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Building the Downtown Relief Line

As you may know, last month City Council voted to move ahead with planning and design work on the Downtown Relief Line.

Throughout my two terms in office, I’ve consistently said that the Relief Line has to be our top transit priority. Each and every day I hear from residents frustrated by the overcrowding and delays on the Yonge line. As a transit user, I’ve also experienced these problems first-hand.

The Downtown Relief Line has now been divided into two projects: the Relief Line South (from Pape Station south to Queen St) and the Relief Line North (from Pape Station to Eglinton or Sheppard Ave).

While planning on the Relief Line to date has focused on the southern piece, I’m pleased to share that the city is now kick-starting planning work on the Relief Line North and will deliver an initial business case in early 2018.

The northern extension of the Relief Line will be a huge win for Ward 25ers who sometimes have to wait for two or three trains before they can get on and get where they need to go. To move this planning forward, I tabled a motion at Executive Committee asking staff to develop a robust community consultation plan, consider naming the new transit line the Don Mills line and look at building the Relief Line North up to the Sheppard line to maximize transit connectivity.

But in the meantime, to deal with the current capacity problems on the Yonge Line, I’ve pushed TTC staff hard on what efforts are underway to improve service and reliability, including the status of the Automatic Train Control (ATC) project. This project involves updating the signalling system so that the speed of and separation between trains will be controlled automatically.

ATC is expected to increase capacity on the Yonge line by 25% by cutting train headways from 2.5 to 2 minutes. In other words, ATC will improve train capacity and shorten wait times.

However, implementation of ATC has been slow going and over budget. That’s why I also moved a motionrequesting that the TTC provide quarterly updates to the Committee on the status of the ATC implementation project and consider all options for acceleration.

Faster, better and more reliable TTC service can’t come soon enough.

Heritage Building Demolished in Neighbouring Ward 16

Like many of you, I was devastated to learn about the sudden demolition of the Bank of Montreal heritage building in neighbouring Ward 16 at Yonge and Roselawn in late January.

In a previous development application for the site, city staff had identified a number of heritage attributes on the building and were in the process of reviewing the property for heritage designation. Unfortunately, under the Ontario Planning Act, the province only permits the city to deny a demolition permit if the building is formally designated as a heritage property, which is a lengthy process.

Heritage properties on Toronto’s commercial boulevards are important contributors to the character and health of our vibrant communities. That’s why I recently voted with City Council on two motions requesting that the province strengthen the city’s ability to protect historic landmarks in our neighbourhoods.

The first motion requests that the Province of Ontario give Toronto more authority in designating heritage properties under the Ontario Heritage Act, which would help speed up the process to protect buildings. Council also requested more control over the demolition of non-residential properties. At present, residential properties must submit an approved building permit prior to demolishing a structure but commercial properties do not currently have the same restrictions.

The second motion asks for internal improvements in Toronto Building and City Planning to improve the city’s current heritage review process and make it easier to identify proposed demolitions of buildings with heritage significance.

We must do more to protect the character of our main streetscapes and commercial boulevards, especially in light of the unprecedented over-development and density in the Yonge-Eglinton area – and these motions are an important step forward.

Expanding Electric Vehicle Charging Stations in Toronto

At the September meeting of the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee, my colleagues and I discussed the growth of the electric vehicle (EV) market and the need for infrastructure to support this green technology.

While the demand for EVs is increasing, the infrastructure for charging these vehicles is lagging behind. Public charging stations are often inconvenient for EV users who may have to leave their cars overnight to charge them and walk long distances to their homes.

In order to encourage the expansion of EV infrastructure in Toronto, I moved a motion requesting city staff to consider making EV stations a mandatory requirement under the Toronto Green Standard (TGS).

The TGS is a two-tier set of performance measures for sustainable site and building design. Tier 1 is required for all new construction in Toronto and tier 2 is a voluntary level of performance with a financial incentive. The TGS is important as it integrates environmental performance requirements to improve our air and water quality, reduce GHG emissions and lead to an overall healthier, more liveable city.

