A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Archive for the ‘Toronto’ Category

[URBAN NOTE] “Savouring the city with each step”

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Josh O’Kane writes about how his walks throughout Toronto have helped him, originally from New Brunswick, get to know his adopted city. I can testify that this works.

For more than four years, I have walked to and from work. But that’s about to change.

It’s about three kilometres each way, which is more than I used to walk in a week. I grew up in Saint John, N.B., in a car culture so ingrained that I’d drive to the cinemas a block from my parents’ house. In undergrad, I never lived more than two minutes from campus. Walking always seemed like a waste of time.

Now, I’m in Toronto. I hated the pedestrian commute at first, despite the city’s sheer walk-ability. There was little joy in those first few months of sore legs, or on those days spent trudging more than an hour through a blizzard or rain storm. But here’s the thing: It’s still better than standing for 15 minutes in a blizzard or monsoon, waiting for a streetcar that never comes.

I’m a reporter here at The Globe and Mail, trained to dispassionately report the news, and a millennial culturally moulded to express any personal feelings through sarcasm; I am not used to earnestness. But I would be lying if I didn’t acknowledge that walking to work everyday has made me both physically and mentally healthier. It wakes me up in the morning and winds me down at night. And walking has shown me what Toronto is, shown me how Toronto is changing and made Toronto feel like home.

After throwing out the flyers in my mailbox each morning, I start zig-zagging through the West End then cut through Trinity Bellwoods Park. As I pass by Gore Vale Avenue, I glance up at my old apartment, a basement palace on the park, torn from my clutches four years ago. It was here that I first decided to walk to work – an easy 20 minute stroll.

Moving west forced me further away from The Globe, though it only made the walk more interesting. I grew up a music fan far from Toronto and learning who I share my community with has been a pleasant surprise. Sometimes, I’ll see Broken Social Scene’s Kevin Drew holding court outside a coffee shop or the Barenaked Ladies’ Jim Creeggan running with his dog. Or, after cutting through Bellwoods, I might notice Ron Sexsmith, eyes glazed, walking to the store.

Written by Randy McDonald

December 9, 2016 at 5:30 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “Toronto Community Housing moves funding to address budget gap”

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The Toronto Star‘s Jennifer Pagliaro writes about the latest problems with Toronto Community Housing finding money to do the long-needed repairs to its stock.

The Toronto Community Housing board voted Thursday to amend its 2017 budget, taking $19 million in recently identified surplus funds in order to reduce a $35.2-million shortfall.

That change takes some pressure off Mayor John Tory and the budget committee, who are looking to close a $91-million gap in the city’s overall operating budget.

Having used most of the surplus to cut the shortfall, TCHC will likely use money from a different source to boost its spending to fix crumbling buildings. It’s expected that the board will draw $22 million from special reserve funds specifically for capital repairs — further burdening the city’s finances in 2018. But it helps TCHC to fund a total of $250 million in repairs next year.

Choosing to use the surplus in this way, which is ultimately up to the board, contradicts advice from interim CEO Greg Spearn that the priority for any additional funds should be capital repairs and residents’ homes.

“Toronto Community Housing does not have the money to maintain our residents’ units at a proper state of repair today and we certainly don’t have the money to improve them properly for the future,” Councillor Joe Cressy, who sits on the board, told the Star. “The City of Toronto should take a stand in repair of good, decent housing for residents of TCHC and unfortunately we let the city off the hook today.”

Written by Randy McDonald

December 9, 2016 at 5:00 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “TTC to complete Presto switch by 2018”

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The Toronto Star‘s Ben Spurr reports on the hot mess that is Presto implementation for the TTC. I see a long nightmare ahead.

The TTC’s full conversion to the Presto fare card system will take longer than the transit agency had previously told the public.

At a meeting of the Metrolinx board of directors on Thursday, Robert Hollis, Metrolinx vice-president for Presto, said he expected that it could be “well into 2018” before Toronto’s transit agency will be able to phase out all other forms of payment in favour of the fare card.

The TTC had previously told the media and said in public documents that tickets, tokens, and passes would be phased out in 2017. A TTC spokesperson told the Star that the mixed messaging was the result of confusion about when the agency would stop selling older forms of payment, as opposed to when it would stop accepting them.

Exactly when in 2018 the switch will be completed isn’t clear.

“There will be a point I would say sometime later next year when we’re in a position where we start thinking about withdrawing certain fare media, but we haven’t had that discussion or landed any particular dates yet,” Hollis said.

