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Clean Train Coalition taking Metrolinx to court

October 23rd, 2012 · No Comments

Lawsuit over diesel trains launched

By Richard Frankel

The Clean Train Coalition (CTC) has filed a lawsuit against Metrolinx, a GTA transit authority, over their decision to use diesel instead of electric trains for the Air Rail Link (ARL) between Union Station and Pearson International Airport.

“Clean Train Coalition has been forced to ask the courts to review how Metrolinx was fettered in its decision making by a short-term sporting event deadline [the Pan American Games in 2015] that does not relate to its mandate for planning and implementation of sustainable healthy transportation in the long-term interests of Ontarians,” said Rick Ciccarelli, the co-chair of the CTC.

Dozens of concerned citizens, along with local politicians, joined members of the CTC at Davenport Perth Neighborhood Centre (1900 Davenport Rd.) to discuss the potential electrification of the ARL at a meeting on July 18.

“My interest is that the trains [will be] running right through the middle of the neighbourhood,” said Rick Ciccarelli. “There are daycares and schools right there. We’re concerned and we want to see trains in the neighbourhood, but it needs to be electric transit.”

According to information from the CTC website, the McGuinty government plans to run 140 diesel trains daily along the Georgetown South rail corridor—encompassing 12 Toronto neighbourhoods.

According to a CTC news release, a recent World Health Organization announcement reclassified diesel exhaust as a carcinogen. The release said it is even more urgent that Metrolinx’s plans get changed and the ARL be built as electric from the start of service.

Mark Ostler, spokesperson for Metrolinx, said the transit authority is committed to building the link in an environmentally responsible way.

Electrification of the ARL requires an environmental assessment, which is already underway and will be completed in 2014.

“The vehicles we’re purchasing for the ARL are fully convertible to electric, and the track upgrades currently underway are built to allow for electrification,” he said.

Ostler said the service will launch with state-of-the-art Tier-4 diesel multiple units, the strictest non-road engine emissions standard set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

“Tier-4 technology reduces airborne particulate emissions by 90 per cent and nitrogen oxides by 75 per cent. By using Tier 4 vehicles, there will be less total emissions on the area surrounding the Georgetown South corridor than today by removing the exhaust from 1.2 million auto trips from the road system that are destined to and from the airport.”

More than 300,000 people live along the rail path. There are 76 schools, 96 daycare centres, and four long-term care facilities within a kilometre of the tracks.

At the meeting, CTC members agreed to incorporate the coalition as a non-profit organization. This would allow them to be recognized as an official body with a board of directors. A vote to elect up to 15 board members is scheduled to happen in the next few months. Ciccarelli said incorporation was necessary for fundraising so the CTC could compete with the ad campaigns by Metrolinx.

The CTC also encouraged its members and interested neighbourhood citizens to regularly contact the Premier’s office to have their voices heard, and tell their neighbors what is going on.

“The person who can change it to electric is the Premier,” said Ciccarelli. “I think the coalition should focus its energy on that.”

Greg Gormick, research director for the CTC, said the coalition has been told the only way to meet the deadline for the Pan Am Games is to use diesel. He said this is the Premier’s “legacy project.”

According to Ciccarelli, Metrolinx is very wary about changing technology and so they used the deadline for the games as justification for sticking with diesel.

Gormick criticized the Premier’s office, saying it has tuned out the CTC for political reasons and has been very vague about a plan of action.

MPP Jonah Schein (Davenport), who is also the current NDP transportation critic, told those at the meeting about the private members’ bill he introduced this past April, which supports electrification. Schein said the bill will be debated at Queen’s Park in September.

“This is an equity issue,” he said. “This would not happen in Rosedale … we have an opportunity here to build good transit. We have to get this changed at Queen’s Park.”

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