Weston Farmers Market nearly didn’t happen this year.

The Weston Farmers Market was promised that its brand new location in the Weston Community Hub would be ready for the 2018 season. Unfortunately, owing to construction delays, the site is not ready.

As a result, Weston Village BIA Chair, Masum Hossain requested the use of the UP Express parking lot for one more year. Metrolinx gave a firm no, stating that lower fares, have boosted passenger numbers and greatly increased the demand for parking. Compounding the problem, the Weston Park Baptist Church which leases its parking lot to Metrolinx on weekdays, closes its own lot to the general public on weekends.

Until three weeks ago, there was a standoff. Masum then asked local MPP Laura Albanese to see what she could do. Ms Albanese was somehow able to appeal to the better nature of Metrolinx and as a result, the market will occupy the UP Express lot for one more year. Without this intervention, Masum assures me that the Weston Farmers Market could not have operated in 2018.

The BIA has hired a new market manager. She is experienced and dynamic corporate event manager, Jennifer Forde who also happens to perform the same duties for Nathan Phillips Square Farmers Market. Jennifer is hoping to expand the customer and vendor base of our market so keep coming back to check out the new stalls in the weeks to come.

Brand new market manager Jennifer Forde with BIA chair Masum Hossain at the first Weston Farmers Market of 2018.

One familiar face was missing this week, that of Joe Gaeta of Gaeta Farms. Joe comes up from Beamsville every week but mechanical issues caused him to miss opening day.

Market stalwart, Joe Gaeta stands beside his favourite bougainvillea. (file)

Correction: In the article, I spelled Masum Hossain’s name incorrectly. This has been corrected and apologies to Mr. Hossain for the error.

What about gentrification?

From The Economist.
Gentrification holds both a promise and a threat, depending on who you talk to.

The gentrification of an area, once under way, seems to be an inevitable and unstoppable process once wealthier people move in. This causes rising prices that drive a significant number of people away – perhaps some of the area’s more vibrant members. At least that’s the theory pushed by the left. On the other hand, gentrification proponents say that non-gentrified communities miss out on cleaner, better surroundings with people stuck in poverty while crime levels rise.

Gentrification is hard to study. If someone moves away, how do we know that gentrification is the cause? All neighbourhoods have a ‘churn’ with people arriving and leaving for various reasons. We do know that change comes slowly to neighbourhoods.
Toronto’s downtown area is expanding and gentrification of adjacent areas has followed. Forty years ago, the Junction was an artistic haven with cheap rents and property because of  its grimy industry and toxic residues in the soil. It’s been cleaned up since and is a now hot area. Bloor West Village the same. Mount Dennis with its vibrant residents’ association, new Crosstown Station and Net Zero initiative may be next.
Once gentrification starts in an area, more people want to live there and demand drives up prices. Is there a danger of this in Weston / Mount Dennis? A review of the literature on gentrification found that,
New fixed-rail transit has a generally positive effect on both residential and commercial property values, but its impact varies substantially according to context.
There are signs of greater investment since the UP Express became an affordable commuter train.  How then, can we keep people from being forced out as prices rise?
There is a fair amount of subsidized housing in our area. This is unlikely to change. In addition there are affordable rental apartments. Elsewhere, rent control keeps accommodation costs down but may stifle new housing.
 In a study of Philadelphia neighbourhoods, Richard Florida found that there are benefits to gentrification that are enjoyed by all but the poor and vulnerable. He also found that there are fairly unstoppable market forces behind gentrification when it occurs and the secret to minimizing damage is to ensure that the most vulnerable are still able to access housing and work opportunities and that their micro neighbourhoods are well maintained.
If the secret is to have a variety of housing and work options, it doesn’t help to have penny pinching councillors (as we do out in the boonies) who make it their business to keep taxes down and starve initiatives that help poor people.
Here’s an example. The expansion of Woodbine Racetrack was recently under discussion at council. More gambling will bring problems to the community. A motion was put forward to ameliorate the negative effects by requiring that the new gambling facility install a daycare for employees and also hire a percentage of local residents. Here are two motions put forward:
1. OGGLP provide a maximum of $5 million to develop and equip a child care centre on site or within the vicinity land and work with the Children’s Services division in recruiting a not for profit operator for the site and request that the selected operator provide extended hours of operation and provide casino employees with priority access to the centre.
The motion carried but local councillor Mike Ford voted against it.

