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Toronto's Election for Mayor: "Open Streets", Closed Transit

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posted on Aug, 18 2014 @ 12:34 PM
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Oh what fun I had Sunday morning.

I got off work at 07:00 (7 AM) and walked out to Bloor St., Toronto's main east west artery, beneath which the Bloor line of the subway system runs. In Toronto, on Sundays, unlike Tokyo, London, New York, Boston, Chicago, Mexico City, Paris, Rome, Berlin, Buenos Aires, Sidney, Rio de Janeiro, New Delhi, Manila, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Seoul, Moscow, Madrid and Ankara, Turkey where the subways all open before 9 AM, Toronto's subway system is closed until 9 AM.

There are reasons for that, the main one of which I will get to.

Sometimes I walk over to a nearby McDonald's restaurant to have a coffee with a friend before going out to wait for the #300 bus, which runs along the length of the Bloor/Danforth crosstown artery. I live in the east end of Toronto, far from my place of employment. However, Sunday morning I went westward to the nearby Tim Horton's restaurant on the south side of Bloor, located between Ted Roger's Way (Jarvis St.) and St. Paul's Square.

I was just finishing my sandwich and coffee and about to go out to a bus stop when I saw three #300 buses go past the restaurant, heading east, and all bunched up together. It is not the least bit unusual to see buses on this route bunched up, going either east or west. In the summer, it is mildy irritating but in the winter it signals the start of a long wait in sometimes bitter cold wind tunnel conditions, for the next bus.

I sighed and trudged over to the nearest bus stop, which was just west of the intersection of St. Paul's Square and Bloor. From time to time I adopted the 1000 yard stare frequently seen on people waiting for the bus on Sunday morning on Bloor. There were a couple of East Asian gentlemen waiting at the stop with me. They weren't familiar with the transit system (who is?), and wanted to know if the bus would take them over to Pape Station.

I told them I wasn't sure because last weekend the bus had diverted north at Broadview Station to go around a street festival, "Taste of the Danforth", that had been happening on a section of Danforth Avenue that included Pape Station.



I told them I had seen a driver let some people off north of the station so that they could walk down to it. I suggested that they ask the driver about this when the bus arrived.

Minutes, ten or fifteen, went by. From time to time I assumed the "1000 yard stare" looking for signs of the bus. Sometimes you can see the vivid blue lights on it several long blocks away. Joy fills the heart. Soon, one realizes, one will not be standing on the street anymore. One will be standing on the bus, holding on to a strap, bracing oneself against its various lurching motions, together with one's battle fatigued transit comrades, either on the way home from their midnight shifts or on the way to work Sunday morning.

I know I am meant to be here. I am a literate, energetic semi-retired egghead type, packed into a bus full of the under represented, largely mute victims of a society that really can't be bothered extending the same level of transit service to them that it extends to everyone else.

Doing this, waiting for the bus, routinely, dulls the mind. One becomes dumb and ox-like. One smokes. I smoked. I stared. I'm sure the dulling of the mind is what prevented me from noticing something odd going on west of me, near Avenue Road. Eventually I noticed flashing lights coming from a vehicle that seemed to be parked in the middle of the road.

The East Asian gentlemen and I began to wonder if those lights meant that bus service was going to be interrupted. Another peculiarity was the presence of a group of four police officers across the street, standing on the corner at St. Paul's Square and Bloor. Traffic had dwindled. Things did not look good.

We approached the police officers who told us that the street was being closed down for a street festival. They did not know how buses were being diverted, or where we should go to catch a bus. They were as clued out as we were.

I borrowed one of the Asian gentlemen's cell phones and called TTC information, the number of which was printed on the bus stop at which we were waiting. So far so good. However when I got through, there was a labyrinth of recorded messages to navigate and by the time I, in my fatigued, irritated and somewhat fuddled state of mind, was asked by the recorded voice to give the number of the "route" I was on, I was too dopey/tired to realize that the voice wanted the bus (!!!) number, i.e., 300. I gave up without getting the information that would presumably have been forthcoming.

I gave the confused and anxious looking East Asian gentleman his cell phone and told him that I intended to get a cab home, but that first I needed to go to a cash machine. He smiled, wanly, thanked me for the help I had given and we parted. Fortunately there was a cash machine nearby at a BMO (not my bank, $2.00 user fee please, ca-ching) and I took out the money I needed.

The next task I faced was hailing a cab on a street closed to traffic.

Being really tired from my overnight shift, it took me a minute or two to apprehend the inherent contradiction in the above sentence. When I did realize it, I walked over to Church Street and hailed a cab, since, at that point there was still traffic moving north and south, crossing Bloor where it was still possible to do so.

