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Five TTC commuter lots to be shut down

CityNews | posted Friday, Dec 2nd, 2016

Commuters at TTC’s Wilson Station were in for a rude awakening Thursday morning, as some learned for the first time the west lot had officially closed, losing 610 parking spaces.

But that lot is just the beginning.

Including two Wilson lots, the transit commission confirms five total commuter lots have been deemed surplus by the city and will ultimately shut down.

“That’s a city of Toronto decision dating back to 2009,” says TTC Spokesperson Stuart Green. “At the time the TTC was asked for some input, our numbers were down at that time because free parking for Metropass users had stopped.”

In early 2017 the Wilson Station south lot will close, losing 541 spaces. It’s likely that in the following year the Main Lot with a capacity of 885 spots will shut down.

Closures are also imminent at Victoria Park, and Warden while Downsview will remain open for at least another year before shuttering.

“Those, again, are further out and we don’t see them immediately impacting our customers,” says Green.

The surplus land will eventually be used for redevelopment and various purposes, including retail and residential use.

“It’s been through an elaborate process where Build Toronto has decided what to do with it,” said Mayor John Tory Thursday at a City Hall press conference.

Tory insists there is relief in sight, including the February opening of a commuter lot at Yorkdale Station, which is set to open 1,100 underground heated spots.  The upcoming York Spadina Subway Extension will likely also add 2,800 other parking spaces at Finch West, Pioneer Village and the 407.

This could be the price of progress, says urban planning consultant Ken Greenberg. “You have to break some eggs to make an omelette,” he says.

Greenberg adds, “Our city is growing incredibly fast.  We’re one of the fastest growing cities in the developed world and we’ve reached that tipping point where we have to make this change.”

“These TTC lots are valuable land. The city needs more land to grow. They need the revenues that will come from monetizing these lands.”

Holiday tipping and gift giving etiquette

BT Toronto | posted Thursday, Dec 1st, 2016

Did you know, over the course of the lifetime of a millennial they’ll spend $76,000 on tipping?

So, how should you be tipping this holiday season, and to who? Alex Benjamin, CEO of Lendful, shares his tips for tipping and gift giving this holiday season.


Personal trainer & hair dresser: tip equivalent of session.

Home-services (i.e. garbage man and mailman): a small gift, or Tim Hortons gift card.

Cab drivers: dependent on your relationship, $20.00 is a safe tip.


However, as we head into the New Year remember to budget your holiday gift-giving. A simple thank-you card always goes a long way! Watch the segment below for more advice.


Toronto FC defeat Montreal Impact to advance to MLS Cup final

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press | posted Thursday, Dec 1st, 2016

Substitutes Benoit Cheyrou and Tosaint Ricketts scored two minutes apart in extra time to send Toronto FC to the MLS Cup final with a 5-2 win on the night and a wild 7-5 aggregate victory over the Montreal Impact.

It took extra time and 12 goals to decide a scintillating two-legged Eastern Conference final. Toronto will host the Seattle Sounders on Dec. 10 in the MLS championship game, becoming the first Canadian team to go for the title.

Toronto trailed 3-2 after Game 1 in Montreal and had to come back the hard way after the Impact scored first. And when Toronto responded, Montreal came back in a heavyweight battle on Wednesday night played out in the rain before a BMO Field record crowd of 36,000.

Only once before in MLS playoff history had a club trailed by as many as three goals in a two-leg aggregate series and come back to win the tie. The San Jose Earthquakes were down 4-0 in 2003 before rallying to defeat the Los Angeles Galaxy 5-4.

Tied 5-5 on aggregate, Cheyrou scored on a header in the 98th minute, just one minute after entering the game, when he knocked in a Steven Beitashour cross. Then Jozy Altidore outmuscled a couple of defenders to send in a cross that Ricketts, beating two more defenders to the ball, swept in.

The Toronto FC faithful, who had been rained on most of the night, started chanting “This is our house.”

