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Weekend Newsstand: June 29, 2013

Before donning your rainbowed best, don't forget to peruse the news. Today: threats made against Pride, premier; Metrolinx delivers an ultimatum to the City; tensions between two city councillors escalate; the City receives a rash of FOI requests; elevator workers head back to work; and, since it's a weekend in Toronto, there will be road closures.

newsstand jeremy kai spring 4

Police have issued a public safety alert ahead of Pride weekend, as both the CBC and CityNews received threats targeting participants in the parade, as well as Kathleen Wynne. As for their investigation into the threats, the police say it is part of their security assessment for this weekend’s events, which is not unusual and something that is done for any major event in the city. In other words, don’t let this dampen your Pride spirits (likely an unnecessary request as this is a feat that even the heaviest of rain is unlikely to accomplish!) Happy Pride, all!

If Toronto doesn’t get its transit act together, Metrolinx might (temporarily) pull the plug on the Scarborough LRT. Referencing a city council vote in May that supported extending the Bloor-Danforth subway line to Scarborough Centre and Sheppard Avenue, the CEO of Metrolinx wrote a letter Friday to Toronto’s city manager looking for clarity on the City’s position on the future of local transit. In that letter, it was made clear that if the City doesn’t reaffirm its support for the project by August 2, 2013, Metrolinx will suspend work on the Scarborough LRT in order to minimize any further sunk costs, now estimated to be $85 million. Metrolinx might also send Karen Stintz to bed without supper, but that’s still TBD.

Tensions between Councillors Doug Ford (Ward 2, Etobicoke North) and Jaye Robinson (Ward 25, Don Valley West) seem to have reached new heights Friday as the former suggested the latter shouldn’t get on the field “without expecting to get hit” and advised that she not “dish it out” if she can’t “take it.” Robinson, for her part, was critical of Ford’s “locker room language” and suggested that perhaps it is rather hypocritical that he accuse others of making false accusations. Aren’t municipal politicians a treat?

Although the kind of drama mentioned above tends to play out rather publicly, the 29 freedom of information requests received by the City of Toronto for the emails and telephone records of five former staffers in the mayor’s office suggests a keen interest in what’s going on behind closed doors at City Hall. Due to the high volume of requests, those seeking this information, many of which are media outlets, will have to wait until September to review the results. Not to worry, readers, no need for a summer holiday from the local news, we’re sure something of interest will happen at City Hall between now and then.

Good news, hospital patients and visitors, condo dwellers, and office building employees, the days of annoyingly long waits for an elevator might soon be behind you as a deal has been reached in the elevator worker strike. As of July 10 at the latest, all employees will be returned to work. With complaints about the strike soon behind us, the weather will once again reign supreme as the idle chit chat topic of conversation while waiting for an elevator.

As is the case most weekends in the summer, there will be a number of road closures and a subway line disruption over the next few days. Be sure to plan your route before heading out.

Comments

  • Jacob

    Just convert the SRT to LRT already. The line is already 100% isolated from car traffic, not even running on a street, so I don’t know why Ford Nation wants to spend so much “taxpayer” money to make into a subway so bad, aside from a massive suburban inferiority complex of course.

    • bobloblawbloblawblah

      While Ford has certainly stoked suburban anger with his notion of a “downtown elite” that thinks subways are only for the downtown, ironically changing the Scarborough RT to a subway isn’t the subway he was calling for. He wanted the Sheppard line extended to the Scarborough Town Center. The numbers to justify a subway extension aren’t there and it makes perfect sense to run the Eglinton Crosstown up to STC. They should just build it and stop the bickering and political posturing.

      • Testu

        Well, now that Karen Stintz has decided to run for mayor in the next election, this is going to be turned into an olive branch for Scarborough voters. She now saying “I think this is the right subway for Scarborough, so I’m glad we have the opportunity to resolve this.” (http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/transportation/2013/06/28/metrolinx_issues_ultimatum_on_scarborough_transit.html )

        So we can expect this to be dragged out for as long as possible again to score political points. It doesn’t seem to matter that no one has any way to pay for a Scarborough subway line, she’s willing to cancel a fully funded replacement to pander to people who feel they “deserve” a subway.

        Unfortunately for the people that use the line this also pretty much guarantees that it will be de-funded and never rebuilt. If they’re lucky it’ll become a BRT line when the SRT is retired.

