Eglinton Crosstown

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A Scarborough city councillor declares war on grass

grassWhat’s ruining Toronto this week? No, not condo developers or heritage coach houses. This time, the culprit is grass.

The Toronto Sun reports that Scarborough Southwest councillor Michelle Berardinetti is getting ready to ask city council to join her in opposition to a plan to plant grass on a section of the new street-level light-rail tracks that will eventually be laid on Eglinton Avenue as part of the Eglinton Crosstown project. The idea, which Berardinetti calls “absolutely ridiculous,” first made news in April. Essentially, transit planners want to use some combination of grass and sedum to give the tracks a “green ribbon” appearance. The Crosstown will run underground for about half of its length, so the treatment would be applied only to the aboveground portion of the line, which will run through Scarborough.

What does Berardinetti have against grass? “It’s all about safety,” she told the Sun. “If the green grass is gone, the emergency vehicles can access the trackway.” In other words, if anyone dies waiting for an ambulance in Scarborough, that grass will have blood on its hands (blades?). The idea of allowing emergency responders to use the tracks is an interesting one (the tracks will run in a separated median, sort of like the ones on Spadina Avenue), but it’s not clear that it would be practical, considering the fact that the right-of-way will ideally be full of fast-moving light-rail vehicles. See, this is what happens when Rob Ford leaves town for a while. City hall goes back to worrying about things like killer landscaping.

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The idea of building more islands in Lake Ontario is still kicking around

The man-made islands could make swimming at Sunnyside Beach more palatable (Image: John Vetterli)

Dirt: when you dig it up, it has to go somewhere. Aware of this inescapable truth, the city is still considering taking the 1.8 million cubic metres of dirt that the Eglinton Crosstown excavation will displace and making a bunch of man-made islands. (An added bonus: the islands, which would likely cost $54 million to $84 million to build, would act as a barrier to the polluted water that flows from the Humber River into Lake Ontario, improving the water quality at Sunnyside Beach). An environmental assessment is underway, which should determine whether critics’ worries about contaminated soil are founded. The idea doesn’t have any strong champions on council yet—Sarah Doucette, for instance, worried about the disruptions dump trucks would bring to the south end, noting, “That’s a lot of trucks.” It’s also a lot of dirt. [Toronto Star]

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TTC supports Metrolinx’s Eglinton plans—but wants you to know who’s responsible if things go wrong 

Despite ongoing reports of a TTC versus Metrolinx power struggle, TTC brass have grudgingly come out in support of Metrolinx’s aggressive 2020 deadline for the Eglinton Crosstown LRT line. In a presentation yesterday, senior TTC staff vocally doubted the construction timeline and described the traffic chaos that would result, but TTC commissioners still endorsed the Metrolinx plan. TTC CEO Andy Byford downplayed his staff’s critique. “In our professional opinion there are some issues that need to be aired,” he said, diplomatically, and he denied the agency was using the critiques as a we-told-you-so form of insurance in case the project goes awry. Problem is, Karen Stintz seems to have missed that memo—she told the Globe and Mail that she wants the public to know who to talk to when the disruptions begin: “If it’s not our project and not our accountability, we can’t be held responsible for those answers.” [Globe and Mail]

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TTC versus Metrolinx: can the Eglinton Crosstown be finished by 2020?

(Image: The City of Toronto)

The ongoing power struggle between the TTC and Metrolinx is ramping up over the construction of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT. Backed up by a panel assembled by the American Public Transportation Association, the TTC says Metrolinx and provincial procurement agency Infrastructure Ontario won’t be able to deliver the Eglinton line by 2020 without huge headaches for residents (think 12 underground stations being dug out at once). TTC staff suggest that a 2022 or 2023 finish date would be more realistic—and that IO lacks transit-building experience. Given that IO is responsible for finding a private partner to design, finance, build and maintain the network while the TTC will simply operate it, it sounds like the latter is still bitter that it’s not the lead agency for the project. However, TTC chair Karen Stintz says the commission has accepted the loss of control and simply wants more information about how the province will deliver on the ambitious timeline. Still, we imagine the fact that Rob Ford remains enthusiastic about IO’s leadership on the project won’t help Stintz and the mayor improve their relationship. [Globe and Mail]

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Now that council has stopped bickering, Metrolinx will finally speak up on Toronto transit 

Since the Sheppard showdown in March, we’ve had a break from transit-planning theatrics, but the next act is fast approaching. On April 25, Metrolinx (the provincial agency actually ponying up the dough for all this glorious transit) will reveal its plans (and we’re sure any number of councillors will weigh in once they do). According to the Toronto Star, the provincial agency will give detailed recommendations for transit on Eglinton, Sheppard East, Finch West and in Scarborough. Though it’ll still be some time before the new vehicles are up and running, it’s nice to see Toronto is starting to move from the angry yelling part of this process into the moving-forward-with-plans stage. Read the entire story [Toronto Star]

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Should the Air Rail Link to Pearson Airport have more stops? 

