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What Is the Clean Train Coalition?

The Clean Train Coalition is a grassroots organization with members from across the GTA. We believe that a healthy environment and vibrant neighbourhoods depend on smart investment in public transit. The CTC is calling for all new rail traffic along the Georgetown corridor to be electric. Unlike diesel, electric trains are clean, quiet, and fast for both a greener future and a more efficient transportation system. The provincial transit authority is proposing to expand track capacity in order to increase the number of diesel trains that travel along the rail corridor which runs from Union Station to Georgetown. Currently around 50 trains a day run along the corridor five days a week. Metrolinx is planning to build enough rails to increase that number to more than 450 diesel trains a day running seven days a week. This would make the Georgetown corridor the busiest diesel rail corridor on the planet.

Who will be directly affected?

The proposed diesel expansion runs through twelve Toronto neighbourhoods which are home to more than 300,000 people. There are 76 schools, 96 daycare centres and 4 long term care facilities, including a chronic respiratory care hospital, within a kilometre of the tracks. Diesel trains are also heavy, noisy and terribly disruptive to the communities through which they pass.

Is this a good investment for Ontario’s taxpayers?

This diesel proposal is not smart investment in public transit. While it’s true that electric trains are more expensive initially, electric trains actually cost less in the long run because operating costs for electric rail are significantly lower than diesel. Metrolinx’s own study concludes that the costs of electrification would be recouped in 10 years based on operational savings alone. Now that’s what we call smart investment in transit infrastructure.

Will this proposal improve access to public transit in Toronto?

Metrolinx is planning only two stops in Toronto because diesel trains generate too much pollution when they stop and start. Because electric trains stop and start cleanly, quietly and efficiently, far greater levels of service could be made available with the use of electric trains. This, in turn, would generate greatly increased transit revenues for the province – a win-win situation. Metrolinx concedes that electric technology is vastly superior, and they claim they will electrify the line some time in the future. But building diesel now only to electrify later means we will pay for this $1 Billion expansion twice. This is not a wise or prudent choice from an economic standpoint.

Won’t this expansion get people out of their cars and into public transit?

Due to this plan’s reliance on diesel, it will not result in an improvement to air quality. The only way that GO trains would pollute less than cars under this plan would be if those GO trains were filled to capacity, all day, every day, in both directions. This is not the case now, with only 50 trains running! As far as the Air Rail Link is concerned, these diesel trains will actually emit more pollution per person than private automobiles do, because of the horsepower to passenger ratio.

How much of the proposed increase will be GO and how much will be the Air Rail Link?

At the outset, the Air Rail Link (140 trains/day) will constitute approximately 93% of expanded rail traffic. GO’s contribution at start up is around 7%. GO’s projected expansion of service can be accommodated without building a single additional track. The real reason for the rush to build is to construct rails for a private company to run a luxury service to Pearson Airport, a situation reminiscent of the 407. This expansion of rail infrastructure has nothing to do with improvements to GO service, which can easily be accommodated on existing tracks.

What role does the Pan Am Games play in this expansion?

The premier promised that the Air Rail Link would be running in time for the Pan Am Games so there is now a rush to get this expansion completed before 2015. If this expansion gets built using diesel trains rather than electric simply to serve the Pan Am Games, communities along the corridor will be stuck for generations with infrastructure that is designed solely to meet the timelines of a three week sporting event, rather than to accommodate the long range needs of communities and the rights of taxpayers to have public funds invested wisely.

Did the Minister of Environment’s Conditions address health concerns?

The Minister imposed the condition that the cleanest-burning Tier 4 diesel engines must be used “when commercially available.” Unfortunately, Tier 4 locomotives do not currently exist and there is no guarantee they will be available in time. Also, the condition only applies to trains running “to from, or through Georgetown,” and doesn’t seem to account for GO trains destined for Milton, Bolton, or Barrie. Nor does the condition apply to VIA and freight trains. So there are a number of very big holes in the health protection offered by the Minister’s decision.

How polluting is diesel?

At 450 trains a day, Tier 4 diesel engines will generate pollution equivalent to more than 4,000 trucks a day driving through densely populated neighbourhoods. Furthermore, Tier 4 engines do not reduce the emissions of the smallest and most lethal particulate matter, PM2.5. In fact, studies have shown they concentrate PM2.5, making Tier 4 engines possibly an even greater threat to human health than older models.

Why should I worry? I don’t live near the tracks.

The smallest and most dangerous toxic particles (PM2.5) are carried on the wind as far as 200 miles from the tracks, adding significantly to smog and air pollution in the GTA and beyond. Studies at the Harvard School of Public Health have shown that the concentration of PM2.5 generated by Tier 4 diesel engines pose an especially serious threat to cardiovascular health.

Does this plan take the health of Ontarians into account?

You be the judge. Only one other city of the top 100 cities in the world – Dhaka in Bangladesh – uses a diesel rail link to their airport. There’s a reason for this. Diesel fumes create a chemical soup of toxic air contaminants which have been implicated in a host of illnesses including cancer, respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, and reproductive and developmental disorders.

What is the Medical Officer of Health’s current position?

Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health continues to maintain that “electrification of the proposed rail line continues to be the mitigation option that most clearly addresses the predicted air quality and health impacts.”

How much time do we have to convince the government to go electric?

Given that the Premier has promised to have a link to the airport in time for the Pan Am Games in 2015, and it will take approximately 3 years to electrify the corridor, a decision to go electric must be made immediately if the airport link is to be ready and electric for the Pan Am Games.

What can I do to have my concerns about the project known?

You can join us in the Clean Train Coalition; sign up to receive email updates to stay informed on the issue. Tell your neighbours and friends about the project and get them to sign up too. We’ll be sharing information about how to have your voice heard.

Clean transit is possible!