 million dollars down the drain. I think Dalton McGuinty should of got something from EMD or GE.”

    Steve: Please provide a link to the site from which this quote is taken so that readers can access all of the content and find out who the unnamed writer might be.


Comments are closed.