CTA find GO Transit is excessively noisy

The Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) released the following memo yesterday:

The Canadian Transportation Agency finds that GO Transit is in breach of its obligation under section 95.1 of the Canada Transportation Act to cause only such noise and vibration as is reasonable, in relation to GO Transit's pile-driving activities at the West Toronto Diamond. The Agency found that, in the circumstances, the prolonged exposure of the local citizens to the noise and vibration generated at that location is unreasonable.

You can read the entire, memo on the CTA Website which includes full details about the noise complaint as well as proposed measures to help calm the noise.

GO Transit has 14 days to respond.

Thanks to the Hook Ave. Pile Drivers mailing list for passing this link.


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Well, that is some

Well, that is some interesting rhetoric. I'm sure it is generally effective. I know you are passionate about the subject, but the response seems erratic as you seem to be projecting on to me straw men that have nothing to do with what I've said.

I have no interest is why you hate the government, Go Transit, eHealth ?!?, the grade separation, or Metrolinx. It doesn't bother me, it just doesn't interest me.

Using the occasion of retracting statements about leukemia risk to accuse Metrolinx of lying struck me as a little rich. It's clear from both sides that they hate each other, the choice of behavior is interesting – a little bit.
But that's beside the point too isn't it?

I'm sure the EDF is evil too. But they post footnotes so I can check sources – see I don't trust them either, I just don't make a big deal of it.

I am not being misleading by using the term clean diesel. Your general objection to the term is reasonable. I remember choking the first time I saw the stupid commercial with the child smiling at the truck that seemed to be bringing sunshine. But there is no other term that would be as broadly recognized for a specific, somewhat obtuse technology. That is not my fault. You accused me of being misleading and I demand an apology.

Your closing argument is David Brann – emissions compliance manager who has worked at Electro Motive Diesel for 37 years. It appears his job is to make sure EMD locomotives get the EPA certification they need and to lobby against tougher standards. Particularly those that would require after treatment devices like catalyzed particulate filters that use platinum group metals. The platinum price spiked up a couple of years ago amid speculation that mines could not keep up with demand, largely due to increasing demand for pollution control. Some thought the price would reach extremely high levels.
One might think this would be a problem for railroads, but it isn't. Commodity prices never scare and railroad people. If oil prices go to $500 a barrel, most airlines and auto makers will be toast, but short of a total collapse of civilization, railroads will be busier than ever. They will be affected, but their inherent efficiency will mean they will be the last ones to be running. If the price of platinum doubles the price of a locomotive, the impact on the price of that new F150 or Camry you are looking at is going to be a bigger problem.
Catalytic converters and catalyzed particulate filters reduce efficiency (a little) and increase cost (a little – maybe 1-2%). The auto industry whined about them (and still do); the trucking industry whined about them (and they are really vocal these days); the locomotive industry whine about them. The auto industry has dealt with it. The trucking industry dealt with it. The locomotive industry WILL deal with it. Unless they can get the EPA to roll over. That's where David Brann comes in. That's your boy right? David Brann?

Was this supposed to prove I am wrong somehow?
It seems to me that American environmentalists would make better allies than industry executives. Do you disagree?

“Feel better.” What do you mean by this?

Well formed opinions

O.k. boys. Back away from each other and go to your corners. :-)

I know you both. And both of you are smart, well read grown men, who know how to do their research and can communicate well informed opinions. Let's just agree to disagree.

Now smile and shake hands.


Good Point

Good point Irmina.
How we say things is important, and sometimes I focus more on the point I want to make and forget to make sure to be careful about the, um, fuzzy stuff. I do believe in being hard on ideas, and soft on people. (But it's easier said than done - I don't even claim to be good at it, but it's a great idea.)
I do think it is important to express different opinions, and establish a culture where people feel they should can express what they think.
For what it is worth, I also think Scott is smart, and therefore think him and I have a better change of finding that balance than other combatants. :-)

I like Warren

People here should know that I have had beer with Warren and like Warren and applaud the cool stuff he is involved with in the area. We agree to disagree. Thats all.

Which side are you on?

Demand clean diesel!
There is a report from Environmental Defense called "Smokestacks on Rails" that has an extensive analysis of the pollution from diesel locomotives. They are calling for the EPA to require trains use technology already being used by trucks on the road today. They figure this would represent a 90% reduction of pollution from the current tier 2 locomotives. Some industry representatives want the EPA to limit itself to only legislate changes that can be made with virtually no cost. The trucking industry has also objected to regulation as you can imagine, but the EPA estimates current pollution control represents less than 2% of the cost of a new truck.
By exaggerating the cost and difficulty of applying EXISTING technology to locomotives you are supporting industry advocates who are trying to prevent the EPA from protecting the environment.
Check it out.
Smokestacks on Rails
Another interesting point they make is that it is better to focus on results than technology.

Given that GO has just upgraded their locomotives it seems reasonable to take them at their word that they will also do the same in the future.
Why do you think these are hollow promises.

a NEW smokestack is a NEW smokestack is a NEW smokestack

If you want to believe a government that shortened the EA process required shortly before an EA for one of the largest infrastructure projects in Toronto history go ahead.

