About me

A farewell to 2017

IMG_0129-001At the top of the Franey Trail, Cape Breton National Park

For me, 2017 was a great year. In June, I wrote about my life up to that point, looking back at some of the challenges I faced over the years, my ability to overcome them, and my accomplishments. I wrote that shortly before I got married to an amazing life partner, and together, we look forward to many great things.

Elisa and I honeymooned out East, touring the Cabot Trail, Prince Edward Island, and Halifax before taking the train back home. We also visited Point Pelee for the first time, and made trips to Detroit, Chicago, and across Ontario, to places like Southampton, Sudbury, and Collingwood.

I met a few new friends in 2017, and I also got to know some great people even better. Along with our own wedding, Elisa and I got to help celebrate three others this year.

In Brockville, exploring the newly re-opened historic railway tunnel, I spent a few hours catching up with a high school friend who moved from Brampton to a town in Eastern Ontario. That was one of this year’s nice simple highlights. Day trips with friends and groups walks with others were another thing that made this year good. But also in 2017, I lost contact with a few people I knew, including another of my best friends from high school. I regret not keeping in closer contact; social media has its limitations.

At my full time job, I stood up in front of an audience at an industry event, presenting the work that I did on an interesting interactive map that I developed. This year was one of  the most challenging years I had at work, but also one of the most fulfilling.

2017 also marks the tenth year since I started writing on urban issues and transportation for fun. Spacing is one of my favourite publications, and it has been an honour to write for them on occasion. My first blog post described some of the places where Toronto’s old streetcars were sent to once they were retired by the TTC; my latest contribution, a full-page spread in the Fall 2017 issue of the print magazine, highlighted all the major transit projects across Canada planned or in progress. This year, I also wrote for Torontoist and TVO, and of course, in my own blog.

IMG_1524.jpgNation on the move: my latest article in Spacing

In 2018, I look forward to many things: a trip to see family and new places in Europe, catching up with friends, having some more writing opportunities, new challenges at work, and a municipal election, where three new wards will help deliver some new faces to Toronto City Council. Maybe, too, there will be a strong mayoral candidate worth supporting.

My top six posts of 2017

These six articles might not be the most read, but they are among my favourite posts in 2017. They all deal with some of my favourite subjects: urban planning, transit, and local history.

  • Ontario’s land use scandal: Another greenfield hospital for Niagara: A commentary on poor land use planning decisions (which I have discussed previously on this blog) which puts major health and educational institutions far from where people live, on sites difficult to serve by transit.
  • Hallam Street and the Harbord Streetcar: The history of Hallam Street in west end Toronto and the Harbord Streetcar, which was one Toronto’s most interesting carlines until it was abandoned in 1966.
  • How intercity bus service is failing Ontarians: my first article for TVO, I examine how the intercity bus network in Ontario declined since the 1980s, and how many communities in the province have since become disconnected.
  • A need for high speed rail reality: an article I posted to Spacing, as I express my skepticism for the province’s proposal for a high speed rail line between Toronto, Kitchener-Waterloo, and London, with a possible extension to Windsor. It’s an interesting contrast to the neglect paid to rural bus services.
  • Toronto’s Zero Vision and the folly of Seniors Safety Zones: Putting up a few new signs as part of a reluctant response to an unacceptable level of road violence isn’t  Vision Zero, it’s Zero Vision. As a pedestrian advocate and co-founder of Walk Toronto, I believe that the city does a lousy job of protecting its residents from injury and death on its roads.
  • Rosedale NIMBYs Push Back Against Four-Storey Condo: There are few things more fun than writing about entitled, unreasonable NIMBYs.
Toronto Transit Urban Planning

Why Finch West is the best of Toronto’s new subway stations

The dream is finally a reality for thousands of York University students

On Sunday, December 17, six new TTC subway stations opened, and tens of thousands of excited people crowded the new extension to York University and Vaughan (the free TTC fares, courtesy of the provincial government, might also have had something to do with it). I also took the opportunity to explore the new subway stations, and get a second sense of their layout and their ridership potential.

While Pioneer Village Station remains my favourite architecturally, I have found myself liking the simplicity of Finch West Station.

As I have argued here before, I expect that Finch West and Pioneer Village Station will be well used – mostly due to the TTC surface route connections. York University Station will do well during the academic term, and Vaughan Metropolitan Centre has potential — but only if York Region commits to operating a decent transit system with convenient and frequent service to the new subway. I also suggested that the main GO Transit connections — Downsview Park and Highway 407 — will see very little usage. Both stations rely on GO Transit connections, and at the time, GO did not make their plans public.

We now know that GO Transit service to Downsview Park Station will begin December 30. The Barrie Line will see new midday and evening service, and all trains will call at the new stop. Existing rush hour trains will also continue to stop at York University Station. All GO Transit buses on Highway 407 that terminate on the York University campus will also continue to do so, instead of taking full use of the new bus terminal at Highway 407 Station. (Only GO bus routes 25F, 46, 47, 47F, 48, 48B and 48F, along with route 40, will call at the fancy new terminal, adding up to 10 minutes to existing travel times.)

I predict that GO Transit will abandon York University Station and direct all its bus services to Highway 407 Station after the end of the 2017-2018 academic year, and after the provincial election is over. It would not be the first time that GO Transit abandoned one of its railway stations, either. In 1969, train service at Lorne Park was abandoned, in favour of nearby Clarkson.

The province announced a $1.50 TTC fare discount for Presto card transfers to and from GO Transit and UP Express in October, to take effect January 7, 2018. But without further fare integration for transfers to and from York University, students and staff who currently arrive on campus directly might have to get used to paying an additional $3.00 a day. But at least Highway 407 Station will be useful.

In a previous post, I also explained that Pioneer Village Station was architecturally my favourite of the six new stations. That is still true. But in terms of functionality, my favourite is now Finch West.

Southbound 41 Keele bus loads in front of the new Finch West Station. Note the nearby apartment buildings.

Finch West Station, like Pioneer Village, was designed by  aLL Design, a global firm led by Will Alsop. The various tile patterns used in the design are a bit jarring, but to me, they recall those used in older TTC stations in North York.

Ascending the escalator at Finch West

The station serves buses on routes 36 Finch West — the TTC’s third busiest surface route in 2016 — along with Route 41 Keele, 107 St. Regis, and 199B Finch Rocket. Only Routes 36 and 199B enter the 3-bay bus terminal, all others (along with the 36 bus) stop on the street. This simplicity is in contrast to the Highway 407 Station terminal, which will be little-used for quite some time.

Route 36 serves neighbourhoods such as Jane-Finch and Rexdale. These large, lower-income communities of Toronto will benefit from a much shorter ride to the subway.

Simple new TTC bus terminal at Finch West Station

In 2022, the Finch West LRT is scheduled to open, connecting Finch West Station with Humber College. On the mezzanine level, a temporary wall, as seen in the photo below, can be knocked out for a passage to a yet-to-be-built underground LRT station. Major construction is scheduled to begin in 2018.

Looking towards the temporary wall that will lead to the Finch West LRT

Finch West might not be the most stunning of all the new stations that opened on the Line 1 extension, but it might be the most useful and the most functional. In design, and in function, Finch West is a throwback, recalling a simpler time in TTC subway construction.