Mayor’s decision to axe Sheppard, Finch LRTs will cost
City agreed to reimburse Metrolinx for cash spent already
(Written for Town Crier April 1.)
All aboard: Mayor Rob Ford gives the thumbs up with Premier Dalton McGuinty before making a joint transit announcement March 31. Photo by Francis Crescia/Town Crier.
The city taxpayers are on the hook for at least $49 million now that the Ontario government and Metrolinx agreed to cancel two previously approved light rapid transit lines for Sheppard and Finch.
Early in his term Mayor Rob Ford announced the Transit City plan for four surface LRT lines on Sheppard, Finch, Eglinton and in Scarborough was dead. His office spent four months negotiating with the province and Metrolinx to spend the allotted $8.4 billion on making the Eglinton LRT underground and converting the Scarborough RT to a surface LRT.
He also sought permission for the city to look for $4.2 billion in private sector funding for a new Sheppard subway.
That deal, announced March 31, included a provision that the city pay Metrolinx back for any costs associated with canceling the previously approved projects. The bill to the city will be at least $49 million, Metrolinx confirmed to the Town Crier on April 1.
“At this time we estimate there are $49 million in sunk costs mostly for work on the environmental assessments, designs or engineering and project management for Finch LRT and Sheppard LRT,” said Metrolinx spokesperson Vanessa Thomas. “The $49 million (is) for costs we already accrued.
Mayor Rob Ford announced he will seek $4.2 billion in private sector cash to build a new Sheppard subway line. Photo by Francis Crescia/Town Crier.
Posted in Toronto transit
Tagged $49, cancel, costs, Eglinton, Finch, Joe Mihevc, Kris Scheuer, LRT, Mayor, Metrolinx, million, Rob Ford, Scarborough, Sheppard, subway, taxpayers, Town Crier
City staff to report this spring on action on castle’s future
Recommendations will focus on Kiwanis current contract
Possible someone else could manage Casa Loma for city
(Written for the Town Crier March 30.)
Casa Loma. Town Crier file photo.
Will the Kiwanis Club of Casa Loma be allowed to continue to run the city-owned icon or will someone else be given keys to the famous castle?
Last July 7, council voted to take steps to terminate the club’s management agreement if a handful of conditions were not met in writing by the end of the month.
Now it’s eight months later and the city’s deadline has come and gone. However, the Town Crier has learned the city and the club have been meeting and city staff will be producing a progress report and recommendations that will come to the city’s Executive Committee in April or May.
“We are working with Kiwanis regarding Casa Loma,” said Michael Williams general manager of Economic Development and Culture, who council charged with creating a dispute resolution process between the two parties.
This progress report will also contain recommendations on what action city council should take regarding its current contract with Kiwanis, which has run the castle since 1937.
Kiwanis’s 2008-signed contract includes an agreement which would see the club fix up the castle’s interior while the city would spend millions on repairing the exterior. But according to last year’s report, Kiwanis has missed a number of agreed upon deadlines.
The city voted to have Kiwanis report back by the end of September 2010 with a financial plan to meet its contract obligations. The city also instructed the deputy city manager’s office to conduct an audit of Casa Loma’s operations and finances.
Posted in Toronto culture
Tagged agreement, board, Casa Loma, chair, contract, council, Joe Mihevc, Kiwanis, Kris Scheuer, Michael, repairs, report, Richard, Toronto, Town Crier, Williams, Wozenilek
(Written for Town Crier Feb. 18)
Maclean House owner made legal alterations to the property before it was officially designated a heritage site. Now he wants to demolish the home. Photo courtesy of City of Toronto.
Toronto and East York Community Council stamped denied on two of the three of the applications to demolish the Maclean House and have made the conditions for the one they did approve so tight that it will be impossible to knock the structure down.
The building, built in 1910 by celebrated architect John M. Lyle, was once home to publisher John Bayne Maclean but is currently carved up into 10 apartment units.
Community council dealt with the matter after little debate possibly due to city staff’s recommendation to refuse the demolition of the heritage property at 7 Austin Ter.
However, the story is not quite that simple.
St. Paul’s Councillor Joe Mihevc explained that there are actually the three demolition applications before the city regarding this property — one related to it as a rental building, one as an owner-occupied residence and one as a heritage building.
Mayor Rob Ford promises to deliver new Sheppard subway
Says if private cash not available, private sector will step in
(Written for Town Crier Feb. 17)
Mayor Ford wants to help pay for his Sheppard subway expansion plan with a public-private partnership. Photo by Francis Crescia/Town Crier file.
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is moving forward with a public-private partnership to fulfill his election promise to extend the Sheppard subway.
