Bloor Bike Lane Report is out

Karl Jilg/Swedish Road Administration
This cartoon illustrates how much of our streets are dedicated to traffic. Karl Jilg/Swedish Road Administration

Cycling is experiencing a boom in many cities in the world. Here in Weston, other than a short stretch along Eglinton between Scarlett and Jane, there’s no space exclusively dedicated to cycling through our streets. We have ‘sharrows‘ along streets like Weston Road and bike lanes that are simply painted lines but these do little or nothing to improve safety levels for cyclists in a city where people in vehicles have killed 2 cyclists and 28 pedestrians so far this year. Interestingly, when police report that someone has killed a pedestrian or cyclist, it’s the victims of driver inattention who are consistently lectured to wear light clothing and use more caution. Motorists are never asked to be more vigilant. The advent of the mobile phone and lax enforcement of distracted driving laws has made our streets less safe. Transportation Services’ cycling maps are hopelessly confusing and out of date.

Here in Canada, society favours motorists but Europe seems to be re-thinking their cities and many have extensive car free centres.

While Toronto doesn’t even have a single car free street, it is moving timidly in a more car-centric direction and recently set up bike lanes along Bloor street between Shaw Street and Avenue Road as a pilot study. The expectation was that the pilot would fail. Cyclist lanes would be unused, clog traffic and bankrupt the merchants along Bloor.

A report has been delivered to council with the following findings

The negative:

  • Car journey times did increase
  • Merchants had difficulty with deliveries
  • Parking convenience was reduced (longer walks)

The neutral or positive:

  • Increased journey times were reduced 50% with traffic signal adjustment
  • Cyclists felt safer and cycling increased by 49%
  • Motorists felt more comfortable with bikes separated
  • Near miss collisions have been reduced
  • Parking revenues remained steady
  • Most merchants reported increased customers and sales
  • Store vacancy rates were unchanged

As a result of the successful Bloor pilot, the city’s Transportation Services are recommending that the bike lane be made permanent. The report will go before the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee and despite the committee’s car-oriented membership the recommendation will go forward to Council next month because as a result of the report, Mayor Tory supports the bike lanes. T.S. Committee members are: Christin Carmichael Greb, Stephen Holyday (Vice Chair), Chin Lee, Giorgio Mammoliti, Anthony Perruzza and Jaye Robinson (Chair).

Where does that leave Weston / Mount Dennis streets? Still dedicated to the traffic that mainly uses our area as a conduit to other places. Metrolinx is supposed to be investigating the extension of the West Toronto Railpath into our area but inquiries take weeks for a response and answers are vague or simply unhelpful. Even Toronto’s own Transportation Department doesn’t seem to bother to update its cycling information.

Toronto Cycling Map
A detail from the City’s latest cycling map showing our area. They still have the GO station in its old location. Click to enlarge.

Councillors in the suburbs tend to be very car-centric and ours is no exception. Ms. Nunziata’s support base may be called many things but cyclist tends not to be one of them. It remains to be seen if the Mayor’s turnaround will influence other members of Council when it comes to local bike lanes and public car-free areas. If this is his way of not being Doug Ford then long may it last! Perhaps he can also turn his attention to adequately funding the TTC and cancelling that idiotic $3.45 Billion one-stop subway.

TD in Weston is closing, moving to Crossroads

I was recently amazed when I visited a bank teller to take out cash. There were—forgive me here—little old ladies with passbooks in clear vinyl envelopes asking the tellers in salty, sunny, Mediterranean languages about their balances.

I hadn’t seen a passbook in three decades, and I was amazed that people still use them. I was amazed the bank still prints them. And, if I’m honest, I was also infuriated: my god, the line was slow. Do you people not know about apps?

But my fury at the waiting in line will be nothing compared to my anger at not having a lineup at all.

The TD Bank at 1979 Weston Road will close and move to the Crossroads Plaza by this time next year, according to residents. (TD has not yet returned my calls.) This is the latest in a series of closures that are turning downtown Weston into a banking desert: the RBC and TD banks on Jane have closed, as did the Scotiabank at Weston and Lawrence. In two years, we will have gone from six branches (and four banks) to two. Only RBC on and BMO, both on Weston Road, remain.

