Steve Munro debunks Mayor’s transit claims

From the TTC Page.

Steve Munro is an influential blogger who knows more about the TTC than anyone on council (not a large achievement) or at the TTC for that matter. Mayor Tory has listed a set of claims about the TTC and under his leadership, the alleged ‘new’ spending on transit in the 2017 budget. The mayor’s claims are systematically picked apart by Mr. Munro in his latest opinion piece. Read all about it here.

BTW, under the mayor’s watch, the 89 Weston bus now operates at 111% capacity in the afternoon and evening peaks.

New transit hub proposed for Pearson Airport.

The UP Express in Weston Station (file).

Pearson Airport is not only Canada’s biggest airport, it’s also an employer of 40,000 49,000 people who travel from all over the GTA along with many more who work in the surrounding region. In 2015 it was North America’s 14th busiest airport with over 41 million passenger trips.

Yesterday, new plans were unveiled proposing to make Pearson a transit hub for modes as well as flight. The idea is to eventually connect with the Eglinton Crosstown Line as well as bus routes from Toronto / Mississauga / Brampton and a possible high speed rail line along the Kitchener Line. Planners hope to be able to cut down on the 65,000 vehicles entering the airport daily.

This is good news because as traffic volumes continue to grow, new links to the hub will provide other ways (in addition to our fast UP Express link) for workers to quickly access the airport using Weston / Mount Dennis as their home. The airport will relocate parking garages to create the hub which will have an entrance on Airport Road. In addition, having a transit hub closer than Union Station will be a good thing for our area.

At the moment, the idea is in an exploratory mode and if approved, would not be in service until 2027 at the earliest.

UrbanToronto has an article on the proposal here.

8 Oak Street gets the chop.

The 8 Oak building is in the centre of the photo. The townhomes in the foreground were made possible by a 2004 OMB ruling. From Google Maps.

First the owners of Satin Finish proposed building 99 townhomes on their property at 8 Oak Street that runs along Knob Hill Drive. Then they ran into some opposition, had a re-think and came back with plans to build 509 units. An effort was made to save the original brick building that fronts the site on Oak but that has come to nothing. Council recently voted to allow demolition of the non-residential brick building, subject to a ‘beautification agreement’. Nobody yet knows what this means as it is subject to negotiations between the owners and council. It’s part of the Section 37 nonsense Ontario requires the city to use instead of council being able to direct developers in what they can and should do. Contrary to the site’s current industrial use zoning, the owners want the site to become an apartment and townhome development. Across the street is a set of townhomes that went through a similar process back in 2004. The OMB ruled in favour of the developer and the zoning was changed to residential.

Detailed plans for the 8 Oak Street Development. The newer proposal has a park in the centre. Click to enlarge.
Weston’s Carnegie Library – saved from demolition in 1975.

John Tory and his council allies have a huge revenue shortfall. Instead of raising the lowest property taxes in all of Ontario, they are hoping to find efficiencies (a.k.a. gravy) elsewhere.

Apparently one tactic is keeping staff low at city hall. If heritage buildings can’t be designated thanks to staff shortages, developers can take advantage of the delay and demolish priceless properties. “We’re understaffed”, is the plea from the Planning Department. Unscrupulous developers don’t like to preserve heritage buildings. Therefore one can only assume that the Planning Department is woefully short of staff by design. Consider this recent Tweet to Councillor Joe Cressy from Chief Planner Jennifer Keesmaat:

As the Toronto Star points out, it’s harder to chop down a tree than demolish a 110 year-old Beaux Arts heritage building.

Maybe this particular building wasn’t worthy of protection but now we’ll never know.

Incidentally, Josh Matlow is a city councillor who proactively seeks out heritage buildings in his corner of Toronto. He has listed and mapped significant properties in Ward 22. Perhaps his example should be emulated by all councillors and maybe the city should make the process less cumbersome if we are to retain any of our rapidly disappearing heritage.

Work on Kodak lands continues this year.

An interesting article in railwayage.com summarizes the progress expected this year on the Eglinton Crosstown line. Apparently the first track to be installed will go on the Kodak lands later this year as part of the rail yard that will be built there. The line is scheduled to be in service by 2021.

The total cost of the 19 km, 25 station partially (10 km) underground line is estimated to be $6.6B and is a relative steal compared to the $3.2B estimated cost of the one-station Scarborough Subway extension.

Incidentally, our mayor and councillor seem bound and determined to push forward with the Scarborough folly and have rejected a fully-funded seven station LRT. These are the people who successfully voted against basing transit decisions on data.  They didn’t want ranked balloting either. I wonder why.

Next up: bake-sales for City Hall

In the pantheon of preposterous policy proposals, this pips the pack to the post. Frances Nunziata is floating the idea—I kid you not—of a raffle to close the city’s budget gap.

Speaking to the Sun, Nunziata suggested a city lottery.

The mind reels.

There are a few reasons why this just might not work. First, the province has a monopoly on lotteries, so Toronto would be cannibalizing Ontario’s finances. Every cent spent on Toronto tickets would come out of Ontario’s cash.

