Lower Galt Track Work

Posted on February 8, 2017

The Lower Galt track reinstatement work that has been taking place along the Milton Corridor near Dundas St W. and Dupont has been postponed due to technical concerns of track work in the winter and will resume in the spring. Work hours will remain the same when the project resumes, and is estimated to be completed by Fall 2017.

Lower Galt Update Notice

Road Tolls Are Not the Issue

Posted on November 25, 2016

Everyone’s talking road tolls. Mayor Tory raised the idea in a speech on Thursday and opinion is already sharply divided. The problem is that his speech wasn’t about road tolls, nor were the bundle of City reports that came out around the time he gave the speech.

The speech and the reports were both efforts to address the City’s over-all financial problems. Reading through the speech and the reports it becomes very clear that the issue of road tolls is a sideshow. There are two really big questions. What’s the plan for managing the City’s services and finances? Will the plan work?

The Mayor’s plan is quite different from the plan staff recommend. His plan has no chance of working. The staff plan just might.

The Mayor and City staff agree on the nature of the four challenges we face.

First, we don’t have the right tax mix to pay for the day-to-day services we operate. This year we will come up a few hundred million dollars short. Even if we cobble something together this year, next year we will have an additional few hundred million to figure out.

The second problem we face is we have no way at all to fund the one-time big ticket items: rebuilding the Gardiner, buying new buses, fixing rundown public housing buildings, etc. City staff and the Mayor put the cost of these big ticket items that have no funding at $33 billion.

Third, we don’t have enough transit service and road space to move people and goods around the City. We need more and better transit, and we need it now.

Fourth, we have far too much poverty in Toronto, more people per-capita live in poverty in our City than in any other in the country. Additionally, as housing costs sky-rocket, a generation of Torontonians are being priced out of the City.

Here’s the Mayor’s plan with some comments.

  1. Ask the Province to permit us to toll the DVP and the Gardiner. Although he didn’t declare how much the toll would be, the most likely scenario is $2.00 per trip. This would net us about $166 million per year. Over 30 years that would be worth $5 billion. That sounds big, but one of the many staff reports that came out Thursday says that maintaining the Gardiner and DVP over that period will cost $3.65 Billion. That number is bigger than we expected. In yet another staff report they informed us that we will need $1 billion more than we thought to pay for the Mayor’s plan to keep the Gardiner and slightly realign it.

  So the net value of the tolls over 30 years will be $1.3 billion. It’s time to take a second look at whether we can afford the Mayor’s plan to keep the eastern section of the Gardiner.

  1. Already introduced is an infrastructure fund using a property tax increase that starts a 0.5% and will apparently rise to 2.5%. This will allow us to pay for $900 million worth of capital projects. On a worrisome side-note the Mayor wants this and the toll money administered by an “independent body”.

  Americans call this taxation without representation. I’ll just say that it’s a basic rule of democracy that we elect the people who manage public money.

  1. The federal government has committed to paying $850 million toward repairs and equipment replacement for the TTC. However, we must match it dollar for dollar. The capital funding the Mayor has committed to adds up to $2.2 billion over the next two or three decades. Take away this commitment and we have $1.35 billion left.
  1. Ask the Province to allow us to institute a tax on hotels that will yield $20 million/year. This would support day to day operating costs.
  1. Eliminate an existing tax rebate for vacant commercial properties. This would yield $22 million for our operating budget.
  1. Next is a proposal to contract out the remaining publicly collected garbage services. (Everything east of Yonge St.) It is important to note that this has nothing to do with the City’s main budget. Garbage service is (mostly) paid for separately by bin fees. Further, in still another staff report they warn us against contracting out services if it creates precarious work. Right now public employees who collect garbage have reasonably good pay and job security. Employees of private collectors have relatively low wages and benefits and no meaningful job security. This is the very definition of precarious work.
  1. Although not mentioned in his speech, I have reason to believe that the Mayor will support some changes to how we collect the Land Transfer Tax. If we harmonize our LTT to match the amounts collected by the Province we could increase our annual take by about $100 million/year. While this money may be best allocated to our capital budget, I’m assuming it will go to our operating budget where the crisis is more urgent.
  1. A plan to sell Toronto Hydro and/or the Toronto Parking Authority has been shelved. The Mayor and staff agree that this would be bad financial policy. This is by far the best news in the speech. BUT! the new plan is to have the City lend Toronto Hydro $200 million at a high interest rates. Some of this would come back immediately as dividends used to cut our operating budget deficit. Hydro would have to repay the loan at those high interest rates.

  This would mean that for years some of your Hydro bill will be used to keep property taxes down. Hydro bills are very regressive. Property tax is progressive. This means shifting costs down more heavily toward low income people. Inability to pay energy utility bills (Hydro, heat, gas) is the second most common cause of eviction after inability to pay rent.

