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  #281  
Old Posted Apr 16, 2006, 5:01 PM
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The city's newest neighbourhood: the Rogers Centre
HOUSING | Well maybe not. But until the long-term problems of homelessness and poverty are properly addressed, here are a few creative solutions
Apr. 16, 2006. 01:00 AM
LESLIE SCRIVENER
STAFF REPORTER

When it comes to poverty and homelessness, the long-term solutions are obvious, all the experts say: raise the minimum wage, increase welfare rates, create more affordable and supportive housing.
But until that happens, there are other ideas in circulation.
To begin with the more dreamy notions ... Graham Lee has a creative renovation idea: turn the Rogers Centre (formerly SkyDome) into affordable housing. Writing in Spacing magazine, he says it could become "a compact and eco-friendly city of the future" built within the more traditional city.
Practical elements such as plumbing, wiring and fire routes are already in place for a self-contained community. The bleachers become staged housing units with rooftop gardens, the walkways where concessions now stand become shopping arcades, and most magical of all, the playing field becomes a tree-filled park. Solar panels or windmills on the dome reduce the community's environmental footprint.
Lee argues that the building is underused, and that its value has dropped in recent years.
"Convert this urban stumbling block into a vibrant neighbourhood," he writes.
Architect Alexander Tedesco has an ingenious plan for providing comfort to the homeless who end up sleeping outdoors in the winter. He has designed an outdoor "shelter" with neither walls nor roof — the space defined by the heat it creates.
Tedesco's public square would use geo-thermal heat, drawn from 5 metres below the Earth's surface, to warm pipes just beneath the square.
"The idea is to have the square at a constant 18C, so on cold winter nights when you can't get people to go into shelters, there's a warm space for them," says Tedesco.
When architect John van Nostrand says that more people, including the working poor, should build their own homes, many people dismiss him as a 20th-century romantic.
Modern housing is dense and high, and requires sophisticated building skills and 21st-century technology, they say. And in a red-hot housing market like Toronto's, the notion of an urban homesteader seems fanciful.
But van Nostrand argues that some good ideas from the past shouldn't be abandoned.
In 1950, 40 per cent of houses were owner built (in Ontario in 2000, 8 per cent of houses were owner built, the lowest rate in Canada). Some post-war builders were returning veterans who went on with their new skills to work in construction.
"There's great skepticism about home ownership for poor people in Ontario," says van Nostrand. "Ownership is discouraged when, in the rest of the world — almost any country where I've worked — to rent is absurd."
He believes someone who can spend $350 to $500 a month on housing can afford a $30,000 mortgage. It would require a small lot — say in the port lands — where the property would be protected from speculators.
The biggest impediment would be the down payment, but that could be spread over the life of the mortgage. Or the land could be leased until it could be paid for.
"People say nobody builds houses any more, but look at the massive success of Rona and Home Depot. They sell huge amounts of building material to families. I don't think it's a different world. I think people, if given a chance, would build tomorrow."
Most people who are concerned about housing the homeless agree that Toronto needs more mixed housing that includes all income levels and age groups, retired people and career-focused 30-somethings, living in buildings about six storeys tall, built along transit lines.
Architect Jack Diamond notes that when the poor are downtown, they are more "visible" and thus more likely to get the services they need. "In the suburbs, out of sight, out of mind. We have the infrastructure, we've invested in the downtown, we don't need to build in the sticks."
The city has just bought 110 Edward St., and the call has gone out for ideas on how it should be used. One possibility is to copy the Common Ground model in New York, where residents not only get transitional housing, but receive employment training right in their building.
Debbie Field, director of FoodShare, is also concerned about buildings — well, their rooftops, actually.
Standing on the roof of her agency's Eastern Ave. building, she gazes west and sees not just the towers and mid-rises of downtown Toronto, but places where food can be grown.
Field believes half the rooftops in the city could be used to grow produce. Estimates vary, but experts say up to 25 per cent of Toronto's fresh produce could be grown within the city or very nearby.
(The best estimate is that now, about 3 per cent is grown in the city.)
Meanwhile, Nick Saul, executive director of The Stop community food centre, notes that after paying rent the average food bank user has $3.50 left over for food, transport, clothing and other personal needs.
"The government has washed its hands of the hunger crisis," he says.
One way to put more money in people's pockets, Saul says, is a food or nutrition allowance for people on social assistance.
"You need funding for food. It's fundamental to sanity."
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  #282  
Old Posted Apr 16, 2006, 5:03 PM
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Destroying Babylon's arsenal
GUNS |
Apr. 16, 2006. 01:00 AM
FRANCINE KOPUN

