Yet another idea for Weston.

The video below is a striking illustration of what is possible when intelligent planning is applied to a road that runs through an area.

Jeff Speck: The Classic American Road Diet from Cupola Media on Vimeo.

As measured, the total roadway space required for everything in the video is 56 feet. The current right of way along local roads such as Weston Road, Jane and Lawrence Avenue is at their narrowest, 27 metres or 88.6 feet. Unless I’m mistaken, this would allow the modifications shown in the video with a minimum of 16.3 feet feet for sidewalks on either side. Check out various rights of way on every major street in the city here. According to the video, traffic volume doesn’t suffer and cyclists are then able to operate in safety.

Discuss.

GTA Transit Planning Revealed.

From bms.co.in

The latest news of how transit gets built in this area comes as no surprise to most people in the GTA.  In the latest outrage, straight from the manual of how to operate a corrupt government, Provincial Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca possibly acting in a craven bid to keep his own seat, seems to have pressured Metrolinx into approving two unnecessary GO stations. One in his riding and another $25 million station which was (literally) forged into existence, in order to satisfy (Rob Ford in sheep’s clothing) Mayor Tory’s ill-conceived SmartTrack needs. With a wink and a nod to voters in next June’s election, Del Duca could point to the $100 million GO station as a reason to re-elect him. One might speculate that the March resignation of Bruce McCuaig was a reaction to this nonsense, knowing that the truth would eventually come out.

This chart illustrates the weekly passenger loads on TTC lines and routes. The downtown relief line would serve four times as many people as a Scarborough Subway. Click to enlarge. From reliefline.ca

The $3.35 billion, one-stop Scarborough Subway is another example of how transit planning is perverted by politicians for their own re-election purposes. Torontonians will be paying for that white elephant for the next 50 years while knowing that a much better LRT was already planned and paid for. Line 1 is overcrowded with 731,000 passengers weekly. Line 3 has only 40,000. In the meantime, politicians like Glenn de Bearemaeker and John Tory stick to the same nonsense that Scarborough deserves a subway. Even our own councillor, Frances Nunziata supports this obscenity presumably because she wants to Tory to keep her on as Council Speaker.

Closer to home, the UP Express was originally designed to be built privately and run non-stop to the airport. It was going to cost taxpayers nothing while barreling at high speed through our neighbourhood. Luckily the community got involved in the form of the people of Weston and the Clean Train Coalition. As a result of community pressure, Weston got its own station and a tunnel was built to put some of the line below grade. In spite of common sense, we’re still stuck with the CP tracks not going in the tunnel with the other lines, broken links between streets like John Street and a sell-off of the old GO parking lot for development without any community input. On the plus side, we now have an inexpensive, quick and frequent train to the airport and downtown but in fairness, no politician planned this; it was forced on them by community pressure.

Sadly, most politicians will do whatever they need to do in order to get elected. Public vigilance and pressure is the only answer. Being well informed and vocal is in every citizen’s best interest.

From Smart Citizen Engagement – Power to Sense: Dr Mazlan Abbas. Keynote Presentation at Asia Pacific Smart City Forum 2016

There is an old saying that war is too important to be left to the generals. Along the same lines, governing is too important to be left to politicians. Demanding and participating in community consultation events has never been more important. Especially since there is about to be a huge surge in redevelopment in Weston. Chief Planner Jennifer Keesmaat’s resignation on Monday will only serve to stress the importance of informed citizen input.

Glen Murray’s departure and The RailPath Extension

Former Ontario Minister of the Environment, Glen Murray was in Mount Dennis in June, (along with Frances Nunziata and Laura Albanese) supporting their Net Zero initiative. His abrupt departure has left a few questions hanging about two important Mount Dennis initiatives, in particular their Net Zero push as well as the Toronto West Railpath cycle and pedestrian trail northward expansion.

This article covers the West Toronto RailPath.

The RailPath is a great idea that has been tirelessly promoted by people along the UP Express line and particularly in The Junction and Mount Dennis. Why a path along a rail line? Railway lines are built to smooth out hills wherever possible – trains don’t like inclines. For that reason, a bike / walking trail alongside a rail line is a perfect match because without hills and dips a bike / pedestrian path is easier and safer to use. Plans are to extend the trail southwards below Queen Street and beyond (under study).

In June’s meeting in Mount Dennis, Murray seemed to give an assurance that a northward Railpath extension would get the go ahead despite a previous firm no from Metrolinx. At the time of the meeting, Murray must have known that his future lay elsewhere. Attempts to contact his constituency office on the topic have not been successful.

Then Environment Minister Glen Murray (centre) at the June 12 meeting in Mount Dennis Library.

The new Environment Minister, Chris Ballard directed my inquiry back to Metrolinx Senior Media Manager, Anne Marie Aikins who tells me that “The City of Toronto is the lead on the Railpath project and is in a better position to answer questions about the project and its timelines.” Metrolinx has basically said that the RailPath must end at Black Creek Drive and the City has been tasked with finding a route.

Simon Chamberlain (recording secretary of the (ever awesome) Mount Dennis Community Association) is very knowledgeable on the issues around the possible northward extension. He says that this particular rail track passes directly through communities and could be be a link to stores and other amenities along the way. Unfortunately, without wide enough bridges, the rail path can only run north as far as Black Creek Drive and then exit the corridor at that point, continuing on a much hillier trail through the Black Creek Valley to Trethewey and westward into the back streets of Weston.

The rail corridor as it makes its way north-west from Union Station. Red dots indicate where the bike / pedestrian route might leave the corridor and where it could join Trethewey.

