UP Express fares under fire

Your humble correspondent took an airport express train yesterday—not our airport express, mind you, but the one in Vancouver, another world-class city that, you remember, hosted the Olympics, not merely the Pan-Am Games.

It was great: fast, clean, with room to spare, plenty of stops, and a drop-off right at the airport. It was also $4. Yes, $4. Not the roughly $25 the fare is likely to be on the UP Express in Toronto.

In Vancouver, you do pay a premium to take the Skytrain to the airport. From downtown, it’s an additional $1.25 (less than you’ll pay to not park at Pearson). Leaving from the airport, it’s an additional $5 if you don’t know enough to buy a ticket at the 7-11 downstairs.

The exorbitant fares for the UP Express have been drawing lots of attention lately. Councillor Josh Matlow is asking Metrolinx to make the fares affordable. So is Frances Nunziata, who also criticized the proposed fares in 2012. The fares have also been catching heat on Global News, The Star, and the CBC.

Metrolinx has not been responsive to the criticism. A spokesperson told the Star:

“Business travellers are used to paying the cost of a cab and this will definitely be cheaper than the cost of a cab from downtown… it’s looking to be comparable to the express bus.”

Mind you, the Airport Express bus is going out of business, a cab will take its fare to wherever she wants to go (not just Union Station) and will carry her luggage. Further, business travellers are generally able to expense the costs of cabs.

Even with the high fares, the Auditor General of Ontario said that there is no business case for the UP Express: Metrolinx will be unable to find a combination of riders and prices that covers costs.

 

MEDLIFE YorkU hosts successful car wash fundraiser

The team hard at work at King and Weston.

On Saturday 16, the charitable MEDLIFE chapter at York University hosted a car wash fundraiser at the parking lot of the Ward Funeral Home, just off of King and Weston.

Members of the team and invited volunteers all pitched in to commandeer the hoses, sponges and squeegees. Some danced up and down the intersection with bright neon posters to invite passing vehicles in for a five dollar wash – the team almost managed to score an off-duty bus driver.

Despite having to end an hour earlier due to rain, the team managed to raise a grand total of three hundred and eight dollars. All proceeds will go towards supporting MEDLIFE and its mission in providing aid for developing countries.

MEDLIFE, an acronym for Medicine, Education, and Development for Low Income Families Everywhere, is an organization that focuses on helping impoverished countries to break free of poverty while supplying medical aid, education, and developmental projects to build communal independence.

The program organizes weekly trips to countries where student volunteers can work with dentists, doctors, and other professionals to provide free healthcare for local residents. During this trip, students also assist in the construction of classrooms, stair cases to inaccessible clean water, and other key developmental infrastructure for the community. Though mainly situated in villages of South America, their endeavors have stretched out to other countries such as India and Tanzania and continue to expand.

MEDLIFE has branched out into numerous university chapters across the globe, just like Toronto’s York University – but not without the work of their president, Midila Anton.

“Throughout the year, we have two main goals: to spread awareness about the inequities that exist in impoverished villages around the world and to fundraise to help these areas – ultimately growing to become global citizens. Every month we host an event to raise awareness and raise money as well,” she explains. “But starting the club was a lot more work than expected.”  

The MEDLIFE chapter at York University began in September of 2013 when Midila was invited by her friends from the University of Ottawa to attend a MEDLIFE trip to Cusco, Peru earlier that May. After spending a week with mobile clinics and assisting in the construction of an auditorium for an all-girls orphanage, Midila was inspired to create the same opportunities at her own university. Thus, the MEDLIFE YorkU chapter was opened several months later.

“The thing I love about MEDLIFEis that it’s not just about giving money, you’re provided with opportunities for hands-on learning. When you’re exposed to the realities of the environment in these developing nations, that’s when you get to really learn.”

MEDLIFE YorkU president, Midila Anton.

At York University, the MEDLIFE chapter frequently hosts fundraising events throughout the year, such as samosa sales, button sales, and bowl-a-thons, raising just over a thousand dollars as they approach their one-year-anniversary.

“This is our second car wash of the summer because we didn’t realize how expensive supplies were in the beginning. But today was absolutely amazing,” Midila pauses for emphasis and quickly informs me that she needs this to be in the article. “Because a lot of my friends ended up coming out, and a lot of the exec’s friends came out. So when I look at the team who was here today, a lot of it wasn’t general members of MEDLIFE YorkU – it was friends of friends. They were here because they wanted to be here, they were here supporting something that I love.

