Just before you read this announcement, we want to tell you that:
You are invited to our next Our Union Pearson meeting to get clean trains, more stops, and lower fares on our new 23-km transit line from Union Station to Pearson Airport.
Tuesday March 10, 5.30pm – 7.00pm
Supercoffee cafe, 1148 Weston Road
RSVP with firstname.lastname@example.org 647 772 8770.
On Wednesday February 24, TTCriders, Clean Train Coalition, the Our Union Pearson Coalition and friends attended the first public meeting transit agency, Metrolinx, has made in over a year on the controversial Union Pearson train line. The meeting was organized by the Roncesvalles Macdonell Residents Association, and reached capacity. We ran out of chairs.
CP 24, City TV, 680 News and the Parkdale Villager reported on the meeting. Watch the CP 24 video.
Clearly in response to our organizing efforts, the day the meeting was scheduled, MPP Glen Murray announced that the Ministry of Environment was no longer requiring Hydro One to do an environmental assessment of the substation that is needed to supply the line with electricity. This assessment was one of the few remaining hurdles needed to electrify the line by Now there is nothing stopping Premier Wynne from making this a true public transit line, except for political will.
We attended the meeting last night in order to get answers about the train from Karen Pitre, the executive director of electrification at Metrolinx. The takeaway message is that we didn’t get many answers at all. Read on for a list of questions we asked, and the answers we received.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
- There has been around $10B set out in the Provincial budget for a list of GTA transit improvements to be completed by 2024. How much is dedicated to electrification?
In brief $0. Karen Pitre emphasized that electrification is currently an unfunded initiative. It is not clear where the budget for the current work (small as it is) is coming from; for this Karen said that “Metrolinx is taking this initiative.”
- What routes will be electrified? When?
Metrolinx is conducting planning work to electrify UP Express with the idea that what is done here would be standardized across RER/Smart Track. The idea is that all of RER/Smart Track would be electrified, but Karen repeatedly refused to answer questions of timing.
- The Environmental Assessment process for Union Pearson was split into two, with Metrolinx doing one on the corridor electrification work and Hydro doing one on the electrical system impacts and upgrades. We understand that the Minister of Environment has approved the corridor work. When do you expect the Hydro EA to be finally approved? Will this double ea be needed for all other routes?
Karen provided some background on the EA for the electrification of UPX: apparently the need for a double EA stemmed from a specific request (from an unknown someone). According to this procedure the file went to the desk of the Minister of the Environment, who recently determined that the double EA was not necessary. Karen did not expect other electrification projects to face these sorts of delays.
- Union Pearson is the most advanced of any of the routes in terms of detail design. We expect it will be given priority, and Metrolinx CEO Bruce McCuaig has indicated he thinks this may be so but waiting for the upcoming implementation report recommended by staff. Will Union Pearson be the first route to be electrified? If not, why not? When will it be completed?
Electrification has been considered in some aspects of UPX construction: for example, the stations have been built with “bonding” so that they not need to be redone for electrification. Karen never spoke to the timing of electrification of this line relative to the other lines, instead speaking only to the specifics of this one. The timing relates primarily to the interplay of 1) funding, and 2) technical aspects. Regarding technical aspects, there are considerations such as the possible need to relocate transmission power lines or Toronto Hydro wires. Metrolinx will be discussing these issues in stakeholder meetings over the course of the next year.
- SmartTrack is to be completed within 7 years as electric and multistop. We know they are studying the feasibility of staying on Union -Pearson or veering off at Mount Dennis to run along Eglinton to the Airport Corporate Centre. Will the extra stops be built while electrification is taking place? Is it expected to use the same tracks as UPX and is there sufficient track capacity? Is the Airport Access Link across the 401 going forward that would potentially connect Mississauga Regional Express Rail with Union-Pearson?
Metrolinx and the City of Toronto have created a working group to integrate Smart Track and RER. None of the other points above were addressed.
6. UPX is launching with diesel multiple unit (dmu) trains later this year, and we have been told by Metrolinx Chair Rob Prichard that these will be converted to run electrically by swapping out components. Is this still the plan? If so when and how? If not where are the DMUs going?
The contract with the train manufacturer included a cause that the components be “swappable”. When electrification occurs Metrolinx will decide whether it makes more sense to convert the DMUs to EMUs or replace the rolling stock.
- Metrolinx has just issued a request for information on various kinds of electric trains. Can you please explain what this is about? What kind of trains will be running along Union-Pearson? At what stage in the procurement process does Metrolinx actually tender for purchasing and when will this happen for Union-Pearson?
The trains for UPX have already arrived and are being tested [information from website; Karen did not discuss this during the meeting]. The story for GO trains is more complicated and Karen only discussed this hypothetically: GO trains may operate with electric locomotives or with EMUs.
Metrolinx employee Manuel explained that the UPX trains have “Tier 4 diesel” motors. There is some formula that has been developed for GO lines with respect to emissions on each of the lines as service increases, with significant confusion among participants as to whether GO has m/any Tier 4 locomotives.
- There is to be a new Maintenance and Storage yard built at Islington south of 401 (Resources Road) for UPX. Is this still happening? Will it be electrified? Will it serve just UP or SmartTrack as well?
Yes, this facility has undergone preliminary design for UPX. Karen did not comment about its role for Smart Track.
- We understand that the major east rail maintenance yard in Oshawa is also under construction and will handle electric locomotives. How long until it is ready? We heard it is over-budget, will that negatively affect the electrification program, budget or timing?
Not discussed. Note that there currently is no budget for electrification.
- It sounds like there is going to be a lot of jobs associated with electrification. How is metrolinx planning to connect employment opportunities to communities that need employment?
Karen guessed that Metrolinx would approach this using “a similar approach to the Georgetown South Project.”
- Metrolinx is working on its corporate sustainability framework. Does electrification fit into it? If so, how? If not, why not?
- We are told that within 3 years UPX will be able to recover its operating costs from the fare box. Why is this train the only train or road in Canada that is being required to recoup its operating costs through fares? $27 is 9x the cost of riding the TTC and beyond the means for most riders. Why was this decision made? Are you planning on privatizing the line?
Karen refused to answer this question, but promised to “take this issue back.”
- UPX trains will hold about 170 people, about the same as a Queen streetcar, with a configuration that looks more like the inside of an airplane than a transit vehicle. This mean means that these trains will not be able to handle the fluctuations in ridership that is normal across our transit network, and basically ensures that the UPX remains isolated and separate from that existing network. So if this plan for a transit line that recoups its own operating costs at ridiculously high fares does not pan out, what are the possibilities that we could replace these trains with ones that are actually useful in moving people around the city?
Station configuration and the design of the “spur” to the airport will limit the possibilities of which trains can be used for this service.
Participants also asked questions related to the capacity of the power grid to support a public transit network running on electricity, and the possibility that all trains (freight + passenger) running through the city be powered exclusively by electric traction.
Karen responded that Hydro One had repeatedly claimed that the grid could support these activities but that the conversion of other trains could only happen with the engagement of CN and CP.