Forming an unlikely alliance, councillors Mike Layton and Frances Nunziata are asking Metrolinx to add more stops to the line from Union Station to Pearson Airport, which begins construction this spring. The odd couple councillors and local residents want eight more stops on top of the two currently planned for the line, and they also want the trains to be electric, not diesel-powered. It looks like the provincial transit agency won’t consider those requests, though, because the project is on budget and on schedule, and environmental assessments only included the two planned stations, according to the National Post. Metrolinx is, however, open to Nunziata’s suggestion of linking the line to the Eglinton Crosstown LRT—which they’ll get on just as soon as it opens in 2020. Read the entire story [National Post] »

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Royson James on the political intrigue and backroom deals in the fight over Toronto transit 

Toronto Star columnist Royson James writes the acrimonious transit spat the city is currently embroiled in is a mere squabble compared to a broader backroom plan to “emasculate” and “tame” the TTC. According to James—and his unnamed sources—Metrolinx, Queen’s Park, and the mayor’s office all want to oust TTC manager Gary Webster and to fire TTC chair Karen Stintz for failing to get rid of him (her recent campaign against Rob Ford’s transit proposal certainly couldn’t have helped her cause either). For some of the alleged co-conspirators, the end game is privatizing much of the transit commission, which they view as uncooperative, ineffective and generally impotent. James even offers that Metrolinx secretly prefers putting the Eglinton Crosstown underground, and that the regional agency is actually the one pushing that agenda forward behind the scenes. It seems, as James puts it, “while officials play nice in public, in private the knives come out.” Read the entire story [Toronto Star] »

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Karen Stintz calls for transit sanity; Giorgio Mammoliti calls for the opposite (i.e. a Finch subway)

Early reports from city hall suggest Rob Ford and the rest of council are in for a transit-themed slugfest at today’s special council meeting. Karen Stintz, who started the whole brouhaha when she said what everyone already knew about Ford’s grand vision to bury the Eglinton Crosstown, has already made her recommendations. In short, she wants council to reaffirm its support for LRT lines on Finch and Eglinton, convert the Scarborough RT to an LRT line with an extension to the Malvern Town Centre (as funds become available) and establish an expert advisory panel regarding transit on Sheppard Avenue. Meanwhile, Giorgio Mammoliti—and only Giorgio Mammoliti—wants a subway on Finch. Watch the proceedings live here »

(Images: Karen Stintz, Mike Beltzner; Giorgio Mammoliti, Christopher Drost)

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Karen Stintz calls for a special council meeting to kibosh Rob Ford’s transit plan

With the support of 23 fellow councillors, Karen Stintz boldly called for a special council meeting to confirm the city’s memorandum of agreement for light-rail transit on Eglinton, Sheppard and Finch. We’d say this sounds a lot like the resurrection of Transit City—but that name died with the David Miller administration, so we’d better not. Instead, we’ll just say this: Stintz’s petition will likely serve as the nail in the coffin for Rob Ford’s grand plan to bury the Eglinton Crosstown. And really, the mayor has nobody to blame but himself on this one. First, Stintz offered him a compromise, but he declined. Then, Gordon Chong, the man Ford asked to make his subway dreams come true, suggested the city fund the Sheppard extension by instituting road tolls, among other revenue-generating measures, but Doug Ford called those a “tax grab.” Yes, the mayor says he has a mandate to build subways, so building subways is what he’s going to do. But it appears council believes it has a mandate to build light rail, so building light rail is what it—and, more importantly, the city—is going to do. Read the entire story [Toronto Star] »

(Images: Rob Ford, Christopher Drost; Karen Stintz, Mike Beltzner)

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Local experts blast Rob Ford’s transit plan, turning his government-as-business rhetoric against him

(Image: Christopher Drost)

Just in case the mayor is feeling a little too confident after city hall’s victory over CUPE 416 in the recent labour negotiations, a group of over 100 planning experts, academics and other civic leaders issued a letter denouncing the current state of transit planning in the city. The letter challenges Rob Ford’s steadfast commitment to burying the Eglinton LRT and calls for it to be built partially above ground, as well as for a form of “higher-order” transit on Finch West and Sheppard East and the conversion of the Scarborough RT line to light rail.

