UP Express could be next subway, says Giambrone

Adam Giambrone has a thoughtful piece in this week’s Now Magazine.

If the Georgetown corridor were electrified, which would admittedly blow the 2015 deadline, the ARL could be turned into a local service by adding stops at places like Queen, Eglinton (in the Mount Dennis community) and Etobicoke North.

Along with the already planned stops at Weston, Bloor and the airport, the new ones would effectively turn this into the western section of the long-discussed downtown relief line at a fraction of the cost of building a subway.

Metrolinx update on electification

Metrolinx will be giving Weston—Mount Dennis residents an update on the electrification of the ARL tonight Wednesday, June 12, at the Weston Legion between 6:30pm – 8:30 pm.

Metrolinx gave downtowners an update earlier; InsideToronto was at the meeting.

“For many years people have called for electrification so I think there’s a step in the right direction with the EA,” said Bailao.

“However, the next step is taking a long time to happen and I am certainly hoping sooner rather than later the provincial government comes out with a firm date for building, rather than planning, electrification.”

Noise wall debate getting loud

Metrolinx will be installing noise walls along the tracks that run through Weston, but residents closer to downtown are getting worked up about the possibilities and asking for an improved design.

The walls will be up to 5m (15′) high, and some of the designs are quite ugly—all concrete and plexiglass.

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Others are attractive, but downtown residents worry that they will cast large shadows, attract graffiti, and reduce the green space.

It could be worse. If Metrolinx builds the walls on the cheap, we will be stuck with a monstrosity that cuts through the neighbourhood. Below is a rendering of a street in Mount Dennis, done by the firm Brown + Storey.

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Instead, Brown + Storey propose  ‘living walls’, which use vegetation and more natural materials to reduce the noise. They say,

the new rail link does not need to follow in the steps of other transit infrastructure in Toronto – that is, disconnecting neighborhoods further, and treating the new line as a necessary evil that needs to be separated as much as possible in a virtual tunnel. Rather, the rail link should be seen as a positive attribute that can re ‐ invigorate and increase our pedestrian and cycling networks, be a catalyst for the reconnection of historically separated neighbourhoods for Toronto residents, and ultimately become a new international gateway….

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David Suzuki doesn’t like dirty diesel

David Suzuki wrote an article today for the Huffington Post criticizing the UP Express link to Pearson:

That’s why a proposal to use diesel trains for the Air-Rail-Link plan to connect downtown Toronto with its international airport in Mississauga is concerning. A rapid transit link with the airport is long overdue, but heavy diesel trains emit particulates and other contaminants, including known carcinogens. The proposed rail line would be close to dozens of schools and daycare centres, several long-term care facilities and a chronic respiratory care hospital.

Numerous experts, including Toronto’s Medical Health Officer, have urged the Ontario government to abandon its diesel plan in favour of electric trains that could be better integrated into a region-wide rapid transit network.

Conservatives catch Wynned of ARL waste

The Conservative critic of the Pan Am Games, Rod Jackson, put out a press release yesterday tearing into the mismanagement of the UP Express.

Your humble correspondent rarely includes press releases in their entirety, but this is a doozy:

The Union-Pearson Air-Rail Link was designed to be a legacy project which would make travel to Pearson airport cheaper and easier. Instead, its mismanagement by the provincial Liberal government will leave it standing as a legacy to McGuinty-Wynne waste.

“The ARL has been rushed by this government and it has cost Ontarians hundreds of millions in wasted dollars,” said MPP Rod Jackson. “Metrolinx officials have even confirmed that the ARL could have been electrified in time for the 2015 Pan Am Games. Instead, they’re spending taxpayer’s money twice.”

Estimates suggest that converting rail lines from diesel to electric would take around three years to complete, provided an environmental assessment was in place. Metrolinx currently plans to electrify the ARL by 2017, starting the electrification process in 2015 after the Pan Am Games.

“The Games were awarded in 2009. If electrifying the rail line was a 3-year process, this Liberal government could have easily electrified the line in time for the Pan Am Games, saving themselves from having to spend money on diesel in the first place.”

“This McGuinty-Wynne government clearly stands for two things: red tape and waste. The ARL is a perfect representation of that Liberal ethos.”

“First, red tape turned a 3-year retrofit into an 8-year retrofit. Second, that red tape led directly to the waste of up to $456-million being needlessly spent on the ARL prior to electrification costs in millions.”

“Premier Wynne has demonstrated that she will continue in the footsteps of her predecessor Dalton McGuinty by showing a lack of responsibility in handling the public purse,” concluded Jackson.