Community benefits restored

The provincial government reversed its decision to remove community benefits agreements for major infrastructure projects, including the Eglinton West extension.

CBAs benefit provide avenues to work for people typically left out of the hiring process for construction jobs. They were pioneered in York South–Weston.

Castlepoint Weston issues video

Based on recent development proposals, Weston is about to undergo dramatic change. One proposal deals with the buildings at 1871 and 1885 Weston Road, which are currently occupied by the former Scotiabank branch and the current Weston Park Baptist Church. Read more background here, here, here and here.

The first public consultation for the development was a love-fest, with the church and developer promising a partnership with the community. The second meeting (held virtually) fleshed out the results of the public input and it emerged that in exchange for some goodies such as a performance hall / church, better station entrance, gym, ground floor retail and meeting place, the price of admission would be two very tall apartment towers at 28 and a new precedent-setting 38 storeys.

Perhaps as a result of some negativity and disappointment concerning the height of the apartment towers, Castlepoint has issued a YouTube video video called ‘Weston Park, a Centre for the Community’. The video was created as part of the Official Plan Amendment (“OPA”) and Zoning By-Law (“ZBL”) application submitted to the City of Toronto on October 29, 2021.

Readers can view the video below and comment on the content if watched on YouTube directly.

VIDEO NO LONGER AVAILABLE.

On the one hand, the video is compelling animation of the artist concept images. On the other, there’s no doubt that even the best laid plans can go awry.

In an article published 5 days ago in Renx, a real estate publication, Castlepoint Vice-President Elsa Fancello, said in regard to the Weston project, “We likely won’t do traditional affordable housing on that site. What we’re looking to explore further with WoodGreen (Community Services) is affordable workforce housing that’s almost like rent-geared-to-income for professionals who work at the airport or other nearby industries.”

Follow up: Local blogger Hans Havermann tells me that On December 2nd, he wrote a comment on Castlepoint’s YouTube creation (above) suggesting that the proximity of the development to the upcoming Crosstown Line had been exaggerated on the map used in the video.

Today, (December 5), comments (including his) were turned off.

Can we hope they were exaggerating about the height of the towers too?

Screenshot from Castlepoint’s YouTube video. (Click to enlarge.)

In the latest development (December 7), Hans tells me the map has been amended to show the station in a more realistic location.

The updated station location.

The original video has been deep sixed but the ever alert Mr Havermann has tracked down a version with the updated map.

Oh what a tangled web they weave methinks.

Your move Castlepoint.

Eglinton West LRT options outlined and critiqued.

Option 4; the mostly underground continuation of the Eglinton Crosstown Line. From Metrolinx Business  planning document. Click to enlarge.

The Eglinton Crosstown LRT (soon to be known as Line 5) will begin (or end) at Mount Dennis using the refurbished Kodak recreation building as a station. Readers may remember that the building was temporarily relocated while a new foundation and lower floor were constructed. Much discussion has taken place about connecting Line 5 westward to Pearson Airport and how that would happen. The MPP for Etobicoke Centre, Kinga Surma believes that tunnelling would be the way to go.

Kodak Building 9 in 2012. File. Click to enlarge.

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.

Air Canada wants Ramp Agents.

Pearson Airport is the second largest employment zone in the GTA and working there is a natural fit for Weston and Mount Dennis residents since it’s a short hop away via the UP Express..

Air Canada is advertising full-time jobs for people who can lift repetitively, are able to work nights and who also possess a G or G2 driver’s licence.  The starting pay is minimum wage but they pay benefits, pay for training and provide employees with career development plans.

Interviews will be held on Thursday, September 5 beginning at 10:00 am at 2150 Islington Avenue. Apparently it’s first come, first served.

Get all the details here.

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.

Chicago wants its own UP Express

Screenshot from Chicago Tonight.

It’s an interesting tale of two cities, almost identical in size on opposite sides of the Canada / U.S. border. Chicago, which already has a commuter rail link between its O’Hare Airport and downtown wants to build an express rail service that would be built by the private sector with tickets cheaper than an equivalent Uber fare. Sound familiar?

In the article, Chicago TV Station WTTW reveals the cautionary tale of Toronto’s UP Express, getting most of the facts correct. Read the article and watch the video here.

As an aside, Metrolinx wants to investigate building a passenger rail connection to Pearson Airport by way of the Kitchener line (which runs through Weston) or the Crosstown that will run along Eglinton. In response to Adam’s article on speedy VIA trains, Mike Sullivan pointed out that Metrolinx refuses to allow VIA Rail trains to stop at Weston.

Via desperately wants to stop in Weston. Their trains come from Sarnia, London and Kitchener, and patrons who want to go to the airport have to go all the way to Union and double back, adding about an hour to their trip.

Metrolinx refuses to let them. There are 4 trains per day (two in each direction) and Metrolinx says their dwell time (the time it takes to unload and load passengers) is too long and would interfere with the UP express schedule. They did suggest that when the 4th track is in place maybe things would change.

It may also have to do with the Kitchener part of the trips. Metrolinx wants to be the train of record from Kitchener, and VIA is in competition.

If you aren’t depressed enough, read this Star article about GTA transit planning.

 

UP Express to start earlier from April

The UP Express at Weston Station. (file)

The UP Express is Weston’s rapid portal to the Airport (11 minutes) or downtown (14 minutes). Metrolinx has announced that beginning in April the service will begin earlier by adding two trains to the beginning of the current schedule. The first train to the airport will leave 35 minutes earlier at 5:09 instead of 5:44.

Likewise, trains to Union Station should begin earlier with the first leaving Weston for downtown at around 5:03.

The service has become wildly popular with an average of 300,000 trips per month thanks to a dramatic fare reduction in March 2016 and a subsequent $1.50 fare subsidy announced last October for transfers to or from transit agencies such as GO or TTC.

Incidentally, in a 2013 report produced for Metrolinx, passenger numbers were never anticipated to reach their current levels. The report predicted it would take until 2031 before numbers would rise to 245,000 monthly trips.