        • whatafoolbelieves

          Do you remember this time last year? Stintz’s..”One City”.. a Transit Plan that was tenatively funded through CVA…do you remember what the first priority was, I do…a conversion of the SRT to a B-D extension to SCC…the intial money to start was to be transferred from what would be the mothballed SRT conversion with annual pick up funding from CVA..the extension would be paid for by the end of construction…

          • bobloblawbloblawblah

            Yes. Stintz’s One City called for a three station extension of the B-D subway to McCowan & Sheppard. True she was going to transfer the funds from the Transit City LRT and the claimed there would only be a shortfall of $500 million. Now, Metrolinx is saying the difference is nearly a billion. All this for a line that will be underused. The ridership numbers don’t justify burying a new subway line — the plan is for a whole new line rather than using the existing ROW that the SRT runs on. I think Stintz is pretty bright and I’d vote for her over the scoundrel currently in the Mayor’s office(in a head-on contest). However, an extra billion for a 3 station extension when the LRT is cheaper and hooks up with the Eglinton Crosstown? She’s just doing the same thing Ford does: playing politics with transit.

          • Don River

            Separating transit from politics — that’s a good one. As if Miller & Giambrone didn’t do that, or anyone before them.

          • bobloblawbloblawblah

            Really the one who should be slammed is Lastman. He went to bat for the Sheppard line that has been a drain on the city coffers since it went into service. Miller didn’t promise Scarborough a subway line that would result in the same situation: underused and oversubsidized. I’d have more admiration for Stintz if she told us all why Scarborough should get an LRT and not a subway. Subways cost a lot to operate and if the ridership numbers aren’t there then the city has to make up the difference. All we’re hearing out of anyone advocating a Scarborough line is that it will only cost $500 million more to build. Nothing about the projected daily operating costs. That many politicians have dangled the transit carrot for their own gain is true. It’s also one reason why Toronto is so far behind and no surprise that Metrolinx has asked the city where it stands.

          • Don River

            Actually Miller was all for a Sheppard extension in his first campaign (2003) and apparently lobbied for it before Spadina was chosen, but no one remembers that now. Another twist to that story is that Karen Stintz was advising York Region, and achieved results as it turned out.

            I’m not buying ridership or operating costs as being crippling obstacles. B-D is not Sheppard. And those Metrolinx transit taxes won’t just pay for capital costs.

          • Testu

            Yes, I do remember “One City”, the transit plan that failed to get any kind of support on council and was supposed to have been paid for by property tax increases which were firmly rejected by the current administration. It also pre-supposed that Metrolinx would just hand over the funding that was earmarked for the SRT conversion, even after Metrolinx outright stated that that would not happen.

            So that makes this the third time (the second being that farce of debate on revenue tools) we will be having a debate about this same subway line that no one can find a way to pay for, instead of going ahead with the approved and fully funded replacement plan that we already have.

            The chair of the TTC should know better than this, in fact, I believe she does know better than to do this. She’s doing it anyway just so that she can claim that she fought for a subway to Scarborough come the next election. How well that will work if the whole thing gets mothballed due to council’s inability to stick to a play remains to be seen.

  • Don River

    Should have been a subway extension 30 years ago, and it’s obvious by now that the fallout from running shuttle buses for 3-5 years (no one is even sure how long) during an SRT rebuild will be too many political careers in jeopardy.

    Accept it’s going to be a subway and move on.

    • Testu

      No problem, except who’s going to pay for it? I mean both the huge upfront construction costs and the ongoing operating costs which will be significantly higher than those of an LRT line using the existing right-of-way.

      • Don River

        If I had my way (and I won’t) I’d cancel the Sheppard LRT to help pay for it, but where there’s a will there’s a way. And there is clearly a will. There will be too much political backlash if this isn’t a subway.

        • Testu

          So your plan would be to remove improved rapid transit service for an even larger section of the city to build an under used subway line so that Scarborough doesn’t get it’s feelings hurt?

          This is why it’s a bad idea, and why no one who isn’t pandering to the we deserve subways crowd has supported it the last two times it came up.

          • Don River

            If improved transit for the largest section of the city is the metric then we should build BRTs everywhere (Sheppard East would be perfect for that) and/or electrify GO and add tons of local stops. Naturally, neither the LRT or subway crowd is interested in any of that.

            They’ll never shut down Sheppard. Miller and Giambrone floated that idea and got pilloried for it. Just like they’ll never convert it to LRT. If anything the westward extension will eventually go through.

          • Testu

            It should be the goal, and yes, those are all excellent ways of accomplishing that goal. That’s part of the reason Metrolinx has been pushing for new revenue tools, to be able to fund the “Big Move” and other projects that implement ideas like those.