Simon explained that the main obstacles to continuing the trail northward are bridges which are expensive to widen after the fact. Sadly, unlike the builders of the Bloor Viaduct, Metrolinx didn’t seem to anticipate the need for a wider corridor. The MDCA unsuccessfully tried to get Metrolinx to only partially demolish the Photography Drive bridge that crossed Eglinton and thus leave room for a pedestrian / cycle trail. He believes that there is a possible route northward over the bridge that crosses Black Creek Drive and MDCA has been pushing Metrolinx to extend the RailPath north to Ray Drive and beyond, possibly as far as Denison.

Simon believes that Metrolinx is reluctant to alter any contracts that are under way because of the additional expense (think of home renos when you ask a contractor for changes during the job).

The City’s Railpath Senior Public Consultation Coordinator, Maogosha Pyjor says that,

“There have been questions about extending the Railpath further north west along the rail corridor. Planning for this extension would require its own Environmental Assessment…. the City has been informed by Metrolinx that due to their track expansion plans there will not be space in rail corridor for a trail going north. The City will have to  look at on-street connections.”

 That seems to be the way it goes for Weston / Mount Dennis. Two steps forward and one step back.
This might be a good time to remember that politicians will get to work on an idea if they think that people are behind it.
Updates when more news comes in.

Cruickshank Park trail open

TRCA Project Coordinator, Courtney Rennie was true to his word (see yesterday’s post). As of Tuesday August 15, the south end of the Cruickshank Park trail is open and workers are beginning to remove the fencing.

Grading and re-seeding of one of the staging areas has been completed. Now about that path…
The completed erosion control work should protect the Scarlett Road property for decades to come.

No doubt work will eventually begin on replacing the path which has taken a beating all the way down to Raymore Park thanks to various construction projects, the last of which (sewer re-lining) should be winding down soon.

Cruickshank Park erosion work winding down.

Cruickshank Park has undergone two recent periods of construction. The first, in 2013 was to extend the Pan Am Path from the north end of the park to Mallaby Park at Weston Road and St Phillips.

The Pan Am Trail extension under construction in October 2013. (File)

The most recent was to do extensive erosion control work on the Etobicoke side. The Humber River was beginning to chew at a Scarlett Road co-op apartment’s playground and would have eventually threatened the whole site. Access for the work was through the Lawrence parking lot and this meant that for all but the most determined, the Pan Am Path northwards to Mallaby was closed.

Looking North from the staging area during construction.

A staging area and bridge to the affected bank on the far side were constructed to expedite access.

The temporary bridge allowed access to the slope rehabilitation work (visible on the far bank).

Toronto and Region Conservation Area Project manager, Courtney Rennie tells me that, “I anticipate opening the trail as early as next week, including removal of the temporary fast fencing around the project limits. There may be intermittent closures of the trail for terraseeding and restoration plantings, however that will only be for a few hours at a time while staff are on site.”

Great news!

Overhead Wiring is so Third World.

Overhead wiring detracts from our streetscape and especially from heritage buildings like our beautiful library.

Weston, like many parts of the third world – oh and also Toronto – is plagued with overhead wiring. It’s completely unnecessary since there are no streetcars in Weston. It’s in fact a false economy on the part of power and communications companies.

In the winter of 2013, the city was shut down for days because an ice storm downed a lot of overhead wiring. More than 300,000 Toronto households were affected. The cost to individuals, the city and the economy was enormous and clean-up costs alone were estimated at over $100,000,000 at the time. Don’t blame the trees; many Toronto trees had been weakened thanks to pruning to accommodate wiring!

The adjacent city of Mississauga was minimally affected because their wiring is buried safely underground.

The 2013 ice storm cost Toronto dearly. From cbc.ca

Overhead wiring is a danger during ice storms and traffic collisions but there is an aesthetic consideration too. What is the effect of wiring on our streetscape?

Take a look at our beautiful Arts and Crafts library without overhead wires (courtesy of a quick Photoshop job). The building can be appreciated in all its glory without unsightly wiring.

Photoshop did what the city and utilities won’t.

Overhead wiring and transportation have one thing in common. The city and utilities should have been tackling them for decades but in Toronto, there is always a lack of money thanks to the short-sighted obsession with keeping property taxes below the rate of inflation. Interestingly, this same obsession doesn’t apply to salaries for the mayor and councillors as their paycheques are automatically linked to the rate of inflation. Nice.

Oh, by the way, yesterday’s photo reveals that the library needs new shingles. Probably cheaper than a leaky roof but then that’s not the Toronto way, is it?

A tale of two wards.

Councillor Pam McConnell. (from Twitter.com)

The recent and untimely death of Councillor Pam McConnell brought forth an outpouring of tributes. Many remembered her service to the community and the great things a determined councillor can achieve in a Toronto ward. Ms. McConnell may have represented Rosedale but she consistently voted to defend her poorest constituents, not the richest. She also fought hard to improve the public domain rather than work for private interests.

We can view Ms. McConnell’s recent voting record through a handy grid compiled by Toronto blogger Matt Elliott. The Google Docs spreadsheet itemizes how each Toronto councillor voted on important topics over the past few years. As part of the grid, Mr. Elliott also keeps a scorecard on how each councillor’s overall votes align with those of our right-leaning Mayor John Tory – recently described by some wags as ‘Rob Ford in sheep’s clothing’.

Ms. McConnell it turns out, voted with the Mayor only 41.5% of the time. In contrast, our own Councillor Nunziata voted with the Mayor a remarkable 92.5% of the time; more than anyone else on council. That’s loyalty but at what cost to the people in York South-Weston?

Mr. Elliott’s scorecard can be found at this link.