Monthly Archives: December 2009

Obligation Gift

Why can’t people phase out the obligation gift? I can understand obligation gifts for close family and romantic partners, but gift-giving shouldn’t be mandatory for other friends or acquaintances. The best circumstance for a gift is when you find something that you actually know that the recipient would like. Not because you have to get them something.

My close family gives lists of things we would like, and everyone else I bought presents for I bought something that I thought they would like, for 2 reasons: because I thought of something good, and because I know them. Except for my girlfriend, I don’t want to agonize over thinking of a gift, and even with girlfriends, you shouldn’t have to, because if you can’t think of anything material, give them a service. Maybe a spa day or whatever for them, but just spending time together might be the best thing. Plus you can suit it to your budget: movie and popcorn, theme park, symphony, etc.

These kinds of things make good presents for close family, too. Invest your money (and time) into your relationships. Everybody wins!

So stop buying tacky, loveless presents for your neighbours, acquaintances, and co-workers. Buy them for your family and real friends, the people you know enough about to buy something they’ll be happy to get from you.

This means you can’t always expect a gift in return. Great, the ones you do get will be ones you actually want, and you don’t get stuck with boring, tacky presents. You should also feel pleased with yourself that someone enjoyed something from you.

So stop worrying and enjoy your life.


Downtown Relief Line (part 3)

This Thought will discuss routes in the east end of the line.

The goals for this part of the line are:
– to alleviate congestion on the Danforth by transferring passengers south
– to provide a faster route downtown
– to service high-density areas

The DRL Subway Line will cross the Don River as far north as Queen Street, or more likely go through the Athletes’ Village area (West Don Lands) and cross at the old King Street bridge.

Eastern Avenue doesn’t seem like a good candidate street for a subway. It could use a public transit line, but a low-density industrial street doesn’t merit a subway line. Big box stores don’t deserve a subway line. So running the line east on Eastern doesn’t make much sense.

In fact, Queen is the only east-west avenue that would make sense, if any at all. None of the thoroughfares in Riverdale or Leslieville have much density, but Queen has its advantages. Three streetcar routes travel along Queen from Broadview to Kingston Road, and the 504 joins there to cross the river. It’s a serious bottleneck, so any worthwhile subway line will make some impact alleviating this congestion.

But don’t forget: the subway line might go along King! A King subway line would make obselete the 503 or 504, or both, and even using Wellington, one line could be eliminated. Even the Queen streetcars might need less service, if longer-distance travel can be handled by the subway line.

So a station at Queen and Broadview is not 100% necessary, but it seems likely, with few good reasons to put stations on Eastern.

Before we think about stations in that area, it’s important to think about north-south configurations. The original plan for the line went up Pape Avenue. Pape is a good choice for a few reasons. The current plan for the Don Mills LRT has the line’s terminus at Pape station. Pape has little density itself, but it passes through the middle of a string of apartments along Cosburn Avenue. Finally, there is a clear path toward the Thorncliffe Park area that would be quite a detour if the line were to follow Coxwell Avenue. Coxwell doesn’t have much density either, so it’s not great. Broadview is too far west. Although it has density, it doesn’t service as large an area, and is already well-served by streetcars. Donlands is too close to Pape to be a better option.

I think the only decent alternative to Pape is Greenwood. It has less density than Pape, but it does have a clear route to the large Thorncliffe Park area. It makes available the Greenwood subway yard, and possibly most importantly, it would better alleviate congestion on the Danforth line by taking passengers off at an earlier point. These two points make Greenwood at least a decent candidate.  Remember, this is all hypothetical, and 25 years away at least, so it’s possible by then that Greenwood would be a better choice.

I’m throwing my support behind Greenwood, but there is a potential snag: the Don River. Depending on environmental assessments and construction requirements, it may not be feasible to cross the river anywhere near there. If that were the case, Pape, if possible, would be the choice. It’s also annoying that Greenwood station is actually a block east, at Linsmore Crescent, but that can be worked around.

Greenwood! All right, but taking the line down Greenwood to Queen wouldn’t be ideal. A diagonal direction would be best here, because you can take a quicker path to save time on the commute. Only a couple of stations would be needed, possibly Queen/Broadview, Dundas/Carlaw, and Gerrard/Jones.

Finally, north of Danforth: only one station south of the river is needed, and it should be at Cosburn, because it’s central in the area. Cross the river to Thorncliffe, and then curve north east to Don Mills Road, where the line will continue north, until at least Eglinton, if not Sheppard. Don Mills is an obvious choice. It’s already slated for an LRT, but as long as I’m dreaming, I may as well make it a subway.  If the Don Mills LRT does get built, it would be silly to stretch the DRL to Greenwood, so Pape Station would be the terminus.

Stations in the east end, continuing from the west:
Queen East (at Broadview)
Carlaw (at Dundas)
Gerrard (at Jones)
Cosburn (at Greenwood)
Thorncliffe Park (or “East York Centre”)
Overlea (at Don Mills)
Flemingdon Park (Don Mills at Eglinton)

The 503 streetcar line could be eliminated, and a lot of East York apartments would have excellent transit service, and hopefully could choose transit over driving.

In the next chapter, I’ll similarly analyze the west end of the line.

A collection of short thoughts

I’m allergic to cats, yet ALL of my girlfriends owned cats. All of them.

Imagine the electricity went out in your city for a full week. You know what would still be working just as well as any other time? The toilet. I’m not 100% sure, but it’s the only thing I can think of.

Is there any reason we learned cursive handwriting, other than to eventually compose a signature? Some people’s signatures are neat cursive, while others have deteriorated to the point where their initials, R and J, don’t even remotely resemble those letters.