            My point during this whole discussion is that transit planning is being politicized, currently by Karen Stintz, and it’s plainly going to have negative effects.

          • Don River

            Transit City completely rejecting/overlooking/ignoring a DRL is having hugely negative effects six years later. What Karen Stintz is doing is minuscule compared to that epic transit planning incompetence.

    • dsmithhfx

      I agree the loss of the rt during 4-5 years a replacement lrt is being constructed is and will be a huge issue in Scarborough, and Stintz is right to call for the subway extension as an olive branch, not just for personal political gain, but to heal the unbridgeable divide between at least one suburb and the downtown, and reset the tone in this city. It’s tragic that so few get this. Maybe that will change.

      • Testu

        Wait, how is killing a planned, funded, shovel-ready SRT replacement for an unfunded and (according to TTC studies*) financially unsustainable subway line good policy?

        How about we start healing those divides by changing the divisive rhetoric of “people deserve subways” to something like people deserve good transit options. Not every line needs to be a subway.

        Building another Albatross of a subway line for the sake of soothing some collective inferiority complex is absolutely absurd. Especially since we can’t even get people to agree on how to pay for what we’re already building.

        *Seriously, do your think the B/D subway extension idea has been rejected repeatedly because the TTC has some sort of “Fuck Scarborough” agenda?

        • Don River

          Why should anyone trust studies, especially after those ones which miraculously confirmed every Transit City assumption that one-size-fits-all LRT was exactly what Toronto needed city-wide. That 2007 long-range plan, by the way, also somehow concluded that we had no need for a DRL any time soon, and was never amended to include one. By 2012, Metrolinx and Council agreed (correctly) that the DRL was the most important transit need for the city. I’d love to know how your infallible TTC studies managed to miss that.

          So don’t try to tell me the TTC is any more divorced from gamesmanship regarding transit planning than Council.

          • Testu

            So do you not trust the conclusions or the data? Because unless you’re accusing the TTC of falsifying the data there’s not much to argue here.

            The SRT sees about 40,000 riders per day. That’s less than the 36 Finch West, 32 Eglinton West, and the 35 Jane. All of which are bus routes. Eglinton West has nearly 10,000 more riders per day and that’s becoming an LRT line, so is Finch.

            The ridership data does not support the need for a subway replacement for the SRT. In fact it shows that it would have about the same ridership as the Sheppard line, which constantly loses money due to under use.

            Ridership sources:
            http://www.ttc.ca/About_the_TTC/Transit_Planning/Surface_Ridership_2012.jsp

            http://www.ttc.ca/PDF/Transit_Planning/Subway%20ridership%202011-2012.pdf

          • Don River

            I’m accusing everyone of playing politics, and the ones who play it better usually win. That’s why I’m predicting B-D will be extended.

            Another prediction: Transit City will be the last plan that excludes HRT subways. The backlash to Transit City helped give us Rod Ford, and whether or not he gets re-elected, the overwhelming political appeal of subways is something no Toronto politician can ever ignore again.

          • Testu

            The problem is that playing politics and political appeal don’t pay for anything. Without the money to build and support thse new subway lines they won’t get past the drawing lines on a map stage.
            Karen Stinz is jeopardizing a fully funded plan for one that has no funding at all. What’s her political appeal going to be when the SRT is shutdown at the end of its operational life with no replacement in place?
            Unless the political appeal of subways is able to get people to pay increased taxes, tolls, and fares, there’s no money to build them.

          • Don River

            Then let it be jeopardized. The province is endlessly going on about how they will respect the will of council so let’s see them walk the walk. If Council pushes for a B-D extension (and I think it will), the province will have little choice but to reopen the master agreement. The opposition already has tons of dirt to throw at the current government, and it would be political suicide for them to go into the next election after pulling $8 billion of transit funding from Toronto.

            Beyond some creative accounting that may get us B-D, it’s very true that taxes dedicated solely to transit will be required for further expansion, whether subway, LRT, or whatever. But if they are rejected, the real danger is that York Region has a shovel-ready project in the Yonge extension that could conceivably get funded without need of transit taxes. Then we’d be in huge trouble.

            And hey, look, the TTC says Metrolinx is overestimating the cost difference between subway and LRT:

            http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/transportation/2013/07/01/ttc_chief_disputes_subway_price_tag_from_metrolinx.html

            Wonder who’s lying this time.

          • HotDang

            Way to defer on the question that put a dagger in the heart of your argument, by the way.

