Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Diesel in, Diesel Out

Vancouver gets Canada Line- an electric Air Rail Link for their 2010 Olympic Games which will open three months before schedule. Calgary gets a renewable energy-driven electric rail system, powered by wind turbines.  Toronto gets a 145 page report, commissioned by Metrolinx, from an environmental consulting firm stating that our health will be damaged 'within established standards' by over 400 diesel trains a day running through our neighbourhoods.  Diesel in, diesel out - garbage in, garbage out.  If a report is written using the worst case diesel emissions data to generate air quality results, the worst case air quality assessment will have to be carefully skewed by those who write the report to justify the expenditure on diesel trains, and protect the 'necessity' for diesel emissions into our air, soil and water sheds. And don't forget our homes and lungs.

What gives? Don't we deserve a better, cleaner and quieter train system like the rest of Canada? And why can SNC-Lavalin work with InTransitBC in Vancouver to build an automated light rapid rail system, but not work to utilize the same electric train technology for the Georgetown South Service Expansion with Metrolinx in Toronto? Why is Metrolinx  still commissioning Air Quality Assessment Reports on the implementation of a diesel train corridor in Toronto? Why would the same transit company, SNC-Lavalin, go back in time to use diesel trains in a private public partnership in Toronto, when SNC-Lavalin has proven expertise to build an electric train system in Vancouver in exactly the same capacity?
Let's look at this logistically.  Our taxpayer's money is being spent by Metrolinx on an Air Quality Assessment Report that justifies this logic - since the west end of Toronto's air quality is so bad already, a 'negligible' increase of 15% air pollution is considered irrelevant as added to this region's air quality by this rail corridor. This includes the fact that these diesel trains will be the greatest source of emissions for nitrous oxide in all of Toronto, and that these standards are far beyond legal guidelines. If the west end of Toronto's socioeconomic population is considered at risk, as well as this region, one of the most polluted regions in all of Ontario, would it not be logical to protect this at risk population and region, rather than adding to present environmental stressors? Why would a diesel corridor even be considered  to be built in a region which has the greatest number of 'sensitive receptors' - young children - per capita when this region's existing air quality is already benchmarked as the worst in Ontario?

Enough already, Metrolinx. Use the proven track record of SNC-Lavalin to build electric trains in Vancouver for the GSSE in Toronto. Improve upon what SNC-Lavalin has learned in Vancouver while building this electric train system to adapt it to specifically meet the needs of the GTA. Work with the municipal government's TransitCity to streamline this rail corridor so that it works as a comprehensive transit system which does not duplicate services, such as the Air Rail Link provided by the Eglinton LRT, but supports an easily accessible, clean, unified transit system for the people that matter most- the passengers and those who live near the corridor.  

Time's a-wasting. Our health is worth more than yet another report. 

References: Canada Line at http://www.canadaline.ca/ and their FAQs at http://www.canadaline.ca/aboutFAQ.asp
GSSE and UPRL EA - Human Health Assessment of Air Quality Impacts June 2009 Intrinsik Environmental Sciences Inc.  Link to http://www.metrolinx.com/gsse/docs/GSSE_UPRL_EA-Human_Health_Assessment-Air_Quality_Impacts-Full_Draft_Report-June-09.pdf