Christmas Tradition in Weston

For 26 years now, 5 families in Weston have had a tradition of a ‘walk around dinner’.  The families are neighbours, living within a few paces of one another. In early December, each family prepares one course: Appetizers, Soup, Salad, Main and Dessert.  Then, starting in the early evening, the adults all walk to the home serving the Appetizers, and spend an hour or so over that course, talking and catching up.  The couple serving the soup walks to their house to finish the prep, and a few minutes later everyone else moves to the soup course. The conversations continue. And so on through the evening, until finally, dessert.  There’s always some Christmas music in the background, and Christmas decorations are mostly up.

Because each couple only prepares one course, it is usually something special.  This year’s menu featured shrimp, seafood, brie and cranberry tarts, squash and pear soup, radicchio salad, spicy and mild chicken wings, a fruit pavlova, butter and mince tarts and a cheese board.

In the beginning, the children were all fed and looked after by each other in the basement of one of the houses over a movie or games while their parents walked from course to course.  As the night wore on, various ages of kids fell asleep and had to be moved home at the end of the evening.  As the years went by, the kids grew up, moved out and had families of their own.

Though the tradition continues, the conversations change.  Early on, it was home renovations, or children’s schoolwork, or decorating the house for Christmas.  As the couples age, it becomes catching up on children and grandchildren, with the requisite photos shown around.  The more recent conversations tend to revolve around bodily ailments, who’s back is acting up, who just went for an MRI, who had cataract replacements.

Alcohol is served with each course, though the quantities have diminished greatly over the years. But being a walk around event, no one needs to be a designated driver. And the timing changes, too.  What used to start at 7 and go until 2 am, now starts at 6 and the yawning starts at 1030.  All are in bed by 11.

Arranging the date can be laborious.  One of the participants keeps track of who serves what course over time, so there isn’t a repeat, and sends out the reminder in November.  Invariably, someone has a conflict, so emails and phone calls go back and forth until a date is set.

One of the couples moved away from Weston, but comes back with food in tow, just for this event each year.  It is a lovely tradition.

TTC-Presto ‘Consultation’ Meeting

About 150 people showed up at the TTC-Presto ‘consultation’ meeting last night.  It was labelled as consultation but it quickly became clear the decisions had been made and were mostly irreversible.  The meeting had been asked for by the Fair Fare Coalition and TTC Riders.  TTC and Presto refused to advertise the meeting on their social media.

TTC will be converting fully to Presto within the year, so that by Jan 1, 2020 tokens will be phased out completely, as will ticket booth operators in subway stations.  Presto has signed an exclusive deal with Loblaw to make Shopper’s Drug Mart the only retailer of Presto media.  In York South – Weston there are 37 retailers today.  That will drop to 2.  Although TTC Riders has asked to see the contract with Loblaw, it is currently secret.

There are 135 Shopper’s in Toronto.  There are currently 1100 retailers.  TTC has stated there needs to be at least 421 outlets to maintain accessibility.  Neither TTC nor Presto could answer how or if that will be done.  They are looking at libraries and community centres, as Loblaws apparently will permit that.

Without a loaded $6 Presto Card, seniors and students will only be able to get their discount by using cash on a bus or streetcar.  With no ticket booth operators in subways, TTC has no idea how persons will transfer from a bus or streetcar to the subway, if they paid in cash.

Buying and maintaining a full presto card is a hardship for many.  It costs $6, and the minimum load is $10 in cash or $20 on a credit card auto-load.  Ironically, the TTC handed out presto cards to everyone who came to the meeting, loaded with $6!  So the minimum load is not carved in stone.  Vancouver’s minimum load is $5.  Many thought it should be a ttc fare.

There will be paper presto tickets for sale (at Shoppers and TTC stations) but they will be full-fare only ($3.25).   Currently tokens cost $3, and senior/student tickets cost $2.05 so this is a hidden fare increase. The only discount available will be to social service agencies or schools etc. who can afford to buy 400 at a time, which will be the minimum bulk order.

There are plans for a two-ride ticket, a day-pass ticket, and a weekly-pass ticket. No family pass, and no convention pass.

Presto and TTC admitted the paper tickets are not recyclable, so considerable waste will be created by the new system.  They had no suggestions as to how to avoid this.   They also admitted the tickets have no braille, so the blind have to tap the ticket on a machine in the subway or Shoppers to know if it is still valid, as they all will have a printed expiry date on them.  Tickets purchased one at a time will expire in 90 days.  Tickets purchased in bulk will expire in one year.  There will be a recommendation to the TTC board that there be a way to issue refunds for expired tickets, but that is not currently assured.

Presto advised they are working on an app for Android phones with the correct hardware to allow users to use their phones to reload their presto cards.   There are no plans to allow credit cards or Apple Pay or Android Pay systems on Presto readers.  Presto is removing credit card readers currently installed in streetcars.  Vancouver’s system, which is almost identical to Toronto’s but cost 85% less to design and build, does allow credit cards. Vancouver also has wristbands with the card built in.  No fumbling with wallets and purses.

