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.

Electric bus on Jane

Jane Street buses can be packed and infrequent—but we do get a bit of a treat. The TTC is running its first all-electric bus on 35 Jane.

The TTC is spending $140 million on 60 electric buses that should start running by early 2020. The bus on Jane is from one of the three vendors being tested.

electric bus
Photo from the TTC

The bus has a range of about 200 km, and each trip on Jane is about 78 km. The recharge time is about three hours.

 

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.

 

First LRT arrives at Crosstown Storage Facility

As 2021 draws near, the components of the Eglinton Crosstown Line are falling into place. CBC has a video of the train actually on a track (in Kingston last year).

The train will no doubt be a feature of the storage facility’s upcoming open house (part of the Doors Open event) on Saturday May 25.

From the Doors Open Site:

Building Description

For the first time ever, public are invited to take a peek behind the doors of the Eglinton Maintenance and Storage Facility (EMSF). It houses the Crosstown Light Rail Vehicles (LRVs) where they are inspected, cleaned and maintained. Construction on the facility began in 2016, and was completed in October 2018. Light rail vehicles began to arrive in January 2019. The facility will initially be home to 76 light rail vehicles, with capacity to store 135 as service levels increase to meet future demand. The main building is built to LEED Silver certification, and includes high energy and water efficiency, green roofs, solar reflective paving, and vehicle charging stations for electric vehicles.

 

Visitor Experience

Join Eglinton Maintenance and Storage Facility on Saturday, May 25th for Doors Open, presented by Metrolinx and Crosslinx Transit Solutions. Come by for a tour of this world class facility, step into a brand new light rail vehicle and check out the evolution of the Crosstown project through an interactive display! UrbanArts has partnered with Crosslinx Transit Solutions to provide interactive programming and entertainment in the main parking lot of the facility. There will be free children’s activities, live music and refreshments for purchase.

 

Photography / Filming

Interior photography permitted, without tripod
Interior filming permitted, without tripod

 

Accessibility Notes

Some uneven ground due to rails.

 

Date: Saturday May 25. 10:00 am – 5:00 pm.

Address: 85 Industry St., Toronto ON, M6M 4L5

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.

The city has some questions for Doug Ford

I’m no trainspotter, but I’ve lived Toronto for long enough to know that the perfect has long been the enemy of good transit—buses get replaced by imaginary subways, replaced in turn by very real budgets, which force the piecemeal return to buses, and LRTs almost never get built.

So when the Ford Conservative government said that they had some really great plans for the Eglinton LRT, I sighed. Ford wants to put the proposed western section of the LRT underground instead of in dedicated lanes—at (at least) twice the price. His plan would also, not coincidentally, bring a subway to Etobicoke, his old stomping grounds.

Eglinton West map
From Metrolinx

The city has some questions about this ‘plan’, and quite a few of them concern Mount Denizens. But oddly, the questions actually aren’t that interesting. They are very basic. That they have to be asked is interesting.

The city wants to know—I kid you not— “How many stations are proposed and where”?  They would mind finding out a few other pretty fundamental things, like:

  • Will the service levels and fare be comparable to the Eglinton Crosstown LRT?
    • i.e. How much is this going to cost?
  • Has the design taken into account necessary facilities for passenger transfers to and from TTC buses and streetcars?
    • i.e. Have you planned stations at all? At all?
  • Metrolinx has previously recommended an at-grade LRT for the Eglinton West LRT; what new information has Metrolinx considered that supports a tunneled option?
    • i.e. Why are you doing this?

I’m going to take the PCs at their word and believe they actually do want to build transit and not just stall it by proposing money holes they know can never be filled in.

If the PCs were being cynical, I’d be in some ways be happier, though. Cynical plans are still plans–but the PCs don’t seem to have one at all.

It’s  depressing that the Ford administration thinks its napkin sketches are better than maps and blueprints drawn by experts in consultation with communities.

It will takes years for the mess to be sorted out. Again. In the meantime, we’ll still have buses.