Categories
Roads Toronto Walking

Deadly by design: Keele Street and Calvington Drive

On Sunday, June 7, Olivia and Julia Sarracini were crossing Calvington Drive at Keele Street. It was 12:15 in the morning. The walk sign turned on, and the two sisters, aged 17 and 19, entered the crosswalk, walking north. Behind them, the driver of a black SUV waited for southbound traffic to clear the intersection before turning left, directly into the two young women, who were already halfway across the intersection.

Julia suffered leg injuries and was sent to hospital. Olivia, who was just finishing Grade 12, was pronounced dead at the scene. The driver of the SUV did not stop, but fled westbound on Calvington Drive.

Two days later, Toronto Police arrested 46-year-old Shawn Ramsey. He was charged with two criminal offences: fail to stop at the scene of an accident causing death and fail to stop at the scene of an accident causing bodily harm.

The driver was definitely at fault for striking the two women, who were walking with the right of way and all due care necessary. But it remains quite possible that if the motorist remained at the scene that night might only be facing minor Highway Traffic Act charges. (Without a vulnerable road users’ law, justice for pedestrians and cyclists injured or killed on Ontario’s streets is terribly inadequate.) Yet road design and a poor transportation network in Toronto’s inner suburbs played a significant role here.

Memorial for Olivia Sarracini

This section of Keele Street provides a link between Highway 401 and Humber River Regional Hospital to the south, and Finch Avenue, York University, and several industrial areas to the north. Downsview Park is just to the north of Calvington Avenue, and along with the large parkspace, new residential development is well underway, with more planned.

The area around Keele and Calvington was developed in the 1950s and 1960s, though visages of the old village of Downsview can be found close by, towards Wilson Avenue to the south. Between Wilson and Sheppard, Keele Street is five lanes wide, with a centre left-turn lane. Traffic is heavy throughout the day and evening, with many trucks headed to and from industrial lands and nearby construction sites. Even in heavy traffic, motorists regularly exceed the 50 km/h speed limit.

Pedestrians are provided only with narrow sidewalks, close to the road. These sidewalks are not separated from strip plaza parking spaces. Despite a major hospital, nearby elementary and secondary schools, a library, Downsview Park, and urban intensification taking place in the area, there are no cycling facilities. Cyclists, therefore, usually take the sidewalk. While cyclists avoid heavy traffic on Keele’s narrow lanes, they infringe on the little bit of space given to pedestrians.

Strip plaza across Keele Street from Calvington Avenue

Calvington runs west from Keele, with a strip plaza and gas station on the east side of the intersection. Though most traffic off Calvington turns south, pedestrians are prohibited from crossing at the north side, lest they slow down left-turning motorists off of Calvington. Furthermore, an advance left turn signal gives priority to northbound motorists turning on to Calvington from Keele, though the advance signal is only triggered by a queue of several left-turning vehicles.

Though neither the advance signal nor the crossing restriction were factors in the collision on June 7, they are just further reminders of who the streetscape was designed for.

Pedestrians are prohibited from crossing at the north side of the Keele and Calvington intersection. Note the sidewalk cyclist, likely headed to nearby Downsview Park.

Soon after Olivia Sarracini’s death, Councillor James Pasternak moved to request a traffic safety review of the Keele and Calvington intersection at the June 16 meeting of North York Community Council. Pasternak suggested that street lighting, traffic signal synchronization, traffic signage, and “the feasibility of installing advance green traffic lights” be included in the review.

The trouble with that motion is that it too narrow. There are dozens of similar intersections in Toronto’s post-war suburbs. The intersection already has an advance green traffic signal. I would suggest that a review of the whole district is necessary in the the context of new and upcoming urban development, poor access to Downsview Park from the south and west, and inadequate and unsafe active transportation infrastructure. Nearby Highway 401 and the GO Transit Barrie Line both create significant barriers to pedestrians and cyclists in the area.

Olivia Sarracini was killed and Julia Sarracini was injured by a dangerous and callous driver who did not have the humanity to stay and offer assistance and take responsibility. This tragedy shouldn’t warrant a narrow safety review. Without changing the built environment, tragedies like these will continue.

Categories
Cycling Infrastructure Roads Toronto Walking

A tale of two streets: Winona Drive and Shaughnessy Boulevard

Typical Quiet Street signage and pylon placement, Crawford Street

Earlier this month, as part of Toronto’s long-overdue response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the city introduced ActiveTO. ActiveTO includes several measures addressing the need for safe active transportation and recreation routes as summer approaches and businesses slowly reopen.

Current ActiveTO initiatives include weekend traffic closures of sections of Lake Shore Boulevard and Bayview Avenue to take pressure off narrow and busy multi-use paths, designating specific “quiet streets” to provide safer cycling and pedestrian corridors, and the construction of new bike lanes and cycle tracks, accelerating work on the painfully slow implementation of the city’s cycling network plan.

One of many families enjoying the Bayview Avenue extension closure on May 16. The weekend closure provides a safe, spacious alternative to the crowded Lower Don Trail

I visited two Toronto streets this week included in the initial list of ActiveTO quiet streets that were announced on May 14, 2020.