Fifteen minutes and $25.00 later, I was home. I haven't the faintest idea what happened to the East Asian gentlemen. I do remember one rough young fellow, wearing musical headphones, striding past us on the sidewalk though, just after the police had told us of the road closure, railing against the TTC. That's the great thing about Toronto. Out on the streets we howl together.
edit on 18-8-2014 by ipsedixit because: (no reason given)
edit on 18-8-2014 by ipsedixit because: (no reason given)
edit on 18-8-2014 by ipsedixit because: (no reason given)




posted on Aug, 18 2014 @ 12:37 PM
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This was the original layout of road closures envisaged for the "Open Streets" festival. Here is an article that appeared in Toronto Life, informing Torontonians about these plans at an early stage in their development. This was written February 7, 2014.

www.torontolife.com...




Toronto has countless street festivals each year, and most of them are pretty much the same: midway games, Tiny Tom donuts, and a few local musical acts competing for attention with overpriced finger food from neighbourhood restaurants. Open Streets TO is proposing something a little different. The group, a collaboration between councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam, 8-80 Cities and other like-minded organizations, aims to stage a massive, multi-part festival along Bloor Street between High Park and Greenwood Avenue, as well as part of downtown Yonge Street.

The plan, which has yet to gain city approval, calls for that entire stretch of road to be closed to auto traffic (though north- and southbound cars would still be allowed to cross Bloor). The idea is for the festival to unfold over the course of several consecutive Sundays in July and August. . . .

Even so, car issues are sensitive in Toronto, (ipsedixit note: Not to mention bus issues, Bub!) and closing 10 kilometres of a major thoroughfare is bound to be controversial. The Open Streets Toronto plan will need city council’s approval before it can go forward. BlogTO reports that the event’s organizers already have $180,000 in provincial funding lined up.


Responses in the comments section under the article were the following:


I believe this is a much needed idea. It will encourage citizens to participate, get involved, engage in physical activity and connect with other members in their community. When I travel to other cities, it's opportunities exactly like this ciclovia-proposal that I try to find. This is where the activity, energy, people and fun exist. A city is for people and more now than ever, do we need facilities and programming to get people outdoors, active and connected to other human beings.


Obviously a very aware, concerned, well informed, verbally polished supporter of the initiative. Dare I suggest that this might well be a John Tory, or Olivia Chow Torontonian? It can't be a shill or plant because believe it or not, many Torontonians are not cretins.

The other comment is from a typical Toronto ruffian.


It's obvious. They're ALL smoking crxxk! What a stupid idea.


That was in February. The last comment, above, is misleading though, because the admitted crxxk smoker, Mayor Ford, was not in favor of something that leading non-crxxk smoker, Olivia Chow, supported.

www.cbc.ca...


Mayor Rob Ford has been a very vocal opponent to such closures for festivals and marathons over the years and said he would not support Open Streets TO because he saw no benefits to closing major roads to vehicular traffic.

“People are going to get very upset when they find out the streets are closed just to walk on street we weren’t meant to walk on,” Ford said. “They’re made for cars and buses and bicycles.”

Ford said he wants to know how permits to close the city's two main traffic arteries, even for only a few hours, were approved without a vote at council.

As for the price tag associated with the event, organizers said they will announce some major sponsors in the coming weeks that will cover the police duty paid to ensure safety at the event.


The Globe and Mail reported on the plans and responses to them from the Mayor and the Police department in April.

www.theglobeandmail.com...

At that time the Mayor said that he could not support the "Open Streets" plan.


Toronto Mayor Rob Ford says he will not support an initiative to close Bloor Street to cars for four Sundays this summer, saying it would cause “chaos.” . . .

“I can’t support that,” Mayor Ford told reporters Tuesday. “If people want to do their yoga, we have tons of parks – or whatever the purpose was of closing the streets.”

Mr. Ford said that “gridlock’s a huge problem” in the city, and that the program would just add to it. “Bloor’s busy as it is, they’ll either go north into people’s backyards or south into people’s backyards.”


This "Open Streets" plan was, as noted earlier, being spearheaded by Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam. Her comments are quite revealing of the ideas, and concepts that emanate from Planet Rosedale. Cognoscenti who remember the Rosedalian mayoralty candidate of a few years ago, whose chief platform plank was to make Toronto the greenest city in North America, will recognize the aroma.


Ms. Wong-Tam, who represents the downtown ward of Toronto Centre-Rosedale, says the Open Streets program is not just about physical activity, but also about community connectivity and development.

“Almost one-quarter of [Toronto’s] population is actually living below the poverty level,” she says. “And it’s very expensive to get a gym membership for the entire family."


To read is to barf. But as the Globe reported, the plot thickened.


A motion for the initiative was introduced in November, 2012, when Ms. Wong-Tam asked city staff to report on the feasibility of the project.

The city staff report that was due before April 2013 came out a year late at the end of March 2014. The report found most affected organizations were supportive of the event, but there were major concerns from the police.



