Please see my latest report to you below on issues ranging from the latest transit debate, casinos, condo development decisions, my next Environment Day, a TTC Town Hall with CEO Andy Byford, Toronto's Seniors Strategy and much more.
PS- Go Leafs Go!
Every day, I hear from residents that they want the City of Toronto and Queen's Park to stick to a transit plan, find an honest way to pay for it, and finally get it built.
However, as you may already be aware, some Councillors are now trying reopen the hard-won Master Agreement on transit the City of Toronto and the TTC has with Metrolinx. They want to push an extension of our already overcrowded subway system to Scarborough as Toronto's next transit priority even though projections do not show enough ridership in the area to justify one and everyone from Metrolinx's Bruce McCuaig to the TTC's Andy Byford have already acknowledged that, based on looking at real needs we have to relieve current rush hour congestion, a Downtown Relief Subway Line (DRL) is what Toronto really needs as part of the next phase of transit expansion.
I was very proud to work closely with many of my colleagues to put sound transit planning ahead of politics last year by moving forward with the Eglinton Crosstown as well as other funded and designed projects across the city. That's why I am so disappointed to see some of those same Councillors I had worked with opting for a plan that seems to put politics before our residents', including Scarborough's, needs.
I continue to do research in advance of the Council meeting next week. But the facts already suggest keeping the agreement reached last year to convert the aging Scarborough RT in the same completely grade-separated lines as exists now that won't have to stop at traffic signals (dedicated right-of-way).
Also, while I very much want us to expand our subway system where it makes sense, the new Scarborough RT rapid transit would be over two kilometres longer than a subway, have four more stations and is within walking distance to over 20,000 more people. It would also have enough capacity to serve the area for many decades to come. In other words, it simply makes more sense, will cost far fewer tax dollars and will serve more neighbourhoods.
Moreover, what also concerns me is the unnecessary greater cost of putting the Scarborough RT underground. I have confirmed with provincial sources that the difference will be at least $1 billion (much more than the reported $500 million). This is even before all costs are factored in from:
- Contract cancellations with Bombardier
- Construction of new terminus for Eglinton Crosstown at Kennedy that was to be part of Scarborough RT
- Sunk engineering costs
- New design work
- Cost efficiencies from using the same technology as on Sheppard and Eglinton
- Significant changes to maintenance and storage facility on Conlins Rd. which has already finished RFP process
- Possible new Environmental Assessment
The latest Scarborough subway debate has unnecessarily taken attention away from the very important debate on how we are going to fund the next phase of transit projects contained in Metrolinx's Big Move plan. This plan includes the Downtown Relief Line, which will help alleviate the overcrowding on the Yonge subway, and an extension of the Eglinton Crosstown to Pearson Airport.
I care deeply about improving transit for our city. I regularly hear from residents fed up with having to wait two or three subway trains every morning at Eglinton, Davisville or St. Clair stations. Drivers want to get to their destination rather than be stuck in gridlock. We need to act now or accept the status quo. And I don't believe the status is quo is good enough for Toronto.
As you know, I work very hard to find efficiencies and savings within government to support important services including a recent initiative to reduce paid-duty police officers at construction sites.
However, we do need $2 billion a year over twenty five years to build the rapid transit system that a growing region of 5 million people like Toronto and GTHA needs. There just isn't that kind of money to be found in efficiencies, or cuts, that our community would support alone.
To provide our city with parks, clean streets, great libraries and recreation centres, roads in good repair, drinkable water and a rapid transit system that allows them to travel to work, go shopping and enjoy our city in a reliable, accessible, affordable and efficient manner, we choose to pay for these services together. We also must demand that our hard-earned tax dollars not be wasted. I believe these two statements need not conflict and every dollar should be used deliberately, thoughtfully and on real priorities.
If we continue waiting to build transit and allow the political games and bickering to go on, the already intolerable congestion on the Yonge line will become unmanageable as we are expecting our population to grow. Commute times will get worse. And the expenses, both financially and on our quality of life, will grow. The time to act is now and it will likely cost all of us all a little bit more.
However, while I believe its reasonable for us to pay for the transit we truly need, I refuse to ask residents to pay taxes or fees for unnecessary or wasteful expenditures. And I believe that a regional model of transit planning, and funding that transit, is important. We know that many commuters move between municipal jurisdictions daily. Meanwhile, through our property taxes, Toronto residents have been the only ones paying for our city's infrastructure that both 416ers and 905ers use every day. That's simply not right.
I will be urging Metrolinx and the provincial government to adopt a funding strategy that is fair, both in terms of sharing costs across the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area and ensuring that costs are borne by everyone who will benefit from a modern, reliable rapid transit system. We will all benefit from improved and expanded transit and therefore we should all carry the burden of funding it equitably.
Ultimately, let's move forward now with the plan we have and finally get it built. We've waited too long already.
TTC Town Hall with CEO Andy Byford!
Keeping you informed and engaged is a priority for me. I'd like to invite you to a Transit Town Hall I will be hosting at 6:30 PM on May 28th at the Salvation Army, 7 Eglinton Avenue East.
I am pleased to announce that TTC CEO Andy Byford will be our special guest and will be discussing his 5 year plan for the TTC.
I believe it is vital that you have an opportunity to have your questions and concerns about Toronto's transit system addressed. Please join us, learn and make your voice heard!
