Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Sic Transit Gloria Transit

It was a good three years while it lasted. From 2007, when Queen's Park announced the MoveOntario 2020 project to jump-start mass transit initiatives across the province, until last week's "delaying" of Transit City funds and the removal of funding from the Ontario Bus Replacement Program in the latest Ontario budget, the dream was alive - the dream that the government, any government, would finally give transit the shake it deserves. Those days are over now. For many people, transit has never been sexy - and I think that's a big part of the problem. While the United States tends more to cut NASA's budget when it needs to dredge up money from somewhere, in Canada governments seem to prefer to use mass transit systems as their piggy banks.

It's unfair, that's what it is. It's an inequitable and short-sighted solution that will only diminish the province's prospects in years to come. Not only do I find it regrettable that automobile ownership has, over the last seventy years, become the "ground state" of transportation in our society - that is, a car is the unspoken default - it's another example of our modern willingness to coast on the accomplishments of previous generations while building little for ourselves. Recall, if you will, that the entirety of the Toronto subway system except for Downsview station and the Sheppard line were built while everyone lived under the clear and present danger of global thermonuclear war. If leaders could justify building for the future when "the future" might mean getting vaporized by a Soviet warhead the next day, how is it that governments are unwilling to marshall the same will today?

The government is still insisting, through typically governmental doubletalk, that things are still all right - that the gutting of Transit City is only a "delay," and that bus operators around the province can use revenue from gas taxes to pay for new buses. But that's just a dodge. Come 2011, we may well have Premier Who-Dat in Queen's Park, and you can still see where the Progressive Conservatives have taken transit in Ontario before by following the trail of blood.

We can't keep living like this. Transit needs to be one of the defining issues of Toronto's municipal election, and fortunately enough it's the drum I feel most comfortable beating. Sure, financing from higher governments is welcome, but the lessons of the last twenty years demonstrate that the province and the federal government cannot be relied upon for consistent funding. The creation of a Province of Toronto would be a great help in rebalancing the equation, and although secession from Ontario is tempting given the current situation, it's also not my first choice. It's more like my second.

Surprisingly enough, the answer might come from Los Angeles. That city, that car-sprawling city, had no transit system save buses twenty years ago. Now it has more rail than Toronto subway, and more is under construction. They can afford this because of Measure R, a half-cent sales tax in force throughout Los Angeles County, the proceeds of which are funnelled to transportation projects - be they transit expansion, road rehabilitation or construction, or otherwise. The Los Angeles Times has recently written on details of LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's latest plan to fast-track transit construction - by using Measure R funds as guarantees to secure federal construction loans. It appears to be something that Washington is warming to.

From my reading of the City of Toronto Act, I can't see anything that categorically prohibits something like this - but knowing the twisted skein that law can be, it's very possible that I'm missing something in it. If it is practicable, though, all that we would need is the guaranteed revenue stream. There's one possibility in Toronto already, that would only need minor tweaking - the plastic bag tax. Right now, no matter where you are in the city of Toronto, if you want to get a plastic bag with your purchase you need to cough up an extra $0.05. It's purely symbolic environmentalism, meant mostly to discourage people from using plastic bags - but it doesn't do anything. The retailer keeps the extra five cents.

I believe that the money collected from bag taxes in Toronto should instead be used as a revenue stream for the TTC. If the tax was started up out of environmental reasons, fine - let's use it for a true environmental alternative, and not some fuzzy feel-good thing. Still, transit is an issue that affects more people than just Torontonians. We need a wide solution. I've said this before, and it bears repeating - there needs to be a Measure R of provincial scope, a revenue stream devoted purely to transportation projects.

We need to get serious about this. The glories of yore are tarnishing fast, and we can't coast forever on what's been built and made for us. We have to start finding ways of doing it anew.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

PDP #198: Ship's Badge

I've mentioned before that during the Second World War, my grandfather Les Parkinson served as a Motor Mechanic aboard RML 497, a Fairmile B motor launch used for coastal patrol and search and rescue operations. He made the wooden badge that had hung on the ship's bridge, and before 497 went to be paid off after the war, he removed it and brought it with him. My family still has it today, in excellent condition. The note on the back of it reads:

This plaque was affixed to the bridge of R.M.L. 497 a "Q" Boat of the Royal Navy during W.W.II. It was taken off when she was paid off July 15th 1945.

PMX 635137 L. Parkinson P.C. Mn

497 still sails today under the name The Fairmile, as a passenger vessel operating from Torquay and Brixham. It was good to find that out - for the longest time I thought this badge was all that was left of it.

I, the copyright holder of this work, hereby release it into the public domain. This applies worldwide. In case this is not legally possible, I grant anyone the right to use this work for any purpose, without any conditions, unless such conditions are required by law.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Tunnel Visions: The Toronto Subway and RT

Every once in a while, Acts of Minor Treason hops out of Toronto, lands in some other city with some other light- or heavy-rail transit system, and looks at different ways of getting around on two rails, whether it's on the ground, under it, or above it all.

Every once in a while, I also stay right where I am.

I began the Tunnel Visions series out of a desire to understand, and out of a recognition that true understanding is impossible without a knowledge of alternatives. So I've travelled to Montreal, to Chicago, and to Los Angeles, and will continue to do so - to Buffalo, to Vancouver, to Cleveland, to places even further afield as opportunities permit - ultimately so that I can have a better understanding of my own transit system. For more than twenty years I've been riding the rails in Toronto, and for much of my life they were the only ones I'd ever known. Still, nothing can be truly comprehended in isolation. To paraphrase Robert A. Heinlein: "A person who knows only his own transit system does not even know his own transit system."

On the Montreal Metro, the Chicago 'L', and the Los Angeles County Metro Rail, I had the advantage of foreignness, so that everything was completely new. When I take that same eye to what Frederik Pohl has called our "shiny streamliners," I'm distilling twenty years of experience with procedures and traditions that I had, until recently, taken for granted. This time I'm on my own turf, and the regrettable truth is that it's extremely difficult to see the flaws in something you're pressing your nose against. The Toronto subway system was my first subway system, and for better or worse it will always be the main subconscious yardstick I use when evaluating mass transit.

I know that the subway system has issues. In the end, there's nothing that doesn't. It's underfunded, crowded, skeletal and a bit dirty, but I still love it anyway.


A train waits for passengers at Union Station

Toronto's was the first rapid transit system in Canada, opening for service with one line and twelve stations in 1954. Over the next twenty years it expanded quickly, displacing a great deal of the city's existing streetcar system in the process, though major expansion stalled after the 1970s. While the system is anchored in the old city of Toronto, it extends east into Scarborough, west into Etobicoke, and north into North York, linking with bus and streetcar lines along the way. Nearly a million people ride it every day, and it is operated and administered by the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC).