The city has submitted a proposal to Metrolinx, the provincial agency that looks after public transit funding in the GTA, to adjust its plan for the route from LRT to subway.
Ford was short on details at a 3 minute and 21 second press scrum, that also covered his health after an operation to help pass a painful kidney stone and his brother Doug Ford’s proposal to give the mayor veto power.
“I said I’m going to build subways. I am going to build subways,” Ford told the media this afternoon. “People know you can’t always rely on government to build subways and that’s where the private sector will come in.”
Neither Metrolinx nor the mayor provided details requested by the Town Crier on the cost of the city’s proposal for a Sheppard subway. However, Ford’s election platform does refer to a $3 billion Sheppard subway with 10 stops between Downsview and Scarborough Town Centre to be completed by 2015.
TTC chair Karen Stintz confirmed to the Town Crier the city will try to use the existing funding envelope of about $1 billion from the province and feds for Sheppard and then get the rest from the private sector.
“The discussion are at very high level now,” she said. “The Big Move has been approved by the Metrolinx board so if they make any changes it would be made by their board and then they would make those amendments and then the city would carry forward with its plans.”
Former TTC chair Joe Mihevc said the private sector would have to kick in $3.6 billion to keep the mayor’s plan on track.
Posted in Toronto transit
Tagged Joe Mihevc, Karen Stintz, Kris Scheuer, LRT, Mayor, Metrolinx, Rob Ford, Sheppard, subway, Toronto, Town Crier, Transit, TTC
Council makes symbolic gesture to pass on pay hike
Savings may go to support student nutrition
(Written Feb. 8 for Town Crier.)
Councillor Mike Del Grande led charge to freeze politicians' pay for 2011.
Council voted almost unanimously today not to accept a cost of living increase with many saying that they needed to set an example for city employees going into a year of contract negotiations.
This year, the city will be negotiating a number of new contracts including one with the TTC as that contract expires at the end of March, and CUPE Local 416’s contract including garbage collectors is up at the end of 2011.
“When those (contract) negotiations start, the first thing everyone will look at is what have we done with respect to our leadership on this,” said budget chief Mike Del Grande during the debate.
He said refusing this 2.6 percent cost of living increase sets the right tone since they are seeking budget cutbacks from city departments and asking employees to show restraint in wage demands.
“We have asked for sacrifices throughout the system and we can start with ourselves,” he said after the vote. Continue reading
Posted in Toronto Politics
Tagged council, cut, freeze, hike, increase, Joe Mihevc, Kris Scheuer, Mike Del Grande, nutrition, pay, salary, student, Toronto, Town Crier
Toronto Parking Authority may sell site to developer
Plan could include new 9-storey condo and underground lot
China House restaurant on Eglinton W could be lost in mix
(Written for Town Crier Jan. 31)
China House restaurant may have to move if new parking lot/development project is approved. Town Crier file photo.
The Toronto Parking Authority is set to make a major development deal near Bathurst and Eglinton and a popular Chinese food restaurant may be lost in the mix.
The city-owned parking authority plans to sell 935 Eglinton Ave. West, which is home to a 43-space surface lot that’s been around for over 50 years. Developer BSAR Eglinton wants to buy the site from the parking authority and build a condo, retail space and a new parking lot.
BSAR already entered into a conditional agreement with N. Kwinter Holdings and Harryetta Holdings to buy an adjacent site at 925 Eglinton Ave. West that’s home to China House restaurant, according to city documents.
The developer wants to consolidate the two sites and purpose a nine-storey condo with main floor retail and an underground parking lot, according to the report presented at a government management committee meeting on Jan. 31.
Councillor Joe Mihevc said there’s been no formal development application yet.
Posted in Toronto News
Tagged BSAR, China House, development, Eglinton, Joe Mihevc, Kris Scheuer, Lorne Persiko, lot, parking, restaurant, Town Crier, TPA
Proposal to erect noise buffer near Allen and Eglinton chopped
Toronto councillor pushes for project to be added back in TTC budget
(Written for Town Crier Jan.20)
Residents living near Eglinton’s Allen Expressway on-ramp say they are furious with TTC for quashing a plan to put a noise barrier between their neighbourhood and a noisy commuter lot.
The approved noise barrier project was noticeably absent when TTC presented its 2011 capital budget in January.
Residents Tom Sandler, left, and Randy Daiter are petitioning the TTC to restore funding for a noise barrier near Allen Road. Photo by Francis Crescia/Town Crier.
For years, residents living on Wembley Road have complained about honking, beeping and cursing from drivers competing to enter the expressway from Eglinton Avenue, and the noise coming from an adjacent commuter parking lot.
Four years ago, local councillor Joe Mihevc began pushing for funding of a noise barrier along the north side of the lot and the south side of the road’s residential properties.