As expected, a big part of the meeting focused on how the poor, those on Ontario Works, Ontario Disability Support Program, seniors and students will manage without tokens.  There were demands for meetings in areas of Toronto with high concentrations of such persons, as the downtown locale limited participation.  TTC and Presto appeared to agree to have more ‘consultations’.  But it remains to be seen whether any advice from the public will change anything.

 

TTC Tokens and Tickets to be eliminated – Public Meeting set.

TTC and Presto are holding a public meeting to advise of the upcoming changes to the TTC fares as a result of the elimination of tokens and tickets and fare collectors at subway stations.

PRESTO/ TTC Town Hall

December 11, 6:00-7:30pm

Metro Toronto Convention Centre, North Building, Room 203

Here’s what we know (or think we know) so far.

By the end of 2018, TTC Metropasses will no longer be available.  You will need to purchase a Presto Card, and load it with a Metropass.  TTC and Presto are still working out details of whether or how to offer the VIP program (bulk purchase by employers) but for now it has ended.

Sometime in 2019, Presto and the city plan to eliminate the token and tickets.  Currently tokens are 3 for $9 and Student/Senior tickets are $10.25 for a book of 5 tickets.  When these are eliminated the only single fare ticket will cost $3.25 per ticket.  Fare collectors will be eliminated at subway stations.  Patrons will have to deposit $3.25 in a vending machine for a full-fare ticket, regardless of whether they are senior or student.  It is unclear whether a patron will be able to deposit $2.10 (the cash student and senior fare) in a farebox on a bus or streetcar.  As of this writing it appears the day pass, the family pass, and the convention pass will be eliminated.  In addition, full-fare tickets purchased at vending machines will have an expiry date (60 days?), after which they will be a useless piece of paper with a chip inside.

Presto card holders will continue to get the discounted fares.  $3.00 for adults, $2.05 for seniors and students.  But you must pay $6 (non refundable) for the presto card and then keep it loaded, with a minimum load of $10.

Metrolinx does have plans for distribution of tickets to social service agencies, schools etc.  It is unclear whether these will be full-fare $3.25 tickets, or reduced fare.  It is also unclear how the expiry date will be dealt with.

Fare Media Sellers

Currently TTC has some 1200 places where you can buy tickets, tokens, metropasses and day passes.

In Weston and Mount Dennis and vicinity there are 37 places to buy transit fares.

Jumbo Save 1917 Weston Rd. M9N1W7
Shoppers Drug Mart 1995 Weston Rd. M9N1X2
Min-A-Mart 2087 Weston Rd. M9N1X7
Sinclair Variety. 2155 Weston Rd. M9N1X8
Park’s Supermarket 2189 Weston Rd. M9N1X9
Shoppers Drug Mart #869 1533 Jane St. M9N2R2
T & A Lucky Bargain Way 1691 Jane St. M9N2S3
George’s Food Store 1834 Jane St. M9N2T4
Bargain Club. 3685 Keele St. M9N3J8
Carmenza Gift & Video 1883 Jane St. M9N3S7
Golden Star Variety. 1655 St. Clair Ave. W. M6N1H7
Silverthorn Variety. 1734 St. Clair Ave. W. M6N1J3
Peter Pan K Convenience 1832 St. Clair Ave. W. M6N1J8
Metro #719 2155 St. Clair Ave. W. M6N1K5
Rocky Convenience 2466 St. Clair Ave. W. M6N1L3
Grand Hoo International Corp 128 Pritchard Ave. M6N1T3
Saba Foods 251 Woolner Ave. M6N1Y8
Shoppers Drug Mart #867 620 Keele St. M6N3E2
Kenneth Variety 855 Jane St. M6N4C4
Janedale Pharmacy. 903 Jane St. M6N4C6
Mac’s #66099 1349 Lawrence Ave. W. M6L1A4
Metro #750 1411 Lawrence Ave. W. M6L1A4
Lawrence Park Convenience 1577 Lawrence Ave. W. M6L1C3
C- Mart 2402 Eglinton Ave. W. M6M1S6
Grace Lottery Centre 2330 Eglinton Ave. W. M6M1S6
Variety & Video 2609 Eglinton Ave. W. M6M1T3
York Variety. 2669 Eglinton Ave. W. M6M1T8
Zac’s Convenience 1977 Keele St. M6M3Y2
Top’s Variety 2264 Keele St. M6M3Y9
Market-Tino 2394 Keele St. M6M4A5
Main Drug Mart. 510 Trethewey Dr. M6M4C2
A & M Lifestyle Variety 1233 Weston Rd. M6M4P7
October Jack’s Convenience 1339 Weston Rd. M6M4R6
T & K Variety 1385 Weston Rd. M6M4S1
7-Eleven Food Stores (24414). 1390 Weston Rd M6M4S2
Rogers Supermarket. 419 Rogers Rd. M6M4Z8
Family Food Mart 2468 Eglinton Ave. W. M6M5E2

Metrolinx and Presto have signed an exclusive deal with Shoppers Drug Mart (Loblaw Inc) to be the only reseller of TTC media.  Not all Shoppers will have presto reloading machines.

