David Collenette, the ‘brains’ behind the under-used, over-priced, executive-class UP Express service, has announced another of his plans: a $19 billion, twice-hourly, high-speed train between Toronto and Windsor. The provincial government mademuch of it today.
Collenette has two proposals, the cheaper (and slower) of which would put a 250 km/h train on the corridor that runs through Weston. It would run from Union to Pearson, then on to Kitchener, Guelph, London and Windsor. Collenette says the train would be profitable and could be built speedily.
He’s said that before. He was so utterly wrong that he should never be allowed near a cocktail napkin again.
The UPX was supposed to be $200 million. It cost three times that.
It was supposed to be running by 2008. It took until 2015.
It was supposed to be profitable. It has never been profitable.
Moreover, there is already train service to every destination the government has in mind. GO Trains run to Kitchener and Guelph. VIA trains go to London and Windsor. The competition is brutal, too: flights to Windsor are about $150 and take an hour, and the Ontario government has also already announced all-day service to Kitchener and other improvements to regional rail service.
In the unlikely event that this high-speed line ever gets built, it will require undoing much of the work already done on the corridor: “a number of infrastructure upgrades”, in Collenette’s words.
Next Wednesday March 9, UP Express fares are set to drop dramatically. No doubt Metrolinx will be anxiously watching ridership figures but in the meantime, we have a short (highly unscientific) survey to gauge readers’ interest in the train.
Readers are invited to support their choice with a comment.
Finally the barrage of criticism surrounding the Union Pearson Express has had a positive effect. As noted here earlier in WestonWeb, the Premier has ordered a review of the cost of a ticket for the much abused train. Based on the overwhelming response when the fare is zero, we shouldn’t assume that commuters will be tempted by a cost that strays too far beyond GO Train fares. As many have pointed out, if the price is too low, the trains will be overcrowded. However, with limited stops, the demand for a free return trip to the airport shouldn’t be confused with the needs of the relatively rare number of commuters who live close to the four stations along the line.
In addition to this important factor, many of the pundits’ armchair calculations of the revised price are based on cost recovery. This is completely inappropriate. Transportation systems are expensive, never recover their costs and just like roads, must be heavily subsidized by the taxpayer. Cost recovery can therefore never be achieved and is a false flag to go chasing after.
When money is invested in transportation infrastructure, the price may be high but the benefits are many. People spend less time commuting and are likely to be healthier both mentally and physically. Pollution is reduced and health care costs are lowered. Can you put a price on a healthier and happier population? Apparently some people can.
For better or worse, the investment in UPX is gone and will never be seen again. Luckily, the money was converted into some mighty fine infrastructure which should be adapted to serve ordinary folks.
For now, what should the price be? Looking at the abominably unintuitive GO Train fare calculator, the cost of a trip from Union to Malton Station (the same approximate distance as Union to Terminal 1), the full fare cost is $7.70. Given that the UPX train’s schedule is more frequent, a 15% surcharge is probably appropriate. Likewise with fares from Weston and Bloor, the same principle should operate. The only proviso should be that as in the recent free weekend, airline passengers showing a valid ticket should have priority.
(GO Train track is in green and UP Express in grey). Malton to Union Station is about the same distance as Terminal 1 to Union.
With those provisos, here is your new unofficial fare structure, labelled using the SmartTrack logo since eventually this line should be incorporated into Mayor Tory’s scheme.
For some reason, GO does not give students a discount. For that reason I have followed their lead. Along the same line of thinking, UP Express gives families a discount. I have removed these as revised costs would not be as prohibitive.
There is a saying that ‘All politics is local‘. Here in Weston, we are blessed with politicians and three levels of government that don’t neglect to tax us in various ways yet seemingly invest little in our neighbourhood.
This is my personal list for our politicians and even for the citizens of Weston. Readers are encouraged to add their own contributions.
There is much that is wrong with Weston and at the same time reason for optimism. Weston looks tired and could be so much more. Nobody likes to shop in a run down area yet customers are the life blood of stores. The type of main street layout seen along Weston Road is the basis of revitalization in Bloor West Village and other parts of the city. It’s one thing to attack political opponents for criticizing Weston’s appearance but as recent Council candidate Dory Chalhoub pointed out, the reality of litter strewn streets, empty stores and dilapidated signage stares us in the face every day.
Bicycle (and skate) maker CCM went bankrupt in 1983 and yet we still use the slogan ‘Home of the Bicycle’.
Our slogan could just as legitimately be ‘Home of the Skate’ or ‘Home of Bankruptcy’, or even… ‘Home of the B.I.A. (Weston Village Business Improvement Area is one of the oldest and has been going since 1979).
Weston BIA Resolutions:
1. Come up with a plan to replace the tired bicycle logos and ‘Home of the Bicycle’ slogan with something more meaningful to Weston – perhaps along the lines of our proximity to the Humber and beautiful parkland.