On Winona Drive, the pylons and signs placed by city work crews were moved by residents to block an entire lane of traffic at each intersection. This enhances their effectiveness in reminding motorists that the space is for local traffic only and that the roadway is shared with pedestrians and cyclists.

Winona Drive at Benson Avenue, May 25, 2020
Close-up of relocated pylons on Winona Drive

Shaughnessy and Havenbrook Boulevards, near Sheppard Avenue and Don Mills Road, connect the densely populated Fairview Mall and Don Valley Village neighbourhoods with the Betty Sutherland Trail, part of the Don River ravine system. Though Shaughnessy is mostly fronted by comfortable, midcentury homes, it borders several apartment buildings and townhouse complexes, including several Toronto Community Housing properties.

Shaughnessy Boulevard looking north at Rochelle Crescent

In 2012, some road calming measures were undertaken on Shaughnessy to slow down traffic, particularly near local schools and parks. A four-lane section between Sheppard Avenue and Glenworth Road was narrowed, including a very short section of bike lanes. A shallow concrete median was added between Glenworth and Esterbrooke Avenue. However, the street remained problematic.

The shallow median on Shaughnessy Boulevard does nothing to slow down aggressive motorists

In a recent Toronto Star article, resident Robin Sacks noted that the street was unsafe as motorists used it as a bypass of parallel Don Mills Road. She, and many of her neighbours, supported Shaughnessy’s designation as an ActiveTO quiet street.

Unfortunately, other residents took it upon themselves to remove the pylons and signs and complain to their local city councillor as soon as they were installed. By the weekend, they — along with concrete barriers placed in the median — were removed, and the street wiped from the city’s website.

Councillor Shelley Carroll, a progressive, was quoted in the Star article that she felt those who objected to the traffic calming measures were on “solid ground,” as there were no community consultations before the measures were introduced. She also noted that Shaughnessy is “a safe street with ample sidewalks and, unlike denser parts of downtown, ‘no one’s having any trouble distancing.'”

To Carroll’s credit, a consultation is planned for Wednesday, May 27. Overall, her track record has been supportive of safer streets in her community and in Toronto as a whole, so I was surprised by her comments. Hopefully, Shaughnessy, like many other suburban streets, will see improvements shortly.

Quiet streets, if planned as a network, are helpful for encouraging active transportation, especially where wider sidewalks and cycle lanes are unable to be installed on parallel major roads (due to streetcar lines, for example), or where they can connect major parks, off-road trails, and other cycling corridors.

To make such quiet streets permanent, curb extensions at intersections and other physical cues should be used to slow down traffic. Traffic circles and well-marked crosswalks could also take the place of four-way stops, which are easily ignored by motorists while frustrating cyclists.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed severe inequities; between those who work in the logistics, healthcare, and food service industries, and those who are able to work at home; between those who have comfortable homes with access to ample green space and those who do not, and those can rely on their own automobiles, and those who must walk, cycle, or take transit. This is why expanding public space and providing safe routes to travel is so important.

“please drive carefully” – sign in median of Shaughnessy Boulevard

Categories
Infrastructure Roads Toronto Walking

Deadly by design: Supertest Road

IMG_7204-001

On Tuesday, January 21, a 26-year-old woman was struck and killed by the driver of a tractor-trailer at the corner of Supertest Road and Alness Street in North York. According to police, the truck driver was making a right turn from Supertest south to Alness when he hit the pedestrian.

Last week, I paid a visit to the intersection, located in an industrial area off Dufferin Street, just south of Steeles Avenue. It was immediately apparent that pedestrians are an afterthought in this part of the city, and tragedy was inevitable.

The intersection of Alness and Supertest, with a makeshift memorial on the southwest cornerThe intersection of Alness and Supertest, with a makeshift memorial on the southwest corner

I took the 105 Dufferin North bus from Sheppard West Station and got off at Supertest Road before walking west towards Alness Street. I pressed the beg button to cross Dufferin, but it did not work, so I crossed with the solid “don’t walk” sign. At least I had enough time to cross before traffic on Dufferin got the green light. With a bus stop at the intersection, G. Ross Lord Park to the east, and a busy supermarket on the southwest corner, there is no excuse for a malfunctioning pedestrian signal. In fact, the walk signal should appear by default.

As I walked westward on Supertest, the lone sidewalk on the south side of the street came to an end at an industrial driveway about halfway between Dufferin and Alness. With the snow, I was forced to walk on the street, which was busy with cars and trucks. Without any sidewalk, anyone using a wheeled device would also be forced on the street.

End of sidewalkThe only sidewalk on Supertest Road comes to an end halfway between Dufferin and Alness

With my smartphone, I recorded my walk along the curb towards Alness Street, avoiding the snowbanks, debris, and motor traffic. It was not a pleasant walk.

The intersection of Supertest and Alness is a signalized intersection, with pedestrian signals and crosswalks on all four sides. Alness has a through sidewalk, but only on the east side of the street. The intersection is surrounded by a scrapyard on the southwest corner, a bank on the northwest corner, and warehouses to the east. The missing sidewalk on the south side Supertest east of the intersection resumes west of Alness.