The system today is comprised of four lines and sixty-nine stations. The Yonge-University-Spadina Line, colored yellow on maps, is laid out in a broad U-shape running between its two northern termini at Finch and Downsview stations via Union Station in the downtown core. The green Bloor-Danforth Line, which replaced the city's most heavily used streetcar line, reaches as far west as Kipling station in Etobicoke, connects with the YUS Line at Spadina, St. George, and Bloor-Yonge stations, and continues to Kennedy station in Scarborough. The Sheppard Line's magenta strip is the newest to be added to the map, consisting of five stations beneath Sheppard Avenue East in North York.

A Scarborough RT train departs Kennedy station, turning north

The fourth line, the Scarborough RT (short for "Rapid Transit"), isn't a subway at all. Branching from Kennedy station at the Bloor-Danforth Line's eastern terminus, it follows hydro corridors and industrial back lanes into central Scarborough. It's probably the closest thing to modern light rail, as other cities practice it, that Toronto has. It's the same technology as was originally used on Vancouver's SkyTrain, and was built because the government of Ontario wanted something that could demonstrate the capabilities of its ICTS technology. As it's entirely incompatible with the remainder of the subway system, there have been plans afoot recently to convert it to the same kind of light rail technology planned for the Transit City network - although this is in limbo thanks to the state of Ontario's latest budget.

One system expansion is currently underway - an extension of the University-Spadina branch of the Yonge-University-Spadina Line, north from Downsview to the city of Vaughan in York Region, scheduled to be completed around 2015. The usefulness of this extension is up for debate, particularly considering how stressed the existing lines are - but this is what the provincial and federal governments provided funds for, so this is what gets built. Still, in some ways it's unfortunate that the newest portions of the system are the most removed from downtown. Most of the city's tourist attractions are in the central core, and so if you're not one of the few people like me for whom a transit system is a tourist attraction in and of itself, it's easy to get a skewed view of the system based on the oldest parts of the network.

There are certainly plans for other expansion - there are plenty of plans. What's always been lacking is the political will to back their implementation. One planned expansion, an Eglinton West subway line, was actually in the beginning phase of construction when it was cancelled by the provincial government in 1995. Right now, there are two great hopes of subway expansion in the city. One, the Eglinton subway, is being championed by fellow mayoral candidate Sarah Thomson, as she believes that demand along that corridor is enough to justify a full subway and not the light rail line currently planned for it. The other, which I think is far more necessary, is the Downtown Relief Line - another U-shaped line, but shorter and wider, connecting Pape and Dundas West stations on the Bloor-Danforth Line with the downtown core. This would have the effect of providing commuters from Scarborough and Etobicoke a route to downtown that would not involve a transfer at Bloor-Yonge station, which was not designed for its current passenger numbers - for purposes of comparison, it sees more traffic than all of the Chicago 'L' stations in the Loop combined - and is thus horribly overstressed during rush hours. It was originally proposed in 1985, as part of the "Network 2011" plan that was almost entirely unrealized due to quailing politicians and cost issues, but mostly quailing politicians.

A pass vending machine at Bloor station

Nevertheless, cost issues remain the system's biggest bugbear. The TTC operates the most self-funded urban transit system in North America - 73.8% of its revenues came from fares in 2008. Historically, the province of Ontario provided a generous operational subsidy to keep the system stable, but the election of a Progressive Conservative provincial government in 1995 led to the elimination of this support. The Toronto subway is what it is despite the TTC's financial resources, and not because of them.

As a result, it's hardly a surprise that fares are somewhat higher than other cities. The latest fare increase was in January, increasing the cost of a ride to $3.00 CDN from $2.75. Unlike systems such as the Los Angeles County Metro Rail, there are a great deal more opportunities to get around in Toronto on one fare - once you've dropped your coins in the slot, so long as you remain in fare-paid areas you can stay on the system pretty much indefinitely, surface transit included. This is considerably easier than in other cities for reasons I'll elaborate on later. Myself, I get around with a Metropass, which allows unlimited use of the system over the course of a month for the low, low price of $121. At least it's tax deductible.


Two trains meet at Old Mill station

What I've come to realize is that there is no single unifying aesthetic across the whole of the Toronto subway system. The TTC doesn't even use its own font consistently.1 This owes a lot to its age and the piece-by-piece nature of its construction. The downtown core stations represent a 1950s design philosophy, something that has been referred to as a mid-20th century bathroom aesthetic, and it's only as one approaches the fringes of the city that more modern influences come to the fore. Admittedly, though, designers in the 1940s seem to have been interested in purely utilitarian designs - many of Toronto's downtown stations resemble Chicago 'L' stations in the State Street Subway.

Granted, they weren't always this way. When the system first opened in 1954, the platform walls were tiled with Vitrolite - a type of reflective glass that was common in the era but has since fallen out of use, and and which has been removed from all stations except Eglinton. There, I think, the reflective tiles help make the station feel brighter and more open. The Sheppard Line stations, with their generally unadorned concrete walls, tend to reflect more closely the aesthetic prevalent in the Los Angeles subway system.

Non-reflective tiles are used through much of the rest of the system, with differing designs to differing effect - though the low ceilings and long platforms contribute to a kind of "shoebox" effect. This has the effect of making it extremely obvious when a train is approaching, thanks to the wind kicked up by tunnel air displacement. As much of Toronto's subway was built with the cut-and-cover method, rather than the deep bored tunnels of Los Angeles, the high roofs universal there aren't as easily usable here. Some underground portions of the system are so close to the surface that there has been at least one high-profile incident where a road repair crew accidentally broke through the tunnel roof without realizing it was there.

Downsview station, opened in 1996, was designed with a high-roofed aesthetic uncommon on the Toronto subway

Like the systems in Montreal and Chicago, there's no consistency in Toronto with regard to the orientation of the platforms. Aside from Union and Eglinton, which originally served as terminal stations, the oldest stations are all side platforms. Center platform stations, where both tracks are accessible from a single platform, are generally restricted to the newer segments of the line.2 A sense of where the lines shift from side-platform to center-platform is useful to subway surfers like me who tend to stand next to the doors that won't be opening at the next stop.

Doors that do open easily, though, are those belonging to bus and streetcar routes that connect to subway stations. Of all the systems I've experienced, Toronto is apparently unique in the degree to which its surface transit routes are tied into the fare-paid areas of subway stations. While the subway-to-bus transfers I've experienced in Montreal, Chicago, and Los Angeles generally involve waiting at a stop right outside a subway station, in Toronto the buses and streetcars come right into the station, to load and unload passengers at bays beyond the turnstiles. For the most part it's only the downtown stations - and even then, only some of the downtown stations - as well as some of the Scarborough RT stations that require travellers to depart the system to make connections.

