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Shabby Public Realm

Watts

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You raise a good point Junctionist: how is it that a city like Montreal (with arguably far less resources than a city like Toronto) manage to maintain a better public realm? How do many other cities accomplish what seems to be nigh on impossible in hog town, i.e. burying hydro lines, keeping fountains working, maintaining nice road and sidewalk surfaces, etc., etc.?

It's a pretty basic question really and yet why isn't it being asked in our public discourse, even at an election time?

Probably because we're a city full of hicks and drunkards. At least 30% of the city supports the Fords. That is a significant number of people that likely all deem this sort of stuff as useless and frilly. The majority of the rest of the citizens are at best indifferent. Then there are people like us that probably make up less than 1% of the population of Toronto. How do we go about advocating for a better public realm? This isn't even in the consciousness of most people. When there is largely no demand for nicer public spaces/streetscapes, etc. then why would politicians invest any money into something that the public isn't interested in, or aware of? A lot of people probably just think that Toronto's utilitarian public realm is the norm; especially those with little travel experience.
 

nfitz

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You raise a good point Junctionist: how is it that a city like Montreal (with arguably far less resources than a city like Toronto) manage to maintain a better public realm?
Montreal maintains a better public realm?

How? Sidewalks in worse shape. More potholes. Horrid streetscapes. Far worse at not burying hydro lines.

What am I missing? Do you go to a different part of Montreal than I go to? (can't say I've been to the old tourist area for a long time ...).
 

Watts

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Hasn't Quebec been given a disproportionate amount of money from the feds for years? Maybe that is now they can invest more in their public realm?
 

nfitz

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Hasn't Quebec been given a disproportionate amount of money from the feds for years? Maybe that is now they can invest more in their public realm?
Where is this evidence that they've invested in the public realm to a higher degree? I don't see it walking the streets.
 

junctionist

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Montreal maintains a better public realm?

How? Sidewalks in worse shape. More potholes. Horrid streetscapes. Far worse at not burying hydro lines.

What am I missing? Do you go to a different part of Montreal than I go to? (can't say I've been to the old tourist area for a long time ...).

Most major streets have buried overhead wires. There are more ornamental street lights. The Metro stations have architecture and art. The tourist areas have stone streets and granite-paved public squares.
 

nfitz

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Most major streets have buried overhead wires. There are more ornamental street lights.
In Montreal? Outside of the downtown and tourist district!?!?

The Metro stations have architecture and art.
I'll give you that one. But I wasn't discussing transit.

The tourist areas have stone streets and granite-paved public squares.
Nor the tourist areas. Let's focus on where most people live.
 

Tewder

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Montreal maintains a better public realm?

How? Sidewalks in worse shape. More potholes. Horrid streetscapes. Far worse at not burying hydro lines.

What am I missing? Do you go to a different part of Montreal than I go to? (can't say I've been to the old tourist area for a long time ...).

If there's a worse place than Toronto for potholes, asphalt-patched roads and pavement, gum-stained sidewalks, broken infrastructure and scrubby parks (outside of the the third world, and even then...) I certainly don't know it. Montreal is definitely better than Toronto, to my eyes at least. Not in every corner of the city, of course, but certainly in central areas... Even if you want to consider them comparable (and I don't), it still begs the question why, given the relative lack of wealth, growth and development etc. in Montreal?

I'm not suggesting we need to maintain Toronto to a European standard or even to the standard of many North American cities, but even central streets in Toronto are embarrassing, even Yonge Street (i almost sprained my ankle tripping over some crumbled pavement along Victoria Street once!).
 

junctionist

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In Montreal? Outside of the downtown and tourist district!?!?

Sure. Every street in this neighbourhood has buried hydro wires with globe lights as streets lights. It's rare to see street trees that healthy in Toronto, either.

Nor the tourist areas. Let's focus on where most people live.

No, let's compare apples to apples. Tourist area to tourist area. Cobblestone streets in the old town versus the asphalt streets and concrete sidewalks of St. Lawrence.
 
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nfitz

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Sure. Every street in this neighbourhood has buried hydro wires with globe lights as streets lights. It's rare to see street trees that healthy in Toronto, either.
They seem to have done some work in this particular neighbourhood with the hydro.