The traffic lights are on a timer, and walk signals automatically appear, so there are no beg buttons at Alness and Supertest. What I noticed during my visit is that motorists will regularly rush to get through an amber signal, sometimes running a red. Truck drivers make wide right turns. Though the area is not pedestrian friendly, I did note several pedestrians in the area, running errands at the bank or walking to and from several of the nearby businesses.

Truck turning from Supertest to Alness

Finally, I noted the sharrows, the signed bicycle route on Supertest Road, and the TTC stop on the north side. The cycle route is supposed to connect G. Ross Lord Park on the east side of Dufferin to Flint Road to the west and south to the Finch Corridor Recreational Trail, but it’s not an enticing place to bike. Meanwhile, the TTC stop, for the limited-service 117 Alness route, is inaccessible without a sidewalk leading to it.

Looking west on Supertest RoadLooking west on Supertest Road, with the sharrow, TTC stop, and bike route sign on the right

Everything about this industrial intersection was designed to fail pedestrians and cyclists. Last week, it did exactly that.

Categories
Roads Toronto Walking

Islington Avenue: deadly by design

IMG_6266-001Memorial to 77-year old Pasquina Lapadula in front of her apartment building on Islington Avenue north of Finch

On Thursday, November 29 at 6:30AM, Pasquina Lapadula left her Islington Avenue apartment building and crossed the street in front of her home. Soon after stepping out, she was struck and killed by the driver of an SUV traveling northbound. The driver then fled the scene. Sadder still, drivers passed the scene without stopping to help.

Toronto police are looking for a dark coloured SUV with bright headlights and fog lights. They have yet to find the driver and lay charges.

According to the Toronto Star, 37 pedestrians have been killed on Toronto’s streets. Of those, 24 were 60 years old or over. Since 2007, 410 pedestrians were killed on Toronto’s streets; 238 of those were aged 60 or older. November 2019 was an especially deadly month; Lapadula was the third older pedestrian killed in Toronto in just three days.

Though blame can be laid at the driver, who despite having ultra-bright headlights and fog lights, struck Lapadula and sped away afterwards, this part of Islington Avenue, like many other suburban roads in Toronto, is deadly by design.

IMG_6283-001Islington Avenue looking south from Aviemore Drive towards Finch Avenue

The collision took place at Aviemore Drive in Humber Summit, in Toronto’s northwestern corner, near the boundary between the former cities of Etobicoke and North York. The area was developed in the 1960s and 1970s, when automobile-centric planning was at its peak.

Islington Avenue is five lanes wide between intersections, including a striped middle lane that turns into left turn lanes at intersections. Sidewalks are separated by wide boulevards, and there are long distances between traffic signals.

The road has a slight curve north of Finch Avenue, with a hill down towards the East Humber River at Finch. From Aviemore Drive, it is a 220 metre walk south to the crosswalk at Finch Avenue and 430 metres north to the traffic signals at Milady Road. Just south of Aviemore Drive are entrances to Gord and Irene Risk Park and Recreation Centre and Rowntree Mills Park.

As the speed limit is unposted on this section of Islington Avenue, by law, vehicles may only go a maximum of 50 kilometres per hour. However, the road design encourages speeds far greater than the limit.

IMG_6299-001TTC bus stopped in bay in front of Pasquina Lapadula’s apartment building

As on Don Mills Road north of Finch, TTC buses stop in bus bays instead of on the street itself. These bus bays were not designed for the benefit of transit, but instead for the convenience of private motorists. Buses stopping get out of the way of traffic, and then must merge back in. (A law requiring other motorists to do so exists, but is never enforced.)

Everything about the road design is designed for high vehicle throughput, with little consideration for pedestrian safety.

IMG_6248-001Islington and Finch Avenues

It is true that Pasquina Lapadula could have walked 220 metres down to Finch Avenue, and depending on her destination, another 220 metres back up the hill. The traffic signals and painted crosswalks would have provided additional safety. But the intersection of Finch and Islington itself is problematic.

The intersection sits on a large viaduct over the East Humber River. Right turn slip lanes are found on the southwest and northeast quadrants, allowing right-turning traffic to pass by quickly while requiring pedestrians to cross an additional lane of traffic governed only by a yield sign. Buses on Finch stop at bus bays at the far side of the intersection, further lengthening the distance pedestrians must cross.

IMG_6255-001Slip lane from Finch to Islington

I was frustrated when two Toronto councillors advocate giving out reflective armbands for pedestrians to wear, especially as one of those councillors opposed road safety initiatives in her own ward. I was angered the Toronto Star’s editorial board ignore city data, their own reporters and columnists, and pedestrian and cycling advocates to back those two suburban councillors.

This was especially tone deaf given the Toronto Police Service’s abandonment of traffic enforcement, the epidemic of pedestrians being killed in the last two years, and the disturbing number of hit-and-runs. Armbands would not have saved Pasquina Lapadula’s life when she was confronted by the driver of a speeding SUV, with blindingly bright headlights and fog lights.

This is why we need real Vision Zero measures like lower speed limits, more safe pedestrian crossings, road re-engineering to slow down vehicles, complete streets, and effective police enforcement.

