> GO Rail Network Electrification Addendum - System-wide Operational Noise, Vibration, and Air Quality Studies | Metrolinx Engage

GO Rail Network Electrification Addendum

GO Rail Network Electrification Addendum - System-wide Operational Noise, Vibration, and Air Quality Studies

Overview

Since approval of the GO Rail Network Electrification TPAP in 2017, Metrolinx has developed a detailed service plan for how increased passenger service will be delivered for the GO Expansion program in the future, including a mix of diesel and electric trains.

These proposed changes require a reassessment of potential noise, vibration, and air quality impacts and the associated mitigation measures, undertaken in the 2021 Addendum to the 2017 GO Rail Network Electrification TPAP.

Click to enlarge
Map Notes: Only the GO Expansion program study elements (and proposed infrastructure) are depicted in the map above. Infrastructure already studied in past TPAPs and future planned works including future stations are not included in the map.

Metrolinx plans to electrify core segments of the Metrolinx-owned rail network, and studied the infrastructure required to do so under the UP Express Electrification TPAP in 2014 and GO Rail Network Electrification TPAP in 2017. Service on rail corridors not currently owned by Metrolinx will continue using diesel trains. According to the new service plan, some corridors will be serviced almost entirely by electric trains, some by a mix of electric and diesel trains, and others by only diesels. The map above illustrates which corridors will be electrified and the type of service it will provide.  More information on the new detailed service plan.
This page presents the key findings, methods, potential impacts, and proposed mitigation from the Operational Noise & Vibration and Air Quality Assessments for the GO Expansion program, which are captured in the 2021 GO Rail Network Electrification Addendum.

These studies consider existing (2015) and future (2037) operational noise, vibration, and air quality impacts associated with the new detailed service plan and the proposed infrastructure across the GO Expansion program, including: 
•    New Track & Facilities
•    Scarborough Junction Grade Separation
•    Stouffville Rail Corridor Grade Separations
•    Network Wide Structures Project

Noise and Vibration Assessments (Operational)

Given the significant changes to service levels, types of trains, and infrastructure proposed as part of the GO Expansion program, Metrolinx has reassessed the noise and vibration modeling under the GO Rail Network Electrification Addendum (2021).

Learn about the details of the Noise and Vibration Assessment Update.

To read the full Noise and Vibration Assessments, please visit the Important Documents page.

Check out our interactive map of proposed noise walls below.

Key Messages

•    In general, areas near stations are most affected by noise and vibration caused by diesel locomotives starting, stopping and idling.
•    The most effective form of mitigation is reducing or eliminating the sound at the source.  
•    The largest reduction of noise will come from electrification on core segments of the rail network. The bulk of service increases will be delivered by electric trains, whose locomotives are near silent at low speeds, starting or stopping, and when stopped.
•    Not only is source mitigation most effective, but it reduces sound levels for all properties along Metrolinx rail corridors, not only those identified as impacted in the noise and vibration assessments.  
•    Where mitigation at the source is not sufficient receptor-based mitigation, such as noise walls, is then considered to protect the most affected areas. 
•    Metrolinx is recommending 29.96 km of noise walls as part of the GO Expansion program
     •    11.56 km as recommended in the 2021 assessments following the Ontario Provincial Protocol for Noise and Vibration Assessment. 
     •    An additional 18.4 km above and beyond the Ontario Provincial protocol to ensure noise walls are recommended in communities that are already experiencing high background noise 
•    Metrolinx has already contracted to build 27.25 km of noise walls along the Barrie and Stouffville corridors per the 2017 GO Rail Network Electrification TPAP.
 

Metrolinx used predictive modeling to compare existing and future noise and vibration levels associated with the revised future train service schedule and proposed new infrastructure for the Metrolinx-owned corridors. The pre-project (2015), and post-project (2037) noise levels were modeled for the entire study area for each corridor. Click the map to see the corridors that are subject to the noise and vibration assessment updates.

Click to enlarge
Map Notes: Only the GO Expansion program study elements (and proposed infrastructure) are depicted in the map above. Infrastructure already studied in past TPAPs 
and planned works including future stations and corridor service expansions are not shown in the map but were considered for the Assessment Update.

