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Shabby Public Realm

nfitz

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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.
That's the point though - where is the proof that Montreal is so much better, other than a few isolated locations.

Where on earth is any street furniture in Montreal?

The only strong point appears to by their hydro is progression. But really - when your standing on the street, who cares about hydro? The poles are still there with lights on them. It's the poles that bother me blocking the sidewalks. Not what's strung from them. It's the pavement, sidewalks, trees, etc. that you look for. I don't quite get this obsession that some have with hydro wires ... sure, burying them stops them falling down ... but it's not like most people will care if you can see them or not.
 

Watts

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That's the point though - where is the proof that Montreal is so much better, other than a few isolated locations.

Where on earth is any street furniture in Montreal?

The only strong point appears to by their hydro is progression. But really - when your standing on the street, who cares about hydro? The poles are still there with lights on them. It's the poles that bother me blocking the sidewalks. Not what's strung from them. It's the pavement, sidewalks, trees, etc. that you look for. I don't quite get this obsession that some have with hydro wires ... sure, burying them stops them falling down ... but it's not like most people will care if you can see them or not.

Wires interfere with views of buildings, the sky, and in some cases they impede the natural growth of trees (forcing their branches to bend around them). And to be blunt, they're just ugly to look at.
 

junctionist

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Montreal's built form stands out more because it's not obscured by wires to the same degree as in Toronto. Many streetscapes also lack Toronto's ugly traffic lights. Those small black signals at street corners in Montreal don't distract the eyes from the buildings along the street. Montreal has done better with street trees--many streets have mature trees with substantial canopies and wide trunks.

Montreal got a lot of fine details right all over the city, so it's no surprise the tourist areas are really well done and impressive.
 

Tewder

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I'm not surprised Montreal has put more money into the touristy areas.

Well that's sort of the point. Toronto is worse in 'touristy' areas, or central downtown areas. Do you seriously think that people here don't understand that the upkeep may be less on side streets or further-flung areas, in both cities (or anywhere frankly)? I mean, we were talking about architectural lighting!!


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.

... but see we don't believe we are 'unnecessarily or unfairly' bashing anything, that the criticism is harsh but necessary. You can point to a smaller and arguably poorer urban area and feel unnecessarily smug and defensive that we are doing as good as them (which we aren't) but that's a pretty unimpressively low bar to set.
 

nfitz

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Wires interfere with views of buildings, the sky, and in some cases they impede the natural growth of trees (forcing their branches to bend around them). And to be blunt, they're just ugly to look at.
Are they ugly to look at? I love to see the huge old wooden poles and wires.

Well that's sort of the point. Toronto is worse in 'touristy' areas, or central downtown areas. Do you seriously think that people here don't understand that the upkeep may be less on side streets or further-flung areas, in both cities (or anywhere frankly)?
Shouldn't the priority be the public realm where people live and work, rather than for the tourists?

I'm not saying we should neglect the tourist areas, but should they be disproportionately better?
 

pman

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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.

Agreed - for a really depressing experience try driving up Dufferin from Eglinton to Wilson. Or even worse, if you've got a lot of time to kill take the bus. It's like something out of the third world.

Also there's this weird notion that Montreal only buries wires in the core. I used to live in Outremont and the wires were all buried along the streets, though they did sometimes run overhead in alleys. For that matter, the street trees weren't all undersized, dead or dying as is the norm in most of Toronto.
 

Tewder

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Shouldn't the priority be the public realm where people live and work, rather than for the tourists?

I'm not saying we should neglect the tourist areas, but should they be disproportionately better?

Well yes, I think they're slightly differing issues:

- Tourist areas overlap with many of our central public spaces (thoroughfares, civic squares, parks, waterfront etc), so although these locations welcome visitors to our city they are also the shared spaces where we indeed we 'live and work'. In this sense, improvements here are improvements for all.

- As for side streets or residential areas etc I think we should be improving the standard, absolutely, in terms of bike lanes, quality of roads, greening and planting etc. This things improve quality of life. It's only that the standards, degree of finish - 'glamour' factor if you will - would be less because the impact is less, i.e. while we advocate for architectural lighting of outstanding monuments in central areas it would simply be overkill in side streets etc. This is not a hard and fast rule but put it this way, why not at least start with high traffic prominent areas and spread out from there?
 

DSC

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Also there's this weird notion that Montreal only buries wires in the core. I used to live in Outremont and the wires were all buried along the streets, though they did sometimes run overhead in alleys. .
Outremont used to be a separate City and this may have been their policy and in Montreal all (?) underground conduits are operated by a City agency Commission des services électriques de Montréal. They rent out space to utilities like Bell and Videotron. In theory this reduces the amount of digging but according to the current Mayor's election site (2013). "Despite the hundreds of millions of dollars budgeted every year for our roads and underground infrastructure, Montrealers’ lives are continually disrupted by a growing number of breaks and leaks.

