GO back tracks

GO Transit has heard you, people of Weston, and is backtracking on its plan to extend the hours of construction. In a statement issued today, they also announced plans to deal with residents’ complaints.

From now on, they say

  • Fewer trucks will be allowed on site, reducing dirt and dust
  • Better equipment will be used to wash the trucks
  • Generators will be less polluting
  • Lights will be pointed away from houses
  • Some houses will have their exteriors cleaned

20130417_Construction Action Plan FINAL

Metrolinx jobs program not working

GO Transit’s local employment initiative, which was supposed to help residents find jobs, is not living up to its promises. Only four people have been hired, and most of the few jobs now posted are nowhere near here.

The Georgetown South Employment Initiative was launched in October of last year. According to GO, the train lines being built in Weston “will support thousands of design and construction jobs” and their “contractors working on the GTS Project have committed… to consider qualified community members to fill any employment positions”.

But Westonians (and Torontonians) are not finding jobs—because most of the ones posted now are in Alberta. Three jobs are posted on GTS jobs site— but two are at the Calgary Airport.

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Nor has even a small fraction of those “thousands” of jobs materialized. According to Salza, a spokesperson for Metrolinx, “contractors have posted 10 positions ranging from traffic control flagging to administrative support… 10 individuals have received interviews. Of those four have been hired.”

In Metrolinx’s defense, they have a caveat that they “will not guarantee a specific number of jobs” but will only “identify any employment opportunities that may exist and make them accessible to qualified individuals.”

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Weston Station Master Plan released

Last June, at the end of a year-long process of consultation, Metrolinx revealed the Weston Station Master Plan through a presentation followed by a discussion and question and answer session held at the Active Living Centre. The plan itself was not available in document form at the time but has now been finalized and released as a stand-alone 80-page document. The plan outlines the vision created when planning experts’ ideas have been combined with those of the community to produce a fascinating look into the future of Weston.

As residents we should all take the time to review this important document and take note of the implications for ourselves and future Weston residents.

As Adam has noted with regard to recent thefts from the new station’s bike racks, it is hoped that all aspects of the vision can be implemented with a clear eye on the realities of an urban environment.

ARL could have been electrified by 2015

The Air Rail Link could have been electrified in time for the Pan Am games, according to Metrolinx, InsideToronto says. The Pan Ams had been used as justification for rushing the construction, even though the athletes will not take the ARL and the event is only two weeks long.

The 2015 ‘deadline’ had already seemed concocted and the conversion seems unnecessarily expensive. That the electrification is being held up–assuming it indeed happens–by paperwork does nothing to burnish the image of a much-disliked agency.

“We’ve been meeting in this room for five years now,” said Dobson. “One thing after another has been proven wrong.”

One more big push for St John

It’s a make-or-break day for St John the Evangelist elementary school. Tonight the Catholic School Board trustees will decide whether St John gets a new school as the train line gets built.

St John is terribly over crowded—there is so little space that classes are held in a nearby church basement. Construction of the ARL will also force the students to move next school year.

Dave Bennett, Chair of the Parent Council, is pleading for people to come out and show their support. If you make it to the school before 5:45 pm, you can catch a ride. If you plan on going directly, the board meeting will be at 80 Sheppard Ave E, and will start at 7 pm.

New Weston Station opening in mid July

The new station taking shape on Weston Road south of Lawrence. The platform is behind the vehicles on the right.

The new Weston Station platform - viewed from the end of the old platform.

Four inquiring minds gathered to take the Weston Tunnel tour on Thursday May 17. The tour was ably led by GO Community Relations Supervisor, Kathryn Hanford. While there is no actual tunnel yet, preparations are well under way. The Weston Tunnel is being built to lower GO and VIA tracks so that the increased number of trains anticipated by 2015 will not split Weston in two at Church and King Streets. Because of grading issues, trains cannot be completely underground at John Street, so John will be split in two but will have its two sections connected by a footbridge. At the same time, storm sewers and water mains are being upgraded in conjunction with the City of Toronto.

Passengers leaving the GO Train at old Weston Station - the new tracks will be a couple of metres lower here at John Street and completely underground between King and Church in 2015.

Hanford spent some of her formative years in Weston and has worked on similar projects in the U.S., South Africa and most recently the Diamond Grade Separation Project near the stockyards. She says she is proud of the way in which the community has been consulted in shaping the changes needed for the Air Rail Link. She also mentioned a couple of other points; Weston GO Station will move to its new location on Weston Road just south of Lawrence in mid-july. The station itself will be housed in a temporary portable structure until the ARL opens in 2015. She also said that developers have been snapping up real estate in anticipation of higher property values once the ARL is in place and also when GO becomes an all-day service (although GO seems to be quickly backing away from this promise).

A VIA train moves north-west along the future Weston Tunnel (at King Street). The metal structures are forms for a large patterned concrete retaining wall.

Politics does make strange bedfellows

It’s one thing to flatter a bully when you are the smallest kid in the class. It’s another thing when you’re the school principal.

Laura Albanese often gets criticized by commenters around here for not sticking up for Weston, and for not going nose-to-nose with GO Transit and Metrolinx. These transit agencies have pushed our town around, and Albanese took a lot of heat in the election (when she actually showed up to debates) for not grabbing the bully’s ear and setting things straight.

But this week things got just plain weird: Albanese was rather awkwardly caught on tape holding the bully’s hand. On Wednesday, she complimented GO Transit in the House for 45 years of service. She commended them for their new, green vehicles and for expanding the line that runs through our town.

Just this past December, GO Transit rail service was officially launched in the Kitchener-Waterloo region… passing through my riding of York South–Weston. …

Since 2003, GO Transit has put into service new vehicles that are modern, accessible, more fuel-efficient and carry more passengers. This includes 22 double-decker buses added to the GO Transit bus fleet.

There is, of course, much to recommend having friends in powerful places, but Albanese should be carefully weighing whether that coziness will actually get things done in her riding. I have my doubts. I also think that she loses votes when she isn’t seen standing up for us.

The speech also shows bad judgement. Albanese was either put up to it by her party, or chose to do it herself. If the Liberals put her up to it, then we have to wonder why they chose her of all people. Was John Milloy, the MPP from Kitchener, not a better choice? After all, he did just get the new trains.

If she chose to give this speech herself, she clearly cannot see how this looks to her constituents—GO Transit has a serious image problem. (And they have a serious image problem because they have been awful to Weston.) Ms Albanese should have considered stony silence on the bully’s birthday, not handing him a cake.