Clean Train Coalition Protest

Tomorrow morning at 8:30 a.m. Toronto’s Clean Train Coalition is organizing a protest outside the Central YMCA (20 Grosvenor St. 2 blocks north of College). This is to express opposition to the likelihood of 140 diesel trains running through Weston every day once the Airport Link is built. Currently the line is used only 4 hours daily.

For cynical people such as myself, it seems as if Metrolinx is playing this game both ways and their logic is faulty. On the one hand it has recommended electrification of the route. On the other, it has already purchased the diesel locomotives for the route and so electrification is planned for sometime in the future. According to Metrolinx, electrification takes a long time, is very expensive and besides, they want the line to be ready for the 2015 PanAm games in spite of the fact that athletes and officials will travel by bus on dedicated lanes. Weston Community Coalition has more details in their latest update.

Weston bus threatened for no reason

The TTC made a mathematical mistake when it put the 59 Maple Leaf weekend route on the chopping block, according to the influential transit pundit Steve Munro.

To meet the demands of Rob Ford’s new budget, the TTC wanted to increase fares and decrease service. Tokens were to go up 10¢, and nighttime and weekend routes were to be trimmed. The only bus that runs through Weston, the 59 Maple Leaf, was to lose service after 10 pm on weeknights and 7 pm on weekends.

But now it seems that the Maple Leaf weekend bus should never have been on the list.  Munro says:

59 Maple Leaf: Weekday late evening service carries 14.3 boardings/hour,  not 9.5 as stated by the TTC.  The calculation appears to have been done as if there were 3 buses on the route, not 2.  Saturday early evening service carries 16.5 boardings/hour while Sunday early evening service carries 27.0!  Neither of these meets the criterion for a service cut. [My emphasis]

The TTC’s criterion for a cut is 15 riders per hour. The weekday service, then, is very close to being saved, and the weekend service should not have been considered.

Steve Munro is a very influential and very knowledgeable transit blogger and pundit who is regularly quoted in major media. He says of the report:

The TTC’s analysis shows the hallmarks of something pulled together quickly as a way to satisfy a demand for cuts without taking care to look at what is happening or to validate the accuracy of the calculations.

The TTC has backed down on its plans to cut service and raise fares—for now. According to Munro, they’re likely taking a pause in the name of propriety.

Proposed Service cuts on “under performing” TTC routes have been put off for a few weeks while politicians cover their butts, “consult” their constituents, and then reluctantly approve management proposals.

Maple Leaf bus to be trimmed

The Maple Leaf bus route, which runs through Weston, will have reduced nighttime service under the new city budget.

The new budget includes several proposed changes to the TTC. Token fares and Metropasses will be more expensive, and some less-used routes will be cut.

The TTC recommends eliminating service on the 59 Maple Leaf route after 7 pm on weekends and after 10 pm on weeknights. Presently, the bus runs every half-an-hour until 1 am. If the recommendations are enacted, 14 buses will be eliminated on weekday nights and 13 will be eliminated on Saturdays and Sundays.

Route 59 runs from Lawrence West Station on the Spadina Line to Weston Road. It goes through Weston on Church and Gary/Oak streets. During the morning rush hour, it runs every 11 minutes; during the evening rush hour, it runs every 20. After 7 pm and on weekends, service is reduced to every half an hour.

Ford backtracks on tracks to Weston

Rob Ford has had a change of heart about building only subways.

According to news reports, Metrolinx is negotiating with the mayor’s office to ensure that the Eglinton light rail line will be built. Toronto Life says “The line is too important to Metrolinx’s plans for the region to let die”.

The Eglinton LRT would benefit the neighbourhood in several ways. First, the TTC wanted to build a carhouse on the grounds of the old Kodak plant, which has been closed for several years. Second, the track would serve Mt Dennis at two stops: at the intersections of Eglinton with Jane and with Weston Rd. The LRT would also likely interface with the Georgetown GO line.

Mt Dennis residents have pushed for an underground station, and were supported in their action by Frances Nunziata, who said

“I think tunnelling is the best option. I know it’s going to cost more but if you’re going to do it, do it right….  We support the Eglinton line but why should everything be dumped in our community?”

Transit pundit Steve Munro concurs. He said “The section through Mt. Dennis, as currently designed, is quite intrusive.  Considering the amount we will spend on the tunnel from Black Creek to Leaside, saying that an underground route at Weston Road is “too expensive” is hard to swallow.”

The TTC had refused to build underground, but with Ford’s stated goals of building subways, and Nunziata’s new influence at City Hall, there may be new momentum.

Weston surviving, threatened, report says

Toronto is a feudal city, in which the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, says a widely-publicized report from the Cities Centre of University of Toronto. Weston and Pelmo are among few areas in the whole city that have remained middle class, but growing income disparity threatens all the inner suburbs, the author, J. David Hulchanski, says.

The report, “Three Cities within Toronto” says that poverty has moved from the downtown to the edges of the city, and into the northwestern and northeastern suburbs in particular. The middle class is disappearing: fewer than 1 in 3 households is middle-income, down from 2 in 3 in 1970.

Hulchanski compares the Toronto of 1970 to the Toronto of 2005 and extrapolates into the future. 35 years ago, neighbourhoods were mostly middle class, with a tight spread around the middle income. A few places were richer, and a few were poorer, but there were few large disparities.

The Toronto of 2005 is much different.  A few areas have become richer, but the middle class has slipped in comparative income and Toronto has become bifurcated: the rich live in an upside-down T along the subway. The poor live in the rest of the city. The author sees this trend continuing into the future. Much more of the city will become poor; some of it will become rich. Weston, according to the maps, will not be fortunate.

Weston resists income disparity
Weston becomes poor by 2025

The author’s views should be studied cautiously, of course. First, it is not clear why Weston will fall from middle income to poor. The author does not mention Weston, and none of his clear assumptions seem to apply to our town, even using his own data.  His conclusion is based on the the assumption that changes that have occurred will continue. Yet Weston has not yet slipped at all, so it is not clear from his report, why it would begin to do so.

Second, the author is adamant that this is not an inevitable change. Income distribution programs, a more equitable distribution of low-income housing, and policies that foster growth among the poorest classes can slow and reverse the unpleasant scenario he describes.

The author also says “Implementation of the Transit City plan and the Tower Neighbourhood Renewal initiative are also essential for making [the poorer neighbourhood] desirable for both its residents and for a broader socioeconomic mix of households. The segregation of the city by socio-economic status need not continue. It can be slowed and reversed.” Alas, both these programs are threatened by the Ford administration.

Ford Says Eglinton Subway Next Priority after Sheppard

Rob Ford has personally responded to a WestonWeb editorial by saying that Transit City is not dead but is being refocussed underground. According to the Mayor, his first priority is to build a subway on Sheppard Avenue. His second is the Eglinton line, and it will open by 2020.  Ford says that he has asked the TTC to present plans that will achieve these goals.

This appears to be the first time that Mayor Ford has commented on specific Transit City priorities and on the Eglinton line in particular.

Mayor Ford’s correspondence finally brings some good news for Weston residents. We will have to see whether or not the line will reach Weston and where stations will be located, but at least we are included in transportation planning.