Turn TTC over to Metrolinx? Careful what you wish for.

In the noise and excitement around the reconfiguration of the TTC board today at City Council, one lesser reported item was Councillor Nunziata’s motion that sparked, what she called, "the comedy hour":

11 - Motion to Amend Item moved by Councillor Frances Nunziata (Final)

That the Executive Committee recommendations be deleted and that City Council adopt the following instead:

1. City Council request the Province of Ontario to transfer responsibility for the Toronto Transit Commission to Metrolinx.

Councillor Mammoliti ran with the motion, making some grand gestures about how horribly the TTC is run and how great of an idea this is. Councillor Ainslie may also support the idea, with a tweet earlier in the day about having “too many transit agencies” in the GTA.

Be careful what you wish for.

If the suburbs of Toronto think they’re being ignored now on the transit file, imagine Scarborough and Etobicoke being up against Mississauga or York Region for a share of transit funding. With a limited pot of money, would subways on Finch or Sheppard even get a penny against more reasonable requests for density-appropriate rapid transit throughout the region?

It also raises a concern if something isn’t built on Finch or Sheppard Avenues now. Mammoliti seems to be content with waiting fifty years, but consider this: York Region is building bus rapid transit on Highway 7 now. The BRT, and eventual LRT (through low-cost conversion of the right-of-way) will transform that corridor into a mixed-use, transit-oriented, higher density avenue. It would very likely pull development from nearby transit-starved areas - like a Finch Avenue or Sheppard East. So in fifty years, which corridor would be more suitable for a subway? The one that embraced an appropriate form of rapid transit and has progressively intensified? Or the one that said no based upon false promises and bravado? Even with Toronto in charge of its own transit, I’d say the odds would be slim for Finch/Sheppard. What are the odds if it wasn’t?

China’s Desert Mystery

Ever since @habitualpixel posted this article from Gizmodo on these gigantic structures being built in the deserts of China, I’ve been intrigued on what the heck they could be. I did a bit more digging into Google Earth’s historic aerials and found some earlier shots of the whatevertheheckitis.

Here’s the site in 2003: pristine and desert-y:

Then boom, they’re building this thing in April 2005, which proves it’s actually a thing, and not some weird trick Google is playing on us:

And in less than a month, in May 2005, they’re finished. It should be noted that there wasn’t any other period where aerial images were a month apart. Someone clearly wanted this documented:

So what the heck is it? My theory, it was part of a test to see if they could dress up the desert like the Bird’s Nest Stadium in advance of the 2008 Olympics. Got a better theory? 

Google Maps: See for yourself

Gizmodo: Why Is China Building These Gigantic Structures In the Middle of the Desert?

Someone made a good point: Waterfront Toronto does shiny renderings too! Well. There’s a difference - you can see the progression from concept to reality. It doesn’t fall apart because there’s profit to be made.

Someone made a good point: Waterfront Toronto does shiny renderings too! Well. There’s a difference - you can see the progression from concept to reality. It doesn’t fall apart because there’s profit to be made.

Today we saw a rendering of the Ford’s vision of the Port Lands. Allow this to serve as a caution against focusing on bright shiny objects.

Today we saw a rendering of the Ford’s vision of the Port Lands. Allow this to serve as a caution against focusing on bright shiny objects.

If former Metro Toronto Roads and Traffic Commissioner Sam Cass had his way, downtown Toronto may have looked like this. Damn you, Jane Jacobs, why didn’t you give it a chance? It would have contained the harm!
Map with labels of the Crosstown and Spadina Expressways which were added in the above aerial image

If former Metro Toronto Roads and Traffic Commissioner Sam Cass had his way, downtown Toronto may have looked like this. Damn you, Jane Jacobs, why didn’t you give it a chance? It would have contained the harm!

Map with labels of the Crosstown and Spadina Expressways which were added in the above aerial image

Union-Pearson Air Rail Link Station Renderings

Metrolinx tweeted this afternoon to invite the public to participate in a survey on the Union-Pearson Air Rail Link, which is due for completion in time for the 2015 Pan Am Games. Few details have been released, but the survey gives a glimpse of what they’re planning for service and amenities.

There’s also some renderings, which is the first time I’ve seen these, so thought I would share with those unwilling to slog through a fairly lengthy survey.