Rodrigo Bascunan has been thinking, talking and writing about guns for three years now. The 30-year-old founder and publisher of Pound, a Toronto-based hip-hop magazine, and Christian Pearce, a senior editor at the publication, have just completed a book on guns called: Enter the Babylon System, Unpacking Gun Culture from Samuel Colt to 50 Cent.
Babylon, in reggae and hip-hop slang, is a term for a corrupt place — it is sometimes used to refer to white society. Bascunan and Pearce interviewed more than 100 rappers worldwide for the book, to be published by Random House of Canada, talking about the role guns played in their lives.
"How many rappers have been shot, lost a brother, lost a friend?" asks Bascunan. "How much gun violence have we heard of? It seemed pretty obvious what the problem was. Guns escalate violence."
When asked how to end the blight of guns, one of the first things that comes to Bascunan's mind is buying out gun factories and their stockpiles.
There's a precedent for this.
In August 2004, California teenager Brandon Maxfield tried to buy a gun company to shut it down. Maxfield was paralyzed from the neck down at age 7 when his babysitter unloaded a gun in his presence and accidentally pulled the trigger.
Maxfield failed. Bryco Arms, one of the nation's leading makers of small, cheap guns known as Saturday night specials, was bought by a foreman who once worked there for $510,000 (the company had been bankrupted by a successful suit launched by Maxfield). He outbid Maxfield by $5,000.
Maxfield had created a foundation to raise money to bid on the firm. He wanted to melt down the company's stockpile of 75,600 unassembled guns to create a metal sculpture.
While Bascunan is all for buying out gun companies, he also concedes that that would not have a long-term effect — new manufacturers would spring up in their place.
What Bascunan does think could make a difference is setting up a lobby group to offset the anti-gun control propaganda generated by groups like the NRA. As long as guns are readily available in the U.S., stolen firearms will be smuggled into Canada: Customs seizes roughly 1,500 smuggled guns every year, but only about 3 per cent of Canada-U.S. border traffic is inspected, so likely many more firearms make it into the country. To deal with existing weapons, Bascunan would fund massive trade-in programs that turned weapons into art. He would create job alternatives so people who live by the gun could choose a different life.
British rapper Ms. Dynamite is one of the few women proposing novel solutions to the problem of gun violence. When Bascunan asked her what women could do to curb violence, she had one of the most interesting proposals of all.
"We can stop, number one, chasing bad men," she said in an interview published in the December 2005 edition of Pound. "We, if all women on the face of the Earth said, `You know what? I want a man that has a degree, I want a man that has, if not a job, then is looking for a job.'"
Some women, she said, get caught up in chasing men who can give them the nice car, the nice clothes, when a million other things are more important, including whether he has a goal in life.
"I think women can set the standards and stick to them and trust me, if we do that, I promise you, you'll see an instant change ... they can't live without us, trust me," said Ms. Dynamite.
Meanwhile, some look to the schools for a solution to the gangs and guns problem. A program already in place, Second Chance, offers scholarships to young Ontarians who have been involved in the criminal justice system and want to change their lives.
Rick Gosling, founder of the Second Chance Scholarship Foundation, says we need to set up a system in which some teachers spend more time with some kids — after school and even on weekends.
He likes the idea of a corps of teachers who work from noon to 8 p.m. instead of standard school hours. That would make them available after school hours, when some students need them the most.
Teachers need to be paid more, he says, and differently. Raises shouldn't go to the teachers who put in the hours or take extra courses. They should go to those who show the greatest commitment and passion, the greatest dedication to youth.
Ontario Chief Justice Roy McMurtry, who supports Second Chance and who chairs Mayor David Miller's advisory panel on community safety, agrees schools are key.
"The hours of 4 to 6 or 4 to 7 (p.m.) are critical hours. There are thousands of young people with nothing to do or nowhere to go other than the local mall," he says.
He envisions a huge expansion of recreational resources — more homework clubs, for example.
"I would like to see an army of volunteers from the universities and the community colleges," says McMurtry, "to identify the young people who will most benefit and want to benefit, to be involved in mentoring and tutoring as volunteers, because there are thousands of young people who don't have much positive contact with older people."
Ryerson assistant professor Grace-Edward Galabuzi is the author of Canada's Economic Apartheid, which explores the growing racialization of the gap between rich and poor in Canada. He believes the problem calls for a shift from reaction to prevention, and for everything from life-skills centres, peer dispute resolution initiatives and raising the minimum wage to job-creation and business-development programs that target youth.
"There is significant anti-social behaviour that leads to violence," he says, "and a lot of anger that needs to be addressed along with the structural socio-economic issues that are the root causes of the behaviour, anger and alienation."
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  #283  
Old Posted Apr 16, 2006, 5:04 PM
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The pharmacist has your ecstasy ready
SIN |
Apr. 16, 2006. 01:00 AM
BETSY POWELL
STAFF REPORTER

