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City has built fewer than 6 per cent of bike lanes more than two years into 10-year plan

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More than two years after council approved an ambitious 10-year cycling plan, the city has built less than 6 per cent of the bike lanes the blueprint calls for, and has underspent by millions of dollars the annual budget council allocated to expand the bicycle network.

When the $153.5-million plan was introduced in May 2016 many advocates hoped it would kick-start the kind of aggressive expansion of bike infrastructure they argue is required in a city where cycling rates are climbing. But the latest stats have them asking what went wrong.

“I’ve spoken with many members of council, many advocates, and quite frankly we all feel the same way, which is we have no idea what’s going on with this bike plan,” said Jared Kolb, executive director of the Cycle Toronto advocacy group.

He said the city’s execution of the plan “has not delivered on the expectations.”

According to figures provided by the city, in 2018, Toronto installed 3.7 kilometres of physically separated cycle tracks, 9.4 kilometres of painted bike lanes, and 4.3 kilometres of new trails.

That’s well below the annual rate required to meet the targets in the bike plan, which was approved in June 2016 and calls for approximately 560 lane kilometres of painted and protected bike lanes to be built on busy streets over the next decade.

And though council approved a spending plan that would see the city invest $12 million in the plan in 2017 and $16 million each year after that, spending has yet to reach that level. The city spent $11 million on the cycling plan in 2017, and just $10 million last year.

Kolb said a major reason the bike plan hasn’t delivered is that when councillors approved it they decided not to endorse major corridor studies that staff recommended and could lead to bike lanes on major arterials like Jane St., Kingston Rd., Kipling Ave., and Midland Ave. Studies that were already underway on corridors including Yonge St. and Bloor St. were allowed to go ahead.

Kolb also questioned why a detailed schedule included in the plan that set out which projects would be built in which year also seems to have fallen by the wayside, with projects like Donlands Ave. bike lanes listed for 2018 not being installed.

City spokesperson Wynna Brown said the underspending on the plan to date “reflects that projects take time to move through the planning, design and approval process.”

As to why some projects planned to be installed by now have yet to be completed, she stressed council adopted the 10-year plan “in principle.” Many cycling projects are supposed to be installed in conjunction with other planned road work like resurfacing, and sometimes they are rescheduled if the related work is delayed.

Brown said bike-plan spending is projected to dramatically increase this year to $44 million, thanks in part to an injection of federal infrastructure funding. Projects the city has selected for the federal program include cycling facilities on Eglinton Ave. W. and in the Flemingdon Park and York University neighbourhoods.

Councillor James Pasternak, chair of the infrastructure and environment committee that oversees implementation of the bike plan, said the city has recently scored important successes like the installation of the Bloor bike lanes and the committee vote to keep the Richmond and Adelaide Sts. cycle tracks. But he acknowledged “we’re not at the pace that we want to be as far as the 10-year cycling network plan is concerned.”

He said one factor is the city hasn’t hired enough staff to implement the bike plan. The councillor said he would look into making additional hires, but he was confident the city can still get the plan back on track. He noted there are 18 bike projects planned for 2019.

“I think we can really ramp up in the coming year and catch up to some of the lost ground. So it’s very exciting,” he said.

City staff are expected to report back to council in the second quarter of this year with an update on the bike plan, including recommendations on whether to proceed with bike lane studies on the major corridors that weren’t initially approved.

Councillor Joe Cressy, a vocal cycling advocate, said major streets need to be added back into the plan, otherwise the city will be confined to improving cycling routes on less-used residential streets.

“Without adding the major corridors into the plan, we’re not building a true cycling network,” he said.

Last year, five cyclists died in Toronto, according to statistics compiled by the Star. The number exceeded any single year total for cyclist fatalities in a police database that goes back to 2007. The police use different methodology to track the deaths than the Star.

Ben Spurr is a Toronto-based reporter covering transportation. Reach him by email at bspurr@thestar.ca or follow him on Twitter: @BenSpurr

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Anglais

Nostalgia and much more with Starburst XXXtreme

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Get a taste of adventure with Starburst XXXtreme based on the legendary NetEnt Game. The nostalgic themes are sure to capture fans of the classic version as they get treated to higher intensity, better visuals, and features. The most significant element of the game is its volatility. Patience will not be an essential virtue considering the insane gameplay, and there is a lot of win potential involved. It retains the original makeup of the previous game while adding a healthy dose of adrenaline. 

Starburst Visuals and Symbols

The game is definitely more conspicuous than before. The setting happens over a 5-reel, 3-row game grid with nine fixed win lines, which function if a succession from the left to the right reel is present. Only those players that that attain the highest win per bet line are paid. From a visual standpoint, the Starburst XXXtreme slots illustrates lightning effects behind the reels, which is not surprising as it is inherited from the original version. Available themes include Classic, Jewels, and Space. The game is also available in both desktop and mobile versions, which is advantageous for players considering the global pandemic. According to Techguide, American gamers are increasingly having more engaging gaming experiences to socialize to fill the gap of in-person interaction. Starburst XXXtreme allows them to fill the social void at a time when there is so much time to be had indoors. 