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Rob Ford didn’t have the authority to cancel Transit City (lawyers say so)

(Image: Christopher Drost)

Apparently, it takes more than a mayoral “because I said so” for the city to kill an extensive public transit plan. Rob Ford may have unilaterally declared former Mayor David Miller’s Transit City dead on his first day in office, but Joe Mihevc recently obtained a legal opinion—which was released this morning (Torontoist has the full text)—that contends the mayor had no legal authority to cancel the project in favour of his own plan.

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Rob Ford tells Facebook why his transit plan is the one Toronto transit users want

(Image: Christopher Drost)

Presented with a transit plan from TTC chair Karen Stintz that would save $1.5 billion on the Eglinton Crosstown LRT, contribute to the Sheppard subway extension and bring some form of rapid transit to underserved Finch Avenue, Rob Ford stubbornly dug his heels in and reiterated his commitment to burying the Eglinton line underground. In a note on his Facebook page, Ford insists his own transit plan is “doable,” and moreover, that it’s the plan that city transit users want (apparently, users want “RAPID” transit and they want it in ALL CAPS). He also says that for “100 years, Toronto’s transit system has been based on a backbone of subways” (not true), and that the Pembina Institute supports his plan (it doesn’t). Of course, although Stintz’s proposal appears to be gaining the support of all the right players, we’re not surprised Ford is refusing to budge. If the budget debate has taught us anything it’s that the mayor will turn down a face-saving compromise, even when that compromise is likely the only thing standing between a political defeat and public embarrassment. Read the entire story [Globe and Mail] »

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Karen Stintz breaks rank with Rob Ford over the Eglinton Crosstown plan

We all know Rob Ford loves him some rapid transit—he just doesn’t love it when it’s above ground, affordable or tied in any way to his predecessor. Case in point: the Eglinton Crosstown, which Ford insists should include an LRT line built entirely underground, even if that means burning through cash that could be used for other projects (namely, his beloved Sheppard subway extension). Now, even Ford ally and TTC chair Karen Stintz is adding her voice to the growing group of reasonable people who think that running the LRT above ground, particularly in the city’s less densely populated suburbs, makes more sense than burying it. It’s a bold move from Stintz and a major break with the mayor, who appointed her to her current post. Some have even speculated that it may just get her summarily reshuffled out of the transit chair. Read the entire story [Globe and Mail] »

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Could a penny-pinching Queen’s Park force the Eglinton Crosstown above ground? 

Last week, economist and former federal financial official Don Drummond delivered some unwelcome news for Ontario residents: a balanced budget is an impossibility (at least any time soon) without massive cuts across the province—up to 30 per cent in some government ministries. So with the province intent on reducing spending, what kinds of things might they target? Aside from big tickets like health and education, writes John Lorinc on Spacing Toronto, Toronto’s transit infrastructure might attract some attention. Indeed, it’s not hard to imagine provincial bean counters asking themselves why they should pay a premium to bury the entire Eglinton Crosstown line when there’s ample room to run it above ground without impacting traffic. Oh right, it’s because the mayor says so. We suspect that kind of reasoning is going to get a lot harder to support. Read the entire story [Spacing] »

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Can gondolas bridge the gap (heh) in Rob Ford’s transit plan? 

Back in October, urban planner Steven Dale argued that gondolas—sort of like the ones you find at ski resorts—could serve as a thrifty complement to light rail transit. At the time, we thought the idea sounded both semi-crazy and completely awesome. Now, apparently, gondolas are being floated as a viable transit alternative everywhere from Vancouver to Mecca. Turns out an aerial cable system can carry between 5,000 and 6,000 passengers an hour—not as many as a subway, but more than a streetcar or bus. As for a Toronto location, Dale still thinks the Don Valley is the most obvious spot. Coincidentally, that’s the same pesky valley that’s threatening to derail Rob Ford’s plan to run the Eglinton Crosstown underground. And given that a monorail was part of the transit discussion not so long ago, maybe gondolas aren’t so crazy after all. Read the entire story [Toronto Star] »

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