Sunday, 15 January 2017

Dominion Public: Uncertain Future for Another Iconic Toronto Building


Dominion Public Building (Phase 1), 1934
Source: Toronto Archives.
Dominion Public Building, 1955
Source: Toronto Archives.
A landmark building in Toronto went up for sale recently, and it's got me on edge.

The Dominion Public Building (DPB) was built between 1929 and 1935 at 1 Front Street West, a decade after Toronto's third and current Union Station was built immediately to the west. Once a customs clearing house, it became a centre for federal tax administration for decades. Both the DPB and Union are signature examples of Beaux-Arts architecture that was prominent throughout Canada in the 20th century. More importantly, both buildings represented grand and beautiful buildings that were at the centre of and instrumental to Toronto's entrance into the modern era.

But while Union Station has been, for the most part, carefully protected from a brutal, careless and impatient smashing together of old and new construction, the DPB faces less certainty. Speaking to the CBC, developer and real estate broker Brad Lamb outlined how the location, size and beauty of the DPB will likely attract a major player with deep pockets. "There are very little limits to the height here. There's no reason this can't be super tall," Lamb said. While it is zoned for a commercial-residential tower up to 137 metres, there are plenty of existing and proposed buildings above that (excluding the CN Tower) to help push it higher, including (proposed in italics; under construction underlined):


  • L-Tower - 2 The Esplanade (205 m, 59 st)
    Buildings in Toronto`s Financial District
    Source: Ivanhoe Cambridge
  • Brookfield Place - 181+161 Bay St (261+207m, 53+49 st)
  • TD Centre - 66 Wellington St W, 77 King St W (223+183 m, 56+46 st)
  • Commerce Court - 199 Bay St, 25 King St W (239+145 m, 57+34 st)
  • First Canadian Place - 100 King St W (298 m, 72 st)
  • 1 King St W (176 m, 51 st)
  • Maple Leaf Square - 15 York St (181+171 m, 54+50 st)
  • Harbour Plaza Residences - 90 Harbour St (237+228 m, 67+62 st)
  • ICE Condos - 14 York St (234+202 m, 67+57 st)
  • Ten York - 10 York St (224 m, 65 st)
  • Union Centre - 20 York St (238 m, 48 st)
  • Bay Park Centre - 141+45 Bay St (265+238 m, 54+49 st)
  • Toronto Star Lands - 1-7 Yonge St (304+263+217+150 m, 95+80+65+35 st)
  • 55 Lake Shore Blvd E (304x2+264x2+255m, 85x2+80+79+70 st)


Allen Lambert Galleria, Merchants' Bank building
Source: Author
This is where my fear stems from. A major player with deep pockets may look to maximize the magnitude of their development, crashing it into as much of the DPB as possible. While it is currently a classified federal heritage building, on the City of Toronto's heritage register and part of the Union Station Heritage Conservation District, there are (too many) precedents in Toronto of tasteless mashing of large scale condos and office towers to give any comfort. Even though no one in their right mind would dare to propose alteration of the facade along Front Street, it is the sides, back and interior that may face assault.

I think some hope lays upon the approach taken across the street at Brookfield Place. While the block has two massive towers, it includes the Allen Lambert Galleria. Within it, one will find the Merchants' Bank building, which was built in the 1890s. Originally located on Wellington Street, it was moved and integrated into the Galleria.  The same approach could potentially be taken by the developer of Bay Park Centre, Ivanhoe Cambridge, which is proposing a two-tower development on either side of the Union Station Rail Corridor immediately south of the DPB.

I`m sure if Ivanhoe Cambridge would propose expansion of their tower at 141 Bay Street in a manner that created a public galleria and a relatively unmodified DPB, it would be welcome by the City, urbanists and built heritage advocates. It would be way more optimal than a senseless stacking of an unimaginative glass rectangle on top of such a beautiful structure.

But it is merely an idea. And it would be dependent on Ivanhoe Cambridge having the drive to preserve the DPB, as well as having the commitment and money to not be outbid by someone else. It`s hard to have hope in such a situation. 

Sunday, 18 September 2016

The Buck Stops Here: Reigning in the OMB's Fettering in Municipal Planning

This month, the Town of Richmond Hill won an important court case involving planning and the OMB. It is also a step forward for many Ontario municipalities in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).