The bus bay at Eglinton station allows passengers to access the subway directly, with no fare barriers

Still, the state of the stations is not pristine. I imagine that it's due to the system's age, the high traffic levels, and the TTC's shaky financial situation. Particularly in downtown stations, there's more garbage lying around than a lot of people would prefer - much of it tends to accumulate at track level, which causes its own problems when it comes in contact with the electrified third rail and starts to smoke, which necessitates the shutdown of that section of the subway pending a safety inspection. This tends to happen most frequently during rush hours.

It's easy to get a "bare-bones operation" vibe from some Toronto subway stations, and that's not an entirely inaccurate assessment. It's not uncommon for roof facades, like the artificial planking in the previous photograph of the Union Station platform, to have been partially removed. The same is true of wall covers - in some cases, the original Vitrolite tiles in older stations are returning to the surface, albeit covered in the assorted grime of decades. I don't see as many buckets catching roof leaks as I used to, but to encounter one tomorrow wouldn't surprise me.


A Bombardier T1 car brings up the rear of a train in Sheppard-Yonge station

"Rocket" is a recurring motif within the Toronto transit system, both within the subway and without. One of the agency's most well-known slogans is "Ride the Rocket." The new subway train model, which will hopefully be delivered at some point in the next few years, is called the Toronto Rocket. It ultimately derives from the first vehicles operated on the subway, the G-series "Gloucester" models, which ran on the system until 1991. Today, the bulk of the system's rolling stock is made up of the Bombardier-made T-series, dating from the mid-1990s, though some of the vehicles date back to 1974. The modernity of Toronto's rolling stock was really brought into clarity for me after I visited Montreal, a city where the newest trains were built in 1976.

Unlike Montreal, but like Chicago and Los Angeles, Toronto's trains are steel-wheeled and run on rails - like those other cities, they're powered by an electrified third rail rather than overhead wires. One disadvantage to this - which, to be honest, I don't recall noticing in Chicago or Los Angeles - is that when they brake, they can squeal considerably loudly, and the way the stations are designed can magnify this. Nevertheless, it's not too bad; I personally didn't even pick up on it until I saw someone from Montreal commenting about it. When they accelerate, they sound exactly like the Siemens P2000 light rail vehicles used on the Gold Line in Los Angeles - or should that be the other way around?

Nevertheless, they're comfortable and air conditioned, which is an absolute necessity considering (a) the kind of crowding they experience during rush hours, and (b) the heat of an average Toronto summer. The Mark I ICTS trains on the Scarborough RT are significantly smaller than the subway cars - they are, in fact, almost precisely the same size as the rolling stock on the Chicago 'L' - and have only back-to-the-wall "bench" seating of the sort you also get on the London Underground's Piccadilly Line. The seat layout on Toronto subway trains is considerably more varied, though they lack the open spaces for bicycles, wheelchairs, luggage, or whatever else that the Los Angeles subway trains feature. Six-car trains run on the Yonge-University-Spadina and Bloor-Danforth lines, while Sheppard and Scarborough RT trains are restricted to four cars.

The vehicles are generally, in my experience, kept to a high standard of cleanliness. Still, they also spend a long time on the rails before heading back to the yard, and so every once in a while I'll come across a spilled drink or a bunch of discarded orange peels or abandoned coat hangers or something on or under one of the seats.3 Unlike the Los Angeles County Metro Rail or the Washington Metro, food and drink are allowed on board TTC vehicles, and because there are plenty of people out there who act as if they have no concept of cleanliness or propriety. It's a grumble.

Automated announcements are universal throughout the subway and Scarborough RT - when the train leaves a station the name of the next will be announced, and it's repeated just before the train enters its destination station. Compared to other cities I've been in, they're pretty threadbare - there's no notification of line transfers when they're available, no regulation reminders like on the Chicago 'L,' not even reminders at the terminus stations. Things could definitely be improved here.

Ease of Access and Ease of Use

A rush-hour only collector booth at King station

I've mentioned this in every single Tunnel Visions post previously, and with good reason - for all the complaints you may have against it, the Toronto subway system is at least scheduled to run very frequently. No matter what time it is, so long as the subway isn't actually closed, if you have to wait more than six minutes for a train then something has gone off the rails.4 Service during the day is even more frequent, and during rush hour on the Yonge-University-Spadina and Bloor-Danforth lines, trains arrive every two or three minutes. On the other hand, depending where you are, you may have to wait for two or three or four trains to go by before you can actually find a space on one. I don't use the system during rush hour myself, but I've heard horror stories.

Bicycles are permitted on the TTC. Outside of rush hour, there's no restriction against taking bikes onto the trains. I'd recommend going for the first car if you're bringing your own wheels along - they tend not to be quite as busy as the rest of the train, owing to the manner in which passengers are funneled to the platform in many stations.

All Toronto subway and RT stations are staffed. Generally, this is in the form of one or two collectors, TTC employees who sit in booths like the one pictured above who monitor the fareboxes, process transactions, and generally keep an eye on the station. Their booths are adjacent to the turnstiles - the closest one, meant for people who drop their money or token in the farebox, spins freely, but the others need to be unlocked with a token or scannable pass. A few of the stations have been refitted with wide, arm-blocked gates for accessibility. Some high-traffic stations also have secondary, unstaffed entrances, generally marked along the lines of "TOKEN/METROPASS ENTRANCE ONLY" and equipped with turnstiles that will only unlock when a token is deposited or a card swiped.

Once you're in, though, getting around isn't quite as simple as one might hope, particularly if unfamiliarity is an issue. Signage within the system varies widely and wildly - from original black steel signs from the 1950s and 1960s to modern, roof-mounted information displays and, on occasion, handwritten notes. They're not particularly colorful, and can be easy to miss if you're not looking for them. There are also oddities here and there, like Dundas station's northbound and southbound platforms both existing in separate fare-paid zones - the sort of thing that really has to be learned by trial and error.


The Toronto subway, and the TTC as a whole, have had a bad rap recently. It's only to be expected with a system that's only recently recovered from the funding hammerblow it took during the 1990s, and it's far from being out of the woods. Nevertheless, its present issues distract from a deeper stability. Despite it all, the subway has soldiered on. While transit systems across North America are reducing service, those kind of cutbacks have been taken off the table in Toronto. People can complain, fulminate and bluster - and though I might grumble at the prospect of a long wait as well, I'll always forgive. Whenever I hear the three chimes of the closing doors or the echo of those shiny streamliners and their squealing wheels, I know that I'm home.

POSTSCRIPT: What you've just read was written on Sunday. When I woke up this morning, the first news I encountered was that of the suicide bombings on the Moscow Metro. Attacks and deaths on a transit system are always a horrible business - the prospect is particularly shaking personally, because I've come to view transit systems as sanctuaries when I'm in other cities. It's just a lot of blood that will accomplish nothing except more blood. My heart goes out to the people of Moscow today, but what I really regret is that this sort of thing will, somewhere and somewhen, happen again. Human nature - human madness.