A Toronto weekend reveller pops into a local drugstore to pick up some ecstasy. He's followed by an addict who's there to buy a single-dose, non-reusable syringe for her fix.
Both transactions are administered by a pharmacist trained to offer advice on the safest way to use the substances.
Nearby, at a "natural herbal products" outlet, pot smokers are lined up for some grown-in-Ontario weed.
The sales are all legal, controlled, regulated and taxed — with profits divided among suppliers, distributors and sellers once a sizeable chunk of cash has been diverted to government coffers for enforcement, management and treatment of drug dependency, and for other social programs.
A far-fetched scenario?
Perhaps, but the Health Officers' Council of B.C., a group of public-health physicians, suggested it was a workable strategy in its landmark discussion paper released last fall.
The document, titled A Public Health Approach to Drug Control in Canada, contends that removing criminal penalties for personal drug possession and placing currently illegal substances under tight controls could not only help to start and maintain rehabilitation programs for addicts, but could also "reduce secondary unintended drug-related harms to society that spring from a failed criminal-prohibition approach."
The paper adds: "This would move individual harmful illegal drug use from being primarily a criminal issue to being primarily a health issue."
The arguments are persuasive: Legalizing illicit drugs would substantially reduce the crime rate, largely by driving the black market out of business and rendering it unnecessary for addicts to commit petty theft.
"So much crime is due to people being driven by their dependency," says Dr. Richard Mathias, a specialist in community medicine and professor of public health at the University of British Columbia. "If we could deal with that dependency and make it not the focus of their lives, at least a reasonably high percentage can get on with their lives, and don't have to steal to get their drugs at a reasonable cost and reasonably safely."
He points to an Ottawa shelter that gives out small amounts of alcohol. "It doesn't make them drunk, but the fact that even with an alcohol addiction, if they know they are going to get booze, they don't go into that seeking behaviour that dependency drives them to. It's made a world of difference."
What hasn't, he and others argue, is the estimated $1 billion spent annually on drug law enforcement in Canada. Yet there never seems to be a shortage of drugs for people who want to get high, the threat of arrest and prison notwithstanding.
The war on drugs is an abysmal failure, say anti-prohibitionists, and it's time society took an alternative approach that accepts "drug use is found everywhere in the world, and we're never going to be a drug-free society," says Philippe Lucas, a medicinal marijuana activist.
The council advised regulating drugs "in direct proportion to the harm they can do."
Just as there are for alcohol and tobacco, there would be age restrictions. Depending on the drug, there could also be mandatory training and quantity could be rationed, and there could be licensing and registration requirements.
Mathias, also health critic for the Green Party, which has put the approach in its platform, said such a system doesn't encourage wholesale drug abuse.
"We agree with the fundamental (tenet of) prohibition (which) says don't use it," he says. "Public health says the same thing, but if you're going to make a choice about drugs you have to do so with knowledge."
It would need inspectors and police involvement, he adds, because a "regulated market is regulated through law, and we need enforcement, or profit motive will cause us problems again.
"Studies done have found it's harder for young people to buy alcohol than it is to buy marijuana," Mathias adds.
And while we're taking the illicit out of drug use, Alan Young, a York University law professor, suggests striking out laws that prevent indoor prostitution, thereby opening the doors to a red-light, brothel-type system in Toronto. "Under the current laws, prostitutes are being endangered by the fact that they can't work indoors," Young says.
"Prostitution per se is not illegal, but all the activities associated with it, including the broadest one, communicating for the purpose, they are all criminalized, so it's kind of a paradox that you can do this legally but you can't do it in any way that's safe, and that's why the law's deficient and should change."
Residents would no longer worry about hookers and johns in their 'hoods. Police wouldn't need to do periodic "sweeps."
So where would Young put a Toronto red-light district?
"Nobody wants them in their backyard, but those aren't insurmountable problems."
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  #284  
Old Posted Apr 16, 2006, 5:06 PM
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Hot wheels, high up
BIKE LANES |
Apr. 16, 2006. 01:00 AM
JENNIFER WELLS