In 2013, the Town created a park dedication bylaw permitted under section 42 of the Planning Act, which requires developers and builders to either set aside land or pay cash-in-lieu for parks (this is known as . The maximum amount permitted in the Act is up to either 5% of the land value, or 1 hectare for every 300 units. The Town opted for the latter in their bylaw, and added a provision for a lesser amount: 1 hectare for every 730 new residents.

The development industry sees these amounts as unreasonable, arguing that it makes high-rise project uneconomic. The Town was taken to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) by a condo developer based on this argument in 2015. The OMB sided with the developer and capped the park dedication rate at 25%. Richmond Hill appealed this decision in an Ontario court and won, with the Divisional Court finding that the OMB exceeded its mandate.

This is a significant victory in a local, regional, and provincial context.

The planned vision for Richmond Hill Centre.
First, the obvious provincial context. The parkland dedication rate was set by the Town as a planning direction. A parkland rate was one component set to meet the planned vision that the municipality wanted to achieve in this certain area. When the OMB set aside the park dedication rate established by Richmond Hill and set its own, the court found that this was an exceedance of the OMB's mandate. Municipalities were given "broad authority...to enable the municipality to govern its affairs as it considers appropriate" under section 8 of the Municipal Act. That section also emphasizes that authority applies under the Municipal Act or any other act. The court's ruling reaffirms that municipal authority, which is a sigh of relief and perhaps foundational case law for other municipalities that feel that OMB decisions have unjustly fettered in their planning authority.

Second, the regional context. It also found that the OMB's decision was made without citing any evidence for its cap. While there had been past decisions by Richmond Hill to cap park dedication rates at 25%, the court spelled out the problem with this: "the reasons [for the OMB decision] also do not address whether the Town’s past practice was the appropriate practice for the future." Basically, relying on a municipality's status quo and previous practice under different development pressures is a garbage rationale. Again, as stated by the court, there is "no dispute that development issues for the Town have changed significantly in the last twenty-five years."

This is very applicable to any municipality within the Greenbelt, and it applies to matters beyond parkland. The Greenbelt and other provincial policies aimed at intensification, coupled with significant population and economic growth, has significantly changed the development landscape in the GTA. With these intensified pressures, relying on past planning practices is absurd and inadequate, and municipalities need unfettered bold action to address the future challenges ahead of them.

Richmond Hill Centre is one of a number of urban growth
centres designated under the provincial growth plan.
Third, the local context. Yonge Street and Highway 7 in Richmond Hill have seen significant interest for high-rise development as of late, which is inevitably driven by planned higher-order transit and provincial intensification policy. Also, the increasing saturation of land suited for high-rises in Toronto has developers looking elsewhere, and Richmond Hill is right on the doorstep with convenient GO and TTC access. This makes Richmond Hill a significant target, and steps need to be taken to protect for parkland amidst significant high-rise development. If this OMB decision continues to stand, this will tie the Town's hands, and force it to come up with costly solutions to achieve the original desired amount of parkland.

For an example of what I'm talking about, take a look at downtown Toronto. There are significant parkland-deficient areas in the downtown, and while Toronto has been banking section 42 funds for some time, this approach has few appropriate areas to establish new parkland. Now an ambitious proposal has been put forward: the Rail Deck Park, a park established on top of a structure spanning the rail corridor west of Union Station.

The proposed Rail Deck Park.
Very initial estimates peg this park at $1 billion, or $117.65 million per hectare. A steep price considering that MCAP estimates market value for residential high-rise development in the downtown west area is about $53-60 per square foot. You apply that to a nearby proposed condo development at 15-35 Mercer Street, with a gross residential floor area of 36,370 square metres (391,483 square feet) on a 0.2371 hectare plot, and you're looking at land that conservatively costs somewhere around $87.5 to $99 million per hectare (maths). It seems like it is in the same ballpark, but again, this is a per hectare price; the difference adds up to $157-256 million in savings for the same amount of land (8.5 hectares) at market value. That is just capital cost, and does not include staff and consultant fees, unanticipated cost overruns and compensations, or maintenance of the structure. It also does not valuate the social impacts of construction on the community or commuters, nor the amount of time and effort required to land these deals, or the impacts of living in a park-deficient ward until this point.

