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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered


  1. I’ve been living for a short time in a certain other city that also has streetcars on narrow roads. Left turns are allowed, but blocking a streetcar is illegal and will get you a fine. If a streetcar is behind you, you must cancel your turn and drive straight or exit on the right.

  2. What Toronto does need is a “fareless square”, a zone of free or reduced-cost transit in the downtown. Many cities use this concept (Seattle, Portland, Denver) while others use zone fares that achieve a similar purpose (DC, SF). The one-fare system serves a good purpose for encouraging outlying residents to use transit to get to their jobs, schools, etc. but it ends up making for a very high cost for short trips. Who wants to pay $5.50 for a return trip from Yonge to Spadina on a streetcar? Toronto has a huge community of downtown residents who might take transit for downtown errands instead of wheeling their car out of the condo garage, but the TTC ignores them in favour of a focus on someone commuting from Finch. That’s fine for the greater good, but why ignore the downtowners who are not currently using TTC? Surely there is a way to find the right balance here.

  3. The islands badly need a ‘fixed-link’ for pedestrians and cyclists. I love the ferries, especially the big two-level ones, but the wait and the location in the middle of the Queen’s Quay touron mess dissuades me from going more than twice a year.

    The most beautiful solution is pedestrian-cyclist bridges, like the one on the Humber, at both eastern and western gaps. Can you imagine being able to ride the waterfront from the Humber to Balmy Beach, hardly having to negotiate Toronto’s asinine traffic?

    Keep the traditional ferries for the tourons to go straight to Centre Island. They’re welcome to it. Islanders and Toronto urbanites will make use of the bridges, and perhaps keep the Ward’s ferry to downtown for the lucky Islanders.

    If anybody in this city had a bit of vision, they’d get the bridge up on the east end, announce that the western bridge begins construction the day the province and Ottawa gets out of their way. Even a non-automotive ferry at each gap would be an improvement. Like the one to the airport, but without the airport in the way.

  4. uSkyscraper, I am not sure a fareless square would ever work in our political climate, but I love the idea anyway. In NY it’s been proven on Streetsblog that higher road tolls and free transit is a win financially, environmentally and for traffic congestion.

    I’ll tell you this, I think of other options when I have to consider using the TTC for a shopping errand of a few km: unpredictable waits, no a/c on the streetcars, schlepping my bags among overcrowding… Thank god for Autoshare; damn, another car on the road. Welcome to Toronto.

  5. At the risk of appearing naive, can someone tell me exactly where Don Mount Court/Rivertowne is?

  6. The Island airport, which serves few, would make such an awesome park/public space for the many. Its hard to believe that this no brainer does not have more support.

  7. scott d – there are several reasons, but one is that you don’t just snap your fingers and it becomes a park. There would be significant $$$$ involved in remediating such a site and no guaranteed revenue stream.

    As for airports and leisure being unable to co-exist, someone should tell the people of St. Maarten:

    Yes – that’s a 747 landing right over a public beach. Hell, the Island Airport is so useful even Al Gore used it.

    I have an alternative proposal. Leave the Island Airport where it is and move the Downsview Museum exhibits there to put a public non-transportation purpose in the site. Move Bombardier’s assembly line to a site with access to Pearson. Now you have the opportunity to double the size of Downsview Park, straighten Sheppard Avenue West and bring significant investment dollars into an area of the city that badly needs them.

    John Barber’s staggering arrogance has reached new levels today – “My advice to people who don’t get that is to keep quiet, unless they are willing to stand as fools before future generations”. He continues to bleat on about the provision of a public transportation service for which there is no realistic alternative right now (train to Newark anyone?), whereas as I pointed out yesterday we can’t even eliminate flights from Pearson to London (Ont.) Let him find a way to bring trains from Union to Ottawa in two hours and he won’t be hearing from Porter for much longer.

  8. Don Mount Court/Rivertowne is just east of the Don river, north of Queen Street, south of Dundas. Close to Queen & Broadview. The nabe is “Riverside”.

    Given how innovative the scheme is, I’m surprised how little press DMC got, especially since it’s a glimpse of the Regent Park revitalization and West Don Lands.

  9. As per uSkyscraper and jamesmallon’s comments on the impact of downtown fares, I would agree that service levels are the main impediment to me using the TTC more often for short trips. I already have a Metropass, so the cost for a short trip isn’t an issue — but having to wait 10 to 15 minutes for a 5-minute streetcar ride (and, even worse, the uncertainty over the wait due to bunching etc.) is an issue.

  10. uSkyscraper: Instead of a “fareless square”, which might reward downtown transit users over others, how about at least a 2 or 3 hour timed transfer? The person commuting from Finch would use up much of this time anyway, but would make a quick jaunt for an appointment, lunch, or shopping half of the current price, but still have commuters paying the same as they do now. It would also benefit downtown and suburban areas more equally.

  11. I am afraid the reason we won’t get any intelligent fare-deals is that the TTC’s mindset is desparate to get every fare-dollar from the turnstiles. The TTC is well known to be underfunded compared to AMERICAN (?!) transit systems, not to mention cities in the civilized world. Thank you citizens of the 905 for voting Harris.