Good morning, Toronto. It's sunny and minus 40 with the wind chill. Traffic is frozen on the Gardiner. There's a pile-up on the DVP. Streetcars on King West and Queen East are at a standstill.
Cyclists, however, are once again enjoying a smooth, unobstructed journey into the downtown core. Riders report that visibility is clear, with speeds approaching 50 kilometres an hour in the right-hand lane. For all you high-powered money managers who like to look sharp in the a.m., the shower stall at the Yonge on/off ramp has reopened. And, yes, the city has once again stocked up on that French lavender soap that has been such a hit on Bay Street.
What? You don't believe it?
All right, so the part about the French soap is a bit of over-reach.
But ask local architect Chris Hardwicke about the future of cycling in Toronto, and he will draw you a vision of elevated bike tunnels that could remake the very culture of the city.
He calls it Velo-city or, more properly, velo-city, and it's catching international notice, from Hardwicke's appearance on National Public Radio in the U.S. earlier this year, to numerous international publications, to his scheduled presentation at the Good Life For All exhibition in New York City this September.
The vision: a network of elevated bikeways, tube-like and roofed in glass, providing protection from the elements. Hardwicke has mapped the velo-city network, tucking the bikeways along existing public highway, power and railway corridors, creating not a dense inner-city network, but rather one that connects distant parts of the metropolis. Cyclists will access the bikeways, which will run about five metres above ground level, through ramps tucked under the tubes. The planned grade of the ramps will be gentle enough to accommodate wheelchair usage.
According to Hardwicke's calculations, reduction in air resistance will increase cycling efficiency by about 90 per cent, allowing for speeds, or velocity, of up to 50 km/h. Advantages: no noise pollution, no air pollution. Plus, cycling is good for you, and in this conception bike riders are protected from their car-driving brethren.
The scheme sounds futuristic, yet it is not entirely new. Joseph Adler, an irrepressibly charming engineer, was possessed of a similar vision a quarter century ago: elevated bikeways built not alongside highways, but above roadways crisscrossing Toronto's inner city. On top of the bikeways Adler conceptualized bike stations with restroom and restaurant facilities. The plan calls for interconnecting escalators to assist riders heading up into the bikeways, and ramps for the trip down to street level.
`Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future
of the human race'
H.G. Wells, author and avid cyclist
By training Adler is a hydrotechnical engineer, but cycling is his passion. Just inside the door of his high-rise apartment sits his 25-year-old blue Peugeot, which he rides regularly. Behind the doorway sits his downhill skis. He is 75. In his position as president of Bicycle Expressway Systems, a one-man hobbyist operation, he is currently pitching his bicycle expressway to Dubai, figuring that any desert country with the moxie to build an indoor ski hill just might have the imagination to get behind his project.
Not that there hasn't been interest. Included in Adler's archive are supporting letters from Maurice Strong, William F. Buckley Jr. and endless Canadian politicians and bureaucrats. In 1982, Buckley wrote an op-ed piece for The Philadelphia Inquirer championing the bike expressway. "Adler's idea is adaptable to any city," wrote Buckley. "But concretely, he has engineered ... a bicycle grid that would permit anyone living in metropolitan Toronto (they call it "metro" nowadays) to travel by bicycle from virtually any point in the city."
As it happens, nothing concrete has developed. "The visionaries don't have any money," sighs Adler. "And those with money don't have the vision."
That disconnect has much to do with the perceptions around cycling. Is cycling an add-on method of transportation or an essential service that demands and deserves substantial capital investment? Adler's projected cost: $1 billion.
Chris Hardwicke is 38. He had never heard of Joseph Adler or his bicycle expressway until earlier this year, when Adler called him up. The two have not yet met. They share a sense of despair over the lack of serious funding for cycling. "All the other infrastructures are supported in grandiose ways," says Hardwicke.
Hardwicke's velo-city has not been conceived as an anti-car project, but rather as a system that elevates bike riding to equal status alongside private transit (the car) and public transit (GO, TTC). "The people seem to like to cycle," says Hardwicke of Torontonians. "But they don't have any support ... It's about time we built something that's sustainable."
Points to consider: a bicycle takes one-seventh the road space of a car. Ergo, Hardwicke's bikeways, conceived at an equivalent width, will have seven times the capacity of the adjacent roadways. Velo-city will relieve traffic congestion and the demand for parking spaces. The greater vision extends to this: creating a vibrant cycling city that will feed a proliferation of thriving businesses, cultural activities, restaurants and cafés. Bike riders, surveys have shown, are excellent shoppers.
In the draft for his Good Life presentation, Hardwicke has written this: "Over time, velo-city will create a cycling culture for Toronto: kiss 'n' rides, shower facilities, velodromes, bike parks, health clubs, cycle-path stalls, repair shops, bike couriers, bike picnics, car-free housing, inter-modal stations and cycling fashions. Above all, it would encourage active, healthier lifestyles and consequently better lives for all Torontonians."
Sound fanciful? In an interview Hardwicke says he senses immense energy in the city right now. "There's a huge desire for change," he says. In his work, Hardwicke has cited a quotation from H. G. Wells. "Every time I see an adult on a bicycle," wrote Wells, "I no longer despair for the future of the human race." The author was an avid cyclist.
Here's another Wells quote that seems to suit the circumstance: "What really matters is what you do with what you have."
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  #285  
Old Posted Apr 16, 2006, 5:08 PM
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`Villages` that solve our traffic chaos
COMMUTING |
Three disparate thinkers arrive at a similar conclusion
Apr. 16, 2006. 01:00 AM
RITA DALY
STAFF REPORTER