2. Encourage BIA members to take advantage of the City of Toronto’s financial support for sign replacement.
3. Members should keep their properties in good order and clean up litter on a daily basis.
3. Work on schemes that will boost attendance at the Weston Farmers Market.
4. Stores that sit vacant for months on end do nothing for the community and lower custom in remaining stores. Contact owners and find creative ways of beautifying vacant storefronts and using empty space.
Frances Nunziata: Resolutions:
1. Focus on the appearance of Weston through the B.I.A. and similar organizations as well as money from the City.
2. Work to reduce litter and visual pollution along Weston’s business areas.
3. Revitalize the Weston Farmers’ Market.
4. Find ways of dealing with empty storefronts that plague our business districts.
5. Continue to look for ways to bring meaningful and well paid employment to Weston.
6. Encourage and facilitate completion of the Humber Trail from Mallaby Park northward.
7. Encourage 12 Division officers to get out of their cars and walk the streets of Weston.
Laura Albanese: Resolutions
1. Use your position to get the Weston Farmers’ Market in on the LCBO pilot project (even though it’s now beginning its second year). This would surely boost attendance.
2. Continue to press Metrolinx to electrify the UP Express and the Kitchener GO line. Also continue your efforts to lower fares on the UP Express with the goal of creating an above ground commuter line that will serve communities along the way.
3. Look for grants that will elevate the poorer parts of the riding and encourage education and prosperity.
4. Look for a way to establish a government office in Weston. This will boost employment and stimulate local business.
5. Investigate the possibility of attracting a community college or university campus to Weston.
6. Work with Councillor Nunziata to encourage and facilitate completion of the Humber Trail from Mallaby Park northward.
Mike Sullivan: Resolutions
1. It’s great that you have a constituency office here in Weston. Set an example by freshening the paint and landscaping its exterior. Use the business directly across the street as your model.
2. Continue to bring matters pertaining to Weston to the attention of the community and the appropriate representative. No, your party is not in government; we get that. Yes, we understand you’re a federal politician, not a provincial politician or the city councillor. As an MP, your mandate is to help and facilitate matters for all your constituents and not be hung up about jurisdictions.
3. Work in conjunction with colleagues from the other levels of government to reduce the levels of crime and poverty in Weston.
4. Call attention to the role of payday loan companies and their predatory effects on the poor.
4. Continue to call attention to the Harper Government’s attack on the environment with particular emphasis on how it affects Westonians.
Citizens of Weston: Resolutions
1. We need to stop lamenting the past glories of Weston and move on. We have an active Historical Society that helps us celebrate the past. The only thing we can change is the future.
2. A vibrant shopping district needs people who will take the trouble to patronize its stores. Don’t expect stores to sell us what we want without actually visiting and spending money.
3. Crime levels in Weston are lower than in many areas of Toronto. Get out of the SUV. The walk will do us good.
4. Politicians have no idea what we think unless we tell them. Don’t be shy.
GO Transit has heard you, people of Weston, and is backtracking on its plan to extend the hours of construction. In a statement issued today, they also announced plans to deal with residents’ complaints.
From now on, they say
Fewer trucks will be allowed on site, reducing dirt and dust
GO Transit’s local employment initiative, which was supposed to help residents find jobs, is not living up to its promises. Only four people have been hired, and most of the few jobs now posted are nowhere near here.
The Georgetown South Employment Initiative was launched in October of last year. According to GO, the train lines being built in Weston “will support thousands of design and construction jobs” and their “contractors working on the GTS Project have committed… to consider qualified community members to fill any employment positions”.
But Westonians (and Torontonians) are not finding jobs—because most of the ones posted now are in Alberta. Three jobs are posted on GTS jobs site— but two are at the Calgary Airport.
Nor has even a small fraction of those “thousands” of jobs materialized. According to Salza, a spokesperson for Metrolinx, “contractors have posted 10 positions ranging from traffic control flagging to administrative support… 10 individuals have received interviews. Of those four have been hired.”
In Metrolinx’s defense, they have a caveat that they “will not guarantee a specific number of jobs” but will only “identify any employment opportunities that may exist and make them accessible to qualified individuals.”
Last June, at the end of a year-long process of consultation, Metrolinx revealed the Weston Station Master Plan through a presentation followed by a discussion and question and answer session held at the Active Living Centre. The plan itself was not available in document form at the time but has now been finalized and released as a stand-alone 80-page document. The plan outlines the vision created when planning experts’ ideas have been combined with those of the community to produce a fascinating look into the future of Weston.
As residents we should all take the time to review this important document and take note of the implications for ourselves and future Weston residents.
As Adam has noted with regard to recent thefts from the new station’s bike racks, it is hoped that all aspects of the vision can be implemented with a clear eye on the realities of an urban environment.