  12. Mark>

    I never said you could snap your fingers and make a park happen. You said that. I think if there was will it could happen.

    In terms of remediation and other costs with no revenue stream I would remind you that the current “revenue stream” of the Island Airport is comprised of our own tax dollars or the from lawsuits by the TPA against the very citizens of Toronto. When the Island airport facilities even come close to making money let me know. As well, parks don’t have to have revenue streams. I would add that soil remediation can now happen in just over a year.

    I never said that leisure and airports cant co-exist, you did. In terms of St. Martin, you win the red herring award as the position of the runway is out of necessity as the country is only 14 square miles and like many islands it is the only flat place to put a runway. Most islands don’t get that many flights during the day and the people in the video, and many other videos, are there BECAUSE of the plane; they dont actually spend the day sunbathing under jet wash. Nobody does its loud and dirty. I suspect that you were pulling my leg.

    When I stand at the fence at Hanlans looking at the Island Airport I ask why is this here? THe Island Airport is another Gardiner.

  13. TTC is still mismanaged and the bungling is seen in frequent news reports. It has become a bloated bureaucracy that at its heart does not care about “better service” and wants to continue its path to mega-hugeness.

    True vision and new thinking are absent. Given environmental concerns and traffic gridlock, plans should be made NOW to move towards free access across the entire system. Premiums (road tolls, etc) should be levied on those who insist on using cars as a disincentive. Those premiums would go to pay for public transit (along with property + business taxes. Kind of a “sin tax” like obacco and alcohol.

  14. I have mellowed my views on the Island airport in lieu of the service provided by Porter (useful, avoids rail-link-less Pearson, and is the best tourist asset Toronto has right now). There is plenty of Island to enjoy as park, if only people could get to it easier. Imagine if Central Park or Bryant Park required $6.50 admission – they would lose their energy, their programming, the synergy of crowds (Sheep’s Meadow + bikinis = well attended park)…

    By all means get that ped bridge up on the Eastern Gap, and perhaps run a perimeter bike path around the airport to connect to the airport ferry on the Western Gap.

    Here’s my favourite bridge suitable for rolling up when ships need to pass: Imagine a giant one of those sitting out there on the water…

  15. Sorry, here is the bridge link:

  16. With regards to Christopher Hume’s article, it is nice to see more small grocery stores returning to the neighbourhoods of the urban core. I would like to see fewer of the big box style markets such as the no frills, loblaws and price choppers..we really don’t need that many we?
    perhaps more small grocery stores like the ones shown in the attached blog…they seem to have it right..

  17. Taking transit is already much cheaper then using a car. Lowering the cost more won’t make a big difference for most people to take a car now. It will only discourage walking which should be promoted ahead of transit.

    Making the TTC free would cost millions of dollars. If that same money was given to the TTC without reducing fares, they could substantially improve service which will attract more riders with the same money then making the TTC free.

    As for the poor, we should help them out more directly, rather then through free transit.

  18. scott d – I was only addressing you directly in the first paragraph – I’m sorry the post was a bit unstructured but I was a bit vexed having read John Barber’s dismissal of many people in this city as basically heretics.

    Re: YTZ as a park – I wasn’t saying it couldn’t be done at all but rather that money would a substantial impediment to getting it done within the City’s normal funding envelopes. I assume we both know that Parks and Rec are frequent victims of cost cutting at Budget and so a major concrete removal and remediation project would be a significant financial challenge with no offsetting income, short of increasing the $2 ferry surcharge.

    My point was that in contrast a redevelopment of Downsview would be likely to generate a substantial amount of money to fund a substantial public asset in the area whereas building condos on the island is obviously out of the question.

    Further, the lawsuits you mention in your latter posts were triggered by the City of Toronto reneging on a binding business deal (the bridge), however intentioned that decision was. Prior to David Miller’s mayoralty, that $30m that Robert Deluce got to bankroll Porter was nowhere in sight. That was federal cash so Vancouverians shared our pain.

    Adam Vaughan did his best to get Porter/TPA another payday by threatening to make the end of Bathurst a fire route while explicitly talking about impeding Porter’s business.

    As for St. Maarten – I am a fan of chain-yanking, it’s true…

  19. uSkyscraper – how wide is the Eastern Gap – something like 150m? That curling bridge is only 12m in span – I hope it scales well! Otherwise I like the idea 🙂

  20. Ryan, there’s some great architecture in those supermarkets you linked to, but I didn’t see a vibrant streetscape surrounding any of them. I’d argue they have a lot in common with suburban big box stores. I’d love to see more grocery stores integrated into other buildings, like has been done with the Queen’s Quay Sobey’s and the Dominions at College Park and the Merchandise Building.

  21. Does anybody here care about the environmental impact that the ferries have when they are used? A bridge would eliminate this source of pollution in the harbor,not to mention the “idle time” that adds up to hours per year.The whole whole island must become a park, otherwise the city will be forced to build a “green island ” in the harbor as green space to offset the building of condos and other projects downtown.It is this councils requirement to do so.

    In fact mayor Miller and the premier was at a new building groundbreaking today at the waterfront.