  1. Thursday’s speech went to great lengths to rule out property tax increases and reinstating the Vehicles Registration Tax. A careful reading of staff advice shows that we desperately need both if we are going to avoid deep service cuts.

The Mayor said also that he will not support a new tax on parking lots. Staff agree here, showing that similar schemes in Montreal and Vancouver have failed.

  1. Not discussed were the two big ticket funding sources that many major cities rely on: a share of the sales tax and/or a municipal income tax. Given that the Thursday speech was billed as the Mayor’s plan for the future I have to assume that the silence was deliberate and he doesn’t support either. I would be shocked (in a good way) if he came forward to support them.
  1. There are assorted bits and pieces about efficiency. It’s all stuff we were planning to do anyway, and will require some up-front spending before yielding some minor savings down the road.
  1. Finally, when asked after his speech what he intended to do about the fact that his plan won’t meet the City’s overall budget needs, the Mayor replied that he would fight for additional funding from the provincial and federal governments. Staff have made it clear that any funding ask will fall on deaf ears if we keep our property taxes well below every other municipality in the Province. The Province believes that whenever they help us to fund something we take the money and use it to cut property taxes. It’s a fairly accurate conclusion

That’s the plan. A few overall points.

First, the plan leaves us well over $20 billion short on our capital budget. It means we could (almost) afford to fund one of SmartTrack, Rail Deck Park, or the Scarborough Subway, but only one of them. And, if we do one of those we will have next to nothing for the huge and urgent repair needs at TCHC. Nothing toward the $250 million we need for our homes the aged. We can’t build new daycare spaces. The $330 million we need for flood protection for the Lower Don River remains unfunded. As the Mayor said: “No flood proofing means no development, jobs and investment and that would be a massive lost opportunity.”

I could go on. Let’s just say that every public service you can think of has some long term capital need that we can’t meet.

Turning to the operating budget, the Mayor’s plan will eventually be worth about $140 million/year. First, let’s allocate $65 million to the TTC. That’s how much the TTC says they need to avoid deep service cuts even after they put in a fare increase. Next, we’ll give TCHC the remaining $75 million. That’s about how much they say they need just to avoid closing units and housing fewer people. (This is a separate issue from the capital repairs. Because so many TCHC residents are on disability or other social assistance programs, and the Provincial allowance is so low, we don’t get enough rent to cover the daily operation of the building they live in.)

What’s missing? The much-vaunted anti-poverty plan for one. Still another of Thursday’s staff reports states that we would need $48 million to provide the low income transit pass that the anti-poverty plan imagines. Also, TTC service will never improve. Despite the tens of thousands of people moving into Toronto every year, the Mayor’s plan makes no room for increased service. In fact, when the Eglinton Crosstown LRT line opens, we won’t have money to run it. Same with Finch, the Eglinton East and West extensions and the Waterfront LRT.

We won’t add any new daycare spots or daycare subsidies for low income families. No new housing for the tens of thousands on the affordable housing waiting list.

In a couple of weeks, we will see the cuts various departments are proposing to meet the Mayor’s property tax freeze-at-inflation. We won’t have the money to sustainably avoid those cuts. Nothing will get better and many things will get worse.

One last thing before turning to the staff plan. Staff have diligently reviewed all the possible tax and funding options. One thing they looked at was which of the measures are broadly progressive. There are three: property tax, sales tax and income tax. The Mayor’s plan doesn’t recommend any of them. That means that if it’s adopted, lower income people will pay more as percentage of their income than they currently do. Wealthy people will pay proportionately less.

As bad as all this sounds, there’s another wrinkle. In reviewing the Mayor’s plan I’ve treated his proposals as if the money arrives right away. With the exception of the changes to the Land Transfer Tax, each of his proposals will take considerable time to approve and establish. The toll proposal could take as much as seven years to get legislative approval, put out to tender, and construct. All that time we will be using temporary funding that will have to be paid back. More worrisome is there will be two municipal and two provincial elections in that time. Almost certainly there will be a new Mayor and Premier. In other words it will be someone else who had to take the heat.

As I said at the top, the tolls debate is a sideshow, a distraction. If we get mired in a debate about tolls we will miss the real issue. The Mayor’s plan won’t fix any of our underlying problems: better transit, getting people out of poverty, funding our huge capital backlog, or arriving at a sustainable funding model for the services we provide.

What to do? Five brief points.

  1. We follow our staff advice and ask the Province to consider giving us the legal right to implement the sales tax or the municipal income tax.
  1. We also follow our staff advice to immediately reinstate the vehicle registration tax.
  1. We take a cold hard look at the fact that our staff have told us we can either implement a multi-year plan to bring our property tax in line with the GTA average or we can make deep painful cuts to our public services. I know which side I’m on.
  1. We stop wasting time debating the merits of road tolls. We may need to come to a compromise that includes road tolls, but we must first have a real plan that makes Toronto a better place to live for everyone. The one the Mayor put in front of Toronto means a worse future.
  1. We get to work. Convincing people that we actually have to pay for a better City won’t be easy. It will be very difficult and will only happen if we speak out and organize.