That made my heart smile so much, I love my friends to the moon and back, and just the fact that they came was so heartwarming – it was ridiculous. They are such a strong support, not only for my endeavors with MEDLIFE, but for every other aspect of my life. I don’t know where I’d be without them.”

Keep an eye out for MEDLIFE YorkU’s other local fundraisers and next year’s annual summer car wash.

The team.

The team.

 

First look at UP Express trains

Amidst the flurry of excited announcements regarding the almost completed Pearson terminus, BlogTO has an article about a sighting of the actual trains that will be used for the Union Pearson Express. The sighting in Brantford by photographer James Gardiner shows a two-car train painted in subdued colours.

The trains will complete the journey from Terminal 1 at Pearson to Union Station in 25 minutes for an as yet undisclosed (but anxiously anticipated) cost. The trains will operate every 15 minutes for most of the day.

Also of interest to Westonians (since Weston is one of only two stops along the way) will be the cost of tickets from here to either end of the line. Many people have speculated that if demand for the service is underwhelming, the line could be converted to an above-ground subway serving additional stations along the length of the line.

Trains will be running in time for the July 10 2015 opening of the Pan-Am Games in Toronto.

Weston: Then and Now (Part II)

Click to enlarge and view in HD for maximum viewing pleasure.

This project was much more daunting than originally anticipated.

The way I began to tackle this comparative photo project was to print out all the photos from the Toronto Public Library site and various Weston-based groups on Facebook, find directions, map out my destination, and hop on the 89 bus.

The problem arose when I showed up to these spots and something else would completely be laid over in its wake. My assumption was that the many churches would remain untouched, or at least the structure’s skeletal remnants could be decipherable, as shown in the transformation of the old Fire Hall into what is now the Ward Funeral home.

But what threw me off completely was the Westminster Presbyterian (United) Church on Weston and Lawrence. The TPL seemed to have dozens of photos emphasizing on the busy lifestyle the church gave to the community; Sunday schools, picnics, and finding bones buried outside the church. I was excited to see this church of rich historical meaning that I thought I’d previously failed to notice.

When I walked down to Bellevue Crescent, just off Lawrence and Weston, my eyes were peeled for the colossal Georgian-styled building. I probably stayed at the intersection for a good five minutes wondering how come I never noticed this building before. Instead, I was met with the Weston Park Baptist Church.

The now current church is flanked by a empty lot of forlorn cement, and a TD bank to the left – ultimately dwarfing it. Of course my immediate question was, “What happened?”

Furthermore, I sat at Memorial Park on Little Avenue, scrutinizing the houses for something remotely looking like what was once the Weston Town Hall. Is the Weston Hotel still intact?

After spending countless hours walking around and trying to find the ghost of Weston’s buildings, my own personal wish is that the town could receive extended beautification jobs and the empty lots that pockmark the street could be used, or cleaned up. The houses nearing St. Phillips and Weston are particularly cute in style and historical novelty, yet are held in decrepit state.

Obviously, the change of demographics and town priorities would decide the fluctuation of infrastructure in any area. Towers begin to replace Victorian styled homes, large brand discount stores will show up at every corner major street corner. But these developments are essential in improving immediate living standards in the area. People begin to express their distaste in the lost of Weston’s historical uniqueness and charm because of the notorious crime rates and the grey-shabbiness that modern construction brings. Weston does have the potential to be a thriving hub of the GTA and reclaim any magic lost over the years, but only if we invest in establishing progressive community programs and buildings that successfully grab participation and honest concern from each demographic group.

I’d hate to express political favor because that’s totally not my realm of things to write about but these successful changes are so noticeable in programs like Urban Arts, and the active development that Councillor Frances Nunziata works towards. In another century past, would Urban Arts and other community developmental aspects be displayed the same way the now-gone Westminster Presbyterian Church was?

The town of Weston is leaving me further confused, yet intrigued at the possibility of change in the near future for Toronto.

Your car looking dirty?

Get it washed!

The MEDLIFE chapter at York University will be holding a fundraising car wash tomorrow, on Saturday, August 16, from 10 am to 3 pm! Bring your cars, vans, and trucks down the Ward Funeral Home parking lot for only five dollars per wash. Your vehicles will be handled with utmost care.

Proceeds will go towards supplying impoverished countries with medical support.