Categories
Roads Toronto Walking

The dangers of Don Mills Road

IMG_3664.JPGDon Mills Road looking south towards McNicoll Avenue, North York

On the afternoon of Tuesday July 16, a woman was struck and killed by the driver of a left-turning waste collection truck as she was crossing the street. The tragedy happened at the corner of Cliffwood Road and Barkwood Crescent, in a quiet North York residential neighbourhood. The 68-year old was the eighteenth pedestrian killed on Toronto’s streets in 2019. 

Cliffwood Road is a typical suburban residential street in northeast North York, just south of the municipal boundary at Steeles Avenue. It meets Don Mills Road twice; at the north end, there are traffic signals, with a middle school and a plaza on the east side of the four-way intersection. On the south side, Cliffwood meets Don Mills at a three-way intersection, protected only by a a stop sign facing Cliffwood. As Cliffwood loops back on itself and has no direct connections to Steeles Avenue, it is not a useful short-cut for speeding motorists unlike many other suburban streets.

What, in particular, contributed to this deadly crash? I paid a visit to the area to find out.

IMG_3647.JPGThe intersection of Cliffwood Road and Barkwood Crescent, looking southeast

Between Don Mills Road and Barkwood Crescent, Cliffwood Road is 12 metres wide without any lane markings or medians to separate traffic or slow vehicles turning off of busy Don Mills Road. West of Barkwood Crescent, Cliffwood Road narrows to 8.5 metres. Twelve metres is a lot of road space: Beverley Street in Downtown Toronto is the same width, but it has two driving lanes, a parking lane, and two unprotected bike lanes. The wide street width here only encourages motorists to drive fast after coming off Don Mills Road, while wide curb radii at the corners at Don Mills and at Barkwood Crescent also encourage motorists to take turns quickly.

At Barkwood Crescent, Cliffwood Road has a speed limit of 50 km/h, the default speed limit in the City of Toronto. Closer to the schools to the north, a 40 km/h speed limit is posted, but there are no physical measures to slow down cars and trucks. Cliffwood Road, like so many other suburban streets, was built for speed, and not for local residents on foot.

IMG_3648-001An unnecessarily large intersection at Cliffwood Road and Barkwood Crescent, and a wide approach to Don Mills Road

I also noted the condition of nearby Don Mills Road, a busy thoroughfare connecting office parks in Richmond Hill and Markham with Fairview Mall to the south. Don Mills is a busy bus corridor, with both TTC and YRT buses providing frequent weekday service.

Despite the frequent bus service, Don Mills Road is hostile to pedestrians and transit users. At the southern intersection of Don Mills and Cliffwood Roads, the nearest crosswalk is nearly 300 metres to the north, or 600 metres to the south. Understandably, most transit users will choose to cross at the nearest TTC stop, rather than walk an extra five or ten minutes twice a day, especially in inclement weather.

In late August, a pedestrian was crossing Sheppard Avenue East in Scarborough to get to a nearby TTC bus stop when she was fatally struck by a motorist who then fled the scene. That stretch of Sheppard Avenue is flat and straight.

IMG_3652-001The corner of Cliffwood and Don Mills Roads with bus stops

Most area bus stops are adjacent to bus bays. Bus bays are designed to get buses out of the way of traffic while they are dropping off and picking up passengers. Once the bus is ready to leave the bus stop, it must then merge back into traffic. In addition, many of these bus bays double as right-turn lanes, increasing the distance a pedestrian must cross the street.

Furthermore, Don Mills has several hills and curves north of Finch Avenue that makes this especially dangerous because of low visibility, making it difficult to judge how far or how fast traffic may be coming. There are five lanes plus bus bays/right turn lanes; the centre lane alternates between serving as a left turn lane or a striped buffer space between northbound and southbound traffic, which further encourages high speeds.

IMG_3663-001.JPGBus stop at Don Mills Road and Mogul Drive, illustrating the high-speed curves

It is no wonder too that cyclists choose the sidewalks. Despite the wide right-of-way with generous boulevards between the backyard fences and the curbs, no though has been made to improve cycling infrastructure in this part of Toronto. Separated bike lanes or a multi-use path, similar to those on Eglinton Avenue in Etobicoke, or in Peel Region, would make sense here, and along other suburban arterials.

Cross-ride marking and signals at intersections would improve the safety for suburban cyclists and legitimize a common practice.

IMG_3630-001Cyclists take the sidewalk on Don Mills Road

At the end of my tour of upper Don Mills Road, I could not help but notice I was walking in a signed “Seniors Safety Zone.” As with Eglinton Avenue East in Scarborough, signs were put up but no measures were put in place to slow motorists down, and there was no sign of police enforcement of the posted limit either.

IMG_3684-001.JPG“Seniors Safety Zone” – note the bus bay behind the sign

There are a few things that can be done in Toronto’s suburbs to improve the safety of vulnerable road users (pedestrians and cyclists) and reduce the incidence and severity of crashes when they do happen. The installation of safer pedestrian crossings, such as traffic signals would reduce the distance required to get to a TTC stop safely. Bus bays should be eliminated with every road reconstruction project, as they do not benefit transit riders and encourage fast-moving traffic. Finally, residential streets should be narrowed, especially at intersections to slow motorists down, reduce the time a pedestrian is in the street while crossing, and improve their visibility.

