Ford drives the gravy train

Doug Ford’s government has announced plans to mess with transit in Toronto. Again.

This time, instead of as well as messing up the Scarborough subway, they’re going to mess up the Eglinton West LRT in Mount Dennis.

In a letter to the city, the province said they would like to bury the Eglinton West Extension, which will go from Mount Dennis to the airport. They also say that this had never been considered before.

This, of course, is nonsense. It’s astonishing nonsense. It’s mental. It boggles my mind to think that:

  1. The province thinks they have a great idea—bury the trains—that nobody has thought of before.
  2. They couldn’t be bothered to google to see that it’s a terrible idea—and had already been considered.

In a subsequent letter, the province said so. (They did not explain, however, how a part-time blogger knew more about transit planning than the Ministry of Transportation.)

Where this leaves us with respect to transit planning is anyone’s guess. But the Globe has a few choice things to say about the letters:

They reveal a provincial blueprint that will result in less new transit, built more slowly and more expensively.

What’s more, they suggest a provincial scheme so ill-considered it could have been developed between courses of a boozy lunch, and so thin it could fit on the back of a cocktail napkin.

What does the province want? Basically, to rip up years of Toronto Transit Commission planning and restart at zero.

 

GO expansion could lead to huge changes

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:

  • Electrified
  • 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?)

Service would be improved between Union and Bramalea on the Kitchener Line

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.

 

Just another reason for optimism

Marion from the BIA sent along a bit of news I hadn’t heard: the Greater Toronto Airports Authority is working on a plan to make the Pearson airport area “Union Station West”—a second major hub for jobs and transit.

According to the GTAA, the airport alone employs 49,000 people, and the number is growing very fast. A further 250,000 people work in the area, making it the second-largest employment zone in Canada.¹ Yet almost 95% of the workers get there by car—and it’s a death zone for pedestrians, cyclists, and transit users.

The GTAA is looking to fix that by building Toronto’s second major transit hub, just outside Terminals 1 and 3. This should improve commutes, draw employers, and smooth transit through the region.

What business is this of WestonWeb? Have a look at the map.

One of the seven transit routes planned to link up at Union Station West² currently makes it there: the UPX. We have a monopoly on commuter rail. Better, though: Three of the seven planned lines will stop in Weston or Mount Dennis.

Sure, it’s a dream right now, but as Union Station West grows, Weston and Mount Dennis are perfectly placed to be bedroom communities. A quick hop on a comfy, uncongested train could take you to your job uptown.


¹ I have my doubts about that last bit.

² They’re going to need another name.

Metrolinx Update

Here’s a couple of new videos from Metrolinx regarding the Crosstown Line that will speed up public transit along Eglinton and connect to GO and the UP Express lines at Mount Dennis. The first shows some nice drone footage of the new maintenance buildings as well as the Kodak #9 building that will serve as the station entrance.


The second video shows a station mock-up that apparently is a full-size example of a typical station on the Crosstown Line. I asked Metrolinx’s community relations people about the station, if visits could be arranged, where it is and so on. I began my inquiries last Friday but as yet, have yet to get an answer. I had to send their CR people a link to the video as they hadn’t heard of the station’s existence.

Look for an update once details are provided.

Update, Monday June 25: I received an answer from Suniya Kukaswadia, Metrolinx’s Senior Advisor, Media Relations & Issues Management answering my questions:

1)     Where is the replica?

The purpose of the mock up station is to test materials and building methods prior to the actual build of the stations. The mock up is located at the Crosslinx warehouse and staging facility at Caledonia and Lawrence.

2)     Will you we be offering media tours of it?

Currently the mock up build is still a work in progress, and is not available for media visits. We would like to start media visits in the near future when the mock up is complete.

3)     Will members of the public be able to see it?
We are not currently in a position to provide public access but hope to be in the coming months.

Eglinton closed between Black Creek and Weston this weekend.

That’s pretty much it.

According to M.P.P. Laura Albanese,

  • This work is scheduled between Saturday March 24th and Sunday March 25th, 2018 
  • The work will occur from 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. 
  • Eglinton Avenue West will be closed from Saturday March 24 at 6:00 a.m. to Sunday March 25 at 8:00 p.m.
  • Work may be rescheduled due to weather conditions or unforeseen circumstances.

For more details, read this.