A shockingly bad train idea, terrible for Weston

David Collenette, the ‘brains’ behind the under-used, over-priced, executive-class UP Express service, has announced another of his plans: a $19 billion, twice-hourly, high-speed train between Toronto and Windsor. The provincial government made much of it today.Choo choo!

Collenette has two proposals, the cheaper (and slower) of which would put a 250 km/h train on the corridor that runs through Weston. It would run from Union to Pearson, then on to Kitchener, Guelph, London and Windsor. Collenette says the train would be profitable and could be built speedily.

He’s said that before. He was so utterly wrong that he should never be allowed near a cocktail napkin again.

  • The UPX was supposed to be $200 million.  It cost three times that.
  • It was supposed to be running by 2008. It took until 2015.
  • It was supposed to be profitable. It has never been profitable.

 

Moreover, there is already train service to every destination the government has in mind. GO Trains run to Kitchener and Guelph. VIA trains go to London and Windsor. The competition is brutal, too: flights to Windsor are about $150 and take an hour, and the Ontario government has also already announced all-day service to Kitchener and other improvements to regional rail service.

In the unlikely event that this high-speed line ever gets built, it will require undoing much of the work already done on the corridor: “a number of infrastructure upgrades”, in Collenette’s words.

 

 

 

Crosstown Line Update

The Eglinton Crosstown line will not open for another four years but they keep updating their website to give tantalizing looks at the future along with progress to date. Below is a view of Eglinton Avenue showing where the new Mount Dennis Station will be placed.

A sequence of past, present and future images of the Mount Dennis Station site. The Kodak Building is illustrated back in its original position in the 2021 imagining.

Incidentally, the anticipated speed of the Crosstown is illustrated in a graphic on the site.

Where’s the GO and UP Express?

I was on the UP Express a couple of days ago and according to my phone’s GPS feature, we were exceeding 125 km/h at times between Bloor and Weston. Of course that’s not the average speed (probably just over 60 km/h) but pretty impressive when comparing commuter rail track speeds in Canada. For example, the GO train trundles along at an average pace of about 50 km/h between Kitchener and Toronto.

The Crosstown site has also posted a recent ‘Flyover’ video (May 2) of stations along the line in an aerial viewpoint showing how work is progressing at each location.

Watch the video in fullscreen mode for a more detailed view.

UPX bells quieter

InsideToronto reports that the UP Express now has quieter bells.

The provincial transit planning agency relocated the ringing bells, described by residents as a constant dinging, to the middle of all UP trains, approximately 17 in total, and partially concealed them in sound-proof material. They also clarified to train operators when the bells should be triggered.

The bells have caused anger for years, but it is not clear to your correspondent why, apart from legislation, the UPX even has them; as far as I know, there are no level crossings nor easy way to get to the tracks.

Kodak Building 9 interior photographed.

The Kodak recreation building, (officially known as Kodak Building 9) was moved from its foundations last summer. The idea was to create new foundations that the building will return to and become part of the new Mount Dennis Station.

Kodak Building 9 interior. From Crosstown LRT  Twitter. Click for larger image.

It was recently photographed and the worker inside illustrates the awesome size of the building while graffiti still festoons the interior walls.

Read more about last summer’s move here.

Nunziata votes for three-billion-dollar, one-stop subway

Frances Nunziata voted at City Council this week in favour of a wasteful subway.

The Scarborough subway, which will cost $3.5 billion, will have one stop, at the Scarborough Town Centre. It will lead to longer rides, have fewer stops, and be more expensive than better alternatives.

The Scarborough subway was endorsed by Rob Ford. I will say no more.

Weston station faces threats

If you build it, they will go away.

That’s the news Metrolinx delivered this week, when they released “long-delayed” reports that said riders would be so frustrated by Tory’s SmartTrack stops that they would get back in their cars. It’s a conclusion that threatens the Weston GO station, too.

 

Weston has been quite lucky to have both a GO and a UPX stop, but when the Mount Dennis station is finished in 2022, our luck may run out. Like the Weston station, the Mount Dennis station will connect with the GO and the UPX—but in addition, it will have a link with the Eglinton LRT and busses. Will Metrolinx have three GO and UPX stops within 10 km: Weston, Mount Dennis and St. Clair?

This week’s report suggests they might not. Every stop slows down riders and drives them away from the service.

Obviously, there are four options:

  • Closing both the GO and UPX stations
  • Closing the UPX
  • Closing the GO
  • Closing neither

Your correspondent bets that Metrolinx will close the GO station—and would close both if they could. The reasons are clear:

  • GO Trains accelerate and decelerate slowly, so an additional stop causes more inconvenience.
  • Ridership must be down a great deal now that the UPX is cheap
  • Very few people get on the GO in Weston going to Kitchener, and fewer still who would not take the UPX one stop in the wrong direction to Mount Dennis to get on the GO heading out of town.

Two solutions would be an integrated fare or fare by distance, so Westonians could get on the UPX and not be penalized for jumping on another mode of transit at Mount Dennis. Your correspondent doubts very much that Metrolinx will miss a chance to burn Westonians, however.

 

Nunziata still pushing Scarborough one-stop subway

Image from City of Toronto.

In spite of mounting evidence that the proposed ($3.35 billion and counting) one-stop Scarborough subway will be a costly mistake, our councillor is 100% behind the proposal. It’s puzzling since a seven-stop dedicated right of way LRT was already approved and paid for. Unlike the subway, even the operating costs were likely paid for.

This subway project will serve relatively few people and if passed, will be ridiculed for decades to come.

If approved, the vast amount of money needed will pinch every city department’s budget for decades to come and is already an additional 30-year burden (or levy) on our tax bills. It will also starve needier transit projects of federal and provincial funds.

So why is our councillor still insisting on giving her support?

The answer is quite simple. It seems Francis Nunziata must support the Mayor against the interests of the majority in her ward so that she can keep her job as Council Speaker.

Common sense has gone out of the window. This subway was originally sold as a three stop package that went to Sheppard East. As costs estimates ballooned, the route was shortened and two stops were cut.

One would think that before making a decision, Council would carefully listen to experts and make a decision based on the data. Not so. Dogma rules the day at Council whose members actually voted down a motion asking for data driven decisions on transit. Mayor Tory and councillor Nunziata both (along with the usual suspects) rejected that common sense idea. The mayor apparently believes that his re-election hopes lie with this subway and he seems prepared to do and say almost anything to push through the decision before more embarrassing facts emerge.

Few would deny that we need more subways in Toronto. After all, our subway map has changed minimally since the 1960s. However, there are far better candidates for a subway extension than this location. Ms Nunziata, your speaker’s job is not worth the cost to Toronto.

Read this excellent Toronto Star article on the project here.