Blog: entries tagged with "transit"

A grand opening

Lots of good conversations at Open Everything today. The Toronto event took place today at the Centre for Social Innovation, a community space and incubator for social entrepreneurs, and further events around the world are scheduled for the rest of this year.

It’s all about the concept of “openness” - as in open source software, as in open models of government (check out Melbourne’s city planning wiki), as in the growing movement for open science.

Among other things:

  • Dr Sara Scharf spoke about modern nomenclature in biology (you know - kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, species) and how it came about through a process akin to open source today. I want to find out more about these parallel, failed attempts that tried to create unique names by encoding all distinguishing features of a species in the name itself, but I haven’t found anything online yet.
  • Marsha Cummings is working on a documentary about Station 20 West, a community health and social services centre in Saskatoon, which includes a co-op grocery store in a neighbourhood where the last commercial grocery stores have pulled out.
  • Jane Farrow spoke about Jane’s Walk, a day of self-organized neighbourhood walking tours in honour of the late Jane Jacobs. Held in May, the event has spread to other cities across Canada, and is starting to spread to the US as well.
  • Mark Kuznicki told us about Metronauts, a unique experiment in civic engagement being carried out by Metrolinx, our fledgeling regional transit authority.
  • Dan, one of the denizens of the Centre for Social Innovation, introduced us to the Open Salad Club. We’ve got a lunch club at my office, where several people take turns making lunch, but somehow the idea of preparing a big dish, even if it’s only every couple of weeks, seems a bit intimidating to me. But bringing in two ingredients for salad? Easy.

Perhaps most interesting of all was hearing from David Patrick about how he, a filmmaker by trade, happened to found the Linuxcaffe - to my knowledge, the world’s first “open source” coffee shop. Everything’s open - from the recipes to the software that runs the till. And naturally, there are open stage nights, not to mention DJ nights featuring Creative Commons-licensed music. But, I thought, what about a really open stage?

Some hastily scribbled notes: Collaborations of all sorts would be encouraged. Performers could share words and music, free for others to jam on, revise and rework. Recordings would be available online to listen to and remix, and on-line contributions could feed back into the open stage. There would be show and tell time for homemade musical instruments and other gear (not coincidentally, Richard Bishop has installed one of his wonderful basses in a lamppost just outside the Caffe). I’m not sure yet what structure, or how much structure, would be needed to get such an event to work well and flow. Just something to experiment with. Stay tuned…

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Transit City gets on the rails

Transit City - Eglinton buttonAs reported by pretty much everybody, the city has finally launched a plan for the future of light rail transit in Toronto. About time, too. They’ve even set up a web site ( with various maps and documents. More coverage from the Globe and Mail, Star, and Spacing Wire.

About time too, says Steve Munro, one of the activists who fought to keep the streetcar network here back in the early ‘70s. Lots more analysis of the proposal on his blog.

It’s not a done deal by any stretch of the imagination, and there are some important questions still to answer. But it’s a crucial step, because it puts a city-endorsed plan on the table for discussion. And a network of fast, reliable surface transit, though less sexy than a subway extension to Vaughan, serves many more people per dollar spent. (If only federal funding was based on such practical criteria!)

There’s a growing sense that things are finally happening at the TTC. I don’t know how much of it can be credited to new commission chair Adam Giambrone, but there’s something symbolic about his presence, a youthful energy that’s refreshing after years of Howard Moscoe’s bluster.

The TTC has a reputation for shutting out the public, even those who should be their strongest allies. They forced the creator of an amusing anagrammed subway map to stop using the look-and-feel of their own official maps (though I note he’s put it back up in its original form now). They treated the TTC Rider Efficiency Guide with glaring suspicion. They completely ignored the popular subway station buttons sold by Spacing Magazine. (What on earth is that stupid little shop in Union station for then?)

But these days it seems they’re opening up. Giambrone and a handful of real live high-up TTC staff came to TransitCamp, a day-long ad-hoc ideas conference held by local webheads and transit activists… and by all accounts they actually listened. And if the Transit City buttons seem suspiciously familiar, it’s because Giambrone’s people commissioned Spacing dude Matt Blackett to design them.

Exciting times - but as always the proof will be in the funding. Fingers crossed. And let’s let the Feds know we want One Cent Now.

Yeah. So about that web site. It’s in Joomla, an open-source content management system - you can tell, too, by the bits of default template still hanging around. In my experience, you can coax the thing into looking tidy, but it involves a lot of banging away at templates and CSS, and the thing always seems to run slow and clunky. I used to run the Flickershow site on Joomla, but finally I couldn’t stand it any more and switched to Expression Engine, which I like much, much better. (I’m thinking of migrating this site to it, too, but with dozens and dozens of entries and comments, it’ll be a while!)