I am very pleased that the Seniors Strategy passed unanimously at the April Community Development and Recreation Committee meeting. Next week, the Strategy will go before City Council on May 7th or 8th. As chair of the Toronto Seniors Strategy Subcommittee, I am so grateful to our communities, experts and staff whom have contributed so much to this important and substantive work over the past two years.
Our City's new Seniors Strategy is a proactive, holistic and inclusive initiative that seeks to create a truly age-friendly Toronto. Click here to read the Toronto Seniors Strategy. You can also view a short presentation of the highlights by clicking here.
1331 Yonge Street (CHUM Site) to be debated at Community Council
On Tuesday May 14 at 9:30am Toronto and East York Community Council will be debating a development proposal for 1331 Yonge Street. I have been working on this application with the local community for almost two years and have held three public meetings.
The original plan for this site was for a 13 storey condo building with 214 units. As a result of the hard work and advocacy from many in the community the developer is now submitting a revised plan for an 11 storey condo building with 153 units. We have also pressed the developer into stepping back the development, such that the building is now a proposed 7 storeys at the corner of Jackes and Yonge. While the building has improved, we will keep pushing to lower the height further. There are also significant concerns regarding traffic and access for emergency vehicles which will be addressed at the meeting.
87 – 107 Davisville Avenue and 108 – 128 Balliol Street to be debated at Community Council
On Tuesday May 14 at 9:30am Toronto and East York Community Council will also be debating a development proposal for 87 – 107 Davisville Avenue and 108 – 128 Balliol Street.
The original plan was for a 12 storey condo with 176 units on Davisville and a 29 storey condo with 324 units on Balliol. The community was almost unanimously opposed to this proposal.
The community and I were able to get the applicant to revise their plans for the proposed buildings. The massing (height and density) of the buildings remains similar but the applicant has made a number of design changes that seek to address the "boxed-in" site plan in relation to 77 and 111 Davisville Ave. The changes include; increased green space between buildings, shift of the buildings to open sightlines, glass lobbies to open sightlines from ground level, green roofs, and increased setbacks.
The development is still unacceptable due to the addition of two large buildings in an already dense site and I will be representing that sentiment at Community Council
This weekend, Jane's Walk events are taking place across Toronto. These walks are an opportunity to learn more about our neighbourhoods and explore other corners of the city we don't know very well yet.
In our community, the Break Down Barriers and We Will Come walk is taking place on Saturday May 4th at 11:00 AM, starting at the Anne Johnston Health Station at the northwest corner of Yonge Street and Broadway Avenue. This walk will raise awareness about pedestrian safety and space that are both age-friendly and accessible. You'll also get to try out a wheelchair and see what it’s like to navigate the neighbourhood and experience accessibility from a new perspective! I hope to see you there!
The Casino Debate
Mayor Ford has removed the item to decide on whether or not Council will support a Toronto casino from the upcoming May 7-8th Council meeting agenda. He has now called a special Council meeting to consider this item for May 21st.
Bells on Yonge
This year's Bells on Yonge ride begins on Saturday, May 11, departing from Duplex Parkette at noon and arriving at Queen's Park at 1:30 pm. All are welcome and the route will mainly follow quiet side streets parallel to Yonge Street. I'll be catching up with the group at Oriole Park! Please visit the Bells on Yonge website for more details and a route map.
Upcoming Gardening Events at Casa Loma
Casa Loma Garden School: How to Prepare and Plant a Vegetable Garden
Sunday, May 5, 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm. Learn the basics of growing vegetables in small spaces, and how to select and prepare a suitable site according to your soil and sun conditions. You will learn the techniques of sod removal, soil preparation and the pros and cons of using raised vs. in ground beds, as well as when and how to do the planting.
All registrants will receive heirloom vegetable seedlings and one bag of Casa Loma 'Gold' compost.
Casa Loma Plant Sale
Sunday, May 12, 9:00 am to 3:30 pm. The gardeners at Casa Loma have been busy propagating perennials from the gardens along with annuals and other plants acquired over the years. You will have an opportunity to purchase many hard to find items. There will be divisions of perennial plants, hard to find cannas and dahlias, rare annuals, heirloom vegetable plants and many other offerings. Limited quantities so come early.
Unorthodox Planting Methods, Organic Pest Control
Sunday, June 9, 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm. Learn how to correctly stake and train cucumbers and tomatoes in raised beds, maximize garden space with interplanting techniques and how the careful application of water and mulching techniques will enhance your gardens yield. Instruction will be provided on how to control garden pests using organic methods and unorthodox planting methods, such as straw bale culture and container potato production will also be discussed.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Toronto’s Annual Big Night Out!
This year, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Toronto is celebrating 100 years of mentoring. At 6 pm on June 20th, 2013, over 1000 corporate sponsors, donors and community leaders will come together for a Big Night Out to celebrate the organization’s Centennial, honouring the men and women in our city who, as volunteers and donors, make a difference in the lives of Toronto’s children and youth.
Community Environment Day
On Saturday, June 22nd from 10 am to 2 pm I will be hosting my annual Community Environment Day. The location is the North Toronto Memorial Arena at 174 Orchard View Blvd. Please bring any unwanted art supplies, books, toys, and used sports equipment. Facilities will be available to dispose of computers and other hazardous household waste. You can also replace your damaged green bin.