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Clean Train Coalition Seeks Court Intervention Against Metrolinx

A long, bitter anti-diesel fight may soon be in a judge's hands.

Photo by {a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/mrdanmofo/5379479069/"}MrDanMofo{/a}, from the {a href="http://www.flickr.com/groups/torontoist/"}Torontoist Flickr Pool{/a}.

More than one and a half years ago, the Clean Train Coalition (CTC) won some concessions from Metrolinx in their campaign to revise plans for the Georgetown rail corridor: the transit agency agreed in principle to eventually electrify Georgetown (the CTC wants electrification to take place before a planned increase in trains running through the corridor), but said they would in the meantime continue to run diesel trains. At a press conference earlier today, the resident-led group announced that they’ll be taking Metrolinx to court to press for further changes.

An application by the CTC to the Ontario Divisional Court [PDF] calls for a judicial review of Metrolinx’s decision to use diesel trains on a planned rail line that would link Union Station to Pearson Airport. The Air-Rail Link (ARL), as it’s known, is already under construction, and Metrolinx has already ordered diesel cars from Sumitomo Corporation, a Japanese company.

According to the CTC’s application, the group’s lawyers will argue, essentially, that in approving diesel trains for use on the ARL, Metrolinx was acting against its legal mandate to plan and implement high-quality regional transit in the GTA. The CTC is alleging that Metrolinx’s board members and upper management were acting contrary to the advice of their own staff members when they approved the diesel trains. The reason Metrolinx chose to ignore that advice, the CTC contends, is that the transit agency was more concerned with satisfying provincial politicians, who want the ARL running in time for Toronto’s 2015 Pan Am Games.

The CTC is asking, among other things, for Metrolinx’s decision to be set aside, and for the transit agency to be ordered to conduct a comparison of the environmental impacts of diesel and electric trains on the ARL corridor.

Photo by {a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/katrins/5045984669/"}Katrin Ray{/a} from the {a href="http://www.flickr.com/groups/torontoist"}Torontoist Flickr Pool{/a}.

It’s another chapter in a longstanding dispute between the CTC, an activist group led by members of residents’ associations from along the Georgetown GO corridor, and Metrolinx. In January 2011, after a year and a half of anti-diesel protests, Metrolinx’s board agreed, in principle, to electrify the Georgetown GO corridor over the next 20 years. Meanwhile, at the same meeting, the Metrolinx board decided that the ARL, which would consist of a spur off of the Georgetown corridor, would use diesel trains initially so that it could be up and running by 2015. The plan, as approved at that meeting, was for the ARL to be the first part of the corridor to be electrified, but Metrolinx staff estimated that the retrofit couldn’t be completed until 2018 at the earliest. The province has approved an environmental assessment that is currently underway, and set to be completed in 2014, but hasn’t committed any other money to electrification yet.

The CTC argues that the additional diesel exhaust would be harmful to human health, and that the corridor should be electric from day one. Metrolinx says that the particular diesels that are supposed to be used on the ARL will meet U.S. Environmental Protection Agency “Tier 4″ standards, meaning their impact on health should be minor.

You can read the CTC’s full application here: [PDF].

CORRECTION: August 8, 2012, 5:00 PM This post originally stated that the province had approved an environmental assessment that was to begin in 2014. This is incorrect; it is set to be completed in 2014. We apologize for the error.

Comments

  • Anonymous

    A busy corridor with and airport link in Canada’s biggest city has got to be electric. Come on Toronto, join the 20th Century — 12 years late is better than never!

    • Testu

      It doesn’t have to be electric although that would be nice. Keep in mind that “12 years late” isn’t better than never because the longer it is delayed the more likely it will not happening at all (perpetual project changes or outright cancellation).

      This seems to happen with every major transit project in the GTA. The closer it gets to being started, the more people want to jump in and change it.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Neville-Ross/100002343524258 Neville Ross

        @Testu: There’s a good reason this time-electric rail is better than diesel rail, and that’s what Metrolinx should have been building half a decade ago. No other good reason BUT that.

  • PDG

    And meanwhile, as the NIMBYs howl in protest, people who live on this line can’t access the city by rail, which would be much more efficient than GO buses, which collectively spew out more pollutants. The Junction has ALWAYS been a rail hub, and the yuppies there (many of whom themselves are drivers) are arch hypocrites.

