TD in Weston is closing, moving to Crossroads

I was recently amazed when I visited a bank teller to take out cash. There were—forgive me here—little old ladies with passbooks in clear vinyl envelopes asking the tellers in salty, sunny, Mediterranean languages about their balances.

I hadn’t seen a passbook in three decades, and I was amazed that people still use them. I was amazed the bank still prints them. And, if I’m honest, I was also infuriated: my god, the line was slow. Do you people not know about apps?

But my fury at the waiting in line will be nothing compared to my anger at not having a lineup at all.

The TD Bank at 1979 Weston Road will close and move to the Crossroads Plaza by this time next year, according to residents. (TD has not yet returned my calls.) This is the latest in a series of closures that are turning downtown Weston into a banking desert: the RBC and TD banks on Jane have closed, as did the Scotiabank at Weston and Lawrence. In two years, we will have gone from six branches (and four banks) to two. Only RBC on and BMO, both on Weston Road, remain.

While the big banks have been moving on, money-lenders and high-fee cheque-cashing businesses have been moving in. There are at least 10 payday loan or cheque-cashing places in Weston. Something is wrong with a community when there are more usurers than ice-cream shops.

I’m not usually the sort of guy who says that the government should meddle in business, but in this case, I think they should. Banks are not meeting their social obligations, and the government has a strong moral reason to regulate minimum levels of service—and the muscle to do so.

Being banked is a critical part of being a citizen; even the government pays by cheque and prefers direct deposit. (You can’t collect Ontario Works, for instance, in cash.) Allowing banks to close forces people into the hands of cheque-cashers, who charge about $3, +3% of the value of the cheque: a whopping $33 on a $1000 payday.

Worse, the people who will pay are those least able to: the poor, less-literate, and less mobile. Being gouged by MoneyMart makes a lot more sense when you’re faced with a 90-minute walk or a $6.50 fare and a snowy hour waiting for buses.

And then there are the knock-on, long-term effects. To open an RESP, get financial advice, or save in a TFSA, you need to have a branch. None of it can be done online. Pulling out banks means pushing people to the financial margins, and that will make our community poorer in the long run. You need to be close to a banker to pull ahead.

Of course some of us—those with cars, $100 cellphone plans, and the wherewithal to direct-deposit our infrequent cheques by photograph—we will all be fine. After all, I didn’t know people still use passbooks because I hadn’t stood in line for years.

But you can’t both curse a bank’s Friday lineup and say we don’t need it.

Ginger Pho—you should go

The family and I finally had a chance to get to Ginger Pho, on Weston Road across from the Super Store, which opened about three weeks ago. (We’ve been travelling a lot, and boy are we glad to be back!)

In short—it’s great! You should go. We stuffed ourselves for $42, before the tip, including pop and appetizers. And it was good. We had leftovers and left-behinds, too.

The highlight, for me, was my wife’s vegetarian vermicelli with fried tofu and a spring roll on top. I loved it. The tofu was perfect (neither wet nor greasy, and marinated in something good), and the spring roll was great. The veggies were fresh and crispy, and the whole thing was a balance of healthy and sinful—and a steal at about $8. There are other vegetarian options, too, including a veggie pho, made without a meat broth.

We started with cold rolls ($5) which in the future, I’d skip in favour of the superb fried rolls. The kids’ chicken phos ($6 or so) came with some, for which they handily defeated me in chop-stick battle. What little I could prise from them was really great—not at all like your typical mass-produced rolls cooked from frozen; these had shredded chicken and a crunchy, blistered skin. Superb.

I had beef pho ($9), the server’s recommendation. The slightly-sweet, cardamom and cinnamonny broth was the same as the kids’, but I got bean sprouts, which would have been wasted on the little ones. The beef slices were nice, and the basil was pretty: flowering and purple. A little lime and a single chili added some colour. I got the large, which was a mistake. Even I couldn’t finish it.

The restaurant is lovely, and modestly busy. The service is great (though they did bring my wife’s meal a minutes before the rest of ours), and the menu is extensive and interesting, with lots of room for regulars to explore. There is draft lager and a few more adventurous options, including a cider and a Belgian.

 

Bike path plans

There’s a good chance I’ll be dead before the city builds bike lanes right. Still, they’re making some small amount of progress.

Toronto is considering a new bike plan that would, among many other things, build several new lanes in and around Weston. There’s much to love: finally, we’ll get a bike lane on Wilson and join the separated parts of the Humber River Trail.

Unfortunately, the plans include a few really bad ideas, including a bike lane up Jane Street.

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I can speak of this with some authority; I ride that route every day. Jane Street is a death trap, and it can’t be fixed. There are narrow bridges, highway on- and off-ramps, many driveways, and much traffic in a rush. No amount of paint will fix that.

But there’s a much better alternative. In fact, there are two. Both Torbarrie and Bartor are quiet streets that run parallel to Jane. They’re wide and direct and connect with bike paths. Truly, there is no reason to prefer Jane.

The proposal also misses a potential connection. The Humber River Path is an excellent direct route to Humber College. (It’s also a lovely ride.) Presently, the path takes a meandering U-shaped detour soon after it crosses under the 401. Putting a bike path along the boulevard on Albion would directly connect Toronto to north Etobicoke. It is probably only 500m of paint, and a real lost opportunity.

The city will consider five plans at the Public Works meeting on the 16th. Were the councillors to vote for the most expensive plan (which is $25 million a year for 10 years), Weston would start seeing improvements in 2019. If they vote for the cheapest plan ($8 million), it will take until 2022.