While the big banks have been moving on, money-lenders and high-fee cheque-cashing businesses have been moving in. There are at least 10 payday loan or cheque-cashing places in Weston. Something is wrong with a community when there are more usurers than ice-cream shops.

I’m not usually the sort of guy who says that the government should meddle in business, but in this case, I think they should. Banks are not meeting their social obligations, and the government has a strong moral reason to regulate minimum levels of service—and the muscle to do so.

Being banked is a critical part of being a citizen; even the government pays by cheque and prefers direct deposit. (You can’t collect Ontario Works, for instance, in cash.) Allowing banks to close forces people into the hands of cheque-cashers, who charge about $3, +3% of the value of the cheque: a whopping $33 on a $1000 payday.

Worse, the people who will pay are those least able to: the poor, less-literate, and less mobile. Being gouged by MoneyMart makes a lot more sense when you’re faced with a 90-minute walk or a $6.50 fare and a snowy hour waiting for buses.

And then there are the knock-on, long-term effects. To open an RESP, get financial advice, or save in a TFSA, you need to have a branch. None of it can be done online. Pulling out banks means pushing people to the financial margins, and that will make our community poorer in the long run. You need to be close to a banker to pull ahead.

Of course some of us—those with cars, $100 cellphone plans, and the wherewithal to direct-deposit our infrequent cheques by photograph—we will all be fine. After all, I didn’t know people still use passbooks because I hadn’t stood in line for years.

But you can’t both curse a bank’s Friday lineup and say we don’t need it.

Why a minimum wage of $15 will be good for Weston / Mount Dennis.

Note the more than four years of no increase between 2010 and 2014

The chart above shows the modest proposal to boost the Ontario minimum wage as put forward by the Liberals:

$11.40: today’s minimum wage
$11.60: Oct. 1, 2017
$14: Jan. 1, 2018
$15: Jan. 1, 2019

How much would a $15 hourly wage be as an annual salary? Just under $29,000 for someone working an 8-hour day, 20 days a month for 12 months a year. It’s not exactly high living.

Alleged think-tanks like the Fraser Institute claim that as many as 50,000 people will lose their jobs if the MW is elevated to such lofty heights. The Fraser Institute BTW, is one of the many propaganda arms of big business, generously supported by all of us because it has been allowed to call itself a charity. There are also claims that prices will rise as a result. Even the media seems to be repeating (many false) claims of impending doom without checking the facts.

In 2015 about 1.7 million people in Ontario earned less than $15.00 hourly. Incredibly, that’s just under 30% of the workforce. In Weston / Mount Dennis that percentage is likely considerably higher since we are one of the poorest areas of the city.

What we do know is that unlike the rich, poor people don’t send their money to tax havens. They spend it when they get it and largely on local goods and services. Income and sales tax revenues will actually rise as workers will pay more income tax and many may not need to apply for tax credits – a form of government wage subsidy for employers.

A study done last year, reported in the Huffington Post investigated the effects of raising Wal-Mart wages in the U.S. from $10 an hour to $15. The study concluded that revenue for the giant chain would be reduced by $5 Billion annually. Compared to the total annual revenue of $482 Billion, that works out to a hit of about 1%. In other words, raising wages 33% would increase costs less than 1%. Why then doesn’t Wal Mart raise wages? Share prices and dividends might go down.

From: http://www.canadiansocialresearch.net/minwage.htm

Australia has a similar economy to ours and currently mandates a minimum wage of $18.29 – somehow, the universe has managed to stay in one piece. Perhaps Australians believe in fairness more than we do.

Our readers might want to tell local MPP Laura Albanese that they support increasing the minimum wage.

Use the link here:

Battery Power for UP Express?

The Proterra electric bus.

As reported here earlier this week, Metrolinx is looking at fuel cell technology to provide power for its trains (including UP Express) rather than the current polluting diesel or the already announced GO Train electrification using overhead catenary wires which will also power the Eglinton Crosstown.

Fuel cell technology has been in the news for decades but has yet to demonstrate its long vaunted potential. Hydrogen is the fuel and passes over cells combining with oxygen to directly produce electric power. Since only hydrogen and oxygen are involved, the exhaust is pure water. Companies like Ballard Power have been working on the idea for decades but difficulties include manufacturing the hydrogen (using purified water and electricity), transporting the highly flammable hydrogen gas safely to vehicles and installing fuelling stations where needed.

