Nunziata still pushing Scarborough one-stop subway

Image from City of Toronto.

In spite of mounting evidence that the proposed ($3.35 billion and counting) one-stop Scarborough subway will be a costly mistake, our councillor is 100% behind the proposal. It’s puzzling since a seven-stop dedicated right of way LRT was already approved and paid for. Unlike the subway, even the operating costs were likely paid for.

This subway project will serve relatively few people and if passed, will be ridiculed for decades to come.

If approved, the vast amount of money needed will pinch every city department’s budget for decades to come and is already an additional 30-year burden (or levy) on our tax bills. It will also starve needier transit projects of federal and provincial funds.

So why is our councillor still insisting on giving her support?

The answer is quite simple. It seems Francis Nunziata must support the Mayor against the interests of the majority in her ward so that she can keep her job as Council Speaker.

Common sense has gone out of the window. This subway was originally sold as a three stop package that went to Sheppard East. As costs estimates ballooned, the route was shortened and two stops were cut.

One would think that before making a decision, Council would carefully listen to experts and make a decision based on the data. Not so. Dogma rules the day at Council whose members actually voted down a motion asking for data driven decisions on transit. Mayor Tory and councillor Nunziata both (along with the usual suspects) rejected that common sense idea. The mayor apparently believes that his re-election hopes lie with this subway and he seems prepared to do and say almost anything to push through the decision before more embarrassing facts emerge.

Few would deny that we need more subways in Toronto. After all, our subway map has changed minimally since the 1960s. However, there are far better candidates for a subway extension than this location. Ms Nunziata, your speaker’s job is not worth the cost to Toronto.

Read this excellent Toronto Star article on the project here.

New transit hub proposed for Pearson Airport.

The UP Express in Weston Station (file).

Pearson Airport is not only Canada’s biggest airport, it’s also an employer of 40,000 49,000 people who travel from all over the GTA along with many more who work in the surrounding region. In 2015 it was North America’s 14th busiest airport with over 41 million passenger trips.

Yesterday, new plans were unveiled proposing to make Pearson a transit hub for modes as well as flight. The idea is to eventually connect with the Eglinton Crosstown Line as well as bus routes from Toronto / Mississauga / Brampton and a possible high speed rail line along the Kitchener Line. Planners hope to be able to cut down on the 65,000 vehicles entering the airport daily.

This is good news because as traffic volumes continue to grow, new links to the hub will provide other ways (in addition to our fast UP Express link) for workers to quickly access the airport using Weston / Mount Dennis as their home. The airport will relocate parking garages to create the hub which will have an entrance on Airport Road. In addition, having a transit hub closer than Union Station will be a good thing for our area.

At the moment, the idea is in an exploratory mode and if approved, would not be in service until 2027 at the earliest.

UrbanToronto has an article on the proposal here.

Mount Dennis sees a bright future

An artist impression of the future Mount Dennis Station at 3500 Eglinton Avenue West.

Just as the UP Express is beginning to make a difference in Weston, according to an Inside Toronto article, people in Mount Dennis are anticipating a boost to their area as a result of the Eglinton Crosstown and the new Mount Dennis Station. The 19 km line with a 10 km underground stretch between Keele and Laird is set to open in 2021 after ten years of construction.

Incidentally, without former Premier Mike Harris, we could be riding a different version of the line today. This is a map of the subway line that Harris buried (and not in a good way) in 1995.

The subway line that we could be riding today if Mike Harris hadn’t killed it in 1995.

The Eglinton West Line would have run from Eglinton West Station all the way to Renforth along a right of way that had been reserved for the Richview Expressway (killed in the 1970s). Sadly, the Eglinton road allowance was sold for small change by Rob Ford in 2010 but nobody thought to tell John Tory as he was putting crayon to napkin for his SmartTrack plan. The allowance is now being filled in with some spectacularly awful townhomes.

Gratuitous side note: right wing politicians claim to be able to lower costs but their penny wise antics often end up costing us more in the end.

The latest iteration of an Eglinton line.

