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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Toronto’s Public Spaces in 2005

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Both Eye Weekly and NOW ran excellent 2005 year in review features. Here’s the stuff they pointed out that the Spacing Wire thinks is worth mentioning.

At Eye Weekly, they highlighted the launch of [murmur]’s third story-telling intervention along Spadina Avenue. There are over 150 stories to pick from — just spot the green ear, call the number on it, and select a story by a local Torontonian. Genius.

 The TTC was in the news a lot. The good stuff: new transferable Metropasses, bike racks on buses, video advertising screens were not placed in subway cars, facelifts for some subway stations near cultural institutions were proposed, some dearly needed money starting to flow from the Feds via the new gas tax, and the wonderful subway parties by newmindspace. The bad stuff: Save Our St. Clair’s legal battles with the city over the St. Clair right-of-way (we hope SOS received a whole truckload of coal in their stockings), video advertising screens were added to subway platforms (when what we really needed was news about bus delays or when the next train was arriving), the proposed designs for the above mentioned subway station facelifts were rather disappointing, and the city’s own Live With Culture campaign had to pay advertising fees to Viacom Outdoor for the space they used at Eglinton station — that’s right, the city had to buy back its own space.

There were many environmental issues worth celebrating. We can swim at Toronto beaches again — you can identify a clean beach by the Blue Flag. The private tree bylaw went into effect, which protects trees from random felling, thus helping the city protect the dwindling urban forest. The Ontario government’s greenbelt legislation should halt unabated sprawl in the GTA. Not worth celebrating was the record number of smog days Toronto experienced.

Ad creep finally became a news-friendly topic. EUCAN’s 7-foot tall recycling and trash bins hit the streets and no one really liked them. “Info” pillars that sit at the edges of our parks and civic squares were quietly launched — the only problem with the pilot project (a joint venture between the city and Astral Media) is that the “info” (a map of downtown T.O.) does not face pedestrians on the sidewalk. Strangely, the ads are positioned perfectly for drivers to see.

Over at NOW, they covered similar topics but found their own take on events: Councillor Kyle Rae received lumps for suggesting that the TTC be taken over by the Ontario government. The Toronto Port Authority failed to have a terminal built for the Rochster ferry on time — instead, they set up a tent (glad to know the $35 million payoff for no bridge to the island airport is going to good use). City Councillor and mayoral hopeful Jane Pitfield suggested a new transit line through Crother Woods Park instead of the available rail land in nearby Don Valley. Councillor Shelley Carroll wanted to “tranquilize, fix, and release” raccoons in her ward. The TTC fare hike sucked. The horrible idea of building an aquarium on the CNE grounds was squashed. The City took a developer to the OMB — and won! — protecting the sunlight needed for the Alex Wilson community garnden. The Front Street Extention plans were put on hold. Queen West was to be turned into a pedestrian zone for Car Free Day but city council decided against it. The city decides to crack down on graffiti by fining property owners for not removing the “blemish” within 72 hours. The Bike Plan had a great effect this year — one kilometre of a bike lane was created. And the anti-idling crackdown was pathetic with only six officers handing out tickets while we experienced a record number of smog days. Best of all are the quotes of the year from our politicians and personalities.