Finally, wide multi-use paths along suburban corridors like Don Mills Road would help promote active transportation and reduce conflicts between pedestrians and cyclists.

Categories
Election Maps Politics Toronto

Mapping the results in Ward 15 – Don Valley West and Ward 16 – Don Valley East

Happy holidays!

In this post, I take a look at the council races in Ward 15 Don Valley West and Ward 16 Don Valley East. The new two wards, introduced under Bill 5, encompass most of what used to be Wards 25, 26, and 34.

Ward 25, Toronto’s most affluent under the 44 ward model, was represented by Jaye Robinson, a centre-right councillor. First elected in 2010, she served on both Rob Ford and John Tory’s executive committees. In 2014, she was appointed chair of the powerful Public Works and Infrastructure Committee, whose responsibility includes roads and transportation. Robinson was roundly criticized by road safety advocates (including Walk Toronto, of which I am a co-founder) for a weak “Vision Zero” plan to reduce traffic deaths in Toronto, especially pedestrians and cyclists. 2018 has turned out to be an especially deadly year on Toronto’s streets.

Ward 26 was represented by Jon Burnside, a former Toronto Police officer. In 2014, Burnside defeated incumbent councillor John Parker — the only council race in which a sitting councillor was defeated by a challenger that year. Parker was a Progressive Conservative MPP in Mike Harris’ government, but came to be one of the most effective opponents of the Ford Brothers’ plans for Toronto’s waterfront, and brought a dry wit that was much needed at the time. In the 2014 election, John Tory endorsed Burnside, and Parker was defeated. Burnside had the support of the wealthier Leaside neighbourhood and condo towers off Wynford Drive, while the lower-income Flemingdon and Thorncliffe Park neighbourhoods supported Parker or Ishrath Velshi.

Since the 2014 election, Burnside has proven himself as a thoughtful, moderate conservative.

Meanwhile, Ward 34 was represented by Denzil Minnan-Wong, probably city council’s staunchest and most effective conservative.

Minnan-Wong has been a municipal politician since 1994, when he was appointed to North York City Council. Since 1997, he has sat on Toronto City Council. He’s an advocate of contracting out city services, such as waste collection. Though he supported separated bicycle lanes on Sherbourne, Harbord, Richmond and Adelaide Streets, he quickly moved to scrub bike lanes on Jarvis Street downtown and Pharmacy and Birchmount Avenues in Scarborough. He has been especially powerful during the mayoralties of Rob Ford and John Tory, serving as Tory’s deputy mayor.

In June 2018, Minnan-Wong was nominated by local Progressive Conservatives and ran in the June provincial election. He lost narrowly to the Liberal incumbent, Michael Coteau. Unlike council colleagues Shelley Carroll and Chin Lee, Minnan-Wong did not resign his seat to run provincially.

Under the 47 ward model approved by City Council, each of the three incumbents were poised to run in wards similar to the ones they represented. Only one candidate registered to run against Jaye Robinson in new Ward 27 — Kyle Ashley, a former parking enforcement officer who made a name for himself on Twitter ticketing and shaming motorists blocking Toronto’s bike lanes. He ran against Robinson because of a perceived lack of leadership on Vision Zero. In new Ward 33, Burnside faced a few opponents, but was looking to cruise to re-election.

Meanwhile, Minnan-Wong was challenged by former Liberal MPP and provincial minister David Caplan in new Ward 32. After leaving provincial politics, Caplan served as chair of the Infrastructure Lab and vice-chair of Global Public Affairs Toronto. It would be the first time in many years that Minnan-Wong would face a high-profile opponent.

But then the new 25 wards were imposed on the city.

Ward 15

Ward 15, the provincial/federal riding of Don Valley West, is represented by Liberals both provincially and federally: former premier Kathleen Wynne continues to serve the community, while Rob Oliphant is the Liberal MP.

The new ward boundary, severely disadvantaged Burnside: a significant chunk of old Ward 26, including Flemingdon Park, was now part of Don Valley East. A small part of old Ward 22, between Mount Pleasant Road and Bayview Avenue, was added. Meanwhile, Robinson did not lose any of her old ward. Several candidates, including Ashley, dropped out of the new race.

Burnside placed first in former Ward 26, getting 68 percent of the vote there, and won all three polls in former Ward 22, though by a small margin over Robinson. In Thorncliffe Park, however, Tanweer Khan got over 30 percent of the vote and placed first in four polls. Khan, a local business owner, was an organizer against the updated provincial health and sex-ed curriculum. Khan also ran for the nomination for the provincial Progressive Conservatives PC nomination in Don Valley West, but lost. Khan only got 4.0 percent of the vote ward-wide, but it helped Robinson win.

Robinson took 67 percent of the vote in her former ward. She won Ward 15 overall with 49.2 percent of the vote, to Burnside’s 43.8 percent. Though Robinson will not be part of the Tory’s executive committee this term, she was recently appointed Chair of the Toronto Transit Commission.