“I’d say somewhere later next year that that starts to begin. And then well into 2018 could be a point where much of the legacy fare media has been retired.”

Written by Randy McDonald

December 9, 2016 at 4:45 pm

[BLOG] Some Friday links

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  • Apostrophen’s ‘Nathan Smith has a two part review of some of the fiction that he has recently read.
  • blogTO looks at Casa Loma lit up for the holidays.
  • Dangerous Minds notes The London Nobody Knows, a documentary of the grim areas of late Victorian London.
  • Language Hat looks at how 16th century Spanish linguists represented Nahuatl spelling.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes the iatrogenic transmission of syphilis via unsterile instruments during the Civil War.
  • The LRB Blog notes the many conflicting contracts signed by the KGB with different television groups at the end of the Cold War.
  • Marginal Revolution notes Rio de Janeiro’s attempts to deal with tourism-targeted crime by compensating victims with a tourist-directed tax.
  • Maximos62 looks at the geological reasons for Indonesia’s volcanism.
  • Progressive Download looks at the all-woman Homeward Bound expedition to Antarctica.
  • Peter Rukavina looks at the backstory behind the creation of the village of Crapaud.
  • Spacing Toronto looks at how signs asking people to go slow in children-inhabited zones.
  • Torontoist looks at where Suicide Squad was filmed in Toronto.
  • The Understanding Society Blog looks at the specific experiences which molded the French tradition of sociology.

[PHOTO] Looking west along Wellesley, evening

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Looking west along Wellesley, evening

Written by Randy McDonald

December 9, 2016 at 9:30 am

[URBAN NOTE] Chris Selley on the National Post on the upcoming Presto nightmare

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Chris Selley’s National Post article makes for dispiriting reading.

What’s green, about six feet tall, costs as much as a subcompact car, has almost no moving parts and can’t perform its simple task roughly 40 per cent of the time? Metrolinx’s 75 self-service Presto card reloaders, that’s what. They take money from your debit or credit card and put it on your Presto card. That is all they do. They are such unusually simple components of an automated fare system, in fact, that manufacturers Scheidt & Bachmann had to custom-design them, according to Robert Hollis, Metrolinx’s executive vice-president in charge of Presto.

As simple as they are, however, they suck. In a recent nine-day period I visited 54 of them across the subway network, testing a theory — and proving it well beyond my expectations. Six of the machines were signed out of order. And a further 14 of them appeared to be in working order, but simply wouldn’t acknowledge the presence of a Presto card. That’s a failure rate of 37 per cent.

To make matters worse, Hollis told me, system monitoring can’t even tell when the latter problem occurs. So the machines just sit there, useless, waiting to infuriate the next customer who will shortly thereafter have to suffer the indignity of paying cash for a train ride in 2016.

“We know that customers aren’t happy. We know the issues are out there,” Hollis told me in the GO concourse at Union Station, where we observed commuters recharging their cards (mostly) without incident. (In the TTC concourse it was 0-for-2: one was signed out of order; the other wouldn’t read cards.)

Metrolinx is already testing the “next generation” of these machines, said Hollis, which among other things have more computing “horsepower.” But “lack of horsepower” is only a suspected cause of the problem. “It could be the complex interaction between the machine and the credit card company and the network,” suggested Hollis, but “the vendor doesn’t have the data to understand what’s going on yet.”

Written by Randy McDonald

December 8, 2016 at 7:00 pm

[BLOG] Some Thursday links

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  • blogTO recommends five neighbourhoods for people looking for apartments.
  • False Steps’ Paul Drye describes a failed European-Russian project for a manned capsule.
  • Language Log looks at the oddity of English pronunciations of words in foreign languages, like placenames, with no connection to how these words are pronounced in English.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money is critical of the coverage given to Trump and Clinton, finding it biased against the latter.
  • Marginal Revolution suggests that seasteading has a future.
  • The NYRB Daily suggests Israeli colonization will mean the end of the traditional lifestyle of Palestinian Bedouin.
  • Personal Reflections’ Jim Belshaw reports on the spread of the red fire ant in Australia.
  • Peter Rukavina describes the unusual round boundaries of the Island village of Crapaud.
  • Savage Minds shares a lovely timeline of the history of anthropology.
  • Torontoist looks at the origins of human rights law in Ontario.
  • Window on Eurasia argues Russia’s position as the Soviet successor state hampers its ability to engage with Communism, and reports on Belarus’ concern at the dominance of local television by Russian imports.