Metrolinx Electrification Study Terms of Reference

Metrolinx will seek a consultant to undertake a system-wide study of GO electrification with the intent of completing a report by December 2010.  A Request for Proposals (RFP) will be issued with the intention of award in November, and commencement of work in December 2009.  This is an aggressive timeframe for a project of this scope.

The proposed Terms of Reference (ToR) for this study are now available online.  They will be discussed at a meeting of the Metrolinx Board on Tuesday, October 20 at 11:45 am.  If approved, they will form the basis for the RFP.

My comments about the ToR were added here at about 6:30 pm on October 15.

Overall, the Terms of Reference are thorough and address many of the issues raised by the community.  Indeed, it is odd that Metrolinx was so defensive about its Georgetown South EA and associated claims regarding emissions considering the breadth of issues that will face the electrification study.

[Note that some remarks here duplicate replies in the comments thread which were posted before I updated the main article.]

The document linked here includes a covering report and the recommendations of the Community Advisory Committee created to advise Metrolinx on the ToR.  That Committee received input from, among other places, a “stakeholders meeting” in which I participated.  Some, but not all, of the issues raised by participants at that meeting have found their way into the ToR, or were already present.

I cannot help being amused (ROTFLMAO), but also dismayed by the following comment:

The GO System Electrification Study is a critical next step in the implementation of the Metrolinx regional transportation plan. It is a timely and important step in advancing the expansion of the GTHA regional transit network. In the continuing Metrolinx tradition that values community and stakeholder input, the Community Advisory Committee enhanced and enriched the quality of the work.  [Page 3]

There are a few community groups who would beg to differ with the claim that Metrolinx has a tradition of valuing community input.  This insults the many people who worked to raise important issues on the Georgetown South study, but for their pains were dismissed as NIMBYs while Metrolinx spun the issues to favour its own position.  Metrolinx is better known for secrecy and isolation than for community involvement.

The ToR are quite clear in requiring input from a broad range of interested and affected parties, and this will be a welcome change if there is no attempt to manage responses to fit a pre-determined conclusion.

A few broad issues are worth mentioning before I review specific sections of the proposal.

  • The study will review diesel and electric options, as well as two as yet unnamed alternative technologies.  Such alternatives have to be possible, realistic and viable, although how a study ending in 2010 would establish that capability for, say, a decade in the future is beyond me.  The last thing we need is another proposal based on a technology that’s just out of reach, or one where the GTA would become the guinea pig to demonstrate a new system. 
  • The distinction between the Union-Pearson Rail Link (UPRL) and Metrolinx/GO is becoming ever more difficult to discern.  For all practical purposes this service is being designed by GO, its infrastructure is built and paid for by GO, and all of the legal processes including Environmental Assessments are handled by GO.  There is little or no public participation by the so-called private partner, SNC-Lavalin, and recent press reports confirmed that a contract does not yet exist with that partner.  Given the level of public investment and involvement, the time is long past that SNC-Lavalin should abandon this scheme so that it can be properly integrated with GO’s plans and operations.
  • The methodology for evaluating environmental effects is much changed from the system used in the Metrolinx EA.  Rather than considering the airshed as a whole and trading off alleged reductions in pollution on the 401 for increases in Parkdale, the study must look at local effects related to distance from the rail corridor.  Of course, when the alternatives under comparison are trains-vs-trains, the concept of displaced trips fades in importance except for situations where technology “A” can carry and attract more riders than technology “B”.

Comments below are keyed to specific numbered sections within the ToR which form Appendix A of the linked document. Continue reading