Think of an elaborate Tinker Toy construction.
Now, think of sky-scraping cities — carbon copies of downtown Toronto's commercial hub — dotting the region and interconnected by a sophisticated web of high-speed trains.
Sound futuristic? Perhaps not when compared with hover-buses, robot-driven monorails and the flying car as imaginative solutions to Greater Toronto's traffic chaos.
But when we asked a civil engineer, an urban transportation expert and a Green Party activist about the problem, they all came up with strikingly similar fantasies on how to solve The Long Commute.
Their multi-city concept actually requires rethinking decades of urban design, not just transportation planning. It essentially asks planners, politicians and the public to abandon the idea of one big fat city towering over sprawling communities connected by freeways.
In civil engineer Baher Abdulhai's view, this would result in tens of thousands of fewer cars commuting in and around Toronto at rush hour, clogging up streets and highways and polluting the air. Currently, nearly 80 per cent of area residents commute by car if they work more than 20 kilometres away from home, according to Statistics Canada.
We caught up with Abdulhai in his car, yes, commuting on the QEW from his Toronto office to Oakville. As a professor at the University of Toronto and director of the Intelligent Transportation Systems project, he tracks traffic patterns across the GTA and develops and applies new technologies for innovative transportation solutions.
He calls his concept of transit-connected multi-cities "employment villages." He envisions five or six futuristic cities erected atop and around GO stations in, for example, Mississauga, Newmarket and Oshawa, with trains frequently zipping in and out of station tunnels as they transport people to and from work.
The key is putting the jobs at the station, enabling commuters to leave their cars at home. The convenience allows them to walk mere steps to the office, as many now do from Union Station. Each village would offer the amenities of downtown to attract workers — underground parking, underground malls, street-level restaurants, large central plazas, clubs and shops.
Suburban sprawl, on the other hand, has only reinforced the need for a car, Abdulhai says.
"When you scatter office towers across the whole suburbs, right there you've created a lasting problem because they're not going to be accessible by any mode except driving."
The multi-city concept also creates multi-way traffic for GO transit. Recent studies show the increase in traffic congestion on Toronto-area highways is mostly due to so-called "reverse commuters," people living in the city and working in the suburbs, or commuting from one suburb to another. Why would they take public transit if they find themselves getting off a train in the middle of nowhere, and still have to take a bus or two and then walk a ways to get to work?
About 160,000 people ride GO trains on a typical weekday, and most are heading into the city to work.
"You don't want people just travelling from the suburbs to downtown," says Abdulhai. "You want people going from suburb to suburb, from downtown Toronto to all the suburbs — in all directions."
Green Party activist Raymond Dartsch had a similar GO-cities idea when we spoke to him. We caught up to Dartsch, a registered nurse, just before he was leaving for his commute. He lives in Burlington and travels to McMaster University in Hamilton, where he is doing his MBA. There is no GO train between the two cities, so he drives.
"That," he says, "is because those large-scale infrastructure decisions (he means highways) were made without my consultation and before I was born."
Dartsch also envisions a rapid train system that interconnects Oshawa, Peterborough, Barrie, Burlington, Hamilton, Toronto and Niagara Falls, with trains running every 15 minutes. (Right now, for example, you can get a GO train between Hamilton and Toronto only during rush hour.)
"We want a transit system that's more like a human circulatory system. Right now, it's more like a respiratory system where, in the morning, Toronto breathes in all these people and, in the evening, it breathes them all back out again. That's what GO does."
Rather than skyscrapers, he recommends GO "villages" that spring from smaller office buildings, apartments, condos, stores and restaurants — but not the big-box stores, sprawling parking lots and drab office buildings that make today's suburban arteries so devoid of character and grace.
The City of Burlington is on Dartsch's side. Its seven-member council is in a fight with Wal-mart, which bought up lands at the city's Brant St. GO station. The council, looking for ways to build offices and condos at GO stations, subsequently froze development around its three stations as the dispute awaits an Ontario Municipal Board decision.
Sue Zielinski also talks about these "central hubs" that connect people living in the regions to their workplace, but she takes commuting a step further with car-, taxi-, and bicycle-sharing schemes.
Zielinski is an urban transportation planner and used to be in charge of the City of Toronto's innovative Moving the Economy program. She now lives and works in Ann Arbor, Mich., where she had just tied up her bicycle after a few minutes' ride from her house to the office, a renovated building on the University of Michigan campus.
Zielinski is fascinated by the emerging technologies that are turning cars into robots you can practically live in — global positioning systems, collision avoidance systems, autopilot systems, not to mention the convenience of wireless Internet, iPod docks, heated seats and flat-screen TVs.
So why not make public transit just as appealing?
"Public transit can become first-class," she insists. "The status of car transportation is starting to go the way of cigarettes."
Zielinski envisions a multi-faceted public transit system that marries efficiency with comfort: Wi-Fi (VIA now offers it in first-class). A car-sharing service (you call ahead from the train to reserve a car in the station's lot for short-term trips). Alternatively fuelled jitneys (shared taxis) to transport people from station to work or home. Bicycles for rent at each station. And, finally, a "smartcard" that automatically gets you onto any mode of public transit.
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Old Posted Apr 16, 2006, 5:09 PM
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Finding a future in the route not taken
TTC |
Enthusiasts mine the past for a vision of what could still be.
Apr. 16, 2006. 01:00 AM
GABE GONDA
STAFF REPORTER

