Update - Jan 23 2011
Much has happened since the last update. Metrolinx staff has recommended to the Board of Directors that the Lakeshore and Georgetown lines be electrified, starting with the Air Rail Link. That is good news. However, there are a number of problems.
Metrolinx plans to buy and use diesel trains for the ARL for approximately 3-5 years. That presents two additional costs to the taxpayer. First, the trains are more expensive, and the cost of conversion to electric power is unknown. More importantly, once the diesel trains are up and running, at 140 per day, it becomes more difficult to electrify. Right now there are no trains at all for 16 hours of the day. Once the ARL is up and running, there will only be 4 hours a day without trains. Metrolinx has asked the province for an additional $400 Million to build an extra track (including a cut-and-cover tunnel under 18 lanes of the 401) to move the trains around while they electrify. This more than doubles the cost of electrification.
The rush to put trains up is for the premier’s promise to have it running for the Pan Am Games. However, no athletes or officials will use the link. Instead, a lane of the 427 and Gardiner will be set aside for buses for the duration of the games. The Clean Train Coalition has investigated worldwide experience with electrification and believes it could be electric in time for the games. However, if due to provincial red-tape it cannot be done in time, a two-week sporting event should not be the excuse for many years of diesel pollution and an additional $400 Million of tax dollars being spent.
The other problem is that Metrolinx claims it will take between 7 and 10 years to electrify the ARL, and 22 years to electrify the Georgetown and Lakeshore lines. No real analysis of the time required is presented. However, previous GO studies updated as recently as 2009, stated 45 months to electrify the entire 108 km Lakeshore line, including raising bridges and lowering tracks for electric wire clearances. All the clearance work is already done or planned in the next 3 years for the Georgetown line. Other jurisdictions, such as Britain and the US, electrify railroads in much less time. Britain will electrify 300 kilometres of the line from London to Cardiff in four years, while the line is in full operation.
The huge cost of this project will only provide service to a relative handful of people, as presently envisaged. As diesel, the trains will actually pollute 3 times more oxides of nitrogen (smog producer) than the cars it purports to take ‘off the road’. It is still being planned as a premium, business-class service. Metrolinx hopes to attract 5000 passengers each day by the 5th year of operation. As a comparison, a bus or streetcar route carries 5000 passengers each HOUR in rush hour. A subway can handle 5 times that. The Clean Train Coalition believes the line should be electric, and consideration made to making it much more useful to the citizens of Toronto. With a handful more stops, it could be an above-ground subway-like line for the transit-starved areas of the west and north-west of Toronto
Metrolinx has begun two separate community advisory groups to advise on the construction projects set to begin in Weston. One is the Weston ‘tunnel’ committee. The other is a John St. pedestrian bridge committee. Metrolinx has completely rejected any community ideas to keep John St. open to cars. On Dec 2, we got a look at the plans. As a reminder, the CP tracks (2 on the east side) will remain where they are now, with lights and gates for train crossings. The GO tracks will be lowered under King and Church St, and will climb back up to cross over Lawrence where they now are. The station will be moved to entirely south of Lawrence, and GO plans to build a platform there and move the stop there starting late next year. John St will be closed to cars. The tunnel will be covered by a roof of a thin skin of concrete between Church and King, and large concrete ribs will span the walls as they ascend out of the tunnel at either end. The tunnel roof is not planned to continue past Church or King since it would then require a fan to ventilate it, as the trains will be diesel. A crash-barrier berm will be installed between the CP tracks and the covered trench.
A whole lot of issues were discussed at the first meeting. One concern was that each of the projects was being discussed separately – the tunnel, the pedestrian bridge, and the ultimate station design. Other concerns were the visual impact of the walls and ribs, the noise impact on properties east of the new berm, and whether the concrete roof can be green space. One possibility is that a portion of the roof will be used by St. John the Evangelist RC school as an extension of their playground. Another key issue is how the new station will be accessed by pedestrians from Weston. Another is how the noise of construction will be managed. Metrolinx does not intend to install the noise barrier walls until after the construction is finished.
The next meeting of the tunnel group is Wednesday Jan 26, at the Active Living Centre at 1901 Weston Road, at 6:30 pm. You can sign up to attend and view the work so far here, http://www.gotransit.com/gts/en/default.aspx
The John St. pedestrian bridge design committee had its first meeting Jan 20. Introductions and discussion of the terms of reference were most of what was discussed. This bridge will not be built until 2013.
Finally, the first air quality monitoring station has arrived in the old Chrysler lot south of Lawrence. It is not yet running.
Weston Community Coalition