Ask Pat: Whistle cessation?

Sleepless asks—

What is the deal with the downtown train whistle cessation program?

In early 2014, it was announced that an agreement had been reached with the railroad companies and that trains would stop whistling downtown as soon as the crossings are upgraded.

In mid-2014, councilor Puchmayr mentioned at a Downtown Residents Association meeting that the only thing holding back whistle cessation downtown was backordered equipment for the Fourth and Begbie St crossings, and that the upgrade work was expected to be completed “within a few weeks”.

A year later, in your May 25, 2015 Council Meeting report on this site, you mentioned that the target for whistle cessation downtown was now September 2015.

I just saw an update on, dated August 2015, which gives a new date of “end of 2015” for downtown whistle cessation.

So, what is the hold-up? Why is a simple crossing upgrade taking so long? Why does the target date keep getting pushed back? Is there any hope of the whistles ever stopping?

Of all those sources, I would trust the most recent one. The problems across the many crossings in the City are complex, and there are some crossings (Spruce Street and Braid, especially) where the issues may be unsolvable in the short term, but that is not true for Begbie and Fourth.

The best update I can give you is this one from the summer that you mentioned, but I am not on the Rail Committee, so there may have been developments since then.

The City really hoped to have the Begbie crossing done this fall, but there were some delays on ordering the required hardware, and now it looks more like spring. I know this isn’t what we planned, but the important pieces are in place – the Railway companies have agreed to a hardware plan that will permit cessation, the City has budgeted the money to do the work (and, in one case, Southern Rail has contributed some money to making a solution work), so it is going to happen, it is only a matter of time now.

I cannot emphasize enough how getting those first pieces in place was a significant effort by the City (again, this is one of those things I can take no credit for, as it mostly happened before I joined council), after a decade of unfortunate confrontation between the railways and a few well-meaning community groups, we now have a collaborative relationship that will see dividends as far as whistle cessation, and is already showing dividends in how emergency planning takes place on the Quayside.

So much like the 4th Street Elevator and the upgrades to council chambers, I am disappointed by the delays, but believe the work needs to be done, and am happy Council has supported and funded the projects. I apologize that we have not hit our intended timelines, and am starting to question how we, as a City, set our timelines.

3 comments on “Ask Pat: Whistle cessation?

  1. Given that two prominent projects are being delayed by hardware acquisition issues, does this indicate to you that the City Engineering department may have a problem with their procurement process? Are there any plans in place to ensure that the next big project will not delayed for the same reason?

  2. I believe it would be beneficial to have more transparency around the whistle cessation process and why does it take so long to put in place the logistics to allow this happen.

    I would also like to see the council and decision makers involved in the process trying it out first hand by moving in to the condos that are literally 100 ft or so away from the the tracks and from the areas where the trains blow their horns. Just spend a couple of weeks living there, day and night, but especially at night time.

    With the new development at the Brewery District that would be a perfect opportunity to test how it feels living in these areas close to rails. You can uniquely experience skytrain noise, trucks and traffic noise + fumes, train engine noise + vibration + smoke, train horn and the occasional helicopter at RCH all at once. If not all at once, all in the same place for sure.

    Then review the whistle cessation implementation plan one more time and maybe there will be more motivation to speed up the process.

Leave a Reply