Anyone can draw some lines on a map." That's how the TTC's chairman dismisses dreams for an ambitious web of new subway lines.
But that simple sentence might also be the rallying cry for local transit utopians: a democratic call to take up pens and reimagine the way Toronto moves underground.
Mapping a dream TTC has become the signature exercise of a new generation of transit enthusiasts. Over the past few years, a half-dozen fictional Toronto subway maps have popped up around the city in various contexts — online, in galleries, in the back of a recent book of essays about the city.
They all play on the same theme: To reinvent Toronto, you have to start with a reinvented transit system. And to reinvent the transit system, you must start underground. Buses and streetcars are fine, the thinking goes, but subways do the heavy lifting that city-building requires, moving enough people to determine where healthy, pedestrian-friendly communities will spring up.
These maps feature new subway lines on Queen St. and along Eglinton Ave., a rail link to Pearson, and a line that would run from Brampton through downtown Toronto and then up Parliament to connect with the Sheppard line, among others.
As well, the maps are all predicated on the notion that a truly comprehensive network of subways, like New York and London have, would transform city life here, allowing real neighbourhoods to take root where now only subdivisions are possible.
The maps borrow aggressively from the region's past, featuring subway lines that were never built. "Part of the tragedy is we had a plan for quote-unquote utopia and then we stopped," says James Bow, author of "Where have all the subways gone?" an essay in uTOpia: Towards A New Toronto.
If Bow were to rebuild Toronto's subway system, he wouldn't start from scratch. The writer and self-described "transit geek," who co-founded the information site Transit Toronto would begin with something called Network 2011, a plan that went down with Bill Davis's provincial Tories in the mid-1980s.
Network 2011 was an ambitious, 30-year strategy to build: a subway line on Sheppard Ave. from Downsview to the Scarborough Town Centre; a line across the city along Eglinton Ave.; and the "downtown relief" line, which could have run from Sheppard south through Don Mills, along Donlands to Union Station, across Front St. and up Spadina Ave.
Those lines, along busy corridors with mixed development, would have met transit needs while encouraging growth in less built-up areas. "I always feel that if Bill Davis had stayed in power for another six months ... we'd be further along than we are now," says Bow.
In uTOpia, Bow writes about N.Q. Duong, creator of one of the city's best-known recent dream TTC maps. A takeoff on Duong's work also appears in uTOpia. That map — the "Toronto Rapid Transit Guide" — by cartographer Andrew Alfred-Duggan, features: an Eglinton line that reaches the airport; a west-end line that snakes its way uptown, ending at Jane and Finch; a Sheppard line that begins in Woodbridge and connects with the Scarborough RT line; and a Bloor-Danforth line that stretches from Square One in Mississauga all the way to the Toronto Zoo. It also includes a Don Mills-Parliament line that loops around to Pearson. The key is that the lines connect with each other, all but ensuring a high volume of use.
Transit enthusiast Matthew Blackett says Toronto could make it happen over 50 years by spending $1 billion a year. It costs $150 million to build one kilometre of subway, and Blackett maintains the expense would be easy to bear if shared by three levels of government.
"Why not?" he says. "Works gets $400 million a year to spend on roads." Blackett suggests the city raise its portion of the cash through road tolls, which would be possible under the new City of Toronto Act.
He argues that a citywide subway network — supported by a feeder system of rapid-transit lines like the controversial streetcar planned for St. Clair Ave. — would have a "Brooklynizing" effect on culturally moribund pockets, turning suburbs like Brampton into hubs of independent community activity.
Fictional TTC maps "let the imagination soar. They suggest the experiences we might have in those places if those lines were actually there."
Artist Leif Harmsen hacked into the TTC's website to build his dream subway map over a pdf file of the transit service's actual map. The result includes a Queen St. line with stops at cultural landmarks like the Gladstone Hotel.
Blackett, meanwhile, observes that by digging into past plans, mapping exercises suggest an alternate present.
He points to Toronto's first missed subway opportunity, a downtown line that city council rejected in 1910.
"We could very well be taking the subway below Queen St.," he says. "What would that have meant for Parkdale? Would it have gone through the bad times, the derelict times that it has for the last 50 years?"
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Old Posted Apr 19, 2006, 8:30 PM
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Through the roof in Don Mills
Apr. 19, 2006. 01:00 AM
JOE FIORITO

