General Committee Update – March 20, 2018

This week in General Committee (GC). One item on the agenda that generated some discussion was the issue of cessation of the train whistle at the GO train crossings in Town. Once again, Council was being asked to consider stopping train whistles being blown at three crossings. The staff report looked at 3 crossings: St John’s, Centre St, and Englehard and put forward for Council consideration the approval of the design and peer review of a maze barrier and pedestrian gate(s) per each crossing. The design and peer review phase would cost 235K from the 2018 budget with the construction costs of just over 1 million to be added to the 2019 budget.

(Wellington was not part of this report as GO will be creating a grade separation at Wellington.)

Personally, I have never agreed with stopping the train horn being blown, the main reason being safety. I just don’t think it makes sense from a safety perspective to stop trains blowing warning horns or whistles as the enter and leave stations or at level crossings. If we did choose to eliminate the horn/whistle, well then, the Town would take all responsibility… and all liability would fall to the Town if something did occur such as an accident or serious harm to pedestrians or vehicles. To me this was a non-starter. A serious safety issue that the Town would assume all liability for? Personally I couldn’t support that.

However, the situation has changed and I can understand the concerns that have been raised. Up until recently, there were just a few trains in the morning and evening and none on the weekends. With the GO moving towards all-day two-way every 15 min service, well, this makes for a lot of horns blowing all day, every day. So while I have not agreed in the past to stopping the train whistles from being blown, as we move to the all day train schedule I do believe we need to look at the impacts the GO train service changes will have on our community. With that in mind, I was, therefore, in agreement with the majority of Council that consideration of the proposed peer review and design for the alternatives to a train whistle – namely, the maze barrier and pedestrian gates – should be deferred to the 2019 budget. The recommendation to proceed with the design right away (ie not defer it to the next budget) was voted down 7-2 (with Mayor Dawe and Councillor Abel in favour). Council is expecting some additional information on the matter next week, so perhaps some minds might change, but I believe this will be best left for the new Council to decide during the 2019 budget deliberations.

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6 Responses

  1. The trains have been coming through Aurora since the beginning of time. It never ceases to amaze me that the trains and their whistles were here when these people moved in. This is a safety issue. I understand there are many more trains everyday but to be honest we live in the northeast subdivision and are pretty close to the tracks and can honestly say I hardly notice those whistles. It’s just a part of everyday life.

  2. I concur with Dianne’s comments. We hear the train whistles in the SW quadrant of Aurora, but live a few blocks away, so they are not a major nuisance. We’ve noticed that some train engineers really like to lay on the horn vs others who give a couple of short, sharp toots. Perhaps while this matter is deferred (and I hope this costly study isn’t approved next year), the Town could negotiate with GO to keep the toots to the bare minimum, but still meet the basic safety req’ts. Let’s try it on a trial basis.

  3. It never ceases to amaze me that people move near train tracks and then complain about the train noise. If they don’t like the train whistles or any other noise the trains make , that’s tough , move somewhere else more to your liking. The train was there when they moved in and many years before.that.
    The safety of people is a lot more important than the inconvenience of train whistles.
    And for the liability issue, why should all residents of Aurora have to take on the liability commitments for those who don’t like something that was there when they came in the first place.
    I object to one cent of my tax dollars being spent on this issue.

  4. Although we don’t live right next to tracks blowing of the whistle is a safety issue. Short blasts should not be an issue. You live beside a train track you expect to hear a whistle.

    We as a town should NOT be taking any liability issues on for this or spending tax dollars on studies for alternates. The safety issue is a GO issue plain and simple. So please vote no to spending on studies which require Aurora to take on liabilities and spend money to build pedestrian barriers etc.

  5. I live within earshot of the train and the whistle is something that you get used to. The duration of the whistle could be changed, however.

  6. Everyone is in support of safety. However, to think that the antique practice of horn blowing is the only solution in 2018, is thoroughly incorrect. Other safe solutions are available and in use in Ontario, Canada and many other parts of the world. Are Aurorans so different from residents of Toronto, Barrie, Richmond Hill and many other municipalities where horns are not permitted?. They successfully use alternative solutions of ensuring safety such as systems that blow horns in the perpendicular direction of incoming traffic where it matters, instead of causing sound pollution in all directions.

    Many thousands of households in Aurora are located in the vicinity of tracks and are about to be affected every 25 minutes at all hours of the day. A large number of safety conscious Aurorans have communicated concerns over the years regarding lack of standards, noise pollution and control. In 2011, the new council led by Councillor Pirri and Abel decided to cancel all studies and efforts completed by the previous council and staff to find “safe” alternatives to address this issue. Their motion based on the idea of blowing horns being part of our heritage in Aurora was senseless and irresponsible.

    There are many residents in Aurora who support safety but feel strongly about the nuisances caused in early morning hours (as early as 5 AM and as late as 2 AM) blowing of horns. This is no different from having a noisy neighbour disrespecting the town’s noise bylaws. Go trains “currently” conduct their daily operations in many Ontario municipalities without blowing their horns and without higher accident statistics. Large trucks and cars traveling through Aurora don’t blow their horns when approaching intersections. That is why we have traffic lights and laws that govern safe conduct when we are out and about. We can’t expect cars to blow their horns constantly because an individual has decided to stand in the middle of or jump onto the road. As far as crossings not working, this does currently happen and the conductors slow down or stop as they can detect dysfunctional crossing. So given other safe and proven solutions, why is it necessary for a train to disturb tens of thousands of Aurorans far from the tracks without cause multiple times per hour?. For those who claim that they can’t hear the horns, how are horns such a great safety solution? If you were the ones on the track, would the horns save your life?

    I moved here many years ago when four daily trains passed by during working hours. As a GO train user, I regularly see folks holding their ears as the trains approach or leave blowing their horns in excess and without cause. This is a health and safety issue for “all” including those regularly affected by frequent train noise pollution.

    Horn should remain on trains and be used when necessary but there should be standards that trains adhere to such as:

    – Pattern, duration of how horns are blown
    – Sound level from the horns
    – Use of bells instead of horns as they do in downtown Toronto and many other Ontario municipalities
    – Limitations on after hour use of horns

    Lastly, I ask those concerned about liability to find precedents of successful litigation against neighboring municipalities where trains are not allowed to blow their horns. Aurora will not be any more liable as due diligence is being applied to ensure application of approved safety standards which staff have already investigated in the past. Tax payer funds have already been spent looking into this issue many years ago. I hope for logic and reason to prevail versus heresy, emotion and speculation.

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