You can read my motion here.

Staff will be reporting back to the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee this spring on a strategy to expand the number of EV charging stations throughout the city – stay tuned!

Our City’s Financial Direction

With experience on both sides of the fence – as a former senior manager in Economic Development and now as a City Councillor – I’m well aware of the challenges the City of Toronto faces to deliver services while also balancing the books.

I’m a firm believer in fiscal responsibility and accountability. During my two terms in office, I’ve consistently pushed city staff to reign in spending and find efficiencies from within.

Unfortunately, the Standing Committees and City Council often vote on items without being presented with a full assessment of how new services or programs will affect the city’s operating and capital budgets.

The City of Toronto’s financial envelope is limited, and we need to make sure that Council is aware – before it votes – of every new line item on the budget and its long term implications for the city’s financial sustainability.

With that in mind, I moved a motion at last month’s Executive Committee directing the Chief Financial Officer to prepare a financial impact summary outlining the financial and staffing implications of reports from the various Standing Committees.

We must keep track of what we’re approving and how we’re going to pay for it – that’s the only way to ensure smart, strategic investments and maintain our city’s financial health.

I’m pleased to let you know that Executive Committee and City Council supported my motion  – you can read it here.

A Road Safety Plan for Toronto

At the beginning of the last term, one of the first things I did in my new capacity as Chair of Public Works was to call for a comprehensive, city wide road safety plan.

In 2015, we had 65 road fatalities, of which 39 were pedestrians and 4 were cyclists. In addition, over 70 percent of the pedestrians were seniors, our most vulnerable road users. So far in 2016, the numbers have not improved – 20 pedestrians have died on our streets and 80 percent of them have been over the age of 65.

It’s time to take action on road safety, and I’m pleased to share that our first-ever Road Safety Plan (RSP) is complete after over a year of extensive data collection and consultation with key advocacy and community groups.

This data-driven, made-for Toronto plan recommends 40 different programs to address five key pillars:

  • Pedestrians
  • Cyclists
  • Seniors
  • School zones
  • Aggressive and Distracted Driving

As part of the plan, we’ll be creating 25 pedestrian safety corridors in areas of the city identified through geospatial and trending analysis as “hot spots” for collisions. This will involve implementing advance green lights for pedestrians, adding or enhancing line markings and implementing turning restrictions at certain times of the day.

City staff will also be conducting 14 safety audits of intersections and corridors with high numbers of collisions to determine which countermeasures would be most effective at that specific location.

From the very beginning, my goal has been to eliminate traffic-related fatalities and serious injuries.

Earlier this year, I also put forward a motion directing staff to develop a Seniors Strategy as part of the RSP. Seniors are a growing demographic in our community, and we need a targeted strategy to tactically improve their safety on our streets.

You can read the full staff report on the RSP, along with 10 appendices, here.

Many thanks to Mayor John Tory and Stephen Buckley, General Manager of Transportation Services, for joining me for the launch of the city’s proposed Road Safety Plan.

Many thanks to Mayor John Tory and Stephen Buckley, General Manager of Transportation Services, for joining me for the launch of the city’s proposed Road Safety Plan.

Phase 2 of Toronto’s Congestion Management Plan

As Chair of Public Works, I was pleased to announce Phase 2 of the city’s Congestion Management Plan with Mayor Tory.

As Chair of Public Works, I was pleased to announce Phase 2 of the city’s Congestion Management Plan with Mayor Tory.

There’s no doubt that traffic is top of mind for Toronto residents. Congestion costs our city almost $11 billion-a-year in lost productivity.

Getting Torontonians moving was one of my top priorities in the first year of Council’s new term and it remains so going forward.

For that reason, I was pleased to help announce the next phase of the city’s congestion management strategy earlier this month.

