Updated August 25 at 6:15 pm:
The function of a Transit Visitor Centre really needs to be understood. A “museum” and a “visitor centre” are not the same thing. The recent Customer Service report suggests that the TTC place information kiosks in major subway stations. Putting info where there are actually people may be a radical concept, but it is clearly the approach needed to make “information” broadly available. A tourist should not have to travel to Yonge & York Mills for info about how to get around the city.
There is a parallel desire for a “Museum of Toronto”. While that project, too, may be hobbled by a lack of funding and political interest, that’s the place any exhibits looking at the TTC’s history and role in city development should go.
A major concern with the museum is the availability of space. However, the proposed design consumes a considerable amount with static vehicle displays (although one of these is used for a theatre) and creates design problems for the new Head Office due to structural loads. An alternative location was rejected as having insufficient space (not to mention higher cost), but the new design promptly eats up space for vehicles that might otherwise not be needed.
When Council approved exploration of this project, it approved less than $100K to finance the work. However, the TTC actually spent about four times as much, and is now shuffling money between accounts to cover the shortfall. This is an example of the kind of budgetary sleight-of-hand that a proposal now before Council seeks to end.
The museum as a project needs to stand on its own merits and be seen in the context of a wider museum of Toronto. It is unclear why this project should be entirely financed by donations when other City museums receive municipal support. That’s only a ruse to allow this project to continue without attracting attention to funding needs.
My original post on this issue from August 23 follows the break.
Today there was an extensive, almost too-extensive, presentation on the proposed TTC Visitor Centre to be built as part of the proposed new Head Office space at Yonge & York Mills. Unfortunately, none of the presentation materials are online.
There is a covering report, but this only takes events up to the point where a non-profit corporation might be established to actually run with this project. It is noteworth that the date on this report is July 27 although it was on the August 23 agenda.
For the record, I am a member of the “Steering Committee”, a group of people invited to advise on this project. You can read the full list in the report.
The presentation today given by Lord Cultural Resources included an extensive section on the layout and design of the proposed Visitor Centre. The Steering Committee has never seen this material, and I was appalled that it was not placed before us, at the very least as a courtesy, before it was shown to the Commission. Clearly, our input is not particularly valued and this is a TTC project, for all the talk of an arm’s-length museum.
The huge irony here is that the TTC Customer Service Panel also reported today, and communication was a big issue for this panel (I will comment at length on their recommendations separately). With the Visitor Centre, the TTC shows its true colours once again.
I am deeply concerned that this proposal has been gerrymandered to be a showpiece for the new Head Office, and that it will be swept up in the political wrangling that already besets that project. This is a scheme that should be held over for the new Council and the new Commission. In any event, the time required to recruit a board for the museum corporation and raise funding, let alone the construction lead time for the new head office, make this a project for future years.
There is no rush, and the current regime should abandon these plans immediately.
The next time they want a “steering committee”, they might have the courtesy to let the panel do its job.