Bixi Toronto, the bike-share service whose demise once seemed virtually assured (largely due to the financial missteps of its Montreal-based parent company), is back in business—and it’s all thanks to toilet money.
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Everyone knows that taking public transit helps reduce congestion, but knowing and seeing are two different things. This incredible GIF shows the amount of road space saved when a few dozen people leave their cars at home and ride the TTC instead. The Better Way, indeed. [Peter From Texas via The Atlantic]
Something to contemplate as you wait on the crammed subway platform this evening: the Toronto Transit Commission is looking to raise fares starting January 1. If the hikes are approved by the TTC board and city council, a single adult token would go up five-cents to $2.70 and an adult Metropass would rise to $131. There is also the possibility of a 25-cent increase on the cash fares (which has been frozen at $3 since 2010) or an additional price hike that would bring the price of Metropasses to $133.75.
On CBC radio this morning, TTC CEO Andy Byford made his case to the public: with ridership expected hit a record 540 million trips next year, he explained, “I need more operators, I will be paying for more fuel, I will paying for more hydro to power the subway, we need more mechanics.” Byford emphasized that he is also lobbying all three levels of government for more cash, but he still needs riders to contribute their share—though he did have the grace to acknowledge it’s “a hard sell and I don’t feel good about that.” [CBC]
TTC spokesman Brad Ross posted a pair of images last night showing the Bloor-Yonge station’s current signage (top), and a spiffy mock-up of a new design featuring numbered subway lines. At a meeting today, the transit agency’s board will consider a report
suggesting that the Yonge-University-Spadina line become “line 1” and the Bloor-Danforth, “line 2”—an idea that has transit nerds and graphic designers pretty worked up.
In two weeks, the TTC board will consider
replacing the names of Toronto subway lines with numbers to make things less confusing for tourists and occasional users. If the proposal is accepted, the awkwardly named Yonge–University–Spadina Line will become 1; the Bloor-Danforth Line will be 2; the Scarborough RT will be 3; the Sheppard Line will be 4; and some future line will be 5 (a system that conveniently eliminates the Downtown Relief Line’s nomenclature issues). Unsurprisingly, TTC users and transit enthusiasts feel strongly about the idea. Here, the six main reactions, from tentative enthusiasm to outright mockery.
If Kathleen Wynne is to achieve anything for Toronto—and transit is top of the list—she needs Rob Ford to knock around
Back in mid-June, when the crack scandal had brought Rob Ford to his knees, it was Premier Kathleen Wynne who, with a few carefully chosen words, made his problems go away. She said publicly that she wanted to repair the rifts between them and that she would not “stand in judgment” of his personal or legal troubles. He could not have asked for a better endorsement. If the premier doesn’t care about a crack video, why should anyone else? The scandal was stashed in the bushes alongside his speech slurrings, conflict-of-interest court dramas and the rest.
As soon as Karen Stintz opened the Pandora’s Box of taxes to fund transit—a discussion Ford had fought to put off—last week’s council meeting turned sideways. Ford waltzed in and out of the chamber, councillors began proposing new subway routes, Giorgio Mammoliti accused 80 per cent of Finch Avenue riders of not paying their fares and Scarborough councillor Chin Lee told recalcitrant colleagues to “shut up and go home.” After more than two hours of voting, council didn’t endorse any specific taxes or fees, rejecting roughly a dozen options, and left a sales tax, development charges and a corporate tax cut rollback on the table. Ford and Stintz each tried to claim victory, while several other councillors deemed the outcome a total disaster. Below, the city’s columnists try to make sense of it all.
Rob Ford and Dalton McGuinty had trouble playing nice sometimes, and Kathleen Wynne’s arrival seemed like an opportunity to improve relations between Queen’s Park and city hall. Then Wynne embarked on an ambitious campaign to find new revenue sources (like taxes and tolls) to pay for transit expansion, a notion Ford has made very clear he doesn’t support. Things quickly devolved from there. Here, a timeline chronicling Ford and Wynne’s steadily souring relationship.
You left a rather prosperous job as a partner at a private firm six months ago to become Toronto’s chief planner, and you took a pay cut of more than 40 per cent in the process. Who does that?
I don’t know! Look: my friend died of cancer last year, at age 39. Gone. I know this sounds heavy, but I want every day to matter. I didn’t hate what I did, but I love what I’m doing now.
For a professional planner, you’ve got a surprisingly haphazard office. I count four paintings on the floor waiting to be hung. What’s the deal?
Oh no! I’m mortified, because I am actually extremely particular. I’ve got big dreams for this office, but I’m busy planning a city. The walls used to be yellow and there was bad art everywhere, so I painted everything white and ordered new furniture, and I don’t want to hang anything until it arrives.
You’re a big fan of bike lanes and walkable neighbourhoods, which can sometimes put you at odds with the mayor. Your husband played football against Ford in high school. Did that connection help break the ice?
It did. When I told him who I was married to, he said, “Oh, Tommy Freeman! He was big and fast!” My husband’s team won the Metro Bowl, and he was a starting rookie fullback at the University of Guelph. He was hard to miss if you were following football at the time.
Where did you two meet?
At Muskoka Woods summer camp. I was a basketball instructor; he was a waterski instructor. We got married 18 years ago. Today, he runs a company that sells products to five-star hotels—everything from lighting to art.
Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak sounded eerily like his good buddy Rob Ford yesterday in a speech to the Toronto Region Board of Trade. Hudak outlined his three-point plan for expanding Toronto’s transit system: (1) root out waste (one of Ford’s favourite pastimes); (2) subways, subways, subways, especially in Scarborough; and (3) no new taxes or tolls to pay for transit (Ford has been criticized—and mocked—for his staunch opposition to new revenue sources). Hudak even said Toronto is a city where “something has gone off the rails”—like, say, a gravy train? [Toronto Star]
I’m glad that Councillor Vaughan is taking a page out of my playbook that I’ve been preaching for the last two years…maybe he got hit over the head over the weekend.
—Private-sector investment buff Doug Ford, on why Adam Vaughan, one of the Ford camp’s most vociferous adversaries, has raised the idea of selling or leasing the Gardiner Expressway and using tolls to pay for much-needed repairs. Ford went on to joke that “maybe a coconut fell on his head and he realized, ‘Hey, the only way I can get things going…’ ” before a quick-thinking assistant cut off questioning. Vaughan, for his part, made a fruitless effort to distance his version of public-private partnerships from that of the Ford administration, saying he plans to help fund a transit system, while the Fords were focused only on a single subway line. [Globe and Mail]
While city hall spent a decade debating what to do with the Gardiner—Demolish it? Bury it? Raise it?—the expressway fell into ruin. The perils of chronic indecision
Torontonians spent most of the last decade studying, researching and letting their imaginations run wild with plans and proposals to boldly transform the Frederick G. Gardiner Expressway corridor. There was never any money to devote to the project, but never mind. Everyone weighed in. Let’s bury it! No, let’s turn it into a grand avenue! Design guru and public optimist Bruce Mau, in a fit of contrarian exuberance, proposed raising it even higher. Others suggested a cable-stayed double-decker version. Well, here endeth the lesson: while we were rapt in our salon-style discussion of the Gardiner’s bold future, it fell into ruin. So did our civic dreams. From now on, decisions will be made on the basis of affordability, expediency and convenience, not great design or
A report from the engineering firm IBI Group, commissioned by the city and made public in late October, called the Gardiner “a significant hazard to public safety.” It found that the regularly scheduled visual inspections conducted by city staff—in essence, little more than standing beneath the Gardiner and looking up—had greatly underestimated the extent of its deterioration. In areas where the spot checks turned up nothing, the report found hundreds of metres of cracks as well as signs of delamination—the process by which the steel rebar embedded in the concrete begins to rust, causing it to expand and break the roadbed apart from the inside.
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I recently offered my streetcar seat to a woman I was convinced was a mom-to-be, then smiled cherubically at her tummy. She politely declined and then, realizing my motivation, hissed, “I’m not [bleeping] pregnant!” and moved to the back. I was mortified. I’d rather be a gentleman than a coward, but I may never offer my seat again. Any advice?
—Recovering Samaritan, St. Clair West
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Driving without a seat belt is considered absurdly reckless. Why isn’t cycling without a helmet?
Any cyclist who’s ever been in an accident knows the feeling of being thrown upon the mercy of the grid. There is no way of predicting how the vectors will play out, nor any providence that can harness them, even for the most trifling mishap. All you can do is gird yourself.
Back in August, 47-year-old Joseph Mavec was cycling along quiet west end Wychwood Avenue when his bike’s front wheel got snagged in an old, unused streetcar track. My wife did the same thing eight years ago in the very same location and walked away with a scrape. Mavec struck his head on the pavement and quickly died. He was not wearing a helmet.
Fate was both crueler and kinder to Wendy Trusler. On July 19, 2000, Trusler was cycling north on Spadina toward College Street, back in the days when metal posts, not concrete curbs, separated the tracks from other traffic. She made a snap decision to cut across the tracks mid-block—and unwittingly into the path of a northbound 510 silently approaching at 50 kilometres an hour. “It was maybe 10 feet away from me when I saw it,” she says. “I only had time to turn my back to it.” The streetcar hit Trusler, and she bounced back and forth between it and the bollards for roughly five metres, the red rocket cracking the ribs on her left side, the posts snapping her right femur. By the time all moving bodies came to rest she had 17 broken bones, including her clavicle, shoulder blade, cheekbone and jaw. But she was wearing a helmet, and she suffered no cranial or brain trauma. Read the rest of this entry »
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More evidence of a new era at the TTC: cellphone service on subway platforms is in; maroon jackets are out
As soon as Andy Byford took the helm of the TTC in March, the changes began. He opted for a beefed up title—“CEO” rather than “general manager,” like those who held the position before him—to mark a symbolic change. He publicly chided staff for customer service embarrassments. He installed fancy hand dryers in station washrooms. Seven months into his tenure, the evolution continues. Here, three more signs that the TTC is moving into a new phase (we can only hope it’s a phase with less crowded streetcars).
Cellphone service is coming to subway stations
The old regime: Save for a few brief above-ground segments, subway riders operate in a digital blackhole.
The new regime: Officials estimate most stations will have service within two years. Some of the signals will likely bleed into the tunnels, making texting on the train a possibility, at least downtown where the stations are close together.
Is it a good thing? Though many will complain about feeling surrounded by loud talkers, it’ll be great to notify friends or colleagues in the event of (inevitable) subway-induced tardiness. Of course, the TTC could just try to keep the trains on schedule.