As the Metrolinx Davenport Reference Panel wraps up its work this Saturday, I continue to have serious concerns with Metrolinx's plans to build a large rail bridge over our community. Building on my Motion that was passed at Toronto City Council in April, I wrote to Metrolinx last week outlining some of my concerns.
Some of the key issues that I have asked Metrolinx President & CEO Bruce McCuaig to consider immediately include:
- I believe that it is in the public interest to fully understand the decision behind recommending an overpass, as opposed to a below grade option to bypass the Davenport Diamond as it does appear that there could be significant community benefits that would arise from a below grade option. The first time the City received Metrolinx's two feasibility studies on this project was April 16, 2015. As a result, City Planning staff require adequate time to complete a technical review of the work completed to-date and determine whether City objectives have been addressed in the decision making process that flowed from these studies.
- The City has recently advised Metrolinx that a new GO Station at Bloor Street and Lansdowne Avenue is in the City's Official Plan and is a key issue. I strongly believe that a GO Station at Bloor Street and Lansdowne Avenue as part of the Barrie GO Line is necessary for local residents, the surrounding community and to enhance network connectivity. This stop would help alleviate the ridership pressures on the Jane, Keele, and Dufferin TTC bus routes, while providing another vital link for transit riders on the Bloor-Danforth Subway Line.
If this station does not get built, it would represent a missed opportunity by Metrolinx to enhance network connectivity for both GO Transit and the TTC, and to increase the economic competitiveness of the Greater Toronto Area. In addition to the local community benefits, there are employment lands located nearby that would benefit from such a transit connection. I am sure that you and I can both agree on how important it is to provide more public transit options for riders.
- As you may be aware, Toronto City Council has directed the City's Chief Planner, Jennifer Keesmaat to ensure that land-use planning (including grade separation underground or above ground) and urban design considerations are part of the Environmental Assessment process being carried out by Metrolinx for the rail grade separation project. The process to consider how design excellence is embedded in the project solution has yet to be realized, as no scope has been developed and no process appears to be in place to co-ordinate this with the technical review. It is important that the local community also receives the best possible benefit from this project. In light of those points, a related point is how much will Metrolinx contribute for public realm improvements as part of this project?
- Development of an agreed Project Schedule in consultation with City staff, that provides sufficient time for technical review iterations, and community input and discussion on the options, analysis, community benefits, and design excellence of the preferred solution.
I look forward to meeting with Metrolinx in the near future to discuss my concerns and other issues that have been raised throughout this process. I will continue keep you informed every step of the way as we obtain more information.
Having previously informed you about Metrolinx plans to construct a large rail bridge on the east side of our Junction Triangle neighbourhood, I have taken quick follow up action to ensure that land-use planning and urban design considerations are part of the EA process being carried out by Metrolinx.
Due to its height and bulk, this proposed bridge will create a significant impact on the surrounding, largely residential, neighbourhoods. The appropriate planning of this infrastructure must include measures to mitigate these impacts. Toronto's City Planning department has a critical role in diagnosing the potential impact to resident and community interests within the EA process, as well as identifying urban design opportunities afforded through the proposal. Among the significant concerns directly affecting city and community interests as a result of this proposal are: vibration, community division, land-use, visual/aesthetic issues, compromised land development opportunities and public safety concerns.
I have taken a strong position on this issue and said that City staff must have an opportunity to identify what new measures can be invoked to mitigate negative community impacts and foster better use of the transformed landscape. The pressure from my office and area residents, along with City staff expertise will help ensure that we maximize the positive local outcomes from this regional transportation project.
You can view my motion that was passed here.
Click on the image or this link to view the full pdf version of this notice.
Toronto Star - When the mayor of Canada's largest city sounds an alarm on rail safety, along with councillors from neighbourhoods at particular risk, federal officials would do well to listen. [View copy of the letter]
They would do even better to act before a catastrophe hits some large urban area.
