WordPress 3.0 Implementation

This site is undergoing maintenance to the “look-and-feel” of a new WordPress theme, but is available for general use. During this period, you may see the site with a different appearance from normal as new software is tested.

Style mavens who wish to complain about the current layout should find some other useful way to occupy their time. This is a work in progress.

Things I have already fixed/changed:

  • The original default typesize was a tad too small.  I have bumped it slightly, and also changed the option of how available sizes are displayed for selection.
  • The ability to get an RSS feed for an individual article still exists in WordPress 3.0, but was not included in the new default template.  I have updated the comment section so that this feed now appears just above the comment box.
  • Block quotes now have a shaded background so that the italicized text is not confused for comments of my own.
  • Modify CSS so that underscored text does not intercept character descenders (accessibility).
  • Various links did not need to be underscored (next/previous post, for example).  They no longer have it to save on cluttering up the layout.
  • Bullets in lists have been changed from square to disc.
  • Modify CSS so that some fields now displayed in black are shown in dark green, the standard colour of this site.
  • Make the swan avatar appear without the tedious repetition of an ad-hoc bio line on every post.
  • Implement green/brown colour scheme for links.
  • Fix menu area so separators are all green regardless of “visited/unvisited” status.

Works in progress/planned:

  • Mobile support using standard plugins (see separate post on this topic).
  • Block mobile displays from starting with the complete text of the menu bar and all of its options.

A Note to Would-Be Politicians

I have received a few comments from candidates for various offices.

Please note that I do not intend to post any of these unless they bear directly on the issue where they appear, and then are comments on the issue rather than advertisements for the candidate.

If you want to publish your candidacy to the world, get your own website, use Facebook and take your chances with whatever traffic you might achieve.

As and when major candidates publish transit policies, I will comment on them, but on my terms.

A Small Change to Link Appearance

Recently, I received a comment that the hyperlinks in articles are not always obvious given that unvisited links are in green and not easily spotted in the body of an article’s text.

I have tweaked the style sheet so that these links are now underscored.

Four Years

Four years ago today, stevemunro.ca came to life as what I thought might be a handy, small blog where I could make available comments and analysis on a variety of (mainly) transit issues.  It didn’t quite work out that way, and I’ve been quite pleased at the way this site has grown as a forum.

Daily page views are now sitting in the 2-3,000 range, although the all-time high (4,723) arrived on the day I published the old GM “New Look” product literature.  I think the gods of blog activity are having a laugh at my expense with the most popular post being one about buses.

Some people don’t like the fact that this is a pro-LRT site.  That’s their privilege.  I am not against subways or buses, but each mode has its place, and for far too long Toronto (and Queen’s Park) ignored what hundreds of other cities are doing.  The subway and LRT camps need to view transit improvement as the goal, rather than arguing a zero-sum game in which any “gain” for one mode is a “loss” for the other.

The heart of this site is the readers and the comments they leave.  Back in April 2009 came the landmark of 10,000 active comments.  We will hit 15,000 early in February.

All those comments make for a lively conversation whether we agree with each other or not.  I think this improves the general quality of transit advocacy in Toronto because people get to read about and discuss issues in depth.

This blog is well read in professional and political circles, and I have often been complimented on the quality and range of the discussions here.  It’s not just the pearls of wisdom, such as they may be, from my electronic pen that attracts such an audience.

Thank you to all the readers.  Without your contributions, this would be a rather quiet place.

Top of the Season

As I write this late on Christmas Eve, there is still no snow on the roads outside of my window.  Even so, my small tree is aglow with lights, and I’m looking forward to much good food and company for the following week.

Best wishes to all!

Keeping My Hand Out Of The Cookie Jar

After my appearance on Metro Morning today, an interesting question came up from a caller — am I paid for the work I do by the TTC?

The answer, quite emphatically, is no.  The last time the TTC paid me for anything was in 1969 when I left a clerical position there to return to school.

My professional life throughout the entire period of my transit activism has been in the Information Technology sector, most recently as Operations Manager for the Toronto District School Board’s IT department.  I have my opinions about how TDSB was managed, but I keep them to myself as befits the role of an employee, and my advocacy has been in other sectors, mainly transit.  I retired at the end of March.  And, yes, as a manager I appeared on the “sunshine list” for 2008.

Over the decades, I have co-authored a few small reports for non-TTC agencies and have received small honoraria for appearing at community events.  A $50 Chapter’s gift card is not going to change my lifestyle or buy my opinion.

I’ve been to countless meetings where the refreshments ranged from pizza and sandwiches, cookies, coffee, cold drinks (if you get there early), water or nothing at all.  People buy me a beer now and then.  Oh yes, Bombardier bought me breakfast once.  I think it cost them about $15.  Dinners at the Ritz are not my lot.

I am actually paid, but not much, for the articles I write in spacing magazine.  The hard copy version, not the blog.

Part of being a “transit advocate” is to talk to people, to advise them on the details of my thoughts on issues.  These have ranged over the years through the media, many parts of City Hall and Queen’s Park, community groups, even people within the TTC.  Some listen more than others, but an advocate can’t expect to hit 100%.  It’s the consistency and credibility of the message that matters.

I must say that the current environment both at the TTC and City Hall are a vast improvement over the days when talking to me was a firing offence at the TTC.  That was a few Chief General Managers ago, and it’s not hard to figure out which CGM might have been so insecure as to have such an attitude.  David Gunn was a huge breath of fresh air by contrast.

There are times that what I say supports TTC policies, and more times when I am highly critical.  Indeed, there have been occasions when I do a better job of explaining what the TTC is up to than their own staff do (or can, given constraints on what employees can say).

Would I like to be paid for all of this?  Well, at times I wonder why I do it, particularly all the work of maintaining this site, but it’s for a good cause.  My cause may not align with the views others have of Toronto’s planning and transit.  They are free to advocate on their own, although I have a few years’ head start.

The moment I get paid, my role would be suspect, and after a long period as a pro bono advocate, showing up as a paid spokesman might confer a credibility undeserved by the client.  I’m not selling my reputation.

The 2005 Jane Jacobs Prize was a special honour in recognition of years of work.  When I did a quick calculation, the $15k award came out to well under $1 an hour, although it was tax free.  The honour was to receive this from Jane while she was still alive, and that I share it with so many others of distinction in our city.  There is no formal requirement of the prize, although continuing my effort is likely assumed.  It’s hard to imagine anyone on that award list treating it as a chance to retire from public life.

If I ever take on paid work, I will be the first to declare it here so that any possible conflict of interest is visible to all.

Coming Soon

Welcome to the department of Best Intentions.  I’m still working on the backlog of ideas for articles while leading a life that does not include staring at the Word Press Edit screen.

Ideas in the pipeline, not necessarily in this order, include:

  • TTC streetcar fleet planning for the “legacy” system
  • Review of the Metrolinx Benefits Case Analysis for the Yonge Subway Richmond Hill Extension
  • Transit City update
  • Steeles West Station design
  • Queen Car Split operational review (pending arrival of the TTC vehicle monitoring data for October)
  • A discussion of TTC fares

10,001 Comments

As I write this, there are now 10,001 approved comments on this site.

Congratulations to you, the readers and prolific writers (and even to those of you who only lurk most of the time) for making this site as good as it is.  If I only wrote articles hoping that someone read them, it would be a dull place.  The comments, both those supporting what I write and those of a differing slant, really make this a discussion, and the threads evolve very quickly.

So, as they used to say, keep those cards and letters coming!