The Toronto bench came flying onto the field after the final whistle to celebrate the historic win as confetti flew from the rafters. The players then went to celebrate in front of the south stand fans before the Eastern Conference cup presentation.

Dominic Oduro opened the scoring in the 24th minute for Montreal, a goal that meant Toronto had to score twice.

Armando Cooper and Altidore did just that before the first half was over, tying the aggregate score at 4-4 with an away goals edge to Toronto.

But Impact danger-man Ignacio Piatti made it 2-2 – and 5-4 on aggregate – in the 53rd minute after substitute Johan Venegas found him behind the defence. The ball bounced off either Piatti or defender Nick Hagglund, leaving Toronto fans to watch in pain as it trickled slowly into the net.

Hagglund restored order with a superb header in the 68th minute to make it 3-2 on the night and 5-5 on aggregate. It came off a short corner with Justin Morrow delivering the cross.

Ricketts had two late chances but tried to pass instead of shooting. Then his shot was blocked after a wonderful buildup by Sebastian Giovinco. Evan Bush then stopped Altidore at close range.

Giovinco limped off the field seven minutes into extra time after injuring his right leg taking a shot. He was replaced by Cheyrou.

The opening leg of the conference final was really two games in one. Montreal led 2-0 after 12 minutes and 3-0 after 53 minutes. But two valuable away goals in the 68th and 73rd minutes gave Toronto reason to hope.

For Montreal, the win felt like a loss. Still it marked only the third time that Toronto had tasted defeat since mid-July (11-3-5).

The lone lineup change Wednesday was Will Johnson in for Jonathan Osorio in the Toronto midfield with Greg Vanney sacrificing Osorio’s offensive skills for Johnson’s tenacity and bite.

It was Montreal midfielder Marco Donadel to the rescue in the seventh minute after a Clint Irwin goalkick found Altidore and the burly forward flicked the ball towards Giovinco. Donadel came flying in to break up the play with a deft tackle.

Midfielder Hernan Bernadello got the worst of a nasty collision with Altidore as they went for an aerial ball in the 13th minute. Altidore’s shoulder caught the Impact player high and Bernadello’s head was driven in the turf as he toppled. A dazed Bernadello eventually got up and continued to play after treatment, but was removed at halftime.

The opening Montreal goal came after immediately after a fine scoring chance by Toronto. A sublime Michael Bradley pass found Morrow in the box but the fullback elected to try to find Altidore rather than shoot himself.

The Impact then struck on the counter-attack with Patrice Bernier nicking the ball off Bradley. He sent the ball to Matteo Mancoso, whose pass sliced open the Toronto defence to find Oduro. The former TFC player made no mistake, beating Irwin with a low shot in the 24th minute.

Oduro also opened the scoring in the first leg.

Cooper tied it up in the 37th minute off a Giovinco corner. A header from a flying Hagglund was blocked by Bernadello on the goal-line but the ball bounced straight back to Cooper who banged it past Bush.

Toronto wanted a penalty call on Bush as Cooper attacked the box but there was no joy, possibly because the Panamanian stayed on his feet.

Another Giovinco corner led to a 45th-minute goal with Altidore beating a defender at the front post to flick the ball past Bush. The U.S. international then raced around the corner flag and headed to the Toronto bench to celebrate.

After Piatti’s goal, Toronto brought on offence in the form of Ricketts for Johnson in the 62nd minute.

But there was offence at the other end as a diving Irwin just stopped a low Venegas shot.

Both legs of the conference final featured record attendances.

The Nov. 22 opener at Olympic Stadium drew 61,004, tying the Impact record. Wednesday’s paid attendance of 36,000 was also a record for BMO Field, which was filled with 33,421 for Sunday’s Grey Cup. The soccer configuration for the stadium allows more seating.

Toronto’s record crowd is 47,658 for the CONCACAF Champions League quarter-final against David Beckham and the Los Angeles Galaxy in March 2012 at Rogers Centre.

