Here’s what you need to know and tell your neighbours about the issue:
The Ontario Government promotes a green, modern and innovative vision of Ontario, but insists on running the new Air Rail Link (ARL) to Pearson on dirty diesel fuel.
Myth:Electric trains are just too expensive.
Fact: The initial investment in electric trains is higher, but electric trains actually cost less to operate. In fact, the government’s own transportation agency, Metrolinx, concluded that the operational savings of running electric trains would make up for the extra costs of electrification in just 10 years.
Besides, Metrolinx has already promised to electrify the rails eventually, so they could save a lot of money by doing it right the first time.
Myth:The new so-called clean diesel (tier 4) trains are not bad for your health or the environment.
Fact: All diesel fuels emit pollution and the addition of 140 ARL trains a day will increase emissions along the route. The World Health Organization (WHO) has recently reclassified diesel engine exhaust as a Group1 carcinogen, with proven cancer-causing properties. This puts diesel exhaust in the same risk category as other noxious substances like arsenic, asbestos, mustard gas and tobacco. WHO scientists warn that clean diesel� exhaust is a different and untested substance whose effects on human health are not yet known.
The 300,000 residents who live along the rail corridor, many of whom are already socially disadvantaged, will suffer the health consequences of the increased emissions most directly. Within one km of the ARL tracks, there are 30,000 children attending local schools and 44 daycare and long-term care facilities.
Because of concerns about the impact of ARL pollution, in 2009 Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health asked Metrolinx to electrify the line as soon as possible.
Myth:This is just a question of NIMBYism. Electricity generation also produces pollution for residents in other regions of Ontario.
Fact: Ontario’s electricity production is 70% non-fossil-fuel based and is becoming even cleaner under the government’s green energy initiatives. Plus, electric trains convert energy more efficiently than diesel trains because they don’t need to carry fuel. Electric trains are also far less noisy.
Residents along the rail corridor are going to have the trains in their backyards, so they quite rightly want them to be clean and quiet. And, they would like to have access to them. Because stopping diesel trains is dirty and expensive, Metrolinx has only planned two stops along the line. Electric trains move and stop more efficiently, quietly and cleanly so the number of stops can be increased and more people will be able to use them to move across the GTA.
In April 2012, Toronto City Council passed a motion asking Metrolinx to electrify the ARL and add eight additional stops.
Myth:The ARL will reduce pollution and gridlock by removing 1.2 million car trips to the airport annually.
Fact: The government has consistently overstated the environmental benefits of the ARL by using unrealistic ridership scenarios which envision having full trains at all times of the day.
The Toronto Board of Trade estimates that gridlock is costing Ontario $6 billion per year. If the Ontario government is serious about using the ARL to get cars off the road, then it needs to incorporate the line into a broader transit strategy for the GTA by including more stops and reducing the price of the fare (projected to be between $20 and $40). By offering a viable alternative for GTA commuters, particularly those 38,000 people who work at Pearson airport, the ARL really could help reduce traffic problems in the city.
Myth: Above-ground transit options like rail lines can’t provide viable solutions to the GTA’s gridlock problems.
Fact: Recently, transit experts have suggested incorporating various GO lines, including an electrified ARL, into a much-needed and long-discussed Downtown Relief Line (DRL). TTC’s management insists that the DRL should be the next priority for transit in Toronto. The DRL is meant to link the Bloor-Danforth subway line to Dundas West Station via a southern corridor running through Union Station. Several experts have proposed a plan that would link up with the ARL to extend the western arm of the DRL beyond Bloor Street.
Expanding the ARL in this way could help provide a timely and cost-effective solution to Toronto’s transit woes.
Myth: There’s no role for the federal government in regional and urban transit issues.
Fact: The Toronto Board of Trade has identified gridlock as the greatest threat to economic prosperity in Ontario. That’s why Toronto MP Olivia Chow has introduced a private member’s bill calling for a National Transit Strategy which would make stable federal funding available for local transit projects like the electrification of commuter trains. Canada is the only G8 country that does not have a national public transit strategy.
The McGuinty government knows that electric trains are better for the economy and for the environment and that�s why they have already committed to converting the ARL to electric in the future.
Myth: There’s no time to electrify the line before the PanAm games in 2015.
Fact: At a packed electrification meeting on 27 June 2012, a Metrolinx representative informed local residents that if the Premier approved the project, there would be time to electrify the line by 2015.
This is why it’s important to keep encouraging the McGuinty government to make funding available for Clean Trains Now!
You can help by emailing Dalton McGuinty at firstname.lastname@example.org or calling him at
416 325 1941 about your concerns.