Subway cost overruns are in the budget, says TTC

Even before construction begins on the long-anticipated expansion of the University-Spadina subway line, estimated costs are already $122.8 million over the original budget, and critics fear that gap can only grow, wrote the National Post Dec. 9.

Of six stations to be built to carry the Toronto subway north into York Region, four are already over budget, including the two most developed projects – Sheppard West station, which is $42.8 million over its original $59.2-million budget, and York University station, $29 million over the $86-million budget. There are no figures available for the remaining two, Finch West and Vaughan Corporate Centre stations, the Post said.

Sheppard West and York University are in the design and development stage; the others are still in the early stages of design. The line is expected to be in full service in late 2015.

Andy Bertolo, chief project manager of the extension for the TTC, said he still expects “to be on budget, barring any serious, unforeseen issues.” The current budget, set just last year, allows for $400 million to $500 million in contingency costs, he said.

The TTC continues to hold public open houses on the expansion. The latest was held at York University, where many are excited about the new line. “We’ve been looking forward to this for 20 years,” said Bud Purves, president of the York University Development Corporation. Purves said 30,000 people commute to the campus every day.

The line will connect all of Toronto’s academic institutions by rapid transit and take a significant number of buses off the road, both City Councillor Karen Stintz and Purves pointed out.

The Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension Project will be the first TTC rapid transit line to cross the City of Toronto boundary. The new line will run new subway trains, include 2,900 commuter parking spaces at various stations and feature artwork by both Toronto and international artists (the TTC generally allocates at least one per cent of the overall cost of public spaces in stations for public art). Tunneling for the line will begin next year, and it is expected to be up and running by 2015, the Post said.

Six stations will be built along the extension, although their names are subject to change at this point:

3. York University

One of two stations on York University land, the York station will be near the University’s Harry Arthurs Common. Expected to be completed by November 2014, the station was originally budgeted to cost $86 million, but its estimated final cost is now $115 million. Preliminary designs on the station will be completed by July 2010. Jason Bruges Studio, based in London, UK, will provide the artwork.

4. Steeles West

The other station on York University land, Steeles West station, will be built at Northwest Gate and Steeles Avenue, east of Jane Street. The station, which lies on the border, was budgeted to cost $133 million, but the estimated final cost has risen to $145 million, the Post said. The station will have 1,900 commuter parking spaces and is expected to be completed by September 2014. The station is currently in the preliminary design stages. Jan Edler (realities: united), an art collective based in Berlin, Germany, will create public art for this station.

Toronto hopes to become a prime location for 3-D films

Ali Kazimi, a film professor in York’s Department of Film in the Faculty of Fine Arts, said the school is in the early stages of offering a course on 3-D filmmaking, wrote the National Post Dec. 9.

The 3-D Camera Company recently provided York with a 3-D camera, and Cinespace Studios gave the school access to its set of the American Oval Office in Kleinburg for the school’s 3D FLIC project.

Kazimi directed a five-minute 3-D film called Cleaning House in September. The film’s crew was comprised entirely of current students and recent graduates, with the purpose of testing the potential of new 3-D technology. “It’s so new that it’s not currently a course, but there is an expectation that the research will lead to curriculum development,” Kazimi says.

Woman charged with posing as a witch

The case of a Toronto woman accused of fraud has shed light on a section of the Canadian Criminal Code that carries a hint of the Dark Ages: posing as a witch, wrote The Globe and Mail and The Canadian Press Dec. 9 in a story about the use of an old statute against witchcraft.

“It’s a historical quirk,” says Alan Young, a professor at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School. Some sections of the Canadian Criminal Code reflect offences that were more prevalent centuries ago. When the code was enacted in 1892, witchcraft per se was no longer a punishable offence, he says, but lawmakers wanted to ensure witchcraft wasn’t used as a cover for fraud.

Section 365 states that anyone who fraudulently pretends to exercise or to use any kind of witchcraft, sorcery or enchantment or who “undertakes, for a consideration, to tell fortunes…is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.” “It’s not really about occult activity,” Young says. “It’s about defrauding people.”

Liberals in two places jump on pension reform

With federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty days away from a meeting in Whitehorse with his provincial counterparts to examine the country’s pension system, the Liberals have moved first – at Queen’s Park and in Ottawa, wrote the Ottawa Citizen Dec. 9.

Ontario’s pension laws have not seen major reform in more than 20 years and the changes will be based on recommendations made by York University President Emeritus Harry Arthurs, Finance Minister Dwight Duncan said last month.

On air

  • Robert MacDermid, political science professor in York’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, spoke about municipal election reform, on Rogers Television’s “Goldhawk Live” phone-in show, Dec. 8.
  • Glendon Principal Kenneth McRoberts spoke about being elected the next president of the Association of Universities of the Canadian Francophonie, on Radio Canada in Saint Boniface, MB, Dec. 8.