When it’s cold enough outside, you can see your breath. Can you see your farts? Don’t pretend like you haven’t thought about it.

Why do we eat yogurt? Isn’t it just milk that we’ve let go bad on purpose?

Our newspaper recently picked up a new comic, W.T. Duck, that hasn’t really wowed me. But this quotation is awesome: “As a professional, I handle criticism the same way I handle praise… with alcohol.”

I think the word “hip-hopera” is hilarious.

I forgot to pay my phone bill last month. I hope they don’t track me down and kill me in my sleep.

Farewell, Roy Halladay

Serious rumours circulating about a trade sending Halladay to the Phillies in return for some prospects. I don’t know prospects well enough to know if we’re getting a good deal, but I know we needed to trade Halladay soon, while a team could get him for the whole year. He sure as hell wasn’t going to re-sign with us, so getting a few top quality prospects for him is definitely about as good as you can hope for as a Jays fan.

Also important is what Halladay wants. He’s been such a great Jay over the years. One of the best pitchers in the game, on and off the field. He’s taken hometown discounts to stay in our city with our team. He’s gone unrecognized by media by playing for our secluded Canadian team, not getting the credit that he deserves. He hasn’t bashed teammates or managers, and he gives it his all every time out. Hell, he came so close to a no-hitter in his second career start.

You couldn’t expect more from any player than what we got from Halladay. Philadelphia, you don’t know how lucky you are.

Elmer and Bugs

Say this as if it was a word with no vowels: Ph.D.

“Elmer Fudd” could very easily have come from Elmer, Ph.D. It’s very possible.

And that gives a whole new clarity to the phrase, “What’s up, Doc?”

Clean Desk, Clean Mind

I love cleaning my desk. Or my room. Sure, I’m lazy as anyone when it comes to actually doing it, but the feeling I get afterward is fantastic. It honestly feels like a weight has been lifted off me; I’m less stressed and feel more in control. Sometimes I’m at work extra late, and I’m going crazy. But if I put in 15 minutes of organizing my desk, I feel good again. Partly because I’ve actually accomplished something (you’d be surprised at how little extra work gets done when you stay late), but partly because I’ve sorted everything out for myself. I know what’s going on tomorrow, and even a couple days after that.

At home, the connection to my job (and the stress it brings) isn’t there, but the satisfaction and pride certainly are. And there is still a feeling of relief and calming. I think the environment around me is a metaphor for my brain. If it’s clean and tidy, my thoughts are flowing. But if not, then I’m always one step behind.

Downtown Relief Line (part 2)

For this part of my DRL Thought, I’m going to explain possible east-west alignments for the downtown section of the line.

The line was originally planned to use the rail corridor south of Front Street, so that it could be above ground in order to save money on construction (and maintenance?). The line would cross the Don River at or south of Eastern Avenue, and follow the GO/Via rail path to a connection at Union Station, and continue west from there.

I don’t think the system would do best to have the DRL run through Union Station, for several reasons:

As Yonge/Bloor shows us every day, single connection points can quickly become overloaded. TTC’s Union Station, currently with the smallest platform in the subway system, would struggle to accommodate yet another connection, on top of its surface rail routes, and streetcar and bus lines. There are plans to build a second platform for Union, making one for each northbound direction, but there is already a lot being squeezed into one node.

What about the rail corridor in general? There are plans to build a large development in the west Don lands (south of Eastern Ave and east of Parliament St), so a subway serving that area would improve the accessibility in that area. In fact, the development is going to be the Athletes’ Village for the recently-awarded Pan-Am Games.

Other high-density or high-importance spots near the rail corridor: the Skydome and ACC, the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, the CN Tower, and the St. Lawrence and CityPlace neighbourhoods.

But many of those things are already well-served by transit. Union itself is a short walk from all but one of those six locations. And since Union might not be the best choice for a connection node, we should consider other options.

Look up Lower Queen station. There was a plan to build another east-west route across Queen Street. Downtown, Queen seems ideal for a subway line. There is a lot of high-density development and places of interest, and the Queen streetcar is known for being a nightmare. Two connections to the YUS line, at Yonge and University, mean there would be less pressure on one single station. However, outside the downtown area, Queen has an excellent shopping strip that is well-served by streetcar. Being able to see the stores you pass is an excellent reason to have a streetcar line. Older Torontonians have told me that parts of Yonge and Danforth suffered when shoppers were moved underground.  Also, outside the downtown area, Queen has far less density than other east-west routes.

Which brings me to King Street. Downtown, King goes through the centre of the financial district, with the tallest office buildings. To me this means more commuters who could be served by subway. It also covers a greater scope of the Entertainment District. East of downtown, King is nearer to higher-density neighbourhoods, George Brown College, and even the west Don lands. West of downtown, King has a much higher density than Queen; the difference is notable just west of Spadina.

I had also considered Wellington Street for a section of downtown (possibly King west of Spadina, down to Wellington, and then continue when Wellington becomes Front Street), but though this places the line closer to some extremely important downtown spots, it also may create problems when creating transfer points at King and St. Andrew stations, simply for distance reasons. I consider this option to be nearly equivalent to King, the deciding factors being connecting to the YUS line, and where skyscrapers prevent tunnels from being built.

Stations in the downtown area, west to east:
Niagara (King at Bathurst)
Spadina South (at King)
St. Andrew (possible 2nd entrance on Simcoe Street)
Jarvis (at King, 2nd entrance on George Street)
Parliament (at King)
Athletes Village (around Eastern at St. Lawrence)

In future parts, I’ll talk about my thoughts of the east and west ends of the line.