Sure Metrolinx loves rail electrification - but don't assume it's not going to proceed with diesel in the meantime.
The regional transportation authority released its comprehensive study on the electrification of the GO Transit rail system and the future Air Rail Link (ARL) last week, and gave the green light to electrification at a cost of $1.7 billion on the busiest lines.
And while clean train activists welcomed the positive assessment of electrifying the whole system, they're less than thrilled by the elongated timetable.
Electrification on the ARL line, the report says, would take three to four years to study, followed by a four to five year conversion from the current diesel. The full Georgetown (some of which is along the same corridor as the ARL line) and Lakeshore corridors come years later.
But the really bad news for activists along the ARL route, is that Metrolinx continues to argue that only diesel service can be up and running in time for the 2015 Pan AM games.
"We think they should be buying electric right away", says Keith Brooks of the Clean Train Coalition, who cribs off Metrolinx's latest study urging electrification, based mainly on increased speed, capacity and cost efficiencies.
Wednesday morning advocates will converge at Metrolinx's Board meeting hoping to derail the diesel order.
"We're not anti-games", says Brooks, but "they're supposed to be thinking about the best way to plan transportation. This is a 2-week sporting event. It's certainly not the Olympics. None of the events are at Union Station."
Athletes housed in the Pan Am village will use dedicated shuttle buses to access events scattered around the golden horseshoe.
Despite the fact Metrolinx describes the enviro benefits of electrification as "marginal", activists are not satisfied. Brooks interprets this finding as an attempt "to remove a sense of urgency".
The report compares pollution from electric to the emissions of the Tier-4 diesel, now slated for the ARL route. And while Tier-4 is certainly an improvement over regular diesel, the study notes nitrous oxide readings from the Tier-4 would rise 20% at forty meters from the centre of the rail corridor.
Not major perhaps except that many people reside along the Georgetown line and other than walls and particulates, this megaproject offers nothing.
As well, activists worry that there has been no funds allocated to the conversion as yet and many are doubtful that a decade or more hence, regional transit authorities will actually pay the price to convert the new diesel locomotives.
There's also scepticism about the ARL business model. The ARL project at its inception, was shaped by a requirement to earn profits for private proponent, and Liberal donor, SNC Lavalin. The deal is currently off (on pause?) and yet Metrolinx refuses to budge from Lavalin's prospectus
Unlike other GO lines, the ARL is expected to pay its own way, meaning fares of $25 to $30. Its fleet of about a dozen vehicles will be a separate business unit within Metrolinx with its own president.
Transit advocate Steve Munro suspects, "a desire to eventually sell it off once the capital costs of creating the service have been absorbed in Ontario's budget. Can you say Highway 407″?
With hundreds of millions of public dollars ready to slosh into the ARL, the public interest is sidelined by a corporate business plan and one-off sporting event.
The Province, which appoints Metrolinx's board is driving this train, and with a close election around the corner, now's as good a time as ever to get the Premier's attention.
Join the protest Wednesday January 26 at 8:30 a.m. at Central YMCA, 20 Grosvenor Street. (2 blocks north of College St., west of Yonge Street)