GO Expansion Vegetation Management and Tree Compensation Program

Long-term sustainability is always top of mind for us at Metrolinx. That is why while we deliver GO Expansion - the largest public transit expansion in Canada’s history, we also plan to leave the region a much greener place in the process.

Why is proactive vegetation control important?

Managing vegetation within and around our rail corridors has always been a fundamental part of providing safe and efficient GO Train service. It is crucial to maintaining sightlines for train operators and ensuring that staff and contractors have access to rail equipment.

Why is vegetation management particularly important for GO Expansion?

Using electric trains on the Barrie, Lakeshore, Stouffville and Kitchener lines will allow faster trains to transport you and will offer all-day trips, going two ways, as frequently as every 15 minutes. Similar to Hydro corridors, trees will have to be removed along the electrified corridors to protect the electrification infrastructure, maintain service reliability, and for the safety of passenger service.

To fit and protect the new GO Expansion infrastructure, Metrolinx will establish a vegetation control zone along sections of our rail corridors, based on the 2020 Vegetation Guideline. The vegetation control zone is a GO Expansion program requirement.

A cross-section of the future electrified rail corridor is shown below.

Vegetation Management: Timing

We are starting with vegetation removals on Metrolinx owned lands in May 2021. Work will be phased through the GO network over approximately two years.

The majority of work will take place between 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. on weekdays, and possibly on weekends.

Work will be conducted as quickly and efficiently as possible to minimize disturbance, but residents and businesses near the corridor can expect to hear noise caused by trucks, chainsaws, woodchippers and other equipment related to this work.

Residents may also see crews in and around the corridor pruning and inspecting vegetation, as well as laydown areas where we will be storing larger tree limbs and trunks to be reused in habitat restoration projects in natural areas.

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What is the Vegetation Guideline?

This Vegetation Guideline provides a roadmap for Metrolinx’s approach to managing vegetation along our rail corridors, including a compensation framework.

The Metrolinx compensation strategy is based on the principles of the highly vetted, and science-based TRCA Guideline for Determining Ecosystem Compensation. This framework determines compensation based on a tree’s value for ecosystem services, such as carbon sequestration and pollution removal, so that trees planted to replace it provide the current level of ecosystem function while also allowing for growth time.

This commitment to vegetation replacement will allow Metrolinx to address the need to provide safe and reliable transport in addition to providing social, economic and ecological benefits.

Our long-term management plan for the new-look GO Expansion corridors is also based on the 2020 Metrolinx Vegetation Guideline.

How trees and vegetation are managed, is called integrated vegetation management (IVM) - an approach that has been widely adapted to transportation corridors to effectively meet the needs of vegetation management programs.

What are the advantages of the IVM framework?

This approach to managing vegetation along rail corridors will allow Metrolinx to build and operate the GO Rail Expansion Program, as well as a lasting way to improve the ecological natural heritage through sustainable practices, such as minimizing the presence and spread of invasive plant species and promoting the growth of native species.

Low growing native vegetation, will be encouraged to colonize the appropriate vegetation control zones so that they do not impede new infrastructure and rail operations, and can be easily controlled.

How will it benefit neighbourhoods?

GO Expansion will make the GO network cleaner, better and faster and make the entire region easier to travel in. Implementing the IVM will also benefit neighbourhoods close to our corridors by limiting the frequency and intrusiveness of future vegetation control, which can be disruptive.

How is Metrolinx compensating for the changes planned for the GO-owned rail corridors?

Through partnerships with municipalities and conservation authorities across the region, Metrolinx is already planting trees and shrubs to offset the changes planned for our corridors.

Our early works vegetation compensation strategy applies to all native trees identified by Metrolinx for removals. It goes above and beyond the regulatory requirements and will enhance the health of local ecosystems and increase the vegetation cover in the region.

In 2020 alone, Metrolinx funded and coordinated the planting of more than 22,100 native trees and shrubs (8,079 trees and 14,050 shrubs).

In the News:

Follow Metrolinx News for more stories about similar initiatives we will be coordinating and funding in the coming months and years.