Metrolinx Woes

Where to start?

Presto – Because of the ‘exclusive’ deal signed with Galen Weston’s Loblaw Inc., Metrolinx will be firing the three dozen small retailers who currently sell TTC tokens and passes in our neighbourhood.  Only the two Shoppers Drug Marts will sell TTC fares (Presto tickets and cards).  It’s a huge reduction in accessibility for our part of the city.  There’s lots else wrong with Presto, and TTC is not happy about it.

UP Express and GO fares – The previous government promised to lower GO fares to $3 within the city.  The new government told Metrolinx to lower them to $3.70.  Metrolinx left UP express fares at the old higher level, and removed the $1.60 discount for transferring to TTC, for those using UP from Weston (or Bloor).  The province gave Metrolinx money to provide the discount for both UP and GO.  I wondered if Metrolinx had returned any of the money, but the folks at the Ministry of Transportation could not answer that question.  I’ve asked Metrolinx but I’m not holding my breath.

Tier 4 Trains – The Minister ordered GO to use Tier 4 diesel trains on our line (now called Kitchener line) once they had bought some.  Tier 4 are about 8 times cleaner than the locomotives now in use.  They now have 8 locomotives.  But they initially advised they would not be using them on Kitchener.  When challenged, they said they’d check again.  Still waiting.

Noise Walls – The original Environmental Assessment demanded walls along the curve at the end of Holley where it meets Parke.  None were installed.  Metrolinx claimed it was too difficult given the size of retaining wall they built.  But their own consultant on the EA warned them to make sure they built walls strong enough to hold the noise walls.  If they didn’t that’s on them, and we deserve something.  In addition, the EA demanded a wall between the tracks and Rosemount south of John.  Nothing installed there.  No excuse given.  And they promised walls behind Brownville and Arthur streets.  Still nothing, though they claim it is due to property negotiations with landowners on those streets.

Government Regulators – It took some doing but I found persons at both the Provincial and Federal Ministries of the Environment who could speak about the now ten year old Environmental Assessment.  Provincially they didn’t think there was anything they could do to force Metrolinx to live up to the promises in the EA.  Federally they were quite shocked, as Metrolinx had recently sworn out a ‘solemn declaration’ claiming they had lived up to all the EA commitments, in order to get the final payments from the Federal Ministry of Transportation.

In addition, the Province relieved Metrolinx of its responsibility to monitor air quality.  Metrolinx claimed that the implementation of the UP Express had not seriously degraded air quality.  Trouble is, it is GO Transit operations if not Tier 4 (see above) that will adversely affect our air quality.

The federal folks are questioning Metrolinx about the noise walls.  We shall see what happens next.

Mount Dennis in the news

The Urban Land Institute (a non-profit planners’ group) has been working on ideas to revitalize Mount Dennis. Their results made the Globe and Mail  and the Toronto Star.

The short story: everybody is on board for a more prosperous, better-connected Mount Dennis. Alex Bozikovic wrote in the Globe:

Spread new growth across the neighbourhood. Focus on jobs and mix up jobs with some housing. Bring lots of people to live near transit. It sounds simple, but would require some changes to the city’s usual planning approach.

Interestingly, many locals are on board with this agenda. Mike Mattos, who heads the Mount Dennis Community Association, says the group largely welcomes the ULI proposals and, in places, development. “We need more people in the area,” he told me. “We don’t think the retail strip is going to survive with the current population. And we need more of the right kinds of jobs.” With all that, and some inventive policy, this could become a more prosperous place without becoming any less interesting.

 

Subways, Subways, Subways!

Here in Greater Weston™, a whole other set of politicians cater to our needs. Our MPP on this side of the river (Etobicoke Centre) is Kinga Surma . In her latest flyer, she announces, ‘The government is tunnelling the Eglinton Crosstown’.