The new Mount Dennis Station will adapt the old Kodak Recreation Building and will be part of a transportation hub connecting with buses and the UP Express lines. Let’s hope that combined with the end of the vacant property rebate, the new transportation infrastructure will actually breathe fresh life into the area.

Let’s re-think cars on our streets.

The winning photo from the recent Toronto Complete Streets photo competition.
The winning entry from the recent Toronto Complete Streets photo competition.

Adam’s article on bike licensing has hit the nail on the head.

Right wing councillors such as Junior Holyday™ and our own Ms. Nunziata are keen to have lower taxes and lower government intervention but only when it suits their own personal agendas. When it comes to protecting the status of cars and therefore their own personal travel times, bureaucratic expansion and government regulation are deemed to be essential tools, hence the suggestion to license bicycles, the most efficient mode of transportation ever invented. The only rationale offered seems to be that there are reckless cyclists who break the rules. As Adam has pointed out, scofflaw cyclists pose very little threat, unlike scofflaw drivers who check their messages, mascara, shave or have a meal while imposing their presence, air and noise pollution through the city.

Motor vehicles are a hideous, expensive and dangerous blight on society and unfortunately, we have built our communities to the point where they are a necessary evil. Public transportation has been denied priority and is starved of funding so that it is slow, overcrowded and uncomfortable. Mayor John Tory’s idiotic request to the TTC for a 2.6% budget reduction speaks to the pervasive ‘cart before the horse’ mentality at City Hall.
If Councillors Holyday, Nunziata and other like-minded representatives were forced to use public transportation in order to attend to their duties at City Hall, can you imagine how quickly the TTC would improve?

Amazingly, Toronto is the only major city in the world without a year-round pedestrian-only street. Think about it; that doesn’t happen accidentally. Similarly, in our own neck of the woods, Weston has no dedicated bike lanes on any of its streets. It’s largely thanks to our representatives who seem to be mentally stuck in an episode of Happy Days.

As the winning photo from the Complete Streets competition illustrates, cars spoil the environment in our cities. Unfortunately the photo was not taken in Toronto. It was taken in Porto San Giorgio, Italy. The second place photograph was taken in Toronto and looks pathetic in comparison. The other Toronto photographs are embarrassing in comparison to what is being achieved in major cities around the world. We have nothing remotely like the Italian example on any street in Toronto.

Toronto's example is from a temporary art project on John Street downtown.
The runner-up photograph, taken in Toronto is of a temporary art project on John Street downtown.

Perhaps it’s time to acknowledge that cars have jumped the shark and that walking, bicycles and public transit are our future.

Mount Dennis Library opens Sundays

As part of Toronto’s Poverty Reduction Strategy, Mount Dennis Library along with these others, has been granted additional funding to allow it to be open between 1 and 5 p.m. from now until June. The idea is to be open on Sundays during the school year to support students who may otherwise have nowhere to study or access a computer.

Unfortunately, Weston’s beautiful Art Nouveau, Carnegie-built library will remain firmly shuttered on Sundays. At one time it was common for all library branches to be open on Sundays. The rot started with former Mayor, David Miller in 2007 when he needed to find some money in a budget crunch. Libraries have suffered ever since and workers treated more and more shabbily as the video below explains:

Readers may remember with a nostalgic fondness the random brain farts of former Councillor Doug Ford who once falsely alleged that there were more library branches in his ward (2) than Tim Hortons Coffee shops. Apparently that would have been a bad thing.

But meanwhile (emphasis on mean), Mayor John Tory still wants Toronto Public Libraries to cough up a 2.6% reduction in spending. Like the Ford boys, Tory believes the right-wing mantra that there is lots of waste in the system and that hard working taxpayers must be protected from increases. Instead, despite his protestations that services to the poor will be untouched, Tory will be passing the buck to the poor through increased fees, reduced service levels and a weaker library system. It’s not as if Toronto residents pay high taxes in comparison to their neighbouring citizens.

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Click to enlarge. From: www1.toronto.ca

Toronto’s property taxes are considerably lower than those of other municipalities. The result is great for the wealthy but because of a services squeeze, not so much for people trying to escape poverty.