    • Surster

      We call ourselves: YIMBYs — Yes, In my back yard – but make it electric. We have never said no to more trains, only diesel trains. This fight actually started in Weston in 2005 long before the Pan Am Games were announced and the Province ignored their own mandate to study all routes and options including the ‘do nothing’ option. By the time the work started in the Junction in 2009, we had already been fighting for almost 4 years and had gotten some concessions, mainly cosmetic. Then the Province got the Pan Am Games which created a false impetus for getting it built by 2015. The Province, GO and then Metrolinx have wasted months if not years and lots of YOUR money saying they cannot do it. If they had spent a fraction on doing the right things instead of cancelling power plants to save political seats, we would have electric trains by now. Interestingly, those are wealthier areas than where the trains are running! We think our children are worth more than having diesel trains for a 2-week sporting event! I am sure yours are too.

      And you would not want to live beside a corridor with an extra 140 diesel trains which are loud, very smelly and run 20 hours per day. If you do, I can suggest a few houses that are for sale!

      • Anonymous

        Nobody calls themselves a NIMBY, so you don’t get any points for calling yourself something else. And this is a classic move from the playbook of anyone who wants to shut down a project: you’re against the fully funded, reviewed, agreed, ready-to-build project that will benefit the city, but THAT’S OKAY because you’re IN FAVOR of some other amorphous, unfunded project that is somehow better. See also: Rob Ford, Sheppard Subway.

        • Anonymous

          Dragging Ford into this is a cheap tactic. “Agreed” by whom, exactly? Metrolinx? Heaven forbid the local community get input. Please name me one other similar project that is using diesel, and also how many electric projects you came across.

          You might not have time for these folk, but they vote. Mike Sullivan was and is heavily involved with groups like CTC in Weston, and continues to go to bat for public transit. Sullivan handily beat a federal Liberal in 2011, and the result from the provincial election was much closer than provincial Liberals would like. For a party that needs every seat it can get, the Ontario Liberals seem to perversely enjoy endangering Laura Albanese’s political career.

          • Anonymous

            The local community had their input. The plan was changed more than once to accommodate them: first to add a stop at Weston, second to use stage 4 diesels and eventually electrify. In spite of this reasonable accommodation, which has added expense and delay, the community is now throwing what can only be described as a temper tantrum, demanding its way or nothing.

            Mentioning Ford is certainly no cheaper than talking about what’s best for the children. No reputable scientist, not even the Medical Officer of Health, would say that the current plan endangers anyone’s health.

          • Anonymous

            Retrofitting the diesels will cost an extra $18M down the road. Why spend more later when the province could start off electric to begin with? Political expediency. On the one hand, the Liberals knew that the NDP has been nipping at their heels in York South-Weston (they lost by less than a thousand votes in 2007, a margin repeated in 2011), and knew they had to throw Weston a bone. On the other hand, they knew they couldn’t completely fold and make it electric, because that would hand the CTC and the NDP a victory. Hence, this fudge of a compromise.

            I don’t think either of us are so naïve as to believe that base partisan politics never influenced the thinking of the Liberals. Metrolinx is simply the province’s puppet.

          • Anonymous

            You seem to be the only one talking about partisan politics, Mike Sullivan campaign volunteer Edmund O’Connor.

          • Anonymous

            How does my background change any of the facts? Going electric from the start is an option. Metrolinx chose not to do so. It will cost an additional $18M to retrofit the units to electric. For a province crying about a deep deficit, this seems an odd choice. If Metrolinx makes a decision that wasn’t first approved by the provincial government, it will be the first time. I thought Metrolinx was supposed to be offering the best transit solutions, instead of the most politically expedient ones.

            By the way, I notice you don’t deny any of my assertions.

            Thanks for acknowledging my work on Mike’s campaign. I’m proud of it, as I am of my work on Paul Ferreira’s campaign.

          • Anonymous

            It changes none of the facts, only the spin. What I might call reasonable accommodation, you called a “fudge”. But yeah, I don’t give a rat’s ass about the politics, and I’d be way happier if Metrolinx gave the finger to Weston and built the service as a true express. And as long as we’re on the topic, I’d point out that Albanese’s re-election in 2011 — by a wider margin than in 2007! — means that CTC’s political support is exaggerated.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Neville-Ross/100002343524258 Neville Ross

            This is not ‘
            parochial bullshit’, sir, but a reasonable demand/request that the Libs and Metrolinx didn’t want to fulfill because both are full of shit, just like the stupid sheeple that elected the Libs in year after year and that also believe anything that Metrolinx tells them, in addition to reading crappy media that misinforms them on most issues. My hope is that the NDP could really kill them in the next provincial election (with help from the York South-Weston riding) and we get the electric trains we need; I also hope that the court challenge kills the stupid and overrated Pan Am Games as well, or at least delay it.

