Electrification EA Commences

Union Pearson Express Electrification Environmental Assessment

This is a good thing as it removes a hurdle to electrification but remember that "Funding for the electrification is dependent on the Metrolinx Investment Strategy." Electrification is part of The Big Move's "Next Wave" projects to be funded by new sources that MX is expected to reveal in 2014. Also planning for additional stations (while the pressure for that is growing and it makes too much sense) that electrification would enable has yet to show itself on any radar so electrification could still be some years away.

Too bad that Metrolinx didn't listen the first time otherwise we would have more stations and more transit in 2015. You will be seeing this ad in papers this week and there will also probably be something in the mail too.

From the notice:

"Metrolinx is proposing to electrify the Union Pearson (UP) Express route beginning at the future UP Express Union Station in the City of Toronto and terminating at the future UP Express Pearson Station (Terminal 1, Toronto Pearson International Airport) in the City of Mississauga. The project involves the electrification of approximately 25 kilometres of track along the Union Station GO Rail Corridor and Kitchener GO Rail Corridor to Highway 427, where the route then follows the new UP Express spur line (under construction) into Toronto Pearson. The purpose of the project is to convert the UP Express route from diesel to electric power.

regional transportation plan which will dramatically improve how people move in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton areas. Funding for the electrification is dependent on the Metrolinx Investment Strategy."



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The official number to

The official number to electrify the airport link is 440 million. That is the number that Metrolinx has given. There are numbers available for the different stages of the whole system.

A lot of people would love to know why electric trains were never considered. We are still waiting for an answer on that.


(this post did not appear in the correct location. I have deleted it and reposted below for better context.)


Squeezing new stations into the rail corridor isn't as easy as it sounds, and definately couldn't have been completed for 2015. It easily takes 5 years to go from concept to in the ground. Metrolinx isn't going to stop improving their system where and when they can, unless they don't have funding. We'll have at least one new station on the line before we get electrification built.

They could have built it

They could have built it right the first time. Its not like electric trains are a novelty especially with the advances that CalTrain have been working on for the last 20 years. Read the 2012 Auditor Generals report and ask your self if you feel confident that the best choices were made. Read Metrolinx's 2011 electrification study and ask your self if the best choices were made. Read the Big Move and ask yourself if the Georgetown corridor was completely forgotten as part of the mix. I am not going to belabour it but we could have been so far ahead and saved tons of cash by picking a built in Ontario electric solution and seeing the corridor as part of a transit solution for the West End. We got second best.If that.


Built it right the first time? When would that have been? In the 1850s and 1860s when the Grand Trunk Railroad built the first tracks on the Weston subdivision? When they switched to 'standard' gauge tracks in the 1870s and 1880s? Or delaying the ongoing Georgetown South Expansion project that is upgrading the unused service tracks to mainline standards? Metrolinx only was able to purchase the Weston subdivision from CN in 2009.

CalTrain doesn't operate electrified service, so it's not a great example of whatever you are trying to exemplify. AMT in Montreal is a much better choice.

I completely agree that building sooner means saving money and headaches down the road, but we can't change the past political decisions that put transit on the backburner. I've read all your suggested reports, and I think you have the wrong end of the stick. 'The Big Move' has the Union-Pearson Express as item 2 of the 9 'big moves', which is half the reason for the GTS expansion now ongoing.

As for using the rail corridor for local transit, I'd suggest you check out the "Union Station 2031" report that shows just how congested Union Station is and will be. Any increase in peak service will come with an extra $1-2B price tag as all the 'easy' solutions are exhausted.