They make a fine noise when they are angry, the men and women of Don Mills. More than 700 of them came to Inn On The Park one night last week to hoot and hiss at Cadillac Fairview.
The people are angry because the developer is going to raze and rebuild the Don Mills Centre. Demolition starts at the end of May. That's not the problem.
The mall was originally to be rebuilt in stages. It was to remain open during construction. But the developer changed plans, and now the mall is to be razed and rebuilt, and there will be no new mall for a couple of years. That's part of the problem.
The independent shopkeepers are relocating elsewhere, or they are going out of business. That's another part of the problem.
The new mall will not be enclosed.
That's the damn problem.
The people who live in Don Mills use their mall the way Europeans use the town square: They come for the daily passeggiata — they flirt, they banter, they gossip, they sit, they have a bite to eat and they do a little shopping.
That is life, in its rich fullness.
And the people of Don Mills seem to know what the developer does not: In Toronto, you cannot do this stuff outdoors. You need a cool place in the summer, a warm place in the winter, a dry place when it rains.
It was some hot meeting.
Various city councillors were greeted with hisses; such is their lot, which they bore smilingly. The councillors avowed that they were as one with the people, but they did not say they could, or would, or even that they should turn the developer from its course. And an official from the planning department said, in effect, that the city's hands were tied.
And then it was the turn of the developer, whose posse included the project manager, an architect, a public-relations flack and a lawyer. These worthies were hooted at by the people of Don Mills, especially the lawyer.
I am eager to give credit where it is due. The posse seemed as if they wanted to hear the people and to answer at least a few questions.
To aid discussion, they brought many attractive architectural drawings. In some of those drawings, there were depictions of happy shoppers frolicking outdoors in the snow. The people snickered and jeered. The people are familiar with the concept of wind chill.
The posse said they would not answer questions unless the people stopped jeering. The men and women of Don Mills rolled their eyes. How else are you supposed to behave when you are summarily deprived of your public square? The men and women of Don Mills may be old, but they are not dead. Prick them and they bleed; bulldoze their agora and they hiss.
The architect said the new mall would be "special and unique with many positive features." He said it would be "distinct and memorable." The people waved a petition signed by 4,543 of their neighbours who do not care a fig for "special" and "memorable."
They just want a roof.
The developer said the new mall would be like Bloor West Village. The people said, "This does not fit our community." The developer said the stores in the new mall would have overhangs to protect the shoppers from the elements. The people said, "How often does rain and snow fall in a vertical manner?"
Alas, some of the councillors seemed to think that what the people really want is a community centre, and the developer said that a community centre might be possible, as if that was some sort of compromise.
But one of the people stood and said, in a strong voice, "I've never heard so much spin in all my life, and I'm 80, going on 90." He said the people want a roof.
Oh, said the developer, but the new mall will feature special "streets," down which shoppers may slowly drive past the nice new shops. A woman said, "You want us to drive by. I can do that elsewhere! Who are you appealing to?" She got no response from the developer, but she got much applause from her neighbours, many of whom no longer drive.
There were, in all, more than 30 questions. There were fewer than 30 answers. The gist? The old mall comes down soon and the new mall will have no roof.
At one point, a high school student in the crowd made reference to the condos the developer is planning to build on-site. She said, "We're not happy at my high school. We're like, `What is this?' It's getting on our nerves that you don't take us into consideration."
She took a breath and said, "In six years, I'll be 20 ... . But six years from now, I'm not going to buy a condo from you!" The people applauded.
Oh, dear.
Cadillac Fairview can do what it wants. Open-air malls are the current fashion. That's life in a democracy. Money talks.
But here is an entire neighbourhood saying with one voice that the plans of the developer are harmful to the elderly, and to the handicapped, and to families with small children, and to people who do not drive, and also to a handful of trusted independent shopkeepers.
If the developer would give an inch ...
Am I a fool to hope?
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Old Posted Apr 19, 2006, 8:39 PM
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^ What the hell is that? An article or some lame-ass editorial?

What terrible bias writing, something right out of The Sun.

These people are just a bunch of pussies. The old people in particular are all grumbling because a mall provides free air conditioning during the summer so they don't have to pay for it at home. They always go to the mall nice and early and spend maybe a few dollars on coffee and sit around doing nothing. Who are they kidding?

Plus how will creating a walkable street as opposed to a shopping mall surrounded by parking be less accessible for people without cars? Where did they pick that crap from?
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  #289  
Old Posted Apr 20, 2006, 12:07 AM
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Quote:
The posse said they would not answer questions unless the people stopped jeering. The men and women of Don Mills rolled their eyes.

How else are you supposed to behave when you are summarily deprived of your public square? The men and women of Don Mills may be old, but they are not dead. Prick them and they bleed; bulldoze their agora and they hiss.
I hate when people resort to hissing, catcalling, booing, etc.... way to act like little kids!
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Old Posted Apr 20, 2006, 3:52 AM
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thats to much to read on an internet forum for any sane person..
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  #291  
Old Posted Apr 20, 2006, 8:47 PM
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Many of the suburban malls are shitholes used by the elderly to "hang out"

I would hang out in the suburban malls too but the tang sucks there.
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Old Posted Apr 20, 2006, 8:47 PM
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double post
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Last edited by caltrane74; Apr 20, 2006 at 8:52 PM.
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Old Posted Apr 20, 2006, 8:51 PM
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triple post. - damn this quick reply thing.
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Old Posted Apr 20, 2006, 9:33 PM
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^^^^^It's actually from the Star.
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Old Posted Apr 22, 2006, 1:13 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tony
^ What the hell is that? An article or some lame-ass editorial?

What terrible bias writing, something right out of The Sun.

These people are just a bunch of pussies. The old people in particular are all grumbling because a mall provides free air conditioning during the summer so they don't have to pay for it at home. They always go to the mall nice and early and spend maybe a few dollars on coffee and sit around doing nothing. Who are they kidding?

Plus how will creating a walkable street as opposed to a shopping mall surrounded by parking be less accessible for people without cars? Where did they pick that crap from?
What are you saying? Malls are for the young and affluent only and so buy something and then get out? Don't use public commercial space for... er.. public gathering? The idea of the agora was the rhetoric that mall developers trumpeted in the first place. Or have I made the mistake of taking them at their word? And since when is it a crime to use corporate air conditioning? The city encourages this during the increasingly frequent heat waves. You seem rather bitter about "old people" sitting around doing nothing and nursing cheap coffee together. I hope your RRSP contributions are such that you never have to suffer the challenge of a shrinking income in your retirement. I have to say I'm extremely disappointed in your tone, moderator. Set a better example of good citizenship.
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Old Posted Apr 22, 2006, 1:23 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by citizen j
What are you saying? Malls are for the young and affluent only and so buy something and then get out? Don't use public commercial space for... er.. public gathering? The idea of the agora was the rhetoric that mall developers trumpeted in the first place. Or have I made the mistake of taking them at their word? And since when is it a crime to use corporate air conditioning? The city encourages this during the increasingly frequent heat waves. You seem rather bitter about "old people" sitting around doing nothing and nursing cheap coffee together. I hope your RRSP contributions are such that you never have to suffer the challenge of a shrinking income in your retirement. I have to say I'm extremely disappointed in your tone, moderator. Set a better example of good citizenship.
Elderly are we?

