New Second Exits at Donlands and Greenwood Rouse Community Ire (Update 5)

Updated July 15, 2010 at 11:00 am:

With luck, this will be the last update in this thread.

At the TTC meeting on July 14, there was a long presentation and discussion of the issues at Donlands and Greenwood Stations.  The presentation materials are not yet online as the project pages are being updated by the TTC to reflect recent changes.

Greenwood Station

TTC staff recommended and the Commission approved that the community’s alternative proposed second exit route be used.  This route passes through the back yards of numbers 11 and 15 Linsmore rather than through a site now occupied by any house.

The first version of this scheme included the expropriation of the house now under renovation at 9 Linsmore.  A newspaper report of the affected landowner gives some idea of the background and suggests that his 7-year renovation project is a long-standing annoyance to at least some in the neighbourhood.

In any event, it appears that other owners on Linsmore may be willing to sell, and one way or another, that’s where the exit will go.  The only remaining issue for the TTC is to determine the location of a sewer that may interfere with the proposed route to the exit, and the feasibility of diverting this sewer to suit the new construction.

Donlands Station

The situation at Donlands is more complex than at Greenwood.  TTC staff did a much more thorough job at the Commission meeting, compared with the public meeting a few days earlier, of explaining the standards and calculations used in evaluating the alternatives.  Their target for the path length from the point where an exit stair meets the platform to the surface is two minutes.  This keeps the total exit time, including getting to the exit on the platform, within the overall code targets.

The original group of exit proposals by the community fails to meet the exit time criterion.  However, a new alternative came to light at the Commission meeting.  This would link into the east, rather than the west, end of Donlands Station.  The exit passages would all lie under roads rather than houses, and the exit building would be on the north-east corner of Donlands & Strathmore where there is now a school parking lot and a vent shaft to the subway.  TTC staff will report back on this option once they have a chance to review it.

The most contentious part of the discussion turned on whether the TTC would give approval to any plans on July 14, or would wait until their August 23 meeting to finalize their choice.  The community, understandably, does not trust the TTC, and a deferral would have been a sign of good faith from the Commission.  Such an action would not have slowed work because the Council meeting at which expropriation will be considered is not until August 25.  A TTC recommendation could be taken to Council as supplementary information, a routine process.

On a split vote of 6-3, the Commission decided not to delay approval, and decided to give staff the authority to proceed with the three proposals now on the table:  (a) Donlands & Strathmore, (b) the new TTC alternative with a building in the Dewhurst road allowance and (c) the original scheme using property now occupied by 1 & 3 Strathmore.

Staff assured the Commission that they will report back in August with the outcome of their review.  More generally, there is a recognition at TTC that a public consultation process is needed for “small” projects that don’t trigger formal Environmental or Transit Project Assessments.

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WordPress 3.0 Implementation

This site is undergoing maintenance to the “look-and-feel” of a new WordPress theme, but is available for general use. During this period, you may see the site with a different appearance from normal as new software is tested.

Style mavens who wish to complain about the current layout should find some other useful way to occupy their time. This is a work in progress.

Things I have already fixed/changed:

  • The original default typesize was a tad too small.  I have bumped it slightly, and also changed the option of how available sizes are displayed for selection.
  • The ability to get an RSS feed for an individual article still exists in WordPress 3.0, but was not included in the new default template.  I have updated the comment section so that this feed now appears just above the comment box.
  • Block quotes now have a shaded background so that the italicized text is not confused for comments of my own.
  • Modify CSS so that underscored text does not intercept character descenders (accessibility).
  • Various links did not need to be underscored (next/previous post, for example).  They no longer have it to save on cluttering up the layout.
  • Bullets in lists have been changed from square to disc.
  • Modify CSS so that some fields now displayed in black are shown in dark green, the standard colour of this site.
  • Make the swan avatar appear without the tedious repetition of an ad-hoc bio line on every post.
  • Implement green/brown colour scheme for links.
  • Fix menu area so separators are all green regardless of “visited/unvisited” status.

