Tag Archives: Toronto

Blogging Real Estate for BlogTO

While I’ve been slacking over here, I’ve been talking real estate over at the Toronto based blog – BlogTO.  I’ll be back soon, but in the mean time here you are, if you’re interested.

Tudor Style home near the lake

Classic Toronto semi-detached in a trendy neighbourhood

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Shuttle Challenge

The Shuttle Challenge is a reward-based initiative that challenges commuters to drive 10% less.  Once every two weeks, it encourages you to take a non-car method of transportation – public transit, walking, or biking.  It highlights how small changes in transit patterns could make a huge difference in green house gas emissions.

Just by participating you are offered a reward.  When I heard this, I thought “Great! Encourage people to participate!”  Then I read that the rewards were gas cards.  GAS CARDS?  Seems a little counter intuitive.

It must be to them as well – because front and centre on the front page of the website is this Q&A.

Q – Why is an environmental organization giving away free gas?

A – To motivate you to take action.  Summerhill impact challenges you to drive better and  drive less.

That doesn’t seem like a clear answer to me.  They go on to elaborate here.  The further explanation boils down to 3 points –

  1. Canadians are going to drive a lot anyway
  2. Canadians love cheap gas
  3.  We may as well try something new because what we have tried thus far to get people to drive less hasn’t worked.

I’m not sold. Not yet at least.  

Check out the website and make your own opinion at http://www.shuttlechallenge.ca.  

 

 

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Making use of Highway Dead Space

In  many cities, highways cut the city up, acting as barriers between neighbourhoods.  They block off parkland and waterfront from easy pedestrian access.  Urban highways aren’t going away any time soon, but cities are making strides to work around overpasses (or below, in this case).

Toronto just opened Underpass Park as part of an overall revitalization of Toronto’s Waterfront, and in preparation for Toronto’s hosting of the 2015 PanAm games.  It includes a playground for children, basketball courts, and (I think best of all) a skate park.  Development has yet to be completed around the park, leaving it sort of isolated for now.  But it’s great to see the city taking innovative steps forward, and thinking about what will get people into this park – what will get people using this park.  And I think the skate park is a great way to do that – and it’s a great sign we’ve stopped be so scared of skateboards in the city.

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A Year with Bike Share

Last June, a few months after its official launch, I signed up for Bixi – Toronto’s Bike Share program.  I wasn’t a full believer, wasn’t sure how useful Bixi would really be, but with a $100 price tag for the year it seemed like a worthwhile experiment.  Now that I’ve been a year with the program, I thought I’d do a quick round up review to share my thoughts on the program.

Bikes (4 / 5)

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Bixi bikes are a 3 gear model that works well for urban cycling.  Though I’m used to riding a road bike around, I actually quite like the heavier, stockier bixi bikes.  I like the black colour choice that makes for a sleek ride, and I love that there’s a little “basket” area on the front that is the perfect size for carrying six beers.

My only complaint is the seemingly huge gap between Gears 2 and 3.  First gear is so light its basically useless in flat down town Toronto and 2 isn’t much better unless you’re riding straight up hill.  3rd gear marks a huge shift up from second that often leads me switching back and forth, not finding a good place to be.

Docks (4.5 / 5)

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Though others have reported the irritation of showing up at a station that either has no bikes or no empty docks, this has happened to me only several times, and always when i was nearby another available station.  Of course, this could always be better, but certain docks will always be tricky.  Union Station during rush hours.  St Lawrence Market on Saturdays with people biking down, buying groceries, and taking another method of transit back.

In terms of usability, after 1 initial failure, I’ve had no trouble docking or undocking the bikes.  There is a bit of a learning curve, but I recommend a method of lifting the back wheel off the ground and pushing the bike into the dock as the most effective method.

Coverage (3 /5)

Coverage is probably the number 1 complaint I’ve heard for Bixi, and probably my number 1 complaint as well.  Starting off, the coverage area was quite small, and living on Sherbourne I was at the far eastern edge.  At the beginning of the year (I think), the coverage area was expanded, moving several underused stations from the inner zone, and expanding the system one major block in either direction (east and west).  I think this expansion came with mixed results.  The expanded coverage area is great, but leaves some areas without overflow docks.  In addition, the docks on the edge are sparser than I would hope for.  For example, there are two docks on Parliament street at Gerrard and Dundas, but nothing to the north.  This leaves Cabbagetown basically unserved – that makes little sense to me. 

Check out the full map on the website here

Customer Service (2 / 5)

Customer service is where Bixi really drops the ball.  In several cases where Bixi has moved docks, they have only notified people through their Facebook and Twitter pages, leaving the non-followers out of the loop.  Bixi needs to learn to better communicate with their customers and PUT SIGNS UP!  People who use the docks will see the moving signs in advance.  