Chill.

BTW, Malls are Private Spaces.
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Old Posted Apr 22, 2006, 1:35 AM
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Right. If a mall owner feels you are tresspassing they can ask you to leave. If you refuse they can call the police. Public spaces are parks.
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Old Posted Apr 22, 2006, 1:48 AM
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^True, but Toronto has a tradition of mixing the public with the private, particularly around subway entrances. PATH, for example, is both commercial space and a pedestrian route that remains open after stores close. And while it's true that a mall is a private space, the owners depend on public use of that space in order to make money. If it were entirely private, like say for instance someone's back yard, then this would be an entirely different discussion.

What I think is interesting is the developer's apparent blind spot: it's as though the idea that people might object to the disappearance of climate-controlled space in the neighbourhood took them totally by surprise. I don't think the Don Mills Centre is particularly successful as an urban project: it's actually hideous and I'm glad to see it redeveloped. What drew me into this discussion was dismay over the readiness to vilify.

And no, Tony, I'm not elderly. Just human.
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Old Posted Apr 22, 2006, 1:51 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by citizen j
What drew me into this discussion was dismay over the readiness to vilify.
It works both ways, as in the tone and wording of the Editorial from the Star. That's what caught my eye too.
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Old Posted Apr 23, 2006, 9:14 AM
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A revolutionary city park
Apr. 21, 2006. 07:42 AM
CHRISTOPHER HUME

A river doesn't run through it, but one will run by it.
When Don River Park is finished in 2008, it will be the focal point of a new neighbourhood to be built at the bottom of the city, on land long since abandoned by its original users.
Designed by New York-based Michael Van Valkenburgh, whose credits include the acclaimed Teardrop Park in Manhattan, the seven-hectare, $17 million green space is a work in progress. But already it seems certain to become more than just a neighbourhood hangout. Presenting his plans to the Toronto Waterfront Design Review Panel this week, he made it clear he has high hopes for the project.
Though Van Valkenburgh admitted it's a struggle to keep up with engineers, who have begun putting the substructure in place, he spoke with obvious enthusiasm about the scheme.
As envisioned, it will represent a new generation of park, one not seen in Toronto, where historically they have been carved from leftover space. To begin with, the idea is to make something that will be used in winter as well as summer. That could mean an "ice feature" and a large outdoor fireplace, in addition to the more traditional skating rink, though that's grown expensive now that Toronto winters aren't cold enough for ice to stay frozen naturally.
"We don't need to improve on summer," Van Valkenburgh says, "so winter is a huge focus .... We want to do something with ice, and there will be a pavilion with washrooms and a café."
But perhaps the main gesture will be topographical; in other words, it will be done through a series of contours that reach from ground level to a height of 10 metres, high enough to see the Don. This is important because the park must also accommodate a berm to protect the neighbourhood against flooding. This area is, after all, in the flood plain of the Don River, and in an age when climate change has made natural disasters an almost daily occurrence, such measures are essential.
Indeed, nearly half the park must be given over to "meadow planting" because engineers insist there can be no trees or shrubs along the east edge of the park, which borders on railway tracks and the Don. Woody vegetation, you see, can act as a conduit for water.
"We're not fighting against the engineers' restrictions," Van Valkenburgh says, somewhat sadly. But, he adds, "the public loves the idea of meadowlands."
Another limitation, one he admits he doesn't like, is that the park forms the climax of a series of roads — Front St., Mill St. and Eastern Ave. — in a manner reminiscent of a monumentally axial beaux-arts approach. Of course, Van Valkenburgh is very much a 21st-century guy and such a 19th-century esthetic isn't his thing. Relax, Michael, you needn't worry that the west Don Lands will end up looking like Paris.
Much more to the point is the fact that the park will be inaccessible from the east. Cut off by water, railway lines and the Don Valley Parkway, it will be so close and yet so far. There has been talk about a footbridge, but of course in this city pedestrians aren't considered worth the added expense.
We should be happy with what we're getting and not ask for more.
Then there's the question of Bayview Ave., which will be rerouted to cut between the park and the neighbourhood to the west. If engineers get their way, Bayview could become another obstacle, on the west side of the park, where it will be dangerous as well as irritating.
Such considerations are all beyond the scope of Van Valkenburgh's project, which is restricted to the park itself.
"We're looking for a mix of passive and active recreation," he explains. "We're also trying for an ambiguity of scale along the sides to make the park seem large. But it's very much in process. Things will change a lot."
No doubt about that.
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