If the Town of Richmond Hill (and other GTA municipalities) can avoid some of these problems and extra cost merely by exercising their planning authority now, and establishing land as they go, it can avoid the trials downtown Toronto is experiencing now. And that results in significant budgetary savings, along with the ultimate goal: well planned communities with the amenities that residents require.

How the OMB thinks it can fetter and mess all that up? I have no idea.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Accidential Download: How John Tory Is Aiding and Abetting Queen's Park, and Costing Toronto Millions For It

On June 22, 2016, Ward 30 Councillor Paula Fletcher introduced Mayor John Tory at a press conference located on top a the building at the old Unilever site. She did so by calling him our "transit mayor."

Oof. Out of anyone, I thought Fletcher would have some more respect. She has been councillor since 2003, when David Miller was elected to office. You know, one of the primary people (another being TTC Chair Adam Giambrone) behind a Toronto transit plan called TRANSIT CITY. But she is only one person who has committed contempt and doublespeak on the Toronto transit file, and giving calling Tory a 'transit mayor' is a relatively mild offence.

18 months into his mayoralty, I am obligated to write this post today to remind everyone that John Tory is the furthest thing from a transit mayor, and it starts with one simple fact: he hasn't built anything yet. Of five major transit projects currently on the books, John Tory has not come up with, finalized or fully funded any of them.

Despite that, John Tory could still manage to unnecessarily cost the City of Toronto millions of dollars on three of them: Crosstown East, Crosstown West, and SmartTrack. Let the dissection begin.


Crosstown East: Nuking the Peace Plan (Tory Rebranding Part I)

The 3-stop SSE was estimated to cost $3.56 billion. So now I will give Tory some credit for an idea: cutting the SSE to 1 stop, and using the rest of the funding to extend the Eglinton Crosstown easterly to University of Toronto in Scarborough and the Pan Am Sports Centre. He touted it as 'buying peace in the land.'

This is credit for a shuffling of money only. It is NOT giving Tory credit for the SSE, as outlined above. It is NOT giving Tory credit for Crosstown East, which is just a truncated version of the Scarborough-Malvern LRT, another LRT proposed under Transit City and rolled into The Big Move. And while the money shuffle had funded it, the escalating costs of SSE has now rendered this funding basket incomplete. Therefore, John Tory has not come up with it, finalized it, or found the money for it.

Based on the demonstrated priorities of John Tory and city council, are all the necessary funds for Crosstown East really going to be taken from that $3.56 billion allocation? If we are going to get both the SSE and the Crosstown East built, there will need to be additional funding found, and with looming financial pressures, it will not be easy.


Crosstown West: A Bait and Switch (Tory Rebranding Part II)

Crosstown West was part of the original version of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT, which again was proposed under Transit City, and rolled into The Big Move. While the Crosstown is currently funded and being constructed between Weston Road and Kennedy subway station, it was assumed that Crosstown West was going to be constructed as part of a second phase.

Enter John Tory, a mayoral candidate in Toronto's 2014 general election. He proposed SmartTrack, which included replacing the LRT portion of the Eglinton Crosstown west of Weston Road with heavy rail; think GO trains. I was questioning the wisdom of this back in May 2014, and seriously doubting it would come within his $8 billion estimate. Furthermore, the proposal only went to the Airport Corporate Centre (Eglinton Avenue at Orbitor Drive), and not across the 401 to Pearson Airport itself.

Sure enough, a feasibility report found that it came with significant capital costs ranging from $3.6 billion to $7.7 billion, versus $1.3 billion for the LRT plan. Based on this and comparatively lower ridership, John did the sensible thing and backed the original LRT plan from Crosstown West. But he has nonetheless re-branded (and continues to claim ownership for) an LRT proposed under Transit City and rolled into The Big Move. Therefore, John Tory has not come up with it or finished it.


SmartTrack: Concept Over Reality (Tory Rebranding Part III)

When it was originally proposed, SmartTrack was billed as being a separate service for the price of a TTC fare, having 22 stops (11 new stops + 11 already existing or planned), and being a "London-style surface rail subway".

Over the past 2 years, it has become clear that it will be nothing more than existing provincial plans for GO Regional Express Rail (RER): it is GO trains, having 6 new GO Train stops, running every 15 minutes. When pressed about it, Tory defended it as being a service concept built upon GO RER. However, it has been clear that the new GO stations were part of independent GO RER evaluations being conducted by Metrolinx.