The MLS record for playoff attendance is 61,316 at the 2002 MLS Cup final at Gillette Stadium.

The two Canadian rivals were well acquainted coming into Wednesday’s showdown. They had played each other seven times including pre-season, regular season, Amway Canadian Championship and post-season. Each team had two wins and there were three ties.

Toronto (14-9-11 during the regular season) advanced by dispatching the Philadelphia Union and New York City FC. Montreal (11-11-12) beat D.C. United and the New York Red Bulls.

Seattle (14-14-6) knocked off Sporting Kansas City, FC Dallas and the Colorado Rapids.

OPEC cuts will have a muted effect on consumer

DAVID KOENIG, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | posted Thursday, Dec 1st, 2016

OPEC’s decision to cut production gave an immediate boost to oil prices, but the impact on consumers and the U.S. economy is likely to be more modest and gradual.

The cartel agreed Wednesday to cut output by 1.2 million barrels a day, reversing a strategy that produced lower oil prices and pain for U.S. drillers but saved money for consumers.

Even if OPEC members carry through on their promises, global oil production would only fall by about 1 per cent. There is still more supply than demand – the reason oil prices collapsed beginning in mid-2014.

The price of oil shot up 9 per cent to near $50 a barrel. If the price keeps rising, some of the slack from OPEC cuts will be picked up by producers in the United States – good news for drillers and oilfield workers in Texas and North Dakota. President-elect Donald Trump has vowed to increase drilling in the U.S., the world’s third-largest producer after Saudi Arabia and Russia, which would help ensure there is plenty of oil.

In short, analysts say, consumers and businesses are not likely to see the return of $100-a-barrel oil – and the high energy costs that came with it – anytime soon.

Still, there could be some short-term shocks even before OPEC’s cuts take effect in January.

“The average Joe filling up his tank may notice in the next week or two that gas prices move higher by 5 to 15 cents a gallon just on the psyche of the deal,” said Patrick DeHaan, an analyst for GasBuddy, a site used to comparison-shop for gasoline.

The U.S. Energy Department predicts that heating oil costs will rise about one-third this winter, but that prediction was issued more than a month ago and was based heavily on forecasts of much colder temperatures in the Northeast. If the weather forecast proves wrong, prices could sink because heating-oil inventories are running above their 5-year average and grew again last week.

A small increase in gasoline or even a bigger jump in heating oil, which is used in only 5 per cent of American homes, won’t affect shoppers if the economy does well, in the view of Michael Niemira, chief economist at The Retail Economist LLC, which does a weekly retail-sales report with Goldman Sachs.

“The consumer isn’t really focused on gasoline since prices remain low. A better economy, a better labour market – those matter much more,” Niemira said. But if gasoline spikes to $4, “that could be bad.”

Crude has traded between $40 and $50 a barrel the last several months. The national average for gasoline on Wednesday stood at $2.15 a gallon, according to the AAA auto club.

Before the OPEC meeting, the U.S. Energy Department predicted that crude would rise to $50 or $51 a barrel next year.

Sal Guatieri, senior economist at BMO Capital Markets, said modestly higher oil prices will actually help the U.S. economy by spurring investment in the energy industry without draining consumers’ purchasing power. He expects an average price of about $53 a barrel next year as a result of the OPEC production cuts.

“The losers are Europe and Japan – oil-importing regions of the world,” Guatieri said.

U.S. producers are likely to be winners. Drilling fell off after oil prices started to slide in mid-2014. The number of active U.S. drilling rigs bottomed out at 404 in May and has been rising since, to just below 600 last week. That’s still down 20 per cent from a year ago, however.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas recently surveyed producers and found that most believe crude must be $55 or higher before drilling picks up significantly, said Michael Plante, an economist for the bank.

The Energy Department predicts that U.S. production will fall from 9.4 million barrels a day in 2015 to 8.8 million this year and 8.7 million next year – the forecast assumed oil at $50 a barrel next year.