In addition to the new detailed service plan, four significant enhancements have been integrated into the 2021 assessment update: 
•    Source-based noise mitigation measures, which are the most effective noise reduction measures and it reduces sound levels for all properties along Metrolinx rail corridors.
•    Fair distribution of proposed mitigation measures to maximize benefits.
•    Technical constructability, which is usually applied at a later design stage.
•    A maximum 7-metre noise barrier height could be considered where a 5-metre barrier height will not achieve the required noise reduction.
 

Source-based noise mitigation measures

The most effective form of mitigation is reducing or eliminating the sound at the source.  
Not only is source mitigation most effective, but it reduces sound levels for all properties along Metrolinx rail corridors, not only those identified as impacted in the addendum assessment. 

Metrolinx will implement a number of source mitigation measures including:
•    installing exhaust noise silencers on existing and future Metrolinx diesel locomotives, which will decrease the sound from these trains by an estimated 3 dB at all properties along the corridors. 
•    Where possible, using 6-car rather than 12-car trains during off-peak periods.
•    Using EMUs along the Stouffville and Kitchener corridors.
•    Reducing engine idling.
•    Grade separations, which reduce noise by avoiding deceleration, idling and acceleration by both road and rail transportation vehicles. 
•    Improvements to tracks and switches to reduce vibration and noise.
•    Installation of ballast mats underneath new tracks and switches to reduce vibration.

The largest reduction of potential noise increases will come from electrification on core segments of the network. The bulk of service increases will be delivered by electric trains, which are near silent at low speeds, starting or stopping, and when stopped.

Operational Vibration

Several vibrational mitigation measures are considered to reduce vibration at source:

•    Maintenance measures: optimal maintenance, wheel-flat detectors, and track continuity.
•    Special Track Support System: floating slabs, resiliently supported ties, high-resilience fasteners and ballast mats.
•    Rolling stock specification: un-sprung vehicle mass, suspension system design, wheel design, brake system.
 

Interactive Map and Roll Plans

Metrolinx has already contracted to build 27.25km of noise walls along the Barrie and Stouffville corridors per the 2017 TPAP. As part of the 2021 assessments (2021 Electrification addendum and additional noise walls), 29.96 km of noise walls are recommended.

Open the interactive map in a new tab (full screen)→

Download and view corridor-wide roll plans.

Recommended Noise Wall Summary for GO Expansion Program Areas

 

Lakeshore West

Kitchener

Barrie

Stouffville

Lakeshore East

2021 Electrification Addendum

0.5 km

0.76 km

4.4 km

3.7 km

2.2 km

Additional Noise Wall recommended

2.8 km

-

2 km

1.1 km

12.5 km

TOTAL Recommended

3.3 km

0.76 km

6.4 km

4.8 km

14.7 km

Please note that recommended noise wall numbers and locations are subject to change during the detailed design process.

Air Quality (Operational)

Given the significant changes to service levels, types of trains, and infrastructure in GO Expansion, Metrolinx has updated the Regional Air Quality Study under the GO Rail Network Electrification Addendum (2021).

The Regional Air Quality Study looks at the regional air quality impacts from the new detailed service plan, and associated proposed infrastructure, in the GO Expansion program. The objective of this study is to assess how emissions from Greenhouse Gases (GHGs), and other contaminants will change from existing operations to the proposed future operations on a network-wide scale within the GO Expansion program area (refer to map below).

Additionally, the 2021 Addendum also includes local air quality assessments for segments, where diesel train service will increase in the future: USRC, Lakeshore East and Kitchener* corridors.. The Milton Corridor and portions of the Lakeshore West and Kitchener Corridor were not included in the study area as these lines (or portions of these lines) are not owned by Metrolinx and are therefore not part of the GO Rail Network Electrification TPAP (2017) or Addendum (2021). Refer to the map below to see the air quality study areas. 

Learn about the details of the Air Quality Assessment Update.

To read the full Regional and Local Air Quality Reports, please visit the Important Documents page.

*diesel trains along this line subject to provincial decision-making

Click to enlarge

Map Notes: Only the GO Expansion program study elements (and proposed infrastructure) are depicted in the map above. Infrastructure already studied in past TPAPs and planned works including future stations and corridor service expansions are not shown in the map but were considered for the Assessment Update.