Good Planning Begets Good Transit

Your cheap shots aside, 2009 would have been a great starting point and there was no reason not to. I suspect that this irrational desire to build a second class line for a two week sporting event (increasing costs to taxpayers in the long run and robbing other worthy projects of funding) was that this is all about the olympics. Somewhere in Queens Park somebody decided that if we had a link it would help sell the next olympic bid even though zero athletes will actually use the link. You can talk about politics of the past, but dont think there is not politics now. I suspect too that many at Metrolinx have a bunker mentality in that they are scared (and they have a point) that if something gets stalled it will be stopped in its tracks again. Most folks at Metrolinx would rather build a better system but seem happy to get anything at this point. If Tim Hudak is the next premier and he cancels everything but subways then they may wish they had been more forceful with their political masters as transit takes a backseat for another generation (http://www.thestar.com/news/queenspark/2013/10/21/a_conservative_governm...)

If you read my comments clearly I never said CalTrain currently operates electric trains but if you are not familiar with them then I can understand how it might appear that way. They have been undergoing 20 years of planning to modernize their system which finally got the planning go ahead in 2004. Among the many things they did was get an exception to use European electric trains on fright lines. Its this kind of innovation that will make their new electric lines, which replace diesel, the most cutting edge in North America. All the studies and information they have has been sitting waiting for others to copy. I have mentioned their studies and their upcoming EA report on electric trains to Metrolinx. It will leave zero doubt about electric and shows what long term planning can achieve.


In Montreal there have been competing airport link plans some with AMT and some without. Basically all the plans are electric and have multiple stops. They look exactly like what people have said could and should be built here.Sadly every where you look you see superior systems being built and other systems being converted to electric. But not here.

A lot of Metrolinx's ridership projections for Georgetown are considered very blue sky and even Metrolinx admits they might not happen for 40 years so I think taxpayers and transit users would be more than happy to make some use of the corridor and Union Station until then. It is also worth noting that if people had been thinking they might have envisioned a DRL as part of Georgetown with a final stop somewhere other than Union. With electric there are many possibilities.

Transit is a Process

Cheap shots? I didn't intend for my comments to be anything other than factual, so I apologize if they came across otherwise. The issue with a 2009 start date for electrification of the Weston subdivision is that there was not an applicable existing design. For example, the current construction that is ongoing was started in 2003 with an EA in 2006 and an update to the EA and design approved in 2009 (with large items such as the Weston Tunnel added). Electrification was raised only as part of the 2006 Georgetown South Expansion EA, and it was determined that the 1983 study was both outdated for the system and did not cover this corridor. It was agreed in the 2009 EA update that electrification would be studied, designed, and implemented. The study was completed in December 2010. Conceptual design was undertaken over 2011 and 2012. Preliminary design was advanced as the basis of the EA consultation in 2013, with the EA consultation period now from December 2013 until June 2014 (assuming that it is not escalated for more study). Detailed design can then occur in 2014 and 2015 with construction taking a three year period from 2015 to 2017. As construction of the Georgetown South Expansion has occurred, Metrolinx has considered what and where electrification may have an impact based on the conceptual design and made allowances to avoid duplication of efforts. For example, the design of Bloor and Weston stations have integrated the electrification needs and the design of the UP Express DMUs is such that they can be upgraded to EMUs at the same incremental price as just buying EMUs now.

I agree completely with your assessment of Metrolinx in that they feel that whatever government(s) we have in 2014 to 2020 can't take away money that's already spent. In addition, by breaking up the total project into smaller manageable chunks, they are more politically appealing because it's more ribbon cuttings and less sticker-price shock. At the end of the day however, Metrolinx has no power over what the actual plan is because all their capital funding is approved at Queen's Park. That's why the dedicated transit funding for Metrolinx is such a huge deal. It takes the politics out of the equation of what gets done first (for example the UP Express and Georgetown South expansion versus Lakeshore expansion or Vaughan Spadina subway extension versus DRL subway) or at least reduces it to an influence rather than direct oversight.

