Metrolinx develops throttle control program that saves fuel – and millions of dollars for GO Transit

It’s a little bit like manual cruise control in your car but on a much larger scale.

The idea is to get GO trains up to speed between stations, put the engine in an idle position and simply coast until it’s time to hit the brakes. An innovative, new approach that has led to no time lost and less fuel being used.

The Throttle Control Program was developed by Metrolinx as a way to reduce energy use and emissions. Steve Cavanaugh led the team that put it together.

Senior Manager Steve Cavanaugh uses a simulator to test the Metrolinx Throttle Control Program

“Our corridors and our travel routes are very predictable,” said Cavanaugh, Metrolinx’s rail services manager. “They start at the same station, stop and go through the same speed restrictions.”

In developing the program, the team was able to make calculations for speed, distance and the power of the locomotive engines. Do the math and they realized operators don’t have to keep “throttling up” – or keep their foot on the gas – which uses more fuel.

Instructions and crew training started with simulators in 2017 to advise them on the steps while meeting on-time performance and maintaining customer comfort.

“We’re monitoring right now about 26% of all Lakeshore runs,” Cavanaugh said. “Shortly we’ll be able to monitor 100%.”

To this point, it’s estimated that there has already been a fuel savings of 19%. Combined with another “anti-idling” initiative, Metrolinx expects to save $2 million a year because of this program.

Cavanaugh and his Throttle Control Program team won a Linx Award for their initiative in 2017.