As of this writing they have not yet advised the other outlets that they will be losing the franchise.

After the token is eliminated, you will have to travel to one of

Shoppers Drug Mart 1995 Weston Rd. M9N1X2 8am-midnight
Shoppers Drug Mart #869 1533 Jane St. M9N2R2 9am-9pm
Shoppers Drug Mart #867 620 Keele St. M6N3E2 9am-10pm

It is unclear whether these outlets will be able to sell a single TTC fare, as they currently only have presto card reload machines.
Although GO Weston station has a counter open weekdays and fare vending machines, they are not set up to sell TTC fares.  You can reload presto cards there.

If you have questions, come to the public meeting.

PRESTO/ TTC Town Hall

December 11, 6:00-7:30pm

Metro Toronto Convention Centre, North Building, Room 203

Car Insurance Costs More in Weston

Why is Car Insurance more expensive in Weston and Mount Dennis?

For some years now, people have been complaining about the cost of car insurance in Weston and Mount Dennis.  People have discovered that your postal code is one of the factors determining how much you pay.  Other factors are your age, your driving record, how much you drive, and your gender.

To get an idea of the postal code variations, Kanetix Insurance publishes a map on their website (https://www.kanetix.ca/insuramap) which colour codes Ontario with the base rates (before all the other factors) based on geography.  Rural and Northern Ontario get lower rates, understandably, because there are fewer vehicles.  Zoom in on the city of Toronto, however, and you will see wide variations in rates just a street away.  Weston is one of the highest rates, while places like Forest Hill and the Bridle Path are among the lowest.

Insurers when questioned by their clients will claim that higher rates where you live are caused by more frequent accidents in your neighbourhood.  It’s just not true.  I downloaded data from Toronto Police of accidents involving personal injury for the past 7 years.  You can see the map here https://drive.google.com/open?id=13f2Hj-S7f7r3pOGAlghbZfOIsvhPISnm

It shows that the only place with more frequent accidents is the downtown core.  Accidents are distributed quite evenly otherwise.

I met with the Insurance Bureau of Canada to try to get an explanation.  They told me that insurers base their rates on the ‘cost per collision’.  At the time (2011) the average cost per collision in Ontario was about $8,000.  The cost in York South – Weston was $30,000.  The annual insurance rate based on those costs was about 10% of the cost per collision.  So the average in Ontario was $800 per year while in York South -Weston it was about $2500.

Why are these costs so much higher in our neighbourhood?  We don’t drive more expensive vehicles.   We don’t drive faster (just try driving fast on our potholed streets).

It appears that the average income is what drives the rates.  I plotted the average incomes in Toronto from the 2016 census on a map.  https://drive.google.com/open?id=1pJIy3AhxQIipfzFO8hp-CtiyNWxHllsP  If you compare it to the Kanetix map, you can clearly see that where incomes are highest, car insurance is lowest.  And vice versa.

How is this possible?  When someone is injured in a collision, the insurer is obligated by law to provide income replacement and medical costs.  For persons with good employment and good benefits, they usually have sick leave and medical plans paid for by their employer.  So the insurer doesn’t pay until those employer benefits are exhausted.  For persons with precarious, low wage, service sector jobs, or those who are retired and on fixed incomes, there is less likely to be good sick leave or medical benefits paid for by the employer.  So when that person is in an accident, the auto insurer pays out.  Simple explanation.

In 2005 the regulator granted permission to the insurance companies to divide Ontario into 55 territories and Toronto into 10.  http://www.fsco.gov.on.ca/en/auto/autobulletins/2005/Pages/a-01_05.aspx  When they did this they specifically expressed concern about unintended consequences of such divisions.

“Auto Bulletin A- 1/01, issued by FSCO in February 2001, outlined the fact that in determining whether the statutory standard of “just and reasonable” is satisfied, the Superintendent considers societal fairness when reviewing risk classification systems, and not just actuarial soundness. One of the concerns from a public policy perspective is that if a territory is based on a small geographical area, even though densely populated, socio-economic factors may be influencing loss costs. In addition, drivers may operate their vehicles all over the city, so narrowly defined territories may not be logical. A limit on the number of territories that may be proposed is reasonable and would minimize rate differences due to socio-economic factors.”

It seems that their fears were justified, and socio-economic factors are influencing loss costs.  In turn the loss costs are driving rates higher.

The NDP put forward a bill that would have ended postal code discrimination in the GTA.  It was defeated.  The Conservatives have put forward a bill which would prohibit insurers from using postal codes as the ‘primary’ rate determinant.  Some have suggested this creates a huge loophole, as your age, gender and record are the primary determinants.

It doesn’t need an act of parliament to change this.  If the regulator gave permission, and socio-economic factors are clearly at play, the regulator can withdraw permission.  However, if rates go down in Weston, they will go up in Forest Hill and the Bridle Path.