SmartTrack is GO RER, wrapped in a mayoral election banner. And despite being GO RER, these stations are contingent on funding from the city of Toronto. Therefore, John Tory has not come up with it, finalized it, or found the money for it.

______________________

To recap:
  • The Crosstown East LRT is a rebranding of the Scarborough-Malvern LRT.
  • SmartTrack is a rebranding of:
    • A western extension of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT; and
    • GO Transit Regional Express Rail.

Looking at these rapid transit projects for what they are, these were expansions of Toronto's rapid transit network that were to be paid in full by the Government of Ontario. These and other transit projects listed under The Big Move were to be funded by an Investment Strategy that generated $2 billion annually, the primary source being an increase in the HST. After promising an 'adult conversation' on funding transit, it ended with Wynne rejecting tax increases altogether, and also ended any prospect of stable and predictable funding sources for transit in Greater Toronto. Since then, we have seen Toronto transit projects suddenly "requiring new partner funding."

Now that John Tory has attempted to rebrand some transit projects as his own, he has also managed to let the province wiggle out of the original commitment to pay for them, and require the City of Toronto to front some of the money.

John Tory is breaking his election promises and/or plagiarizing transit plans by other people. That's one thing. But when these transit plans were to be paid in full by a provincial government and you are not calling them out on it? That is a whole other level of contempt for the City of Toronto. He is not our 'transit mayor,' but merely an accomplice of the province's broken promises, on delivering transit that may or may not even be built.

Image Credits
1CC-BY Rokashi
2: City of Toronto
3: City of Toronto
4: CC-BY-SA Danielle Scott
5: CC-BY-ND Alex Guibord

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

How Scarborough Transit Shenanigans May Go On

The final alignment under consideration for the $2-billion, single-stop Scarborough Subway Extension has been released. It's a step forward in the process, but there's nothing stopping us from going back to square one. It's Scarborough transit planning after all.


Along with it, we have a revised ridership forecast: 7,300 passengers per hour in peak direction (pphpd; the standard ridership measurement unit). This is about HALF the forecasted 14,000 pphpd that city councillors cited in their 2013 vote to build a 3-stop subway, instead of an LRT replacement and extension fully funded by the province.

Now I have previously outlined why I have concerns about the current RT route, and why I am sympathetic to a subway proposal. But now Toronto has managed to take this proposal, remove 2/3 stations to save 28% of the capital cost, and halved the ridership. An already rotten project has become festered with mould. Pulling off such a feat deserves of national award.

On top of all this, there are now residents upset that the subway may require their homes. Once rallying his constituents for the subway, local Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker now faces a potential backlash from it all. Angry and vocal Scarborough subway supporters now have an equal and opposite companion, calling for the cancellation of the project.

The Scarborough LRT was first proposed as part of Transit City in 2007. After nine years of back-and-forth and tons of studies and work, could we really see the subway cancelled? Absolutely, and my main reason for saying so is because I do not believe all the chickens have come home to roost.

When City Council voted on a major transit item on March 31 of this year, there was a motion from Councillor Josh Matlow that subsequently carried:

That:
1. City Council amend Executive Committee Recommendation 3d by adding the words "that includes an update, in consultation with Metrolinx, of Item CC39.5 Scarborough Rapid Transit Options: Reporting on Council Terms and Conditions presented to the October 8, 9, 10 and 11, 2013 meeting of City Council, to determine whether all or portions of the Scarborough Subway Extension could be built at-grade along with the" after the word "alignment", and deleting the words "and" and "for the Scarborough Subway Extension" the so that it now reads as follows:
d. report to the June 28, 2016 Executive Committee on Part c above, along with a recommended preferred corridor and alignment that includes an update, in consultation with Metrolinx, of Item CC39.5 Scarborough Rapid Transit Options: Reporting on Council Terms and Conditions presented to the October 8, 9, 10 and 11, 2013 meeting of City Council, to determine whether all or portions of the Scarborough Subway Extension could be built at-grade along with the number and location of stations.