Research firm IHS Inc. estimates that if crude rises to $55, U.S. production will instead grow by about 500,000 barrels a day – offsetting nearly half of OPEC’s stated cut.

Much of that production is expected to come from the Permian Basin in Texas, where prices for acquiring oilfield acreage have skyrocketed in recent months. There are now almost as many drilling rigs running in the Permian as in the rest of the country combined, including offshore.

“A few months ago rigs were being stacked on the side of roads,” said Avi Mirman, CEO of Lilis Energy Inc., a small producer that operates in the Permian and the Rockies. “Today it’s almost impossible to get a hot rig” with a crew.

Mirman is facing higher costs for materials used for hydraulic-fracturing or fracking, a technique to boost well production. The specialty firms that do the fracking have raised prices because “they are booked out through June or July. It’s pretty wild.”

AP Economics Writer Paul Wiseman in Washington contributed to this report.

Presidential election recount set to begin in Wisconsin

The Associated Press | posted Thursday, Dec 1st, 2016

The first candidate-driven statewide recount of a presidential election in 16 years is set to begin in Wisconsin.

The recount starting Thursday was requested by Green Party candidate Jill Stein. It carries none of the drama that Florida did in 2000, when the outcome of the election between Al Gore and George W. Bush hung in the balance.

Almost no one expects recounts this year to result in a Clinton victory.

But still, county election officials across Wisconsin were hiring temporary workers, expanding hours and dusting off recount manuals to prepare for the work of retabulating nearly three-million ballots.

A recount was to begin Friday in Michigan and Stein is suing for a recount in Pennsylvania.

Related stories:

Trump filling vacancies as recount distraction looms

Donald Trump slams recount push as ‘a scam,’ says election is over

Binge watching on Netflix no longer requires internet access

MICHAEL LIEDTKE, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | posted Thursday, Dec 1st, 2016

Netflix subscribers can now binge on many of their favourite shows and movies even when they don’t have an internet connection.

The long-awaited offline option announced Wednesday gives Netflix’s 87 million subscribers offline access to videos for the first time in the streaming service’s decade-long history.

Netflix is matching a downloading feature that one of its biggest rivals, Amazon.com, has been offering to its video subscribers for the past year. It’s something that also has been available on YouTube’s popular video site, though a subscription is required in the U.S. and other countries where the site sells its “Red” premium service.

The new feature puts Netflix a step ahead of two other major rivals. Offline options aren’t available on HBO’s internet-only package, HBO Now, or Hulu, although that service has publicly said it hopes to introduce a downloading feature.

Netflix subscribers wishing to download a video on their smartphone or tablet need to update the app on their Apple or Android device.

Not all of the selections in Netflix’s video library can be downloaded, although several of the service’s most popular shows, including “Orange Is The New Black,” “House of Cards,” and “Stranger Things,” are now available to watch offline.

Downloadable movies include “Spotlight,” this year’s Oscar winner for best film. Notably missing from the downloadable menu are movies and TV shows made by Walt Disney Co. Those still require an internet connection to watch on Netflix.

The Los Gatos, California, company is promising to continue to add more titles to its offline roster.

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings had long resisted calls for an offline-viewing option, much to the frustration of customers who wanted flexibility to use their subscriptions to watch a show or movie when travelling on a train, plane or car where internet connections are spotty or completely unavailable.

Earlier this year, Hastings finally indicated he might relent and introduce downloading.

The change of heart coincided with Netflix’s expansion into more than 130 countries, including many areas with shoddy or expensive internet connections that make the ability to watch video offline even more appealing.

Netflix ended September with 39 million subscribers outside of the U.S.

The offline option may accelerate the decline of Netflix’s steadily shrinking DVD-by-mail service, which offers the ability to watch video without an internet connection. Netflix’s DVD side still has one distinct advantage – access to recent theatrical releases before they are available for streaming.

Netflix’s DVD service ended September with 4.3 million subscribers, a decrease of nearly 10 million customers during the past five years.

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