Improvements to be Made to Toronto Track and Field Centre for Pan Am Games

Birchmount Stadium in Scarborough is used for a number of athletic competitions and different sports.  Photo credit:  SimonP via Wikipedia Commons.
Birchmount Stadium in Scarborough is used for a number of athletic competitions and different sports. Photo credit: SimonP via Wikipedia Commons.

On May 6, 2014, The City of Toronto accepted $5 million from the Government of Canada to fund improvements to the Toronto Track and Field Centre at York University. The facility will be renovated, receive a new track surface and a 12,000 ft2 addition will be constructed.

The Toronto Track and Field Centre will be used as an official warm-up and training venue for the 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games. Athletics Canada will pay nominal rent for using the facility and will be responsible for any and all operating and capital maintenance costs. The Pan Am/Parapan Am Athletics Stadium is currently under construction at York University and will host athletics, throwing and jumping competitions.

In preparation for the Pan Am Games, all three levels of government are working together to build 10 new sporting venues and renovate 15 existing facilities. The $205 million Pan Am Aquatics Centre is currently under construction at the University of Toronto Scarborough and Birchmount Stadium will receive track upgrades.

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Scarborough Subway Planning Underway

Kennedy Station opened for service in 1980 and was the last subway stop to be built in Scarborough. The TTC plans to construct three more subway stations in Scarborough. Photo credit: Richard Sunichura
Kennedy Station opened for service in 1980 and was the last subway stop to be built in Scarborough. The TTC plans to construct three more subway stations in the former municipality.

I met with TTC officials on June 9, 2014, to get an update on progress on the proposed Scarborough Subway.  I voted in favour of replacing the aging Scarborough RT with an extension of the Bloor-Danforth subway line. Toronto’s Transit Commission is currently conducting preliminary work on the line.

The 7.6 km subway extension will see three new stations added to the network: Lawrence East, Scarborough City Centre and Sheppard East. I hope a fourth station is added at Eglinton and Danforth. The trip from Kennedy Station to Sheppard East Station will take 10 minutes. Travelling that same distance currently takes more than 25 minutes because commuters have to walk up 3 flights of stairs, wait for the Scarborough RT and transfer to the 129 or 199 bus routes. The Scarborough subway will reduce commute times by 15 minutes or more.

Seven additional trains will be needed to serve the extension and to maintain current service levels on the Bloor-Danforth subway.  Preparation will take 4 years (2014-2017), with construction to begin in 2018. The subway will be running by 2023. I spoke with a Metrolinx engineer who believes the scheduled completion date is very aggressive.  The TTC is expecting to use the tunnel boring machines from the York University extension for the Scarborough subway.

A number of critics of the Scarborough Subway extension have stated there is insufficient ridership to justify the line. Subway lines require ridership of 15,000 passengers per hour per direction (pphpd) to be economically viable. In one study, peak ridership is projected at 9000 pphpd – 14,000 pphpd by 2031. In 30 years time, ridership will be closer to 20,000 pphpd. The Scarborough Subway is closer to meeting this threshold than any other line.

The City of Toronto will raise $910 million for the Scarborough Subway through a 1.6% levy (phased in over 3 years) on property taxes and development charges. Property taxes will contribute $745 million to the project while development charges will raise $165 million. This levy will be in effect for 30 years to pay for this extension.

The Federal Government has allocated $660 million for this project in Scarborough, but the funding is not tied to inflation. This will not cover inflation to construction costs as the project progresses over the next 8 years.

The Ontario Government is contributing $1.48 billion to the project. Provincial funding is tied to inflation and can be as high as $1.99 billion by 2023. However, the City of Toronto is expected to cover $85 million in sunk costs as a result of frequent changes to Toronto’s transit expansion plans.

These sunk costs accrued because Metrolinx was forced to renegotiate its contract with Bombardier for 182 light rail vehicles. Fewer vehicles are needed now that the Scarborough RT will be replaced with a subway. The $85 million in sunk costs also include preliminary work to redesign the transfer at Kennedy Station to accommodate the LRT line. The question of what to do with the Scarborough RT right-of-way has been an ongoing and contentious debate. Your input is appreciated.

A group has told Scarborough residents that they will get less service with the Scarborough Subway because the plan doesn’t include Ellesmere and Midland Stations. The Ellesmere SRT Station is the least used station in the TTC’s subway network with only 1140 daily riders. By comparison, Kennedy Station has 34,300 daily commuters. I fail to understand the logic of loss of service.