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Naturellement c’est un concert

Naturally 7 on the MétroSpacing Wire points out this lovely “concert sauvage” by NYC a capella group Naturally 7, favouring bemused Parisian commuters with a rendition of “In The Air Tonight”. I’m reminded of my first visit to Manhattan a few years ago, when three guys wandered onto our train and started singing a couple of gospel numbers (“It’s gonna rain! It’s gonna rain. Or maybe snow…”) - I’m guessing there’s much more of a tradition of singing on the subway in New York?

Makes me want to do some busking this summer. It struck me, for example, strolling around during last year’s wonderful Nuit Blanche, that it’d be even cooler with street music…

I almost missed this one: Zunior recently released the Our Power Solar Music Compilation as an exclusive download album. It’s a fundraiser for solar power initiatives in Ontario, and has tracks by Sexsmith & Kerr, Steven Page, Snailhouse, Gord Downie and others.

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Toronto notes

detail from TTC map TTC oddities: Bay station will be closed for three upcoming weekends due to nearby construction, and Bloor-Danforth trains will divert via Museum station. The upshot: you’ll get to see the fabled Lower Bay station. It was closed to the public only months after it was built, but it shows up from time to time in films and on TV, often dressed up to look like New York or elsewhere. Transit Toronto has the lowdown; further details from Steve Munro.

Elsewhere, Steve ponders the challenges if the TTC were to run the Toronto Island Ferry (as it did, once upon a time): “If the Sam McBride is half way across to Centre Island, and is short turned, do the passengers have to get off?” Ouch. :D

In other news, the front of the Revue Cinema fell off yesterday morning. Ouch also.

Also, Matt Blackett is retiring his weekly comic m@b. I’ll miss it, but I’m sure he’ll have lots of other projects to keep him busy - and with a new issue of Spacing (the magazine he founded) in my mailbox today, I can’t complain too much.

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Along the streets

Aerial viewTook a couple cool walks through the west end, down the hill north of Davenport that marks the ancient Lake Iroquois shoreline, past the old Wychwood streetcar barns and the Tollkeeper’s Cottage, a couple of souvenirs of Toronto’s transportation history. The former site is slated for conversion to artists’ studios, greenhouses and parkland, the latter for restoration as a national heritage site.

And there were other neat things along the way - parks and neighbourhoods and friendly cats, and other stuff that may provide inspiration for the radio scripts I’ve been working on.

Down on Bloor Street, we passed by the trio of construction sites at Varsity Stadium, the Royal Conservatory and the ROM, and wandered down Philosopher’s Walk past the Conservatory and the U of T music building, there to check out the second lamppost bass installed by Richard Bishop (who ran across my post about his earlier installation, the Kensington Bass, and was kind enough to alert me to the arrival of its new sibling). A bit tough to play, but fun! I’ll have to come by with my contact microphone and an amp or recorder sometime.

Eucan megabin Speaking of the urban landscape, city council is now seeking proposals to provide street furniture citywide. One side effect of this is that the Eucan “monster bin” project (see left) is dead. Good thing too - but we’d better keep an eye on the proceedings and let councillors know we want ads kept under control.

There’s also one really maddening bit: those three-sided “ad pillars” that AstralMedia have installed in parks are exempt from all this. They’re just off the sidewalk, and therefore within the jurisdiction of Parks and Rec, not Urban Planning.

More about this via Spacing Wire. Also, a Star article by Christopher Hume.

Also, on Friday, Newmindspace (instigators of Bubble Battles, subway and streetcar parties, and other revelry) are having a big mobile party they’re calling Flight Of Fancy, somewhere close to downtown. Route to be annouced via email. I’m gonna be there, hopefully playing some music!

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They’ve resumed tearing up the concrete along the streetcar tracks. (The middle two lanes of King Street are now a big long trench from Spadina to Portland.)

I don’t mind the noise so much - I’m willing to accept 40 or 50 dB of noise in the name of maintaining a State Of Good Repair. It’s the shaking that makes me nervous.

Got to see our neighbour’s place at the end of the hall last night - gorgeous - and meet one of her three cats. She gave us a silly rope-covered cat gym thing with dangling pom-poms. Her cats wouldn’t even look at it, so she offered it. Tarquin is mildly interested, at least.

And while we were standing around in the hall, we met the girl who lives in 501, the unit we originally wanted but didn’t get. Lucky us - it’s smaller, so cheaper, but their ceiling has leaked for the entire year they’ve been living there. The management people are beyond useless. And it didn’t come with appliances.

She has a lovely, enormous cat named Mindy. That makes at least nine cats and one dog on a floor with seven apartments. :D

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