News / Toronto

Toronto school colouring contest protests diesel UP Express trains

A group of TTC riders took to Queen’s Park on Monday with an unusual advocacy campaign: A poster contest for kids at Toronto schools.

The group worked with schools near the UP Express rail link between Union Station and the airport, which opens on Saturday, and invited students to illustrate their health and environmental concerns about the diesel trains.

A dozen schools participated and more than 140 students submitted posters, said the group’s executive director Jessica Bell. The group announced the winners at Queen’s Park.

Arwyn Carpenter, a kindergarten teacher at Perth Ave Public School, was among those who spoke.

“Our school happens to be about a block away from the train tracks where the diesel trains are running, so it was very important for our students to participate in this contest,” she said afterwards. “They are aware of the pollution caused by the diesel trains and also the fact that the trains don’t stop here — they’re express trains so they’re not really useable by the residents in this area, who are the people absorbing a lot of this air pollution.”

The contest was a teachable moment for the students, Carpenter said.

“We talked about the environment and how our actions impact the environment and how we can make decisions that are good for the environment, and we thought that the diesel trains are not a good decision because they are polluting,” she said.

She also wanted them to realize they could be advocates and activists, she said.

The province is working to convert the line to electric, but that can’t come fast enough for the TTC riders group which is opposed to the use of diesel trains in the meantime, as well as the relatively high fares and the few stops between the financial district and the airport.

The Toronto District School Board used to be among the opponents to the diesel trains, said spokesman Ryan Bird.

“While the TDSB did raise concerns about the possible health impacts as a result of the Union Pearson Express diesel trains a number of years ago, it is our understanding that Metrolinx is moving toward the electrification of this line,” he said.

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