Rouge River bridge complete - Brian Main photo

Transit for cleaner air

Taking a GO Train, instead of driving, reduces your GHG emissions by 90%. New electric trains will be even greener and get more cars off the road.

You already figured out that new transit projects will get cars off the road, ease congestion and cut down on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. 

But did you know that taking a GO Train ride, instead of driving the same distance, drops your share of GHG emissions by 90 precent? 

And – even better – GO is working to create even more GHG reductions with plans to have electric trains replace diesel locomotives, use of battery-powered buses, and a growing number of people getting to their local GO stations with alternatives to the traditional drive-park-and-ride approach.  

“Our greatest environmental goal is to reduce the number of cars on the road by building faster and more reliable transit to places where people want to go so that fewer people need to own cars, one of the biggest emitters of GHGs,” said Marcy Burchfield, vice president of planning at Metrolinx. 

Emissions naturally fall as people trade a car ride for transit, so the total emission reduction is bound to grow as more services are added. 

GO Expansion – a massive program that will include two-way, all-day service to more communities and trains every 15 minutes or better – will shift more than 145,000 cars off the road each day. By 2055, this will amount to 7.3 megatonnes of carbon dioxide savings. 

a train near a walkway and pedestrians.

Electric trains will be introduced on the GO lines, further expanding the environmental benefits of public transit. This artist’s rendering is subject to change. (Metrolinx image)

Electric GO Trains on the way

That’s not all. The plan includes near-zero emission electric trains. They will be powered by overhead wires instead of diesel fuel on core routes along the Lakeshore, Kitchener, Barrie and Stouffville corridors– and early works projects are underway to prepare for installation of electrification infrastructure like overhead wires. 

Electric trains will be better for passengers as they are faster and quieter. Coming in and out of stations, they accelerate and decelerate more quickly than diesel trains – saving time on every trip. 

“We are providing more frequent transit and giving people more reasons to leave their cars at home,” said Mirjana Osojnicki, a Metrolinx manager in Environmental Programs and Assessment. “There will be a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions as we move towards electrifying our network,” added Osojnicki. 

Currently, 60 per cent of European rail is electrified, compared to only one per cent in North America. GO Expansion could make Ontario the trendsetter for the rest of the continent. 

Electric trains are shown in Copenhagen

Currently, 60 per cent of European rail is electrified, including this Danish route going through Copenhagen, compared to only one per cent in North America. GO Expansion could make Ontario the trendsetter for the rest of the continent. (Mike Winterburn photo)

Green buses too 

Zero emission, battery electric bus service is another area where Metrolinx is moving towards a greener future. 

Customers on GO Bus Routes 19, 27, 92 and 96B may find themselves on one of two electric vehicle (EV) buses being tested by Metrolinx. These routes were selected based on the distance these buses can travel and time needed for charging. 

The performance of these EV GO Buses will be monitored and Metrolinx will use the information to determine potential future expansion of the program. 

Metrolinx is working with local transit agencies across Ontario to coordinate their expansions of EV buses. The provincial agency recently arranged a joint purchasing contract for 38 12-metre battery electric buses among nine municipal transit providers.  

Getting a bulk price helps to ensure that more municipalities can afford electric buses.  

Metrolinx is also coordinating a joint procurement for charging systems for the vehicles involving 10 transit agencies.   

Previously, Metrolinx contracted with an engineering, architecture and consulting firm so 13 local agencies will each receive a customized report outlining a plan to prepare its fleet for conventional battery electric city buses. 

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EV GO Buses are in use on GO Bus routes 19, 27, 92 and 96B. (Metrolinx photo)

Getting to and from stations 

Another way to cut emissions per trip is by giving customers more ways to get to GO stations without driving their cars. 

While Metrolinx already has a substantial amount of free parking at its GO stations, the lack of space for parking expansion means that as the region’s population grows, more people will have to connect with their stations by using local transit or other alternatives to a car. 

In 2015, only eight per cent of GO passengers arrived on a local bus, rising to 15 percent in 2019. Looking to the future, that proportion must continue to grow as GO ridership expands. 

The number of parking spaces at stations is fixed, so 20 years from now, local transit will have to bring in about as many customers as those who drive and park. 

Metrolinx works with local transit providers to coordinate schedules and improve transfers. Future service expansions will make those transfers even easier. 

Free transfers have given riders a major incentive to take local transit buses to their local GO stations. 

Since Mar. 14, 2022, Metrolinx has made most local transit fares free for passengers connecting to and from GO Transit. Twelve local agencies are currently participating in the program.  

Cycling is another way to reach GO stations for free – and with zero emissions. In addition to regular bike parking, customers can now register for a spot in a reserved bike room at 14 stations. 

A train heads toward Union Station

GO Trains get cars off the road by providing an alternative to driving. (Metrolinx image)

Transit for a greener future 

In the years to come, housing to be built close to stations will help more people to get on board quickly and efficiently – and can have some added health benefits. 

“Building housing close to transit encourages people to have a more active lifestyle that includes walking to their stations,” Burchfield noted. 

While not practical for everybody, walking to stations is the easiest and greenest way to start a trip. 

Public transit is inherently better for the environment than driving, but that is only the beginning. Metrolinx is constantly working reduce carbon emissions by embracing new technologies and helping people find better ways of getting to and from stations. 

 This is the transit agency’s contribution to cleaner air and a healthier region.