Noise tops concerns at Metrolinx expansion meeting

Attendees at the June 15 Metrolinx public consultation at Hope United Church. PHOTO: Sophie Sutcliffe

At the Metrolinx public consultation at Hope United Church the night of June 15, there seemed to be one thing on people’s minds: noise.

The meeting, attended by around 70 people including Beaches-East York MPP Arthur Potts and city councillors Mary-Margaret McMahon and Janet Davis, featured a presentation from Metrolinx representatives about the planned Lakeshore East rail corridor expansion, followed by a question and answer period.

The presentation touched on plans to electrify the network, increases in service and adding new tracks and stops. The presentation included the connectivity plan, which includes Main Street, Ted Reeve Park and Dawes Road as three main potential entry points, and details about the environmental assessment. The question and answer period largely centred on nearby residents concerns about noise from increased frequency of the trains.

While the new line is advertising service every 15 minutes, a Metrolinx representative clarified during the meeting that this would mean that, due to there being service both eastbound and westbound, and because there would be both a GO train and a new RER line, trains would be passing by anywhere from every 7.5 minutes to every 3.75 minutes, depending on whether the trains cross at the same time.

“We live by a train, trains are loud, we know that. But right now we get them every half hour, maybe every 15 minutes if they’re not crossing together at the same time, as they’re going in opposite directions,” said John Carey, a local resident, after the meeting. “What they’re talking about doing… now you’re going four times as much… So you’re going to have a train [at least] every seven-and-a-half minutes.

“If I’m sitting in my backyard and a train goes by every half hour, 15 minutes, OK, we stop our conversation, we deal with it,” he continued. “If it’s more frequent, now it’s just becoming an inconvenience and it’s getting into our personal life and affecting our quality of life.”

Metrolinx representatives said during the meeting that any area that has a five decibel increase in noise would get a sound barrier, and that electrification would help in decreasing noise. Many however seemed unsatisfied with this response as their issue was with the increase in the frequency of the noise, not in a potential decibel increase.

When asked later in the meeting whether this increase in frequency would only be during rush hour, Metrolinx said that the frequency would remain the same during all operating hours.

“We understand that there’s going to be impacts. I mean, we are going from a service that’s [less frequent] and we’re going to increase that service quite dramatically,” said one Metrolinx representative. “Our goal is to try to minimize impact to the point where it is reasonable, and it is about balancing all of those interests.”

The question and answer period, which was supposed to start out with questions regarding noise and vibration and move on to other questions after that, didn’t get past the first topic, save for a few outliers, including one who wondered whether a proposed security fence would “be ugly.” Metrolinx representatives were available after the public meeting ended to speak with people.

Ward 31 councillor Davis said she had questions about the potential transferability between the TTC and GO, and, while they were touched on during the presentation, she would have liked them to be addressed publicly during the question and answer period, as she thought this was an important issue in terms of reducing rush-hour congestion on the Bloor-Danforth line of the TTC.

“Part of the vision of having an integrated transit network is that people would be able to switch from the TTC to the GO with one TTC fare so that people will be encouraged to get off the Danforth subway,” said Davis.

While there was a pilot project to encourage people to transfer last year, she said, it was not successful in part due to the fact that the fare “was not adjusted appropriately.”

“I think the really critical issue about whether people would be able to transfer between these different pieces of the network will be the fare. This is going to bring 15-minute frequency, [but] I’m doubtful about increased ridership unless there is a harmonized fare that is affordable for the residents of the East End.”

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