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Tuesday, February 7, 2017

It's ok, the smokers will kill us first anyway - GO Transit passengers at risk for exposure to diesel exhaust



Oooh that's a scary headline in this morning's Metro.

Now replace that with GO Transit passengers at risk for exposure to cigarette smoke.

That's a goddamn horror film right there. But it doesn't sell papers I'm afraid.

I'm not downplaying the study or its findings, but at any given GO Station across the GTHA, we are all still subjected to second-hand smoke as we walk past PRESTO machines, wait for buses or walk in and out of a station. At Oshawa, there's even a designated smoking area on the platform, complete with official green signs. Hey, if you can't beat them, might as well make them happy, right?

Pardon me for not running out onto Front Street screaming, BURN IT ALL DOWN! after reading this article since I'm personally fed up with the lack of attention the soot issue on GO Transit Double Decker buses is getting. My man on the street, aka GO Voyageur, has been at this for well over a year trying to get answers from Metrolinx about the mysterious substance that blows through the HVAC systems of these buses and stains the walls and ceiling. Something tells me it's even more sinister than diesel dust. Wait, maybe it is diesel dust!?

But back to this GO train diesel dust issue, it would be interesting to know what the readings would be for the first coach behind the locomotive on a VIA train, which doesn't push?

In response, Metrolinx's COO released the following statement:

Response to Research Findings on Air Quality in Some GO Trains

TORONTO: February 7, 2017 – Today, Metrolinx Chief Operating Officer Greg Percy issued the following statement:

“A recent study led by Dr. Greg Evans from the University of Toronto found that some GO train cars contained elevated levels of diesel exhaust emissions when they were being pulled by the locomotive. The study looked specifically at the presence of black carbon and ultrafine particulate, which were found to be the highest in the car directly behind the locomotive.
Because the health and safety of our customers and staff is our top priority, we worked with Dr. Evans’ research team throughout the study to help gather and analyze data. Since evidence is still emerging on the effects of these particles and this study is the first of its kind for commuter trains in Canada, we are conducting further tests in partnership with SNC Lavalin and the University of Toronto to better understand the issue. The study notes the diesel locomotives tested are similar to those used by other public transit agencies in cities such as Vancouver, Chicago, San Francisco, Washington D.C., Boston, Los Angeles, and Seattle, so we’re hopeful this work will result in improvements that can be applied throughout the industry. It also notes that this is not an issue for trains that are being pushed by the locomotive from behind, which accounts for roughly half of our trips.
We’re already addressing all of the recommendations made in the report, which include installing improved air ventilation filters, using Tier 4 diesel locomotives with the highest emissions standards, and pursuing electrified service. After installing and testing new high-efficiency filters on select trains, we’ve found that they significantly improve onboard air quality. While further testing is needed, we are on track to have the new filters on all train cars by the end of March to ensure we see immediate improvements. We’re also already using Tier 4 diesel locomotives, which are the most emissions-friendly on the market. Our entire UP Express fleet is powered by the Tier 4 locomotive—the first rail service to use it in North America—and we have one Tier 4 GO locomotive running with another 16 on order for 2017-18. Going forward, any new diesel locomotives we add to our fleet will be Tier 4. We’re also moving forward with plans to electrify large sections of our rail network, meaning we’ll carry many passengers in vehicles that have no diesel emissions at all.
We don’t take these issues lightly, and we welcome any findings that can help us run a healthier, safer transit service. As Dr. Evans points out, the study is not meant to discourage customers from using GO trains. He has been commuting on GO trains for years, and so have I—15 years, to be exact, and I will continue to do so.
We want to assure everyone who relies on GO Transit every day that we place the highest priority on their health and safety and we will continue to monitor and report on air quality to ensure we see improvements."
– Greg Percy, Chief Operating Officer, Metrolinx

11 comments:

Ed said...

Nice scare headlines just to sell papers.

Not once in the article does it mention what "high" means, how it was measured and the actual levels measured.

No wonder the Star has rapidly turned into a rag newspaper not worth my time reading.

And as usual, there is always a politician who acts like my late mother and always assumes the apocalypse will happen tomorrow if you aren't careful. Thanks Di Novo, you are a scaremongering tool.

Skin Man said...

One has to wonder what 1+ hour each way per day in that coach does to a person.

Anonymous said...

I have a feeling the problem is when the locomotive is pulling and the fumes /particulate travel over the cars. Probably not as much of a concern when the locomotive is pushing.

matt said...

It's OK, electrification is coming soon........

Mark chow said...

I work at a transit garage and heres the truth.

Any diesel vehicle sold after 2007 has whats called diesel particulate filters. Theyre very good at capturing 99% of the soot and other particulate matter. Whereas diesel engines especially ones built decades ago didnt have this technology.

What the media has left out is that GO transit's newer locomotives emit little to no soot and particulate matter bulit by MPI industries. its the older GM locomotives numbered in the 500 series, you need to worry about.

Tal Hartsfeld said...

If they start eliminating everything that causes cancer all of the modern-day societies will be irreparably shut down indefinitely.

Anonymous said...


It's the brake dust I worry about. Notice people coughing when the train slows down? That little tickle in your throat?

MG said...

what's 1000 times worse is the exhaust smells in Durham Transit busses. My gosh I dont know how people ride the busses on a regular basis because every time I get on one I get a headache for the fumes. it's freakin nasty.

Squiggles said...

MG - stay closer to the front.

But then again, I am on those buses for only a couple of stops. But being near the door does help.

And I am at least thankful the Walking Ashtray hasn't been on it lately.

Robert Wightman said...

Greg Percy said;

"We’re already addressing all of the recommendations made in the report, which include installing improved air ventilation filters, using Tier 4 diesel locomotives with the highest emissions standards, and pursuing electrified service."

GO has one tier 4 locomotive, 647, and it was a test locomotive that was deemed not worth pursuing. They have an order for 16 tier 4 locomotives, a different version than the 647 test, but they do not know, or won't say, when the order will be delivered. The UP Yours, sorry UP Express, supposedly have tier 4 engines but they carry very few passengers relative to GO trains.

Given the rate at which Metrolinx completes Capital Projects who know when electrification will be finished. Given all that, remember it is only a problem in the first couple of coaches when the train is headed eastbound and the locomotive is pulling. You would probably be subjected to a lot more carcinogens on a drive in on the 401 everyday, So if you have respiratory problems, don't sit in the first couple of cars behind the locomotive in pull mode. They supposedly are putting in a system that closes the air intakes in the coaches when the train is accelerating out of a station, so that should alleviate the worst of the problems.

deepfish said...

Here's the thing - diesel exhaust and suspended particulate matter has been shown in reseach to be not even comparable in persistence to cigarette smoke.
Buttsucker exhaust comes with far more added chemicals and the process is far less efficient, and unfiltered.
Irritants and allergenic and carcinogenic chemicals and particulates from tobacco smoke persist long after the heavier carbon from diesel exhaust settles out and the gases (mostly CO, dissipate.
These researchers would do well to park their monitors by the doors and PRESTO dispensers outside, say, Oakville GO station - you know, the places where they have no smoking signs, and no evident enforcement.
They'll get a lungful there.