High Speed Rail – bring it on!

I am going to take the opposite viewpoint to my esteemed colleague Adam on this topic. Here’s the ‘good cop’ version.

David Collenette was the man behind the UP Express, having first proposed it 20 years ago. His original vision was for a direct train that would offer a 22-minute ride from Pearson to Union that would cost $20. Without going into the details of what happened between concept and reality (read our back issues), the end result was that Weston in effect ended up with an all-day commuter rail service into Toronto for about the same price as a GO Train ticket.

Collenette has re-emerged as a ‘Special Advisor’ in a report outlining a vision of a high speed rail line joining Toronto and Windsor.

Lord knows how hard it is to get anything built in this neck of the woods. Collenette’s vision of the Air Rail Link (as it was then known), ended up as a huge gift for Weston’s commuters. Now on the wildly popular UP Express (since lowing prices), in rush hours, it’s standing room only.

What about the Toronto to Windsor HSR Line? It’s certainly needed. In fact, decent rail links all over Canada are needed. Part-way to Windsor lies Canada’s Silicon Valley in the Kitchener / Waterloo area. It’s too close to fly there (only 100 km) yet GO Trains take at best 2 hours. An HSR train would use much of the same corridor and cut travel time between the two city centres dramatically. Stops at Malton (Pearson), Guelph, Kitchener and London are proposed for the first phase.

The HSR route will use the UP Express corridor. Click for larger view.

What’s in it for Weston?

In 2021, the UP Express will add one more station at Mount Dennis and connect to the new Crosstown Line. Will this new station make the UP Express unacceptably slow? There is a rumoured possibility that Weston’s station will be too close to Mount Dennis and may be closed as a result.

The report itself recommends that existing services be ‘optimized’:

The Province should align provincial mandates to optimize rail services by directing Metrolinx and MTO to collaborate on the development of an Integrated Rail Strategy for the Toronto-Kitchener corridor, which would

•Clarify the mandates of GO RER, UP Express and HSR on the corridor.

•Assess ridership and service frequencies.

•Recommend how the Province might optimize GO RER, UP Express and HSR ridership to maximize the benefit to Ontarians.

One way around the two station dilemma might be to convert the existing UP Express into a commuter line and open new stations along the way. This could be a way of easing the burden on the subway system while preserving Weston’s regular and rapid link to downtown.

What will the cost be? Anyone who has done home renovations will know that estimated costs before a project begins are likely to end up higher in reality. What studies do show is that public transit adds value to a community if done well. No doubt changes and variations are up for grabs as they were with the original idea for the Airport Rail Link.

What about a high speed train running through our community? The train won’t likely be that fast in the city. Currently the UP Express hits speeds of up to 130 km/h between Bloor and Weston for an average of around 77 km/h. The report projects a somewhat faster average speed (just under 100 km/h from Union to Malton).

Travel times for the faster of the two HSR scenarios. Click for larger view.

The next steps will be more studies and consultations. This is just the beginning of what will be a long and ambitious project. While there may be pitfalls along the way, there will be opportunities and this proposed infrastructure holds huge promise and potential for Weston.

We do however need to be on top of this as a community and make sure that the people of Weston / Mount Dennis are heard loud and clear.

Crosstown Line Update

The Eglinton Crosstown line will not open for another four years but they keep updating their website to give tantalizing looks at the future along with progress to date. Below is a view of Eglinton Avenue showing where the new Mount Dennis Station will be placed.

A sequence of past, present and future images of the Mount Dennis Station site. The Kodak Building is illustrated back in its original position in the 2021 imagining.

Incidentally, the anticipated speed of the Crosstown is illustrated in a graphic on the site.

Where’s the GO and UP Express?

I was on the UP Express a couple of days ago and according to my phone’s GPS feature, we were exceeding 125 km/h at times between Bloor and Weston. Of course that’s not the average speed (probably just over 60 km/h) but pretty impressive when comparing commuter rail track speeds in Canada. For example, the GO train trundles along at an average pace of about 50 km/h between Kitchener and Toronto.

The Crosstown site has also posted a recent ‘Flyover’ video (May 2) of stations along the line in an aerial viewpoint showing how work is progressing at each location.

Watch the video in fullscreen mode for a more detailed view.

New park to be built in Mount Dennis?

The Mount Dennis Community Association showed the power of the people and got Frances Nunziata to look into creating a new park out of a “wasteland” at Brownville and Barr Ave.

A long-time vacant City owned lot on Brownville (beside the rail tracks opposite Barr Ave.) has been generating complaints from neighbours about accumulating litter, dog-poo and general lack of maintenance. The City’s Real Estate staff administer the site, and proposed to simply fence it in. But fifteen local residents showed up at an April 24 meeting with Councillor Nunziata at the Library, and most of them had other ideas. At the end of the meeting, the Councillor agreed to try and get the site transferred over to the Parks & Recreation Department as a first step towards upgrading it for community recreational activities. 

Local playwright nails it

GG-Award-nominated Donna-Michelle St Bernard, who lives in Mount Dennis, got a cracking review for her new play, Sound of the Beast, in the Globe and Mail.

Poetry has long had a major presence on stages at Canadian theatres; poets, less so. This may account for why Sound of the Beast, Donna-Michelle St. Bernard’s new performance at Theatre Passe Muraille, is so unusual and disarming. A certain distance we’re accustomed to at the theatre has disappeared. Here’s a poet; now listen.

 

Kodak Building 9 interior photographed.

The Kodak recreation building, (officially known as Kodak Building 9) was moved from its foundations last summer. The idea was to create new foundations that the building will return to and become part of the new Mount Dennis Station.

Kodak Building 9 interior. From Crosstown LRT  Twitter. Click for larger image.

It was recently photographed and the worker inside illustrates the awesome size of the building while graffiti still festoons the interior walls.

Read more about last summer’s move here.

MDCA collecting opinions on reading garden

The Mount Dennis Community Association and the library are collecting opinions on improvements to the reading garden, and they’re shooting for a grant from the City. Your opinion will doubtless help.

Reading garden plan

Complete with a vertical garden, solar-panel operated ventilation and a rainwater collection system, the vision for the garden was beautifully portrayed in local resident and George Brown Architectural Technology student, Rachel Carter’s concept drawing.