          • Anonymous

            Retrofitting the diesels will cost an extra $18M down the road. Why spend more later when the province could start off electric to begin with? Political expediency. On the one hand, the Liberals knew that the NDP has been nipping at their heels in York South-Weston (they lost by less than a thousand votes in 2007, a margin repeated in 2011), and knew they had to throw Weston a bone. On the other hand, they knew they couldn’t completely fold and make it electric, because that would hand the CTC and the NDP a victory. Hence, this fudge of a compromise.

            I don’t think either of us are so naïve as to believe that base partisan politics never influenced the thinking of the Liberals. Metrolinx is simply the province’s puppet.

          • Anonymous

            The Medical Officer of Health DID say that. ON more than one occasion. The communities call for electric has been constant going back even before MX existed.

          • Anonymous

            He did indeed say that, before Metrolinx changed the plan in response to his concerns. He now says that eventual electrification should be the goal, which is the plan. CTC is misrepresenting his position.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Neville-Ross/100002343524258 Neville Ross

            Except that the people didn’t want any more diesels, Stage 4 or otherwise, they wanted electric trains, and have probably been asking for them for a while since 2005; you just haven’t been paying any attention, like the other commenters here.

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/Neville-Ross/100002343524258 Neville Ross

          No, they’re in favor of something that should have been built a long time ago, and wasn’t because the people who run Metrolinx are full of shit, and willing to accept second best.

          Aside from the issue of what’s going to be powering said train that I have (most likely, a nuclear power plant will have to be built to back up the grid and the pull an electric train would demand from the grid) I think that what the CTC’s asking for isn’t unreasonable.

    • Anonymous

      I doubt many in Weston, for example, would either have the interest or the money to ride on trains where the fare will likely run $20 a pop (or more). The Weston stop was given purely as a sop by the Liberals in an attempt to shut people up. The ARL is not designed as a commuter service: it is designed to get businesspeople from the airport to downtown as fast as possible. People in Weston (where yuppies are rather thin on the ground) are getting increased pollution and a rail service out of reach of many of them. Asking that the service be electric from the start doesn’t seem too much to ask.

      • Anonymous

        According to the Toronto Taxi Fare Finder, taxi fare from Keele and Dundas to the airport would run you about $40 including tip. The ARL is absolutely worth it for a single traveler. Still worth it for two in rush hour.

        An express link between the nation’s busiest airport and the nation’s busiest transit hub is not just for fat cats. Nice talking point, though.

        • Anonymous

          It’s a good deal if you’re only taking it for a flight, which for many is very, very occasionally. People in Weston would actually like to use transit to get around their city, rather than just as a special treat. The Eglinton LRT will help, but if you’re a worker at the airport, the idea of taking the ARL a $20 a trip is simply a non-starter.

          I’m going to take a wild guess and say that the Weston station will not exactly be overwhelmed with people going to the airport for either business or pleasure. Take a walk around Weston. It’s not an area with much conspicuous consumption.

      • Anonymous

        “Businesspeople”? Don’t let classism blind you; at $20 – or even $35 – each way, it’s cheaper than an airport limo, airport express bus, or taxi.

        (Besides, everyone knows the briefcase and suit set fly out of the Island Airport.)

        It would be great if it were cheaper, but this is Toronto and we can’t have nice things.

        • Anonymous

          The ARL has been heavily pitched to business-people. There aren’t enough people living downtown and going to Pearson on holiday to make this worthwhile. If the ARL doesn’t attract business-people away from Billy Bishop, it is going to become a money-pit.

          I’m not being classist. I’m simply giving an accurate description of who the province is aiming the ARL at.

          • Anonymous

            The ARL isn’t one way; I’d wager the majority of Toronto-bound tourists, and Toronto residents, coming through YYZ will be heading deeper into Toronto than Etobicoke, and the tourists who aren’t staying here will be deposited a stone’s throw from VIA and Greyhound.

            Who the province is marketing the ARL to is irrelevant – it isn’t “designed [for] businesspeople” as you say. Anyone wanting to get between Pearson and Union can be served, including those who can’t write off a $60 taxi ride as a business expense.

          • Anonymous

            Right, because downtown residents and bankers are the only people in the world who use the GO, TTC, and Via services that all converge at Union Station. Have I correctly summarized your argument?

        • Anonymous

          SNC Lavalin walked away from running this line as a monopoly. When a company walks away from that you have to wonder is this a good plan or just a front to bid for the Olympics. An electric system is the only modern option for serving the most people.

  • Anonymous

    Clean Train Coalition = Save Our St Clair

  • OgtheDim

    When are we going to give up on trying to be world class and just be who we are?

    There is no need for this train.

