ARL could have been electrified by 2015

The Air Rail Link could have been electrified in time for the Pan Am games, according to Metrolinx, InsideToronto says. The Pan Ams had been used as justification for rushing the construction, even though the athletes will not take the ARL and the event is only two weeks long.

The 2015 ‘deadline’ had already seemed concocted and the conversion seems unnecessarily expensive. That the electrification is being held up–assuming it indeed happens–by paperwork does nothing to burnish the image of a much-disliked agency.

“We’ve been meeting in this room for five years now,” said Dobson. “One thing after another has been proven wrong.”

One more big push for St John

It’s a make-or-break day for St John the Evangelist elementary school. Tonight the Catholic School Board trustees will decide whether St John gets a new school as the train line gets built.

St John is terribly over crowded—there is so little space that classes are held in a nearby church basement. Construction of the ARL will also force the students to move next school year.

Dave Bennett, Chair of the Parent Council, is pleading for people to come out and show their support. If you make it to the school before 5:45 pm, you can catch a ride. If you plan on going directly, the board meeting will be at 80 Sheppard Ave E, and will start at 7 pm.

New Weston Station opening in mid July

The new station taking shape on Weston Road south of Lawrence. The platform is behind the vehicles on the right.
The new Weston Station platform - viewed from the end of the old platform.

Four inquiring minds gathered to take the Weston Tunnel tour on Thursday May 17. The tour was ably led by GO Community Relations Supervisor, Kathryn Hanford. While there is no actual tunnel yet, preparations are well under way. The Weston Tunnel is being built to lower GO and VIA tracks so that the increased number of trains anticipated by 2015 will not split Weston in two at Church and King Streets. Because of grading issues, trains cannot be completely underground at John Street, so John will be split in two but will have its two sections connected by a footbridge. At the same time, storm sewers and water mains are being upgraded in conjunction with the City of Toronto.

Passengers leaving the GO Train at old Weston Station - the new tracks will be a couple of metres lower here at John Street and completely underground between King and Church in 2015.

Hanford spent some of her formative years in Weston and has worked on similar projects in the U.S., South Africa and most recently the Diamond Grade Separation Project near the stockyards. She says she is proud of the way in which the community has been consulted in shaping the changes needed for the Air Rail Link. She also mentioned a couple of other points; Weston GO Station will move to its new location on Weston Road just south of Lawrence in mid-july. The station itself will be housed in a temporary portable structure until the ARL opens in 2015. She also said that developers have been snapping up real estate in anticipation of higher property values once the ARL is in place and also when GO becomes an all-day service (although GO seems to be quickly backing away from this promise).

A VIA train moves north-west along the future Weston Tunnel (at King Street). The metal structures are forms for a large patterned concrete retaining wall.

Politics does make strange bedfellows

It’s one thing to flatter a bully when you are the smallest kid in the class. It’s another thing when you’re the school principal.

Laura Albanese often gets criticized by commenters around here for not sticking up for Weston, and for not going nose-to-nose with GO Transit and Metrolinx. These transit agencies have pushed our town around, and Albanese took a lot of heat in the election (when she actually showed up to debates) for not grabbing the bully’s ear and setting things straight.

But this week things got just plain weird: Albanese was rather awkwardly caught on tape holding the bully’s hand. On Wednesday, she complimented GO Transit in the House for 45 years of service. She commended them for their new, green vehicles and for expanding the line that runs through our town.

Just this past December, GO Transit rail service was officially launched in the Kitchener-Waterloo region… passing through my riding of York South–Weston. …

Since 2003, GO Transit has put into service new vehicles that are modern, accessible, more fuel-efficient and carry more passengers. This includes 22 double-decker buses added to the GO Transit bus fleet.

There is, of course, much to recommend having friends in powerful places, but Albanese should be carefully weighing whether that coziness will actually get things done in her riding. I have my doubts. I also think that she loses votes when she isn’t seen standing up for us.

The speech also shows bad judgement. Albanese was either put up to it by her party, or chose to do it herself. If the Liberals put her up to it, then we have to wonder why they chose her of all people. Was John Milloy, the MPP from Kitchener, not a better choice? After all, he did just get the new trains.

If she chose to give this speech herself, she clearly cannot see how this looks to her constituents—GO Transit has a serious image problem. (And they have a serious image problem because they have been awful to Weston.) Ms Albanese should have considered stony silence on the bully’s birthday, not handing him a cake.

 

 

Another official sees GO corridors as transit solution.

The Globe and Mail has another interesting take on the GO network in an article published last Friday. In the article, Markham Councillor Jim Jones adds another voice calling on Metrolinx to add more tracks, triple the number of stations and electrify lines entering Toronto such as the Georgetown (now Kitchener) line. Openfile has a similar take on the same topic.

While Metrolinx deep thinkers don’t want to offer local service, the arguments for such an integrated service are compelling. Councillor Jones points out that Metrolinx and the TTC don’t talk to each other. Perhaps it’s time for our elected representatives to ask the Ontario Ministry of Transportation to bang some heads together.

It’s not an Airport Link, it’s a subway!

Mike Sullivan (L) and Jonah Schein

Mike Sullivan had a crowd of at least 60 people on hand last night as he outlined some of the latest news in the ongoing Airport Link saga. The level of interest and concern was indicated by the fact that nobody left before the end. Guest speaker, Davenport MPP Jonah Schein spoke about the need to lobby politicians for change and how important it is that citizens make their views known. His riding is to be similarly affected by the noisy diesels of the Airport Link.

