BlogTO has an article that has picked Weston Mount Dennis as one of five ‘Toronto and beyond’ neighbourhoods on the rise in 2019. That should come as no surprise for many residents who have witnessed the development and cultural activity that has been under way for several years. The article cites as evidence, the Eglinton Crosstown, the transit hub forming around the Kodak Building and construction starting this year on the new net zero daycare.
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:
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?)
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.
After a storm of controversy, Ron Taverner has rescinded his resignation from the Toronto Police Service and is back on the job as north west district commander (Divisions 12, 23 and 31) that he left on Friday. On Saturday, Mr Taverner asked that his appointment as OPP Commissioner be put on hold pending the results of an inquiry (requested by the NDP) by the Integrity Commissioner.
Two days after the OPP Commissioner’s job was posted, the requirements (deputy police chief or higher) were lowered thus allowing Superintendent Taverner to apply and his selection, according to the Ontario Newsroom site, was the, “unanimous recommendation of a selection committee comprised exclusively of members of the Ontario Public Service and supported by Odgers Berndtson, an executive search firm.”. Apparently 23 out of the 27 candidates for the job met the original requirements so lowering them was probably not merited on the basis of a shortage of candidates.
Acting OPP Commissioner (and fellow candidate for the job) Brad Blair cried foul on Taverner’s appointment and has since been demoted.
Many pundits have claimed that the fix was in and that Taverner’s friendship with Premier Ford was the reason for his appointment. Superintendent Taverner may well have been the best candidate to lead the OPP. Unfortunately, perceptions of the Premier’s large thumb on the scale have tainted his appointment and there is likely no going back regardless of the Integrity Commissioner’s report.
A recent and timely article in a Toronto blog named ‘The Local’, features some well-known local characters while dealing with the topic of pedestrian safety and the public realm in the Mount Dennis area. Author, Sam Riches has written for a number of publications including Wired, Salon.com and Longreads.
According to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, Toronto’s apartment rental costs increased substantially between 2012 and 2017, particularly in the Weston and Mount Dennis area. The Toronto Star has used CMHC data in an interactive map which shows that Weston’s rental prices jumped nearly 18% during that time period while Mount Dennis prices increased by 27.8%.
In 2012, apartment rental averages in both neighbourhoods were roughly comparable at around the $1000 level but by 2017, rentals jumped to $1117 in Weston and $1201 in Mount Dennis. While this is still low compared to downtown where rents average over $2200, it will be of little comfort to people who come to the suburbs looking for more affordable accommodation.
The average annual rent increase over that period (thanks to the power of compound interest) seems to have been about 2.5% for Weston and 4% for Mount Dennis. Under Ontario’s rent control legislation, the average yearly rent increase over that period should have been 1.68%. Why the discrepancy? Once a tenant moves out, landlords can charge whatever the market will bear. In areas with more turnover, rents can rise rapidly if there is sufficient demand.
Premier Ford recently legislated the end of rent controls on all new rental buildings occupied after November 15th. He apparently believes that this will encourage more rental apartment construction. Incidentally, PC Premier Mike Harris ended rent control in 1997 claiming that a boom in rental housing construction would result.
Here’s an interesting idea born in Weston—Mount Dennis: pop-up infrastructure. It’s clever: stop-gap community spaces built using pre-fab materials on unused land.
The idea came from St Albans Boys and Girls Club, a Weston-Mount Dennis group. With some community partners, they put a portable on a underused parking lot at York Humber High School to create space for their programming.
Pop-up infrastructure makes a lot of sense for the inner suburbs: we tend to be short on nearby community spaces but long on brownfield areas. There are problems, though. St. Albans found the process frustrating: it took “nearly 5 years before they received the approval to access the site and it was not until 2014 that the first portable was finally installed. From negotiations to regulatory approvals they seemed to be hitting roadblock after roadblock at every step.”
Out of their struggles grew a report and a website with some great ideas. The plans start at $1000, for a bike and trailer, and get considerably more expensive. All of the infrastructure, though, is portable and comparatively cheap.