Passengers will just be interchanging at different points.  It is likely that Ellesmere buses will be re-routed to the new Scarborough Civic Centre Station, instead of the Ellesmere SRT Station. The Scarborough Hospital Main Campus will be served by the new Lawrence East Station. If ridership warrants, express buses on Progress can be used to connect Centennial College to both Scarborough City Centre and Sheppard transit.

Downtown Relief Study

Consultations are in progress to study the capacity issues in certain parts of the TTC network. Item PG33.12 (June 10, 2014 Council meeting) authorizes staff to continue with the study, and I moved to include off-peak fare pricing into the Terms of Reference. Providing a discounted fare could influence enough riders to shift their travel to off-peak times when there is available capacity. This method has been used by the airline industry with great success, and is being used in time-of-use electricity pricing. This idea is well argued in a recent report called ‘Toronto’s Suburban Relief Line’ by Brady Yauch, Economist and Executive Director of the Consumer Policy Institute.

Councillor’s Message: Summer 2014 Newsletter

Chin Lee Newsletter Banner

Dear Neighbour:

By the time you receive this newsletter, there will still be half the summer left and I hope that you will take the time to explore and get to know our City.

At the graduation ceremony of the students from Sir Alexander MacKenzie Senior Public School, I challenged the graduating students to get to know the City better and to become more civically-connected, including the upcoming Municipal Election this Fall. I also told them that the future is theirs. Their input is very important in the decisions we make at City Hall to ensure that the future and present are brighter for them, and everyone else.

At the recent graduation ceremony for a “Train the Trainer Project: Empower! Learning and Teaching Workers’ Rights” class, funded by Toronto, I saw the importance of teaching newcomers about the laws of Canada and Ontario. This helps to prevent the exploitation of newcomers. They learned about the benefits of CPP, EI, workers rights, etc. However, it is also important to teach them about the revenue sources that are needed to enact and uphold our laws, including employment laws, and how these benefits are being paid for. I also hear from employers that many times, potential employees want to be paid in cash so they don’t have to pay taxes. Well, you cannot collect the benefits if we don’t have a source of revenue to pay for them. There are always 2 sides of the coin.

I hear about increasing gridlock. Gridlock cannot be solved overnight. Re-timing of the traffic signals will have to be preceded by replacing our 2 very old traffic light control systems, one of which has a computer program that dates from the 1960’s. Previous governments did not invest in replacing these systems in the name of austerity.

Improvements to our public transit network can reduce gridlock. However, building this network is expensive. It takes a long time to raise the funds and to plan and build it. If we do not do it right, it becomes a boondoggle and a waste of tax money. Simple messages of “subway is the only solution” will not cut it. There is not enough public money to go around when we include the other needs of our residents, so we need to prioritize our spending. We need an interconnected network of reasonable and affordable public transit lines, roads, and bike trails.

I have always advocated for improved service on the GTA’s rail corridors (e.g., two-way, all-day GO train service), integrating regional and local transit fare systems (Presto is coming) and creating viable alternatives for the public. If commuters from Vaughan, Mississauga, Pickering, York Region, Scarborough, Etobicoke, North York, etc. had a viable, rapid and affordable alternative, they may get out of their cars and use public transit if the network connects them to where they are going. They may stop driving through our city streets. Currently, they do not have a good alternative. Furthermore, the people working in the inner and outer suburbs but living elsewhere in the GTA also do not have a good public transit alternative, so they drive too. For my morning drive into the city, northbound traffic on the 404, from the 401, is worse than southbound traffic on the DVP. Gridlock on the DVP is equally bad in both directions. A good number of people do commute to their jobs in the inner and outer suburbs from downtown, so these commuters also need an interconnected transit network.

I have always believed in your “right-to-know” information that can impact you, your family and the communities around us, even if the final decision does not rest with City Council. That information can be controversial, but you have the right to know, so you can take any actions or make any decisions to mitigate the hazard. Many residents learned of the oil pipeline running along the Hydro Corridor from my newsletter, and I continue to inform residents of any cell-phone tower applications, although these decisions do not rest with the city.

As always, if you have any comments, questions or concerns, please feel free to contact my office at (416) 392-1375 or councillor_lee@toronto.ca.

 

Sincerely,

 

Chin Lee
Ward 41 – Scarborough Rouge River