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Etobicoke Residents Supportive of Resurrected Finch LRT

It isn't just Scarborough that's wrestling with transit development: Finch West is all abuzz about the pros and cons of light rail, too.

Reverend Paul Kang, who opened proceedings at last night's transit meeting.

How might last week’s bombastic transit meeting in Scarborough have differed if it had taken place in a church? We got to consider that idea during another community meeting last night at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Humber Heights. A warm welcome from Reverend Paul Kang and some fun but firm ground rules from moderator Naki Osutei Morris established a respectful tone in the chapel just at Royal York and Dixon Roads. (For instance: Morris, a parishioner and youth group leader, asked the approximately 45 residents in attendance to refrain from applause, unless it was to gently remind the pair of city councillors in attendance that their brief speaking time was up.)

After some introductory remarks, activist Dave Meslin spoke first, calling out combative advocates of both light rail and subways: “The slogans coming out of both camps are actually making things worse.”

Meslin assured residents there was no “disaster” on St. Clair, the right-of-way streetcar only steps from his Davenport home. He was not so quick in dismissing more direct criticisms of LRT cheerleading. “I think it’s fair when [Mayor] Rob Ford and others say ‘all those against subways live downtown and have subways,’” he said.

Meslin was clear that the previous administration of David Miller failed to engage suburban transit riders about local transit improvements, and warned that a persistently disconnected debate “is not going to help anyone. Whatever decision [Toronto city] council makes, it has to be respected.”

Councillors Vincent Crisanti (Ward 1, Etobicoke North) and Anthony Perruzza (Ward 8, York West) were the two councillors present; each took to the mic briefly. Crisanti took a creative line, insisting first that “Etobicoke North doesn’t deserve second best” in the form of a recently restored Finch West LRT, calling subways “the only true option” before launching into endorsement of a third, “interim” option of Bus Rapid Transit along the same route until a plan for subways could be devised.

Crisanti has been pinning his BRT aspirations to Mayor Ford’s now defunct Memorandum of Understanding [PDF] with the provincial government regarding transit development in the city—a document that contains a single line calling for otherwise undefined “enhanced bus service” along Finch between Keele and Humber College.

The Etobicoke councillor insisted BRT is ideal because of the relatively low cost (Crisanti puts it at $43 million) and an average speed of 23 km/h which, Crisanti repeated for emphasis, is higher that the 22 km/h average speed of the future Finch LRT. He seemed unaware that the Finch LRT environmental assessment favoured both light rail and subways over BRT “due to the more appropriate passenger carrying capacities.”

Crisanti told residents that the very same TTC that recommended light rail on Finch was now preparing a report about BRT for that same street, one that would include funding options. “I’ll be pushing for it,” he assured.

Perruzza opened by acknowledging the presence of former Ward 1 councillor Suzan Hall, who Crisanti defeated in 2010. “We lasted four years, Vince,” Perruzza said of his time with Hall on the TTC board during the Miller era, simultaneously jabbing Crisanti over his recent removal from the Commission after just over a year.

The York West councillor positioned himself as both a driver and a lover of subways who nevertheless stands to benefit from the approved Finch LRT. “Buses will get off the street, out of the way of cars,” said Perruzza, adding that the addition of left turn lanes would further improve traffic flow.

Perruzza took care to define the competing transit visions as a win or lose proposition for riders on the 36 Finch West bus route. He challenged the fairness of taking money away from Finch to bury the Eglinton Crosstown LRT, and described Crisanti’s BRT proposal as “a colossal waste of money that would be for a bus route that is already at capacity.”

Attendee comments were generally supportive of the Finch West LRT proposal. A speaker named Mohamed chastised provincial Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak for asking provincial lawmakers to ignore city council and support Ford’s subway ambitions. “If that is the case,” said Mohamed, “why [should] we have this discussion?”

Former Liberal MP Borys Wrzesnewskyj questioned the utility of focusing on a certain mode of transit, stating, “I don’t particularly care if we have bus rapid transit or LRT, as long as it gets us where we need to go.” Etobicoke activist and teacher Nigel Bariffe pushed for an LRT with the carrot that “we expect the property value of our neighbourhoods to go up.”

One speaker named Leslie injected concern into the conversation when she stated that if the Finch West LRT proceeds, “a lot of people would lose their homes because of expropriation.” (A 2009 Finch LRT document produced by the TTC and regional transit authority Metrolinx refers to “property impacts” at six intersections along Finch, to accommodate centre-platform stations, and along curves on the route; the LRT track design fits within the current Finch right-of-way.) Councillor Crisanti played to the fear of possible expropriation, promising Leslie he would investigate. An incredulous Meslin used his next speaking opportunity to point out that either expropriations were or were not planned, adding “we should be debating facts.”

When we spoke to Crisanti after the meeting, he defended his expropriation remarks, apparently believing they will extend to property owners along the street in large numbers, and not just to those at station intersections. “It makes no sense to take two lanes away and not expropriate some properties.” he said. On the prospect of residents getting no return for the approximately $15 million already spent on the Finch environmental assessment, he quipped, “let’s not put good money after bad ideas.”