In terms of other stuff, drab bus shelters. Garbage sitting on street, no garbage cans, ancient looking pavement. Go around the corner and it looks like a pothole fest (fill:
https://www.google.com/maps/@45.551...ata=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1sX8xvCBmW5mU1uv293ckgcg!2e0 and the other direction: https://www.google.com/maps/@45.551...e1!3m3!1sX8xvCBmW5mU1uv293ckgcg!2e0!5s2007-09

Going to areas I know better.
https://www.google.com/maps/@45.468...ata=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1s-3h4h4puW1QriyJ9Ka1W0g!2e0 Hydro lines everywhere, sidewalks look ancient, I'm not even sure what those poles in the street are. At least the asphalt appears in decent shape.

https://www.google.com/maps/@45.470...ata=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1sa7IwJAoQv3ss1-XxHsymbw!2e0 Tons of wires. Tons! Asphalt in horrible shape. Very unappealing.

https://www.google.com/maps/@45.477...ata=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1sXXYuv5Y1pSuFxL6cTZn5Mw!2e0 Ditto

https://www.google.com/maps/@45.483...ata=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1sStD8Tcdt-1duLxVUvOhVrw!2e0 Not so bad, but not a tree in site, despite the space. No hydro, it was all buried here along the expressway in the 1960s (and was one of the few parts of the system that stayed up all through the ice store) - that's my old Cegep in the background. I guess this photo proves little ... but I'm not cherry picking here, I'm checking out my old haunts.

https://www.google.com/maps/@45.495...ata=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1s1ywWGeTTFlAD1nKn20gmOw!2e0 Check out the lack of sidewalks here (as bad it looks, it's much, much better than I actually remember it!). And despite that there's clearly been some major road rebuild since last I was here ... those aren't very exciting lamp posts.

https://www.google.com/maps/@45.467...ata=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1shgn4-UjuhPAqTw1wY3s18A!2e0 Here's one of those much better bike lanes than Toronto (not). You can see a couple of poles to separate it from the road about 50 metres in the distance.

https://www.google.com/maps/@45.440...ata=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1szNrCBySDipenNWZLJNRSxQ!2e0 I used to take the bus down here commuting out to Dorval. As bad as it looks, it's no where near what I remember.

https://www.google.com/maps/@45.486...ata=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1s0IP8Dy_EfSO-7N79FUfLqw!2e0 I suppose this isn't that bad, though the asphalt is terrible. However it's a main artery - a provincial highway leading to one of the bridges. But again, far better than I remember.

I do admit that there does seem to be a more advanced program in terms of Hydro - perhaps an outcome of the icestorm a few years ago. But there's a long, long way to go. And I didn't see much in the way of fancy light poles, and clearly a major decifit on pavement, sidwalks. I'm not sure I saw a single garbage can in those photos.

No, let's compare apples to apples. Tourist area to tourist area. Cobblestone streets in the old town versus the asphalt streets and concrete sidewalks of St. Lawrence.
I'm not sure what "St. Lawrence" is . But I did use to occasionally visit the old Dawson McGill campus in the old city. It felt like a very decript area - https://www.google.com/maps/@45.500...ata=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1sD2WfUR1ZP9ZEjTe_bao3kg!2e0 but I have to say it's significantly improved (though it already had started a few years later when I walked through it in the late 1980s). Yes, here are the fancy light posts, decent pavement. But does it look much different than King East or Front Street East say around Jarvis to Scott?

I'm not surprised Montreal has put more money into the touristy areas. But the neglect elsewhere in the city is poor. Sure, perhaps some things are better, some are worse. But I don't see the grass, overall, being any greener. And I always scratch my head at the need to look elsewhere, and unnecessarily and unfairly trash our great city.
 
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Watts

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These two photos really demonstrate how negligent Torontonians are:

2dgql8g.jpg


In this example you have a gorgeous heritage building that looks like it has cancer, wires everywhere (including those McDonald's french fry, yellow plastic guards), generic street lights, etc.

This photo is even worse:

iwrd5i.jpg


Shoddy wooden utility and light poles, cheap looking cross walk signage, exposes wires galore (again), cheap metal sign poles, crumby backlit signage, etc...
 

taal

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I find Montreal tends to have more polished areas with better public realm but at the same time many more shabby areas (but many outside the core).