Works in progress/planned:

  • Mobile support using standard plugins (see separate post on this topic).
  • Block mobile displays from starting with the complete text of the menu bar and all of its options.

Where’s My Car?

Today, the TTC unveiled the next step in its customer information services with the ability to obtain next vehicle information via an SMS text message from any cell phone.

The cell phone “short code” for this service is 898882 (txtttc), and all stops for which this service is available now have stickers showing their individual codes prominently.  The reponse that will come back looks like this:

505 E 3min / 505 E 3min / 504 E 4min / 505 E 4min / 504 E 6min / 504 E 7min. Predictions generated as of 14:54.

This happens to be for the northbound stop on Broadview at Withrow for my return home after today’s press announcement across the street in Riverdale Park.  The message does not include location info because you would already know this from making the request in the first place.

The list shows the next predicted vehicles at the stop.  For stops served by multiple routes where you are only interested in a specific route, you can append the route number to the stop number as in:

12345 504

where “12345” is the stop number and “504” is the route number.  This can be further qualified with a direction (N, S, E or W) although few stops have cars for the same route travelling in more than one direction.

An as-yet unadvertised service is the ability to retrieve information for any stop using a route, direction and stop name lookup from NextBus.  Once you reach a display you want, you can bookmark it for direct access.  Even if you want to look up a different location, it is faster to pick any bookmarked lookup you already have, and then select an alternate location.  These displays auto-update.  (The link given here takes you directly to the TTC route selection page.)

At some point, the TTC will create a page on their own site where you can look up stop-based info using the stop number, or navigate to NextBus for the more general selection menu.

Finally, I hope that the TTC will agree to expose the NextBus maps to public view again soon.  There have been internal debates about the way these maps show how, at times, the service is not well-organized, but this information is very useful in cases where someone wants to get a general idea of the state of a route for use in the near future without having to look up service “now” at a specific stop.

Paying the Piper

The Toronto City Summit Alliance (TCSA) recently published a discussion paper on transit and transportation infrastructure funding in the GTA.  This document will be discussed at an invitational working group meeting on July 14.

There is little new information in this report which follows on the heels of a similar paper by the Board of Trade (see my post from May 2010) and a Metrolinx review of revenue options in 2008.  Much more fascinating is the process:  a major discussion of provincial infrastructure planning and revenue generation policy is taking place outside of the agency charged with that task.  Indeed, Metrolinx VP John Brodhead is listed as a co-chair of the working group along with TCSA’s Julia Deans.

Metrolinx itself may be unwilling to discuss the so-called “Investment Strategy”, but this does not stop well-connected external groups from pursuing a more activist agenda.  After years of decrying excessive public sector spending, Toronto’s business community has discovered that failure to spend on infrastructure costs the city dearly in lost productivity and attractiveness for investment.  This is not a problem that turns around overnight even assuming we all agreed on what to do.

Queen’s Park may be horrified of proposing new taxes, tolls, “revenue tools”, but with the understanding that spending on transportation in urban regions is essential, even the more conservative elements at the Pink Palace will have to take notice.

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Metrolinx Meeting Followup June 2010 (Updated)

Updated July 6, 2010:  Metrolinx has now published the Benefits Cases Analyses for the Hurontario, Dundas, Durham and GO projects.  I will comment on these in a separate post.

The original article from July 2 follows below:

This article is a followup to the agenda preview I posted on June 28, 2010.  It is a rather lengthy commentary, as much an editorial as a report on events, with the intent of reviewing Metrolinx’ role over coming months and the complexity of the work facing the organization. 

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GO Transit Electrification Study Update

Where Did The Study Come From?

