UPX ridership triples–but it is still diesel

Ridership on the UP Express has tripled since Metrolinx cut fares, to more than 8,000 daily riders, according to Torontoist. The number of riders continues to grow, although at a slower rate.

The Clean Train Coalition, though, would like to remind you that the Metrolinx and the province have blown right through the start date for regional rail electrification:

“The environmental assessment process for electrification was supposed to start four months ago in July. It has not started, there has been no announcement explaining the delay, and there is no word from the government when it will start.”

Open the damned footbridge already!

The John Street Bridge from the Weston Road side.
The John Street Bridge from the Weston Road side.

Somehow, bureaucrats at Metrolinx and the City of Toronto have been having a little standoff over who exactly should do what in terms of maintenance and other responsibilities when the footbridge connecting the two isolated sections of John Street finally opens. They don’t give a damn that people are being inconvenienced after years of construction dirt and noise. God forbid they would do the decent thing and open it under a temporary understanding. No, these two unaccountable behemoths would rather the public be held hostage while they slap each other privately with their white gloves.

May I point out to the warring parties that the people who own the damned bridge are sick and tired of excuses for the lack of action. You couldn’t even agree to get the bridge to cross all the tracks! Get the damned thing open. Oh and by the way, politicians and other assorted hangers on, don’t you dare have a ribbon cutting to take the ‘credit’ for opening the bridge two years late! I promise to be there with a bullhorn if you do.

Final stop for Weston Station?

Frances Nunziata wants to pull Weston Station’s ticket. She is asking city staff to ask the AGCO to not transfer the alcohol license for the troublesome neighbourhood bar.

The current owner is asking to transfer the license to another person with “business ties with the current licensee”. Nunziata would like to block that because the bar “has been a constant source of complaints from the community and a ‘hot spot’ for crime”

Weston Station was dinged by the AGCO for not posting their license, for allowing drunkenness, and for allowing patrons to take alcohol out of the bar.

Nunziata says “It is time that the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario put an end to this.”


Let’s re-think cars on our streets.

The winning photo from the recent Toronto Complete Streets photo competition.
The winning entry from the recent Toronto Complete Streets photo competition.

Adam’s article on bike licensing has hit the nail on the head.

Right wing councillors such as Junior Holyday™ and our own Ms. Nunziata are keen to have lower taxes and lower government intervention but only when it suits their own personal agendas. When it comes to protecting the status of cars and therefore their own personal travel times, bureaucratic expansion and government regulation are deemed to be essential tools, hence the suggestion to license bicycles, the most efficient mode of transportation ever invented. The only rationale offered seems to be that there are reckless cyclists who break the rules. As Adam has pointed out, scofflaw cyclists pose very little threat, unlike scofflaw drivers who check their messages, mascara, shave or have a meal while imposing their presence, air and noise pollution through the city.

Motor vehicles are a hideous, expensive and dangerous blight on society and unfortunately, we have built our communities to the point where they are a necessary evil. Public transportation has been denied priority and is starved of funding so that it is slow, overcrowded and uncomfortable. Mayor John Tory’s idiotic request to the TTC for a 2.6% budget reduction speaks to the pervasive ‘cart before the horse’ mentality at City Hall.
If Councillors Holiday, Nunziata and other like-minded representatives were forced to use public transportation in order to attend to their duties at City Hall, can you imagine how quickly the TTC would improve?

Amazingly, Toronto is the only major city in the world without a year-round pedestrian-only street. Think about it; that doesn’t happen accidentally. Similarly, in our own neck of the woods, Weston has no dedicated bike lanes on any of its streets. It’s largely thanks to our representatives who seem to be mentally stuck in an episode of Happy Days.

As the winning photo from the Complete Streets competition illustrates, cars spoil the environment in our cities. Unfortunately the photo was not taken in Toronto. It was taken in Porto San Giorgio, Italy. The second place photograph was taken in Toronto and looks pathetic in comparison. The other Toronto photographs are embarrassing in comparison to what is being achieved in major cities around the world. We have nothing remotely like the Italian example on any street in Toronto.

Toronto's example is from a temporary art project on John Street downtown.
The runner-up photograph, taken in Toronto is of a temporary art project on John Street downtown.

Perhaps it’s time to acknowledge that cars have jumped the shark and that walking, bicycles and public transit are our future.

Bike licensing is dead

From the city's  Virtual Reference Library
From the city’s Virtual Reference Library

Politics has gone mad: crazy, populist ideas now regularly trample thoughtfulness and reason. You might be pleasantly surprised, therefore, to hear that city politicians did something smart: they killed a plan to license bikes.

Our own councillor, however, who has long supported licensing, continues—against all evidence—to champion this dumb idea.

Earlier this year, Stephen Holyday asked the city to look (again) at licensing bikes, although is has done so several times and even has a FAQ on the topic. In short, licenses lose money, kids ride, and licensing—despite all the knee-jerking—is quite unnecessary: cyclists can be ticketed just fine without a license. (I should know.)

In the course of the debate at the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee, another really good point came up: a license is a regressive tax on the cheapest and best transportation:

And that, of course, is the real reason reactionaries want to license bikes: they want to discourage cycling.¹

Politicians can have long careers giving people things they like and passing laws against things they don’t—never minding the facts or principle. Bicyclists bug civilians. I know why: it’s because we’re better. We’re faster, fitter, richer, and happier. Clearly, then, our smugness should be banned.

