Latest from Metrolinx on Mount Dennis construction

Urban Toronto has an article outlining the latest progress on the old Kodak site. The construction work is slowly taking shape as more work is done on the site. Read all about it here.

GO expansion could lead to huge changes

In November, Metrolinx published its plans for improving rail service in the GTA. If they were to go ahead, they would revolutionize train travel in the GTA and greatly change commutes in Weston.

By 2031, if the plans are implemented (that’s a big ‘if’) GO service in Weston will be:

  • Electrified
  • Every 10 minutes
  • Faster, with a 13-minute trip between Weston and Union
  • Less expensive, because it will use electric trains much of the time
  • More accessible, with station improvements.

The plan would also improve Union Station, allowing the UP Express to run four-car trains, and GO to double train capacity.

The GO Expansion Business Case does not say what will happen to the UP Express in Weston. It seems likely, however, that it would be axed. The UPX will also be stopping in Mount Dennis and Bloor, slowing the train en route to the airport.

But improved GO service, would, in some ways, make the GO train even better than the UP Express. It would be as fast, but more frequent in the rush hour. The trains would be larger, and riders may have a better chance of getting a seat. The locomotives would also be electric, instead of diesel, allaying concerns about pollution and noise.

On the downside, it is not clear how long the trains would run every day. I love that the UPX runs late and early. Nor are GO trains as fancy as the UPX, and we’d have to bring your own in-ride magazines. (Has anybody seen an On The UP lately?)

Service would be improved between Union and Bramalea on the Kitchener Line

Metrolinx forecasts that GO ridership in Weston would nearly double, as it would system-wide. Perhaps optimistically, they also say that the increased ridership would pay for the system expansion. Your correspondent has his doubts.

These are the same people who built the UP Express, which was supposed to be a  premium-fare, deluxo trip to the airport for the world-weary traveller willing to pay $29 one-way. It got rolling at exactly the same time as Uber, and ridership was dismal until the province forced Metrolinx to slash fares and let the proles ride. The UPX still loses about $20 million (by my conservative calculation) every year—about $6 for every rider.

 

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.

 

Saint John the Evangelist opening delayed, again

The St. John the Evangelist school opening will be delayed again. The new school, which was long overdue, was supposed to open in the fall of 2018; it will now open–hopefully–in time for students to return in September, 2019. 

Dave Bennett, who is running for trustee, says the delay is due to a legal dispute between the TCDSB and Metrolinx over the culvert; “Without these finalized agreements, culvert construction to replace the ditch between the school and the Metrolinx tunnel lid is on hold”.

 

Letter of the week: Bus stop at the UP Express Station

From stevemunro.ca

Anne T commented on the news that Uber and Metrolinx have come to an arrangement. She quite sensibly wonders why Metrolinx and the TTC haven’t entered into a similar arrangement.

What would make even MORE SENSE is to have a TTC bus stop right at the front doors of the UP Weston station where presently many passengers are either picked up or dropped off.  I’m a frequent UP user who takes the Weston 89 bus to the station and have to walk through the parking lot.  DEFINITELY a TTC  bus stop makes more sense!

Why should UBER have their own taxi stand?  Why the special privilege for just UBER and not other taxi companies? Is Metrolinx making money on this UBER/Metrolinx deal?   And why should we sell the parking lot to private developers?  It’s bad enough that we sold the 407 to Spain.  When will we finally put an end to this insanity?

If Metrolinx is trying to encourage people to leave their cars at home, a convenient stop at the station entrance would be welcomed bu UP and GO riders. A very frosty person at Metrolinx’s phone reception said that it would be up to the TTC to get the ball rolling on this. I’ve left a message with the TTC at their suggestions page.

Readers who like this idea may wish to contact the TTC and Metrolinx to lend your support.

TTC suggestion page here

TTC phone line – 7:00 am – 10:00 pm: 416.393.3030

Metrolinx suggestion page here.

Metrolinx phone line: 416.874.5900

Latest Crosstown video shows green roof installation.

The latest video from Crosstown shows before and after views of the vehicle maintenance yard located on the old Kodak lands in Mount Dennis. The video begins with a shot of the site back in March 2017 and then moves forward to this October. The work is substantially complete; most of the tracks are down and a striking feature of the project is the green roofing of the complex. The green roof will save money on heating and cooling while reducing the buildings’ carbon footprints.

One can speculate whether or not such ‘frills’ could happen if the project had been approved under the current Ford regime.

Mount Dennis Crosstown update

From Metrolinx. Click to enlarge.

For some strange reason, WestonWeb wasn’t invited to the recent press tour of the Eglinton Crosstown facilities. The tour was to show off the latest construction milestones of the mammoth project. The storage and maintenance facility being built on the old Kodak Lands will be ‘ready to receive trains’ in just six weeks. Don’t get your hopes up. There will be no passengers on the line until October 2021 at the earliest.

There are some good reports of the event, one of which can be read in Urban Toronto here.