            There is no ridership for a subway, so we shouldn’t build one. End of story. Just because you’d prefer it doesn’t make it a good idea.

          • Don River

            Just because you don’t prefer it means even less since Council is pushing ahead with it.

          • OgtheDim

            Council isn’t pushing anything.

            Its being asked for.

            It ain’t happening without the money.

          • Don River

            Pushed, asked, what’s the real difference? The test will be 1) if the extra money can be found and then 2) if Council supports the change.

            We shall see. I’m giving odds of 75-25 in favour of a B-D extension…..unless the (alleged) video comes out, then all bets are off!

          • dsmithhfx

            The “extra money” won’t be “found”. That’s a guarantee. The budget has been starved by ~20 years of below-par property taxes, and bled white by 3 years of Rob Ford. So, nothing there. The money needed to pay for new transit above and beyond what the province contributed to the original Transit City can only come from new revenues: raise property taxes in line with the region and other Canadian municipalities (recognizing there’s a lot of catching-up to do); and new taxes and ‘user fees’ (tax by another name) from sources like parking, road tolls, downtown congestion taxes. That’s the quid pro quo for any new subway construction. It has to get broad voter/’taxpayer’ buy-in for new revenues, or it’s not on. See, Rob says he supports new subways, but he’ll choke on that. Guaranteed. That’s where real leaders have to step up to the plate. Whiny coke guy can go crying home to momma.

          • Don River

            I bet he supports one tax increase (probably development fees) to fund this. He can’t go into the next election without one subway on his resume.

          • HotDang

            Council’s brains don’t grow on trees.

          • Don River

            There are no atheists in foxholes.

        • dsmithhfx

          You still haven’t explained how replacing the SRT with buses for up to five years is or will be perceived as acceptable. That’s really the key issue. Personally, I can live with the replacement being LRT on a new ROW, but closing the current solution with no viable interim option is a non-starter.

          • Testu

            It won’t be acceptable, and the BRT service will likely be strained unless they put some planning into running it.

            Unfortunately there is no scenario where that line doesn’t end up using buses. Even assuming they found a way to fund construction of a subway line there’s no way to have anything ready to use by the time the line is retired in 2015.

            Of course since Metrolinx has stated they won’t hand over the unused SRT conversion money if the plan is cancelled and half the city is unwilling to support any new revenue tools to pay for transit (and so are their councillors) we can be rest assured that there will be no funding to build a subway line anyway.

          • dsmithhfx

            Saying the current plan is cast in stone and can’t be improved upon is political dynamite, and a gift-wrapped wedge issue. Replacing the SRT with buses ain’t going to be free (as some apparently assume) or pretty. If you don’t happen to live in Scarborough, you don’t care.That’s a problem.

          • Testu

            I’m not saying any of that. I’m saying they’re risking cancelling an SRT replacement that’s ready to be built for something that’s essentially a pipe dream. The buses will cost money, and they’ll likely have to be pulled from other parts of the system to help meet demand. No one that uses the SRT regularly is going to enjoy it.

            The SRT cannot continue to run indefinitely, the vehicles have a service lifetime and Bombardier doesn’t make them (or rail-gauge compatible units) anymore. Sooner than later it will need to be replaced.

            Right now there is a fully funded rail based replacement that can be in place by 2020. If the Metrolinx project is scrapped how long do you think it will be before shovels are in the ground for a subway? Assuming of course, they could fund it. Keep in mind that it would require all new environmental assessments, studies, etc.

          • dsmithhfx

            “Suck it up Scarborough, we’re doing you a favour” don’t cut the mustard.

          • Testu

            Ease off the persecution complex a bit, would you?
            How about this, why should the TTC build a subway line to service a route that has ridership in line with bus routes elsewhere in the city?

          • dsmithhfx

            1. I don’t have a persecution complex: I don’t commute on the SRT. I do believe that the next municipal election this issue will be turned into a huge factor, and this may be our last, best opportunity to get it right.

            2. I do not advocate replacing the SRT with a subway extension (nor do I rule it out). Should it be subway? Well, let’s look at at that.

            3. I do advocate maintaining the SRT while the replacement, whatever form it takes, is constructed, because (I believe) doing so will strongly mitigate, if not completely defuse the issue.

  • iSkyscraper

    Happy Canada Day from the expats! Here is a nice US story on Toronto:

    http://www.npr.org/2013/07/01/196243452/rotenbergs-toronto-thrillers-mix-canadian-courtesy-with-murder

  • nikun888

    tinyurl.com/l3cselt…