What bothers me mostly is not the result, but of the geographic isolation of Thorncliffe Park under the new 25 ward model. It is now a geographically isolated corner of a mostly affluent ward. I fear it, and neighbourhoods like it, will be ignored under a much smaller council.

2018 Election - W15.jpgPoll results in Ward 15

Ward 16

David Caplan was no match for Denzil Minnan-Wong. Caplan was able to get over 30 percent of the vote, but he placed first in just five polls. The combination of Minnan-Wong’s name recognition and incumbency, Caplan’s long absence from provincial politics and his involvement in the eHealth boondoggle (he resigned as Minister of Health in 2009 and did not run in the 2011 provincial election) probably also played a part as well. Caplan did best in Flemingdon Park, a low-income neighbourhood with a large immigrant population that was previously part of Ward 26.

Self-described “pragmatist” Stephen Ksiazek, a local business owner who sits on the Don Mills Residents Association, placed third with 7.1 percent of the vote, coming first in one poll.

Minnan-Wong will serve a second term as Tory’s primary deputy mayor, and will once again set an agenda of low taxes and austerity at City Hall.

2018 Election - W16.jpgWard 16 poll results


 

Ward 15 – Don Valley West
Candidate Votes Percent
Jon Burnside 14440 43.8
Tanweer Khan 1309 4.0
Minh Le 404 1.2
Jaye Robinson 16219 49.2
Nikola Streker 583 1.7

 

Ward 16 – Don Valley East
Candidate Votes Percent
Aria Alavi 582 2.4
David Caplan 7277 30.3
Diane Gadoutsis 569 2.4
Stephen Ksiazek 1698 7.1
Pushpalatha Mathanalingam 888 3.7
Denzil Minnan-Wong 11128 46.3
Dimitre Popov 1104 4.6
Michael Woulfe 771 3.2
Categories
Election Maps Politics Toronto

Mapping the polarized results in Ward 6 – York Centre

Premier Doug Ford’s decision to reduce the number of councillors on Toronto City Council from 47 to 25 resulted in some very disparate new wards. New Ward 6, York Centre, combined two very different wards. On the west side of Allen Road, in old Ward 9, there are large Black and Italian communities, while on the east side of Allen Road, in old Ward 10, the population is largely Jewish, Filipino, and Russian.

James Pasternak represented Ward 10. Previously a TDSB trustee, Pasternak was first elected in 2010 after incumbent councillor Mike Feldman retired. A conservative, Pasternak is best known for supporting a western extension of the Sheppard Subway through his ward and for opposing city funding to Pride while allowing Queers Against Israeli Apartheid to march in the annual parade.

Maria Augimeri, who represented Ward 9, was first elected to North York City Council in 1985 and has since served on the old Metropolitan Toronto council until amalgamation in 1998. Since then, she has represented the Downsview neighbourhood on City of Toronto Council. She was nearly defeated in the 2010 election by conservative Gus Cusimano, but won with a comfortable margin in 2014. Augimeri is a New Democrat; she ran for the provincial NDP in 1987, and she has a progressive voting record on Toronto City Council.

Augimeri sought re-election in Ward 9 under the 47-ward model, but found herself against a high-profile challenger, Louise Russo. Russo was the unintended victim of an organized crime-related shooting in 2004 and has since become an anti-violence advocate. She was Mayor John Tory’s special guest at the inaugural council meeting in 2014 just after he was elected mayor.

Meanwhile Pasternak sought re-election in Ward 10, whose boundaries were identical under the new ward structure. His highest-profile opponent was Edward Zaretsky, an 84-year old resident who’s notable for parking his minivan in front of a pothole in protest earlier in 2018. Zaretsky has been an outspoken critic of Pasternak.

When Bill 5 came into effect after a failed court challenge, old Wards 9 and 10 were combined in Ward 6. A small section of old Ward 9 near Jane Street and Sheppard Avenue moved to Ward 7, while the area north of Sheppard Avenue between Keele and Dufferin Streets was added from old Ward 8.

There were only four candidates running in the new larger ward. Despite their ideological differences, Augimeri and Pasternak both described the new race against each other as “unfortunate” and “respectful.”

2018 Election - W6

In the end, James Pasternak won the local council race with 47.6 percent of the vote compared to Maria Augimeri’s 38.0 percent. Louise Russo got 11.2 percent (but did not place first in any polls), while Edward Zaretsky got just 3.2 percent, but placed first in Poll 14, a seniors residence.

The map above shows the polarized electorate in Ward 6. Augimeri placed first in all 19 polls located in former Ward 9, while Pasternak placed first in all but three of the 34 polls in old Ward 10. In the 19 polls located in old Ward 9, Augimeri got 61.5 percent of the vote, while Pasternak got 18.6 percent and Russo got 18.3 percent. Meanwhile in old Ward 10, Pasternak took 64.3 percent of the vote, followed by Augimeri with 24.4 percent and Russo with 7.3 percent.

Russo likely cut into Augimeri’s support at the polls, but her candidacy was largely squeezed out in a two-incumbent race. What ensured Pasternak’s win most of all was simply an imbalance of population: there were more voters (12,340 election-day votes) in old Ward 10 than in old Ward 9 (8156 election-day votes).