A larger budget is not the solution. We need to get better at planning and carrying out the work. This conclusion is supported by remarks made in 2012 by Montreal’s Auditor General, who criticized the City for its lack of control, thoroughness and coordination. Among other things, such organizational shortcomings would explain why only 40% of the maintenance and rebuilding of the City’s major arteries planned for 2010 and 2011 was actually done."

I live in downtown Montreal for 30+ years and though wiring was being buried every year it was certainly NOT all underground. Though we could do more, in fairness to Toronto, the City does try to bury wiring when doing other projects; there are no wires in the West Don Lands, wires were buried on Front St East last year and will be buried on Lower Sherbourne this year. Burying wires is not cheap and it is normally only done when the City are doing major work on the street.
 

pman

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Though we could do more, in fairness to Toronto, the City does try to bury wiring when doing other projects; there are no wires in the West Don Lands, wires were buried on Front St East last year and will be buried on Lower Sherbourne this year. Burying wires is not cheap and it is normally only done when the City are doing major work on the street.

I wish that were always true. The City did a complete rebuild of Dundas west of Bathurst a couple of years ago, digging the road and sidewalk down to the dirt and completely repaving them. But the wires remained aloft. I think the same thing happened with the Roncesvalles rebuild but I'm never over there so i'm not sure.
 

DSC

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I wish that were always true. The City did a complete rebuild of Dundas west of Bathurst a couple of years ago, digging the road and sidewalk down to the dirt and completely repaving them. But the wires remained aloft. I think the same thing happened with the Roncesvalles rebuild but I'm never over there so i'm not sure.
There are three types (?) of wiring. Streetlight wires are fairly easy to bury. Distribution wiring is more complicated/expensive as this means it must be brought into buildings and then there is higher voltage wiring which is generally too expensive to bury except in new developments as it needs transformer pits etc. Last year the street lighting was all buried on Front St East (partly paid by the BIA); there is a small amount of distribution wiring still above ground between Lower Sherbourne and Princess but we are working to have this buried when the Sobey/Acura site is developed. There is a main high voltage line running down Princess from King to south of Nicholson Lane that will probably stay.
 

Torontovibe

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I walked by the salmon fountain, beside Skydome, yesterday and was surprised that it was actually working. It has been broken for a few years but the water was flowing yesterday and it looked wonderful. I'm happy to see this fountain back in action. It probably is our best fountain. Now all we need to do is light it at night. It is very dark in that area, after the sun goes down.
 

DSC

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I walked by the salmon fountain, beside Skydome, yesterday and was surprised that it was actually working. It has been broken for a few years but the water was flowing yesterday and it looked wonderful. I'm happy to see this fountain back in action. It probably is our best fountain. Now all we need to do is light it at night. It is very dark in that area, after the sun goes down.
Better look at it soon, fountains get shut down in October. Though the piping was apparently all replaced last year the tiles are in poor shape (why it only opened now) and I was told that the City are looking for $$$ to fix the tiles PROPERLY early next spring. I foresee another summer with fish out of water!
 

pman

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There are three types (?) of wiring. Streetlight wires are fairly easy to bury. Distribution wiring is more complicated/expensive as this means it must be brought into buildings and then there is higher voltage wiring which is generally too expensive to bury except in new developments as it needs transformer pits etc. Last year the street lighting was all buried on Front St East (partly paid by the BIA); there is a small amount of distribution wiring still above ground between Lower Sherbourne and Princess but we are working to have this buried when the Sobey/Acura site is developed. There is a main high voltage line running down Princess from King to south of Nicholson Lane that will probably stay.

I'm curious because you seem to know more about this than I do. Who is the "we" in your comment, "we are working..."? Also, if a lot of the wiring is too expensive to bury, as you state, how is it that the vast majority of North American and European cities manage to do this in their core areas and on main streets? Is Toronto just incapable of building cost-effective infrastructure or is it simply that we don't give a rat's ass about our public realm? Or perhaps both for that matter...
 

salsa

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There are three types (?) of wiring. Streetlight wires are fairly easy to bury. Distribution wiring is more complicated/expensive as this means it must be brought into buildings and then there is higher voltage wiring which is generally too expensive to bury except in new developments as it needs transformer pits etc.

For streets like Queen St W, why not simply relocate the wires and their poles to the back alleys? They could still be above ground but would be a lot more out of sight.
 

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