GO Transit’s Georgetown corridor, home to many existing and proposed services, has not been a happy place for the Environmental Assessment process, especially on the southern end of the line.  Officially, this project was the Georgetown South Service Expansion (GSSE), now shortened to the Georgetown South Project.  However, the project has a troubled history thanks to:

  • Extreme insensitivity to local concerns about noise and vibration from the West Toronto Diamond grade separation project eventually resulted in a successful appeal to the Canadian Transportation Agency forcing GO to change its construction methods.
  • Proposals to slice through Weston with a widened rail corridor, including closing streets that linked the commercial strip on Weston Road to the residential communities to the east, infuriated local residents.  This was compounded by their discovery that, initially at least, much of the additional traffic on the corridor would be for the premium fare airport shuttle from Union Station.

This established a confrontational relationship between GO and corridor residents.  When Metrolinx published The Big Move, it was obvious that vastly expanded service would be operated along this line including:

  • All-day service at least to Brampton on the Georgetown line
  • All-day service to Milton
  • Peak period service to Bolton (a line that now has no GO operations but shares the corridor to the north end of Weston)
  • All-day service to Barrie (a line that shares the corridor from Dundas Street south to the rail yards at Bathurst)
  • All-day service every 15 minutes on the Air Rail Link from Union to Pearson Airport operating via the Georgetown line and a spur to be built into the airport lands

GO was so preoccupied with opposition in Weston that it failed to take account of the quickly growing population around the rail corridor south of West Toronto Junction.  Aside from the question of daily train movements, GO further alienated residents with a proposal for the Strachan Avenue grade separation that would have created a major barrier within the new King West / Liberty Village community.  This matter was not resolved until intervention by Metrolinx and a compromise solution acceptable to the City of Toronto was adopted.

GO runs popular services, and as a provincial agency it is used to getting more or less what it wants.  Public participation and accommodation have not been GO’s strong suits.

When the Georgetown South project revealed that there would be over 400 train movements per day on the southern end of the corridor, residents were more than a little upset.  Their concerns about noise and pollution were not  helped by GO’s appeal to the greater good with claims that, overall, there would be less pollution thanks to auto trips diverted from highways.  Those highways are not in backyards in Weston, the Junction and Parkdale, and the benefits that might accrue on Highways 400, 401 and 427 were little comfort to those who would see their local rail corridor gain vastly more traffic than it has today.

From this swelling activism came a demand that GO electrify its system to reduce noise and pollution levels in the neighbourhoods through which it travelled.  Electrification had been considered before, but only in the context of the Lake Shore corridor, and only for lower service levels than The Big Move contemplates.  This has always been a “nice to do” that gets shunted aside thanks to budget constraints and a desire to concentrate on building service.  By late 2009, the demand for a detailed study reached a level where Queen’s Park and Metrolinx could not dodge the issue, and GO’s Electrification Study was born. Continue reading

Neighbourhood Maps Return! Riders Still Somewhat Mystified.

Last September, I reported on the travesty of new “area maps” for the streets around subway stations.  They were so hopelessly inaccurate that an excellent Toronto trivia contest could have been held to spot all of the errors.  In very short order, they vanished.  (It’s amazing how quickly the TTC can move when it’s embarrassed.)

Joe Clark reports that a new area map has just appeared at Christie Station and has posted photos on Flickr.

Have a look.  What is missing?  The TTC routes serving the area!  There’s a nice green line showing the subway, and the stations are marked, but no surface routes.  Yes, riders can look at the big map right next-door to see the local routes, but it wouldn’t hurt to have them on the area maps too.

Also missing-in-action is the alternate entrance at Bathurst/Markham.

The next question for trivia seekers is this:  will the TTC replace the even older generation of local maps which can be found in selected locations around the system?  These missed the first wave of really inaccurate updates, and were not removed in the great purge.  Does the TTC even know they exist, and will they update them with brand new maps?

A Note to Would-Be Politicians

I have received a few comments from candidates for various offices.

Please note that I do not intend to post any of these unless they bear directly on the issue where they appear, and then are comments on the issue rather than advertisements for the candidate.

If you want to publish your candidacy to the world, get your own website, use Facebook and take your chances with whatever traffic you might achieve.

As and when major candidates publish transit policies, I will comment on them, but on my terms.