The Weston Community Coalition today released an extensive critique of the recently completed Metrolinx study of the Georgetown South corridor. This document, a letter to the Minister of the Environment, urges the Minister to reject the Metrolinx study, demand a full review and require that the project be designed and operated as an electrified service from the outset.
I will not repeat the WCC’s arguments in detail here, but they include documentation of a long history of misleading and contradictory statements by project proponents, serious concerns about emissions, noise and vibration studies, and an overall sense that the process of public consultation has been window dressing around an already-decided outcome.
In the interests of full disclosure, please note that I have worked with the WCC in preparation of this and other materials, and helped to review and edit this critique. While there are individual comments with which I may disagree, the overall document is quite good.
This is not, as so often has been claimed, a case of NIMBYs standing in the way of progress, but of government agencies bent on ignoring the effects of their work and thwarting the spirit of “environmental” assessments.
The decision now rests with Queen’s Park. Will they bravely move into a future of electrified commuter rail on GO Transit, or will they obfuscate issues and avoid real debate? What record does this government want to have in the history books?
One of the most disturbing statements:
“It is our view that much of the infrastructure being built is being built to accommodate the private air link. Taxpayers’ money is subsidizing the private partner.”
So why would a provincial government agency be doing this?
We’ve seen the answer to this question in the 407 and many other projects in Ontario. The politicians and senior bureaucrats that greased the wheels and provided billion-dollar profits to private corporations retire from public “service.” Then they take astonishingly well-paying jobs, consulting contracts and seats on the board of directors from the same companies that they just handed billion-dollar benefits to at the public expense.
And the best thing of all is that under our current corruption laws this is all perfectly legal. Corrupt as hell, but legal. Of course those laws were made and maintained in place by the same politicians who use these corrupt loopholes to line their own pockets.
When I was in the Canadian Army I saw the exact same thing over and over again. The people in charge of government military procurement would retire. Then they would take astonishingly well-paying jobs, consulting contracts and seats on the board of directors of the companies to which they just handed billions of dollars of government military procurement money.
And this corruption is all legal.
I venture to predict the future of the private airport link. Here is what my crystal ball reveals to me: If they are successful in pulling it off, we will see many of the key senior bureaucrats who handed these billion-dollar favours to the private company retire from public service. They will then take astonishing well paying jobs (far more than what they now make working in public service), consulting contracts and seats on the board of directors of…
Well, we all know how this ends. It starts and ends in corruption.
Steve: What is even more interesting is that there does not yet appear to be any contract with SNC, only a memorandum of understanding. Throughout this process, any requests to impose conditions on the ARL were met with statements to the effect that it was a done deal, and it was confidential, and it could not be changed. A MOU is not finalized, and if Queen’s Park had the guts to do it, they would simply terminate the arrangement and fold the ARL service into GO. Then at least the spending would benefit a public service, and GO might even figure out a more effective way to operate the line.
I disagree with the statment that “It will be the busiest diesel rail corridor on the planet”. Reading railway station in the UK sees at least 500+ diesel trains per day (including freight), more than the 464 forecast for this corridor.
That said, I agree with them 100% that the line to the airport should be electrified.
Of course, the group doesn’t mind all the cars and trucks that create all the pollution along Weston Road and the 401.
Steve: I have said it before and will say it again: the cars and trucks are there already, and they will still be there, backfilling capacity, once the line is implemented. Also, the pollution they produce is not concentrated in a corridor close to residential buildings and schools. Trucks, as you may have noticed, do not ride GO.
Steve, it would help to know what parts of the document you consider that you stand over, as criticism of others may seem like it is directed at you when you had no part in them.
Here’s one question to get the ball rolling – how is the figure for the ARL set arrived at? 4 all-powered RDCs would come to between 1800-2000hp depending on engine choice (~225hp x 2 x 4), but it’s not credible that a 4-car set with a capacity somewhere around 250-300 seats would be utilised for an average load of 23.5 passengers/trip. I don’t have likely distribution numbers on an hourly basis for a statement based on what a politician’s press release said, but surely a 2 car set would likely handle even peak traffic in a 23.5pax/hr scenario.
