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Metrolinx, GO consult with public on health issues
resulting from Air Rail Link and Georgetown South projects

When Metrolinx and GO Transit completed the Georgetown South Project environmental study report in June 2009, the Honourable John Gerretsen, Ontario’s Minister of the Environment, asked them to further analyze any impacts on human health when trains start operating along the corridor. The Minister was responding, in part, to the concerns of residents living near the Georgetown South rail corridor, including the Clean Train Coalition.

Metrolinx and GO are planning to operate diesel locomotives that meet Tier 4 emission standards —a new, more stringent engine technology — for the future Air Rail Link, along the southern end of the corridor.

This year, the United States Environmental Protection Agency introduced the next phase of emission control regulations — or Tier 4 — which significantly limit the amount of oxides of nitrogen, particulate matter, hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide that diesel engines may emit. Environment Canada has aligned its regulations controlling emissions with those of the US.

The Minister asked Metrolinx and GO to draft a “human health mitigation plan” to address any health risks resulting from operating more trains along the Goergetown South corridor and using Tier 4-compliant locomotives.

The two transit agencies have now released their report and are inviting members of the public to review and comment on their findings. You can find the report and details of the plan here.

Among other findings, the study concluded:

  • More than 95 percent of the time, emissions resulting from operating the Tier 4-compliant locomotives do not exceed regulatory guidelines;
  • Background air quality — meaning emissions from other sources — will be the main contributor to incidences when the air quality exceeds the regulatory guidelines.
  • Exceeding the air-quality guidelines will mostly occur on “bad air” or smog days;
  • Operating more GO Transit rail service and the Air Rail Link service do not have significant impacts on human health and only increase total emissions slightly;
  • Tier 4 engines reduce emissions significantly.

The Metrolinx and GO report argues that, although slightly increasing rail corridor emissions, the project results in services that improve regional air quality. For example, the new Air Rail Link will removes 1.2 million car trips off the road in the first year of operation and will offer a 15-minute service from Pearson Airport to Union Station.

By improving the Georgetown South corridor, GO expects to carry 77 million passengers on its system within five years by increasing service along the 21 Milton, 31 Georgetown and 65 **Barrie lines. It also expects to provide all-day two-way GO train service along part of the Georgetown line.

GO and Metrolinx want you to participate in the 30-day consultation period for the draft human health mitigation plan. The consultation period started Tuesday, June 2 and continues until Monday, July 4.

They’re also hosting some community briefing sessions, when you can speak to to air-quality and human-health experts. The sessions take place on Thursday, June 9, Tuesday, June 14 and Thursday, June 16.

Thursday, June 9

From 6:30 until 8:30 p.m.
York West Active Living Centre
1901 Weston Road

Tuesday, June 14

From 6:30 until 8:30 p.m.
Harbourfront Community Centre
627 Queens Quay West

Thursday, June 16

From 6:30 until 8:30 p.m.
Lithuanian House
1573 Bloor Street West