Perhaps Toronto’s tickets would generate new income. If so, and if the province agreed (these are huge ifs), the tickets would draw money disproportionately from the poor and the uneducated; both communities spend a larger share of their income on lottery tickets.

Nunziata says that New York City has a lottery, and we could too. But if there is a Big Apple ticket, your correspondent cannot find it. New York State does, however, have many. There may be good reasons for this; lotteries require administrators. Small lotteries would have to give a larger share away. Why a fiscal conservative like Nunziata would like another government department remains an unanswered.

Surely we can do better.

Let me propose an alternative: tax the lucky. I get several real-estate pamphlets in my mailbox daily, encouraging me to sell. I bought my house 10 years ago, for about half of what I might get now.

About 100,000 homes will be sold this year in Toronto, and the city has an annual cash crisis of about $100 million. Raising the land transfer tax from 2.0% to 2.2% would raise about $200 million, but cost each home seller only $2000. Charging foreign buyers a 15% tax could raise much more—about $750 million would be up for grabs.

These taxes would also cut down on my junk mail dramatically.

New police action plan released

Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders. (From cbc.ca)

The Way Forward was a catchy title used to describe best practices in Canadian palliative care, fostering success and innovation in Newfoundland and Labrador and as of today, the name of a report from Toronto Police. The report was seen to be a necessary response to a crisis of confidence in the force, the growing cost of policing and the need to adopt more modern policing methods.

It’s interesting that the public has known about the problems with Toronto Police for years. They  have known about the lack of involvement in communities, an overly belligerent response to situations requiring intelligence and finesse and a large body of evidence that police treat certain visible minorities differently. The cost of policing was also an issue that had risen relentlessly in the past few years. When Rob Ford ordered a pay freeze, then Chief Bill Blair just ignored him. Mayor Tory was able to appoint his own candidate as Chief and Mark Saunders has delivered the required report.

In addition to knowing about the problems, the public has known for a long time what the solutions were. Namely that police officers should become more visible, get out of the cruisers, crack down on gangs and gun crime, walk the beat and treat all people with respect. To some extent, there seems to be a willingness in the report to do this.

While the police should have a base in the community, large fortress police stations could be replaced by several storefronts. Nothing in the report suggests that this will change other than closing some stations.

The lucrative after-hours job of paid duty now sees 80% of cops on the Sunshine List. These jobs, such as supervising road works, could be done for a lot less by others. The report tackles this to some extent.

Police forces are notoriously difficult to turn around. Part of the problem is that the qualification to apply for the job is a mere Grade 12 diploma – a requirement unlikely to attract deep thinkers. Another is the overwhelmingly male (>80%) and white (>75%) component to the force. Yet another is the complete lack of psychological profiling for suitability. Nothing in the report suggests that this will change.

Training needs to be beefed up with the emphasis on the safety of the job – very few police officers are killed or injured compared to construction workers for example. In spite of this many officers react in situations where they show fear rather than courage and the consequences can be deadly for the public. There are several mentions of increased training in the report.

Will the new report turn things around? It’s nice to see that there is a set of specific recommendations that are time and performance based so that’s a good thing. The bad thing is that although the recommendations have timelines, many are vague and require more discussion and study. Look for little or no change on these.

Here are the recommendations in the report:

Recommendations 1-8 (Click to enlarge).
Recommendations 9-13 (Click to enlarge).
Recommendations 14-16 (Click to enlarge).
Recommendations 17-21 (Click to enlarge).
Recommendations 23-25 (Click to enlarge).

Let’s hope that real change is coming.

Read the official report summary here and the full report here.

 

Mount Dennis sees a bright future

An artist impression of the future Mount Dennis Station at 3500 Eglinton Avenue West.

Just as the UP Express is beginning to make a difference in Weston, according to an Inside Toronto article, people in Mount Dennis are anticipating a boost to their area as a result of the Eglinton Crosstown and the new Mount Dennis Station. The 19 km line with a 10 km underground stretch between Keele and Laird is set to open in 2021 after ten years of construction.

Incidentally, without former Premier Mike Harris, we could be riding a different version of the line today. This is a map of the subway line that Harris buried (and not in a good way) in 1995.

The subway line that we could be riding today if Mike Harris hadn’t killed it in 1995.

The Eglinton West Line would have run from Eglinton West Station all the way to Renforth along a right of way that had been reserved for the Richview Expressway (killed in the 1970s). Sadly, the Eglinton road allowance was sold for small change by Rob Ford in 2010 but nobody thought to tell John Tory as he was putting crayon to napkin for his SmartTrack plan. The allowance is now being filled in with some spectacularly awful townhomes.

Gratuitous side note: right wing politicians claim to be able to lower costs but their penny wise antics often end up costing us more in the end.

The latest iteration of an Eglinton line.

The new Mount Dennis Station will adapt the old Kodak Recreation Building and will be part of a transportation hub connecting with buses and the UP Express lines. Let’s hope that combined with the end of the vacant property rebate, the new transportation infrastructure will actually breathe fresh life into the area.