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.

Agenda posted for Etobicoke York meeting

The city has posted the agenda for the next Etobicoke York Community Council meeting, and there are three items of interest to Westonians.

Council will reconsider the application to demolish the Ward Broome building at 2431 Weston Rd. The initial proposal went all the way to City Council before Frances Nunziata called it back for a second look after residents complained about losing another property along a road with many vacant lots.

Community Council will also consider two traffic-related proposals. The first is to remove the “No Parking” signs along the south end of Uphill Ave between Woodward and Church and replace them with “No Stopping” signs. Uphill Ave runs right beside the Humber River Hospital, and parking on site is very expensive. Oddly, people with disabled parking permits choosing to walk in rather than pay.

It is currently illegal to stop on the north end of Uphill Ave. According to the staff report, until the “No Stopping” signs were put up, people with disabled permits had been parking there and obstructing traffic. They have now moved south and “Staff believes [sic] that the motorists parking in this area
of Uphill Avenue are avoiding paying for the available parking in the hospital lot and walking the extra distance to avoid parking charges.” The staff report does not mention the odd fact that people who have been issued disabled permits are able to walk 150m uphill to the hospital, and do so often enough that residents have noticed and complained. Your humble reporter has feelings about this.

Community council will also consider dropping the speed limit on Vimy Ave from 50 to 40 km/h. City staff say that the average speed along Vimy is actually only 35 km/h, and that the street does not meet the technical criteria to have its limit lowered. Nonetheless, they recommend dropping the limit since Vimy is the only street within Weston with a limit higher than 40.

In the past, Community Council has occasionally overruled staff recommendations.

Metrolinx says no to electric trains

My grandfather went to work by electric train beginning in 1904. It was a wonder of the day with far less noise and pollution than steam trains. More than a century later, electric trains are even more efficient and are used in jurisdictions all over the world where clean, fast and quiet transportation is a priority. Quite simply, electric trains are quiet, efficient and far less polluting than any other mode of transportation except the bicycle. They are faster too, and can regenerate power when braking. Diesel is recognized to be noisier and more polluting although electrifying a rail line is an added cost.

More than 100 years later, Metrolinx is in the late stages of negotiations with a California counterpart (Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit) to purchase up to 18 Japanese built diesel powered locomotives for the route from Union Station to Pearson Airport scheduled for opening in 2015. This is in spite of a study forced on Metrolinx by politicians after a public outcry over plans to send dozens of noisy, polluting diesels through the heart of Weston every day. The electrification study report will be released in the middle of this month and Metrolinx will make a decision January 26th, for or against electrification based on the report’s findings.

Cynical souls like myself think that this is a done deal and that Metrolinx will claim that electrification will be too expensive, take too long (the two-week 2015 Pan-American Games again) and that their trains really aren’t that polluting. They might also do the right thing and electrify the airport link as a pilot study for the eventual conversion of the whole GO railway system (also under study). This is without even considering the thousands of jobs that could be created locally by Canadian manufacturing companies. We’ll see. In the meantime, the Clean Train Coalition is hoping that people will let the Premier and other elected representatives know how they feel. They have the support of local MPP Laura Albanese and recently delivered to the Ontario Legislature a petition with over ten-thousand names in support of electrification. The Clean Train Coalition is holding a general meeting this Thursday, January 6, between 6:30 to 9:00 p.m. at the Perth Davenport Neighbourhood Centre; 1900 Davenport Ave (at Symington Ave) and invite all interested people to attend. Refreshments will be served.

Serious fire in Weston

The holidays were ruined for a family in Weston. There was a serious fire at 5 Weston Downs Ave, which is north of Oak St, in the subdivision behind the Superstore.

A reader sent in a report. She says that “It was a major fire, [but] thankfully no one was hurt…. Eight fire trucks, two police cars, and then Hydro and Enbridge showed up. The owners were shaken up.  However I do not know how the fire started.”

The fire was over by 1 am Thursday night, when salt trucks arrived to cover the icy patches left by the fire trucks.

There was little visible damage on the outside of the house, though there had obviously been an incident. The fascia was falling out in several places, the doors were open even though it was cold out, and there were patches of salt and sand on the road outside. Unfortunately, the house also holds a home daycare; the residents may face a double-whammy of damage to their home and lost income from their business.

Four arrested in shootings at Queens and Jane

Four young men have been arrested for a shooting on Christmas Eve on the edge of Weston. The men face a total of 43 charges.

Police responded to reports of shots being fired at around 11:40 at the intersection of Queens Dr and Jane St. They appear to have  immediately apprehended the four men. Henry Asiamah, Brendan Clayton, Mukhtar Mohamed, and Mohamed Mohamud were each charged with a number of serious weapons offenses, including possession of a restricted firearm, carrying a concealed weapon, and discharging a firearm to endanger life.

Henry Asiamah and Mohamed Mohamud have been in trouble with the law before; they were also charged with being in violation of a prohibition order. Mohamud faces additional charges for possession of marijuana.

Weston community services to be slashed

According to InsideToronto, some of Weston’s community service agencies are facing deep cuts that will seriously impede their ability to help newcomers.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) is cutting a large part of the budget for three Weston-area agencies: Northwood Neighbourhood Services, the Centre for Spanish-Speaking Peoples, and the York-Weston Community Services Centre.

“The impact will be huge for sure,” agreed Azaria Wolday, Settlement Manager for Northwood. His agency opened in 1982 and has been receiving CIC funding since 1986, with it now accounting for approximately 30 per cent of Northwood’s operating budget.

Northwood Neighbourhood Services is at the Crossroads Plaza, beside Jolly Restaurant.

CIC also cut funding for separate reasons to the Centre for Spanish Speaking [sic] Peoples on Jane Street near Hwy. 401 and the York-Weston Community Services Centre, she said. The latter agency on Weston Road, which also housed a Southern Sudanese settlement organization, shut down this past fall after losing its government funding.

“So the impact in York South-Weston is enormous,” said Newrick. CIC funding covers approximately 40 per cent of her agency’s budget.

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.