If you're ok with CalTrain taking 20 years of planning, why is the Metrolinx timeline of 10 years so onerous? I mourn the two decades lost to budget tightening, but that is the political background of why this time table has slipped until it was not possible to do both the track expansion and electrification at the same time. GO Transit has a few reports that analyse CalTrain's program in the context of importing it to Canada (http://www.gotransit.com/electrification/en/current_study/docs/L1959.pdf) (http://www.gotransit.com/electrification/en/current_study/docs/L3144/PR243550_PD4.pdf) (http://www.gotransit.com/electrification/en/current_study/docs/L3203/1-FinalReport.pdf)
Metrolinx does have a strategic long-term plan and are now trying to get the independent funding to build it all.

Regarding AMT, I should have been more specific. The Deux-Montagnes line was bought in 1982 with the ownership/maintenance arrangement changing in 1996. In 1992, after the same 10 year window that Metrolinx is looking at, Quebec announced it would electrify was constructed from 1993 to 1995. As such, it is the only Canadian electrified passenger train route that operates in mixed traffic with freight trains.

The Georgetown South expansion will enable a 50% increase in daily trains in 2015 with room to grow (specifically two-way all-day 30-minute service). It's not electrification that's needed to make that happen, but actual tracks to allow trains to pass each other. If you look at the Union Station report (or it may be a separate USRC report, I'd have to double check), the time savings by electrifying is around 6 seconds between Strachan Avenue and the Don River. This section is the busiest part of the network with no room for further expansion (they have just built the last track they can squeeze in). They are redoing all the switches and signalling however to extract whatever other time savings are possible. There still is capacity available in the mid-day and evening off-peak periods, but generally that's not the central issue. The main options remaining for extra peak capacity are two build new stations where the Bathurst North Yard and Don Yard currently have mid-day train storage (assuming we have built all the other corridors up to allow two-way all-day service) and/or building a tunnel under the USRC from one end to the other with a new station under the GO bus terminal. Any vision of extra traffic in this area needs to take this into account, but from my experience, they usually don't include those underlying connections. Even the conceived Bathurst Station relies on a DRL subway stop being built first to transfer the Georgetown people into the TTC's system.

There is a plan of action for Union Station and the USRC spanning the 40 years from 2001 to 2031, where projects are undertaken to allow extra capacity and that capacity is captured in the plans for expanded GO service. It's the same process that allowed all-day two-way 30-minute headways on the Lakeshore corridor. More track work and signal work is needed to eventually move this down to 15-minute headways with the lowest physically possible separation being 9-minutes due to the requirements of the speed on switches, signal block sizes, and passenger loading and unloading. Even under electrification, subway-type frequencies of 3-minute or 5-minute headways are unachievable.

I accept that you were not

I accept that you were not actually making cheap shots.

Metrolinx's 10 years is onerous because they had the obligation to use tax money wisely and consider ALL reasonable transit technologies.The few years of Metrolinx's tenure was denying electrification as an option whereas CalTrain took the opposite route and looked for the best solution, the best funding options, and then they justified it to the public and won the vote. A positive process which will succeed on many levels. You can plan till the cows come home but it wont mean anything if your head is in the sand.

Full Steam Ahead

The possibility of electrification is absolutely great. The fact that CalTrain is looking at 2020 for their first section of electrified track means we aren't behind them but at pace, if not ahead, of them. If you look at what's been built in Europe or Montreal, there are poles every 40-50m, so for the 25-30km length you need to consider 1000-1500 foundation locations. That's not the type of thing you can design in a year without paying through the nose to the designers and then paying extra for all the issues that crop up during construction.

If Metrolinx had their head in the sand, we wouldn't be having this conversation as they'd still be maintaining that Tier 4 diesel was good enough. Since they decided to get behind the issue rather than continue to be at loggerheads with the community, there hasn't been a significant pause in the typical design process any project goes through.

Full Steam Ahead

The possibility of electrification is absolutely great. The fact that CalTrain is looking at 2020 for their first section of electrified track means we aren't behind them but at pace, if not ahead, of them. If you look at what's been built in Europe or Montreal, there are poles every 40-50m, so for the 25-30km length you need to consider 1000-1500 foundation locations. That's not the type of thing you can design in a year without paying through the nose to the designers and then paying extra for all the issues that crop up during construction.