“There’s been a 10-year plan for all the noise barriers on the Allen,” Mihevc said. “This is the last piece.”
In 2010, about $1.2 million was approved for the noise barrier. The plan was to design and tender it for contract this year, then build it in 2012, Mihevc said.
But there’s been a change of heart at the transit commission. Continue reading
Posted in Toronto transit
Tagged Allen Expressway, barrier, budget, councillor, Jared Green, Joe Mihevc, Karen Stintz, Kris Scheuer, noise, Randy Daiter, Toronto, Town Crier, TTC, Wembley
Commission delays vote on bus service reductions
Cuts would impact 1.2 mil transit rides a year
(Written for Town Crier Jan. 12. Feb 1 UPDATE.)
Councillor Josh Matlow updates his website with a list of the 48 bus routes where service could be reduced. Photo by Kris Scheuer/Town Crier.
Yesterday it was fare increases that were cancelled, today the TTC voted to put on hold a decision to cut service on 48 bus routes.
The plan was to shorten hours on nearly 50 underused routes starting March 27 and reallocate money to improve service on busy, but unnamed routes this fall.
Residents, transit advocates and councillors made deputations pleading for the commission to reconsider.
“This isn’t the kind of efficiency people are looking for,” said ex-Ward 17 councillor candidate Jonah Schein, who uses the Davenport bus.
Resident Walied Khogali said he found out yesterday his daily Wellesley 94 route was on the list for reductions.
“I talked to people (on the bus) coming to and from work and they had no clue about the service cuts,” he told the commission. “Ride the buses and find out how people will be affected.”
In the end, TTC commissioner and councillor Cesar Palacio moved the motion that deferred a decision on the reduced bus hours until the Feb. 2 commission meeting. Continue reading
Posted in Toronto transit
Tagged buses, Cesar Palacio, chair, commissioner, councillor, cuts, Gary Webster, Joe Mihevc, Jonah Schein, Josh Matlow, Karen Stintz, Kris Scheuer, reductions, routes, service, Toronto, Town Crier, Transit, TTC
Day after TTC fare hike announced, city finds cash to avoid increase
(Written for Town Crier Jan. 11)
TTC chair Karen Stintz announced today a transit fare hike is cancelled, which should keep more riders using the city's transit network. Photo by Kris Scheuer.
Looks like there won’t be a TTC fare increase after all.
One day after Mayor Rob Ford begrudgingly announced a 10 cent transit hike to make up a $24 million budget gap the city declared its delivering an extra $16 million to the TTC and will let the transit commission axe $8 million in unspecified cuts at a later date.
“Fare increases and service cuts are the last options the TTC looks at,” TTC chair Karen Stintz told the Town Crier. “We want to make sure the fares remain affordable for those who are dependent on transit.”
The cancellation was made possible after city staff was able to find the money needed to keep fares at current levels.
“The city manager was able to identify the $16 million so that our (TTC) subsidy could be increased and we were able to manage ($8 million) through unspecified cuts,” said Stintz.“We have $8 million that we will have to manage (cut) throughout the year. It won’t be a service cut.”
TTC spokesperson Brad Ross didn’t have details on where the $8 million in cuts would come from, but hoped to have more information on Wednesday when the TTC meets to vote on its budget.
(Written for the Town Crier Dec. 15)
TTC's new light rail vehicles.
Several residents refuse to believe Transit City is dead.
In December, days after Mayor Rob Ford announced that Transit City is no more, local activist Adam Chaleff-Freudenthaler organized a grassroots campaign in North Toronto to save Transit City, including the Eglinton light rapid transit line.
Chaleff-Freudenthaler took his “save Transit City” petition to the streets in North Toronto’s Ward 16. In December, he continued to canvass every ward affected by the Finch, Sheppard and Eglinton LRTs.
“The goal is to bring high quality, accurate information to people at their doors and communities,” he said.
On Dec. 1, the day he announced Transit City is dead, Ford met with TTC general manager Gary Webster and asked staff to look at costing of various underground options for transit including having the Eglinton LRT completely underground.
Webster will report back in January.
Councillor Karen Stintz, now the new TTC chair, has told the Town Crier on four occasions since the Oct. 25 election she expects light rapid transit along Eglinton to proceed underground.
“I expect when the plan is reviewed, that there won’t be any changes to Eglinton,” she said Dec. 10.
Posted in Toronto transit
Tagged Adam Chaleff-Freudenthaler, campaign, chair, councillor, Eglinton, Gary Webster, Joe Mihevc, Karen Stintz, Kris Scheuer, LRT, Mayor, Rob Ford, streetcars, Town Crier, Transit City, TTC