Where Did The Study Come From?
GO Transit’s Georgetown corridor, home to many existing and proposed services, has not been a happy place for the Environmental Assessment process, especially on the southern end of the line. Officially, this project was the Georgetown South Service Expansion (GSSE), now shortened to the Georgetown South Project. However, the project has a troubled history thanks to:
- Extreme insensitivity to local concerns about noise and vibration from the West Toronto Diamond grade separation project eventually resulted in a successful appeal to the Canadian Transportation Agency forcing GO to change its construction methods.
- Proposals to slice through Weston with a widened rail corridor, including closing streets that linked the commercial strip on Weston Road to the residential communities to the east, infuriated local residents. This was compounded by their discovery that, initially at least, much of the additional traffic on the corridor would be for the premium fare airport shuttle from Union Station.
This established a confrontational relationship between GO and corridor residents. When Metrolinx published The Big Move, it was obvious that vastly expanded service would be operated along this line including:
- All-day service at least to Brampton on the Georgetown line
- All-day service to Milton
- Peak period service to Bolton (a line that now has no GO operations but shares the corridor to the north end of Weston)
- All-day service to Barrie (a line that shares the corridor from Dundas Street south to the rail yards at Bathurst)
- All-day service every 15 minutes on the Air Rail Link from Union to Pearson Airport operating via the Georgetown line and a spur to be built into the airport lands
GO was so preoccupied with opposition in Weston that it failed to take account of the quickly growing population around the rail corridor south of West Toronto Junction. Aside from the question of daily train movements, GO further alienated residents with a proposal for the Strachan Avenue grade separation that would have created a major barrier within the new King West / Liberty Village community. This matter was not resolved until intervention by Metrolinx and a compromise solution acceptable to the City of Toronto was adopted.
GO runs popular services, and as a provincial agency it is used to getting more or less what it wants. Public participation and accommodation have not been GO’s strong suits.
When the Georgetown South project revealed that there would be over 400 train movements per day on the southern end of the corridor, residents were more than a little upset. Their concerns about noise and pollution were not helped by GO’s appeal to the greater good with claims that, overall, there would be less pollution thanks to auto trips diverted from highways. Those highways are not in backyards in Weston, the Junction and Parkdale, and the benefits that might accrue on Highways 400, 401 and 427 were little comfort to those who would see their local rail corridor gain vastly more traffic than it has today.
From this swelling activism came a demand that GO electrify its system to reduce noise and pollution levels in the neighbourhoods through which it travelled. Electrification had been considered before, but only in the context of the Lake Shore corridor, and only for lower service levels than The Big Move contemplates. This has always been a “nice to do” that gets shunted aside thanks to budget constraints and a desire to concentrate on building service. By late 2009, the demand for a detailed study reached a level where Queen’s Park and Metrolinx could not dodge the issue, and GO’s Electrification Study was born. Continue reading