If Metrolinx had their head in the sand, we wouldn't be having this conversation as they'd still be maintaining that Tier 4 diesel was good enough. Since they decided to get behind the issue rather than continue to be at loggerheads with the community, there hasn't been a significant pause in the typical design process any project goes through.

Who are you exactly?

If the public had not protested we would not be having this conversation. If the public had not protested then 2017 would not have ever been a "potential" electrification date. I sat through years of hearing that Tier 4 was good enough and I can provide you tons of mailings that came to my door saying so from Metrolinx, writings from Metrolinx to Toronto's medical officer of health, plus letters from John Gerretsen and Bob Chiarelli former transport ministers saying so.

So exactly who are you again? Because this last post sounds like a PR release, one that is at odds with our collective experience as residents of this community who have spent hundreds of hours of their time making electrification an issue and making it a priority. We know, were there. So exactly who are you again?

They had way more than the

They had way more than the 5yrs you mentioned to do everything that Scott just mentioned. It's not a matter of planning, it's a matter of executing an already approved plan, the last electrification EA study done on this same line, by GG (metrolinx) was in the early 1980s and it was approved then,
20+ years later and inflated cost we are doing an EA again, for third time (the 1980s study was the second electrification EA that was approved),
Planning isn't the issue...

The Political Lens

Again I mention that any thorough study of the airport link must be done through the political lens. From the 1980's to David Collenette and Blu-22 the link has always been seen as part of the olympics first rather than citizens needs. The reason to build has always been because of a sporting event. And now we end up wasting cash just to meet some 2 week sporting event deadline (for an event that almost nobody cares about: where was the last pan am games held?). This has shaped everything about the plans and its why we are building a line with 2 stops when other cities are building complete systems.

Why Sporting Events are Important

Sporting events are important in so far as they give you a firm goal that can't flex to political necessity. Looking to the Vancouver Olympics as a parallel, some lasting infrastructure improvements that helped the provincial residents were the Canada Line ($2.05B) and upgrading the Sea-to-Sky Highway ($600M). These projects were long overdue and the consequence of planning for the event politically is that they 'had to done in time'. While the current plan for the UP Express is a premium service with a high cost and few stops, there is nothing to stop us from using the same infrastructure later for a lower cost, local service. We can still add a station to connect to the Eglinton-Crosstown LRT or a direct connection between Dundas West TTC station and Bloor GO station. A four-stop airport link that allows us to eventually run 3.5 times more GO trains is better than nothing. Even if it reached full capacity as diesel, it produces less than a quarter of the air pollution from traffic on Bloor. I hope electrification gets funded and built, but I count any step in the right direction as a small victory.

Your points are well taken

Your points are well taken but we could only wish we were Vancouver with their electric system. I agree with your premise but based on our transit past I fear that the next step may not come in my lifetime.

I would add that it is sad that we need TV events or disasters to create motivation to act in the public good.

We've come a long way from 1983

First of all, an EA is only valid for five years, so at a minimum an updates would be necessary. Second, environmental law has changed significantly since 1983. Third, public consultation is necessary with the new residents, 30 years is a long time and this neighbourhoods have changed composition drastically since then. Fourth, until recently Metrolinx didn't own any of their tracks, and so any electrification would need the approval of CP and CN. Fifth, the GO network has changed significantly since 1983, including a whole new locomotive fleet, train consists holding ten times the number of passengers, many more trains per hour, completely different ridership patterns, and Union Station being at capacity. Sixth, no electromagnetic interference study was undertaken in 1983 and there are much more concerns about and usage of electromagnetic frequencies in 2013. Seventh, the network studied does not resemble the current network at all, except for the Lakeshore corridor. The Weston subdivision was not included, but CP's Canpa, Galt, and North Toronto subdivisions were. In addition, GO currently is serving 180% to 260% of the 1983 prediction of ultimate 2021 capacity.