1 The Joe Clark who was not Prime Minister of Canada has written on this issue extensively, so I won't belabor it here.

2 To my knowledge, the stations under University Avenue from St. Andrew to St. George are the only center-platform stations built before 1973 that were not originally built as terminal stations. I have no idea why side platforming was so popular at the time; I can only guess it owed to ease of construction, because there's a lot of duplication when you take stairways and under-track passageways into account.

3 I have encountered all of these things on subways at one point or another.

4 Fortunately, this is almost always a figure of speech. The last serious incident on the subway system, the Russel Hill accident, happened in August 1995.

Previous Tunnel Visions

Sunday, March 28, 2010

PDP #197: Slightly Less Light Hour

I went downtown for Earth Hour last night. Remembering the degree of relative enthusiasm with which it was taken up last year, and given that I now have a camera that actually takes decent low-light photographs, I was interested in seeing Toronto dark. I wasn't totally let down. City Hall was almost totally dark, whereas right next door Old City Hall was bathed in golden light for, as far as I can determine, no reason at all. All the lights in the Bay were off, and skyscrapers like First Canadian Place were darker than usual - but not much darker.

But the police did close off Yonge Street to cars and opened it to pedestrians, allowing me to get a bunch of photos from the center line. That was nice.

I, the copyright holder of this work, hereby release it into the public domain. This applies worldwide. In case this is not legally possible, I grant anyone the right to use this work for any purpose, without any conditions, unless such conditions are required by law.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Shades of Green

"Resources exist to be consumed. And consumed they will be, if not by this generation then by some future. By what right does this forgotten future seek to deny us our birthright? None I say! Let us take what is ours, chew and eat our fill."
- CEO Nwabudike Morgan, "The Ethics of Greed" (from Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri)

Tonight is Earth Hour, and being that it's a well-publicized pro-environmental initiative, you don't need to look hard to find people opposed to it - not just indifferent to it, but actively inimical to it. I first heard about "Human Achievement Hour" via The Age of Melbourne, which reported on the Conservative Leadership Foundation's drive to bring it to Australia this year. To put it bluntly, "Human Achievement Hour" is a massive "fuck you" to Earth Hour that "salutes those who keep the lights on and produce the energy that makes human achievement possible." They go one further with one of the posters they offer for download, exhorting "Don't be stuck in the dark with the communists. Turn your lights on!"

It's illustrated with a satellite photo of the Korean peninsula, pointing out that "freedom hating communists in North Korea don't have lights." I suppose whoever designed this was too stupid to remember that China, right across the border from North Korea, is also a communist state and yet still has plenty of lights on. Besides, it's been twenty years since the Cold War ended - appealing to the communist boogeyman demonstrates, in my mind, that this campaign is meant to appeal to the older, more established sections of society, who have a great deal invested in the status quo.

This sort of thing is only going to become more and more common as the years go on, and as more people of my generation - many of whom actually recognize that climate change is not a bed of roses - start to gain prominence and power in society. We've only seen the warm-up yet; the "business as usual" crowd that currently dominates global politics has not yet had to reckon with actual resistance to their policies. I wrote about this earlier this month, and I've since been tossing around ideas since for how environmental politics might develop in the twenty-first century. If nothing else, I'll most likely find use for them my 2070s-era sf setting.

I still believe that at some point, and probably sooner rather than later, some event is going to take place which takes a lot of wind out of the sails of those who believe climate change isn't happening at all - I'm betting on an ice-free Arctic, pictures of which might launch a new environmental awareness in the same way that photos of Earth taken by Apollo astronauts helped launch the modern environmental movement. As far as environmental politics go in the twenty-first century, I see two concepts representing the opposite sides of a spectrum: enviroprotectionism and envirodominionism.

Enviroprotectionism is simple to understand, as the environmental movement has always lived on this side of the spectrum. At its core, all else being equal, enviroprotectionism prioritizes the protection of the environment over purely human interests - for example, the stability of the Niagara Peninsula's microclimate, or the funding needs of urban transit systems, being more important than the effect a Mid-Peninsula Highway would have on traffic congestion. Enviroprotectionists would not have built the endless tracts of suburbs that exist in North America today owing to the manner in which they disrupt local environments and foster dependence on polluting vehicles to get around.

Still, there's plenty of room for difference from today - in my mind, moderate and conservative enviroprotectionists would have no problem with nuclear power generation to combat the greater environmental threat of fossil fuel-based power production. Extremist enviroprotectionists would advocate a return to pre-industrial society, incapable of harming Earth further with its pollution, and living harmoniously with nature in small communes where people die of old age at 35 due to the lack of technology necessary to support the kind of lifespans we've become accustomed to - though they wouldn't talk about it in those words, naturally.

Envirodominionism, named from Genesis 1:28 ("And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth"), is the other side of the coin, and is the natural place I imagine current climate change skeptics migrating to once they decide that "global warming is good for the soul." All else being equal, envirodominionism prioritizes purely human interests over environmental protection, and ours is a world in which envirodominionism is on parade. It's arguable that envirodominionism is the natual state of humanity, recalling a time when life was hand-to-mouth and there was no time to spare about worrying for tomorrow. You see it in places like Indonesia, which is one of the largest carbon dioxide emitters in the world thanks to the amount of forest cover that is burned down to clear land for agriculture.

Nevertheless, it would be a mistake to think of envirodominionism as legitimizing acts of callous environmental destruction; people are not four-color villains. While envirodominionism prioritizes human interests, liberal envirodominionists would (hopefully) recognize that a robust environment is in humanity's best interest - that it's better off for civilization to make sure that the environment can continue to deliver the services we've come to depend on, rather than damaging it to the point where civilization has to manage those services itself and pay for the privilege of doing so. Liberal envirodominionists probably wouldn't have built North America's suburbs as they are either - not out of any deep concern for the environment, but for the foolishness of burying prime agricultural land in concrete.

Still, there would be extremist envirodominionists too, which would be where you'd find the Captain Planet villains on the spectrum. Extremist envirodominionists wouldn't be actively trying to destroy the environment - they'd just be thinking of the achievement of humanity, and would go no farther - but a long enough period of consistent management by extremist envirodominionists would probably result in something like a Warhammer 40,000 forge world, a planet whose biosphere has been completely destroyed due to neglect and industrial development.

"The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few." Both sides would look at this in different ways. For enviroprotectionists, it means that a stable environment is, in the long term, of greater social value to more people than whatever might have been built. For envirodominionists, who might well downplay the potential consequences of severe climate change, the opportunities for development they embark upon would ultimately be of greater economic value. I think that the conflict between these value systems, or systems like them, may well become one of the defining characteristics of politics in this century.

