Metrolinx asks for huge path, sidewalk, road closures; Mayor gets mad

City Council will consider whether Metrolinx should be allowed to close a huge amount of the paths and roads around Eglinton Avenue this week. And it sounds like Mayor Tory might not be rushing approval if Metrolinx doesn’t start playing ball with City Hall.

There are two issues: fair wages and putting the Eglinton Crosstown West Extension through the Eglinton Flats in Mount Dennis. City Council would like to know why the line can’t go underground, or beside the road instead of inside the park. It seems like Metrolinx hasn’t been forthcoming with the answers.

According to the Star, Tory blasted Metrolinx:

Tory told his executive committee Wednesday he strongly supports transit expansion, but if Metrolinx officials don’t like being “left with a degree of uncertainty,” as deadlines loom to sign construction contracts, they should “speed up the work” answering questions and concerns from residents and city council…. Metrolinx is “certainly not up to, and accustomed to, the standards we set for public consultation in anything we do, whether it’s transit or not,” the mayor said.

Metrolinx is asking council to close a huge number of routes, including:

  • The multi-use trail on Eglinton between Jane and Glenvalley
  • The multi-use trail on Eglinton between Weston Road and the tracks
  • The westbound curb lane on Eglinton Avenue West east of Jane Street and Weston Road
  • The westbound curb lane on Eglinton Avenue West, between Weston Road and the tracks
  • The north sidewalk on Eglinton Avenue West, between Weston Road and the tracks
  • The north sidewalk on Eglinton Avenue West west of Pearen Street and the park

All of the “temporary” closures will be for eight years.

The Mount Dennis Community Association pointed out another important issue in a letter to the Executive Committee: the proposed closures will interfere with access to the brand-new Mount Dennis Station. They say “there has been a total failure in community consultation about plans for pedestrian access to the station’s main entrance” and that pedestrians, cyclists, and transit riders will be affected.

Metrolinx is also facing “adamant and unreserved opposition” from the International Union of Operating Engineers for their refusal to follow Toronto’s Fair Wage Policy.

What’s up with the UP Express schedule?

Paul Ferreira raised an important question on Twitter this week: When will the UP Express get back to its regular schedule?

Metrolinx reduced service during the worst days of the pandemic as ridership across the system dropped by as much as 90%. It cut the hours the UPX ran and also the frequency of service.

While the hours have since been increased—though not quite to the pre-pandemic 19.5 hours a day—the trains only travel every 30 minutes. That’s the same frequency as in March, 2020.

On Twitter, a spokesperson told Ferreira that they are “constantly keeping an eye on ridership and our trips to ensure we’re accommodating the current and expected demand. As soon as a change happens as far as more service being implemented, we will provide updates in a timely manner.”

Eglinton Flats LRT drawings released

Metrolinx has released some drawings of the controversial Eglinton Flats LRT overpass. They are seeking community feedback on the design.

Metrolinx will be building an elevated bridge through Pearen Park, Fergy Brown Park, and the Eglinton Flats to carry trains across the Humber River valley. The rest of the Eglinton West LRT extension will be built underground, but going under the river would have been too expensive, Metrolinx says.

The survey asks how the space under the bridge should used, how much vegetation there should be, and what the lights and walls should look like.

The Mount Dennis Community Association is not pleased. They say:

  • There are no drawings to show exactly where the LRT will be in the Flats
  • Metrolinx has not done a good job of consulting
  • Recreation space will be lost
  • A construction road and staging area are not shown
  • It’s not clear if the bike path will be rerouted

Metrolinx talks Crosstown

CEO Phil Verster is featured on a ‘year-end wrap up’ Metrolinx video in which he talks about the Eglinton Crosstown Line’s progress to date and where it is heading next. The video has lots of dreamy drone footage and overhead shots of Mount Dennis and other stations.

“Our goal remains the same: to deliver modern rapid transit to Toronto’s Eglinton Avenue. 2021 saw us make strides in delivering upon that goal with significant progress made to the 19 kilometre transit line.”

Phil Verster

While Mr Verster claims that construction crews are nearing completion on a number of key locations, he fails to give many details or indeed when exactly the public may begin to use the line.

If it was good news, no doubt he would have told us. As one wag noted in the comments, “Even the year end video is late.”.

Metrolinx news

Weston Go Station:

Work at Weston GO station continues in order to complete the link to a fourth passenger rail line and create a fourth platform. This will allow the UP Express to use separate platforms at the station and enable all-day GO service in the future. The track was already in place but was missing the section at the station. The new platform will be fully accessible, heated during cold weather and have a warm waiting area. It should be ready next year.

Perhaps Metrolinx will re-visit the idea of VIA trains stopping in Weston to allow passengers from south-west Ontario the option of hopping onto the UP Express to the Airport. To quote Mike Sullivan,

Via desperately wants to stop in Weston. Their trains come from Sarnia, London and Kitchener, and patrons who want to go to the airport have to go all the way to Union and double back, adding about an hour to their trip.

Metrolinx refuses to let them. There are 4 trains per day (two in each direction) and Metrolinx says their dwell time (the time it takes to unload and load passengers) is too long and would interfere with the UP express schedule. They did suggest that when the 4th track is in place maybe things would change.

It may also have to do with the Kitchener part of the trips. Metrolinx wants to be the train of record from Kitchener, and VIA is in competition.

Mike Sullivan speaking to Weston Web in 2018.

Eventually the Kitchener line will either be electrified or hydrogenated. For some reason, after studying electrification for more than a decade, both the Liberals and Progressive Conservatives have wanted to throw some money at investigating whether or not converting the Kitchener line to run on hydrogen would be a good idea. Weston Web had the answer four years ago in 2017. It still stands.

Looking north at the new platform under construction. Metrolinx image. Click to enlarge.

Read the station upgrade details from Metrolinx here.

Eglinton Crosstown Line westward extension:

Further south, the Ford government seems committed to an extension of the Crosstown line to Renforth and eventually, Pearson Airport. The line will follow Eglinton, mostly underground apart from a stretch over the Humber which will be on an elevated section away from traffic. Metrolinx is asking interested parties to make themselves known. Actual approval and construction is many years away but the Ontario Government seems eager to show local voters that it still taking steps to support the project. Those who think that the Scarborough Subway is a good idea will agree that this extension is pure genius and well worth the billions to be spent on it.

The proposed Eglinton Crosstown westward extension showing the elevated section of the new line in blue. From Metrolinx. Click to enlarge.
Artist concept of the elevated section with the existing Eglinton bridge behind. Those look like catenary wires to me. From Metrolinx. Click to enlarge.

Read more details from Metrolinx here.

Did you know….?

An UP Express train at Weston Station (file).

Metrolinx has just published news of increased GO Train speeds along the Kitchener Line, specifically through Guelph. Speeds will be increasing from the current snail’s pace to slightly faster. What caught my eye was that the changes were given in miles per hour. Apparently all railways in Canada must measure their speeds in the old Imperial system – which might explain some of their other idiosyncrasies.

In the same blog article was a warning that trespassers can be hit with a fine of $5000. Cor blimey mate, that’s almost £3000 in old money!

Look inside the Kodak building

I don’t have a lot of nice things to say about Metrolinx, but I will admit that they moved heaven (figuratively) and earth (literally) to save the Kodak building at the Mount Dennis station.

About a month ago, they posted a short look-around inside the refurbished building on their blog. It’s worth a visit.