  22. MAtt L. you are right the locations of these beautifully designed grocery stores are in some suburban and rural austrian landscapes….I was just trying show that grocery stores can be built on an smaller urban scale and also bring in customers that are looking for more than just a deal on eggs.
    I really liked their process of selecting architects for the each building, young up and comers to the field.

  23. This is North America, not Europe, and the hallmark of a successful 24-hr downtown is a big-box supermarket tucked in among the skyscrapers. Toronto is amazing in this regard, and most US cities would kill for all those Loblaws and Dominions. Kill! Even Manhattan is only recently getting true full-size supermarkets (via Whole Foods) to replace the cramped, ripoff excuses for grocery stores that used to dominate. The only small-format supermarket that works on this continent is Trader Joe’s, and it would be cause for weeks upon weeks of celebrations, parades, fireworks and thankful assemblies to the heavens if Toronto could get one of those. In the meantime, be very happy with your big supermarkets, Torontonians!

  24. I think free isn’t possible the way the TTC is set up, there are other issues with the way it’s set up, but maybe another time. In many cities you don’t buy a ride, you buy ride time, so for example for $1.50 you buy an hour, for $2.25 you buy 2 hours, for $3 you buy 3 hours.

    Best way to do this is a magnetic fare card, the card is filled by an ATM style machine (which accepts, cash, debit and credit cards). When you get on, you insert your card into a machine, it detects whether a trip is valid or not, if yes, it shows a green light to the operator, and you board. If not, you select how long you want, and it deducts that amount, and marks a trip open, with an expiry time. You are shown how much is left on your card, and when it will expire. It then shows the green light to the operator. You have until that expiry time to do whatever you want, including a round trip. This would eliminate the expense of transfers, tickets, tokens, and most fare disputes, in that no green light, you don’t board. Stations could use a system similar to unmanned entrances,

    The same card could be used for day, week or monthly passes as well, it just marks the trip as valid until the pass would expire,

  25. Does anybody know how much it costs to have the fare structure in place? Much of the expense goes into labour, printing, enforcing. How much money would be saved if all of that was done away with?

  26. “” hehe. Why are words starting with SN funny, like “snausages”?

    A pair of ped/bike bridges to the islands would be a great “image-making” opportunity as well. Sure, it wouldn’t be Sydney Harbour, Golden Gate or Lion’s Gate but there’s no reason they still couldn’t be as elegant.

    The curly caterpillar bridge is clever but something more along the lines of the Humber Bridge would look better but that type would be a hazard to airplanes. They’d also have to be high enough or drawbridge style to allow ships to pass. The whole route would then become something like Stanley Park’s Seawall and it would boost the Islands toward Central or Stanley Park status.

    Btw, it was Aidan, if memory serves, who first proposed this brilliant idea right here.

  27. Wow, someone’s got a memory. A non-auto link is such an obvious, that I can’t imagine my idea was all that original.

    I wonder about the perimeter path around the airport. I bet Transport Canada has some issues with that. If it were for the safety of people on the ground, I could respect it, but it’s likely some misguided and useless security measure. The beach on the Lake Ontario side of the Island Airport is closed off, isn’t it?

    Even given the cheap-out nature of our city (province, country…), I don’t see why we couldn’t have an open ferry from the Ward’s dock to something around ‘The Docks’ or ‘T&T’ on Cherry as a cheaper alternative to a bridge. Makes too much sense, and the Island people would find something not to like.

  28. I have not “threatened” to make Eireann Quay. I did make it a fire route. This was after the TPA and Fire Services said that cueing taxi’s or parking cars blocked emergency vehicle access to the airport ferry.

    What the TPA is taking the city to court over involves the lease that governs the BQ1 lands. This is the parking lot that runs between the park and Eireann Quay. The TPA wishes to use it as cueing lanes and wants to move a sidewalk from the street to the park effectively widning the road next to a school from two to five lanes. The City has said no and wants the sidewalk built according to the lease and the road maintained as a two lane access route to the ferry.

    at no point are costs being sought by either side. What is at stake is whether a road will be built to serve the airports needs or whether a road will be built to serve the neighbourhoods needs. I side with the neighbourhood.


  29. Alas, the airport security issue would probably be the trump card at the western gap. But bridge the eastern gap for now and let the momentum build.

    Then there’s also that huge splat of asphalt at the now-mothballed Rochester ferry terminal.

  30. Thanks for the reply Adam. That is certainly not how it appeared in the press at the time after service of the lawsuit, where it was represented that this was your initiative, not a response to one by TPA.

    @hunter, funny you should mention the mothballed ferry terminal – I wonder if anything came of this, or was it just TPA trying to look like it was doing something:

    I’d rather see it running “GO ferries” to St. Catharines and Niagara on the Lake or better yet a truck ferry to somewhere between Youngstown and Lewiston to free up the border crossings.

    One look at google maps shows that the principal advantage of ferries – cutting the corner created by the shape of the lake – starts to go away just beyond the east shore of the Niagara Falls waterway.

  31. Adam Vaughan getting his comments distorted in the media? I don’t know if I can take all that irony at once.