Just as long as they don't stoop to calling each other "freedom-hating communists" or "capitalist swine."

Friday, March 26, 2010

PDP #196: A Short Turning

In Toronto, a "short turn" happens when a transit vehicle is prematurely turned around by transit control and sent back the way it came. Generally this is used to plug holes in the schedule, or to try to get a vehicle running well behind time back on track. It's not particularly fun to be part of, especially if you're travelling beyond the short turn.

I mention this only because the provincial government of Ontario has, with its latest budget, done an exceptional job of short turning transit in Toronto. Most of the Transit City light rail network is on the chopping block - though, through the province's munificent wisdom, we are still getting an express airport rail service using dirty diesel trains on land that could have been used for an aboveground subway extension, not to mention the Spadina Subway Extension to A Bunch of Big-Box Stores in Vaughan.

I'm sure glad that the province recognizes, in the words of the City of Toronto Act, "that the City plays an important role in creating and supporting economic prosperity and a high quality of life for the people of Ontario," and that decent transit plays a huge role in making that possible. Talk about having your priorities in order!

Once again we see the baseless self-assurance that there will always be time to invest in transit later. The only problem is that, for governments, there never is a later. We have the system we do now because politicians in the 1980s decided that we would be able to build things later. I wouldn't have thought transit and space had all that much in common, but I've come to think that they have an unfortunate relationship - in that they're both generally the first to go on the chopping block when a government is in the mood to cut something.

I, the copyright holder of this work, hereby release it into the public domain. This applies worldwide. In case this is not legally possible, I grant anyone the right to use this work for any purpose, without any conditions, unless such conditions are required by law.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

A Historical Perspective: The Liverpool Blitz

This is the second extract I'm making available from my grandfather Les Parkinson's memoirs, dealing with his experience as a Manchester police officer during the early years of the Second World War - the previous one, dealing with the Manchester Blitz, is available here. Essentially every major English city was clobbered by German bomber raids at some point during the course of the war. While my grandfather was based in Manchester, the exigencies of wartime didn't allow the luxury of staying in one place, and so on more than one occasion he was sent to lend assistance in Liverpool during its own Blitz. He was twenty-four years old at this point, which may shed some light on why he did what he did.

Life became very tedious, for all we did was work and sleep and it was beginning to take its toll. In order to relieve the situation, the powers that be decided after much debate to stop us from reporting for duty when the sirens sounded whilst we were at home. They decided that even-numbered officers on even-numbered days would report to the station nearest their place of abode. This was a welcome change. The only snag was that on our "day off" from reporting, we had to go to Liverpool. We used to leave at 5:00 AM and return at 10:00 PM, but this only happened after they had had a raid.

We practically knew when we were going to be hit for the Germans had a fellow named William Joyce, an Englishman - he was after the war hanged for treason. He used to be known as Lord Haw-Haw. He broadcast every night from Germany and told us where the raid was to be, and he was never far off the mark. On night he told us that he liked the new cinema that had been built at Ardwick Green, and said that it wouldn't be nice after the next raid. The next night they came and dropped their bombs, but missed the cinema and hit the theatre across the road. Was it good luck or judgement or pin-point bombing, we never knew, but people started to think that there were spies around to guide the bombers.

My first trip to Liverpool was rather adventurous for me. The night's raid had been very heavy in dockland, with ships sunk in the dock and in the river and lots and lots of fires. Fortunately the firemen had plenty of water but not enough pumps, for the fires had to be put out before nightfall. I was assigned to work with a Liverpool policeman at Canada No. 1 dock. There, the warehouse had been destroyed. It contained food that had been unloaded from a ship and was to be salvaged. In addition to the food, there was lots of booze that was ready to be loaded on the ship for export at some future date. There was great activity in the dock area, for damaged cargo vessels were being got ready for towing to enter and unload.

The rubble from the demolished buildings was being loaded onto the trucks to be taken to a dump site. There was a "scuffer," a Liverpool bobby, on duty and I was assigned to help him. Our job was to prevent the truckers from taking out looted property.

The "scuffer" told me that he took no messing from anybody and that he expected me to be the same. I watched him for a while, checking and searching trucks as they left the area and saw that the truck drivers did as they were told. After a while, he told me that he was "going to the bridewell for his scoff" - going to the police station for his meal - and that I would be in charge. He told me that if I was not satisfied with a truck I could make the driver tip his load in an area that had been prepared for tipping. With that he left and I took command of the situation.

After a while a couple of the workers came up to me to have a chat, as they said they wanted to be friendly with the stranger, but I took it that I was being sounded out so I decided to be very careful and crafty. Two trucks came together, fully laden with rubble. The first one I gave a good doing over and let through. The second one was driven by one of the blokes who had tried to sound me out. I searched his cab and found nothing, but had the feeling that something was not right, so I ordered him to the tipping area to tip his load. He left his truck and went for his foreman, and he happened to be the union representative. He told me that I was not a Liverpool policeman, but an out-of-towner, and that I had no authority to do what I was doing.

I stood my ground and told him that I had reason to believe the driver was taking out of the dock area looted property, and with that I wanted to check the contents of his load and that if he did not obstructing me in my duty I would arrest him.

When he saw that I was not going to move, he told the trucker to take his load and tip it for inspection. Just then the Liverpool chap came back from his scoff. I told him all that had transpired and he said that he guessed something would happen, as he came back on time. So we both went over to the tip site, and lo and behold we found seven cases of tins of herrings in tomato sauce in amongst the rubble.

The scuffer told the foreman to reload the truck and move it, and that the driver was being arrested for looting. He returned with the driver and sent for the "Black Maria." While waiting for it, the scuffer said that he had had his eye on the driver but couldn't nail him, and asked if I wanted to take him to court. I said "no, it's your area, you do it, for it will act as a warning to the others and perhaps make life a little easier." He thanked me and said, "I had you right from the start, I knew you was a real policeman." For the rest of the day life went very easy and we had no more trouble. I felt really good, for I knew that I had left a good impression of the ability of a Manchester policeman in Liverpool.

I only went to Liverpool twice. The second time I went I was really stupid. I was sent to a cold storage warehouse that had been damaged during the air raid the previous night. The place was full of frozen beef, and with rationing being as it was they had to salvage as much as they could. When I got there I relieved a Liverpool bobby. After he put me in the picture he went home. As it was just getting daylight, the workers began to arrive. Their task was to get the meat out as soon as possible. The place had been badly damaged by bomb blast, so they did not have fire to worry about, and they started to empty the place and put the meat onto trucks to be transported to another storage place.

