A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Archive for the ‘Toronto’ Category

[URBAN NOTE] “What will Toronto be like in 2067? Probably not like this”

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blogTO’s Chris Bateman reports on a 1967 set of predictions by The Globe and Mail about Toronto in 2067, two centuries after Canada’s formation. Frankly, this future sounds terribly dystopian.

“North American cities may face nuclear demolition or cultural collapse,” John Burchard, dean of the school of humanities and social studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, ominously warned at the start of the story. “If, however, they escape both, they might become beautiful.”


“Toronto will be totally urbanized by 2067,” reporter Betty Lee wrote. “The majority of urban-orientated Torontonians will prefer the inbuilt efficiency of the mile-high apartment building or the 20-mile long, continuous metro building of fused apartments, factories, roads, universities, hospitals, and shopping facilities.”

(Lee seems to have been talking about Metro Centre, the later aborted plan to redevelop a large swath of abandoned downtown railway lands that gave rise to the CN Tower.)

“About a million persons will choose to live in pre-packaged, one-family dwelling units,” many of them located in 100-floor towers near the water front.

In 2067, buildings, all built on stilts for reasons for some reason, sit among landscaped lawns and parks, she writes. Downtown is home to a “three-harbor hydrofoil” port and air terminal, but most people get around via “electrically powered hovercraft,” which are stored in skyscraper garages. (That classic sci-fi invention the people tube makes an appearance, but only for inter-city travel.)

Written by Randy McDonald

April 9, 2014 at 11:03 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “Rob Ford adds Ben Johnson, Trailer Park Boys actor to campaign team”

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I thought this news was a joke when I heard it, but no, it’s got multiple citations. The Toronto Star‘s Daniel Dale reported that disgraced Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson and a minor actor from the television show Trailer Park Boys are

Rob Ford, known internationally for his illegal drug use, emerged from his office on Tuesday afternoon to announce a new member of his campaign team: disgraced former sprinter Ben Johnson, known internationally for his illicit steroid use.

Johnson was stripped of the gold medal he had won for Canada at the 1988 Olympics with the help of a banned substance. He received a lifetime ban from competition after a second failed test in 1993.

Ford is seeking the redemption never granted to Johnson. Asked about Johnson’s past, he returned to his familiar refrain about forgiving errors.

“You know what? I support Ben 100 per cent,” Ford said. “We’ve all made mistakes in life. I’ve supported him from day one. And that’s the bottom line.”

[. . .]

Joining them was Sam Tarasco, an actor from Trailer Park Boys, a Canadian television comedy about petty criminals.

Ford referred to him as “Cave,” short for “caveman,” an insult used on the show to describe his character, Sam Losco, who lost a trailer park election after he was drugged before a campaign speech.

Johnson and Tarasco are the first prominent people to sign on to Ford’s team, other than brother and campaign manager Doug Ford. Rob Ford said they would be joining him at events.

Written by Randy McDonald

April 9, 2014 at 3:56 am

[PHOTO] A rainy afternoon on Bathurst at St. Clair, looking east

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A rainy afternoon on Bathurst at St. Clair, looking east

There was something very lovely about the precipitation that hit Toronto on the afternoon of Friday, April the 4th. It was liquid! Warmth, and spring, are lovely.

Written by Randy McDonald

April 5, 2014 at 3:58 am

[PHOTO] Looking northeast, Church and Maitland

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Looking northeast, Church and Maitland

I took this photograph of the intersection of Church and Maitland late on the 21st of March, arguably the first warm day this year. Located in the Church and Wellesley just one block south of the intersection that gives the gaybourhood its name, the Church and Maitland intersection arguably has. Most of the gay bars in the Village is concentrated in its immediate area, for instance.

The business at the center of this picture is the Church St. Garage, which opened last year in the place of the departed Village Rainbow.

