Metrolinx and GO explain possible trains

GO Transit has posted the slides from the May 27 community update. The slides may alleviate concerns community members had.

As most Weston residents know, GO Transit is studying whether it should electrify the trains that run through our community. Community activists and citizens are quite convinced of the benefits of electrification: quieter, cleaner, faster trains. GO Transit is less convinced that electrifying the train system makes sense.

The slides from the recent meeting show the many different possibilities that GO is considering. They are:

  • Diesel
  • Electric
  • Biodiesel
  • Natural Gas
  • Hydrogen
  • Combination fuels
  • Maglevs
GO locomotive
GO locomotive

Community residents found the proliferation of alternate fuels in the study baffling. GO had said it would study and discuss electrification—not futuristic maglevs.

The slides make clear, though, that most of the possibilities are non-starters. Natural gas, biodiesel, hybrids, and maglevs are not “commercially viable” or proven technologies, according to GO.

Yet while that leaves only two kinds of fuel (electric and diesel) there remain several kinds of engine to consider. Locomotive-hauled carriages (LHCs) are the trains Westonians will be familiar with: massive, noisy engines pull passenger cars. This is not the most modern design, though, and GO is considering the other possibility.

Instead of having a single, huge engine at the front of the train, most modern trains (called “multiple unit” or MU trains) have engines spread throughout the cars, directly the under the passenger compartments. The TTC subways are like this, of course; they have no large engine in front of the train. Multiple-unit trains are more elegant, cause less wear on tracks, and scale to demand well.

There are, then, four likely kinds of train for GO:

  1. Electric locomotive hauling carriages (Electric LHC)
  2. Electric multiple unit (EMU)
  3. Diesel locomotive hauling carriages (Diesel LHC)
  4. Diesel multiple unit (DMU)
Multiple unit (MU) train
Multiple unit (MU) train

However, only the electric and diesel LHCs are compatible with the passenger cars that GO has now. Thus, GO would likely choose only between locomotives, and would forgo the multiple-unit trains.

One intriguing possibility remains. On page 27 of the presentation, GO says that dual-mode locomotives are in development. Dual-mode trains would be able to travel through both electrified and non-electrified sections of track by switching between diesel and electric motors.

Weston Memorial Fun Fair a success

Heavy rain stopped just in time for the Weston Memorial Fun Fair last night. Hundreds of people came out to play games, bounce in the air castles, and support their local school.

Libby Sestito, the school’s office administrator, said that the fair was “really great. It was very well attended, even though we thought we were going to get poured on. It was really unbelievable.”

According to Ms Sestito, the parents’ council estimates that they raised around $5000. The money will likely go toward computers for the computer lab.

Kids and adults had a great time racing in the potato sack race, and watching the staff and teachers race as well. The hotdogs were popular, and the animal encounter was a hidden gem. Kids (and their chaperones!) could get up close and pat snakes, rabbits, and exotic animals like the bearded lizard, chinchilla, and skinny pig. The animal keepers were wonderful with the delighted crowd of little ones.

Finally, your correspondent can attest that the cupcakes were a steal at 50¢.  Delicious!

Weston murder suspect has been arrested

The Durham Regional Police have arrested Patrick Kirk Barrett, the suspect in the murder of Weston-area woman Lucita Charles.

Barrett had not fled to Montreal, as suspected. 680news.com reports that he turned himself in after calling police from a phone booth in Oshawa. He was arrested and charged with second-degree murder.

Charles was stabbed to death on Monday; she leaves a 7-year-old son.

Alan Tonks may have been tired and emotional

In a heated session on June 2, Parliament debated the costs of the G8 and G20 summit being held in Toronto. Alan Tonks asked a rather strange question of the PC defenseman Phil McColeman.

McColeman had given his justification of the costs of the summits. He said, in short, that the costs were the price of being on the world stage and within the realm of reason.

After a preamble, Tonks asked the following:

I know it is difficult to ask a question based on intelligence, but could the member share any intelligence that would be of the proportion that he has described with respect to nuclear threats, and so on, such that Canadians could say, God bless the government, that it is taking the appropriate initiative in keeping with that degree of possibility?

