Downtown residents, developers and the city have long bickered over the appropriate amount of parking for new condo buildings. Now, as condos move steadily outward, that same debate is flaring up in other parts of the city. Take The Beach, an area known for its anti-development fervour. Residents say a 70-unit project at Queen and Woodbine needs more than the 65 parking spots currently slated because street parking is already scarce. (Yet that ratio is still more generous than many buildings downtown, where developer Brad Lamb says he aims for roughly half as many parking spots as units.) But developers argue putting in more than the bare minimum of parking is bad business: with the popularity of car-shares rising and parking space prices eclipsing $50,000, many spaces go unsold. The always outspoken Lamb offered a solution: “Everybody, including the greedy parking hogs in the Beach and in High Park and in the Annex and all the other places . . . they need to understand. Get with it, this is the future.” Somehow, we doubt condo naysayers in The Beach are going to take his advice. [Toronto Star]
All stories relating to cars
As promised, Google Street View’s hard-to-miss camera-on-tripod-on-car contraptions are back in the city for some much-needed updates to Google databases. The last time they captured images of city roadways was back in 2009, when the skyline was dotted with significantly fewer condos, Christie Pits Park was (a literal) dump, and the current site of Doug Gilmour’s mansion housed a wee bungalow. The indiscriminate lens of Google’s 360-degree camera captures all, so look sharp, Toronto; despite face-blurring technology, it’s very easy to reveal too much. [Toronto Star]
When Uber, a smartphone app that allows users to hail black sedans and SUVs, arrived in Toronto, many locals, used to dysfunctional taxi regulations, wondered how it could be legal. It turns out it may not be. Toronto’s director of licensing Bruce Robertson told OpenFile that city staff are “leaning towards” ruling that the company is operating illegally because it has yet to apply for a limousine service licence. Uber, however, doesn’t see itself as a limo service; Andrew MacDonald, the company’s head man in Toronto, told us it partners with licensed companies and drivers and does not itself own cars or employ drivers. “We are a technology company that helps limousine companies connect with their customers through our app,” he said, comparing the distinction to that between Expedia.ca and Air Canada. Unfortunately for MacDonald, Toronto’s bylaw defines a limousine company as “any person or entity which accepts calls in any manner for booking, arranging or providing limousine transportation.” Tough to wiggle out of that. [OpenFile]
Toronto has yet another new smart phone app to help stranded urbanites find a ride. Tap’n Ride, the brainchild of Rosedale Livery’s current president, Craig McCutcheon, allows users to order either a limo or a regular-fare city taxi from their phone or web browser. (Since apps like Winston and Uber already allow those with significant expendable funds to order up luxury vehicles, we’re betting that Tap’n Ride’s taxi function will get the most play.) The app is free, and unlike Beck Taxi’s iPhone app, it’s peer-to-peer, meaning it eliminates the need for a call centre and dispatch. Users confirm their pick-up address directly with the driver by text and keep tabs on where the car is while they’re waiting (approximately 10 minutes). At the end of the ride, it’s charged to the on-file credit card registered during the initial sign-up. [Tap’n Ride]
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I live on the 10th floor of a condo tower that overlooks the Gardiner. I drive out past the building on my way to work and have noticed that my neighbour, a rather uninhibited brunette, changes in front of the window, creating a peep show for commuters. It’s only a matter of time before she causes an accident. I should bring it up at the next condo board meeting, right?
