Blog Archives

Waiting Lists

Wow, I just called an apartment co-op inquiring about rental availability, and they said they had a wait list starting at ten years, for a bachelor.  What?!

Necessary questions:

  • What could make a building so good that people are willing to plan one or two apartments ahead that they want to live there?  I know it costs nothing to add a name to the list, but don’t you think of moving forward with your life, especially…
  • …When it comes to bachelor apartments.  If I was living in a bachelor now, I would certainly hope to move up a little more in ten years.  What about owning a house and building equity?
  • Maybe it’s worth calling back, just in case my life 12-15 years from now is nothing at all like I hope it’ll be and at least I have a fantastic apartment.  Damn, that’s depressing.

G8/G20 Summits

Other than the people renting their downtown condos at lucrative prices (that work out to $50/HOUR and up), I don’t know of anyone who’s happy about the G20 being hosted in Toronto. The inconvenience of the security, plus the social outrage at the nearly $1B cost of it all (the media have reminded us that the economy is still struggling its way up) – it’s just fuel to the fire of protest.

But I think given the circumstances, spending truckloads of money on security is money well spent. As bad as it is, I’m sure everyone would agree that the absolute worst thing that could happen would be a serious security breach.  And even one problem would be embarrassing for Canada. (side note: I’m very curious as to what that would mean for our various levels of government, and even how the public would react, etc)
No, spending $1 billion is fine, given the circumstances.

But the circumstances should be different. For one, it’s all nice and well that they chose Toronto to host the G20, but they could have been a lot smarter than choosing the downtown core. I won’t be the first to suggest here that Exhibition Place would have been a lot easier to fence off, not to mention at significantly less disruption (fewer major streets closed) and less cost (fewer checkpoints).
And weren’t they just going to host both summits in Huntsville anyway?
And are the world leaders really going to go out and enjoy the city?  No, they’ll be shepherded from hotels to meetings and barely see the light of day.
So because of the government’s tremendous lack of foresight that led them to choose the convention centre, spending $1 billion on security is (sadly) a good move. Now if only two wrongs made a right…

Downtown Relief Line (part 5)

Final thoughts:
-King is a better choice for a subway, from Shaw to the Don River
-Greenwood is a decent choice for an east-end transfer, and might help connect to the Greenwood Yard
-The rail corridor is a cost-effective option in the west end
-Dundas West station is a natural transfer point in the west
-Use a curved route and keep the number of stations down to make the route efficient and cost-effective
-A couple of my east end stations (see Part 3) would probably not be cost-effective, so I removed them
-The first stages would be to build south of Bloor/Danforth, on the east side and then the west
-Building northward to Eglinton would not be as beneficial until the Eglinton Crosstown LRT is built
-In the east, the line could continue to Don Mills, possibly as light rail
-In the west, the line could follow Weston Road, at least until Lawrence
-Hopefully this would take a lot of pressure off the Yonge, Bloor, and Danforth lines

Map! (click for large version)
city map with subway lines plus DRL

Stations, from northwest:
Mount Dennis
Dundas West
Parkdale (Queen/Dufferin)
Shaw (at King)
Niagara (King at Bathurst)
Spadina South (at King)
St. Andrew
Athletes Village (around Eastern at St. Lawrence)
Queen East (at Broadview)
Gerrard (at Jones)
Cosburn (at Donlands)
Thorncliffe Park (or “East York Centre”)
Flemingdon Park (Don Mills at Eglinton)

Downtown Relief Line (part 4)

This Thought will look at the West end of a potential Downtown Relief Line.

But first: I was thinking about the Greenwood plan from part 3, and while I still support the benefits of a transfer at Greenwood, my idea for a stop at Greenwood and Cosburn was shaken a little when I biked past that intersection and found it to be amongst a scattering of bungalows, with nowhere near what is necessary to support a station. A potential solution to this: from Greenwood/Danforth, continue southwest like my original idea. But the line would then curve northwest, maybe to Donlands and Cosburn, which is a busier area and closer to apartments on Cosburn, and still fairly central in the East York area. The subway line could go underneath Greenwood station, and curving northwest might actually help connect it to the Greenwood subway yard (which is west of Greenwood Ave… remember that Greenwood station is actually a block east of there).

