Municipal Government of Toronto vs. Western Avenue (BNSF Railway Line)

Municipal Government of Toronto

The alien space pod from which city policy is dictated.

As a Torontonian (born and raised), I naturally have a love-hate relationship with today’s item. On the one hand, I love my city. Sure, the cost of public transit is going through the roof, even while its efficiency spirals endlessly downward. No, we’ve never been known for our stellar city planning (I know! Instead of developing the lakefront into something attractive and usable, let’s just slap down a giant highway instead!), or for being particularly bike-friendly (don’t even get me started). But despite its size, it’s one of the best places to live in the world, and we’re blessed with an embarrassment of great places to eat.

But the municipal government isn’t really what makes Toronto a good place to live. In fact, the municipal government sometimes seem to be working against that very end.

For the past six years we’ve had David Miller as our mayor: a decent mayor in with excellent hair who cares about the arts and doesn’t make us look idiotic by going on CNN and ranting about SARS like his predecessor did. It’s been a decided improvement, but he’s not running for a third term because everyone seems to think he bungled the garbage strike situation last summer. (Personally, I’ll miss Miller. I’ve been fond of him ever since our random conversation on the subway about reality tv. But that’s neither here nor there.)

Some facts: Toronto has the fifth-largest municipal government in North America, with 44 councillors, who each represent about 55,000 people. (Toronto used to be broken up into smaller, more manageable chunks, but in 1998 some asshole decided to do away with the charming regional governments and create a “megacity”, essentially fucking Toronto up the ass.)

It may seem that I’m not making a very good case for the municipal government of Toronto. Well, no. It’s definitely not the best thing ever. But our city government operates with disgustingly few resources, considering the percentage of the Canadian population who make their home here. But Canada, and Ontario especially, has a terrible bias against large cities, especially Toronto. Even though our taxes keep their roads paved. So Toronto does its best with limited resources. Council has got a few eager Toronto defenders, but politics are politics – even the best of intentions get warped along the way.

And as fucked up as this city often seems, occasionally something good will slip through. For a municipal government, you could do a lot worse. And it’s more complex, and far more important, than some train station.

VS.

Western Avenue (BNSF Railway Line)

I’m fortunate enough that I don’t have to take the train to work. Not because I don’t like taking the train, far from it. I just live in a city where the train system sucks. Not so in Chicago, where their regional rail system Metra has been “awarded with several E. H. Harriman Awards for employee safety, most recently with a Bronze award in class B (line-haul railroads with between 4 and 15 million employee hours per year) for 2005.” OK, I’m not going to pretend that I know what that means and employee safety is great and all but that doesn’t exactly equal dependable transport.

I’ve never taken the train there, let alone been to Chicago (any Chicagoans out there, feel free to comment!). A quick look around at some blogs indicate that, as in most cities, their rail system is not without its problems with delays and such. But when you’re serving over 200 stations on 11 different lines, at least you have a bit of an excuse.

As Alison’s entry for today will probably make clear, we live in Toronto, and I can say with authority that we have a hell of a lot more to complain about to the municipality of our city than just delayed trains. So it’s kind of a win by default in that way. And if there’s anything positive to say about Western Avenue station, it’s that it reminded me of how Chicago is at the top of my list of American cities I would like to visit.

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Published in: on January 20, 2010 at 11:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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