The concerns expressed in a letter to federal Transport Minister Lisa Raitt by Toronto Mayor John Tory, and 17 councillors from across the political spectrum, aren't the result of idle anxiety. On the contrary, they're a timely warning about gaps that persist in Canada's revamped rail-safety rules and regulations.
In the wake of the train derailment and subsequent inferno that killed 47 people in Lac-Mégantic, Que., it's essential that those gaps be closed.
The open letter to Raitt was initiated by Councillor Josh Matlow and signed by representatives of every ward traversed by a major Canadian Pacific rail line running through the city. As reported by the Star's Jessica McDiarmid, the politicians took a particularly strong stand due to worry that many residents' homes are located extremely close to tracks routinely used to transport dangerous goods.
While expressing appreciation for federal rail safety improvements brought in so far, the councillors who signed the letter are calling for more, including:
A look at using alternate routes to ship dangerous material currently moving through densely populated neighbourhoods.
Accelerated removal of tank cars, used to ship volatile crude oil, that don't meet Ottawa's revamped safety standards.
A review of those standards, especially in light of recent accidents in Northern Ontario involving supposedly better tank cars that did satisfy new federal requirements.
Two fiery derailments have happened near Gogama, Ont., between Timmins and Sault Ste. Marie, in recent weeks - one in February and one in March. The incidents were particularly troubling in that they involved tank cars that were meant to be a significant improvement over the old DOT-111 tankers that failed with such horrific consequences at Lac-Mégantic.
It's only a matter of luck that both these recent accidents occurred in isolated areas instead of in the middle of a city or town. Tougher, more crash-resistant tank cars are desperately needed, and they shouldn't be introduced through some leisurely, years-long regulatory phase-in.
The March 31 letter from Toronto's mayor and councillors also suggested "promoting better communication between the rail industry and communities." But that's not specific enough.
Rail carriers are currently required to tell municipal first-responders about hazardous goods moving through their city or town. Such information is passed along strictly on a confidential basis, so that fire departments and other agencies can be in a better position to draw up disaster-response plans.
But concerned residents living near rail lines also deserve to know, at least after the fact, the nature of what's being transported just outside their door. Unfortunately, Ottawa's reformed rules and regulations, so far, require no such clarity.
Members of the public deserve to be more thoroughly informed on rail safety issues; stronger tank cars need to be brought in more quickly and dangerous shipments should be detoured around dense urban areas. Once such measures are instituted, federal officials will be in a position to say honestly that they have taken every reasonable step to avoid another disaster on the scale of Lac-Mégantic.
[This story was reposted from the Toronto Star on Tuesday, April 7th, 2015]
This week you may have read a Toronto Star article, been alerted to news posted on neighbourhood list-servs or reviewed information on the Junction Triangle website that Metrolinx has announced plans to construct an elevated rail structure through our neighbourhood. I share the concerns of local residents regarding these plans and, although it is still early in the process, I have begun advocating to ensure the best possible outcomes from this project.
The plan, as proposed, is for Metrolinx to ramp up their tracks along the Barrie GO line from just north of Bloor Street and gradually elevate the tracks to more than 8 metres in order to bypass the CN Rail crossing north of Dupont.
This project will no doubt have major impacts on our area. While another long period of construction will leave us with a permanent visual landmark, there is also huge potential on the ground once the tracks are raised. We may be able knit our neighbourhoods back together with improved street connections, new and enhanced public spaces and world-class public art. Looking at these possibilities is the task of Metrolinx Residents Reference Panel. I will be watching this process closely and guarding against unrealistic expectations. It is critically important that any expectations that Metrolinx raises for community improvements are accompanied by the necessary funding to make them into reality.
I remain hopeful and open-minded after speaking with Metrolinx staff and having my office represent community interests at the DIGIN meeting on March 11th. At the same time I will be aggressively pursuing Metrolinx to ensure that the promised community benefits are funded and the corridor is electrified.
There will be more public meetings on this topic and I will keep you informed every step of the way. To ensure the most timely updates, please follow me on Twitter or on Facebook.