    • Anonymous

      I completely disagree. World-class back-patting aside, having an easy and fast way to and from the airport benefits everyone.

    • OgtheDim

      In a city where we can’t afford our within the city transit needs, this one is hardly a priority.

      • Anonymous

        Being lower on the priority list doesn’t make the others more achievable. Particularly not when we can’t come up with a transit plan that will survive more than a few years before being torn apart or cancelled.

    • Anonymous

      There’s a need for this train. There’s a far greater need for other things, including other transit that would benefit a lot more people than just frequent fliers. For folks that need to get downtown in a hurry, there’s the island airport already.

      • Anonymous

        It benefits everyone going to and from the airport, not just frequent fliers (and not just fliers, either). And the Island isn’t exactly an international airport, you aren’t going to get the choice of YYZ or YTZ when you’re flying in from Europe or western North America or beyond.

        Why shouldn’t we have an easier way to get to the airport?

        • Anonymous

          Because the airport was built out in the sticks during an era when the car was king. Then we got too many kings. Boohoo.

          • Anonymous

            That’s why we don’t have an easy way to get there, not why we shouldn’t. We can’t move the airport closer.

          • Anonymous

            Gee, I hadn’t thought of that. Why can’t we have a high speed rail link to Cancun?

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Neville-Ross/100002343524258 Neville Ross

            @
            dsmithhfx: Why can’t we do so, indeed? What’s stopping the governments of North America from doing this when countries as poor as Brazil are building such lines already?

            The whole setup reminds me of this skit by Rick Mercer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uU3Q3A1GPd4

          • Anonymous

            No. Airports are built in the “sticks” because of the logistics of “being an airport”

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Neville-Ross/100002343524258 Neville Ross

        Although I love to take pictures of the planes taking off from the Island Airport, I have to admit that we don’t need it anymore, and that high-speed rail is a hell of a lot better than some small plane that put out more carcinogens than a car. As for the folks that use the island airport, let them put up with what the rest of us put up with when we cross the border.

    • Canadianskeezix

      Uh huh. Let’s cancel all city-building activities because we can’t meet all priorities. Let’s force more cars, buses and taxis on Highway 427 so we can “be who we are”.

      • Anonymous

        I support an electric line to the airport. But, please, the take cars off the road talking point is a myth. More cars take their place.

  • InTheTriangle

    This new train line has the potential to be the downtown relief line that gets talked about so often, but it can’t be that with diesel trains. Due to the long starting/stoping times of diesel trains, the present Pearson-Union link, will only have two stops between the airport and downtown (Dundas West & Weston), and will totally fail to meet its potential.

    If Metrolinx were to put in an electric line, there could be an Airport Express train, plus other trains that were more commuter-driven, that stopped in places like Liberty Village, Parkdale, The Junction (for the most part, platforms already exist in these locations), and so on and eventually on to the airport, providing much needed transit relief for those hoods.

    If we’re investing all this money already, why not go electric with it and solve two problems at once?

    • Anonymous

      “If we’re investing all this money already, why not go electric with it and solve two problems at once?”

      Because nothing in the current plan prevents us from doing that? And the current plan lets us have an air rail link in the near term?

      • InTheTriangle

        I guess where you and I would differ is that you believe Metrolinx when they say they will consider converting to electric down the road.
        I for one, don’t buy it. I just can’t see them spending millions of dollars any time soon to convert this project when they will have so many other transit priorities. And as we wait, we’ll wonder why we didn’t do it right from the beginning.

  • stopitman

    What a bunch of NIMBYs – I hope the judge strikes this down big time. You don’t move into an area that’s had a railway line for 150+ years and is an industrial area and then complain that there will be diesel trains traversing those tracks. People in Mississauga, Oakville, Burlington, Hamilton, and Downtown Toronto have dealt with trains passing every 10 minutes, I’m sure these whiners can too.

    As for the electric aspect – get over yourselves – the Lakeshore lines currently and will continue to carry more passengers over more congested lines and are already operating near capacity after extra tracks have been added in. These are the lines that deserve to be electrified first, not some line that ferries people two and from the airport.

    • Anonymous

      Actually Metrolinx’s studies show the APL and Georgetown (which is having expanded service) is the line they want to electrify first.

    • In-my-opinion

      Point of order: this corridor will have both GO trains, and the airport link (ARL), which, according to their Website “trains are
      expected to
      depart Union Station and Toronto Pearson every 15 minutes” — that’s a lot of diesel trains going through the heart of a dense urban corridor.