Gord

Milton Rail Corridor 2nd Track Reinstatement Notice

Posted on November 14, 2016

Metrolinx will soon begin work to reinstate the second span of track on the Milton corridor between Keele Street and Bloor Station. Due to the close proximity to an active rail corridor, work must be completed when trains are not operating. This consists of both daytime and overnight work. Construction will involve grading the old track bed, realigning the existing set of tracks and reinstating the second set of tracks. Specialized rail equipment will be used and residents should expect some noise and vibration associated with the work. Lighting will be used for overnight work, but will be directed on the immediate work site, away from homes, when possible. Once complete, the tracks will be outfitted with ballast mats designed to minimize vibrations from passing trains.

This project will begin in November and will be completed in early 2017.

Hours of operation are as follows:
 Weekdays: 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
 Overnight: 8:00 p.m. to 5 a.m.
 Weekends: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

If you would like to find out more information about the upcoming work, we will be hosting a drop-in session at the Bloor Station, at the main entrance, 1456 Bloor Street West on November 17th, 2016 from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Representatives from Metrolinx will be there to answer any questions you may have about the project.

Milton Rail Corridor 2nd Track Reinstatement Notice

Posted on November 14, 2016

Metrolinx will soon begin work to reinstate the second span of track on the Milton corridor between Keele Street and Bloor Station. Due to the close proximity to an active rail corridor, work must be completed when trains are not operating. This consists of both daytime and overnight work. Construction will involve grading the old track bed, realigning the existing set of tracks and reinstating the second set of tracks. Specialized rail equipment will be used and residents should expect some noise and vibration associated with the work. Lighting will be used for overnight work, but will be directed on the immediate work site, away from homes, when possible. Once complete, the tracks will be outfitted with ballast mats designed to minimize vibrations from passing trains.

This project will begin in November and will be completed in early 2017.

Hours of operation are as follows:
 Weekdays: 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
 Overnight: 8:00 p.m. to 5 a.m.
 Weekends: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

If you would like to find out more information about the upcoming work, we will be hosting a drop-in session at the Bloor Station, at the main entrance, 1456 Bloor Street West on November 17th, 2016 from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Representatives from Metrolinx will be there to answer any questions you may have about the project.

Councillor Gord Perks Unhappy with Transit Deal

Posted on November 8, 2016

Councillor Perks is among several City Councillors unsatisfied by the new transit payment plan. Inside Toronto has written an article about it here.

Metrolinx Continues the Conversation to Electrify and Expand GO Service

Posted on November 5, 2016

Just a friendly reminder about this upcoming meeting:

Metrolinx has released an update on their next steps to electrify and expand GO Transit service across the region. In support of their transit investments, Metrolinx is launching a series of 13 community open houses across the GTHA between November 7th and 29th.

During these meeting, Metrolinx staff will provide participants with updates on the Environmental Assessment in each community, including:

Following the presentation, participants will have the opportunity to participate in three breakout sessions to provide feedback on the proposed mitigation strategies for these projects. The worksheets for the breakout discussion will be available at each meeting and at metrolinxengage.com once the meetings begin.

Additionally, each open house will feature engagement opportunities on the Review of the Regional Transportation Plan (RTP), underway now at metrolinxengage.com, plus information updates on local projects including new GO stations and GO station access, and rapid transit.

For those who wish to participate online, all of the content and engagement opportunities will be available at metrolinxengage.com once the meetings begin.

Metrolinx, an agency of the Government of Ontario is bringing more transit and more connections to more places within the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area. Every community transit project – big or small plays a vital role in the regional transportation plan – they want to share their plans and get your feedback. Starting in November, they will be hosting community public meetings to update the public on the transformation of the GO network to bring up to 15-minute, electrified service as well as other Metrolinx transit initiatives across the region. The Toronto meeting scheduled for the Barrie rail corridor will take place:

Tuesday, November 15th
Loretto College School
151 Rosemount Ave

Meetings start at 6:30 p.m. until 9 p.m. Presentation starts at 7 p.m. Information for the other meetings in the GTA can be found through the links below.

In order to expand transit, we need to build and expand the transit infrastructure across the region. Metrolinx is planning to add an additional track, a new train layover facility in the Town of Bradford West Gwillimbury, upgrade existing stations, and electrify the GO Transit service. They are completing environmental studies for both the track expansion and the electrification of the GO Transit network.

Metrolinx November Public Meetings

Metrolinx Accessibility Public Meetings Reminder

Posted on October 27, 2016

Just a friendly reminder about this upcoming event:

Once again, Metrolinx will be hosting its annual series of public meetings across the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area about accessibility.