Steve: The info in Appendix C (the comparative calculation of emissions by ARL trains and autos) has several problems, only some of which were cleared up before publication.
At it’s heart, the exercise tries to make sense of figures Metrolinx itself used in its study. Some of these are flat out wrong.
Metrolinx uses 2000hp for the trains even though the ARL only intends to run with 2 car sets. This overstates the emissions from the ARL by a factor of about two. However, the offsetting emission from autos is also incorrect because (a) it does not include the portion of the trip outside of the official “corridor” which ends at Strachan Avenue and (b) it uses the same diagonal distance from Pearson to downtown that is available only to railway trains.
An auto travelling around downtown does so at a much higher level of pollution per km than on highway travel to or from the airport. The train will have some emissions east of Stratchan too, but I suspect the ratio will not be maintained. Also, the distance to the airport from downtown will be somewhat longer by auto than by train, and this increases the total emissions which have been calculated based on distance travelled. The combined effect of these factors is to substantially understate emission from autos.
When all of these factors are combined, the relationship between emission per rail passenger vs an auto passenger would change substantially. However, WCC was aping Metrolinx’ own methodology and it shows how nonsensical the results would be. This is not at all clear in the submission.
As to capacity, it is my understanding that the ARL cars will have substantially lower capacity than a standard RDC due to their conversion for a first class service and the addition of a high platform door for disabled access. Even so, they will be nowhere near full on an average, all-day basis. All those trains running back and forth well under half-full, especially for the counterpeak trips, will rack up emissions that must be included in the calculations.
As for people attacking me, you will see that I am not one of the signatories to the letter — I don’t live in Weston — only one of many who helped review and tune its content. I did not have final say on what was written. If someone starts in on me for something I don’t agree with, or more likely something they misread, I will respond appropriately. Overall, I believe the letter is quite good.
As a Weston resident I am grateful to all who have taken political action on this front.
Metrolinx cannot be trusted to deliver a solution that would satisfy the community. Without people like Steve we would have a more uphill battle to fight.
All of this said, I do hope that the service along this corridor will someday live up to what this community could use.
Steve: Others were involved in writing and editing that letter, and my role was to review for accuracy and make suggestions about tactics. Looking at the finished product, I can see the effects of many contributions.
“This is not, as so often has been claimed, a case of NIMBYs standing in the way of progress, but of government agencies bent on ignoring the effects of their work and thwarting the spirit of “environmental” assessments.”
I suspect the truth is somewhere in the middle. I don’t for a second believe that there is no faction in Weston that is simply opposed to construction of a rail corridor. The protest of having John Street only as a pedestrian overpass, requiring the use King Street, when only 150 metres further north along the tracks demonstrated that!
Steve: This started out as a very Weston-centric issue and physical street connections were a major issue, but as the implications of very greatly increased service in the corridor became clear, the streets were only one of several issues.
Weston is not opposed to railways, the CN line (then GT) has been in Weston since 1853. CP’s corridor appeared not long after (although that corridor wasn’t actually built by CP, it’s amazing how many companies were in the railway business back in the day). To suggest that Weston doesn’t want railways, period, when they’ve been an integral part of their history for generations is over the top. They want a railway, but they want respect, too, and I think that’s a reasonable position.
I ask anybody and everybody why they consider Weston a bunch of NIMBYs but not the Fort York crew? The Fort York neighbourhood got what they wanted, at $100 million markup. Nobody seems to give them a hard time. Why is their neighbourhood worth investing in but not Weston? Why aren’t those in the Fort York area considered NIMBYs by the masses yet Weston residents are?
“I ask anybody and everybody why they consider Weston a bunch of NIMBYs but not the Fort York crew? The Fort York neighbourhood got what they wanted, at $100 million markup.”
It was the moving goalposts that did it for me. There are new issues being raised that weren’t raised in the earlier examination. Concessions to Weston are already hundreds of millions since the original plan … but the demands keep coming.