Okay, the west end! We left off at Niagara Station (King at Bathurst). Like I mentioned earlier, King is better than Queen, because it passes through high-density neighbourhoods. West of Bathurst, then, I would place a stop at Shaw St (2nd exit: Crawford St), to get the middle of a cluster of buildings, and also to connect to the Ossington bus.

West of there, there is some debate over the best choice. If it is possible to continue along the rail corridor, then it would save a lot of money to do so, and not serve much less than if the line had stops at King and Dufferin, and King and Jameson.
The rail corridor plan is better not just because it would be cheaper to build, but having fewer stops would be more economically efficient, and also provide a faster trip.
Continuing along King would better serve the area (after stops at Dufferin and Jameson, others might be at Roncesvalles and King, and Roncesvalles and Howard Park) but would be slower and more expensive.

I would advocate the rail corridor if possible. After stopping at Queen and Dufferin, there might be a possibility for one more stop before Dundas West Station. The rail corridor is a good continuation north of Bloor. Stops at St. Clair and Eglinton are obvious for their east-west connections, even if they don’t have supporting density. To fill in the holes (if worthwhile), Dupont/Annette would be a good midpoint between Bloor and St. Clair, and Rogers Road between St. Clair and Eglinton. Both these streets have bus connections.

It is probably less worthwhile to have these extra stops than it would be in the Thorncliffe and Flemingdon neighbourhoods, because a bus connection seems less important than providing excellent transit service to high-density areas. They haven’t even built stations between major avenues on Yonge Street, so how could an Annette or Rogers station be justified?

Stations in the west end, continuing from the east:
Shaw (at King)
Parkdale (Queen/Dufferin)
Dundas West
Earlscourt (St. Clair)
Mount Dennis (Eglinton)

Affordable Housing

I read a couple of recent articles in the newspaper that reported on a possible plan to include affordable housing in most/all new developments. Sounds like a great idea, since integrating different economic statuses has been proven effective; see St. Lawrence Market (and the opposite idea ineffective; see Regent Park).

Okay, but then developers say that’s not fair, whine whine, etc. It might not be fair to them, but it’s my understanding that development is a fairly lucrative business. Especially when you’re building condos that are sold before construction even begins. Hell, I could theoretically afford to build a condo if I make $35M in revenue before actually building anything.

So the developers say that the revenue lost by having some cheaper units will be passed on to the rest of the buyers. And I think they say the same thing when regulations force them to build green roofs or any other “inconvenient” extra expense.

To me, on one hand, fine. Either the buyers pay a bit more, or the government has to subsidize the affordable housing / green roofs / other, which comes from taxpayers anyway. You can’t really force the developers to lose some profit because of our equity agenda.

On another hand, this seems underhanded of the developers. Even if governments say, for instance, ‘1 of every 3 buildings you do must be affordable housing, and it must represent 20% of all units’, then they will sell units from the other 2 for more money to compensate. So if we make developers contribute to affordable housing, the costs are just passed on to others anyway.

So the government almost might as well build it themselves. But why should they be responsible for building housing that probably generates a net loss, and not be in the lucrative part of the business? Seriously, can’t the City of Toronto develop its own land, with mixed income housing, and actually generate itself some profit? There must be some reason… I’m guessing there’s a law on conflict of interest, except that it would allow the city to provide more social services, which seems too beneficial to ignore as a possibility. Seriously, whose interests are at risk, other than developers? The city would just be competition.

Maybe the city gets a tax from development, and that’s why they’re ok with the status quo.

…hmm, maybe those taxes are ALSO being passed on to the other buyers. Now I think that the tax developers pay is effectively 0%. I might be cynical, but perhaps with good cause!

Getting Around In Toronto

I like how Toronto didn’t give its downtown streets names like 2nd street, 5th avenue, etc. I appreciate how street names give character to streets and neighbourhoods. Toronto also doesn’t follow conventions like “streets are NS and avenues are EW.” Yes, this can be a pretty helpful system, and isn’t hard to implement, though some streets just sound better with “Avenue” or “Street” or “Road”. …Maybe because we already know them, so a change would sound weird.

What Toronto does even more subtly is numbering. Haven’t noticed? Don’t worry, you’d be shocked at how few people know this. Here it is: Even numbers are always on the North and West sides of the street. How can you remember? One major Toronto landmark, Maple Leaf Gardens, is at 20 Carlton Street, at the northwest corner of Carlton and Church Streets. And the Eaton Centre, another Toronto landmark, is at 250 Yonge Street (on the west side). Now you know where to go!