For a couple of hours all went well, then someone found an unexploded bomb in one of the freezers. That did it, for they all came out and the work was stopped. I went to see what was wrong and found that an unexploded incendiary bomb had got wedged in a wall of the insulated area. Anxious to get the work re-started, I said to them, "Don't worry, I'll shift it for you then you can get back to work."

I pulled the bomb free and took it outside to check it out. It was about two and a half feet long and about three inches in diameter. There was no doubt about what it was. I told the fellows not to worry, as it was a dummy UXB. I explained to them that "Jerry" often put a dummy incendiary bomb to frighten people and to cause panic, as had happened to them as they had stopped working.

So back to work they went, and off to the station I went with the unexploded bomb. I got a lot of stares as I walked through the busy streets carrying the bomb. They must have thought me mad. That's what the desk sergeant called me when I put it on the counter in front of him. All ended well, for when I got back to the site all were working hard to get the place empty before darkness came.

Past Perspectives:

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

PDP #195: The Exhibition Crowd

When the Canadian National Exhibition comes to town, things tend to get busy. There isn't much parking down around Exhibition Place, and even with pretty much every space there is going for $20 each, they tend to fill up fast - so, for some people, Exhibition time might be the only time they really use the TTC. It's probably when the Bathurst streetcar is at its busiest, if this crowd surrounding a streetcar ready to take on passengers is anything to go by.

I, the copyright holder of this work, hereby release it into the public domain. This applies worldwide. In case this is not legally possible, I grant anyone the right to use this work for any purpose, without any conditions, unless such conditions are required by law.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

In Their Own Names

Fifty years ago, five men died while working in a watermain in what became known as the Hoggs Hollow Disaster. It helped pave the way to better workers' rights in Ontario, and last week a memorial quilt was unveiled in York Mills subway station - adjacent to the site of the disaster - to commemorate it. Torontoist made a detailed and well-written post about the disaster and its background last Saturday, far more detailed than the simple historical plaque the city installed at the disaster site some time ago.

One particular part of it infuriated me, and it was completely unexpected. I'm not criticizing Torontoist's work, though. What I refer to specifically is a clipping they include from the March 24, 1960 edition of the Toronto Telegram, part of that paper's coverage of the disaster. It's a diagram of the underground works, centered around the five bodies that were ultimately found by rescuers.

The five men who died in that watermain in 1960 were Italian immigrants, hardly uncommon in the postwar Toronto. Their names, if nothing else, make it clear - Pasquale Allegrezza, Giovanni Correglio, Giovanni Fusillo, Alessandro Mantella, and Guido Mantella. In 2010 they're totally unremarkable, but in 1960, Toronto was just beginning to become a magnet for immigrants to Canada. While the transition from the nineteenth century's "Methodist Rome" to the multicultural city of today was remarkably smooth, there had to have been cultural issues at the time to work through.

That's what I see in the Telegram's 1960 diagram. Where the bodies are identified, they're identified as belonging to Pasqualle [sic] Alegrezza, John Correglio, John Fusillo, Alexander Mantella, and Guido Mantella. Presumably Pasquale and Guido were permitted to keep their names because "Pascal" and "Guy" still sounded foreign to the Toronto-Anglo ear of 1960. Granted, I don't know if the three simply took English names to make things easier - it's a definite possibility, though that diagram is the only place I've seen the three given Anglo names - but this is about showing respect for the dead. The least the Telegram could have done would to report on their deaths using their actual names.

I talked about this with my roommate afterward, for perspective; he's usually the one who breaks down things I have difficulty comprehending. One possibility we hashed out was that it was a manifestation of cultural chauvinism - that the English names were used, where they could be easily switched out, to make it easier for readers to relate to them as people. In 1960, if you were a white Torontonian, "Giovanni" may well have been just some strange, unfathomable foreigner, while "John" could just as easily be your next-door neighbor. It's the sort of thing that's been going on for centuries - how many Canadians and Americans were taught about John Cabot, say, rather than Giovanni Caboto? I didn't even realize he was Italian until I was far older than I should have done, just because of the name alone.

We may, finally, be moving out of that, and it's about time. For Toronto in particular, demographics are shifting, and any name could belong to your neighbor. In times long past, people began to believe that names have power. It's absolutely true. Names are powerful things to shape our perceptions of the world, and it behooves us to treat them with the respect due them.

Monday, March 22, 2010

PDP #194: I Don't Think They're Listening

If what Environment Canada says is true and this summer is going to be a hot and dry one for Toronto, then I have to say I'm glad Toronto got its garbage strike out of the way last summer. Had temperatures regularly been above thirty degrees, turning the garbage piles into boiling, festering mounds of waste, I'm not sure if the City would have made an agreement with the union sooner but it sure wouldn't have helped with the general public. Things are still on edge between the public and the unions as it is.

It's not as if the general public is blameless, though. After all, that garbage on the street had to come from somewhere - and it's not as if the garbage was piled so high around this receptacle that they couldn't understand its message.

I, the copyright holder of this work, hereby release it into the public domain. This applies worldwide. In case this is not legally possible, I grant anyone the right to use this work for any purpose, without any conditions, unless such conditions are required by law.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Phototour: A Scott Pilgrim-age

Leia esta em Português, também!

Though most of the production companies have set up shop in Vancouver, it's not uncommon for Toronto to appear as a setting in film or television. What is uncommon is for Toronto to appear in film or television as itself, rather than New York or Chicago or the City With No Name. It's only recently that things have begun to change, that the Powers That Be have been willing to step out of the familiar, well-treaded surroundings of Manhattan or Los Angeles. Brian Lee O'Malley ("BLOM") has helped to change that with his Scott Pilgrim series - originally a series of action romance (yes, really) graphic novels, with the sixth and final due out this summer, and now a major motion picture (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World - I applied to be an extra, but didn't get in) set to be released on August 12, 2010. It is going to be totally rad.

Scott Pilgrim is one of the most unrepentantly Toronto-centered works I've encountered, and that level of familiarity is probably one of the reasons why I like it so much. It's full of small, accurate references and details that help make the setting come alive - like the OMG panels on the side of the garbage cans, the NOW Magazine boxes, and the frequency of Pizza Pizza places in the streetscape - not to mention side jokes that would soar right over the head of anyone who isn't familiar with Toronto, like how Scott's brother's name is Lawrence West. It's not just me, either. Mad5l5in5 from The Starry Fork was in the city last autumn, and given that I was the one with local knowledge I ended up becoming a Scott Pilgrim tour guide. Considering the sheer weight of photos I took during that day, there's no reason I shouldn't subject the rest of you to it as well.

So get your volumes and follow along! For best results, I recommend you listen to Plumtree's "Scott Pilgrim," namesake of the series, while you follow along. It will make things even more rad. And, yes, I realize that I am a total nerd. I also like showing off my city however I can.

