Metrolinx has released a business case study into four options for completing the link from Mount Dennis to Pearson and has outlined them in this report. The gist seems to be that there’s a weak case in terms of return on investment but that some options are better than others. Incidentally all options seem to be better than the business case for the Scarborough Subway!
Steve Munro is a Toronto blogger who knows more about transit than just about anyone in the city. He has examined the Metrolinx report and has commented on each of the options. Read that here.
Whatever happens, it will probably be another 10 years (and a couple of changes of government) before this project gets under way.
The discount program that knocks $1.50 off fares for commuters transferring from the GO or UPX to the TTC with a Presto card will end on March 31. The provincial government has ended funding for the program, which went over budget.
The program was started by the Liberal government in 2017. Its cancellation may hurt Weston more than most, because our best connection to downtown is on the UPX or GO trains.
The province paid $18.5 million a year to offset the cost of the discount for both transit agencies, but the current Progressive Conservatives say the funding was designed to be temporary. A three-year agreement on the subsidy is set to expire in March 2020.
As time ticks away, 2021 and the opening of the Eglinton Crosstown Line is becoming closer to reality, Metrolinx has released this video of a test run of a new Bombardier-built LRT vehicle leaving the Eglinton Maintenance and Storage facility. The train is shown taking a short jaunt eastwards along Eglinton and across Black Creek Drive.
Metrolinx considered raising fares on the UP Express because it is too successful as a commuter line, according to the Toronto Star.
If you’re new here, a brief recap: the UP Express was designed to be an executive-class ride from the airport to downtown. There were jazz bands, an in-ride magazine, cheese and wine pairings, and a fashion show. I’m not making this up.
It should have been a scandal up there with e-Health and the gas plant bribes.
Everyone said it would lose money, including the private partner and the Auditor General. It went on to lost not just money, but gob-smacking amounts of money—more than $50 per rider.
But, before the line completely bled out, the Liberals dropped fares, making it a swish ride downtown for the proles like you and me. We get first-class service on a cattle-class budget. Unfortunately, the first-class airport passengers get cattle-class service because we get our sweaty pits right in there.
The good news: the UP Express now loses about $6 per rider, instead of $52. That may be because they cut the in-ride magazine, but it’s more likely to be because there are more riders, so the same subsidy is spread out over more people.
Now, according to The Star, Metrolinx was considering raising fares to $20 chase that business-class traveller again (never mind the fact that she is taking an Uber to her hotel). The plan was not—ugh—”actioned” according to the spokesperson The Star spoke to.
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.
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.