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Click to enlarge. From: www1.toronto.ca

Toronto’s biggest expense is the Police Service and Board whose spending has steadfastly resisted all efforts to be reined in. The Toronto Public Library system is well down on the list.

The blue jays and the lions

Fresh buttery popcorn, steamy hotdogs, and an amazing game; that’s what baseball is all about! With the Blue Jays immense victories, Weston has never been closer to the vast culture of the city than it is right now.

The Weston Lions Club has been working with the Jays for an amazing 39 years and are a huge part of why going to see the Jays is so spectacular.

Ashley and the Jose army!

If you have ever been to the dome, you know occasionally they give out some amazing merchandise. But you may ask, who are these friendly people giving me these Jays gems? The answer to that question is the Weston Lions Club!

Jim and Jose

At the doors of the dome, members of the Lions give away everything from Blue Jays bobble-heads to Jerseys to bucket hats! Thousands of Torontonians, flood into the Rogers Center excited for the game and the giveaway. They are almost as ecstatic to get their presents as the Lions are to give them away!

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However, the Weston Lions Club wasn’t always down at the dome! 40 years ago, another Lions club was doing these giveaways! Unfortunately, they were unable to continue, but the Jays still wanted a community group to take over the deed. As soon as the Weston Lions heard about this, they jumped on board and took the place the previous lions left behind. Teaming up with the original Blue Jays fan club, and local teenagers looking to get their community hours; the Lions were down at the dome almost every weekend handing out Blue Jay’s goodies.

What the Lions are doing isn’t just for fun, however. The Blue Jays donate money to the Lions, for them to give back to the community. Over the years The Weston Lions club has raised over $600,000 for the Weston Community, by doing these Jay’s giveaways, and hosting many other fundraisers! They’ve managed to purchase 7 service dogs and have given countless scholarships to students perusing post-secondary education. The list goes on and on for the amazing work the local Lions do.

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“Working with the Jays is amazing. The best part about it all is seeing happy people at the dome all while helping the community and knowing what you’re doing is making a difference.” Enthusiastically exclaimed Jane Ross, past president of the Weston Lions Club, when I spoke to her about the work the Lions do.
She told me all about how people of all ages help out down at the dome. The oldest volunteers being in their late 80’s and the youngest in their early teens; the Jays and Lions alliance only ever does good for the community.
“we’re like the silent heroes of the community. Everyone knows about the money that gets put into the community, but no one knows where it comes from. This is where it comes from” She continued.
Interested in being part of this amazing team? You can contact Jane at: rosscjr@hotmail.com

The Lions are always looking for more people to aid in their work with the mighty Jays, and getting to help Weston and see the jays in action? What could be better than that?


This post was brought to you by: Luisa Bada: Living in Weston and loving it

Transportation Meeting Report

Over 100 people attended the meeting which was an add-on by Councillors Nunziata and DiGiorgio to the relatively small number of information meetings held throughout the City. In addition to the councillors, MPP Laura Albanese and MP Ahmed Hussen were there.

MP Hussen stated that the Liberals plan to quadruple infrastructure spending and will respect local initiatives and not micromanage. He has put forward a Private Member’s bill to ensure that hiring needs are met so that local communities benefit through jobs and contracts when infrastructure money is spent.

Speaker 1 was James Perttula: Program Manager, Transportation Planning at City of Toronto. Speaker 2 was Jamie Robinson from Metrolinx.

Rather than bore you, dear readers, with the contents of their monologues, the information they presented is largely available through the links below.

The rest of this article will attempt to focus on significant questions posed by residents – these are more relevant to the Weston and Mount Dennis communities. Where answers were given, these have been noted.

Questions / Concerns:

Employment opportunities – Metrolinx has requested a community liaison plan from their contractor Crosslinx Transit Solutions that will be finalized soon. MP Hussen requested some hard figures regarding employment levels.

Is SmartTrack Planning route through Weston to Rexdale. Metrolinx is looking at a number of additional stations so it’s possible that a Woodbine station could be built.