Downtown Relief Line (part 3)

This Thought will discuss routes in the east end of the line.

The goals for this part of the line are:
– to alleviate congestion on the Danforth by transferring passengers south
– to provide a faster route downtown
– to service high-density areas

The DRL Subway Line will cross the Don River as far north as Queen Street, or more likely go through the Athletes’ Village area (West Don Lands) and cross at the old King Street bridge.

Eastern Avenue doesn’t seem like a good candidate street for a subway. It could use a public transit line, but a low-density industrial street doesn’t merit a subway line. Big box stores don’t deserve a subway line. So running the line east on Eastern doesn’t make much sense.

In fact, Queen is the only east-west avenue that would make sense, if any at all. None of the thoroughfares in Riverdale or Leslieville have much density, but Queen has its advantages. Three streetcar routes travel along Queen from Broadview to Kingston Road, and the 504 joins there to cross the river. It’s a serious bottleneck, so any worthwhile subway line will make some impact alleviating this congestion.

But don’t forget: the subway line might go along King! A King subway line would make obselete the 503 or 504, or both, and even using Wellington, one line could be eliminated. Even the Queen streetcars might need less service, if longer-distance travel can be handled by the subway line.

So a station at Queen and Broadview is not 100% necessary, but it seems likely, with few good reasons to put stations on Eastern.

Before we think about stations in that area, it’s important to think about north-south configurations. The original plan for the line went up Pape Avenue. Pape is a good choice for a few reasons. The current plan for the Don Mills LRT has the line’s terminus at Pape station. Pape has little density itself, but it passes through the middle of a string of apartments along Cosburn Avenue. Finally, there is a clear path toward the Thorncliffe Park area that would be quite a detour if the line were to follow Coxwell Avenue. Coxwell doesn’t have much density either, so it’s not great. Broadview is too far west. Although it has density, it doesn’t service as large an area, and is already well-served by streetcars. Donlands is too close to Pape to be a better option.

I think the only decent alternative to Pape is Greenwood. It has less density than Pape, but it does have a clear route to the large Thorncliffe Park area. It makes available the Greenwood subway yard, and possibly most importantly, it would better alleviate congestion on the Danforth line by taking passengers off at an earlier point. These two points make Greenwood at least a decent candidate.  Remember, this is all hypothetical, and 25 years away at least, so it’s possible by then that Greenwood would be a better choice.

I’m throwing my support behind Greenwood, but there is a potential snag: the Don River. Depending on environmental assessments and construction requirements, it may not be feasible to cross the river anywhere near there. If that were the case, Pape, if possible, would be the choice. It’s also annoying that Greenwood station is actually a block east, at Linsmore Crescent, but that can be worked around.

Greenwood! All right, but taking the line down Greenwood to Queen wouldn’t be ideal. A diagonal direction would be best here, because you can take a quicker path to save time on the commute. Only a couple of stations would be needed, possibly Queen/Broadview, Dundas/Carlaw, and Gerrard/Jones.

Finally, north of Danforth: only one station south of the river is needed, and it should be at Cosburn, because it’s central in the area. Cross the river to Thorncliffe, and then curve north east to Don Mills Road, where the line will continue north, until at least Eglinton, if not Sheppard. Don Mills is an obvious choice. It’s already slated for an LRT, but as long as I’m dreaming, I may as well make it a subway.  If the Don Mills LRT does get built, it would be silly to stretch the DRL to Greenwood, so Pape Station would be the terminus.

Stations in the east end, continuing from the west:
Queen East (at Broadview)
Carlaw (at Dundas)
Gerrard (at Jones)
Cosburn (at Greenwood)
Thorncliffe Park (or “East York Centre”)
Overlea (at Don Mills)
Flemingdon Park (Don Mills at Eglinton)

The 503 streetcar line could be eliminated, and a lot of East York apartments would have excellent transit service, and hopefully could choose transit over driving.

In the next chapter, I’ll similarly analyze the west end of the line.

Downtown Relief Line (part 2)

For this part of my DRL Thought, I’m going to explain possible east-west alignments for the downtown section of the line.

The line was originally planned to use the rail corridor south of Front Street, so that it could be above ground in order to save money on construction (and maintenance?). The line would cross the Don River at or south of Eastern Avenue, and follow the GO/Via rail path to a connection at Union Station, and continue west from there.