—Nude Awakening, New Toronto
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Car2Go, a well-liked car-sharing service in Europe, the U.S. and Vancouver, wants in on Toronto’s booming short-term rental market. Starting June 30, the Daimler-owned company will debut 250 cars at 200 city-owned lots in the area south of Eglinton and between Jane and Victoria Park. The company differentiates itself from Zipcar and AutoShare by only dealing in fuel-efficient two-seater smart fortwo cars (with rooftop solar panels) and renting them out by the minute, unlike the other local competitors, which charge by the hour. Plus, you don’t have to return the car whence it came: the wee things can parked in any Green P parkade or designated Car2Go parking spot within the home area (which makes it more like a do-it-yourself taxi than a rental service). We’ve heard good things from friends in other cities, though apparently availability can be a problem at peak times like weekend evenings. [Toronto Star]
Now that another concrete nugget has dropped from the Gardiner Expressway—the third in the last month—the city has made fixing the old highway an urgent priority. Road crews were supposed to start “controlled chipping” (bashing the concrete to remove loose bits) next week, but will instead start the process today, and may even get help from an outside crew to speed it along. For those curious about what causes the crumbling, the Toronto Star ran a scary graphic showing the anatomy of a fracture (hint: blame salt-laced water). [Toronto Star]
Yonge Street retailers are complaining that the area has too much foot traffic—which sounds a little nuts, but their reasoning is that any would-be leisurely shoppers get caught in the stampeding crowd and are whisked right by. Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam thinks reducing the number of car lanes on Yonge and widening the pedestrian area using business-sponsored planters would liven up the street (and make it more like New York), and she has applied to try out the scheme from mid-August to mid-September for the Celebrate Yonge festival. Denzil Minnan-Wong, chair of the city’s public works committee, has a totally different vision: convert Yonge and Bay to one-way streets south of Bloor to improve traffic flow and create space for cyclists—which would also, oddly enough, make Yonge more like New York. Since this is the third time Minnan-Wong has looked into fixing up Wong-Tam’s ’hood (he asked the city to look into the Yonge-Dundas pedestrian scramble without consulting her and led the fight to remove the Jarvis bike lanes, also in her ward), we’re bracing for a turf war between two three-named councillors. [Globe and Mail]
1| My ride
It’s a 12-year-old Audi A6 Turbo. I like driving, and I’ve always had a thing for European sport sedans. When they put a stick shift in a hybrid or a Chevy Volt, I’ll buy one.
2| My hockey cards
I have thousands of vintage hockey cards. My most prized are a set of ’61–’62 Maple Leafs, which I remember from when I was a kid. They’re as close as I’m going to get to seeing the Leafs win the Cup again.
3| My anti-cottage
I love going to the Haliburton Forest and Wildlife Reserve south of Algonquin Park. A German guy bought it from a paper mill in the ’60s, and now his son leases plots for $3,000 a year. I’ve rented one on Lazure Lake for eight years. There are no motor boats, no power—just an empty campsite.
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A friend gave me HTO, a book about water in Toronto, in 2009, and I refer to it all the time. People don’t realize how many waterways there are in the city because most are hidden under infrastructure.
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I’m totally, 100 per cent opposed to toll roads. If they want to float it—I’m going to sink it.
—Rob Ford, on how he’d respond to Josh Matlow’s contentious proposal to use road tolls to fund transit projects. Speaking at another city app unveiling, the mayor finally weighed in on what Doug Ford has called the “three attacks” on Toronto’s cars (that is, Matlow’s toll proposal, Metrolinx’s vote in favour of four LRT projects and the chief medical officer’s suggestion to lower speed limits). Despite the Metrolinx board’s approval of the LRT plans, Ford—predictably—said he wouldn’t stop fighting for subways because they’re “what the people want.” But the mayor saved his most eloquent response for the idea of making Toronto’s speed limit 40 km/h, an idea he called “nuts, nuts, nuts, nuts. No.” [CBC]
The whole “war on cars” talking point feels so 2009 (and 2010… and 2011), but now that Metrolinx and city council have pushed through an LRT-based transit plan against Rob Ford’s wishes, it’s back in a big way. Some members of council (well, mostly Doug Ford) are already gnashing their teeth over what the plan means for drivers—especially since tolls could be on the table if Josh Matlow gets his way. Others are looking ahead to the 2014 election and how shifts in power could change the whole project once more.
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Justin Bieber, who doesn’t even have a motorcycle license, just dropped $20,000 on a Ducati Superbike 848 EVO under the advisement of confidant Usher. This purchase adds to his expensive fleet of automobiles, which now includes a Fisker Karma, a $160,000 Range Rover, a Batman-themed Cadillac and a Ferrari. A word of advice to the pop idol: keep this up, and you might end up like formerly young and famous celebrity car collector Frankie Muniz.