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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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?
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.
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.
The Toronto Parking Authority is asking permission to make the parking lot at 4 Rosemount a city pay-and-display lot for the next year, with fees of $1 an hour or $5 for 12 hours. Revenue will be split between the city and the lot’s owners.
Anecdotally, your correspondent has found that lot to be quite busy, though whether that is from traffic to the local businesses or from overflow parking for the train station, I couldn’t say.
Making the lot paid-for may have the undesirable effect of spilling parked cars out onto nearby streets. The TPA says that “certain on-street parking restrictions [should] also be implemented.”
The city is asking for a pilot, which, if successful after 12 months, could be extended.
There is an old saying that perception is everything. There is a widespread set of beliefs about our corner of Toronto. Let’s see where perception meets reality. Readers are invited to share their own observations on these topics.
Myth #1: Weston / Mount Dennis is a high crime area
People are notoriously poor at assessing personal risk. When a murder occurs such as the recent stabbing in the Shoppers Drug Mart parking lot, it (quite naturally) shakes up the community. Because we know the area well and may have at some time walked through that parking lot, it’s only human to imagine that we’re personally at risk from such seemingly unpredictable occurrences.
How safe are we? The answer is very safe. Killings are rarely random and most murder victims have some kind of relationship with their killer. Is the average person at risk of being murdered in Weston? To put it simply, no. Riding in a car, crossing the road or climbing a ladder exposes us to far more risk of death or injury.
An intelligent reaction to such tragic deaths is important. The involvement of police and politicians working with residents in finding solutions to criminal behaviour is essential. If there is a shortage of police on duty, that should be changed – although if 12 Division can only muster seven officers and two traffic officers during one shift (it would be nice to know the time of day), clearly either the police are understaffed or those who do the staffing feel that crime levels warrant such small numbers.
In 2011 we learned that there is considerable overlap in police shifts suggesting that there is still room to maximize police resources.
The press tends to sensationalize criminal behaviour and treat it in isolation rather than look for underlying causes and trends. There is a theory that since we have so many press outlets in Toronto, crime is emphasized more and perceptions are distorted. As a suburb of Canada’s largest city (and the third largest in North America) we do have crime. Incidentally, Weston’s crime rate is no higher than other areas of Toronto which is by the way, the safest major city in North America. When I talk to American friends, they are always astonished that our murder rate is so low. Toronto’s annual murder rate would be a considered a bad month in comparably-sized Chicago.
Myth #2: Weston / Mount Dennis is out in the boonies.
If a short commute to a job downtown or at Pearson Airport is a good thing, Weston is better off than many inner suburbs. It’s only 14 minutes to downtown by UP Express or GO train and a combination TTC/GO-UPX fare is now $1.50 cheaper. Pearson Airport and Bloor Stations are an even quicker commute. Several intersecting bus routes already make Weston a transit hub and the TTC is looking at providing more express buses.
If you like to take in a professional sports game, have a downtown night out or visit the second largest theatre district in North America, UPX trains will take you there and back quickly at all hours.
The new Eglinton Crosstown will open in 2021 providing welcome rapid access to mid-town places like Yonge and Eglinton from Weston GO / UPX Station and the beautiful new Mount Dennis Station. Contrary to rumours, Weston Station is not likely to close once the Eglinton Crosstown opens as it’s far too valuable a piece of infrastructure and will form a stop on any new commuter line.
Although Toronto’s roads are increasingly blocked, we have rapid access to highways 401, 409, 400 and 427.
Myth #3: Weston / Mount Dennis is all apartment towers / there’s nowhere decent to live.
Architecturally, Weston Village, much dating from the early 20th Century, has streets full of residential gems that have somehow survived demolition. Many have been restored to their former splendour along quiet leafy avenues.
Nevertheless, we do have more than our fair share of awful apartment buildings. They were put up decades ago by unscrupulous developers with a wink and a nod from planners and politicians. Are those days over? Planning guidelines written to preserve the character of Weston and Mount Dennis are routinely ignored. We’ll see what happens once the developer friendly Ontario Municipal Board loses its grip on the building process.
Dilapidated rental units close to our newer transit options will find it in their own interest to renovate and improve their properties. That process is well under way.
Hopefully our current politicians along with a revamped approval process will oversee a better quality of new development than in the past.
Myth #4: There’s no natural beauty in Weston / Mount Dennis.
There are few suburbs in Toronto where you can walk to such a variety of beautiful wide open parkland as we have here. Our riverside parks stretching along the Humber are a wildlife and landscape photographer’s dream. There are likewise few places in any city where you can regularly see deer, rabbits, chipmunks, groundhogs, foxes, coyotes, mink and beaver to name but a few. Birds are also plentiful ranging from red-tailed hawks, owls and woodpeckers to chickadees and tiny humming birds in summer.
Fishing for Atlantic salmon or Lake Ontario trout is a twice annual activity that would cost a small fortune in other countries. Our parks are able to accommodate large family picnics and there are also places for quiet contemplation. Although parkland along the Humber could still use better accessibility (ignored by Council for more than a decade now), there are parts of Weston where there is nothing but nature.
Myth #5: There’s nowhere to eat – restaurants and pubs.
We have many eating places in Weston and while some are very successful, sadly others aren’t patronized as well as they might be. Toronto is known for its huge variety of ethnic restaurants but some local eateries are sadly unpatronized or denied licenses because of vocal nimby groups. On the positive side, successes are growing; one only needs to look at the new P&M, Zeal Burger, Perfect Blend and SuperCoffee to see evidence of people supporting food outlets that have invested in our community. Sadly, the hoops that these new businesses have to jump through are many. It would help if our councillor could ease and speed up the costly and time consuming bureaucratic processes that plague new business startups. Rumour has it that Perfect Blend coffee shop on Weston Road had to delay opening for two years while awaiting various approvals.
So there we have it; there’s a lot more to Weston and Mount Dennis than people give us credit for and the best is yet to come.