Because of the diverse demographics and geographic configuration of Ward 6, it might be attractive to high-profile candidates looking to run for council in 2022. Who knows what might happen in four years?

Ward 6 – York Centre
Candidate Total Votes Percentage
Maria Augimeri 9223 38.0
James Pasternak 11,559 47.6
Louise Russo 2726 11.2
Edward Zaretsky 771 3.2
Categories
Election Maps Politics Toronto

Return of the old guard: mapping results of Ward 17 – Don Valley North and Ward 18 – Willowdale

When Toronto adopted a 47-ward model for the 2018 election, North York was going to get one of the three additional wards. North York Centre, the section of Yonge Street between Highway 401 and Steeles Avenue, is one of the fastest growing parts of the city. New condominium towers have gone up along the Yonge and Sheppard Subways, bringing in thousands of new residents.

John Filion, councillor for old Ward 23, was one of Toronto’s hardest-working politicians. Not only did he have to represent thousands more residents than most of his colleagues, he also had to keep on top of dozens of planning applications. It was probably with relief that he announced his retirement in June. He endorsed two successors for the new wards comprising his old turf:  Markus O’Brien Fehr (his executive assistant) in the new Ward 28 and Lily Cheng (a local community organizer) in the new Ward 29.

Meanwhile, it looked as though fellow council veteran Shelley Carroll was also leaving City Hall. Earlier this year, she resigned as councillor in old Ward 33 to run as a Liberal in the June provincial election, creating a potential opening in new Ward 31. Fellow Liberal Dan Fox was poised to make another run against David Shiner in Ward 30. It looked like things were going to get interesting in North York.

But then the Progressive Conservatives were elected to Queen’s Park, and Carroll lost in Don Valley North. At the end of July, Doug Ford’s provincial government introduced Bill 5, reducing the number of wards from 47 to 25.

The four wards drawn up for the part of North York east of Bathurst Street and north of Highway 401 was reduced from four to two. While David Shiner retired from municipal politics, it left hopeful Dan Fox without an open seat to run in. Much of former Ward 24, where Fox ran in 2014, was encompassed by Ward 17, Don Valley North. This is where Carroll was going to try to return to council.

The council appointee that replaced Carroll in old Ward 33, Jonathan Tsao, had promised not to run for re-election. Challengers to Carroll in Don Valley West included former TDSB trustee Ken Lister and anti-sex education activist Christina Liu. In total, there were eight candidates running in Ward 17.

Carroll won easily, netting just over 40 percent of all votes cast. Liu placed second with 29 percent of the vote. Carroll did very well in the southern part of the newly enlarged ward, though Liu won 14 polls, mostly in the northwest, and tied Carroll in Poll 32.

2018 Election - W17.jpg
Poll-level results in Ward 17

In Willowdale, John Filion jumped back into the race, claiming that the lack of an incumbent would allow a candidate tied to land speculators to win. While Markus O’Brien Fehr stepped aside, Lily Cheng did not.

Other candidates in Willowdale included Norm Gardner, a former Metro councillor and police board chair; Saman Tabasinejad, the New Democratic candidate for Willowdale in the provincial election; businessman Sonny Cho; Sam Moini, a pro-Doug Ford candidate who was known for his advocacy on behalf of taxi owners and drivers; and David Mousavi, a lawyer who came in second to Filion in the 2014 election. There were 18 candidates in total.

Filion came in first place, with just 31.1 percent of the vote. Cheng placed second with 19.7 percent, and Cho came in third with 12 percent. Cheng placed first in 25 polls, especially along the Yonge Street corridor.

While John Filion has been an effective progressive councillor, especially during the Rob Ford years, his decision to jump back in the race, threw Cheng under the metaphorical bus. Had he committed to retiring but made a strong effort to support her campaign, I believe that she would have won. Conservative candidates like Mousavi and Moini were unable to get more than 10 percent of the vote; it appears that Filion’s fears were unfounded.

2018 Election - W18
Poll-level results in Ward 18

Categories
Election Parks Toronto Urban Planning

Why closing Toronto’s public golf courses is a boon to the public

IMG_8013-001.JPGDentonia Park Golf Course

Yesterday, Thanksgiving Monday, mayoral candidate Jennifer Keesmaat proposed closing three of Toronto’s five municipally-owned golf courses. Keesmaat, Toronto’s previous chief planner, pointed out that the municipal golf courses operate at a loss, and that $10 million is allocated for improvements to those three courses. Furthermore, she intends to consult the local communities to best re-program the sites to address local wants and needs for the opened-up greenspace.

The three courses are:

  • Dentonia Park Golf Course, located on Victoria Park Avenue north of Danforth Avenue, next to Victoria Park subway station, in the Massey Creek ravine.
  • Don Valley Golf Course, located in the West Don Valley near Yonge Street and Wilson Avenue, near York Mills Station. It extends under Highway 401.
  • Scarlett Woods Golf Course, located near Eglinton Avenue and Scarlett Road on the Humber River.

Tam O’Shanter Golf Course, near Sheppard Avenue and Kennedy Road in Scarborough, and the Humber Valley Golf Course in north Etobicoke, are not mentioned in Keesmaat’s proposal.

