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And then there’s barrel-vaulting (top photo)

Transit in Toronto and the region is one of the most contentious issues there is – we have had tons of misfires, multi-decade fights and studies of studies (even studies of why there are so many studies). We also had a noticeably lousy TTC chairman a few years ago – who showed unbounded contempt for small businesses and the neighbourhoods they create. Dug up St Clair, snarling up little Italy for for years, putting huge strain on many family businesses that had survived for generations, only to find when it was done that thanks to water and sewer work, the whole thing had to be done all over again – and then, after two full passes at the job, the streetcar platforms STILL weren’t poured to properly fit our brand new streetcars!

Sometimes it really is a good idea to bring in someone from outside. We got Andy Byford – who’d first managed London Transport, then Sydney Railcorp, and a very good acquisition he was, too (makes me feel better about losing our charmed bank of Canada chair, to ‘the city’). During Byford’s tenure, a huge number of things that had seemed stalled forever, actually began to happen for-real. Now of course, much credit for this must also go to the Liberal provincial government, which for all their faults has offered increased funding for transit, and for a grand plan for cheap and eco-efficient access across the region. (Science fiction writers and urban planners both generally assume southern Ontario will effectively be a single gigantic city in a few decades, wrapping right around the bottom of lake Ontario and many miles inland) The most recent version I’ve come across is “TorBuffChester” from the hilarious Will Self.

Quadruptake

Even more crucially (and this is coming a long way, for a leftie to admit) – John Tory – who lead several failed attempts to assume the leadership of the provincial conservative party, has turned out to be the most perfect natural mayor Toronto has had in my lifetime. Not at all socially conservative – he is nevertheless trusted with the books – and displays a pleasant modesty in many situations where bombast to the right or the left, only ever provokes pointless ire.

He also has serious ambition to achieve transformation in transit – and without question, Byford was lucky to have him as the guy cutting the big cheques.

A new cross-town mid-town line is under construction on Eglinton again (after it was shut-down at the cost of wasted millions by austerity-finks, decades ago), our nifty double-decker go-train service is expanding regionally at a steady rate (Hamilton schedule still needs beefing-up, but it’s promised – and soon Guelph Kitchener and Waterloo should be served well also).

They’ve managed to improve the use of systems already there, to serve people who never were before – the thousands of residents of Liberty village – a giant condo park on the old Massey-Ferguson factory lands, now get downtown rapidly and efficiently on the same old streetcar line, thanks to moving the bulk of car-traffic onto crosstown one-way arteries, to the north and south.

Snappy lively combo (classy way to celebrate, and many of them)

But Sunday – all transit for the day declared free – Nada and I had chance to see something not just in-progress but fully completed – and it’s something so long overdue that it’s accomplishment is a real triumph. The Spadina line has been extended with six nicely conceived (and architecturally various) stations – one to meet the intercity rail (more go-train access), a big new regional bus-station, another that meets highway 407 – so out of town commuters can ditch their cars there, before getting stuck in (and contributing to) the really snarly traffic, and zoom straight downtown in a half-hour on the subway.

Downsview park – formerly the airfield where Avro Canada built some of the most incredible aircraft of the immediate post-war period (then got killed by more austerity-finks), and where DeHavilland Canada built the coolest bush planes and STOL transports in the world, for decades. All gone now – but there remains a lovely big open space for giant concerts and festivals – now with direct subway access. Big parties coming!

Pioneer village – a cool and historically accurate old town (not theme-parky at all) is also served well now. Should increase their visitors and funding considerably – and any kid who goes, will forevermore have an easier time envisioning and relating-to the historical times portrayed. The fresh-baked treat at the end of the tour – from an open-hearth whose fire you can hear crackling, is perhaps the best trick historical sites have, to send the kids on their way with a smile (rather than a blood sugar deficit) and make sure the memory sticks around a long while.

And done very nicely, too

But without question the absolute score here is a grand and very space-shippy station right smack in the middle of York University. This institution has long been held back by lousy access – despite top-notch facilities and several major annual sporting events being held here for years. Tens of thousands of young peoples lives just got easier, and their days got longer – all at once – serious improvement to our city – and also a status boost for a college long unfairly denigrated, simply for it’s frustrating location. Huzzah!

Andy Byford is going bye-bye now. The wunderkind that we poached, has once again been poached. He’s off to New York city, next – and though I know he’s got a real tangle to deal with there, my friends who live in that most-extraordinary city can take some comfort – you have at least just picked-up exactly the right guy, to finally get stuff moving again.  Best of luck to him and you – left us in good shape, hope he brings the same!
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“It is EXCELLENT!”

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