MacDonald Avenue to get 19th Century upgrade.

A tree on MacDonald Avenue weakened by utility pruning. (Google.ca July 2017)

Here is a notice from Toronto Hydro:

MacDonald Avenue

  • Project ID: W18159
  • Activity: Overhead Civil and Electrical
  • Timeline: October 2017 – December 2018
  • Status: Current

Toronto Hydro is planning to rebuild the aging overhead electrical system in the community to help improve service reliability. The rebuild includes upgrading overhead electrical cables and replacing hydro poles within the City of Toronto’s public property allowance in front of or adjacent to the lot. Throughout this project, planned outages may be necessary to switch from the old to the new electrical system and we intend to provide advance notice. Toronto Hydro crews and contractors will take extra care and precautions around the property. Please be advised that as a result of the project, our contractor may be trimming a number of the overgrown trees on the public road allowance in order to accommodate new hydro infrastructure. Upon project completion, affected areas will be restored.

So, instead of replacing MacDonald Avenue’s overhead wiring with underground cables, Toronto Hydro will continue to use a 19th Century method of bringing power to homes and businesses. This will ensure a continuing vulnerability of the power supply to ice storms, lightning strikes, vehicle collisions and falling trees. Speaking of trees; pruning them to make room for wiring is harmful and our trees would last far longer if they weren’t weakened by being trimmed.

The average life of a hydro pole is about 35 years so the MacDonald Avenue installation should last until 2053. Oh, and don’t hold your breath expecting that all of the old poles will be completely removed.

It seems that Toronto Hydro would rather spend its money on executive remuneration than on upgrading infrastructure, preserving trees and improving our streetscape. Yes, it would be initially more expensive to bury power lines but it would be an investment in the future and save money (repairs from the 2013 ice storm cost over $170 million) and inconvenience in the long run.

Overhead Wiring is so Third World.

Overhead wiring detracts from our streetscape and especially from heritage buildings like our beautiful library.

Weston, like many parts of the third world – oh and also Toronto – is plagued with overhead wiring. It’s completely unnecessary since there are no streetcars in Weston. It’s in fact a false economy on the part of power and communications companies.

In the winter of 2013, the city was shut down for days because an ice storm downed a lot of overhead wiring. More than 300,000 Toronto households were affected. The cost to individuals, the city and the economy was enormous and clean-up costs alone were estimated at over $100,000,000 at the time. Don’t blame the trees; many Toronto trees had been weakened thanks to pruning to accommodate wiring!

The adjacent city of Mississauga was minimally affected because their wiring is buried safely underground.

The 2013 ice storm cost Toronto dearly. From cbc.ca

Overhead wiring is a danger during ice storms and traffic collisions but there is an aesthetic consideration too. What is the effect of wiring on our streetscape?

Take a look at our beautiful Arts and Crafts library without overhead wires (courtesy of a quick Photoshop job). The building can be appreciated in all its glory without unsightly wiring.

Photoshop did what the city and utilities won’t.

Overhead wiring and transportation have one thing in common. The city and utilities should have been tackling them for decades but in Toronto, there is always a lack of money thanks to the short-sighted obsession with keeping property taxes below the rate of inflation. Interestingly, this same obsession doesn’t apply to salaries for the mayor and councillors as their paycheques are automatically linked to the rate of inflation. Nice.

Oh, by the way, yesterday’s photo reveals that the library needs new shingles. Probably cheaper than a leaky roof but then that’s not the Toronto way, is it?

Infrastructure strikes again.

Weston has had two ‘once in a lifetime’ storm events this year. All indicators point to more of  the same. Weston is an older part of the city and the neglect of its infrastructure is painfully evident. The recent ice storm is still wreaking havoc in Toronto and Weston seems to have lost more than its fair share of power. Luckily our natural gas and water supplies are buried safely underground and have remained intact through all of this. Some homeowners with gas fireplaces have been able to heat their homes throughout this crisis and survive with emergency lighting.

Imagine if our gas supply was carried on overhead pipes. Apparently, Toronto Hydro can imagine this but can’t seem to understand that most civilized parts of the world have put their hydro lines underground.

In spite of Toronto Hydro having a huge number of people on the sunshine list, money spent on infrastructure has not been as forthcoming. We have become blind to the fact that most of our electrical supply is above ground. Not only is it vulnerable, it’s unsightly and ruins boulevard trees that have to be kept clear of power lines. The cost of an underground network has always been trotted out as the reason for our current (or lack of current) sorry state. Mississauga suffered minimal inconvenience in this latest storm precisely because most of their power lines are buried. Not only are overhead wires ugly as sin and reminiscent of the third world, they’re expensive to maintain and subject to calamitous and dangerous failure. Lives been put at risk, holiday celebrations have been disrupted, businesses have suffered during their biggest sales period and tonnes of food have been wasted thanks to powerless refrigerators and freezers.

If Toronto Hydro had instituted a policy of burying a percentage of its lines each year, along with ensuring all new homes had buried wiring, we would not have suffered this huge disruption. Again, we have been seduced by our own short-sighted desire for lower taxes and utility bills. Couple this with a failure on the part of Ontario governments of all three parties to oversee competent management of our electrical supply.

Of course, the rich haven’t suffered in all of this. Their generators are humming away merrily. It’s the poor and middle classes who bear the brunt of these events. The lower taxes and enormous salaries that supposedly attract business and competent leadership have done neither and have left us in a sorry state.

Once again, Toronto is in the news for the same reason – a failure of vision and leadership. Merry friggin’ Christmas.