Finally, the Progressive Conservatives had a majority until 1985 and then a minority until 1987. Rather than spend money on improving privately-owned rail corridors, Bill Davis wanted to buy a 25% stake in Suncor. When the Liberals took power in 1987 through an accord with the NDP, they were facing deficits and were attempting to balance the budget, which they did in 1989-1990. However, a minor recession turned this into a $2.5B deficit in 1990-1991 under the NDP. By 1995, we had the Mike Harris Progressive Conservatives and more budget tightening. Under none of these governments was electrification even on the table for funding. Whether rightly or wrongly in that decision, it's a past generation of politicians from all stripes that did not fund the project. It received new legs under McGinty, but the underlying fundamentals changed so significantly from 1983 that it required starting from scratch.

great research "mapleson"

great research "mapleson" lots of goodies to research, you are clearly well informed
So I guess this is how metrolinx communicates with its local stakeholders, interesting.

we've been pushing this issue for long enough, under liberal leadership (Mcginty), I might add, when the whole ARL (now UP) was in the early planning stages. So what's the detailed "new improved" response from the powers-that-be to explain why this 2013 "better" EA couldn't have been started 6-8yrs ago at the same time as plans to build what you are building now?

I'm more interested in responsible govt, not partisan politics, lip service to delay an EA that everybody already knew is the responsible thing to do, I don't call that appropriately responsive, regardless of which party holds the reigns.

So perhaps mapleson, you can write a few paragraphs detailing why it has taken metrolinx this long to decide on doing a new EA for electrification, and why it couldn't have been done when plans started for the ARL?

This should be easy considering your 30yr history lesson on the politics of regional rail planning.

Something is better than Nothing

If you are implying that I work at Metrolinx, then that is incorrect. I do not work for any public agency or any level of government. I use this handle everywhere online and happen to be a train enthusiast, like Steve Munro, who tries to digest the context of new plans and projects. I am of the mindset that something is better than nothing, and more is generally better. It is the community stance on electrification that put it on the table, and it was a condition of the ARL EA that it be electrified as soon as practical. Diesel trains aren't as clean as electric trains, but they are still an improvement over cars, just as hybrid buses aren't as clean as electric LRV or subway trains, but they are still better than cars.

The work that lead into this 2013 EA was started 4-7 years ago. Beyond that window, the same reasons apply as to why it wasn't started in 1985 as 2005. When McGinty took power and they balanced the budget, they developed a transit investment plan that focused on the biggest environmental and transit improvements per investment dollar. Since then, the politics have skewed the original planning sequence and some less desirable (yet still desirable) projects were advanced over more deserving ones. We have a 30-year infrastructure deficit that needs filling and differing groups will argue that their project is more relevant. For example, the Scarborough subway is a political decision that's taken federal and City funding away from other projects.

My main focus is that while this is one of those projects that got pushed to the back of the queue, I'm happy that it's continuing it's progress since the locals were heard. However, I am still dubious that this project is unfunded for construction.

Personally, I'd like to see things like a transit bond (dedicated public debt financing), a transit lotto (specific percentage or games that go only to transit), crowdsourcing (optional tax collected dedicated to specific projects that are built when sufficient support is collected), as well as the dedicated transit taxes from the Golden report, the Metrolinx report, or the Chamber of Commerce report.

Dead on. The 2011 Metrolinx

Dead on. The 2011 Metrolinx electrification study reads like it was written by the Clean Train Coalition. Every single thing in it has been mentioned over and over for years. In fact a casual look at newspaper clippings reveals that people had been wondering for years why Metrolinx was so unaware of electric systems unlike almost every other operator in the world. Take a walk down memory lane and read some of those stories from 2008 and 2009; people are saying the same thing today that they were then. The only thing that has changed is that Metrolinx has slowly and begrudgingly accepted what everybody was saying.