Steve: Metrolinx moved the goalposts. When this started, all that Weston was dealing with was the Air Rail link plus a modest increase in GO and Via services. Now, Metrolinx is talking about frequent all day service to Brampton and new peak service to Bolton. For folks further south, they also have to put up with proposed service increases on the Milton corridor (comparable to the Georgetown corridor) and the Barrie trains which run up the nearby Newmarket subdivision (and share the Strachan Avenue crossing with the Weston Sub).
The amount of service proposed for the corridor as a whole is vastly greater today than when the whole process started, and that’s not the Weston Coalition’s doing.
I have to admit that I was in Weston only once and that I do not know the quantity and quality of the railway tracks going thru this community.
Nevertheless, I have a BIG question for the proponents of the electrification. Did you see on your own eyes (either being at the place or a photo) the layout of electrified track, two-tracks or multi-track corridor? Are you able and willing to show it at a next meeting of the Weston coalition? If not, then you may get back a huge wave of negative responses from the same citizens, who would like to see the corridor electrified.
Steve: I can’t speak for the Weston coalition, but will offer my own observation. Yes, I know what mainline railway electrification looks like. Remember that it will be in the railway corridor, not on the main streets. It makes absolutely no noise, and it has zero emissions in the corridor. That’s the issue here.
I have found nobody along the corridor at the countless meetings I have attended to be against increased public transit at all. This is a non-issue.
It’s the rushed EA, predetermined outcome, and out of date choice of diesel that is the issue. The Toronto Board of Health has come out against this plan and lists about 15 danger zones for potential leukaemia hot spots — I don’t think many people would want to live near even one and I have 6 in my immediate area. And remember our tax money is buying a FOR PROFIT airport link.
I am pro transit, for greener solutions, but concerned that my government is about to make a massive mistake that will haunt us for years. Nimby? Hardly.
Thanks Steve for helping get the truth out.
“The Fort York neighbourhood got what they wanted, at $100 million markup.”
Actually, the City of Toronto got what it wanted, per their report on the Strachan grade separation written prior to the original Metrolinx proposal. I read it when it came out and was impressed by the detailed approach to the issue and the consideration of alternatives. Metrolinx chose to essentially ignore it, and the speed with which they reversed their decision showed how little leg they had to stand on.
“It makes absolutely no noise”
Even electric stock makes some mechanical noise, not to mention wheel-rail noise and horn use. Compared with diesel of course it is a lot less but let’s not go all Metrolinx with making claims that don’t stand up.
I can’t help but return to the MOH’s demand that *no* additional service be provided on the corridor prior to electrification. If we presume that the MOH values a downtowner life as much as a Westoner, this means that the MOH is demanding a halt on any additional diesel service into Union from any corridor.
Steve: The point in the Weston corridor is that south of West Toronto diamond, there are many services sharing the same corridor. It’s a thin edge of the wedge issue — how many additional trains is “too many”. The ball is in Metrolinx’ court if they want to make a case for that.
My argument goes as follows : The east portion of the Lakeshore corridor got the third track (I didn’t attend CN/GO meetings at all) and I do not know what was proposed or documented. However there is a lttle dead-end street just around Pharmacy/Warden/Danforth and one day a lady from one of the houses noticed a new signal-bearing portal behind her property. It is not on her property, but she thought, that it was ugly.
We have people complaining about cellphone transmission towers, wind turbines, high-voltage trasmission lines. Yet Metrolinx talks only about new technologies and does not pose this simple question: Did you as a private citizen ever see fully operational four-track electrified corridor?
Steve: It is self-evident that most of the people in Weston will not have seen this, just as those living south of West Toronto have probably never seen a working eight-track commuter corridor (that’s what GO proposes to build). This does not invalidate their concerns or preferences.
It is trivially easy to find someone who objects to the most trivial change, but that does not invalidate much more serious objections to large projects.
I hadn’t realised that the earlier proposals had a significantly different GO frequency.