With this motion, growing backlash from residents, and worsening ridership forecasts, I can see a few different scenarios playing out at city council:

  1. It plugs its nose, building the subway in its current form;
  2. It votes to re-instate the original 3-stop subway, jeopardizing the Crosstown East extension to UTSC.
  3. It changes its mind again to build the LRT as originally set out, wasting years of time and millions of dollars in studies and accumulated congestion;
  4. It votes to build some or all of it at-grade, potentially requiring even more expropriation of homes and riling up more people; or
  5. Studying some other alternative and kicking the can even further down the (very long) road.
As any transit watcher in this city knows, it's a toss-up.

    Friday, 15 January 2016

    How SmartTrack will Never Do Toronto Justice

    Courtesy of Oliver Moore, we are learning that SmartTrack is finally going in a direction that many observers  here in Toronto have longed for: resembling plans already proposed by the province. But the people of Toronto should hold back any feelings of satisfaction.

    From Kennedy to Mount Dennis, SmartTrack will have fewer stations. Potential conflicts with a Scarborough Subway Extension north of Kennedy (or whatever the hell gets built) are being pushed back, and Eglinton will see light rail instead of heavy rail. In summary, SmartTrack is starting to become what the province has proposed all along: Regional Express Rail on GO Transit's existing corridors, and the completion of the Eglinton Crosstown to the airport.

    This is good. The cost is going down, and it is starting to heed to some common sense. I mean, how did a heavy rail corridor along Eglinton ever make any sense? At any time? But I will never be satisfied, nor should anyone else be, for a very important reason: the constant focus on SmartTrack has never done and will never do Toronto any justice for its long outstanding transit needs.

    For all the time and resources that have gone into it, there is a long list of planned transit projects that have long been on the books, been desparately needed to reduce travel times and relieve congestion, but not afforded any attention by the Mayor's office.

    For starters, the Relief Line. This is a project that Toronto has literally had on the books for over 50 years. And it is arguably the most redundant with what John Tory has stated as his goal in proposing SmartTrack: reducing congestion. Even recent numbers from Metrolinx have supported extending the Relief Line north of Bloor, to Sheppard at Don Mills. It also mimiced the cost of SmartTrack, estimated to require $7.8 billion. How John Tory couldn't will himself to rally behind a brand new sexy subway line that would provide such effective relief for the TTC is beyond me.

    Then there's the original set of forgotten Transit City LRT lines: Jane, Scarborough-Malvern, Sheppard East, and Waterfront West. Jane was never completed by the time Rob Ford killed Transit City. Scarborough-Malvern was approved by city and the province, and had the green light to go in 2008. The environmental assessment for Waterfront West was done in 1993, but has never been acted upon. Sheppard East has been pushed back by the province to the 2020s. After Eglinton and Finch West were revived (in part) by Toronto city council in November 2012, these projects seemed to be forgotten. And that's a shame given the density and need of the areas they would serve: Liberty Villiage, Etobicoke South, Mt Dennis, Jane & Finch, York U, Scarborough Village, West Hill, UTS, Agincourt and Malvern are examples.

    And then there's others in Metrolinx's The Big Move: the Yonge line extension to Richmond Hill, the Don Mills LRT to Highway 7, as well as BRT on Highway 427. Metrolinx drafted The Big Move in 2006, with the objective of completing all of the above transit projects within 15 years (except Scarborough-Malvern, which is in the 25 year plan). That means in order to start reducing the billions of dollars Toronto and the region lose in congestion costs, we need to complete these projects in 5 years. I don't think we're going to make it guys.

    For being Canada's largest city, in the centre of Canada's largest metropolitan area, and connected to so many large urban centres, its sad to see such a lack of progress. WrongTrack, Ontario, an incubator of ongoing planning and replanning with little built to show for it. Where some of us have the privilege to sardine onto an aging rapid transit system, while the less fortunate are left  in a wilderness of inequality. That is the amalgamated City of Toronto leadership void that John Tory and our collective municipal representation have failed to fill. And that's why SmartTrack or any other crayon-to-paper transit plan will never do this city justice.

    Monday, 23 November 2015

    TTC Fare Hikes: Too Much, Too Soon

    Today, the TTC Board voted to take the following action in regards to fares:

    CC BY-NC-ND: Stephen Rees 
    1. Freeze Metropass fares
    2. Increase tokens by 10 cents
    3. Freeze student/senior tickets
    4. Increase cash fare by 25 cents
    I am fairly supportive of the way this unfolded in principle. There should be an increasing price in outdated fare media that requires regular administering at a certain cost; the TTC spends 8% of fare revenues collecting fares. The same can be said for Metropasses, but handling of coins and paper is a daily thing. The less frequent, the better. Especially cash, as this is a heavier security operation that has put TTC staff at risk. With the PRESTO card on the way, the incentive to switch to a lower-cost fare collection operation will be greater. Fare equity for students and seniors was also maintained.