Exciting news out of Indiana yesterday should give the people at Metrolinx an alternative to fuel cells and catenary wires – battery technology. A battery powered bus has been able to travel 1700 km on a single charge. This rapidly improving technology is sufficiently advanced that it will provide emergency power from a site in Mount Dennis to the Eglinton Crosstown (instead of a generating station). Now it appears that batteries could be the solution to powering commuter transit.

The seven UP Express trains each travel under 900 km daily (it’s 24 km between Union and Pearson) and could charge for the 10 minutes each trip while they wait for passengers at either end. When the service stops between 1:00 am and 5:00 am daily, the trains could fully recharge using cheap electricity.

Fuel cells were partly, a response to poor battery technology. Now they appear to have been sidelined as battery storage continues to improve.

This is what Metrolinx should be investigating.

Yet another idea for Weston.

The video below is a striking illustration of what is possible when intelligent planning is applied to a road that runs through an area.

Jeff Speck: The Classic American Road Diet from Cupola Media on Vimeo.

As measured, the total roadway space required for everything in the video is 56 feet. The current right of way along local roads such as Weston Road, Jane and Lawrence Avenue is at their narrowest, 27 metres or 88.6 feet. Unless I’m mistaken, this would allow the modifications shown in the video with a minimum of 16.3 feet feet for sidewalks on either side. Check out various rights of way on every major street in the city here. According to the video, traffic volume doesn’t suffer and cyclists are then able to operate in safety.

Discuss.

Metrolinx Board Meeting September 14

Source: here.

At Metrolinx’ latest board meeting held yesterday, the local wizard of all things transit, Steve Munro, reported on the proceedings and pertinent highlights are extracted below with my gratuitous comments.

Some enlightened jurisdictions allow the use of a credit card to ‘tap and go’. Not Metrolinx – they’re still trying to fully implement their own in-house card, Presto. Credit card ‘tap and go’ might be available in 2019. Until then at least, the only ‘tap’ game in town is the Presto card.

While there are still plans to electrify GO and UP Express trains, Metrolinx is studying the use of hydrogen fuel cells as a form of power. They’re calling it due diligence – your mileage may vary but I suspect a few trips to Hamburg, Aruba and Dubai (where there are trains powered by fuel cells) might be ‘needed’. One such train in Hamburg is supposed to start operating in December and (oh joy) the Christmas Markets are to die for.

A ‘reconfiguration’ of tracks at Union Station is being considered. This would mean reducing the number of tracks and making platforms wider. Not sure how this would help but because of the huge number of trains coming and going, there may be a need to have East and West annex stations with shuttles to the main station.

Integrating fares across the GTA still seems a long way off although there may be a push towards a discount for people having to access two systems e.g. GO and TTC and eventually, time based fares across the board so that people might pay for a two-hour pass (for example).

The current TTC model costs users the same for one stop or twenty – Steve believes that Metrolinx would like to charge fares by distance travelled. If that system was implemented, it would cost people in the suburbs a lot more to go downtown.

December’s board meeting will discuss integrating UP Express fares into the GO system.

Read Steve’s full report here.

From Outsider Club.

Incidentally, according to the Star, Metrolinx holds about 40% of its meetings in private. They are now promising to tell people when their private meetings will be held and will publish (no doubt suitably redacted) minutes. It was after one of these closed-door meetings that Metrolinx announced the famous two additional stations; one that just happened to be a John Tory request and one in the riding of Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca.

With reference to shedding more light on closed door meetings, Board Chair Bob Prichard managed a straight face when he told the Star, “I’m always in favour of continuous improvement in governance . . . . Our practices are developing, and I think it will be a good evolution in our practice to do that.”

Translation: OK you caught us; we’ll have to find another way of isolating the public from our decisions.

Where in Weston #7 Answer

This one seemed to pose no difficulty and Tasha quickly identified (right pillar by steps) our beautiful Arts and Crafts library as the location of #7.

Weston Library – Decorative outdoor festooning by Toronto Hydro, Bell Canada and Rogers Cable.