She continues,

“Since I have been the MPP for Etobicoke Centre, I made a commitment to all of you that I would fight to tunnel the Eglinton Crosstown to the airport. Since last June, I met with the Premier, the Minister of Transportation and Metrolinx to emphasize the importance of providing Etobicoke residents with fast, reliable public transit; one that did not add to the congestion on Eglinton. We worked together for months to plan and budget a regional transportation system; something the residents of Etobicoke, Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area have been waiting for.

We are tunnelling the Eglinton Crosstown and we are building subways!

I will always fight for the people of Etobicoke Centre.

I want to thank you for your support throughout this process.”

Although Premier Ford has made it clear that tunnelling the westward extension of the Eglinton Crosstown is his preferred option, I can’t recall a government announcement that such a decision has been made.

If this is a done deal, there’s going to be a whole lot of money and time needed – plus some razzle dazzle from the Premier himself. Oh and perhaps the slight formality of an updated environmental assessment, further community consultation and finding the ‘efficiencies’ that will finance this endeavour.

Lastly, if Doug Ford doesn’t win the next Ontario general election in 2022, will appeasing Tory voters along the Eglinton corridor be on the next government’s priority list? It’s doubtful, so let’s not get too excited.

Sadly, transit decisions in this city and province are still made through election campaign napkin planning.

Wasted work on Eglinton West?

The PCs want to take over responsibility for the unbuilt Eglinton West LRT, which would start in Mount Dennis and extend to the airport, and they tabled a bill this week that would make Metrolinx the only agency that could build it.

Metrolinx, of course, is the provincial agency that overbuilt and underconsulted on the UPX line in Weston and Mount Dennis.  Whilt the bill didn’t say so, uploading responsibility to the province is probably the first step toward burying the Eglinton West LRT.

Last week, the city asked the province to explain some very basic things, like where the stations might be, how much it would cost, and why they think it’s a good idea. This week, however, Doug Ford said

What an insult you just gave to all the bright minds at Infrastructure Ontario—some of the smartest people in the world—saying ‘back-of-the-napkin.’ They came up with the plan.

Toronto city planners were  given some of the 11-months of work that’s already done on the above-ground LRT—much of which would be wasted if Doug Ford’s plan to bury the line goes ahead.

Image from the city, via Urban Toronto.The proposed trains would run down a median along Eglinton, stopping at heated stations. Two lanes of automotive traffic would still be possible, due to the width of Eglinton in Etobicoke.

UP Express-to-TTC fares going up

The cost of commuting on the UPX is going up.

About a year ago, Metrolinx gave a break to people transferring between the UP Express and the TTC. If you used a Presto card, they’d knock $1.50 off the combined fare.

No more.

Starting April 20, people transferring between the UP Express and the TTC will pay full fare on both.

 

Metrolinx says, “this change reflects the different purpose of the UPX service, which is about getting customers to and from the airport as quickly and efficiently as possible.”

Travellers who take the GO train will still receive a discounted TTC fare.

Also, it seems the tapping process will change. Riders riding the UPX will have to tap on the UP machines. Those getting on the GO will have to tap on GO machines. At present, riders are supposed to tap based on their destinations, not their trains.

God willing, Metrolinx will change the colour of one of machines—and move the GO off the UPX platforms—because I’ve been taking the damned things for years, I still can’t figure out which one is green and grey and which grey and green. Just today I screwed it up again.

Left: Green and grey–that’s green. Right: grey and green –that’s not green. That’s grey. Both kinds of machines are on the UPX platform, though. And check out the signs: yes, grey and green (green machine) and khaki green (grey machine). I am not colour-blind;  I am not in a rush; I speak English perfectly; and I have lived here for 10 years. I still can’t figure this out reliably. Imagine this: one is… orange. Orange like the UP Express ticket machine. My god. Photo credit: W K Lis.

School still sitting empty

The dispute between St John the Evangelist and Metrolinx has reached City News.

City says the school is empty because Metrolinx and the TCDSB can’t agree on—of all things—construction of the playground.

The school was supposed to be finished by September, 2018. If an agreement is not signed by tomorrow, the school’s opening may be delayed again.

St John students have been bussed out of town for the past 8 years.