Key Messages

•    Metrolinx is committed to implementing electric rail service and improving air quality impacts from its trains. 
•    Diesel powered trains emit air contaminants such as oxides of nitrogen (NOx), particulate matter (PM), carbon monoxide, and volatile/semi-volatile organic compounds.
•    Electric trains do not have significant air emissions.
•    GO Transit trains are a relatively small contributor to local air contaminant concentrations. 
•    The mean and median values of contaminant concentrations are well within the criteria and standards at all times – except for benzene and benzo-a-pyrene because of their background concentrations.
•    Only maximum concentrations of NO2, PM2.5, benzene and benzo(a)pyrene are predicted to exceed the criteria/standards over limited periods of time and mainly due to higher levels of background concentrations. This means that most people, most of the time, will not be exposed to the near-worst case scenarios in the most affected segments along the rail corridor.

Regional Air Quality Impacts

•    In the future scenario with electrification (at 2037 service levels) the annual greenhouse gas emissions (CO2eq) range from a slight reduction to an increase above the baseline scenario, depending on the mix of electricity generation sources.
•    In the future scenario, annual NOx and PM2.5 emissions are lower than the baseline scenario, except in the case of the extreme upper bound electricity generation case where all electricity is generated using natural gas.
•    In relation to province-wide emissions, the changes associated with the project are very small.  
     o    In the average electricity generation scenario, a slight decrease in province-wide emissions occurs for NOx and PM2.5, and an increase occurs for CO and greenhouse gases.  
     o    In the capacity-based generation scenario, a slight decrease occurs for PM2.5, while an increase occurs for other contaminants.  
     o    In an extreme scenario with 100% fossil fuel-based electricity generation, an increase occurs for all contaminants.

Local Air Quality Impacts

The local air quality studies provide a more detailed picture of potential impacts associated with the future scenario. Consistent findings across the study areas include:
•    Future air quality impacts will depend on the extent of electrification.
•    The Stouffville and Barrie corridors which will be served largely by electric trains will experience a marked decrease in rail related ambient air contaminant concentrations.
•    The rest of the corridors, where diesel trains will continue to have a major role, may experience a small increase in rail related ambient air contaminant concentrations. 
•    Specifically, the detailed predictions of the studies indicate that the future worst-case concentrations of:
     o    CO, NO2, acrolein, formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, and 1,3- butadiene, which are all byproducts of combustion, will continue to meet the provincial Ambient Air Quality Criteria (AAQC);.
     o    Benzene and benzo-a-pyrene may exceed some of the AAQC; and
     o    NO2 and PM2.5 may exceed some of the Canadian Ambient Air Quality Standards.  These standards are, however, are long-term national goals for regional air quality and cannot be applied to a project. 
•    In many cases, the impacts of the future service levels on concentrations of NO2, PM2.5, benzene, and benzo(a)pyrene are minor compared to background conditions. It is important to note that rail service related air contaminant concentrations decrease sharply with distance from the rail corridor and are within target levels at the majority of receptors. 

Presently, the only practical and effective method of reducing the air quality impacts and climate change impacts of trains is to reduce the emissions of air contaminants and GHGs. 

Metrolinx is taking the following steps to reduce air emissions from trains:
•    Electrify the system to the maximum extent possible.
•    Deliver most service with electric locomotives and EMUs.
•    Purchase only Tier-4 compliant equipment in the future, in addition to 17 Tier 4 locomotives already purchased. Tier 4 locomotives are the cleanest diesel technology currently available.
•    Rebuild existing diesel engines to Tier-4 standard at the first scheduled major rebuild.
•    Use the “cleanest low-sulphur” diesel fuel.
•    Minimize diesel engine idling and restrict location of idling.
•    Minimize non-revenue train movements by locating train storage throughout the system.
•    Match train frequency and size to demand for minimizing energy consumption and emissions.
•    Provide training to operator and maintenance staff in energy efficiency practices.
•    Adhere to highest equipment maintenance standards.

Metrolinx will also:
•    Continue to promote the use of transit.
•    Improve and optimize pedestrian and bicycle access to stations.
•    Work with other transit agencies to support the better integration of Ontario's transportation system.
•    Work with the Province to build transit-oriented development and complete communities.

The GO Expansion program is contributing to this mandate by increasing train frequency and availability, working to provide 15 minutes two-way all-day service on core segments of the rail network.