    The one part I don't agree with is the way PRESTO is equated with token prices. Adult PRESTO users will also see their fares go up by 10 cents, as confirmed by TTC Head of Communications Brad Ross. He pointed out there are administration costs to PRESTO as well, but electronic transactions from a fare card with a long lifetime are inherently lower, but also mentioned that changes are coming to the TTC's fare policy. Hopefully, this can be fixed.

    Anyway, all of that is based upon principle. In reality, these increases are too much, too soon. 

    The fare increases will take effect January 1, 2016. This is one year before the target the TTC and Metrolinx have set to implement PRESTO system-wide; all subway/RT stations, streetcars and buses. But this is not a guaranteed date. The project may be implemented behind schedule, which would be no surprise to anyone; see miscellaneous other TTC projects big and small. The manufacturer may produce behind schedule; see Bombardier's late delivery of streetcars. And there may be extra readers required above original estimates; again, see Bombardier's late delivery of streetcars.

    That means that lower income adults that do not need the TTC every day (do not need Metropasses) got hit the hardest today. These individuals are more likely to live in northeast / northwest Toronto and other isolated pockets where designated Neighbourhood Improvement Areas and other lower income neighbourhoods are served by far flung bus routes. PRESTO is currently available at subway stations and on two streetcar routes, and while the TTC is committing to roll-out on buses by the end of 2016, it will be a uncertain patchwork until then, and if it is on time.

    It is also after fares have outpaced inflation, at no fault of the TTC. Ridership has been surging, even as it has fallen short of forecasts since the system is getting too full. It is also matched by a lack of operating subsidies, which are the lowest in North America.

    So while raising prices on physical fare media is a good idea in principle, any fare increases should have been held off for at least a year until PRESTO was fully rolled out, and full analysis and changes to the fare structure occurred. They also should have occurred after more operating subsidy from all three levels of government. Once again, the buck gets passed on, and its too much, too soon.

    Tuesday, 7 July 2015

    Toronto the Double Standard

    As you may know, Brampton is now where Toronto has sat many a times over the past few years.

    The province is offering money to build the Hurontario-Main LRT, between Port Credit in Mississauga and the Brampton GO Station in downtown Brampton. $1.6 billion. Mississauga is in. Some councillors in Brampton are not so sure.

    There are concerns about it damaging downtown Brampton's heritage district. Council voted 10-1 last fall against running the LRT down Main Street, and asked city staff to explore a variety of other alignments. Napkin drawing at its best.

    Tomorrow, Brampton council will go through another vote on this. I'll leave the merit of the heritage-detruction argument to you, but a recent Q&A article with the Transportation Minister really grinded my gears:

    Q: Would a no vote derail the project entirely?
    A: If ultimately council decides they don’t want an LRT to run up to the Brampton GO station I will respect the wishes of council. From what I can tell at this point in time, that would mean the LRT would run from Port Credit GO up to Steeles Avenue at Shoppers World. And that would be the extent of the project and then we would get on with continuing to build the rest of the regional transit network. I personally believe that would be an enormous missed opportunity for Brampton.
    Q: Is the province open to changing or redefining the proposed route?
    A: I’ll respect the decision that council makes on July 8 but I am really not opening the door to extensive, ongoing negotiations about routes.

    Good on the province to put its foot down. Take it or leave it. But you sure as hell didn't see the same treatment here in Toronto. The province even played along and endorsed what Scarborough councillors wanted: a pretty pork barrel transit project that made no damn sense. We're talking about building subways vs. re-routing an LRT, but the principle is the same: local politicians thinking they're transit experts, and mucking everything up.

    The price? Well, still no shovels in the ground in Scarborough....and the problems shall continue into the future.

    From where I sit, it's a confirmation that Toronto really is the centre of the universe. Only in Toronto can you stir the transit politics pot, pander to voters, and end up (with a plan for) building inefficient transportation. We definitely get treated differently here, and not for the better.