And when presented with TTC stats favouring LRT over enhanced bus service, Crisanti dodged, suggesting the numbers “are all the arguments for a subway, if you think of it logically.”

Photo by Desmond Cole.

Comments

  • Eric S. Smith

    Crisanti lives is a strange world where BRT isn’t second best. It has all of the problems that the subways-or-nothing crowd ascribe to LRT, plus lower capacity and a worse ride.

    Crisanti:

    “It makes no sense to take two lanes away and not expropriate some properties.”

    Either it’s dishonest fearmongering, or he values road space more than your house. Bad either way.

  • Anonymous

    Where were these people 3–4 years ago?

  • Anonymous

    “I think it’s fair when [Mayor] Rob Ford and others say ‘all those against subways live downtown and have subways,”
    If that’s true, then Downsview Airport is ‘downtown’. This person doesn’t know that the subways already go into the suburbs!

    • MmMmM

      true enough. and high density neighbourhoods that actually are downtown like parkdale, liberty village and cityplace are forced to use “disastrous” streetcars.

    • Anonymous

      Whether or not Mez is right, “wanting” or “against” subways are both meaningless positions.

      Paying for subways is the hard part of actually having a position on transit building. Where do all those “against paying driving charges” live? Pretty much across the city.

      Folks “Against higher property taxes”, “Against higher TTC fares” probably live everywhere too.

      “Against paying for Toronto’s Transit” people live in Ontario and the rest of Canada.

  • Anonymous

    Crisanti, after being on the commission for a year, either shows an unbelievable lack of knowledge about transit or a wanton desire to mislead constituents. Neither possibility is flattering.

    • Anonymous

      There’s a worse possibility, though. It’s both.

  • Anonymous

    It’s worth noting that Nigel Bariffe was the Green Party candidate in the 2008 federal election. Nice to see he’s still active.

    I would politely correct Meslin. I support LRT as an option among many, and I live at Yonge and Finch. Yonge and Finch isn’t downtown.

    And gosh darn it, I want Peruzza as *my* councillor! Mammoliti, Crisanti, he’ll take them all on!

  • Anonymous

    I thought city bylaws outlawed TTC discussions that involved civility?

    • glenn storey

      you da man, og.

  • J.H

    30 stops? I think TTC/Metrolinx has to reduce it to maybe 20. L.A. Metro Blue Line (LRT) has only 22 stations and the length of the line is 35.4 km.

    • Anonymous

      Not sure what neighbourhoods the Blue line goes through, but if you take a 36 bus along that route its hard to argue with the stops suggested.

      • J.H

        Blue Line connects downtown L.A. with Watts, Compton, and Long Beach so I still don’t know why there are so many stops along Finch West LRT.

    • Roger

      The Finch line will replace Finch bus service in whole or in part. The more stops eliminated the more buses needed to handle bypassed riders. Local bus service won’t use the right-of-way.
      The vast majority of the long Blue line between LA to Long Beach follows a railway right of way.

      • J.H

        Then I really don’t see this as “rapid transit.”

        • J.H

          If TTC wants drivers to get out of their cars and take public transit, then the LRT must be fast and reliable. We don’t need Spadina “LRT”-type of stops. For example, Dundas and Sullivan stops are so close that I don’t think it’s necessary to put a stop on Sullivan.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/LZE2VWRUALBZTYFWQOTEXKT7TM DRC

    Totally DISGUSTING!
    This is TYPICAL of the TTC consultation and planning process, and I find it DISGUSTING!!!
    They say they want feedback from the people who will be affected by the Finch LRT, so do they arrange a meeting near FINCH? NO! According to TTC’s own “Trip Planner” to get to this location from Finch and Islington (about the mid point of the line) it will take 2 transfers and 88 Minutes. You’ve got to be kidding! Were the TTC planners INCOMPETENT – when they chose this location, – when they stuck their reputations on LRT’s, or Both. Alternatively, were they afraid of what the Real feedback might be if it came form those affected in the Finch area.

    • Michael DiFrancesco

      Really? Because Google Maps here says that the trip would take one transfer and about half an hour: http://g.co/maps/xgf6c

      Though yeah, they probably could have picked a spot closer to Finch.

    • Anonymous

      Your 88-minute claim is not credible.

      28-29 minutes according to Google:

      http://maps.google.ca/maps?saddr=finch+and+islington&daddr=1579+Royal+York+Road&hl=en&ll=43.721738,-79.551144&spn=0.087835,0.156898&sll=43.722415,-79.549385&sspn=0.087834,0.156898&geocode=FdSDmwIdi-FB-ym5ZWvOmzoriDHAtyxQ0Q0UXg%3BFYXNmgIdOmhC-ynxiCnvyDAriDE3O4Knc1XfQg&dirflg=r&ttype=now&noexp=0&noal=0&sort=def&mra=ltm&t=m&z=13&start=0

      25-27 minutes according to the self-same TTC Trip Planner you supposedly checked:

      http://i287.photobucket.com/albums/ll133/edmundcjoconnor/Untitled.jpg

      What route are you taking to get there? You simply take the 37, and then the 58. Or walk down to Albion Road and catch the 73. Either way, simple.