The Toronto Police Service response to the Open Streets proposal says it would be “logistically, operationally, and functionally impossible to achieve or
support on the basis of extraordinary staffing requirements that far exceed capacity.”

The report points to the 14.8 km route as being too big a space.

“This is not in any way to suggest that [the] concept is unattainable within of the City of Toronto,” the report says. “But the proposed event design and locations far exceed the capacity the police to properly handle.”


These plans were altered somewhat as time went on. The road closures were reduced.



Reminiscent of John Tory becoming a talk show host to connect with the lower classes, Ms. Wong-Tam lauds the Open Cities Toronto concept in a sequence of what, in my opinion, are some truly crack brained ideas.


Ms. Wong-Tam calls the program a great “social equalizer,” that would provide residents with a new space for recreation with the existing infrastructure, without having to build a new park or sports complex.

She says the program would also generate revenue for businesses in the area that would normally be closed on Sunday mornings. Part of the plan is to exclude any additional outdoor vending in order to increase traffic to existing local businesses.


This kind of thinking beggars belief. Talk about not knowing anything about boiler plate. How do these people get elected?

edit on 18-8-2014 by ipsedixit because: (no reason given)
edit on 18-8-2014 by ipsedixit because: (no reason given)
edit on 18-8-2014 by ipsedixit because: (no reason given)



posted on Aug, 18 2014 @ 12:38 PM
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But not everybody on City Council is a kook. Let's hear from Denzil Minnan-Wong. He's the guy who was very displeased that somewhere in the neighborhood of $500,000 was spent to place a large granite rock and some pink umbrellas on a section of the Toronto waterfront. Another crackpot idea, in my humble opinion, that reeks of the possibility of provincial government patronage payoff considerations being involved. Gubmint, I call it, the fine art of dispensing political patronage.


Public Works Committee Chair Denzil Minnan-Wong has expressed concerns about the events, noting the existing problems with traffic and gridlock in the area.

Mr. Minnan-Wong disagrees with Ms. Wong-Tam’s idea that the events would boost business along the street.

“A number of businesses rely on the commerce that is brought in from motorists, and motorists will just decide not to come,” he says. “The weekend is an important time for them to conduct their business during the summertime, and this will discourage many of them from coming into the downtown.”


Here's howThe Toronto Star reported on the event the morning after.

www.thestar.com...


Almost before it began, Toronto’s first Open Streets was over. Held bright and early Sunday morning, it was a huge success. The problem was that many Torontonians slept through most of it.


Like a lot of writing in the Star, your guess is as good as mine as to what the above actually means. Carrying on:


Open Streets Toronto, which ran from 8 a.m. to noon, was just getting going when it had to shut down. Organizers sought permission to close Bloor (between Parliament to Spadina) and Yonge (between Bloor to Queen) from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday. But that was too much for city transportation officials; they would only agree to noon, and even then, reluctantly.


I would opine that this was not a well planned event. One might even call it experimental. We untermenschen are used to that sort of thing in this city.


Although the deck was stacked against the event, it clearly resonated with Torontonians. People turned out in droves to wander streets that for a few short hours belonged to them. Aside from the sheer novelty of the experience, Open Streets was an exercise in social integration. As activist, Gil Penalosa, president of 8-80 Cities, put it, “Rich and poor, young and old, fat and thin, they’re all here.”


Ah! At least we have an admission that there is an "issue" around "social integration". I am so sure that people from "Planet Rosedale" are eager to "integrate" with the rest of us. That should be done in short order, with such powerful people behind the plan. (lol.)

The Star chides the "dozy" merchants who weren't ready to jump on a golden opportunity but lauds those who made a splash, like the tony "Walmart to the Rich", Holt Renfrew, who handed out doughnuts to the hordes of jaywalking future customers that will surely, soon, flood their showrooms.

I mean soon geologically, like a trillion years from now. Holt-Refrew were being good sports, nothing more.

The Royal Ontario Museum wanted to hand out "artifacts", but couldn't start until 10 AM because of stuffy "union rules". Boiler plate rears its ugly head again.

Maybe Councillor Minnan-Wong will be proved right about the economic results of this event. The jury will probably be out for a while on that. It will be interesting to learn what the real bottom line was.

The Star article closes with a couple of interesting points:


“The transportation department said our program was too ambitious,” Wong-Tam recalls, smiling wryly. “They wanted something more modest. There were other challenges, too, educating city staff, making retailers aware ... We asked if we could close Bloor from High Park to Main St. They said no. We asked the TTC to open at 8 instead of 9. They said no.


The police and the "transportation department" were right about this event, in my opinion, based on my own personal experience of the morning. But that might not be the fault of the planners of this event. The fact that the initial response from city planners to the original proposal was released a year late, can't be blamed on the event's organizers.