They want to hear from members of the public about the accessibility of GO Transit, PRESTO, UP Express, and their new and upcoming Rapid Transit services and projects.

Thursday, November 3, 6:30 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Metro Hall
55 John Street, Toronto
Rooms 308 & 309 (third floor)

At each in-person meeting, participants will have an opportunity to:

  • learn about past, current and future accessibility activities at Metrolinx and its operating divisions and business units;
  • discuss and provide input to accessibility initiatives through round table sessions; and
  • interact directly with Metrolinx staff involved with accessibility projects.

American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation, real-time captioning and attendant services will be provided at the in-person meetings. Alternative formats and other accommodations will be made available upon request.

To help them prepare for the meetings, they are asking anyone who is interested in attending to register in advance, via email at accessibility@metrolinx.com, or by calling 1-888-438-6646 or 1-800-387-3652 (TTY teletypewriters only). As part of the registration, they ask that participants please identify which meeting they plan to attend, what accommodations they may require (if any) to participate fully in the meeting, and which two topic areas you are most interested in discussing at the meeting (GO Transit, PRESTO, UP Express, Light Rail Transit/Bus Rapid Transit, municipal transit).

The Accessibility Public Meetings webpage (http://www.metrolinx.com/en/aboutus/accessibility/accessibility_meetings.aspx) includes additional information about the meetings.

For more information, or to provide input, please contact the Accessibility Team via email at accessibility@metrolinx.com, or by phone at 1-888-438-6646 or 1-800-387-3652 (TTY teletypewriters only).

Metrolinx Continues the Conversation to Electrify and Expand GO Service

Posted on October 24, 2016

Metrolinx has released an update on their next steps to electrify and expand GO Transit service across the region.

Metrolinx, an agency of the Government of Ontario is bringing more transit and more connections to more places within the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area. Every community transit project – big or small plays a vital role in the regional transportation plan – they want to share their plans and get your feedback. Starting in November, they will be hosting community public meetings to update the public on the transformation of the GO network to bring up to 15-minute, electrified service as well as other Metrolinx transit initiatives across the region. The Toronto meeting scheduled for the Barrie rail corridor will take place:

Tuesday, November 15th
Loretto College School
151 Rosemount Ave

Meetings start at 6:30 p.m. until 9 p.m. Presentation starts at 7 p.m. Information for the other meetings in the GTA can be found through the links below.

In order to expand transit, we need to build and expand the transit infrastructure across the region. Metrolinx is planning to add an additional track, a new train layover facility in the Town of Bradford West Gwillimbury, upgrade existing stations, and electrify the GO Transit service. They are completing environmental studies for both the track expansion and the electrification of the GO Transit network.

For additional information, please visit:

Metrolinx November Public Meetings

Metrolinx Accessibility Public Meetings

Posted on October 17, 2016

Once again, Metrolinx will be hosting its annual series of public meetings across the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area about accessibility.

They want to hear from members of the public about the accessibility of GO Transit, PRESTO, UP Express, and their new and upcoming Rapid Transit services and projects.

Thursday, November 3, 6:30 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Metro Hall
55 John Street, Toronto
Rooms 308 & 309 (third floor)

At each in-person meeting, participants will have an opportunity to:

  • learn about past, current and future accessibility activities at Metrolinx and its operating divisions and business units;
  • discuss and provide input to accessibility initiatives through round table sessions; and
  • interact directly with Metrolinx staff involved with accessibility projects.

American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation, real-time captioning and attendant services will be provided at the in-person meetings. Alternative formats and other accommodations will be made available upon request.

To help them prepare for the meetings, they are asking anyone who is interested in attending to register in advance, via email at accessibility@metrolinx.com, or by calling 1-888-438-6646 or 1-800-387-3652 (TTY teletypewriters only). As part of the registration, they ask that participants please identify which meeting they plan to attend, what accommodations they may require (if any) to participate fully in the meeting, and which two topic areas you are most interested in discussing at the meeting (GO Transit, PRESTO, UP Express, Light Rail Transit/Bus Rapid Transit, municipal transit).

The Accessibility Public Meetings webpage (http://www.metrolinx.com/en/aboutus/accessibility/accessibility_meetings.aspx) includes additional information about the meetings.

For more information, or to provide input, please contact the Accessibility Team via email at accessibility@metrolinx.com, or by phone at 1-888-438-6646 or 1-800-387-3652 (TTY teletypewriters only).

Dufferin Street Closure Update from Metrolinx

Posted on September 9, 2016

Please see the attached update from Metrolinx regarding the Dufferin and Queen closure:

dufferin-street-bridge-flyer_4month-closure_final-00000002

Categories

April 2017
M T W T F S S
« Mar    
 12
3456789
10111213141516
17181920212223
24252627282930

Archives