Pearson Airport (Terminal 1) Waiting Lounge

Platform/Boarding Area (I assume at Pearson)

Union Station Waiting Lounge

Why Toronto should bid for 2020 Olympics

Today, reports came out quoting Doug Ford, speaking on behalf of the Mayor’s Office, saying that they received a proposal from a group to initiate a bid for the 2020 Summer Olympic Games, which was "quickly rejected"

Disappointing is understating my reaction to the story.

There are plenty of arguments against hosting the Olympics. The main argument, and the one being made by the Fords, is that it costs too much money. Well it is true that massive amounts of money are spent to what may be a three-week party, most of that money is spent on infrastructure, like new sporting facilities and expanded public transit. These provide lasting benefits for the City, especially when planned right.

Toronto has bid twice for the Olympics - the first time for the 1996 games (which went to Atlanta) and then the ill-timed bid for the 2008 games (which went to Beijing). Toronto’s bid was considered technically superior and financially responsible for the 2008 games - quite simply, politics led to a Chinese win.

So why would Toronto be third time lucky? The 2020 Games offer an opportunity that is unprecedented that give Toronto a major edge if it bid. This includes:

  1. The last summer games in North America occurred in 1996
    That’s 24 long years. The IOC is itching, salivating even, to return to the lucrative North American market. And over the past 24 years, the summer games have done a world tour - Australia, Europe, Asia, Europe, South America - it’s North America’s “turn”, so to speak. PyeongChang will be hosting the winter games in 2018, so Asia’s likely out. But what about the United States? 
  2. The United States is “very unlikely” to be submitting a bid for the 2020 Games
    After two consecutive failed bids - New York’s for 2012 and Chicago’s stinging loss of the 2016 games to Rio de Janeiro, the United States initially ruled out a bid for the 2020 games. However, recently the IOC is reportedly “begging” for the United States to initiate a bid, but given the September 1st deadline, its domestic competition process they have for a bid makes it unlikely an American bid could happen. No American bid substantially increases Toronto’s chances, given point #1. 
    And if Toronto doesn’t bid or win 2020? You can be sure the United States will bid, and win, 2024 - pushing the next chance for Toronto into the unforeseeable future.
  3. What about South Africa?
    South Africa is seen as the main contender for the 2020 Games. After successfully hosting the World Cup, they are well positioned to host the Olympics. However, would the IOC wade further into untested waters following the 2016 games in Rio? There are questions on how well the 2016 games will go - the IOC may prefer a more dependable venue for a breather before making the jump into Africa.
  4. Stable ground
    Toronto may represent the most attractive choice for the IOC, given the current global economic and political situation. A sound financial system, a government that claims to be making its way out of deficit by 2015, and relative political stability are all things the IOC will be comforted by. 

If these reasons don’t persuade the Fords that the Olympic bid is in the City’s best interest, then how about this?

  • Olympics mean a big giant stadium:  you know, of the kind that could be built to accommodate a NFL team. Yay Football! Worst case, you can turn it into a casino. 
  • Olympics mean subways: we need them, right? Torontonians deserve nothing but. And imagine the potential naming rights revenues from the Coca-cola Olympic Subway Sandwiches Line. If you want the private sector to be involved in subway construction, this would be probably the only way to do it. We can probably do a monorail to the stadium too, yah?
  • A big giant graffiti removing machine: you can probably justify the purchase of one. We’d want the City to be spotless.

It annoys me to no end that this proposal was “quickly rejected” by the Fords, especially when I had previously thought an Olympic bid would be something they would jump on. It’s a ticket to get things built, a chance to actually create a legacy, and it’s something Chicago wanted to do but hasn’t been able to so we’d be able to be better than Chicago for once. The worst part was the excuse - we don’t have money for a bid. 

We do. It’s just in the wrong place - studying the impossible financial feasibility of the Sheppard Subway extension. 

Which do you think has better odds at succeeding?

she was disarming: An open letter to my fellow cyclists

sodisarmingdarling:

[Note: Most people who read this will already be aware of these things. I’ll probably be preaching to the choir. But I had to get it out anyway. And I don’t care if it sounds like a lecture. You know how it is.]

This morning was like any other. I sat stopped at a red light while cyclist after…

Toronto skyline at dusk with the near completed Don River Park Pavilion. Taken from the Lower Don Trail.

Toronto skyline at dusk with the near completed Don River Park Pavilion. Taken from the Lower Don Trail.