A top priority for me as Councillor has been expanding the West Toronto Railpath – a linear park that runs along the Georgetown Rail Corridor and an incredible community asset. Over the last 3 years, I have been working hard to secure the funding, approvals and support to keep this important project growing. With much of this now secured, in spring 2013 the enviromental assessment for Phase 2 was awarded. This began a phase of public consultation with residents, stakeholders, businesses and community organizations to determine the preferred route for expansion. The design consultant then incorporated this information into their study.
With the additional construction for the new Pearson Air-Rail Link, however, it has been difficult to negotiate the space needed in this corridor to extend the Railpath south of Dundas Street.
In response, I convened a meeting with the CEO of Metrolinx and local Councillors to reinforce the importance of this City project and am pleased to report that solutions were identified that have increased the space available for Railpath.
With the consultant’s designs being finalized, we are again receiving public feedback on Railpath Phase 2. Please watch for upcoming meetings, call my office or visit my website for more information and to be involved in this exciting project. Whether you walk, run or cycle, I look forward to hearing from you and seeing you on the path!
The Dufferin Street Bridge in Toronto has re-opened for vehicular traffic. The bridge, which is south of Springhurst Avenue and goes over the GO Transit/Metrolinx Rail Corridor, has been closed to traffic since last June.
The purpose of the closure was to ensure public safety. The bridge was scheduled for replacement, but as a result of inspections done in 2013, the City made the decision to expedite the closure and install temporary bridges before the construction of a permanent bridge.
The temporary bridges will remain open to traffic until the permanent bridge is completed in 2019.
Toronto Parking Authority Taps Alta Bicycle Share, Inc. to Operate Bike Share Program
March 31, 2014 - Toronto – The Toronto Parking Authority (TPA) today announced that effective April 1, 2014 Alta Bicycle Share will take over the operation of Bike Share Toronto from the Public Bike Share Company (PBSC).
“We’re committed to making bike share in Toronto a success,” said TPA President Lorne Persiko. “Our objective as a global leader in parking services is to connect people and places by providing a parking experience that is second to none. We want to provide users of Bike Share Toronto the same high-level experience and hope to become a global leader in bike sharing.”
The new name comes with a fresh start for Toronto’s bike share system. The selection of Alta Bicycle Share, Inc., will ensure a seamless operation of the bike share system with 80 stations and 1,000 bikes. The change in management is intended to result in a more reliable system led by Alta, an operator that has successfully managed large scale urban bike share programs in New York City, Chicago, Washington DC, Boston, San Francisco, and several others. This year, Fast Company Magazine named Alta one of the Top 50 Most Innovative Companies in the world.
“We are pleased that the bike share program will continue to operate in our city,” said Toronto City Councillor and bike share supporter Denzil Minnan-Wong. “A vibrant city like Toronto needs bike sharing to be one of its transportation options and the Toronto Parking Authority, with its track record of running an excellent business, is best placed to make it work.”
“Bike sharing is a popular way to get around in Toronto,” said Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly. “I’m sure Torontonians, tourists, and businesses will benefit from the efforts of all involved to give it a fresh new start.”
In addition to the name change to “Bike Share Toronto,” the TPA will be making some adjustments to the program, including a change to the price of Long-Term and Short-Term Membership. Starting in April, Long-Term Memberships will be reduced from $97 to $90 per year for Annual Membership and $41 to $18 per month for Monthly Membership. Short-Term Membership will increase slightly from $12 to $15 for 72-Hour Passes and $5 to $7 for 24-Hour Passes. They will also begin offering Corporate Memberships, which allow local businesses and organizations to offer reduced or subsidized Memberships to their employees.
"The City of Toronto is always looking for ways to improve Toronto's transportation system,” said Stephen Buckley, General Manger of Toronto Transportation Services. “We are pleased that bike sharing will remain a viable option for Toronto residents.”
The TPA and Alta encourage current members to email [email protected] with any feedback or comments, and to note that, beginning April 1, they can find the bike share program online at BikeShareToronto.com. Customer service representatives can be reached 24/7 at the new number 855.898.2378.
