To the Readers of the Allderblob: we recently came across the following letter, sealed in a concrete cylinder and buried under a pile of horse manure behind the Toronto Police equestrian facility on Strachan Ave. Marked: “Danger: Radioactive,” it was with some trepidation that we seized it in our teeth and wrenched it open. Imagine our delight at finding an epistle contained within! And since it’s been such a long time since you’ve had a chance to read such deathless prose, we’ve decided to share it with our readers.
Dear Toronto Councillors and Toronto MPPs:
As you ponder the new mayor’s brazen attempt to derail the hard work of the past administration to bring rapid transit within reach of as large a number of people in Toronto as possible, remind yourself of what it’s like to squash into a crowded subway and travel, often for long spells of time, through the dark underground passages beneath our city. Like a rat or a mole, you have no idea where you are. Like a worm, you shove your way against your surroundings to emerge into the light. Which way do you go?
More to the point, as councillors and elected representatives, which way will you take this city?
Are you lost and disoriented, blinking in the light, trying to find your bearings? Or are you standing on solid ground, aware of what’s around you because you’ve seen it coming and going through the wide windows on either side of you?
I like the fact that when I get on or off the streetcar, this busy city pauses, if only for a moment, while I walk to the curb. I see that moment as a small “Thank-you” from the individuals in their cars, a “Thank-you” offered in recognition of my choice to share my ride with a million others that day. I see their moment’s pause as an acknowledgment of both my humanness, and my superiority over their dead and death-dealing motor.
The alternative of streetcars is not a paltry compromise to the dark and expensive subway. Streetcars offer the commuter the chance to experience the daylight, to see the city she or he lives in, to climb on or off at frequent intervals, to make decisions about where and when to embark like a human being, not like some darkness-loving rodent. Streetcars encourage even-spaced development, not the “point-oriented” development that comes from the widely-spread subway stops. Subways are agreeable to many motorists, it’s true: they get the “proletarian masses” off the streets and into holes in the ground, out of the way of the car. It’s no surprise that those who support subways are only occasionally the same people who must take them for lack of other choices. It’s no surprise that grand era of the subway coincided with the “glory days” of car culture. But those days are behind us now, and forever.
I live by the axiom of the former chief planner of Toronto, Paul Bedford: “It should be possible to live one’s entire life in Toronto without ever having to own a car.” I also have the good fortune to live within a few minutes’ walk of two Toronto streetcar lines. Along either line I have access to important amenities in the city of Toronto: Ryerson University and the University of Toronto fall along one line; Toronto City Hall and the Eaton Centre along the other. I can take one streetcar from Main Station in the east end all the way to High Park in the west. I can take the other from the Beaches to a stroll along the Humber river. But many folks in our city are not so lucky. For them, hours on a crowded bus, a crowded highway, or a crowded subway is a daily fact of life. The Transit City plan of our city’s previous administration was an attempt to right this wrong, and bring fast, accessible streetcars, whether on their own right-of-ways or not, within reach of the city’s priority neighbourhoods.
We need more streetcars, whether with or without their own right-of-ways. Please be sure to vote against the new mayor’s subway plan, and in favour of the Transit City plan as it was originally created.