In addition, Bixi is really slow in getting keys out to people.  My key took nearly a month to arrive – weeks after they said they mailed it.  This lead to me having to call several times and talk to surly employees who kept insisting the key had been sent.  I think Bixi straight up lies to its customers about when it sends out the keys.  I know Canada Post isn’t always great, but from the number of instances reported on the fb page and elsewhere, this seems like a widespread problem most likely to do with Bixi itself.  A lack of communication on this leads to anger and frustration in customers before they even start riding!  This could most certainly be improved upon.    

That all being said, the last time I called support because my bike didn’t dock properly, the guy who helped me out was very friendly and competent and my issue was resolved within minutes, so maybe they are improving.  

Overall (4 / 5)

Overall, I’ve really enjoyed my experience with Bixi and I would highly recommend it to anyone who both lives and works downtown.  More popularity will lead to a wider coverage area, so that just leaves customer service to improve upon.  

Unfortunately, these days I’m working in an area of Toronto that will never get Bixi, nor would I recommend it to.  This makes Bixi less useful for me and leaves me unsure if I will sign up again.  That being said, it’s still really useful for visiting friends, running errands, and days when I am too lazy to walk.  

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I’d Live There

On a early spring run a few weeks ago, I took a turn down a street I’d been near many times, but never been down. Secluded down a ravine, with easy access to the Don Valley Recreation Trail, these modern houses caught my eye.  Not my usual style of architecture, but they were so appealing in the warm spring air.

 

***This is part of a weekly Friday posting of places we’d love to live, eat, and play***

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A little Toronto love

I stumbled on this hilarious video via BlogTO.  It has great shots of Toronto, from Bessarion station to Trinity Bellwoods Park and gets right in there with some neighborhood stereotypes.  I love neighborhood stereotypes.

The jokes may pass non-Torontonians by, but check it out anyway for some sweet streetscape video footage.

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Then and Now

My neighbourhood transformed in the 1950s from semi-suburban middle class neighbourhood with homes erected in the 19th century to a dense series of apartment buildings inspired by Le Corbusier‘s Towers in the Park.  Despite Le Corbusier’s vilification, I have a soft spot in my heart for him and his ideas.  The follow through, though, was never what it should have been in the St James Town neighbourhood, and it’s sad to think of all the beautiful homes demolished to build these already aged apartment buildings.

More than maps or city plans, photos capture the gigantic changes that the neighbourhood underwent in the mid part of the 20th century.

The City of Toronto has a great archive of old photos and maps, scanned and available online and I was able to nab one of my intersection from 1912.  It’s totally unrecognizable.

I guess that’s urban progress?

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I live there

Sometimes a little splash of color on an otherwise dreary building brightens your day.

This mural went up yesterday just down the road from me, put up by this really great neighbourhood initiative UforChange.  UforChange works with New Canadian and low income youth to provide support and resources in an arts, culture and life skills program.

 

 

Can’t hate vibrant colours, especially in dark Canadian winters.  And I think it makes the neighbourhood just a little bit brighter.

 

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I’d live there

An afternoon stroll led me here: A country cottage nestled in the heart of the city.

Needs work, but I think I could manage.

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Recycled Architecture

My fascination with architectural conversions doesn’t stop with churches transforming into condos.   Preservation of historic architecture by means of transformation is on my mind again with the opening of Loblaws (a large Canadian supermarket) in Maple Leaf Gardens (former home to the Toronto Maple Leafs, NHL team). (More info on this here, here, or here).  A compromise was reached whereby the facade of the historic building was maintained, with the grocery store, clothing store and LCBO opening on the first floor, and a hockey facility for the Ryerson Rams opening above.  The fact that hockey will once again be played inside the historic walls pacified a lot of the sentimental Leafs fans.

This morning’s Toronto twitter was a-buzz with reports of people lining up for hours this morning for early entry into the new location.  Free food and a chance to meet the handsome Galen Weston (president of Loblaw’s and star of President’s Choice commercials) are apparently what it takes to get people to wait in the cold for hours.  That being said, I’m glad for a peak at the renovated building from the warmth of my desk, latte in hand – I’ll check it out when the weather is less inclement, and when there are groceries to be bought.

 Check out the images below, of Maple Leaf Gardens new and old:

Left to Right: Maple Leaf Gardens, Date Unknown, Maple Leaf Gardens marquee, People line up for the grand opening, Fans get Galen Weston’s Autograph, Inside the Gardens, The new front, new home for the Ryerson Rams hockey team

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