About the TPA:
The Toronto Parking Authority is a self-sustaining public corporation owned by the City of Toronto. It contributes significant revenues to the City's general reserves while successfully meeting its mandate to provide safe, attractive, conveniently located and competitively priced off and on-street public parking, required by commercial strips and neighbouring residential areas to survive. Recognized as a world leader in parking technology services the Parking Authority has been successful in ensuring that businesses in these areas continue to grow and the neighbourhoods remain vibrant.
About Alta Bicycle Share:
Bike Share Toronto is operated by Alta Bicycle Share based in Portland, Oregon. Alta currently operates Capital Bikeshare in Washington DC, Arlington and Alexandria, VA and Montgomery County, MD; Hubway in the Boston-Metro region;Melbourne Bike Share in Melbourne, Australia, Bike Chattanooga in Chattanooga, TN; Citi Bike in New York City; Divvy in Chicago; CoGo in Columbus, OH; and Bay Area Bike Share in the Bay Area, CA.
VP Real Estate, Development & Marketing, TPA|
Direct: (416) 393-7295
General Manager, Bike Share Toronto
Direct: (416) 853-7765
Toronto City Council has approved a comprehensive congestion management plan that will see the implementation of numerous initiatives over the next five years aimed at improving traffic movement on Toronto streets including the downtown area.
Many of these initiatives will help to reduce vehicle delays, fuel consumption for drivers as well as reduce the impact on our environment. And it's not just about moving cars. About 60 per cent of TTC users travel on our road network. Getting our road system performing more efficiently will improve the quality of life for all residents.
Congestion has a significant impact on residents, businesses and visitors. Recent studies have indicated that congestion costs Toronto commuters several billions of dollars annually in travel delays, vehicle operating costs and accidents.
Among the key elements of the congestion management plan are:
- upgrading the City's traffic signal management software to a new system by the end of 2014
- the re-evaluation and co-ordination of approximately 1,000 traffic signals
- the installation of 100 traffic cameras on arterial roads to better detect problems on these key transportation routes
- the addition of 13 variable message signs along the Don Valley Parkway and Gardiner Expressway
- better management and use of curb lanes.
These changes, along with other initiatives, will allow the City to better respond to changes in traffic conditions, provide motorists with updated information to allow them to change routes as necessary, and improve traffic efficiency along key corridors.
By the end of this year, the City will have re-timed 245 traffic signals along parts of Kingston Road, Weston Road, Keele Street, Parkside Drive and both Lawrence Avenue East and Lawrence Avenue West, which will result in improved traffic flow.
One of the reports concerning congestion, The Downtown Traffic Operations Study, specifically deals with the challenges of congestion in the downtown core and some potential strategies that might positively impact the flow of traffic and improve safety in the downtown core.
Potential initiatives in this report that could be implemented in the next few years include dedicated curbside locations for couriers to load and unload their items during non-rush hour periods, traffic assistance personnel who would go to key intersections to discourage blockages, and the extension of peak-period parking regulations and turn prohibitions on selected roads such as Queen Street and King Street to keep traffic moving on those streets.
The City of Toronto is launching an education safety campaign to encourage pedestrians, drivers and cyclists to be more aware of each other, especially as we enter a season with reduced daylight hours.
The advertising campaign, which appears on the sides of buses, features a painted face with the eyes focussed on either a pedestrian, a cyclist or a vehicle. The campaign reminds people to be more aware of others as they travel on our roads using the slogan "Stay Alert – Stay Safe."
The focus of the campaign is to make sure that all road users understand that road safety is everyone's responsibility.
Statistics compiled by the City show that, at this time of the year, there is an increase in collisions involving pedestrians. Already this year, 30 pedestrians have been killed in collisions with vehicles – up from 18 deaths at this point last year.
For more tips on road safety for pedestrians, cyclist and drivers and to see the advertisements, visit toronto.ca/stayalert.