If you want to believe a government that rushed eHealth and blew millions of dollars and has nothing to show for it go ahead.

If you want to believe GO, who was just admonished by the Canadian Transit Agency for violating section 95.1 of the Canada Transportation Act all the while ignoring local residents.

If you want to believe GO which proposed a grade separation at a meeting that they failed to let the public know about and then withdrew the proposal in its entirety after it became evident that their planners knew almost nothing about the affected area or the Georgetown expansion go ahead.

If you want to believe Metrolinx who has plastered our area with weekly mailings filled with half truths such as "working collaboratively with Toronto' Medical Officer of Health" despite the MOH's actual public denials of this go ahead.

But actual pro transit advocates like Steve Munro have a different take and its a pretty exhaustive listing of all of the contradictions, inaccurate projections, and outright bending of the truth that Metrolinx/Government has used to avoid answering questions about the financial logic of using diesel. Especially interesting are posts such as "Fun with figures".


In terms of the "Smokestacks on Rails" report by the Environmental Defense Fund there are a few disclaimers that should be added because this report is not really applicable to us.

1. There is no such thing as clean diesel. The EDF report's own data shows that. So stop being misleading. Diesel will be smaller smokestacks on rail even if Tier 4 happens, but smokestacks nonetheless. And as the report says, locomotives last 40 years, so we would get stuck with little smokestacks, still NEW pollution as this is an expansion line, for 40 years. We could go electric day one. At least use the phrase "cleaner diesel", it more accurate.

2. The EDF report is primarily concerned with the conversion of existing rolling stock as locomotives last about 40 years by their estimation and replacement locomotives on existing systems. Thats why the report does not focus alternative power sources. In fact electric commuter rail is not mentioned once in the report, thats because its not what the report is about. We are talking about NEW capacity and go electric day one.

3. The EDF report is primarily about freight trains not commuter trains. There is almost nobody building diesel commuters line in this world any more. Commuter lines here in North America are testing conversion to electric, even GO itself (although it denied it only 3 months ago) has been doing studies. Why the rush to diesel then? Vancouver got an electric line this summer, why not us?

4. The EDF also has a bias against electricity and despite the hundreds of comments on their website saying that electric trains are a good thing you won't find much of a policy on this. Why? Because in the US over 50% of power generation is from coal, most of it the really polluting kind. Dirty coal is one of the EDF's prime targets and its easy to see why in that power generation climate they would spend their energy on cleaning up the coal and diesel that they already have. If they had more hydro and atomic and green energy sources they would have a different focus. It's a noble fight, but different than ours. Again, in our situation we are talking about a NEW capacity that can be way cleaner than any existing diesel from day one.

5. The EDF report touches on it but really does not address the actual total carbon footprint of using diesel vs. using electric, especially the comparison of creating a larger NEW diesel footprint vs the smaller footprint of are NEW electric system. Build it one, build it right.

Lastly, even a person who worked on tier 4 diesel has concerns about it:


Read the story and count up how many times a Metrolinx/Go rep says they don't know something or wont tell us something. Feel better. Still want to believe them. Go ahead.

They are hollow promises

They are hollow promises because Metrolinx has been ordered to purchase technology that doesn't exist. In the event that they can't purchase this non-existent technology, then they can go ahead and use the current diesel technology which is heavily polluting.
The Canadian Transporation Agency has just come out and ruled that Metrolinx is not acting fairly with the pile-driving - they are not using technology that could mitigate the noise levels. Metrolinx is using selective quotes from the Medical Officer of Health that ignores his assertion that the current expansion plans pose a major health risk to people living along the corridor. Clean technology built by a Canadian firm is in use around the world. Isn't it time to just do the right thing and go electric now?

Planning on future technology

Planning on future technology is always a bit dicey, that's true. But you have to admit that scaling up truck technology is not exactly like they are expecting the moon here.
The pile driving is a real problem. I'm not inclined to make excuses for GO. I just think there is something a little funny about the CTA announcement. They seems to leave themselves quite a bit of wiggle room, and if they were that upset with Go they could have said so a month ago.

Two weeks

When this came out I noticed the pile thermometer on the site showed they were 100 piles away from completing the outside piles and moving on to the center piles. I don't know if there would be much of a difference in vibration now that ground on the sides has been stabilized, but it there were it would make sense that some bureaucrat or politician would try to take credit for a reduction in the noise level.
Well either way I hope the noise level gets better soon.

Metrolinx Hollow Promises

An article in today's Globe and Mail reports that Metrolinx is promising to switch to "clean diesel technology" by 2017 on all its rail lines. That is quite a pledge considering the technology doesn't even exist. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/toronto/go-trains-to-get-cl...

Go Transit Found to be Rude

Go Transit Found to be Rude by Canadian Transport Agency http://breakingprojects.com/junctioneer/2009/10/09/canadian-transportati...