Written by Randy McDonald

April 4, 2014 at 10:25 am

[PHOTO] Looking south on Dovercourt towards Bloor, 1 April 2014

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Looking south on Dovercourt towards Bloor, 1 April 2014

I took this photo last night at 7:40 or so. I love that it’s so bright so late now.

Spring will be glorious.

Written by Randy McDonald

April 3, 2014 at 2:08 am

[URBAN NOTE] “What Dovercourt Road used to look like in Toronto”

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blogTO’s Derek Flack has a has a nice collection of maps and century-old photographs concerning Dovercourt Road, the north-south road of note in my west-end neighbourhood.

Dovercourt Road takes its name from the once-prominent Denison family, whose land holdings included a stretch of the street. Neither a main thoroughfare nor a sleepy residential enclave, there’s something quintessentially Toronto about Dovercourt. At various points in its history, the street seemed on the brink of becoming more developed, particularly when it was home to a streetcar route, but aside from little hubs of activity at main intersections (notably Queen, Argyle, College, Bloor and Hallam), it never really happened en masse.

To the north, Dovercourt was originally home to poor English migrants who lived in shack-like structures spread around what is now Dupont. As industry developed on that street and along Geary Avenue (formerly Main Street) around the turn of the 20th century, Dovercourt Park became a bonafide neighbourhood, the heart of which was located at the intersection of Hallam. Surprisingly, both streets were served by streetcars at the time, and there was arguably even more traffic at the intersection in the 1920s than there is today.

Dovercourt and Argyle, once home to the Ideal Bread Company (now a rather nice condo), also feels like a mini-hub thanks in part to the presence of Luna Cafe. Ditto for the intersection at Foxley, which is home to Julie’s Cuban and one of those classic residential Toronto variety stores. I’ve always liked this stretch of the street for the degree that it speaks to an older version of the city, one in which corner stores and lunch counters could be found scattered in neighbourhoods off main streets.

If there’s a stretch of Dovercourt that’s been preserved the most over the years, it’s to be found between College and Bloor, where stately homes are set back from the road and look pretty much the same as they did in the 1950s (see photo below). It’s a shame not to have an old picture of the Matador to share here, but the latest iteration of 466 Dovercourt will retain the iconic sign, so there’s no need to get too mournful.

Written by Randy McDonald

April 3, 2014 at 1:14 am

[URBAN NOTE] “Crude awakening”

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NOW Toronto‘s Cynthia McQueen writes about how the stretch of railroad in midtown Toronto–a stretch that roughly parallels Dupont Street and runs just behind my home, actually–is being used to transport processed oil. The potential for catastrophe is obvious, although I can say that going through my neighbourhood the trains move slowly, at least.

Ken Brown has lived near the Canadian Pacific stretch of tracks between Avenue and Yonge for 42 years.

Since the 72-railcar explosion in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, that killed 47 people last summer, he’s noticed something unnerving: an increase in DOT-111 tankers carrying oil through the neighbourhood. In fact, those railcars that derailed in Lac-Mégantic, carrying highly volatile Bakken oil from North Dakota, came through Toronto en route to that disaster.

Brown has counted at least two trainloads of oil with 100 cars each passing through Toronto every day.

[. . .]

Keith Stewart, a climate and energy specialist with Greenpeace, sees security concerns as “largely manufactured to decrease transparency.”

The difficulty with rail, he says, is that constitutionally it was “granted all these extraordinary powers because at that time building the rail lines was about constructing the country, and so right now they’re still almost completely impervious to outside regulation apart from the federal government.”

Stewart, too, has noticed an increase in DOT-111 tanker traffic on the CP tracks running through his Dupont-and-Dufferin neighbourhood in the last five years.

“There’s been a huge increase, and that’s been done with no oversight,” he says. “All you have to do is watch the train tracks. If you see the cars are DOT-111 tankers, you know they’re filled with oil.”

For 20 years, the TSB has commented on the vulnerability of DOT-111s because of their thin hulls, among other things. But a phase-out plan currently under way means they’ll be in use for another 10 years.

