Residents in Roncesvalles Village are drawing a line in the sand and vowing to make electric trains the hot button issue during the next provincial election.
At a meeting of the Roncesvalles-Macdonell Residents’ Association (RMRA) on March 26 Doug Bennet, the director of the Clean Train Coalition and the Chair of the Wabash Building Society, gave the nearly 50 residents in attendance an update on the issue.
The Union Pearson Express will operate on a 25-kilometre rail route, the bulk of which will share Metrolinx’s upgraded Kitchener GO rail corridor (formerly the Georgetown corridor). Trains will depart Union Station and Toronto Pearson International Airport every 15 minutes and will make stops at Bloor and Weston GO stations. The point of contention between Metrolinx and the community is the air rail link will use diesel trains to transport passengers.
Bennet said 300,000 people, who live along the Kitchener rail corridor, are concerned about their health and quality of life with the use of diesel trains on the Union Pearson Air Rail Link.
“Why is this government building diesel trains when every other jurisdiction in the world is either using electric or switching to electric trains,” Bennet said.
Currently the plan calls for 5,000 riders per day paying a one-way fare of between $20 and $35, according to Bennet, although Metrolinx says the fare structure has not been determined. Bennet compared that to Vancouver’s Canada Line to their airport, which carries 110,000 riders per day paying a one-way fare of $3.75.
“How come Vancouver gets this fabulous transit system... and we get a dirty diesel train with four stops that no one can use except the downtown business class,” Bennet said.
Bennet went on to say there is great potential for this rail link, if modelled more like Vancouver, to serve as a much needed west-end downtown relief line integrated with the TTC.
“I see this as a social justice issue for priority neighbourhoods like Mt. Dennis, Weston and Rexdale where people could use this line to get downtown to jobs,” he said.
Bennet said he’s also concerned about Metrolinx’s plans to build a 16-foot-high noise wall, along the entire corridor because of the increased noise from diesel train traffic.
This wall, Bennet said, would not be necessary if Metrolinx were to use electric trains on the line.
Chander Chaddah, a member of the RMRA and area real estate agent told residents they need to start acting on the issue and in a more focused manner than just putting a sign on their lawn.
“We need you to make noise on this issue,” Chaddah said. “We will have an election in the province sometime in the next few months or so. The drums are beating.”
Chaddah told residents to reach out to friends and family in all of provincial ridings that abut the rail corridor including: Etobicoke Centre, Etobicoke North, York South–Weston, Davenport, Parkdale–High Park and Trinity–Spadina.
“We need to start activating our lists of contacts and have them make some noise too,” Chaddah said. “This is about letting politicians know that there necks are in the noose on this issue. They need to know that they will lose your vote over this issue.”
RMRA chair Brian Torry said Metrolinx was invited to attend the meeting, but declined.