But on the whole I don't think I know a city that has worse maintained main streets ... take Queen W ... so many in the buildings aren't in great shape, even though they have very very interesting retail ... and the side walks / public realm ..

Re: the comment above and 30% support ... I know many people who just found the guy overly entertaining and new he really had no power over the city (after the first year or so), and they'd vote for him again just for the entertainment value ..
 

coldblood

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They seem to have done some work in this particular neighbourhood with the hydro.

In terms of other stuff, drab bus shelters. Garbage sitting on street, no garbage cans, ancient looking pavement. Go around the corner and it looks like a pothole fest (fill:
https://www.google.com/maps/@45.551...ata=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1sX8xvCBmW5mU1uv293ckgcg!2e0 and the other direction: https://www.google.com/maps/@45.551...e1!3m3!1sX8xvCBmW5mU1uv293ckgcg!2e0!5s2007-09

Going to areas I know better.
https://www.google.com/maps/@45.468...ata=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1s-3h4h4puW1QriyJ9Ka1W0g!2e0 Hydro lines everywhere, sidewalks look ancient, I'm not even sure what those poles in the street are. At least the asphalt appears in decent shape.

https://www.google.com/maps/@45.470...ata=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1sa7IwJAoQv3ss1-XxHsymbw!2e0 Tons of wires. Tons! Asphalt in horrible shape. Very unappealing.

https://www.google.com/maps/@45.477...ata=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1sXXYuv5Y1pSuFxL6cTZn5Mw!2e0 Ditto

https://www.google.com/maps/@45.483...ata=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1sStD8Tcdt-1duLxVUvOhVrw!2e0 Not so bad, but not a tree in site, despite the space. No hydro, it was all buried here along the expressway in the 1960s (and was one of the few parts of the system that stayed up all through the ice store) - that's my old Cegep in the background. I guess this photo proves little ... but I'm not cherry picking here, I'm checking out my old haunts.

https://www.google.com/maps/@45.495...ata=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1s1ywWGeTTFlAD1nKn20gmOw!2e0 Check out the lack of sidewalks here (as bad it looks, it's much, much better than I actually remember it!). And despite that there's clearly been some major road rebuild since last I was here ... those aren't very exciting lamp posts.

https://www.google.com/maps/@45.467...ata=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1shgn4-UjuhPAqTw1wY3s18A!2e0 Here's one of those much better bike lanes than Toronto (not). You can see a couple of poles to separate it from the road about 50 metres in the distance.

https://www.google.com/maps/@45.440...ata=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1szNrCBySDipenNWZLJNRSxQ!2e0 I used to take the bus down here commuting out to Dorval. As bad as it looks, it's no where near what I remember.

https://www.google.com/maps/@45.486...ata=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1s0IP8Dy_EfSO-7N79FUfLqw!2e0 I suppose this isn't that bad, though the asphalt is terrible. However it's a main artery - a provincial highway leading to one of the bridges. But again, far better than I remember.

I do admit that there does seem to be a more advanced program in terms of Hydro - perhaps an outcome of the icestorm a few years ago. But there's a long, long way to go. And I didn't see much in the way of fancy light poles, and clearly a major decifit on pavement, sidwalks. I'm not sure I saw a single garbage can in those photos.

I'm not sure what "St. Lawrence" is . But I did use to occasionally visit the old Dawson McGill campus in the old city. It felt like a very decript area - https://www.google.com/maps/@45.500...ata=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1sD2WfUR1ZP9ZEjTe_bao3kg!2e0 but I have to say it's significantly improved (though it already had started a few years later when I walked through it in the late 1980s). Yes, here are the fancy light posts, decent pavement. But does it look much different than King East or Front Street East say around Jarvis to Scott?

I'm not surprised Montreal has put more money into the touristy areas. But the neglect elsewhere in the city is poor. Sure, perhaps some things are better, some are worse. But I don't see the grass, overall, being any greener. And I always scratch my head at the need to look elsewhere, and unnecessarily and unfairly trash our great city.


