DAVE AGAR

Wednesday, May 28 Commentary

Posted By: Dave Agar · 5/28/2014 12:00:00 AM

There's a big Guns-n-Gangs sweep going on throughout the Toronto Area and possibly beyond this morning.

Raids and arrests started about 2 hours ago.

TRANSIT PLAN

Big thinking for a Big City.  It’s about time.  We needed someone with a grandiose idea to make transit in Toronto a viable option for many more people all across the city and reach out to those in the GTA who work in Toronto.

I’m talking about Mayoralty candidate John Tory’s “One Toronto Plan.”  In particular his SmartTrack idea, using existing GO train lines to build an above-ground rapid transit line covering 53-kilometres and have 22 points at which people can get on or off the line including connections to the Yonge-University line, the Bloor line and Eglinton cross-town.

To be clear, this SmartTrack pitch is not perfect.  To me it sounds far-fetched that Tory could get this operational in 7 years.  You need to build the vehicles, retrofit the existing GO lines and electrify them.   What would that mean for the GO Train system? I know GO wants to electrify but could it be done in 7 years?  I have my doubts, especially if there is regime change at Queen's Park next month and regime change in Ottawa late next year because this scheme needs funding from those two levels of government.

I question Tory’s financing plan which basically relies on significant commercial development taking place in Liberty Village, the East Don lands and the Central Core.  With development comes added revenues to the city through taxation and he’d leverage those incremental taxes over 30 years to finance the project.  Development elsewhere in the city could be used for similar purposes.   The assumption that there is going to be significant commercial development in those three areas, while desireable, is not a sure bet so if we put all our eggs in those baskets it could be a significant financial risk.

Some other issues:  if you have to modify the existing GO train line, what impact would that have on all of the existing GO stations?  Would they have to be modified as well and at what cost?

One other concern, and its a big one.  How good will SmartTrack be in the dead of winter?   As it is GO train service is horrible on bad winter days.  In other jurisdictions suck as the U.K., the electrified lines can get coated in ice just like regular rail lines.  Drifting snow also poses a problem.  In the U.K. the electric trains have to be fitted with front-end snowploughs otherwise the trains cannot be operated safely through snowdrifts.

There is one proviso in the Tory plan.  It reads like this: “it is expected that some aspects of the line may change within the overall framework of the line as discussed herein.”

So SmartTrack as part of the One Toronto Transit Plan is not perfect but at least voters now have something of real substance to look at while Rob Ford is drying out.  This could well be John Tory’s defining moment of this campaign in which he will rise or fall and he has a few weeks to run with it before the Rob Ford 3-ring circus comes back to town.   If his brother Doug Ford is telling the truth, that his brother has lost a lot of weight and is getting right, the Mayor would again become the shiny object for the city hall reporters to glom onto.

GOOGLE

Google has decided to ramp up its push for driverless cars.

So far it's testing has been on the Lexus SUV and the Toyota Prius in California.

Now Project Director Chris Urmson says Google will make its own test vehicles and this time the objective is to keep drivers out of the vehicles altogether.   If the company can get the California regulations changed, there would be no steering wheel, no brake or gas pedals.

BLUE FLAG BEACHES

It was 9 years ago when the Foundation for Environmental Education first handed out it's prestigous Blue Flags to 4 Canadian beaches..all of them here in Toronto.

The new list of  Blue Flag beaches was released less than an hour ago and there are 24 beaches and 4 marinas from Canada on the list this year.

Here in Toronto 9 beaches.  They are: Bluffer's Park, Centre Island,  Hanlan's Point, Ward's Island, Gibraltar Point,  Woodbine, Cherry, Kew/Balmy beach and Woodbine Beach.

Worth noting....there are no other beaches in the GTA receiving the Blue Flag of excellence.  Now if only the water temperature would warm up...maybe we could use the beaches more.  Last check, Lake Ontario was 10 celsius.

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