Jiri S. says:
September 1, 2009 at 4:19 pm
“I have to admit that I was in Weston only once and that I do not know the quantity and quality of the railway tracks going thru this community.
“Nevertheless, I have a BIG question for the proponents of the electrification. Did you see on your own eyes (either being at the place or a photo) the layout of electrified track, two-tracks or multi-track corridor? Are you able and willing to show it at a next meeting of the Weston coalition? If not, then you may get back a huge wave of negative responses from the same citizens, who would like to see the corridor electrified.”
Yes Jiri, the photograph is pretty ugly, but that was the whole point of it. It was a shot of track where there are a lot of wires because of multiple crossovers and from a perspective that looked almost straight through the wires to maximize the visual impact. I could shoot another shot of the same corridor where there are no crossovers perpendicular to the track and the impact of the overhead would be minimal.
I disagree with Steve’s comment that they make “absolutely no noise.” Electric motors make noise. Anything that runs on steel rails makes noise. Granted that a well designed electric locomotive makes a lot less noise than a diesel locomotive but it also make more than an EMU. The “big advantage” of linear induction motors was that they had no moving parts and thus were silent. My cheque is also in the mail and of course I will respect you in the morning. Nothing is noiseless but some things make a lot less noise than others.
Steve: Ok. They don’t make absolutely no noise, but compared to a GO diesel, they’re going to be a lot quieter. I live beside the Prince Edward Viaduct, and the BD subway trains rumble across it all the time. There are two noises — wheel-on-rail noise which is not bad at all, and the rumble of the bridge structure (I hear that only on westbound trains which are on “my” side of the bridge).
Sorry I only had time for a quick read of the report and comments but it sounds like a case of “they’re stealing my backyard” and not “not in my backyard”.
I’ve long questioned the Blue-22 project and much of the other proposals out of MetroLynx, it sounds like someone didn’t get to play with their model trains enough as a kid.
Human Train Sat Sept 26th for the electrification proposal by Weston Coalition. I hope all of those who commented will get off their duffs and walk the talk this coming Saturday. Those of us from Scarborough facing a similar battle with Metrolinx over our Subway shall be there.
Steve: I fail to see how a battle for a subway vs LRT on Sheppard (I presume that’s what you are talking about) has anything to do with the health issues of massive increase in diesel train traffic in the Weston corridor.
This has little to do with Weston except that it concerns Bramalea, Brampton and Mt. Pleasant GO stations.
Steve, you will be glad to here that GO is increasing parking capacity at Mt. Pleasant by 610 more spaces. This is only a 99.86% increase as it now has 611 spaces. The new south platform is ready and the doors from the tunnels to it are open. I have not been out there in the a.m. rush to see if it is in use yet. Its platforms are only 10 cars long while the north platform at Brampton and at Bramalea are 12 cars long. The south platforms at Brampton and Bramalea are only 10 cars long. I have not been to Malton recently so I do not know how it is doing.
The final section of triple track from just west of the Orangeville line to west of Mt. Pleasant is finished and the signals are operation but it does not appear to be in use yet. The switch to the storage yard at Mt. Pleasant is in but there has been no work on the yard as far as I an see.
I watched the VIA train from Toronto to Sarnia arrive yesterday, Sept. 21, with about 50 passengers on its two cars. One person got off at Brampton and 25 got on. This took about 4.5 to 5 minutes to accomplish. I am glad that VIA’s loading are increasing but I still say this is not the way to load trains by one vestibule door after checking tickets as each passenger boards. One passenger had the wrong ticket so the Customer Service Agent, formerly known as the conductor, made her go back and by the correct ticket while the train waited.
I want to see the final loading counts for the weekend Niagara Falls service as this will give an indication of the latent demand for a good and inexpensive service. I think that they should provide the same service to Stratford next year. I am sure that the town and the Shakespearean Festival would benefit. I heard that the early GO trains from Niagara Falls on the Labour Day weekend had over 700 passenger each, mostly for the Ex.