It is not at all clear what Tonks meant.

Tonks may have been asking whether the G8 and G20 summits are threatened by nuclear attack, and whether the $1B expense is to protect us against rogue nukes. At no point in the debate, though, had anyone else mentioned such a horrible possibility.

McColeman had said that the G8 would discussing how to reduce the chance of terrorists acquiring nuclear weapons. Sensibly, he did not mention the possibility that the G8 would be the target for such an attack—doing so would inspire panic. Perhaps, then, Tonks meant to ask: Is Canada ensuring that terrorists don’t ever get nuclear weapons? That would match McColeman’s passing remark but not the rest of the discussion (why the G8 is costing so much). Interpreted thus, Tonks would be would be both wildly off topic and asking odd, slow-pitch questions. Would McColeman really answer “Nope. We’re not worried at all about nuclear-armed terrorists!”?

It is hard to see what Tonks could have been getting at. If he wanted to know whether the $1B was being spent on preventing nuclear attacks at the G8, he could have asked directly—if irresponsibly. The answer, however, is obvious: of course (some of ) it is. If he was interested in knowing whether the government worries about nuclear attacks on Canada, he should seen that such a question hardly suits his role in the official opposition. The question implies that Liberals are either unconcerned about nuclear annihilation or hopelessly naive about the duties of government.

McColeman had no idea what Tonks was talking about either. In what seems like a pointed rejoinder, he said:

Mr. Speaker, I believe the member’s question is what are the comparable costs. The one example that I would point out to the hon. member is, in Japan, when it hosted the G8, the costs were $1.7 billion just to hold the G8 in Japan.

Normally, avoiding the question is unbecoming. In this case, it was quite decent of McColeman to leave Tonks’ dignity intact.

Manhunt for Weston murderer

Police are trying to find Patrick Kirk Barrett, who is wanted for the murder of Lucita Charles. He is believed to have fled to Montreal.

Charles lived just outside Weston and was stabbed to death Monday night. She had a 7-year-old boy with cerebral palsy. Her son is in the custody of Children’s Services.

Patrick Kirk Barrett
Patrick Kirk Barrett

A murder on the edge of Weston

A young woman was murdered yesterday at 15 Harding Ave, just south of Jane and Lawrence.

The woman, who has not yet been publicly identified, was in her 20s or 30s, and CBC Radio reports that she was the mother of a 6-year-old autistic boy. She may not have been a documented immigrant.

The victim was found stabbed yesterday and died at the scene. The Star reports that a suspect is sought.


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Alan Tonks’ Salary

There is an uproar on Parliament Hill about transparency. It’s not the Afghan detainee scandal: it’s a screaming match about MP’s expenses.

Almost no MPs want their expenses to be transparent, but all parties want to appear transparent. The Conservatives are calling for more debate about MP’s expenditures, but won’t release the actual data. The Liberals this week released their member’s expenses to show the Conservatives up—never mind that the data are exactly the same as were released in the annual House of Commons report—and exactly as paltry.

Alan Tonks

According to the report, Alan Tonks’ office costs taxpayers about $575,000 a year. His office expenditures are $423,035, and the base salary for an MP is $155,400.

Tonks’ expenses do not compare favourably with his colleagues. The Prime Minister’s expenses are only 60% of Tonks’. Stephane Dion’s expenses are 20% less.

Tonks’ leader, Michael Ignatieff, spends only 13% more than Tonks does, as does Gilles Duceppe, the BQ leader. Jack Layton spends 30% more.

Constituents and taxpayers should be concerned with the expenses of a back-bench MP who spends like a leader. Unfortunately, until MPs reveal more detail, we won’t know whether Tonks’ expenditures were justified. His secrecy does not lend confidence.

Other Liberal MPs have released their expenses. Tonks should do the same. He has little to lose and much to gain.

My data, in OpenOffice format: Tonks’ expenses