Back-up power station. MP Hussen expressed concern to Jamie Robinson about emission levels. The station is designed to run on natural gas not diesel and so will not be so dirty. Modern non-polluting battery technology has not been considered. Jamie says he is totally open to alternatives. With that in mind, I have sent Mr Robinson this link. Other residents asked about a green energy supply instead. Mr Robinson countered solar would be totally inadequate to supply enough energy.

Parking at the new Mount Dennis Station. No plans at the moment for a parking lot – residents expressed concern about outsiders parking in the area and causing obstructions. The plan is that people will access the Crosstown by bus.

Another resident likes the Crosstown but thinks the number of stops should be reduced. Did not like the Scarborough subway, should be LRT instead.

This is a demographically poor area – will there be a zone system for fares on the new line? How far will money go in the new system? Answer the Crosstown will be integrated with the rest of the TTC system.

Another resident wondered about the jobs that 960 will be lost in the TTC due to Presto automation. Councillor DiGiorgio surmised that ticket collector jobs may disappear but employees would probably be retained and assigned elsewhere.

Concern about the timeline and completion date and related construction. The answer is that work will continue until the planned opening in September 2021. Councillor Nunziata pointed out that if the original subway plan had been implemented in 1995 we wouldn’t be having a problem with traffic today.

TTC is too slow and expensive. 20 km is considered local – why can’t people take the bus to the library without being charged the same as someone who travels 20km?

The LRT is going to cross Eglinton – why won’t the LRT move north through the spectacular station at Weston and service people along a loop to Rexdale. Answer: Additional stations are foreseen on the existing lines so that the enhancements that GO Transit is making will provide additional service to residents. This will likely not be at subway frequencies.

Are you going to build out the fourth track as part of SmartTrack? A: Trying to determine what infrastructure is required.

Is the problem that you can’t build the fourth track north of the 401 because of limited space – I thought that there would be room for four tracks but only three have been built. Is it that simple or would an expansion be impossible because the 401 is in the way?

Concerns that there will be express trains and local trains that would need an extra line.

An extra CP track has been negotiated. Is this true? You talk about the need for consultation but in practice you don’t – the generator and now the transformer have been sprung on the community without notice. A: We are committed to consulting with the community. The transformer will be located next to the generating facility.  The generator idea came from Crosslinx Transit Solutions – we had originally planned to have two separate connections to the electrical grid – it’s not carved in stone. “If the community doesn’t want it it won’t be built.”

Future of Eglinton Flats – what will happen there – how will transit impact the flats? A: Not answered.

Concern about Bombardier’s inability to supply trains on time as with the TTC streetcars. A: We’re confident that all issues will have been sorted out by the time the trains are needed.

We need to know what emissions will be given off from the generator? A: Agree that it’s very important – the Ministry of the Environment will decide whether emissions are appropriate for the area.

What about parking? – we need parking lots. A: (from Councillor Nunziata) when the development starts, then the city will come forward with the planning department and set up parking.

Q: What about continuing along Eglinton and turning up Highway 27? A: The Airport Authority is thinking of creating a transit hub at the Airport.

Q: Would love to take the UP Express to the subway with an integrated fare – it’s still expensive. Would like to see connections to mid-town rather than to downtown. A: We’re working on fare integration between TTC and GO. We’re also looking at fare integration across the GTHA but we recognize that the differences in fares are a disincentive to using transit.

Nobody wants the above ground section of the Crosstown, why not build it all underground?

We need to have commitments for frequency of use, hours of operation etc. We need to have a broader governing commission for all transit. What about green stations that provide their own electricity through solar?

How will light rail work along Eglinton past Scarlett – will  there be room to put it there? A: We have sufficient space along the corridor already to put the LRT tracks plus cycle path / trail. It would be similar to St. Clair except there will be two traffic lanes in either direction.
What are implications of putting the LRT tracks down one side rather than in the middle. A: Current plan is to run it down the centre. Also looking at looking at ways to mitigate traffic impacts.

Who are the private partners? Will there be an intensification and if so, why aren’t builders not paying more of the costs to provide transit? After all, they get money in their pockets. Also building parking lots simply encourages to bring cars into the area and park throughout the neighbourhood. A: (councillor Nunziata) Developers pay charges when they put up buildings.

Adjournment.