City Council votes for low fares

Bruce McCuaig, the CEO of Metrolinx, wrote on Wednesday that we should expect unaffordable fares for the UP Express.

The UP Express was modelled after London’s Heathrow Express, Tokyo’s Narita Express and the Arlanda Express in Stockholm — all dedicated air links and offered at prices ranging from $26-$41 (all figures Canadian).

 

McCuaig is cherry-picking expensive (and far-flung) airport links for comparison. (Also, Narita’s airport link is actually $15 leaving the airport and an hour-long trip, far longer than the UP Express trip.)

By way of comparison:

  • Vancouver’s line is $9.
  • New York’s is $8.
  • Sydney’s, $8.
  • Calgary’s, $8.50.
  • Paris, $14.
  • Berlin is $5.

You get the idea. High fares (and, to be fair, super-deluxe service) are the exceptions, not the norm.

Yesterday, Toronto City Council voted symbolically in favour of motions by Frances Nunziata and Josh Mattlow for affordable fares.

Rob Ford, Shelley Carroll, Josh Colle, Mike Del Grande, John Parker, Gord Perks, and David Shiner voted against the motion.

McCuaig said it wasn’t going to happen:

UP Express is a dedicated airport express train, and not a commuter service…. [His emphasis] [u]nlike mass transit services that happen to include an airport stop.

 

Federal Building apartments are ready.

Weston’s old post office, also once known as the Federal Building has had its upper floor renovated by developer Jack Morelli of First Avenue Properties and is now seeking tenants. Readers may remember that across the street, Mr. Morelli is building low-rise condominiums on the old beer store site so these renovations might be some clue as to how he views the neighbourhood’s potential. Readers may also remember that the ground floor of the building will be a medical centre opening next year. WestonWeb took a ‘stickybeak‘ on Tuesday morning during an open house.

Arriving a leisurely half-hour after the event had begun, WestonWeb’s south media team (Roy and Roy) found the front access doors to the apartments were still locked. Since a previous visit in July, even more windows at ground level have been broken. Not an auspicious start. Unable to cool off in a tantalizingly unopened fabulous new coffee shop, a quick scout around the back of the building revealed a door left ajar. A set of terrazzo stairs that have seen better days led to the top floor where a pair of startled agents sprang to their feet and introduced themselves.

First Avenue has gutted the top floor and installed 15 apartments in place of the old offices. There is a choice of one, two or three bedrooms averaging 800 square feet. All apartments and hallways have the same tiled flooring throughout and flat (not textured) 9-foot ceilings. A variety of layouts is available but unfortunately, First Avenue’s definition of a bedroom is sometimes an enclosed space with a door but no window. In one apartment, one of the alleged bedrooms was simply a windowless alcove – a feature described by the agent as flexible. When asked if a windowless bedroom was legal in Toronto, the agent went quiet. When pressed, another awkward silence ensued.

The entrance to Apartment 203

The entrance to Apartment 203

Kitchens are small with formica countertops. The appliances had not yet arrived yet but range hoods appear to be vented to the outside. Bathrooms are standard toilet sink and bath/shower combinations.

The kitchen alcove in Apartment 203.

The kitchen alcove in Apartment 203.

Prices for the apartments range from $900 for a one-bedroom $1050 for a two and $1200 for a three-bedroom. Water is included but heat and hydro are billed extra; heat being supplied via individual apartment furnaces through ceiling vents. Although no laundry facilities are provided in the apartments, a coin laundry room will be available. The lack of air-conditioning could be a problem in summer as windows are quite small. Each unit comes with one parking space.

A windowless bedroom.

A windowless bedroom in Apt 203.

Living room (L) and a bedroom.

The living room (L) and a bedroom of Apt 203.

While no-one will accuse First Avenue Properties of gentrifying Weston, it’s nice to see any reasonable development coming to a formerly empty space in a significant Weston building. Residents will occupy brand new walk-up apartments and have access to a variety of amenities within easy walking distance at an affordable price. The developer might however want to do something about the state of the ground floor exterior which continues to deteriorate.

Albanese calls for “fare” pricing

In a remarkable open letter to the Minister of Transportation, Laura Albanese calls for a “fare policy” for the UP Express. She says

I would ask that our government revisit the perspective that the UP Express is somehow only a special or premium service, primarily serving airport customers.

Albanese notes that the mandate of the train has changed since its conception. She says it “has evolved to be much more” than a “rail to connect Toronto’s Union Station to the Pearson Airport”.

The line will serve commuters and “taxpayers would be penalized by paying a high fare, including local residents”. These fares should not have to cover the costs of the train, since neither the TTC nor GO have to cover their costs with ticket sales.

Albanese says that the fare policy should consider

  1. Different fare schedules for seniors and students, typical of fare policies relating to other public transit services.
  2. Pro-rated fares for commuters accessing the services at stops, including Weston and Bloor West.
  3. Considerable public input as to whether the fare should be set to re-coup the cost of construction (as opposed to operating costs) and if so within what timeframe. In addition, any consideration to re-coup construction costs must, at the same time, clarify whether fare rates will drop once costs are recovered.
  4. The 2010 decisions of Metrolinx to compensate the airport for lost parking should undergo a review.

 

 

Eglinton flats makes the news

I like slow news days: reporters wander off and occasionally end up here, in Weston—Mount Dennis.

The Star showed up last week and wrote a special on one of the local gems, Eglinton flats:

It is an idyllic oasis featuring wildlife, a large pond and green space that is now flooded with soccer players, tennis enthusiasts, cricketers and many less organized activities.