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The politicians who want to extend the Yonge subway should try riding it during rush hour

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The Yonge subway line is full.

There are statistics that demonstrate this, of course: the capacity of the Yonge subway line is 28,000 riders in one direction per hour, and according to the TTC during the peak hour there are more riders than that.

But often when some stats geek in the sports world starts talking about analytics, someone shouts “just watch the games.” In this case, you can skip the math if you just ride the trains.

Say you go out to Bloor subway at 8:30 a.m. You may find, on the platform, that you are in danger of being alternately trampled or shoved off the edge of the platform. When trains arrive, they will be too full to allow anyone to board. Two trains, three trains, four trains, more trains may pass before you are able to get on. And when you do manage to squeeze on, you may soon wish you hadn’t, positioned as you are in aggressively intimate contact with your fellow citizens — cheek-to-cheek, elbow-to-stomach, nose-to-armpit for the rattling, lurching ride to work.

You can repeat the experiment further north — at Eglinton or often even at Sheppard, and still find the trains overcrowded on arrival.

The Yonge subway line is full.

If and when the signal improvements that could add up to 28 per cent more capacity are implemented (they’re on hold and may not work out as planned), all of that new space will likely be absorbed pretty much right away by latent demand now kept away by overcrowding and by the riders being funnelled into the system by new lines soon. The Eglinton Crosstown, for instance, will open in the early 2020s, and funnel riders from across the city onto Line 1. The Bloor extension in Scarborough, which council and the province seem determined to build, is justified on the premise that it will attract thousands of new riders, very many of whom will be looking to transfer to the Yonge line.

Still, a certain kind of politician has seemingly no transit ideas except to try to feed still more riders onto the line.

The city councillors of north Scarborough, forever trying to revive a Sheppard subway extension further east that would feed more riders onto Yonge.

Premier Doug Ford, who loves that Sheppard idea and also suggests to crowds in Pickering that one day the Bloor line might come out to serve them.

And then there are the politicians in Vaughan and Richmond Hill and Markham, clamouring to have the Yonge line itself extended up north into the 905.

Most recently it was Frank Scarpitti of Markham, urging the province forward last week.

Now, this extension may make sense in the future. But that future has to include a completed relief line — so called because it would relieve the congestion on the Yonge line. The most recent versions of a plan for it run from the downtown core along Queen St. to east of the Don River, where it would head north around Pape and continue up to at least the Danforth. The smart versions of the plan continue up to Eglinton, through Don Mills, until it meets the Sheppard subway line.

You build that, and it will be a route into downtown for many of those currently coming from the east who could transfer at Pape instead of Yonge — not just from the Danforth line, but at Eglinton and points north, too.

Then we can talk about extending the existing lines further.

Scarpitti said he didn’t necessarily think the relief line would be necessary. “If they have some issues with the relief line, we don’t want that to stall the Yonge subway,” he told the Star.

See, the thing is, the issue most likely to stall the relief line is that the premier decides a new line into downtown Toronto sounds too elite for his liking and decides to build “905 subways” for the people first.

In the morning, of course, any riders up in the 905 boarding the new extension would be the first ones on, so perhaps they and their political representatives don’t care that once they were seated and the trains rolled south, the cars would be too full to fit Toronto commuters onto them. The TTC has in fact modelled a scenario where the Yonge line is extended before SmartTrack and the relief line are built and it shows almost 9,000 fewer riders transferring onto the Yonge line at Bloor than do today because “these passengers have been driven away by overcrowding.”

You can imagine that would be part of the appeal to certain supporters of Doug Ford — all those elites downtown can’t get on the subway! Let them ride their bikes that they love so much, suckers!

But of course an overwhelming percentage of those trying to transfer at Bloor are coming in across the city from Scarborough and other alleged points of Ford Nation.

The relief line is necessary, as soon as it can be built. It won’t somehow serve downtowners — or won’t primarily do so. Instead it will provide a faster, more comfortable ride into the city for thousands of daily riders from the north and east of the city, and at the same time allow us to consider ways to better serve further-flung riders by making it possible to contemplate extending the lines we have now.

I think this is clear enough if you look at the reports and research and analysis. But if you just ride the trains, it’s obvious. Unfortunately, too few of the politicians holding sway ride our trains. Which is fine, because the trains are full without them.

But that’s why it’s all the more important for Toronto’s politicians to be loud and clear about what our priorities are.

Edward Keenan is a columnist based in Toronto covering urban affairs. Follow him on Twitter: @thekeenanwire

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Anglais

‘Business as usual’ for Dorel Industries after terminating go-private deal

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MONTREAL — Dorel Industries Inc. says it will continue to pursue its business strategy going forward after terminating an agreement to go private after discussions with shareholders.

« Moving ahead. Business as usual, » a spokesman for the company said in an email on Monday.