      Before you fly off the handle, you might want to get a factual basis for your initial claim.

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/LZE2VWRUALBZTYFWQOTEXKT7TM DRC

        Doubled checked the TTC planner and I must concede that even though I entered 2500 Finch West the TTC planner shifted it to East. Through having grown up it Etobicoke, I knew inappropriateness of this location, even I thought 88 minutes did seems funny.
        With 1 Transfer and 27 minute to get there, I still believe that this location was, as I have said an Inappropriate and Disgusting choice if the TTC was truly interested in the views of those affected.

        • Mark Ostler

          Nowhere does the article state that it was a TTC-organized meeting. A lot of councillors and community groups have been setting up their own meetings on the transit issue of late, so it’s perfectly possible that the TTC itself had nothing to do with organizing this meeting.

          • http://profile.yahoo.com/LZE2VWRUALBZTYFWQOTEXKT7TM DRC

            I very much doubt if any Finch Residents would choose such a place and can only conclude that the person who did was either out to manipulate the proceedings which I find disgusting if true, or is totally an incompetent fool.

          • Lenny

            The meeting was organized by the Reverend Paul Kang and parishoners at St.Andrew’s.

          • http://profile.yahoo.com/LZE2VWRUALBZTYFWQOTEXKT7TM DRC

            If true I wonder WHY? How many parishioners from the Finch area could they have when there are at least 3 Presbytarian Churches in Finch area a lot closer? Who persuaded Paul Kang that this was a good idea as I can’t imagine he could be that naive. Me thinks the devil has had its hand in this somehow.

          • Anonymous

            Why are you spreading FUD?

          • Vampchick21

            Or maybe, just maybe, that was where they could get enough space to house everyone attending? I don’t know the area, being an elitist, latte-sipping, pinko resident of Parkdale, but I think perhaps DRC that you are chosing the wrong thing to get irate over.

      • Anonymous

        Point is that church is no where near the proposed LRT line.

        I wouldn’t call it disgusting but I would say that such a discussion should be taking place somewhere near Jane and Finch or in Rexdale to consider it credible local input.

        • Obrent05

          The clergy and congregation organized the meeting. Reverend Kang said his parish talks about issues, and wanted to hear from the community.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Josie-Erent/1074278927 Josie Erent

        baloney

        • Anonymous

          Pardon me?

  • Jacob

    “Crisanti took a creative line, insisting first that ‘Etobicoke North doesn’t deserve second best…’”

    No one deserves second best! Everyone is special! Subways for Rexdale! Subways for Malvern! Subways for Kingston Road! Subways for Mississauga! Subways for Oakville! Subways for everyone!!!

  • Mr Kanyo

    Does anyone know what an environmental assessment involves and what makes it so expensive? $15 million seems like a lot for an assessment.

    • Mark Ostler

      Methodically and scientifically assessing all of the possible impacts of a given project. It typically includes an assessment of various design/construction options and not only assesses the impacts of a project, but also looks at ways to mitigate those impacts. For example, the Waterfront Toronto environmental assessment to reconfigure the mouth of the Don River examined at least four different possible configurations of the river.

      Environmental assessments also require extensive public consultation. With major projects, like an LRT that crosses a huge chunk of the city and goes through areas with vastly different densities, scales of development and types of land uses, it can get extremely complicated.

    • Mark Ostler

      Methodically and scientifically assessing all of the possible impacts of a given project. It typically includes an assessment of various design/construction options and not only assesses the impacts of a project, but also looks at ways to mitigate those impacts. For example, the Waterfront Toronto environmental assessment to reconfigure the mouth of the Don River examined at least four different possible configurations of the river.

      Environmental assessments also require extensive public consultation. With major projects, like an LRT that crosses a huge chunk of the city and goes through areas with vastly different densities, scales of development and types of land uses, it can get extremely complicated.

    • glenn storey

      in terms of the overall project, no matter what opyion is chosen, it’ll be a drop in the bucket. it’ll be less than 1/10th of 1% of the project cost.

  • http://twitter.com/JerikoKrasavic Jeriko Krasavic

    Two things about that map

    1) Etobicoke-Finch West LRT was supposed to be from Yonge-Finch to Humber. So the Transit City logo shouldn’t be there

    2) Jane LRT was NEVER funded. Among Don Mills, West Waterfront and Scarborough-Malvern

  • Anonymous

    “I think it’s fair when [Mayor] Rob Ford and others say ‘all those against subways live downtown and have subways,’

    Jesus H. Christ on a bicycle.

  • Anonymous

    To be fair Crisanti got an electoral bump from Rob Ford. He’s not exactly a only there because of Ford guy, but he does owe Ford a lot.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Josie-Erent/1074278927 Josie Erent

    LRTs are slower than buses…it makes no sense to tear up the roads for LRTS.. The Minister of Transportation should resign….He has shown no leadership in this dicussion…. karen Stintz is incompetent and clearly no transportation expert but a pansy for the incompetent TTC management.