Mount Dennis pop-up galleries this summer

The Eglinton Crosstown is sponsoring “Gallery City”, a series of pop-up galleries this summer, including in Mount Dennis, featuring work by local artists.

By Shirley Mpagi, From Gallery City
Joan McGivney, from Gallery City

The exhibition runs until August 25. Interested readers can find more information about the artists and locations at the Gallery City site.

Another pedestrian struck in Mount Dennis

Another pedestrian has been struck and seriously injured in Mount Dennis.

An 86-year-old man was trying to cross Weston south of Eglinton when he was struck by a 2009 Hyundai heading southbound. He was sent to the hospital with life-threatening injuries.

The police are asking for witnesses to the accident to come forward.

This is the third time that a pedestrian has been seriously injured at that intersection in the past 10 years.

Your correspondent does not know what happened in this case. The police report implies that the pedestrian was jaywalking, which, I hasten to add, we all do. However, that intersection is just plain dangerous because it is skewed intersection“skewed”—the roads do not meet at 90º.

  • Crossing times are longer because the intersection is wider.
  • Older people sometimes have limited head and neck mobility, and may find craning difficult.
  • Drivers can take obtuse-angle turns at higher speeds.

Transport Canada recommends correcting skewed intersections so that the roads meet at 90º.

Cyclist killed in Mount Dennis area.

The Star has the sad story of a cyclist killed in the Mount Dennis area last week. A motorist struck 70-year-old Gary Sim while he rode near Alliance and Jane. He later died in hospital.

The police recently released a 10-year data set on cyclist and pedestrian deaths and serious injuries, which your correspondent has mapped for Ward 11. The results are telling.

  • Four pedestrians and one cyclist have been struck at Weston and Lawrence.
  • 19 pedestrians and four cyclists have been struck on Weston Road.
  • Ten more pedestrians and four cyclists have been hit along Jane.

These data are certainly very conservative, and only report deaths and serious injuries.

Many of these accidents—I use the word loosely—happen because we have very poor cycling and pedestrian infrastructure.

There is no way, for instance, to get to the Junction, and the bike paths from there to downtown, without riding on the hilly, fast, four-lane Jane expressway. Riding on Weston terrifies even me, a gigantic, fast, fit and ferocious cyclist.

In fact, not one path connects Weston or Mount Dennis with the downtown. This is crazy. The solution is simple and expensive: a dual-use railside path (and a lane along Eglinton).

The West Toronto Railpath is exceptional. It’s fast and safe, and good enough for downtown. Why isn’t it good enough for Weston?

Metrolinx could make this happen. They’re working on electrification, which will entail widening and moving tracks (again). Instead of wasting billions on hydrogen powered trains, they could build paths for potato-powered people.

Mount Dennis Net Zero Community Meeting

Glen Murray discusses implications and possibilities for Mount Dennis.

Ontario Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Glen Murray was the star attraction at a meeting held in Mount Dennis Library tonight. The meeting was hosted by Councillor Frances Nunziata and Ontario Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Laura Albanese. Jim Baxter, director of Toronto’s Environment and Energy Division was along to add support. Over 40 people came out on a 34° evening to hear some details about Ontario’s five year Climate Change Action Plan and how it can be applied in Mount Dennis.

Highlights of the meeting:

Minister Murray promised to coax Metrolinx into approving the rail path northward expansion through Mount Dennis and possibly Weston. He applauded the net zero initiative being undertaken in Mount Dennis.

There will be energy retrofits available for social and rental housing.

Home energy saving upgrades will be subsidized.

The Ontario Government is very supportive of more bike lanes and better cycling infrastructure.

He thinks that bike paths along hydro corridors should be encouraged.

The province will be offering an incentive of up to $14,000 towards the lease or purchase of an electric vehicle and up to $1000 to install a home charging station.

Four years of free overnight charging for electric vehicles.

Rebates to help trade to an electric vehicle.

Before selling a home, owners will be required to perform an energy audit so that potential purchasers will know the home’s energy costs.

Encouraging words were said about the Black Creek channel and its possible naturalization.

The Green Investment Fund will provide money towards retrofitting low energy systems in homes, apartments and businesses.

Minister Murray was keen to return to meet with residents for a hike / cycle along the Humber to look at the weirs along the river.

Elliot Strashin owns and is renovating the old Cooper Canada sporting goods factory on Alliance and presciently enough has been renovating it, placing a solar farm on the roof, geothermal energy systems and better insulation. One of his tenants is a company called Dynacert which designs computerized on demand water electrolysis systems that feed the product (hydrogen and oxygen) into existing fossil fuel engines instead of using diesel or gasoline. This process reduces carbon emissions and increases efficiency. Container ship engines generate huge amounts of emissions are being considered for application of this technology. He was wondering about what support there would be for expanding the factory. Minister Murray promised to meet up with Mr. Strashin to see what can be done.

Mr Murray seems quite taken with Mount Dennis and mentioned that what people are looking for is a community with a history and unique businesses, restaurants and cafes. They don’t want to find chain businesses in their locale. Ideally the neighbourhood should be walkable and have good public transportation and cycling options. In 2021, once the Eglinton Crosstown is opened, and cycling infrastructure is improved, Mount Dennis will be well on its way to being such a community. The formal motion to declare Mount Dennis a net zero community will be presented to Council in July.

The meeting ended with an individual question and answer session.

OMB revamp will affect Weston and Mount Dennis

The remaking of the Ontario Municipal Board may have profound effects in Weston and Mount Dennis. Under proposed rules, community members will be unable to challenge high-density buildings built within 500 meters of a transit station—such as the Eglinton Crosstown stop in Mount Dennis and the GO Transit stop in Weston.

The 500 meter radius would encompass much of the village of Weston and some of the developed parts of Mount Dennis.

The CEO of the Ontario Homebuilders’ Association told the Globe and Mail,

“I would imagine that ratepayer groups would be up in arms,” Mr. Vaccaro said. “It is almost like trying to find a way to shield the municipalities … by saying to them: ‘If you make that tough decision, you don’t have to worry about the OMB appeal. We’re going to shield you from your angry residents.’”

Map of Weston
500 meter radius in Weston–see update below
Map of transit 500m radius
500 meter radius in Mount Dennis

Weston had the controversial Weston Common project approved despite considerable community opposition, including by us at WestonWeb. The 30-storey building was mandated by Toronto planners adhering to tall building guidelines meant for downtown.

Under the new guidelines, similar buildings could be put up without appeal to the OMB  if they are first approved by City Council.

Update: Chris sent in a much better map based on the fact that the station is linear. 500m covers much more of Weston.

EcoNeighbourhood meeting in Mount Dennis

The ever-excellent MDCA continues to press the pols to make Mount Dennis the first net zero neighbourhood. On June 12 13, Mount Denizens will have an excellent chance to make their case when the Ontario Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, Glen Murray; Frances Nunziata; and Laura Albanese will be presenting on the theme of “building green communities”.

The MDCA is pushing for home audits, energy retrofits, centralized neighbourhood heating from wasted energy, and, very importantly, a chance to get local people involved in job training through community benefits agreements.

The meeting will be held at the Mount Dennis Library on June 12 at 7 pm.

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.