The latest developments range from the mundane to the outrageous. The bottom line, if Weston wishes to be treated like a doormat, all we have to do is lie here passively and politicians, autonomous government organizations and developers will trample all over us.

Here are some of the highlights:

Trains and Transit

The province is still determined to build a diesel rather than an electric link. The Japanese class 4 diesel trains are ordered but not built. Because the electrification study recommended electrification, people have been fooled into thinking that the line will be electrified immediately but as it stands, will not be for several years.

Class 4 diesel trains pollute to the same standards as those for city buses. GO trains pollute more. In spite of this, the proposed rail link will create more pollution because estimated passenger numbers are only about 12 per carriage or 24 per train. 24 cars would pollute less.

The Airport Link trains require a different platform height to GO trains and need a separate platform.

The City of Toronto Official Plan calls for a GO station at Liberty Village. GO has no plans for this.

Weston has the second highest intersection of public transit routes in the city yet is not considered a ‘Hub’ because the links do not intersect at right angles. Other hubs are sparsely populated while 10,000 people live in Weston’s high rise buildings not to mention other forms of housing.

Great Idea from an audience member:

This line could meet the definition of an above ground subway. Subway trains would allow more stops along the line without increasing the Pearson to Union travelling time. Subways have much lower noise and pollution levels.

Failing that—the Japanese trains are alleged to be convertible to electric operation—why not do the job now?

Bridges and Tunnels:

The John Street pedestrian bridge is down to four contenders. The pedestrian bridge across Lawrence will not be built for a couple of years. It will be to the west of the railway bridge. It would have been nice if the extension to the rail track and the pedestrian bridge could have been built together rather than putting motorists through two sets of delays.

There will be two tunnels under the railway lines; one at the station itself and another at the south end parking lot. The station tunnel should logically go under the CP tracks but CP is being ‘difficult’. If it went under the CP tracks it could emerge by the Tim Hortons parking lot.

Desirable Institutions:

We are #3 on Humber College’s list of possible sites although they would love to have a campus at the station.

The YMCA is looking for a site to build a facility and has expressed interest in opening a Weston branch.

John Street Parking:

The Toronto Parking Authority owns the current GO parking lot where the Farmers’ Market is held. It has tendered out to a real estate broker with a view to selling  to a developer but the details are confidential. This is Weston land and belonged to Weston Village before amalgamation. The site might be ideal for the YMCA with space for a farmers market and residential housing.

Postscript:

Councillor Nunziata has contacted WestonWeb to say that the John Street parking lot is being developed to accommodate a year-round farmers’ market, cultural hub and affordable condo living / workspace for artists. She goes on to say that nothing is being done behind closed doors. Perhaps she can shed some light on this topic on March 14th.

Schools:

Students from St. John the Evangelist Catholic School are currently being bused 40 minutes each way to Brother Edmund Rice during Rail Link construction. Their school is slated for an addition / rebuilding but the Toronto Catholic School Board and the Province haven’t got their act together. Mike Sullivan wonders why work isn’t going on now while students are already inconvenienced.

Billboards:

The giant billboard on CN property is still a go. This is to be a giant TV screen four times larger than the current static one. The company that runs these things is looking for extended hours so that the lights will be on longer. There will be a meeting to discuss the issue and strategies to oppose the billboard on March 14 at 1901 Weston at 7:00pm. This will be the start of many such abominations throughout the city.

Bottom Line:

The minority provincial government is in a precarious situation and is anxious that support not be eroded further. The Province is behind the project and tells Metrolinx what to do. The Premier and MPP Laura Albanese need to hear the message that people are not happy with what is going on.

Residents of Weston are asked to contact politicians at all levels and encourage them to support electrification along with the points noted above.

 

John Street Bridge Designs Detailed

‘This bridge will make people want to leave the train at Weston and have a look around.’ Three architects outlined the concepts behind four bridge designs selected by the John Street Pedestrian Bridge Community Advisory Committee on Saturday March 3rd and this seemed to be their common refrain. One architect even simulated the view of his bridge from a train.

The turnout was fair – perhaps 20-30 citizens although each level of government was represented by MP Mike Sullivan, MPP Laura Albanese and Councillor Frances Nunziata along with a number of Metrolinx and Council officials.

In an effort to provide a noise barrier for residents, GO and Airport Link tracks are to be lowered through part of Weston and John Street will be closed to traffic at the railway tracks. This will probably happen late next year and a pedestrian bridge will link the two sides. Metrolinx has budgeted $6m and the citizens’ committee has been hard at work for quite some time. Designs all meet height and electrification upgrade requirements.

The meeting was held so that citizens could examine designs and concepts in detail and question each responsible architect. Bridges range between 4 and 5 metres in deck width and are designed to accommodate pedestrians and (the wider ones) bicycles. Two are truss designs traditionally associated with Ontario railway bridges and two are more ‘out there’ with bicycles as their inspiration. Because the GO tracks are being lowered, the bridge steps and ramps will not need to be as high. Apparently it’s not possible to lower the CP tracks so one bizarre annoyance is that the bridge will not cross all the rail tracks. Hopefully pedestrians and cyclists will not assume that the CP tracks are abandoned – some kind of barrier will be in place to close access when a train is coming.

There was concern that a planned pedestrian bridge which will run alongside the railway bridge across Lawrence should have a matching design. Other residents asked about maintenance, snow removal and vandalism.

Attendees were given an opportunity to submit written comments and there is an online version here.

Regardless of the final choice, with a wise selection, the new bridge will be a further impetus for regeneration in the years to come.