Thursday, January 31, 2008

Big boxes and big boxes

Big boxes are big issues these days.

Close to my neighbourhood, the local policticians are up in arms about the possible use of some now unused land along Eastern Avenue for a 'big box' retail area. My understanding is that the owners have already tried to have the land redeveloped as residential. This was turned down. Now the politicians - specifically Councillors Sandra Bussin and the Trotskyite Paula Fletcher - have come out in opposition. Community Council apparently has voted to restrict any retail to 200 square foot shops.

I think this is just nasty. There are 200 sq ft retail spaces along Queen St in the Beaches - but even these they are empty despite the good foot traffic.

There isn't much hope for new industrial uses along Eastern - especially if the car haters on Council push through a plan to narrow the road to 2-lanes. What kind of industry will locate where its deliveries and shipments would be caught in a traffic jams?

Fletchher proposes finding a different area that 'might be suitable for retail' - such as south of Lakeshore. OK - south of Lakeshore is zoned industrial. This would still deplete industrial space no different than the site on Eastern. Furthermore, S. of Lakeshore is not handy for walking. Aren't we supposed to be encouraging walking?

There are many people in the area that would benefit from having a Walmart - i.e. people with limited income. They need a good discount retailer so they don't have to slog up to the Danforth.

hmm - funny how Fletcher et al didn't complain about Canadian Tire and Shoppers setting up on the former site of the Beer Store's distribution center. This land wasn't zoned for retail. either. Could there be a different standard for Walmart than other retailers?

The other big boxes in the news - the big recycling boxes that the city is ramming up our a++s++s.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The 501 Blues

No, this isn't about good old Levis bluejeans. It's about Toronto's 501 streetcar route.

This is the route that meanders all the way from Long Branch in the west (near Toronto's border with Mississauga) to Neville Park (at the very East end of the Beach.) This route has been in the news recently.

On the plus side, The National Geographic Magazine has named the 501 Queen one of the 10 'best' streetcar routes in the world:

Toronto Star - Toronto streetcar named among world's best

Now the bad news, the service stinks. Practically every local paper has had articles outlining the severe service problems. Here is one such article among a host:

Toronto Sun - Trolley follies Queen-sized - Rachel Sa - Jan 18 2008

Miss Sa, I notice, uses the same term that I do.

There is also a great deal of discussion about the 501 on this website:

Steve Munro's website

So, as usual, there are many fine words printed, and perhaps many a fine speech and deputation given, but where does that get us.

For now at least, the TTC has dispatched scores of supervisors onto the routes to help keep the streetcars properly spaced. How much is this helping? I'm not sure. My gym has a great view of the intersection of Queen & Kingston road. While I'm busy trying to keep the lbs off, I can still see streetcars being short turned. Is the short turning more of less frequent than before - who knows?

However what happens beyond this is more important. The TTC has an RFP out (I think it was actually tendered out officially) for even longer 'light rail vehicles'. 'Light rail vehicles' is the term for vehicles that run on the light rail systems that run in other cities - such as Calgary and St. Louis. The TTC plans to run similar vehicles as streetcars.

We'll have fewer vehicles than today - which inevitably means longer spacing between the cars - and longer waits.

After the current firestorm abates, and when the TTC gets tired of paying so many supervisors, and later still when the larger vehicles arrive and replace the current monstronsities, where will be then?

Going nowhere fast is a likely answer.