A shockingly bad train idea, terrible for Weston

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 made much of it today.Choo choo!

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.

 

 

 

Lions Park Steps are Telling

Readers may remember that the John Street Bridge was completed yet left unavailable to the public for months while Metrolinx and the City squabbled over various issues. The public was inconvenienced but no matter, it was only the people of Weston. Help was requested from several levels of government but to little avail.

In Lions Park, a set of outdoor stairs had reached the end of their life and were set for replacement. The work was scheduled for September 2015. The old stairs were demolished in June 2016 and new ones built earlier this year. They are now almost complete but are still inaccessible to the public.

This important footpath has been unavailable for almost a year.

This after calls to 311, Councillor Ford’s office and Parks Supervisor Phil Jarow, who told me in an email,

“Sorry I do not have information on a date for opening of the stairway. I was told earlier this week the stairs are completed and awaiting final inspection and sign off by an engineer. Also I was given the information I would receive more information next week. Please contact me if you have any questions.”

Well the obvious question is when will the stairs be opened?

Nobody seems willing to take responsibility for the delay. Again, the public is being inconvenienced but who cares? It’s only the people of Weston.

Can you imagine this happening in Rosedale or Forest Hill?

I rest my case.

Dear readers, if you have some time today, please add your voice by calling your councillor: Frances Nunziata (416) 392-4091, Mike Ford 416-397-9255 or 311. Let’s make our voices heard.

Postscript: This morning I received an email from Parks Forestry and Recreation Senior Project Coordinator, Ed Hanna. According to Ed,

To clarify, in our final meeting last week onsite , we requested additional planting to the stair side to prevent potential access towards underneath the staircase for safety concerns
As a construction site and for safety measures, the contractor needs to complete site restoration while the staircase is still closed, this will happen today and tomorrow
I realize that this is an important pathway for the community, and that this project took longer than expected, we apologize for that.
All above will be completed, and the staircase will be opened in a couple of more days( Wednesday May 10).

Thanks to all who called in to request some action on this project. I’m sure that made the difference.

Foreign money pushing up house prices.

The logic-defying and alarming increases in Toronto’s housing prices have affected us in Weston to some extent. The boom is largely taking place outside our borders. While we still live in an affordable area, interestingly the net effect of the current market is lower property taxes for us. This is because higher assessments in other parts of the city mean that those residents are taking a larger share of the total assessment. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that housing prices (and rents) are rising at an unsustainable rate. What are we being told about the rise in housing prices? The big lie is that it’s simply a lack of supply and that more housing is needed. Based on this lie, there are proposals to eat into Toronto’s Green Belt and put more housing there.

A new report issued this week from the Ryerson’s City Building Institute tackles the housing shortage theory and disproves it. While there is enough housing for residents, the seeming shortage is likely caused by money looking for a safe haven in Canada. According to the report, it’s hard to trace foreign money that’s causing the boom but unless we do something about money flooding our city (such as a foreign buyers’ tax or a progressive property surtax), a lot of (especially) young people will be putting themselves at risk, saddled with an impossible debt. This could trigger a financial crisis, once the bubble inevitably bursts causing even more turmoil.

Over to you Province of Ontario.

Smitherman to bid for council in 2018

George Smitherman. From ctvnews.ca

Weston native born politician, George Smitherman has announced he will run for council in next year’s civic election. While he will not run in York South-Weston, he plans to take a shot at one of the three new wards created after a boundary review and council vote last November. The condo boom of the past few years, has seen population growth in the downtown core and Smitherman hopes to end up with a home and seat there.

While a progressive councillor for Ward 11 might have been a big change from the current incumbent, all is not lost. Many vital decisions at council have been won or lost by only a few votes. Mayor John Tory opposed adding three extra wards. Why?  Possibly because the new wards are downtown and could add three progressive voices and votes which might improve the tone and dare I say humanity of Council decisions. As an added bonus, Smitherman has close ties with the Liberal Party of Canada along with Immigration Minister and York South Weston MP Ahmed Hussen so no doubt there will be a strong link to the federal government.

Here begins the speculation that the long term plan is to knock John Tory off his mayoral perch in 2022.

Stay tuned; it should be an interesting ride.

Work on Kodak lands continues this year.

An interesting article in railwayage.com summarizes the progress expected this year on the Eglinton Crosstown line. Apparently the first track to be installed will go on the Kodak lands later this year as part of the rail yard that will be built there. The line is scheduled to be in service by 2021.

The total cost of the 19 km, 25 station partially (10 km) underground line is estimated to be $6.6B and is a relative steal compared to the $3.2B estimated cost of the one-station Scarborough Subway extension.

Incidentally, our mayor and councillor seem bound and determined to push forward with the Scarborough folly and have rejected a fully-funded seven station LRT. These are the people who successfully voted against basing transit decisions on data.  They didn’t want ranked balloting either. I wonder why.

Speed limits lowering around Weston / Mount Dennis

We get outraged whenever a murder takes place in our city, yet people driving cars kill a similar number of Torontonians each year. Part of the problem is that our city has been designed to favour the automobile. Most cities in Europe have extensive traffic-free zones where pedestrians can walk without worrying about traffic.

A quiet Sunday afternoon in the Spanish city of Cartagena. Traffic free streets like this are common in Europe. Incidentally (and completely off topic), notice the lack of overhead wiring and also the use of mid-rise apartment buildings to achieve density.

Cars have been heavily redesigned over the years to protect the occupants in the case of a collision. Nothing is on the outside to help an unfortunate pedestrian or cyclist who is struck by a car.

The old expression goes, “Speed kills”. Logic tells us that the faster a car goes, the greater the impact in a collision. What most of us don’t realize is that thanks to the laws of physics, a car travelling at 6o km/h is almost twice as likely to kill a pedestrian or cyclist as one going at 50 km/h.

Pedestrian and cyclist risks when hit by a car. Data from aaafoundation.org

With greater speed, longer reaction times are needed and braking distance increases.

This Australian video illustrates the dangers of low level speeding.

As part of Vision Zero, a city-wide push to target the huge number of deaths and injuries on Toronto streets, some speed limits across the city are about to be lowered. The ones in our immediate vicinity are:

  • Dixon Road from Highway 427 to Royal York Road – Reduced from 60 km/h to 50 km/h
  • Rogers Road from Weston Road to Old Weston Road – Reduced from 50 km/h to 40 km/h

In addition, pedestrian crossing times will be lengthened at certain intersections.

All of us are vulnerable pedestrians; let’s think that way when we’re driving.

City recommends against fence on MacDonald

City staff are again recommending against closing the laneway between Lawrence and Macdonald—an issue that has been ongoing for several months.

The laneway in question
The laneway in question

Some residents complained that it draws “illegal and antisocial behaviours”.

As the report says, closing the laneway would provide “the abutting landowners with the benefits of a private lane, while being maintained by the City. The disadvantages of closing the lane include the removal of an efficient transportation link for a significant number of pedestrians between Lawrence Avenue West and MacDonald Avenue, including the local high school”.

The issue should be decided at the October 13 Etobicoke York Community Council. It will then go before City Hall.