In 2015, we launched a number of initiatives to combat gridlock, including:

  • A zero tolerance policy on illegal parking during rush hour on key corridors
  • Improved traffic signal coordination
  • Enhanced road closure reporting
  • Increased fees for road closures related to private development

On this last initiative, I led the charge last spring to clamp down on private construction by increasing fees for street occupation. Those fees have now increased from $5.77 per square metre per month to between $26.35 and $105.41 per square metre per month.

This year the city is building on 2015’s successes and mobilizing state-of-the-art technology and innovation to combat gridlock. This second phase involves:

  • Developing a comprehensive curbside management strategy to better manage competing demands on our curb space
  • Upgrading the city’s “smart” traffic signal system so that it can better adapt to real-time traffic volumes
  • Developing and implementing action plans for 10 congestion ‘hot-spots’ across Toronto
  • Expanding the existing Smart Commute program, which helps employers encourage different commuting options for their staff

An essential component of the 2016 plan involves the use of Big Data, or vehicular probe data, which I helped bring forward last winter.

You can read my motion here.

Big Data has enabled staff to identify the city’s most congested intersections and corridors and will aid in the development – and implementation – of context-specific, evidence-based action plans to improve traffic flow.

You can read more about 2016’s congestion management initiatives here.

For an update on the city’s long-term Congestion Management Plan, click here.

Construction Site Nuisances – Improving Our Response

As I wrote in my last eNewsletter, I brought a motion forward to last month’s Planning and Growth Management Committee asking the city to improve its response to problem residential infill construction.

Living near a construction site can be disruptive, to say the least, and I’m pleased to report that the Committee passed my motion.

Based on Ward 25’s experience, my motion directs the Chief Planner to report on:

  • Posting key information on site, like noise restrictions and parking permissions;
  • Effective enforcement measures to ensure compliance with all applicable regulations;
  • Streamlining the city’s response by identifying a single lead to liaise with the neighbourhood and coordinate an interdivisional response; and,
  • Measures to deal with buildings that are not built according to approved plans and drawings.

Please see the full text of my motion here.

 

Taking Action on Dust Suppression

I’m pleased to report that the Parks and Environment Committee unanimously passed my motion to take action on dust suppression!

Dust – from stone, rock, concrete and tile cutting, among other things – can be a major neighbourhood nuisance. It also has an environmental and health impact, especially for vulnerable residents.

My motion directs city staff to report in the first quarter of next year with an action plan to tackle dust pollution, including the extent of the city’s authority to regulate dust suppression as well as concrete recommendations to improve dust suppression, including amendments to the Municipal Code.

You can find the full text of my motion here.

Planning Reform – Towards a Functional Committee of Adjustment

The city’s move towards a local appeal body is an opportunity to take a new approach to minor variance applications at the Committee of Adjustment.

That’s why I’ve put a significant motion on the Planning and Growth Management Committee’s June agenda.

My motion asks the city’s Chief Planner to bring forward a report in the first quarter of 2015 on key recommendations to improve how the Committee of Adjustment functions in the minor variance context.

The motion is based on your feedback over the past term, and it specifically requests the Chief Planner to report on:

  • Improvements to the notice process, including the manner and form of public notices as well as extending the distribution area and timeline;
  • Training and professional development for Committee of Adjustment panel members;
  • The audio-visual or audio recording of Committee of Adjustment panels; and,
  • A public participation strategy to ensure the public is well informed about the process and has the tools to effectively engage in Committee of Adjustment hearings.

You can check out the full text of my motion here. Keep an eye on my next newsletter for a report on the outcome of the Committee’s June meeting!

City Hall Update

As you have no doubt heard, last night Mayor Rob Ford issued a statement explaining that he will be taking a leave of absence.

Earlier today, the City Clerk issued a memorandum to members of City Council advising that, as a result of the leave of absence, Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly will assume the power and duties of the Mayor. You can find a copy below.

