Hark!–A transit plan that benefits WMD

The front-runner in the Toronto Mayoral race has a transit plan that would make Mount Dennis (and, to a lesser degree, Weston) a transit-rich part of the city. John Tory’s transit plan includes an electrified Georgetown track for LRTs that would connect with the Eglinton LRT.

Tory leads in the polls, though the election is months away, and his transit plan is a centrepiece of his campaign. As far as YHC can see, it is, as yet, unmatched by Olivia Chow (or, needless to say, Rob Ford).

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Tory’s campaign calls for a line that runs from the northeast of the city, through Union Station, back up to the airport area. It would run on the existing GO lines, except for the section after Mount Dennis, and it would be “express service”—with far fewer stops and trains than a subway. It would, however, run all-day and on 15-minute intervals, unlike today’s GO trains.

John Tory’s campaign says, cleverly, that Toronto has a hidden and underused resource—surface rail corridors. Currently, these are used by diesel trains, but he is calling for “EMUs”—trains that look like subway cars.

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The exciting part for us, though, is that the train would run all day, from Mount Dennis, and join with the Eglinton LRT. Local commuters could choose to either go downtown via Union, or crosstown on Eglinton. Either path would connect with the subway.  The Weston—Mount Dennis area would have a GO train, the Eglinton LRT, and the Tory Train.

Tory says that the line could open in 7 years and be paid for by the increased taxes in the communities it benefits.¹

Your correspondent can’t find any answers to some natural questions:

  • Why not build to the airport instead of the industrial areas around it?
  • Why not use this to replace the UP Express?
  • Why not use the UP Express infrastructure for this?
  • Why does the east end get 13 stops while the west end gets only 8?
  • How, precisely, does it relate to the planned electrification of the GO corridors?

The plan has been generally well-received. Royson James says it is a “transformational” and “exhilarating” idea. Steve Munro, however, says that it is an idea that leaves downtowners out.

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¹ Yeah, I know.

Laura Albanese gets a promotion

Laura Albanese, our recently-reëlected MPP, has been given a promotion. She will now be Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Finance.

In other political news, Glen Murray, who promised to electrify the UP Express by 2017, was shuffled out of his position as Minister of Transportation. This comes with speculation that the reëlected Liberals may be short-circuiting expectations about electrification. He will now be Minister of the Environment and Climate Change.

 

John Street closed permanently

John Street will be permanently closed to all traffic today, May 1. A pedestrian bridge will be built in fall.

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The pedestrian bridge

The work is being done to “complete the Weston Tunnel through this area and to re-route and upgrade the water main currently crossing the rail corridor”, according to a spokesperson for Metrolinx. The bridge cannot be built until the tunnel is finished.

The 59 Maple Leaf bus, already re-routed, will be re-re-routed up King, which will be reopened.

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The new way

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The old way

Rail safety improvements on track

The Feds have promised that the dangerous rail cars that caused the Lac Mégantic disaster—and which run through Weston—will be phased out or fixed up.

DOT-111 railcars carry petroleum and other dangerous goods, and are an old technology. They are easily punctured and allow dangerous pressure to build up. The United States is also drafting regulations to reduce their use.

The Transportation Safety Board made recommendations after the Lac Mégantic disaster, and, according to the Globe, the new requirements are based on them.

Trains carrying dangerous goods won’t be rerouted around cities, according to CBC Radio. They will have a speed limit of 80 km/h—although the train in Lac Mégantic was going much slower than that: around 20 km.h.

Mike Sullivan is hosting a meeting on rail safety tonight at 7 at the York Civic Centre. Officials from Transport Canada will be on hand.

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DOT-111 car

More promises about electification

The UP Express will be the first part of the transit system to be electrified, Bruce McCuaig, the CEO of Metrolinx, said again last week in a meeting with reporters. Electrification could begin as early as next year.

The Premier and the Minister of Transportation also said that they would be investing hugely into all areas of transit, promising 15-minute service and electrification of all GO trains over the next 10 years. If they are re-elected.

They did not say, however, how much all this will cost or where the money will come from. And the Liberals have for months been filibustering a cross-party committee attempt to reveal how much money the UP Express will lose. I’ve learned from my wife that when someone won’t even lie to you about how much something costs, it cost a lot more than you’d like to hear.

YHC is not a betting man, but I’d lay money on this: after the apologia of the PanAm games has passed, the Liberals (if they remain in power) will announce with great fanfare the electrification and conversion of the UP Express into a regional transit line with more stops and lower fares.

It will remain a mess, and incompatible with the rest of the transit system, but faced with having to justify spending buckets of money on the downtown elite, they will have to do something to appear both more fiscally conservative and populist. And the expensive debacle of the Blue22, Air Rail Link, UP Express Weston Line will be fantastic for Weston. At long last.

Council asks for rail oversight

A council motion seconded by Frances Nunziata asks Transport Canada to review the CP Line that runs through Weston and ensure that it is safe and in good repair.

Council is also asking Transport Canada to look at alternative modes of transporting hazardous materials and to consider re-routing trains carrying hazardous materials to keep them out of town.

The motion sprung from the Lac Megantic disaster, in which dozens were killed and a village downtown destroyed after railcars carrying petroleum exploded. CN does not reveal how often dangerous goods are transported through Toronto—but 7% of railcars in Hamilton are.

Cultural hub announced

Weston will be getting a ‘cultural hub’, Frances Nunziata announced earlier this week.

33 King will be redeveloped to hold an 8500 square foot cultural space and 24 artists’ live-work spaces. Much of the parking lot will become a residential apartments—townhomes and an 18 storey tower.

The abandoned lot to the east was recently expropriated and will now be turned into a much smaller parking lot. The farmers’ market will shift a little east toward the tracks.

Artscape, who did a fantastic job of the Wychwood barns on St Clair, and who have made a number of other excellent artists’ spaces around the city, will be behind the project, and Rockport Group will be the developers.

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