And, yes, I realize I've missed some here and there. So check out Mad5l5in5's Scott Pilgrimage Flickr photostream for another perspective!

Vol. 1: Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life

1. Scott and Wallace's Apartment

The tour began here, at the house on Alberta Avenue, because I figured it was most appropriate to start from the beginning. I was only able to find it because BLOM was kind enough to add an almost entirely accurate address label to the CDs Scott orders off midway through Volume 1, up to and including the postal code being correct - the only niggle is that it's Alberta Avenue, not "Albert Avenue." The place is a few houses north of Davenport Road, but depending on where you're coming from, taking the Ossington bus is one of the better ways to get there.

HOW TO GET THERE: The 63 Ossington bus from Ossington station or Eglinton West station and the 127 Davenport from Spadina station both pass close by the intersection of Davenport and Alberta.

2. Toronto Public Library - Wychwood Branch

The Toronto Public Library system is, with ninety-nine branches, the single largest public library system in North America, and it counts within those numbers more than a few members of Toronto's historical building inventory. The Wychwood branch, on Bathurst Street just south of St. Clair Avenue West, was built as a Carnegie library nearly a century ago and still retains the architectural charm of the period. The appearance of the Wychwood branch is the minor of the TPL's two substantial appearances in Scott Pilgrim - it's really significant only because this is the first place where Scott encounters Ramona Flowers outside of subspace. I have never been inside it myself - all the times I've been in that area were times it was closed - so I can't say if it would also remind me of grade school. Considering I attended grade school in 19th century buildings, though, I'd say there's a distinct possibility.

HOW TO GET THERE: From St. Clair West station, either walk or take the 512 St. Clair streetcar one stop west to Bathurst. Alternatively, the 7 Bathurst bus goes directly past the library.

3. The Rockit

This was, to be perfectly honest, the only spot on my list that I couldn't actually find. Google Maps told me that it was on Church Street around Richmond, which isn't an area I have an encyclopedic familiarity with, and so we spent ten or twenty minutes wandering in guttering sunlight with no real sucess. It sucked, too, as the Rockit is the site of Volume 1's climax. Later on I found out that the place doesn't, technically, exist anymore. In O'Malley's words, the place was "cramped, ugly and terrible" so I'm not sure if that's a bad thing or not.

It's also significant - sort of - in that the Rockit is one of the southernmost points of interest so far included in Scott Pilgrim. When I said that the series is Toronto-centric, I mean pre-amalgamation Toronto - as of the end of Volume 5, I don't think anything has taken place north of St. Clair, west of Lansdowne, or, apart from a spot in the Beaches, south of Queen. This may change slightly in Volume 6, depending what's on the plan - personally, I hope it will end in an epic swordfight on top of the CN Tower during a lightning storm. Because that would be TOTALLY AWESOME.

HOW TO GET THERE: Purchase a DeLorean DMC-12, install flux capacitor, and accelerate to 88 miles per hour.

Vol. 2: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

4. Bloor and Bathurst

The first volume of Scott Pilgrim came out in 2004, and thanks to six years of gradual development, construction, and rejiggering, it doesn't exactly reflect Toronto anymore. While total disappearances like the Rockit's are rare, slight differences can be just as jarring. The big sign above the second floor of Insomnia - "THE INTERNET IS A STRANGE PLACE - DON'T SURF ALONE" was removed only recently, and the original payphone booths have since been replaced with more modern, open models.

HOW TO GET THERE: Take the Bloor-Danforth subway line to Bathurst station.

5. Second Cup

Apparently this particular Second Cup franchise is in the books because it was conveniently close to O'Malley's apartment at the time he was putting things together - that's what I glean from his comments on the National Post's locations map, at least. It reinforced the series' narrow geographic focus to me - it's practically right around the corner from the Wychwood library branch, about a two minute walk, and is not particularly far from Alberta Avenue either. There wasn't really anything to distinguish it from any other Second Cup, though I don't think they sell totallyawesomechinos. I don't have any photographs of the inside, because really, that'd just be weird, taking photos like that. And I might have been asked to leave.

HOW TO GET THERE: Walk or take the 512 St. Clair streetcar to Bathurst from St. Clair West station.

6. The Baldwin Steps

Thirteen thousand years ago, Toronto was underwater - or, at least, downtown Toronto was. Davenport Road deviates from the general street grid of the city because it follows the route of an old native trail, and that trail followed level ground along the ancient shoreline of Lake Iroquois, the Ice Age predecessor of Lake Ontario. Today, the Baldwin Steps link Davenport Road with the top of the ridge, a spot that might have been a most excellent Ice Age beach, but since you already used your time machine to check out Rockit I don't think you have the plutonium to spare. They're particularly fun to climb, particularly if you're carrying a bicycle up with you. I most absolutely do not recommend trying to skateboard down the handrails - it's impossible. I hear people still leave flowers for Lucas Lee there.

HOW TO GET THERE: The 127 Davenport bus from Spadina station goes right past them.

7. Casa Loma

Yes, Toronto has a castle. Kneel. This was never the residence of royalty, but was built in the early twentieth century by Sir Henry Pellatt as a house to beat all houses. After nearly being demolished in the 1930s when Pellatt couldn't afford to pay his taxes, it's now a museum and one of the grandest remnants of historic Toronto. It shows up frequently in film and television, the inside more than the outside. When I was there in October, parts of it were surrounded by scaffolding for maintenance, presumably to repair the damage from when Lucas Lee threw Scott Pilgrim into the side of it.

HOW TO GET THERE: Climb the Baldwin Steps.

8. The Toronto Reference Library

I cannot begin to count the number of times this place saved my ass during high school and university. From picking through old microfilms for an OAC Law class to making the best of the discovery that the University of Toronto does not allow non-U of T students into the stacks at Robarts Library (why yes, I am still bitter), what may be the largest publicly-accessible library in Toronto has a great deal going for it. With its transparent elevators, sprawling atrium and six floors of print-and-bound goodness, it almost seems like a cross between a government building and a spaceport terminal. "Total science fiction," indeed.

Credit goes to Mad5l5in5 for this photograph of the corporate art, which actually exists and probably would be good to use in a fight. The Toronto Reference Library requires photographers to sign authorization forms to take pictures within, and, well, she'd already filled one out.

HOW TO GET THERE: Take the Bloor-Danforth or Yonge-University-Spadina subway lines to Bloor-Yonge station.

9. The Gilded Palace of Flying Burritos

I never had a chance to visit this restaurant - no matter how much I would like to try that excellent nouveau Mexican cuisine, it was shut down while I was still at university in Peterborough. I can't even go back to where it was anymore - the building that housed it burned down in the Queen West fire two years ago. All that's left there now is an empty field of debris that will, it seems, soon be replaced by yet another condominium development.