The failure to open the subway in this instance to compensate for reductions and alterations to normal service is very hard to accept, particularly since there was a failure also to tell the police officers on the route how stranded commuters could connect to diverted routes, particularly route #300.

This next bit is very important:


That Wong-Tam prevailed against such overwhelming institutional inertia speaks of another Toronto, one that’s waiting for its chance.


We know there are two Torontos. People who remember how Darcy Allen Sheppard died are in no doubt of the fact that there are two Torontos.

The future of Toronto will depend on a bigger vision for the city, perhaps on the outcome of a fight against vampire bats represented by the provincial government of the day, allied with their willing political servants in the city.

I'm not sure that Rob Ford, or anyone else is willing to do what has to be done to remedy many of Toronto's fiscal problems and that is face down the provincial government and insist that a just and appropriate percentage of Toronto's provincial tax dollars return to the city to be spent on transit upgrades and other important infrastructure projects.

Mel Lastman had the guts to tackle this issue. Mr. Ford? Mr. Tory? Ms. Stintz? Anybody else?

I have said before that I think Olivia Chow is the provincial government's candidate in this election, so I won't ask her.
edit on 18-8-2014 by ipsedixit because: (no reason given)
edit on 18-8-2014 by ipsedixit because: (no reason given)



posted on Aug, 18 2014 @ 01:47 PM
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I take public transportation sometimes for a variety of reasons. I've been very lucky to always see signs or hear from others that changes would effect me.

A huge problem I have is, I don't listen to the announcements or don't notice them until they are almost finished. Luckily people around me have always helped.

You should call and complain. Maybe they'll send you a free trip pass or something. There should have been proper notification that where you were standing would not get service.



posted on Aug, 18 2014 @ 02:04 PM
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a reply to: Iamthatbish

Thanks for the suggestion but I've already given them something to think about and I'm almost out of time for this incident. It certainly was a strange morning though. Not even the police could direct one to a diversion in bus service. I don't blame the officers but these people were there for the event. They were so-called "paid duty" officers and they did not have the sort of information that could have saved transit users some trouble.



posted on Aug, 18 2014 @ 05:30 PM
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Apparently, that's how things happen around here.......
edit on 18-8-2014 by shefskitchen because: tube link



posted on Aug, 18 2014 @ 08:13 PM
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a reply to: shefskitchen

I don't know if you've seen my thread, Bizarre Dragging Death in Toronto, where the Sheppard/Bryant incident is discussed in detail. I think it is one of the best things I have done on ATS and something of a "must read" for people who want to understand the society we live in.

www.abovetopsecret.com...

Great job on the video by the way, if that's you. Very well done rap.

edit on 18-8-2014 by ipsedixit because: (no reason given)



posted on Aug, 31 2014 @ 08:05 AM
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Just got home from my midnight shift on another day of festive street closures and transit reroutings along the main drag of "New York abandoned by the Swiss" (Toronto), the main drag being Bloor/Danforth, beneath which the subway does not run until after 9:00 AM on Sundays.

They have the number 300 bus running across town until the subway opens and one often sees them going by in herds of two and three on that route between long intervals of waiting.

Of course today, as was the case last weekend, there is an "open street" festival in which those vast multitudes of people in Toronto the Good who have never jaywalked can take their first fledgling steps in that dangerous direction.

The number 300 bus was being diverted again and since I took a cab home last weekend, I was vague as to how/where/along what it was being re-routed.

OF COURSE I should have looked it up in advance on the TTC website, but being someone from an economic group and employment niche where the quaint idea of a civic "holiday" just never arises, I didn't even realize that the whole event, "Open Streets/Closed Transit", was being repeated again this weekend. I may have read that it was, but it just went in one eye and out the other. (And I accept full responsibility for that.)

However, just out of a sense of mischief, I thought I would ask one of the four paid duty police officers standing on the corner near me if they knew where I could catch the number 300 bus . . . . There was a lot of cap lifting, scratching of noggins and looking around with puzzled faces before one of them had a brilliant idea,

"You should take the subway!," he said.

None (!!!) of them seemed to realize that it didn't open until 9:00 AM.

I headed south, looking for where the bus route had been rerouted. Several blocks later, on Carlton St., seeing two number 300s bunched up going west, I knew I was in the right spot.

While walking the six blocks or so to Carlton St., I ran into another police constable who didn't know where the number 300 was routed and the piece de resistance, a "Wheel Trans" driver who also didn't know where it was routed.

"They don't tell us nuttin'", he said.

If you are from Switzerland or Buffalo and would like to take over the reins here in Toronto, I would certainly appreciate it. Thanks in advance and hurry please, because this weekend in the Cash Cow of Canada it was deja vu all over again on the transit "system".
edit on 31-8-2014 by ipsedixit because: (no reason given)
edit on 31-8-2014 by ipsedixit because: (no reason given)









 
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