I don’t think the system would do best to have the DRL run through Union Station, for several reasons:

As Yonge/Bloor shows us every day, single connection points can quickly become overloaded. TTC’s Union Station, currently with the smallest platform in the subway system, would struggle to accommodate yet another connection, on top of its surface rail routes, and streetcar and bus lines. There are plans to build a second platform for Union, making one for each northbound direction, but there is already a lot being squeezed into one node.

What about the rail corridor in general? There are plans to build a large development in the west Don lands (south of Eastern Ave and east of Parliament St), so a subway serving that area would improve the accessibility in that area. In fact, the development is going to be the Athletes’ Village for the recently-awarded Pan-Am Games.

Other high-density or high-importance spots near the rail corridor: the Skydome and ACC, the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, the CN Tower, and the St. Lawrence and CityPlace neighbourhoods.

But many of those things are already well-served by transit. Union itself is a short walk from all but one of those six locations. And since Union might not be the best choice for a connection node, we should consider other options.

Look up Lower Queen station. There was a plan to build another east-west route across Queen Street. Downtown, Queen seems ideal for a subway line. There is a lot of high-density development and places of interest, and the Queen streetcar is known for being a nightmare. Two connections to the YUS line, at Yonge and University, mean there would be less pressure on one single station. However, outside the downtown area, Queen has an excellent shopping strip that is well-served by streetcar. Being able to see the stores you pass is an excellent reason to have a streetcar line. Older Torontonians have told me that parts of Yonge and Danforth suffered when shoppers were moved underground.  Also, outside the downtown area, Queen has far less density than other east-west routes.

Which brings me to King Street. Downtown, King goes through the centre of the financial district, with the tallest office buildings. To me this means more commuters who could be served by subway. It also covers a greater scope of the Entertainment District. East of downtown, King is nearer to higher-density neighbourhoods, George Brown College, and even the west Don lands. West of downtown, King has a much higher density than Queen; the difference is notable just west of Spadina.

I had also considered Wellington Street for a section of downtown (possibly King west of Spadina, down to Wellington, and then continue when Wellington becomes Front Street), but though this places the line closer to some extremely important downtown spots, it also may create problems when creating transfer points at King and St. Andrew stations, simply for distance reasons. I consider this option to be nearly equivalent to King, the deciding factors being connecting to the YUS line, and where skyscrapers prevent tunnels from being built.

Stations in the downtown area, west to east:
Niagara (King at Bathurst)
Spadina South (at King)
St. Andrew (possible 2nd entrance on Simcoe Street)
Jarvis (at King, 2nd entrance on George Street)
Parliament (at King)
Athletes Village (around Eastern at St. Lawrence)

In future parts, I’ll talk about my thoughts of the east and west ends of the line.

Downtown Relief Line (part 1)

Preface: Keep in mind this is pretty much a pipe dream, and Transit City is probably far more important to the city right now.

Toronto has just been awarded the 2015 Pan-American Games. This is believed to be an incentive to improve the city’s rapid transit network. Specifically, the much-discussed Downtown Relief Line is core to this plan. The West Donlands area would be redeveloped with new housing, and serve as the athletes’ village during the games. But this area is currently severely underserved by public transit, and a new subway line may be just what is needed.

The Downtown Relief Line was proposed in part for the ability to alleviate transfers at Yonge-Bloor and St. George stations, and provide a faster route downtown for people travelling from the west or east ends of the Bloor-Danforth line. It would also alleviate serious overcrowding problems, which are only going to get worse if the Yonge line extends north of Finch.

Taking the subway downtown (towards the 2 transfer points) in the morning gets extremely crowded, except from the Spadina line*. When I was going downtown from the west end, my subway car would be full by about Lansdowne or Dufferin, and people would often be left behind on the platform because they simply couldn’t board the train. The situation is mirrored on the Yonge line and Danforth line. There need to be more options for commuters in the morning.

The Downtown Relief Line was originally proposed to go southbound from Pape station, and across Eastern Avenue / Front Street, with a transfer point at Union, and ending at Spadina. A potential westward extension would connect to Bloor at Dundas West, and a potential northward extension would go up from Pape to Eglinton (presumably at Don Mills).

That plan outlines a good general idea of what Toronto’s DRL should do.