      Your argument is completely illogical — people elsewhere suffer with diesel, so the Georgetown GO & ARL corridor residents should suffer, too. Seems to me everyone near a rail corridor has the right to clean air. I say good for the CTC!

      Furthermore, this area is pretty much de-industrialized, and increasing the number of trains through an area, thus impacting people already living there, isn’t the same as a person moving into an area and then complaining about existing trains.

      I suspect it’s just easier to call people names like NIMBY than it is to construct a good and thoughtful argument.

      • stopitman

        Yes, and currently that line runs some trains in rush hour direction only and can’t even support full day or even weekend train service. Whereas the Lakeshore lines support overcrowded rush hour trains at a peak frequency of 15 minutes across 4 tracks that are fully owned by GO and 30-60minute traffic on off-peak and weekends (6am-1230am). Just because an area became unindustrialized does not mean that you expect that trains will stop running.

        Yes, calling people NIMBYs is an excellent argument when a billion dollars can support the electrification of 2 large GO lines that carry 55% of GO’s daily and yearly traffic rather than a short line with a couple of stops (which would not benefit from the increased acceleration and deceleration of electric locomotives). I’m not saying that that section of track shouldn’t be electrified, but rather that the higher priority should be on the area of immense ridership with chronic overcrowding, long distances, and many stations.

        • bzine

          Glad you agree that the section of track should be electrified. The question is why set an artificial deadline –The Pan Am Games–to push through what seems to be a poorly thought out business plan?

  • Anonymous

    Would love to see the Clean Train Coalition go tell the other dozen cities in North America with diesel air links that they are doing it wrong. Because, you know, what works in other cities should have no bearing whatsoever on Toronto.

    • Anonymous

      How long ago were these rail links built? Is anyone else actually building a diesel air rail link right now? Shouldn’t the answer to that last question tell us something?

    • Anonymous

      If you did some more research you would find that existing diesel commuter lines are being converted to electric all over the world. NOBODY builds diesel commuter systems anymore. Vancouver is electric, Montreal’s APL will be electric with more stops too.

      • Anonymous

        Sigh. Quick summary for you:

        ——–

        Denver – under construction diesel, opens 2016

        Miami – new diesel, opened 2012

        Providence – recent diesel to Boston, opened 2010

        Dallas – recent diesel to Dallas and Ft. Worth, opened 2000

        Montreal, SF-San Jose, Chicago-Milwaukee, Chicago-O’Hare, Baltimore-Washington, LA-Burbank, Ft.Lauderdale-Miami all have existing diesel train connections to airports.

        ——-

        As for Montreal’s proposed new ARL, it is an unfunded pipe dream that, if you read the whole document, is clearly leaning towards diesel DMUs. Sure, electric is always an option but like Toronto they will not want to pay the cost of an all new electric line when diesel will get the job done.

        Of course many cities like Vancouver have electric public transit light rail, light metro or subway connections to their airports and Toronto should have this also when the Eglinton LRT eventually gets to Pearson in, say, 2155 (Ford did untold damage with his anti-surface-rail rants.)

        If you really want cheap electric transit to the airport, quit blocking the ARL and pester Metrolinx to advance extension of the Eglinton LRT to YYZ ASAP.

        Everyone have their facts straight now?

      • Anonymous

        Oh, and as for diesel commuter systems in general, you might want to go check with Bombardier on their recent sales of diesel trains to Austin, San Jose, Salt Lake City, Nashville, Albuquerque, Seattle, Vancouver… but you know, those cities don’t exist, right? Nor do the dozen more with commuter diesel systems on the drawing boards. Nope, nothing to see here.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Neville-Ross/100002343524258 Neville Ross

      Geez, I thought that living in the Big Apple at least bestowed some sense on somebody; I guess that in your case, it doesn’t. Such a shame about that.

  • snout

    AS usual there are the snarky and uninformed posts by people who really have done little research into this issue because they get all their news from blogs. You can hate all you want but here is a major fact that seems to escape many. The CTC and other resident groups have been campaigning since 2007 for MORE trains and MORE stops. So its kind of hard to call people NIMBYs. Most people have no clue what the APL will actually look like or cost and if they did they would be let down. An electric system can accelerate and brake faster which would mean additional stops at Liberty, Queen, and St. Clair. Why build a line with 2 stops? Metrolinx’s own data concludes that an electric system would save money, attract more users, and generate more revenue. Look it up its on their website. So why rush to build a second tier line that will be upgraded supposedly some time in the future? Nobody builds diesel commuters line anymore. Instead being lazy and calling people NIMBY’s , spend your time looking up why.

  • I LOVE YOU!

    Let us electrify Lakeshore East and Lakeshore West as those are the busiest lines.