John and Weston Signals to get Fixed

For some time, I have thought that the signals at John and Weston were broken. It cycles through continuously, with a green signal on Weston Rd for only a few seconds before it starts to change again. It makes traffic in rush hour a nightmare.
I reported it several years ago, and was told it was fine. I reported it again a few weeks ago when I noticed it cycling in the middle of the night.
I was again told it was working fine.
I asked the 311 operator if someone could call me back. I got an email from Henry Chu, who advised me to email him the nature of the issue. I did yesterday.
Today I got a call from one of the staff of transportation, who advised that indeed the car detection loop under John Street was broken and was calling for a change all the time. It will take a few weeks to fix, he said.

Contest Mar 14 and New Club opening

NEW TOASTMASTERS CLUB COMING!

Weston and Mount Dennis is about to get a Toastmasters Club. Its start-up meeting will be at the Anglican Church of St.Mary & St.Martha (south east corner of Weston Road at Eglinton) in mid April. Watch for details or contact Al Farrington at 416-722-0254 [email protected]

Joining a Toastmasters Club can be a great way to improve your public speaking skills, and is especially helpful for those who may feel too nervous to speak in front of large groups or strangers, or who want to work in sales or public relations. Toastmasters International has existed since 1924, has nearly 375,000 members and has a very solid reputation in over 145 countries world wide. Membership is open to anyone over 18, but anyone can attend meetings as a visitor. It’s free to the first 20 who become new members for the first 12 months.

For a demonstration, everyone is invited to the International Speech Contests with 45 clubs in Division “G” participating this Thursday March 14 at York Civic Centre 6:30-9:30. Come and see what confidence-building can do to enhance your job interview skills and how it can lead to career advancement.

https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/toastmasters-evaluation-and-international-speech-contest-district-60-division-g-tickets-58499606899

Restore our bus service, say residents

Yesterday several residents wrote to our councillor and the TTC board, asking that cuts to the Weston Road 89 bus be restored. In October of last year, with much fanfare, TTC introduced express service along Weston Road. The 989 stops at only the major intersections and only runs during rush hour. However, to do this, TTC brass decided to take buses OFF the 89. This means that the wait between buses, for those who live between major roadways, is almost 50% longer. And Weston buses are subject to major bunching problems, where a group (what’s the collective noun for buses, a bevy?) comes along and half an hour or longer passes before the next group.
Residents can walk on icy, snowy, sometimes hilly sidewalks to the next major street, but that’s not always possible for someone with mobility issues.
Residents have no objection to ADDING express service, but not at the expense of local service. Waiting longer in the cold is not improved service. We deserve better.

Get your Free Money

The government of Canada has announced that it will be providing all tax filers in Ontario with Climate Action Incentive Payments (Climate Payments)

But, in order to get the payment, which itself is tax-free and doesn’t affect other payments such as Old Age Security, you must file a tax return.

The amounts are not staggering but they are something. The first individual gets $154. The second gets $77 and the third and subsequent gets $38. So a single mom with two kids will get $269. There are no strings attached.

Many Weston residents are living on Ontario Works or Ontario Disability Support Program. Some of those people do not file taxes, as they think it doesn’t matter. It does. Each will get the Climate payment so long as they file taxes.

Filing taxes is lots easier than it used to be. Besides filling in the paper form available at the Post Office, you can file online using E-File software, there are free tax clinics, such as at Weston Library, which you can find out about by dialing 211, and some low-income individuals can file by phone (File Taxes by Phone) .

Tax season starts on Feb 18, so many of these services will not be available yet. But make sure you get your free money!

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.