If Metrolinx had just said lets build a good system that services as many people as possible (rather than a premium service for downtown businessmen who more than likely use Porter now) and asked how could we integrate it with the communities it travels through there is no reason that that they could not have met the "deadline" in 2015. Especially with McGuinty's gift of shortened EA processes (6 months!). People were and still are asking for MORE trains but Metrolinx was so insular that it spent its time trying to discredit anybody and everybody who disagreed with it (as documented in the Globe and Mail in 2009: "A leaked Metrolinx document called opponents “NIMBYs or local politicians on the make” and said, “We should salt the sessions with supporters.” or outright mislead them (as documented in the decision by the Advertising Standards Council: http://www.thestar.com/news/city_hall/2011/08/19/metrolinx_ad_ruled_misl...).

I would love to know too why it has taken Metrolinx 6 years to catch up to where rail science is everywhere else on earth.

Electrification Timeline

The Clean Train Coalition was formed in June 2009 and the electrification study Terms of Reference were published in October 2009, so not much time difference there. However, you might mean the Weston Community Coalition that was formed in 2005 to push back against the Georgetown South Expansion project, and was responsible for things like Tier 4 engines and the Weston Tunnel being added as conditions to the 2006 EA that resulted in the 2009 EA Update and the current process on electrification.

Before 2006-2009, electrification was far down the list of priorities. Since then it's been a year and a bit for the system study, a year and a bit for the conceptual design (which was available for a short period at the end of 2012/beginning of 2013), and a bit under a year for the preliminary design. From the first round of public meetings held in May 2013, it will be mid to late 2014 when the EA is done, another year for detailed design, and 2-3 years of construction (once funded).

Yes you are correct. There

Yes you are correct. There was opposition to new diesel going back to 2005 and not just in Weston. The Clean Train Coalition was formed after some other communities had started their own groups: hence coalition. Individual ratepayer organizations had also already voiced concern. Let me be really clear, from 2005, electrification has been an issue around here. It took time for the entire community to be aware but the more active people were. Any suggestion that GO/Metrolinx were not aware that electrification and expanded resulting service was something on the publics pre 2009 mind would be incorrect.

So I have to ask, what is your connection to all of this? Are you new to the community? (If so welcome).You are aware of the topic very very well and seem to be monitoring this site with interest.. Please dont be offended but I think many would like to know your connection to Junction Triangle, if any.

If they had started from

If they had started from scratch they would have built a better system. In fact thats what people wished was that they would have started from scratch instead of discounting electric BEFORE the EA. I was present at the first Metrolinx meetings with the public and they said that it would cost billions to electrify the corridor even though they had done zero studies. That number is now 440 million. It was clear and reported in the press that people had the impression that electric, the worldwide standard in commuter rail, was not even being considered. That EA, by the way, was part of a new truncated EA process that greatly shortened the timeline. What a coincidence.

I travel a lot and use commuter rail and airport links in many other cities. If you are happy with with things great. I am not.

By the way I do give you points for the Suncor reference, few people remember that.


Which of the relevant EAs are you thinking about? They include the Georgetown South Expansion EA (including Strachan Avenue Grade Separation and Weston Tunnel), West Toronto Diamond Grade Separation EA, or the Air-Rail Link EA?

Nothing in the plan to start DMU service in 2015 takes away from EMU service whenever they built it. The platforms can be reused, the elevated guideway into the airport has bases incorporated, and the trains can be converted (part of the design specification). The main reason that I can see for separating UP Express DMU and EMU service is the desire to have something in place for the PanAm Games.

It will cost billions to electrify the network and billions more for the enabling works. I'd say someone confused what they were talking about or that was their best order of magnitude available. I've used many systems around the world as well. I'm not happy with the state of affairs, but I also don't find it productive to complain about how things unfolded in the past rather than focusing on how we proceed forward from here.

Electrification is still unfunded and will only happen if the Liberals are re-elected. The PC want to cut the deficit and the NDP don't want to raise new taxes.