3 – Motion to Amend Item moved by Councillor Joe Mihevc (Lost)

That City Council amend the Community Benefits Agreement with the Ontario Gaming Greater Toronto Area Limited Partnership set out in Attachment 1, as amended, in accordance with the following:

a. amendments to the employment and hiring terms to provide that:

i. OGGLP will hire a minimum of 50 percent new hires through social or local hiring, of which at least half must be local hiring; and

ii. after two years of operation, at least 60 percent of employees shall have full-time employment;

This motion lost narrowly by 19 to 23. Guess who voted against that? Local Councillors Mike Ford,  Vincent Crisanti, and yes, our own Frances Nunziata.
It’s voting like this that does not help vulnerable residents.
Here’s another example; living in a rooming house is probably quite cheap but the city fights rooming houses and accommodations that don’t fit into the middle class mindset e.g. the alleged illegal dwellings above the Weston Station restaurant.  Surely there is a way for these accommodations to be cleaned up, made safe and licensed – especially when housing is in such short supply.
If we had affordable housing spread evenly throughout the city, gentrification would not be an issue. The city did help recently with a ban on Airbnb basement apartments but unless some brave city or provincial politicians enact legislation to insert affordable housing in every area of the city, we’re going to be stuck with the present model of an expanding gentrified zone spreading out from the core and no amount of protests and marches will stop that.
The left needs to get its act together and figure out a way to embrace the positive benefits of gentrification without allowing it to drive people out of the area. They haven’t done that yet. The right needs to understand that cutting services to the poor simply entrenches poverty and the consequential crime that comes when people have no route to prosperity.
Finally, a well managed community has room for everyone regardless of income or personal circumstance. The mark of a good society (and good people) is how well it takes care of its most vulnerable.

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.

 

VIA does 121 through Weston Station

A reader alerted me to a danger at the Weston Station: twice daily, the VIA train goes through without slowing down—and boy, is it going fast. According to a  spokesperson, the VIA train is going 121 km/h (75 mph)–a speed that was “determined by the railway owner”.

At this speed, the train generates a lot of slipstream, and it is passing close to passengers. Our reader said it leaves “a huge swirl of dust, newspapers, and plastic bags. A child, or pet [could] be hurled against the platform columns or on to another platform”.

The spokesperson said that VIA has not received any complaints about the trains’ speed, but concerned residents can leave a comment and contact VIA Rail’s customer relations department at customer_relations@viarail.ca.

From Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

$3 fares on UPX and GO–if Liberals are elected

The provincial Liberals are promising a huge drop in UPX and GO Train fares for Westonians if they are reëlected this summer. Fares on all commuter trains will drop to $3, with the subsidy coming from carbon cap-and-trade revenues. PRESTO card users may also be able to keep the TTC discount, dropping a mixed-mode UPX-and-subway trip to downtown to about $5.¹

This would make Weston an even more enormously attractive place to live: we would have the nicest, fastest, and cheapest train service to downtown. UPX fares would match subway fares, but the plebes from Bloor West will have to make do with armpit views and sticky NOWs, while we read in-ride magazines on executive-class loungers.

The proposed provincial budget also promises, again, “electrified service on core segments, including the Union Pearson (UP) Express”.

Of course, there’s a catch: this is an election-year budget, and won’t be passed until after the polls in June, and only if the Liberals win.


¹ This is hellaciously complicated. To get the discount, you need to tap on the right machine. “When you are taking UP Express between Union Station and Bloor or Weston stations, you need to tap on and off the green PRESTO devices to get the discount. When you are taking UP Express to or from Union Station and Pearson Airport, you need to tap on and off the silver PRESTO devices to get the discount.”²

² The silver machines are not silver. They are silver and green. The green machines are not green. They are green and silver. This is the stupidest shit I’ve ever seen. Why are there two kinds? If there is a good reason, why do they look the same? Christ almighty. Am I the only person who thinks this is insane?

 

CityTV report on 1730 and 1736 Weston Road

A screen shot from the CityTV article.

If there was evidence needed of gentrification in Weston, this next item might provide some.

CityTV did a story on Thursday, March 29 about the building at 1730 Weston Road where it seems the landlord, Westhaven Property Management Inc., has issued 60-day notice to tenants, many of whom are on year-to-year leases. There are apparently no plans to renovate or demolish and replace 1730 Weston Road.

The building right next door at 1736 Weston Road is home to Grace Restoration Ministries and has a notice in the front window stating that the site will be redeveloped.

Councillor Nunziata makes an appearance at the end of the news segment but provides little comfort to tenants, basically saying that if the building does get redeveloped, the new one must have retail on the ground floor or else she won’t support it.

Watch the video here.

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.