Starburst XXXTreme Features

Players get to alternate on three features which are Starburst Wilds, XXXtreme Spins, and Random Wilds. The first appears on reels 2,3, or 4. When these land, they expand to cover all positions while also calculating the wins. They are also locked for a respin. If a new one hits, it also becomes locked while awarding another respin. Starburst XXXtreme offers a choice between two scenarios for a higher stake. In one scenario with a ten times stake, the Starburst Wild is set on random on reels 2,3, or 4, and a multiplier starts the respin. The second scenario, which has a 95 times stake, starts with two guaranteed starburst wilds on reels 2,3, or 4. it also plays out using respin game sequence and features. The game also increases the potential with the Random Wilds feature to add Starburst Wilds to a vacant reel at the end of a spin. Every Starburst Wild gives a random multiplier with potential wins of x2, x3, x5, x10, x25, x50, x100, or even x150.

The new feature is sure to be a big hit with the gaming market as online gambling has shown significant growth during the lockdown. AdAge indicates the current casino customer base is an estimated one in five Americans, so Starburst XXXtreme’s additional features will achieve considerable popularity. 

What We Think About The Game

The gambling market has continued to diversify post-pandemic, so it is one of the most opportune times to release an online casino-based game. Thankfully Starburst XXXtreme features eye-catching visuals, including the jewels and space themes. These attract audience participation and make the gameplay inviting. The game also has a nostalgic edge. The previous NetEnt iteration featured similar visuals and gameplay, so the audience has some familiarity with it. The producers have revamped this version by tweaking the features to improve the volatility and engagement. 

That is characterized by the potential win cap of 200,000 times the bet. Starburst XXXtreme does not just give betting alternatives for players that want to go big. The increase of multipliers also provides a great experience. If the respins in the previous version were great, knowing that multipliers can go hundreds of times overtakes the game to a new level. 

Players should get excited about this offering. All of the features can be triggered within a single spin. Whether one plays the standard game or takes the XXXtreme spin route, it is possible to activate all of the features. Of course, the potential 200,000 times potential is a huge carrot. However, the bet size is probably going to be restricted and vary depending on the casino. It is also worth pointing out that a malfunction during the gameplay will void all of the payouts and progress. Overall, the game itself has been designed to provide a capped win of 200,000 times the original bet. 

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Anglais

‘We’re back’: Montreal festival promoters happy to return but looking to next year

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In downtown Montreal, it’s festival season.

In the city’s entertainment district, a musical act was conducting a sound check on stage Friday evening — the second day of the French-language version of the renowned Just For Laughs comedy festival. Tickets for many of the festival’s free outdoor shows — limited by COVID-19 regulations — were sold out.

Two blocks away, more than 100 people were watching an acoustic performance by the Isaac Neto Trio — part of the last weekend of the Festival International Nuits d’Afrique, a celebration of music from the African continent and the African diaspora.

With COVID-19 restrictions continuing to limit capacity, festival organizers say they’re glad to be back but looking forward to next year when they hope border restrictions and capacity limits won’t affect their plans.

Charles Décarie, Just For Laughs’ CEO and president, said this is a “transition year.”

“Even though we have major constraints from the public health group in Montreal, we’ve managed to design a festival that can navigate through those constraints,” Décarie said.

The French-language Juste pour rire festival began on July 15 and is followed by the English-language festival until July 31.

When planning began in February and March, Décarie said, organizers came up with a variety of scenarios for different crowd sizes, ranging from no spectators to 50 per cent of usual capacity.

“You’ve got to build scenarios,” he said. “You do have to plan a little bit more than usual because you have to have alternatives.”

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Anglais

MELS new major movie studio to be built in Montreal

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MONTREAL — MELS Studios will build a new film studio in Montreal, filling some of the gap in supply to meet the demand of Hollywood productions.

MELS president Martin Carrier said on Friday that MELS 4 studio construction will begin « as soon as possible », either in the fall or winter of next year. The studio could host productions as early as spring 2023.

The total investment for the project is $76 million, with the Quebec government contributing a $25 million loan. The project will create 110 jobs, according to the company.

The TVA Group subsidiary’s project will enable it to stand out « even more » internationally, according to Quebecor president and CEO Pierre Karl Péladeau. In the past, MELS Studios has hosted several major productions, including chapters of the X-Men franchise. The next Transformers movie is shooting this summer in Montreal.

Péladeau insisted that local cultural productions would also benefit from the new facility, adding that the studio ensures foreign revenues and to showcase talent and maintain an industry of Quebec producers.

STUDIO SHORTAGE

The film industry is cramped in Montreal.

According to a report published last May by the Bureau du cinéma et de la télévision du Québec (BCTQ), there is a shortage of nearly 400,000 square feet of studio space.

With the addition of MELS 4, which will be 160,000 square feet, the company is filling part of the gap.

Carrier admitted that he has had to turn down contracts because of the lack of space, representing missed opportunities of « tens of millions of dollars, not only for MELS, but also for the Quebec economy. »

« Montreal’s expertise is in high demand, » said Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante, who was present at the announcement.

She said she received great testimonials from « Netflix, Disney, HBO and company » during an economic mission to Los Angeles in 2019.

« What stands out is that they love Montreal because of its expertise, knowledge and beauty. We need more space, like MELS 4, » she said.

There is still not enough capacity in Quebec, acknowledged Minister of Finance, the Economy and Innovation Eric Girard.

« It is certain that the government is concerned about fairness and balance, so if other requests come in, we will study them with the same seriousness as we have studied this one, » he said.

Grandé Studios is the second-largest player in the industry. Last May, the company said it had expansion plans that should begin in 2022. Investissement Québec and Bell are minority shareholders in the company.

For its part, MELS will have 400,000 square feet of production space once MELS 4 is completed. The company employs 450 people in Quebec and offers a range of services including studio and equipment rentals, image and sound postproduction, visual effects and a virtual production platform.

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