Special treatment?! You want better streetcar speeds on King? Ban taxis completely!

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At the end of May, the city revealed its plan for King Street. The plan is meant to prioritize transit (streetcars) over all other forms of traffic. Given the King streetcar transports some 65,000 people every day, compared to 20,000 by cars, prioritizing transit seems to make sense.

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2280 Dundas West – let it go high if it means large units

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It isn’t often that Toronto is presented with the opportunity to redevelop large swaths of land in one shot. The Honest Ed’s redevelopment, aka Mirvish Village was the most recent large site development in the city. Now, there are two new sites coming down the pipeline.

The first is Canada Square at Yonge and Eglinton, which is already fairly developed, but where developer Oxford is looking to redevelop the large site. A forthcoming blog post will tackle that exciting plan.

The second, and the focus of this post is 2280 Dundas Street West. The large 10 acre site currently holds a Loblaws, LCBO and some smaller retail units. It also

The zoning in these areas is certainly restricted. 2280 Dundas West is currently zoned under the midrise corridor zones, but I am not sure if the site itself has distinct and unique zoning. Let’s hope so because it would be an absolute shame if the entire 10 acre site had a peak of 12 stories!

My request to city planning is straightforward – let the applicants amend the zoning with their applications if the above zoned heights include all two, three, or four-bedroom units. That is to say, let the developers build as high as they like, if we get large units. In my opinion, this sort of trade-off is good for affordability and helps create more complete communities.

Think about it, how often do you see a new building application along the lines of 300 units – 25 bachelor, 175 one-bedroom, 50 two-bedroom, 25-three bedroom. I totally made those numbers up, but this is not out of the ordinary for Toronto condos/apartments. And why? Well, the developer’s ultimate goal is to make money, and due to restrictive floor plate zoning bylaws, towers need to include a large percentage of one bedroom units.

Let’s shake that by letting 2280 Dundas West go high, 40, 50, or even 60 stories – with the requirement that any units above the current zoning height consist of multi-bedroom units.

This is one of the best and most appropriate places for large development. It is close to a subway station which also features two streetcar routes, and is close to a GO and UP Express station. Bring on 1,000 units! Plus, let’s hope for a sizeable chunk of office space here as well.

I will be making this point at the community consultation on June 14 if possible, and will report back if there are specifics given at the June 14 meeting.

Toronto home sales ‘plummet’, the most we’ll get is a dip

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The word bubble is often used to describe the incredible run up in prices that the Toronto and GTA housing market has experienced during the last 10-15 years. The fact that if you bought a house in 2009, it has, on average, more than doubled in value – if not tripled – makes it hard to criticize the notion that we are in a housing bubble.

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Cheers and concerns for high speed rail

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Today, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca announced a plan to complete an environmental assessment for Canada’s first high speed rail (HSR) line.

The line would be built on existing tracks, and would take passengers from Union station to London, with stops at Pearson International Airport, Guelph and Kitchener. A second phase would take passengers to Windsor via Chatham.

The project would cost a lot – an estimated $21 billion, but considering the distance between Windsor and Toronto, that’s a reasonable price for North America (see labour and material costs).

There is definitely a downside to this announcement. At the press conference, it was noted that trains would travel up to 250 km per hour in the corridor. That might seem pretty fast, but this would actually be slow for HSR. Comparatively, HSR in Germany travels at 250-300 km/h depending on the line. In Japan, the older HSR lines that opened nearly 50 years ago travel at between 250 and 300 km/h, with new lines easily surpassing 320 km/h – some even topping 400 km/h. Check out Japan’s speed records. Japan, and increasingly China, are definitely countries we should be looking to for inspiration on HSR.

Japan’s bad ass high speed rail network

The key reason that the HSR in Ontario will be slow is because it is essentially and upgrade of existing rail tracks. Doing so saves money, but will guarantee an HSR line that is on the slow end of the technology. I imagine the cost to build a brand new rail corridor would be far too high, particularly given the population and current land uses.

Concerns

While this is definitely a step in the right direction, I wonder about the usefulness of the UP Express. In the press conference, Wynne mentioned that the first phase (Union to London) is planned to open in 2025. As mentioned above, there would be a stop at Pearson Airport. Given that this rail would probably be faster than the UP Express, I imagine most people would choose the faster ride.

That leads me to a second concern. The cost of riding. You might think, well hey the UP Express will cost less than the HSR, so people will still take it. And yes, that will probably be true, but it begs the question, since station building is costly and time consuming, why build a station at Pearson if the cost of riding will be too expensive for most people to use? In other countries, HSR is a legitimate form of transport for commuters.

In Japan, Spain, China, Germany and other European countries, HSR is part of the daily commute for millions of people. It’s not a luxury form of transport, it’s part of the trek to and from work. Given that a current VIA ticket from Toronto to London will cost you close to $30, I am seriously worried that the Ontario attempt at HSR will prove prohibitively expensive. Let’s hope that before too long, we’ll get an idea of how much tickets will cost – lest we have another UP Express ticket price fiasco.

While this new HSR plan is still in its immediate infancy, it is definitely an exciting announcement for the long term economic future of Ontario. I’ll be following developments on this story closely, so be sure to check back for rants a-plenty.

I stand corrected, 200 Soudan is the worst Toronto NIMBYism

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Imagine this: two brand new purpose build rental towers. 24 stories each, 369 new rental units in total with 45 per cent of the planned units as two-bedroom or three-bedroom, in an area that is currently walking distance to a subway station. And by the time the buildings are built, walking distance to a subway station which is also a Crosstown station, and a different Crosstown station. Add to this a new public green space, and hopefully wider sidewalks.

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