The mainstream press rediscovers the Airport Link every so often and now is no exception. For some reason, the line is back in the consciousness of the media. It’s probably a good time to look at some of the issues and implications for Weston.
Firstly, we have to thank the good people at Weston Community Coalition and the Clean Train Coalition and others who took the time and trouble to yell loudly enough to ensure that the train would stop at Weston at all. When first planned, only one stop was designated along the way at Dundas West. Labelled Blue 22 because of the anticipated 22-minute journey, the train will now take 25 minutes from Pearson to Union Station with the added stop in Weston. Hopefully it will one day be called the Green 25 but not yet as the trains will be tier 4 diesels – there’s probably no way of fixing that for several years as the Japanese locomotives for the link were a done deal years ago, money is tight and there isn’t likely to be another election soon. It’s a shame but that’s politics for you. Some of the noise will be reduced through barriers and along one section, a tunnel. As for pollution, allegedly these diesels are somewhat less polluting than GO Trains but electric will be far cleaner, quieter and faster when it eventually arrives. The reason for the haste is that the link was promised for the 2015 Pan Am games to move spectators between downtown and the Airport (athletes will have their own dedicated buses and lanes along the 427 and Gardiner).
Because of the need to reduce noise levels, the tracks near the existing station will be lowered into a tunnel. The station will move south of Lawrence this spring where more parking can be accommodated. Work is already well under way in the new location. John Street will be revitalized.
Also in 2015, our anemic GO Train service will be increased to an all-day service with double the number of trains running.
So to summarize: in 2015, Weston will have an all-day train service to downtown as well as stops along the way and in addition will be served by a separate link with rapid access to Pearson Airport (probably under 10 minutes) as well as to downtown. The new station is being designed with community input (next meeting February 2, 2012 at York West Active Living Centre 1901 Weston Road), will be much more visible, have lots of parking and will be accessible from Lawrence Avenue as well as Weston Road. Although fares will be more expensive than the subway, the added convenience and speed (under 20 minutes to downtown) will be an excellent trade-off.
What are the implications? For real estate developers, having such a rapid portal to two huge places of interest will spark a frenzy of property buying in this area. If the fares are affordable, airport workers from baggage handlers to pilots will love to live with such easy access—easier and faster than just about any other transportation method, as the new Link will connect directly to Terminal One. The range of housing available is stunning, from the mansions of historic Weston to apartments and condos—and at bargain prices too. People who work in downtown Toronto will find that Weston will be an easy commute with flexibility thanks to the all-day service. There will be a building boom in a wide area around the station to accommodate the new travellers and their needs. Apartment buildings will spring up near the station. Another implication: Weston may begin to see signs of gentrification—perhaps a Starbucks and a restaurant chain or two; fewer payday loan companies, dollar stores and vacant properties. Older apartment buildings will spruce themselves up in order to attract a changing demographic, sparking a boom in renovations. Rents both commercial and retail will go up. Condos that have languished for years will be snapped up.
A danger exists that Weston station will be replaced by another location, possibly a mobility hub (note two links) along the way. This will perhaps take years and with vigilance and community activism may never happen.