The latest news of how transit gets built in this area comes as no surprise to most people in the GTA. In the latest outrage, straight from the manual of how to operate a corrupt government, Provincial Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca possibly acting in a craven bid to keep his own seat, seems to have pressured Metrolinx into approving two unnecessary GO stations. One in his riding and another $25 million station which was (literally) forged into existence, in order to satisfy (Rob Ford in sheep’s clothing) Mayor Tory’s ill-conceived SmartTrack needs. With a wink and a nod to voters in next June’s election, Del Duca could point to the $100 million GO station as a reason to re-elect him. One might speculate that the March resignation of Bruce McCuaig was a reaction to this nonsense, knowing that the truth would eventually come out.
The $3.35 billion, one-stop Scarborough Subway is another example of how transit planning is perverted by politicians for their own re-election purposes. Torontonians will be paying for that white elephant for the next 50 years while knowing that a much better LRT was already planned and paid for. Line 1 is overcrowded with 731,000 passengers weekly. Line 3 has only 40,000. In the meantime, politicians like Glenn de Bearemaeker and John Tory stick to the same nonsense that Scarborough deserves a subway. Even our own councillor, Frances Nunziata supports this obscenity presumably because she wants to Tory to keep her on as Council Speaker.
Closer to home, the UP Express was originally designed to be built privately and run non-stop to the airport. It was going to cost taxpayers nothing while barreling at high speed through our neighbourhood. Luckily the community got involved in the form of the people of Weston and the Clean Train Coalition. As a result of community pressure, Weston got its own station and a tunnel was built to put some of the line below grade. In spite of common sense, we’re still stuck with the CP tracks not going in the tunnel with the other lines, broken links between streets like John Street and a sell-off of the old GO parking lot for development without any community input. On the plus side, we now have an inexpensive, quick and frequent train to the airport and downtown but in fairness, no politician planned this; it was forced on them by community pressure.
Sadly, most politicians will do whatever they need to do in order to get elected. Public vigilance and pressure is the only answer. Being well informed and vocal is in every citizen’s best interest.
There is an old saying that war is too important to be left to the generals. Along the same lines, governing is too important to be left to politicians. Demanding and participating in community consultation events has never been more important. Especially since there is about to be a huge surge in redevelopment in Weston. Chief Planner Jennifer Keesmaat’s resignation on Monday will only serve to stress the importance of informed citizen input.
Ridership on the UP Express has tripled since Metrolinx cut fares, to more than 8,000 daily riders, according to Torontoist. The number of riders continues to grow, although at a slower rate.
The Clean Train Coalition, though, would like to remind you that the Metrolinx and the province have blown right through the start date for regional rail electrification:
“The environmental assessment process for electrification was supposed to start four months ago in July. It has not started, there has been no announcement explaining the delay, and there is no word from the government when it will start.”
Tonight there is a meeting designed to inform residents about the current state of these transit issues:
The (downtown) Relief Line
Scarborough Subway Extension
Electrified GO Network
New Stations on the GO Rail Network
Integrated Transit Fares
Regional Transportation Plan Review
No doubt there will be an opportunity for residents to express their views (see what I did there?) at a meeting with representatives from the TTC, Metrolinx and GO Transit in attendance. Also attending will be politicians, MP Ahmed Hussen, MPP Laura Albanese, along with Councillors Frances Nunziata and Frank DiGiorgio. Perhaps some insights may be gleaned from the current state of thinking at these exalted levels.
Place York Civic Centre, 2700 Eglinton Avenue West.
TTCRiders, a transit advocacy group, is reigniting the smouldering anger about the proposed UP Express fares. They have started an online petition and a website to ask the government to:
charge affordable TTC-level fares and accept fare transfers
run frequent service, and include more stops
run clean electric trains asap, not cancerous diesel trains
talk to residents before deciding the fare price
keep the service public
While other groups have pushed for similar goals in the past, TTCRiders is a city-wide organization, not based only in the west end. It is also backed by airport unions (whose members may take the train).
The group says that Metrolinx will be setting the fare for the UP Express (likely to be between $20 and $30) at its December 11 meeting.
The Clean Train Coalition has lost in court to Metrolinx. Their case was dismissed, and the CTC was told to pay Metrolinx’s court costs–$30,000 according to the CBC.
The CTC was asking for a judicial review of Metrolinx’s decision to purchase diesel trains. They had alleged that the decision was improper because it was rushed to meet the Pan-Am deadline and made before the environmental assessment was completed. The court disagreed.
Metrolinx said in a press release that it “welcomes the Divisional Court’s decision to dismiss the action”.
Suri Weinberg-Linsky, the CTC’s media contact, said
We are disappointed with this bad decision. But the matter is not settled, far from it. We will consider our right to appeal to a higher court. There is a fundamental principle at stake, that citizens have the right to seek legal redress when harmful decisions have been made by public authorities. Metrolinx has failed in its duty to consider alternatives to diesel. The McGuinty Liberals may be happy with this decision, but there will be a price to pay for their disregard of public health.
About the $30,000 in costs that the coalition will have to pay, she said, “we welcome all donations to our website and will consider this in deciding our appeal strategy.”
The Clean Train Coalition was in court yesterday fighting Metrolinx over its decision to order diesel trains. The Star has a long and balanced article describing the lawsuit. The CTC is suing, it says, because Metrolinx put politics ahead of good policy, and because the trains were ordered before electrification was fully considered.
Provincial transportation agency Metrolinx had no business ordering new diesel trains for the Pearson-to-Union Station rail link before completing a feasibility study on electrifying the line, a lawyer for Toronto’s Clean Train Coalition argued before an Ontario Divisional Court panel on Monday.
The CTC… wants the court to order Metrolinx to set aside its $53 million order for diesel multiple units (DMUs) [saying] Metrolinx was guided by political interests rather than good transportation planning in agreeing to an ARL completion in time for the 2015 PanAm Games.
Mike Sullivan, our MP, took the opportunity of the suit to speak in the House. He was critical of the Ontario Liberals, and asked for the Feds to push electrification on the project.
The McGuinty Liberals in Ontario are pushing Metrolinx to use diesel, despite the World Health Organization recently declaring diesel exhaust to be a Class One Carcinogen. They are pushing to make sure the project is ready for the 2015 Pan-Am Games. Ironically, the Olympic body responsible, ODEPA/PASO, has declared these games to be the first ever green and sustainable games. Diesel trains are neither green nor sustainable.
There is considerable federal money in this project. I would urge the Federal Minister of Transportation to tell Ontario to do the right thing and make these trains electric now, as any world class city should.