A group led by Cerberus Capital Management had previously agreed to buy outstanding shares of Dorel for $16 apiece, except for shares owned by the family that controls the company’s multiple-voting shares.

But Dorel chief executive Martin Schwartz said the Montreal-based maker of car seats, strollers, bicycles and home furniture pulled the plug on a deal on the eve of Tuesday’s special meeting after reviewing votes from shareholders.

“Independent shareholders have clearly expressed their confidence in Dorel’s future and the greater potential for Dorel as a public entity, » he said in a news release.

Dorel’s board of directors, with Martin Schwartz, Alan Schwartz, Jeffrey Schwartz and Jeff Segel recused, unanimously approved the deal’s termination upon the recommendation of a special committee.

The transaction required approval by two-thirds of the votes cast, and more than 50 per cent of the votes cast by non-family shareholders.

Schwartz said enhancing shareholder value remains a top priority while it stays focused on growing its brands, which include Schwinn and Mongoose bikes, Safety 1st-brand car seats and DHP Furniture.

Dorel said the move to end the go-private deal was mutual, despite the funds’ increased purchase price offer earlier this year.

It said there is no break fee applicable in this case.

Montreal-based investment firm Letko, Brosseau & Associates Inc. and San Diego’s Brandes Investment Partners LP, which together control more than 19 per cent of Dorel’s outstanding class B subordinate shares voiced their opposition to the amended offer, which was increased from the initial Nov. 2 offer of $14.50 per share.

« We believe that several minority shareholders shared our opinion, » said Letko vice-president Stephane Lebrun, during a phone interview.

« We are confident of the long-term potential of the company and we have confidence in the managers in place.”

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Anglais

Pandemic funds helping Montreal businesses build for a better tomorrow

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Many entrepreneurs have had to tap into government loans during the pandemic, at first just to survive, but now some are using the money to better prepare their businesses for the post-COVID future.

One of those businesses is Del Friscos, a popular family restaurant in Dollard-des-Ormeaux that, like many Montreal-area restaurants, has had to adapt from a sit-down establishment to one that takes orders online for takeout or delivery.

“It was hard going from totally in-house seating,” said Del Friscos co-owner Terry Konstas. “We didn’t have an in-house delivery system, which we quickly added. There were so many of our employees that were laid off that wanted to work so we adapted to a delivery system and added platforms like Uber and DoorDash.”

Helping them through the transition were emergency grants and low-interest loans from the federal and provincial governments, some of which are directly administered by PME MTL, a non-profit business-development organization established to assist the island’s small and medium-sized businesses.

Konstas said he had never even heard of PME MTL until a customer told him about them and when he got in touch, he discovered there were many government programs available to help his business get through the downturn and build for the future. “They’ve been very helpful right from day one,” said Konstas.

“We used some of the funds to catch up on our suppliers and our rents, the part that wasn’t covered from the federal side, and we used some of it for our new virtual concepts,” he said, referring to a virtual kitchen model which the restaurant has since adopted.

The virtual kitchen lets them create completely different menu items from the casual American Italian dishes that Del Friscos is known for and market them under different restaurant brand names. Under the Prasinó Soup & Salad banner, they sell healthy Greek options and their Stallone’s Sub Shop brand offers hearty sandwiches, yet the food from both is created in the same Del Friscos kitchen.

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Anglais

Downtown Montreal office, retail vacancies continue to rise

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Some of downtown Montreal’s key economic indicators are heading in the wrong direction.

Office and retail vacancies in the city’s central core continued to climb in the fourth quarter of 2020, according to a quarterly report released Thursday by the Urban Development Institute of Quebec and the Montréal Centre-Ville merchants association. The report, whose first edition was published in October, aims to paint a socio-economic picture of the downtown area.

The survey also found office space available for sublet had increased during the fourth quarter, which may foreshadow even more vacancies when leases expire. On the residential front, condo sales fell as new listings soared — a sign that the downtown area may be losing some of its appeal to homeowners.

“It’s impossible not to be preoccupied by the rapid increase in office vacancies,” Jean-Marc Fournier, the former Quebec politician who now heads the UDI, said Thursday in an interview.

Still, with COVID-19 vaccinations set to accelerate in the coming months, “the economic picture is bound to improve,” he said. “People will start returning downtown. It’s much too early to say the office market is going to disappear.”

Public health measures implemented since the start of the pandemic almost a year ago — such as caps on office capacity — have deprived downtown Montreal of more than 500,000 workers and students. A mere 4,163 university and CEGEP students attended in-person classes in the second quarter, the most recent period for which figures are available. Border closures and travel restrictions have also brought tourism to a standstill, hurting hotels and thousands of local businesses.

Seventy per cent of downtown workers carried out their professional activities at home more than three days a week during the fourth quarter, the report said, citing an online survey of 1,000 Montreal-area residents conducted last month.

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