The good news is that the Deputy Mayor and City Council have been hard at work shifting the spotlight back onto city business, and I will continue to work closely with the Deputy Mayor to advance the city’s agenda.

As many of you know, I called on the mayor to step aside more than 10 months ago.

It wasn’t an easy position to take.

Trust, honesty and integrity are the foundation of public office. You don’t deserve an office you don’t respect, and the mayor has shown time and again that he doesn’t respect the office or the city.

At this point, anything less than a full and complete resignation is too little, too late.

Toronto’s a great city and deserves nothing less than a great mayor. We need strong, decisive, substantive leadership to take our city to the next level, to ensure our continued prosperity and success.

Update on Committee of Adjustment Reform

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In June 2014, I asked city staff to bring forward a report with recommendations to improve the Committee of Adjustment.

Among other things, I directed city staff to report back on:

  • Improvements to the notice process, including the manner and form of public notices as well as extending the distribution area and timeline;
  • Training and professional development for Committee Adjustment panel members;
  • The audio-visual or audio recording of Committee of Adjustment panels; and,
  • A public participation strategy to ensure the public is well informed about the process and has the tolls to effectively engage in Committee of Adjustment hearings.

For the full text of my motion click here

Late last month, senior city staff brought two reports to the Planning and Growth Management Committee in response to my motion.

Click here and here to read the reports.

While a significant amount of good work is now under way, the reports left significant room for improvement.

That’s why, following a full and vigorous debate, I championed a series of motions pushing city staff to do better.

My motions direct the Chief Planner to hold a roundtable with residents’ associations and other neighbourhood groups to gather feedback from those most directly impacted by and involved with the Committee of Adjustment.

I also attached hard second quarter deadlines to public notice improvements and asked senior city staff to research best practices in comparable jurisdictions outside of Ontario.

For the full text of the committee’s lengthy decision, click here.

A Comprehensive Road Safety Plan for Toronto

In 2014, 51 Torontonians were killed and many more were seriously injured in traffic crashes. As a city, we can and must do better, particularly for pedestrians and cyclists, our most vulnerable road users.

Toronto has a number of policies and guidelines that address road safety but we’re missing an overarching framework that focuses squarely on the issue.

That’s why I brought a motion to the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee this week requesting a comprehensive road safety plan.

We’re going to build on what’s worked in other jurisdictions and the plan will focus on international best practices from comparable jurisdictions, such as Vision Zero.

The plan will be fact driven and I asked for an enhanced analysis of city-wide traffic collision data. I also asked city staff to strike a Road Safety Advisory Group to engage key partners and stakeholders in the development of the plan, including the Toronto District School Board, Toronto Police Service, the Canadian Automobile Association, Cycle Toronto and Walk Toronto.

Click here for more details.

My motion goes to City Council for final approval in March and a draft plan is expected by the end of 2015.

Progress on Congestion and Gridlock

Earlier this month, I took the reins of my first Public Works and Infrastructure Committee meeting as Chair.

Congestion and girdlock remain my number one priority and it was front and centre on Public Works’ agenda.

The Committee voted to move forward with a pilot project to reduce congestion by speeding up city-led construction projects. Among other things, the pilot will explore extending work hours, shifting to overnight work and using incentive-based contracts.

The Committee also took an advanced look at some of the congestion-cutting initiatives lined up for 2015, including the roll-out of 80 additional arterial cameras, a pilot of the latest “smart signal” technology and signal synchronizations on 12 major corridors.

I spearheaded two motions to help get the city moving.

The first asks for a report on using portable cameras at construction sites, allowing us to monitor and respond to construction-related gridlock in real time.

The second asks for a report on how we can better share traffic-related information between the city’s key players, like the TTC and the Transportation Services Division. I also asked city staff to explore using “Big Data” to understand, evaluate and respond to congestion.

You can see copies of my motions here and here. You can also read up on the city’s plan to speed up public-sector construction projects here.