I know these examples are meant to show Montreal's deteriorating public realm over Toronto's but I must say, these examples are really just helping to prove junctionist's point. I'd be happy if that was the worst Toronto had. Really. Toronto is a city that really fails at the public realm, and also at maintaining their roads. That example of the bike line is actually much, much better than what you see 90% of the time in Toronto. The cracked asphalt in the streets is nothing compared to the conditions of many of Toronto's roads. Montreal's public realm isn't the same outside of downtown, but it sure isn't worse than Toronto's.
 

salsa

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They seem to have done some work in this particular neighbourhood with the hydro.

In terms of other stuff, drab bus shelters. Garbage sitting on street, no garbage cans, ancient looking pavement. Go around the corner and it looks like a pothole fest...

To me, most of your examples don't look any worse than what I'm used to seeing in Toronto, especially compared to Watts' post. Look at all those wires, and this is a major street that is almost in downtown and frequented by many visitors. I also take issue with the bike lane you showed. Google maps doesn't label it as a separated bike lane in that area. It's easy to cherry pick one bad example, but try picking on this:

bike-lane-montreal.jpg


This is the Claire-Morissette bike path. What you showed is on the same street but it's not part of that bike path. You won't see any cars encroaching on it, and it even has it's own bike traffic signal (although you can't see it in this photo). Montreal did it the right way in downtown where it matters most, and I have no doubt the city will eventually upgrade the crappy section.


Meanwhile, this is the best bike lane we have in Toronto:

15283717205_9278c634af_c.jpg



Since then, the Wellesley lanes have been upgraded as well (if you can call that an upgrade). It was originally supposed to have raised curbs, but all we got were a few flexi posts on just a couple of blocks, and the city couldn't even do that right.

15097007980_653b3f2dbe_z.jpg

More info: http://www.blogto.com/city/2014/05/how_are_the_new_wellesley_st_bike_lanes_working_out/


Now the Harbord lanes are about to be upgraded, and even that got watered down. Instead of a cycle track, we are now gonna get buffered bike lanes with no physical separation. Expect to see cars encroaching in it on the day that it opens. Oh, but maybe if we just increase the fines and have better enforcement then that will solve the problem. Only in Toronto is that considered a real solution.

15097151998_f70de78ebf_z.jpg
 

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Watts

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Getting back to the discussion on lighting our buildings. Here are some photos showing various landmarks that used to be lit, as well as some lesser known buildings (Sun Life Building, for instance) that were also illuminated at one point.

20jla37.jpg


20111026-uni-queen-night-1969-f1257_s1057_it6562.jpg


commerce.jpg


commerce2.jpg


CNE_zps15537ec5.jpg


POSTCARD - TORONTO - SKYLINE - NIGHT - TRAFFIC BLUR OF GARDINER EXPRESSWAY AT BOTTOM - 1976.jpg


POSTCARD - TORONTO - SKYLINE FROM LAKE - NIGHT - NOTE FIRST TOWER T-D CENTRE NOT FINISHED - BEAU.jpg


postcard-toronto-2-images-skyline-from-lake-day-and-night-greetings-c1960.jpg


postcard-toronto-skyline-from-lake-twilight-late-1960s-td-centre-not-finished (2).jpg


skyline1957.jpg


Photos: Canadian Architectural Archives, Chuckmanothercollection

Let's not forget that the CN Tower remained unlit for over a decade until the advent of LEDs. What a joke. We had the tallest free standing structure in the world and a national icon and we didn't even have the pride to light it. Absolutely embarrassing.

I actually wrote to the owners of Commerce Court North months ago re the possibility of restoring the lighting of the setbacks and crown and they told me this wasn't possible due to its LEED Gold status. I pointed out the RBC (formerly Dexia) Building is LEED Gold and still manages to incorporate an LED element. I got the impression that they were just too cheap to care about lighting and were looking for an excuse as to why they ignore it. Maybe if we could get City Councillors on board, they could better persuade building owners to consider things like this?

Would someone with a Twitter account mind tweeting this thread to the mayoral and councillor candidates? That might help to make them more aware of this sort of discussion.
 

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Watts

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Does anyone know why the Bay Adelaide Centre roof lighting as been shut off for the last couple months?
 

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