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New health study points to emission-caused premature deaths

Yet another health study points towards the urgent need to move away from dirty diesel trains towards clean electric trains.

A new study from Toronto Public Health shows that emissions from transportation are a leading cause of premature deaths in Toronto.

The study showed that a minority of vehicles cause most of the pollution. While the study focused on road vehicles, Dr. Monica Campbell, director of health policy at Toronto Public Health, wants attention paid to truck traffic, the majority of which is powered by diesel engines.

The World Health Organization has labelled diesel emissions as carcinogenic, on the same level as asbestos and mustard gas.

Ontario’s electrical authorities have indicated an electrified Union-Pearson Express (which will start as a diesel service in 2015) can easily be supplied with existing electrical resources. Ontario is also in discussions with Quebec regarding the importation of more clean hydro-powered electricity from low-cost Quebec sources.

Indeed, while Toronto Public Health was raising red flags about emission-related premature deaths, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne has been a leader in promoting a new national clean energy plan.

It is hypocritical to introduce a new diesel-powered train service when clean alternatives are available and even cheaper to operate.

Now is the time for the Ontario government to make a firm commitment, with funding and deadlines, for clean electric trains starting with the Union-Pearson Express, set to go into service with diesel cancer trains next year for the Pan Am Games.

Compared to carcinogenic diesel, electric trains are cleaner, cheaper, faster, lighter, and quieter. Faster electric trains also mean more stops can be added to rail corridors. Transportation authorities around the world are implementing electric trains or switching diesel to electric for all these advantages.

At its August meeting, Toronto City Council voted to urge Metrolinx to add more stops to the Union-Pearson Express and to make fares more affordable for commuters. This follows the controversy around the diesel-based Union-Pearson Express business plan, which calls for a premium-fare service affordable only to a select few.

The current Union-Pearson Express cancer train plan poses a health hazard to 300,000 people who live along the rail corridor. While they are choked in diesel emissions, they also cannot use the service because of anticipated high fares and only two inter-terminal stops. The current Union-Pearson Express is bad transit planning and an affront to social justice.

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