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MEC’s new, uptown location gets one step closer to construction

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Mountain Equipment Co-op, the Vancouver-based retail destination for all things outdoorsy, is looking to build a massive new outlet in Bayview Village. The cooperative purchased a property at 784 Sheppard Avenue East in 2012, and has since been awaiting approval to construct a massive facility on the land. Now Retail Insider reports that MEC’s development plan has been okayed by the North York Community Council, bringing the suburban outlet one step closer to reality. If the application is approved by city council on February 19, construction on the new store could begin as soon as March, allowing for a grand opening in spring 2015.

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The province doesn’t like OneCity (but Torontonians really, really do)

(Image: screenshot from onecitytransitplan.com)

Now that OneCity, the mega-proposal that promises transit for all, has been ceremoniously unveiled, it turns out the province won’t get behind the project. When it comes to Toronto’s transit, “the train has left the station and we are proceeding with the plan as it is,” says Minister of Transportation (and transit cliché enthusiast) Bob Chiarelli. The minister says he doesn’t want to reignite the debate over already-approved plans, including the toxic quarrel over transit on Sheppard.

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Karen Stintz and Rob Ford get passive-aggressive while celebrating the Spadina subway extension

Yesterday, transit adversaries Rob Ford and Karen Stintz met up (awkward!) to celebrate the tunnelling of the first section of the new Spadina subway extension up to Vaughan. And, even though it looked like MP Julian Fantino did his best to serve as a buffer, Stintz and Ford each used the occasion to allude to subway battles of yore. The mayor said he dislikes the idea of using a new tax to fund transit infrastructure, and talked up his favourite form of public transit, saying, “No other—I say no other—form of transit is as cost-effective and as useful over the long term” (it’s best if you imagine him saying it in the southern drawl of Foghorn Leghorn). Stintz, in contrast, said she is “absolutely” in favour of exploring a tax for transit projects, and reasserted that light rail was the right choice for routes along Finch, Sheppard and Eglinton avenues. However, Stintz also revealed she isn’t opposed to all subway, subway subways. She and TTC CEO Andy Byford both spoke about the urgency of the transit issue du jour: a downtown relief line that could ease overcrowding. [National Post]

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

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Reaction Roundup: what the revival of Transit City could mean for Toronto (and Rob Ford)

The whole “war on cars” talking point feels so 2009 (and 2010… and 2011), but now that Metrolinx and city council have pushed through an LRT-based transit plan against Rob Ford’s wishes, it’s back in a big way. Some members of council (well, mostly Doug Ford) are already gnashing their teeth over what the plan means for drivers—especially since tolls could be on the table if Josh Matlow gets his way. Others are looking ahead to the 2014 election and how shifts in power could change the whole project once more.

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The 2014 election (or Doug Ford’s election to Queen’s Park) could kill Transit City again

(Image: Christopher Drost)

Rob Ford has been silent since Metrolinx resurrected the LRT-based transit plan he cancelled on his first day in office, but the mayor’s brother Doug (as usual) was less shy. Yesterday, Doug vowed to continue fighting for subways into the 2014 election—even though construction on the Sheppard LRT line is scheduled to start in the summer of 2014. “We are going to run on subways,” he told the Globe and Mail, saying that councillors who voted in favour of the LRT-based plan “are going to be held accountable in the next election” (we can just picture the construction-site press conferences). Moreover, if Dalton McGuinty’s Liberal minority topples before 2014, Doug said he would leave his brother’s side, run as an MPP and try to help direct the transit debate from Queen’s Park. Though that’s several steps off, Doug’s comments do serve as a reminder that this plan is only secure as long as the Liberals maintain their hold on Queen’s Park—the Progressive Conservatives’ Tim Hudak has already shown how much he supports subways. [Globe and Mail]

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Metrolinx’s proposed timeline for building LRTs is inconvenient for Rob Ford 

In a hotly anticipated report that will go to the Metrolinx board tomorrow, Metrolinx staff gives a thumbs-up to city council’s LRT-heavy transit plan. The agency’s staff is recommending that the provincial agency build a whole lot of transit by 2020, beginning with the Sheppard Avenue East LRT in 2014 (to be finished in 2018) and the Finch LRT in 2015 (to be finished by 2019). The report also gives timelines for construction of the Scarborough RT line replacement (finished by 2019) and the continuing work on the Eglinton-Scarborough Crosstown LRT, which will now run above ground east of Laird Avenue (finished by 2020). Given that Metrolinx had endorsed a virtually identical plan back in 2010, it’s not too surprising that council’s plan got the stamp of approval (though kind of annoying that Toronto took an extra two years to arrive at the same conclusion). Still, the timeline may come as a shock to Rob Ford. After city council reinstated a large chunk and then nearly all of David Miller’s Transit City plan (which Ford had killed during his first hours in office), the mayor vowed to make the fight for subways a central issue in the 2014 election. That might be more difficult, though, if construction has already started by then. [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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QUOTED: Doug Holyday on what Toronto can expect from Rob Ford for the next two years

(Image: Christopher Drost)

—Deputy mayor Doug Holyday’s preview of Rob Ford’s agenda for the next two and a half years can be summarized thusly: who knows? Ford’s plans are obscure in part because he has already delivered on several campaign promises by ditching the vehicle tax, cutting office budgets and outsourcing garbage collection, writes the Toronto Star. The rest of his big pledges either are DOA (scrapping the land transfer tax and cutting council in half) or have already been shot down (Sheppard subway!). Moreover, because Ford’s campaign was based on shrinking government (and repeating catchy sound bites), he never had a comprehensive city-building plan to begin with. Looks like the only thing we can count on for sure is more terrible radio. [Toronto Star]

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Tim Hudak pretends that silly Sheppard council meeting never happened

(Image: Ontario Chamber of Commerce)

Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak took some time this week to catch up on his correspondence, sending out 100,000 postcards to Torontonians as a reminder that the PCs love subways and would give the city a Sheppard line if they were in power. Except, they’re not. And council just voted 24-19 in favour of an LRT on Sheppard a week ago. And the PCs killed the Eglinton subway expansion back in 1995. So, the mail-out is really more of a lame (albeit nicely designed) attempt to pander to residents who believe Toronto would be  a world-class city with an extra subway or two—and to score some points with a mayor whose clout is waning. Read the entire story [Torontoist] »

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