And yes, we are unpredictable. We are dangerous. Can I tell you something? I ride without a helmet. I ride the wrong way. I ride fast, with headphones in, weaving and taking up lanes when I want to. I cut cars off. I turn left from the left turn lane. I give bad drivers the finger. And I’ve been doing it for decades. Do you know how many people I’ve hurt?



The truth is this: cars are dangerous to other people. Bikes are not. Bikes are kind to other people. We need more bikes, not fewer. We need to encourage them, not license them, not tax them.

Let’s hope this is the last time we hear of any dumb licensing scheme.²

¹The rest of this post is edited from a comment I left on Facebook; I said it well then when I wasn’t tired and overworked.

²And don’t even start: if I hear one more time that cyclists should “pay their fair share”, I’m going to key a Caddy. That is such bullshit.

Drivers should pay for pollution. They should pay for foreign wars, climate change, resource depletion, coastal spills, urban sprawl, visual blight, noise, ruined neighbourhoods, starless skies and interrupted street hockey too.

You know what I need to make it downtown on my bike? 45 minutes, a handful of chips, and a dirt path.

Pay my share? Oh, gladly.

More on the Mount Dennis Generator

From: insidetoronto.com
Image from: insidetoronto.com

Steve Munro is a tireless blogger who is an authoritative voice on transit and politics in the GTA. He recently posted an article about the proposed Mount Dennis generator and some interesting points have emerged in his article and also in the comments section. As an aside, comments sections are IMHO as interesting and sometimes as informative as the articles to which they are attached.

Readers are no doubt aware that late last year, Metrolinx and its partner Crosslinx Transit Solutions proposed that an 18MW gas-powered generator be built to supply electricity in the extremely rare event of a Toronto Hydro outage. Later proposals designed to soften the blow claimed that heat could be recovered from the generator and used for heating purposes.

Steve maintains that the heat recovery idea could only be useful if the generator was operating regularly rather than the claimed (by Metrolinx) use as a standby. Also, according to Metrolinx, only one of the 6 generators would be used for heat recovery while the other 5 would be untouched.

He received information from Metrolinx stating that:

An alternative (to the gas powered generator) would have to provide the same basic functional requirements as the proposed natural gas powered facility.

The gas-powered facility was proposed in order to provide the ability to maintain service when the power goes out and improve transit resilience, lower the cost of power by eliminating any contribution to peak power demand from the new system, and ensuring it does not contribute to the need for more transmission or generation infrastructure.

Steve notes that there are several electric train systems coming on line and Metrolinx stated that there is already an ample electrical supply for these trains. He concludes that the main goal of the generator is to reduce electricity costs rather than provide an emergency backup.

In the comments, one reader suggests that in a true emergency, gas supply is only guaranteed for 3 hours. Another points out that the natural gas supply relies on line pumps which need electricity from the grid. Yet another states that running the whole line from one generator is impractical because of the voltage drop that would occur over the 19km length of the Crosstown Line.

Apparently the generating system at Pearson Airport sells power to the grid at peak times and this income pays for its operating and maintenance costs. The generator is fired up every week to ensure that it is reliable (i.e. at least 52 days a year) and supplies the airport with power on those days. Because the airport covers a relatively small area, transmission losses are minimal (unlike along a 19km transit line).

Incidentally, the last time power was knocked out to Terminals One and Three back in February, the emergency system failed to operate, leaving much of Pearson in the dark.

Read Steve Munro’s article here.

Mount Dennis Library opens Sundays

As part of Toronto’s Poverty Reduction Strategy, Mount Dennis Library along with these others, has been granted additional funding to allow it to be open between 1 and 5 p.m. from now until June. The idea is to be open on Sundays during the school year to support students who may otherwise have nowhere to study or access a computer.

Unfortunately, Weston’s beautiful Art Nouveau, Carnegie-built library will remain firmly shuttered on Sundays. At one time it was common for all library branches to be open on Sundays. The rot started with former Mayor, David Miller in 2007 when he needed to find some money in a budget crunch. Libraries have suffered ever since and workers treated more and more shabbily as the video below explains:

Readers may remember with a nostalgic fondness the random brain farts of former Councillor Doug Ford who once falsely alleged that there were more library branches in his ward (2) than Tim Hortons Coffee shops. Apparently that would have been a bad thing.

But meanwhile (emphasis on mean), Mayor John Tory still wants Toronto Public Libraries to cough up a 2.6% reduction in spending. Like the Ford boys, Tory believes the right-wing mantra that there is lots of waste in the system and that hard working taxpayers must be protected from increases. Instead, despite his protestations that services to the poor will be untouched, Tory will be passing the buck to the poor through increased fees, reduced service levels and a weaker library system. It’s not as if Toronto residents pay high taxes in comparison to their neighbouring citizens.

Click to enlarge. From: www1.toronto.ca

Toronto’s property taxes are considerably lower than those of other municipalities. The result is great for the wealthy but because of a services squeeze, not so much for people trying to escape poverty.

Click to enlarge. From: www1.toronto.ca

Toronto’s biggest expense is the Police Service and Board whose spending has steadfastly resisted all efforts to be reined in. The Toronto Public Library system is well down on the list.