I’m very happy that Keesmaat has put forward this bold idea. Despite the municipal ownership of these lands, they are fenced off from residents. For example, Dentonia Park is located in a lower income neighbourhood made of many high-rise rental buildings. As Toronto continues to grow in population, greenspace reserved for golfers could be put to better uses such as sports fields (soccer and cricket, especially), playgrounds, natural wetlands and woodlands, and public paths.

Golf is an expensive leisure activity with a large environmental footprint: the tending of golf courses require lots of water and pesticides. (Golf courses are exempted from a provincial ban on certain types of pesticides.) They may not adequately address the local community’s needs either, especially in lower income areas. Interest in playing golf is waning in North America as well. It makes sense to open up these publicly owned lands.

Golf courses get in the way of potential linear parks. As I mentioned before, the Don Valley Golf Course blocks access to Earl Bales Park from the south. Opening up the grounds to the general public would provide a continuous path from York Mills Station to Bathurst and Sheppard and beyond. This would provide a safe and pleasant walking and cycling route across Highway 401, compared to the unpleasant and dangerous crossings at the interchanges with Yonge Street and Avenue Road.

Dentonia Park Golf Course sits in between the path through Warden Woods and the Taylor Creek Ravine. If opened to the public, there could be a car-free path for pedestrians and cyclists all the way from Warden and St. Clair Avenues all the way downtown via the Don Valley trail system.

Keesmaat’s plan to close money-losing, poorly-used golf courses is a great idea, much like her promise not to go ahead with the costly replacement of the eastern section of the Gardiner Expressway, instead going with the locally preferred boulevard option. Both of these ideas may not be popular with some, but they are both fiscally and environmentally sound.

Categories
Cycling Politics Roads Toronto Urban Planning Walking

The John Tory Way

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Yonge Street looking south from Richmond Hill

There’s an episode of The Simpsons where Homer Simpson changes his name to Max Power, after he’s ridiculed for sharing the name with a buffoonish television character. It’s not a great episode — it came out at the time the show was in transition from its glory years to the “Zombie Simpsons” era — but it has a few good laughs.

There’s one good memorable quote:

— “There’s the right way, the wrong way, and the Max Power way!”
— “Isn’t that the wrong way?”
— “Yeah, but faster!”

On important transportation projects, the John Tory way is the wrong way, but costlier. We’ve seen this several times during his mayoralty.

When it came time to replace the underused eastern section of the Gardiner Expressway, Tory and his suburban allies on council voted in favour of a more expensive “hybrid” option that maintains much of the elevated highway, instead of a cheaper at-grade option that would provide a better pedestrian realm on the Eastern Waterfront and better support new development.

In Scarborough, Tory stubbornly supports building a one-stop subway extension that was last estimated to cost $3.35 billion dollars, instead of supporting a seven stop LRT route from Kennedy Station that would extend the existing grade-separated Scarborough RT route to Centennial College and Sheppard Avenue. A proposed SmartTrack station at Lawrence East (whose estimated construction cost has risen from $26 million to $155 million) may not be able to be built while the Scarborough RT is still in operation.

And on February 27, Toronto’s Public Works and Infrastructure Committee (PWIC) voted against plans backed by city staff, the local councillor, John Filion, and many residents and road safety advocates, to transform Yonge Street in North York Centre between Sheppard and Finch Avenues. This section of Yonge Street is due for reconstruction, hence the opportunity to rethink the street to better serve the community.

The REimagining Yonge Street plan seeks to improve the pedestrian realm with widened sidewalks, would add new cycling infrastructure. To make room for these improvements, two traffic lanes — used for street parking outside of weekday rush hours — would be removed. This stretch of Yonge Street has seen many new condominium towers built over the last decade, and there are three subway stations serving this stretch of Yonge Street.

Mayor Tory, who has the power to select committee chairs and members, stated his preference for the status quo on Yonge Street, suggesting that the bike lanes be moved one block west, to Beecroft Avenue. PWIC moved for this alternative option as well, even though city staff reported that the change would cost an additional $20 million.

YongeCrossSectionYonge Street between Sheppard and Finch Avenues would have seen new separated bike lanes, wider sidewalks, and new public art. (From the EA materials.)

The decision to maintain the status quo on Yonge Street benefits commuters outside of Toronto more than local residents, so it is puzzling why Mayor Tory has declared his support — once again — for an option that puts drivers first. Nearly three-quarters of rush-hour drivers on Yonge Street through North York come from York Region. A majority of residents take transit, walk, or cycle; they would benefit from a safer, more pleasant street. Moving the bicycle route to Beecroft Avenue serves to move cyclists out of the way of cars, rather than providing a direct route with better access to transit, shops, and homes.

With Doug Ford focused on the Ontario Progressive Conservative party leadership race, there are — as of yet — no high-profile challengers to Mayor Tory’s re-election bid. There is no need to pander to a voting bloc angered by a so-called “war on the car” unless Tory actually supports suburban commuters over his own constituents. And this decision will only cost more money.

Once again, Mayor John Tory has chosen the wrong way.