HOW TO GET THERE: Take the 501 Queen streetcar to Bathurst Street or the 511 Bathurst streetcar to Queen Street West.

10. Lee's Palace

I am not a nightclub guy. I have, in fact, been to exactly one in my life - the Trasheteria in Peterborough, and even then I nearly fell asleep on my fleet. So I can't really tell you much about what Lee's Palace is like, except that I understand it is somewhat popular, and that Edgar Wright actually built a set of the interior for the filming of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. I mostly knew it because of its eye-catching exterior, a colorful and active mural that always looked like it was channeling an Aztec style to me. This is, regrettably, another one of those places where Toronto has moved on - while Lee's Palace still exists, the iconic mural has been removed so that a Big Fat Burrito can move in. There'll be a new mural soon enough, by the creator of the original - but it won't be the same.

HOW TO GET THERE: Take the Bloor-Danforth subway line to Bathurst station and walk east.

Vol. 3: Scott Pilgrim & the Infinite Sadness

11. Honest Ed's

This truly is a place of existential horror and incredible deals. Dominating the southwest corner of Bloor and Bathurst, Honest Ed's is the ultimate expression of the old-time department store, dominated by rows and rows of merchandise, filled with stuff unto eternity. From the incredibly ostentatious signage outside to the hand-painted signs inside, it's a callback to an entirely different era - before big-box stores came to prominence. I encountered the van covered with bugs at this same intersection, just after I took the picture above - I refuse to believe that it's a coincidence. The weirdness just dovetails so nicely.

And somehow, that creepy cuckoo clock with the deer head on top is even more creepy in reality.

HOW TO GET THERE: Walk west from Lee's Palace.

12. Dundas Square

Twenty years ago, it was a bunch of low-rent, slightly skeezy stores. Now it's supposed to be Toronto's answer to Times Square. A privately-managed public space under the shadows of the Eaton Centre and 10 Dundas East, this five-sided space provides people a place to eat lunch on warm days, rally against government excesses on cold days, and plenty of things in between. As far as I know the adjacent advertising tower isn't publicly accessible, but that didn't stop Knives Chau from getting to the top of it - or, for that matter, the climax of a first-season Flashpoint episode.

HOW TO GET THERE: Take the Yonge-University-Spadina subway line to Dundas station.

Vol. 4: Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together

13. The Beaches

Well east of downtown, towards the old border between Toronto and Scarborough, there's a neighborhood that could never agree on what to call itself - whether it was the Beach or the Beaches. A recent election on what to put on the new street signs gave a slim majority support to "The Beach," but both remain acceptable - and honestly, I prefer "Beaches," because there's more than one of them. As they're easily accessible, they become magnets for activity during the warm months. During one of my eastbound bike rides along the Martin Goodman Trail, it was certainly my experience that as soon as I started hitting the beaches past Ashbridges Bay, I could barely maintain a speed sufficient to keep the bike balanced because of the crowds of walking people on the bike lane. If you really want to realize the Pilgrim experience, demand the Lick's Burger at 1960 Queen Street East - the only location even close to the Beaches.

HOW TO GET THERE: Take the 501 Queen streetcar to Woodbine Avenue.

14. Dufferin Mall

I'll agree that this was not a particularly exciting mall - at least, not until the Giant Inflatable Colon came to town. Despite that, aside from containing one of the few Wal-Marts in central Toronto, it got my attention because it's one of those places I'm particularly familiar with; it's easy to get to via the Dufferin bus. Plus, it means that if I want to pick up something from a mall-type store, I don't have to truck my ass all the way downtown. Four lousy kilometers...

HOW TO GET THERE: From Dufferin station on the Bloor-Danforth subway line, walk or take the 29 Dufferin bus south.

15. Sneaky Dee's

Sure, the Gilded Palace of Flying Burritos and its excellent nouveau Mexican cuisine may be gone, but we still have Sneaky Dee's and its awesome tex-mexy stylings to help sate Toronto's appetites. The first time I was there, I had the king nachos, and they were awesome nachos. More than good enough to go back for. The graffiti that absolutely covered the walls of the men's bathroom only improved its standing in my book. Its depiction in the series is almost entirely true to life - the only points I take away are on the pixel art of it on the back of Volume 4, and that only because the artist missed the streetcar tracks on Bathurst.

HOW TO GET THERE: Take the 506 Carlton streetcar to Bathurst Street, or the 511 Bathurst streetcar to College Street.

16. CLRV 4185

This is not, technically speaking, a location. It is in fact a Toronto Transit Commission streetcar, one of one hundred and ninety-five Canadian Light Rail Vehicles in service, and is the sort of thing I ride to work and back every Monday to Friday. Considering that it is a mobile thing, and that its position is unpredictable by those who lack privileged access to Transit Control, #4185 wasn't something I could just track down. It wasn't until two months after the rest of the tour that I encountered it - Christmas Eve, to be specific.

Its place in the series is minor, and perhaps not even significant, but awesome - #4185 is the streetcar that Knives' dad slices in half. With a katana.

HOW TO GET THERE: Wander along the streetcar lines. Maybe, eventually, if you're lucky, you'll find it.

Vol. 5: Scott Pilgrim vs. the Universe

17. Construction Site, Queen and Bathurst

A few steps away from the former site of the Gilded Palace of Flying Burritos, in reality this is one of the locations of St. Christopher House, a local community center and meeting place. Things are usually pretty busy around it - totally in opposition, it seems, to the way it's portrayed in Vol. 5. Based on the hints left in there, I wouldn't be surprised to see this location reappear in Vol. 6. I see it fairly frequently, if only because it's on the same block as Bakka-Phoenix.

HOW TO GET THERE: Take the 511 Bathurst streetcar to Queen Street West, or the 501 Queen streetcar to Bathurst Street.

18. The Toronto Coach Terminal

If life was really like a video game, the Toronto Coach Terminal wouldn't exist for me, per se. Instead, whenever I entered it, a brief cinematic would play to cover the loading screen, and I would respawn in Peterborough thirteen dollars poorer. Buses leave from here and go all over, to places as nearby as Cambridge to those as distant as New York or Vancouver - if you're not going to fly or ride the rails and don't have wheels of your own, this is the best way you have to get out of the city. It was opened in 1931, and thankfully the architectural stylings of the time haven't been covered up. It's also the northernmost extent of the underground PATH walkway system - from here, with about ten meters' worth of exceptions, you can walk to the CN Tower without going outside at all.

HOW TO GET THERE: Take the Yonge-University-Spadina subway line to Dundas station or St. Patrick station, or take the 505 Dundas streetcar to Bay Street.

Vol. 6: Scott Pilgrim's Finest Hour

The wait is over!

So that's it. Your Scott Pilgrim phototour. It took me five hours to put this post together, so I blasted well hope you think it's rad.

Previously Booked Tours: