Public Spaces, Private Investment

CBC’s Metro Morning is running a series this week on the transformation of public space in Chicago by privately funded improvements.  Some flavour of the series is on their website here.

Why can’t we do this sort of thing in Toronto?  There is much hand wringing and bemoaning the lack of civic pride and good works that would make a truly Beautiful City.  Council rejects proposals of private funding for the renovation of Nathan Philips Square.  What are we thinking?

Well, take a good look at the Chicago photos on the CBC site.  You will notice, or rather not notice, something that is far too common here in Toronto:  advertising.

You can’t move in public spaces these days for advertising, and nothing gets built without a whacking great corporate logo on it.  What is the point of art and architecture when the dominant visual is whatever piece of dreck XYZ corporation is trying to sell this week?

If the private sector is really interested in making Toronto a better place, it will give us good, friendly spaces, impressive where that is appropriate, subtle, amusing and just refreshing where that’s what is needed.  A little plaque somewhere will tell us something about XYZ.

Nathan Phillips Square looks good without 10-storey-high neon advertising, thank you.

Why Run Good Service When You Can Just Take Them To Court? (Updated)

In today’s Toronto Star we learn that the TTC is rather miffed about a plan by Humber Bay condo owners to run a private bus to downtown.  It seems that the Queen car might not be The Better Way for these folks.

This is the second time recently the TTC’s legal folks have come into the public eye (the first was the anagram subway map fiasco).  For more info on that, go to’s website for selected articles on the subject at this link.  For the original map go to here.

Maybe it’s time for more service and fewer legal threats.

Since the original post, I’ve had some feedback from readers: Continue reading

The 100th New Tramway

The title here is taken from an article in the April 2006 issue of Tramways and Urban Transit which is published by the Light Rail Transit Association in the UK.

Their website, which contains a wealth of information about LRT systems, can be found here and is well worth a visit.

The significance of this article is twofold:

  • The first city on the list is Edmonton, Alberta which started the worldwide LRT renaissance in 1978.  The fact that Toronto managed to save its streetcar system in 1972 contributed to this because at least one major city decided that maybe streetcars were not such a bad thing after all.
  • Yesterday, of course, we learned of plans for more subway construction, a few busways and precious little else.  Certainly there was nothing remotely on the scale of A Grand Plan elsewhere on this site.

Sometime this year will mark the 100th addition to the list of “modern” LRT systems since Edmonton’s opened 27 years ago. 

Edmonton, Calgary and many other cities built Light Rail Transit while Toronto sat in the backwater.  We’re supposed to be a “world class city” but we seem content to follow the mistakes of the past 30 years.  

Mayor David Miller needs to stop saying “me too” to every subway pet project and start championing real alternatives that will improve transit now.  On CBC’s Metro Morning today, he said that the priorities were “state of good repair, ridership growth and subways”.  It’s time to start delivering on the whole package.

[The link to the LRTA from this page has been fixed.]

Subway Art: Watercolours by Sigmund Augustus Serafin

Many years ago, the TTC was cleaning house at 1900 Yonge and a lot of old stuff was heading to the garbage can.  The combined efforts of various fans saved some material that would otherwise have been lost thanks to Ted Wickson, now retired from the TTC, who alerted people to what was happening.

I took custody of eight watercolours of proposed station designs for the University and Bloor-Danforth subway lines painted in 1957 and 1958 by Serafin.  Recently, for the Bloor subway’s 40th birthday, I brought them out of storage and was amazed at their excellent condition.

James Bow’s site at Transit Toronto has many galleries, and it seemed a more appropriate location to display the paintings than here.  If you want to see them, follow this link to Transit Toronto.

TTC Cattle Cars Part 3: Passengers 2, Staff 1

I’m at a loss knowing where to begin on this.  If you’ve been following this thread, you will know that TTC staff really, really want their new subway cars to use “perimeter seating”.  This means that all of the seats face inward and there are no forward or rearward facing seats, no conversation nooks.  As if that isn’t bad enough, they want to use metallic seats with no cushions.  [Let us imagine a short theatrical pause here so you can catch your breath.]

This particular scheme has been before the public twice before that I know of.  The first outing was at February’s TTC meeting where it did not win high praise.  My own posts on the subject started about that time.  More recently, TTC staff showed up at a Rocket Riders meeting to talk about their design.  On that occasion, it appeared that both the new perimeter design and the existing T-1 compartment design were both on the table.  So far, so good. Continue reading

Review: TSO Shostakovich 8th

Since this site went live back in January, I have been remiss in posting almost exclusively items on transit even though there is another side to my life:  performing arts.  I will try to put items here, even though they may be short-lived, when I attend a particularly fine performance that others should know about.

On Wednesday evening, I attended the TSO’s concert, part of their Shostakovich centenary celebration this season.  On the program were Piano Concerto No. 1 with Alexander Toradze as the soloist and Symphony No. 8.  Stefan Sanderling conducted. Continue reading