Written by Randy McDonald

April 3, 2014 at 1:11 am

[URBAN NOTE] “Public Works: Reconsidering the Town Square”

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Torontoist’s Peter Goffin makes the case that Toronto has much to learn from Washington D.C. in the use of parks and public space, specifically in having a lot of public space that isn’t necessarily accessible.

In 2012, architecture, planning, and design firm Gensler launched “The Town Square Initiative,” a challenge to its designers to “unearth and re-imagine” public space in major cities around the world. Hypothetical designs were thought up for Shanghai, Tokyo, New York, Chicago, and many more. But perhaps the one most applicable to Toronto was devised for Washington, D.C.

In tourism pamphlets and establishing shots for House of Cards, it’s clear Washington has a lot of great public space. The iconic National Mall alone is over three kilometres of public square. Why, they could probably fit, like, a million people there. The city’s grid, designed in the 1790s, is famous for its wagon-wheel configuration. Roads angle out like spokes from circular centres, creating a bevy of small, round, or triangular plots of land, many of which have been put to use as public space.

But, as D.C. has developed from a modest government town into the heart of a thriving greater metropolitan area that is a home to 5.8 million people, the centralized spaces that have served the city for centuries have become less accessible to a large number of residents. The Washington Post declared the National Mall too big to serve as a proper community space. One assumes it might be overly touristy, too. How much community-building can take place in a spot where half the people are just trying to find the Air and Space Museum? And, as for the vaunted 18th-century city grid, it “disintegrates along the city’s southern borders, where it collides with the Anacostia and Potomac rivers,” Gensler’s Carolyn Sponza writes. That means none of the neat colonial-planned public space for Washingtonians outside the city’s core.

Toronto has had a similarly difficult relationship with major public space. Ninety years ago, University Avenue was slated to be our landmark, our National Mall. That dream died with the start of the Depression.

Written by Randy McDonald

April 2, 2014 at 11:06 pm

[URBAN NOTE] On the 60th anniversary of the Yonge subway

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On Saturday the 30th, the Yonge subway line celebrated its 60th anniversary of operation. Stretching from Union station north along Yonge Street to Eglinton, this 1954 subway line was the first built in Canada, and is still the spine of the entire transit grid in Toronto.

  • blogTO’s Chris Bateman had a photo essay showing how politicians and the general people reacted to the subway. One commenter notes that users seemed rather excited to be riding the line.
  • Torontoist’s Jamie Bradburn outlined a barely-avoided moment of pique, as Ontario’s premier and Toronto’s mayor found a way to share the on switch for the cameras.
  • Transit Toronto’s Robert Mackenzie has a very nice, detained two-part overview (1, 2) of the histo and impact of the Yonge line.What was the first ride like? What streetcar and bus routes were transformed? Mackenzie has it all.
  • Finally, from the Tumblrverse comes
  • lexestrex’s beautiful image showing the original different colour schemes of the different subway stations along the line. (I reshared it on my Tumblr.)

Written by Randy McDonald

April 1, 2014 at 3:59 am

[LINK] Some Monday links

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  • Crooked Timber’s Henry Farrell is skeptical of Josh Marshall’s new journalism site featuring paid advertisements from Big Pharma.
  • The Dragon’s Tales’ Will Baird provides another update about Ukrainian events.
  • Joe. My. God. notes that World Vision Canada, unlike its American counterpart, is legally required not to discriminate against non-heterosexuals.
  • Language Hat links to a study on the formerly Russophone Alaskan community of Ninilchik.
  • Language Log suggests that handwriting is a dying art in East Asia, too.
  • Marginal Revolution links to a book on maritime conflicts in the South China Sea.
  • The Signal features a guest post from two librarians working for the Library of Congress explaining how they do their work.
  • Savage Minds explains the myth of the sexy librarian.
  • Torontoist has two photos memorializing recently-closed stores, one from the World’s Biggest Bookstore and the other from Sears in the Eaton Centre.

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